Reciting Gathas

Gathas are short verses that help us practice mindfulness in our daily activities. A gatha can open and deepen our experience of simple acts which we often take for granted. When we focus our mind on a gatha, we return to ourselves and become more aware of each action. When the gatha ends, we continue our activity with heightened awareness.

As we turn on the water faucet we can look deeply and see how precious the water is. We remember not to waste a single drop because there are so many people in the world who don’t even have enough to drink. While brushing our teeth we can make a vow to use loving speech. We can recite the following gatha for using the telephone:

“Words can travel thousands of miles
May my words create mutual
understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems,

as lovely as flowers.”

When the telephone rings, the bell creates in us a kind of vibration, maybe some anxiety: “Who is calling? Is it good news or bad news?” There is a force that pulls us to the phone. When we hear the phone ring, Thay recommends that we stay exactly where we are and become aware of our breathing: “Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile.” Practise breathing three times. When we pick up the telephone, we know that we are smiling, not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of the other person.

Before we make a phone call, Thay suggests that we breathe in and out twice, and recite this verse. Becoming fully aware of our body, speech and mind, then we pick up the phone and dial. This is very beautiful. We should not underestimate the effect our words which can build up understanding and love.

Gathas are nourishment for our mind, giving us peace, calmness and joy which we can share with others. They help us to bring the uninterrupted practice into every part of our day. There are many gathas available in our chanting book “Chanting from the Heart” (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2007) and Thay’s book “Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verse for Daily Living”, Revised Edition (Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2006).