Part 2 of 3
The beginning of the service was announced by a recording of horns, cymbals and drums during which the entire sangha stood, faced the center of the room and bowed. The preceptors walked in a single file line down the middle of the shrine. The center preceptor lit candles and incense as an offering to the Buddha and all three bowed in respect then everyone sat down. Each precept sat on a zafu and zabuton, two on the sides facing the sangha and the third, the center preceptor, sat in the middle slightly elevated. He then rang the singing bowl four times to indicate the beginning of the service.
Members immediately fell into a meditation the program noted was a brief stabilizing meditation. A few short minutes passed and the center preceptor rang the singing bowl to note the start of the refuge vows. The refuge vow is spoken three times by the entire sangha as a motivation to open their hearts to enlightenment. Quickly following the refuge vow were the Four Immeasurables, blessings for all beings to be free from suffering and filled with happiness, the sangha spoke three times followed by another ring of the singing bowl and a ten minute meditation session. The meditation session was ended by a ring of the singing bowl and the members of the sangha fell into the supplication to Buddha. We were instructed to visualize a gold Buddha sitting on an open lotus. The visualization ended with Buddha radiating light and dissolving into the light and becoming one with us. The supplication asked that we are shown the path to enlightenment through compassion and virtuous action true to the teaching of the Blessed One.
The next portions of the service happened quickly as the well-practiced sangha fell swiftly into unison. The ringing of the singing bowl began the Seven Limbed Prayer prostrating offering, confession, rejoicing in the good, asking the Buddha to remain, and beseeching Buddha’s to teach others. The Seven Limb Prayers were spoken by everyone one time. The Mandala Offering, also spoken by everyone, is an offering to all of the lineage of Buddhas and bodhisattvas and all of the lamas and deities and enlightened beings in all ten directions and in all three times. My husband and I struggled to keep up with the chants while trying to discreetly read the pamphlet with the text of the chants. We found quickly that we would read the explanations later so we could follow along with the service.
Another ring of the singing bowl, the preceptors began the supplication to Manjushri. The pamphlet from the center credits Manjushri as one of the most important figures in Tibetan Buddhism as the bodhisattva of wisdom. The preceptors continue with the supplication to Maitreya or the next Buddha. The preceptors moved on with a Supplication to Tara, the Bodhisattva of compassion, which ended with the entire sangha finishing the prayer. A music track began playing and everyone began singing the Tara Mantra, “Om tare tu tare ture soha.” At the song’s conclusion the Dedication of Tara Meditation was spoken by everyone one time and the sangha quickly transitioned to Liberating the Beings of the Six Realms aloud. This led to the Tonglen meditation session where the sangha was to embrace the bad and emit the good. After the ten minute Tonglen meditation session everyone spoke the prayer to Chenrezig and began singing, “Om mani padme hum.”
Part 3 to come...