On Saturday, May 21, Buddhists from around the world will celebrate the holy day of Vesak, which commemorates three events in Buddha’s life: his birth, his enlightenment, and his passing. They’ll visit temples, join parades with dancers and dragons, and set caged birds free as a symbol of liberation. They’ll offer gifts to Buddha statues to express their gratitude for his teachings and pour water over his shoulders to symbolize a pure beginning. And they’ll light up the night—already bright from the full moon—with lanterns made of paper and wood.
Chanting is a central element of Vesak, too. And even if you don’t have a Buddhist temple in your town, you can still celebrate on Saturday by chanting with fellow Buddhists online.
Mantra music pioneers Deva Premal & Miten, who have recorded a variety of mantras from the Buddhist, yoga, and Hindu traditions, are inviting spiritual seekers from around the world to join their Buddha Full Moon Meditation at 9 a.m. in every time zone via Facebook.
Vesak “is one of the most auspicious times for meditation and chanting, with a focus on enlightenment for all beings,” they explain.
What are the benefits of participating in a virtual meditation like this? “Chanting is a transformational and healing process in itself,” the musicians said. “It opens up the breath, the voice, and the heart. The powerful energy of the Vesak full moon amplifies [those benefits]—and amplifies our inner light.”
And meditating with others—whether it’s on Vesak or any other day—helps us connect to a sangha, or spiritual community.
What is Nam-myoho-renge kyo?
Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the core mantra chanted by Nichiren Buddhists—a Japanese sect founded in the 13th century. Also referred to as chanting the daimoku (which means “title”), Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is the title of the Lotus Sutra, which Nichiren Buddhists regard as the culmination of the Buddha’s life teachings.
“The translation of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is ‘I bow down to the mystical law of the Lotus Sutra,’” Deva Premal & Miten explained in an email interview. “The message of this mantra is that we all carry the state of Buddhahood within ourselves. This powerful mantra opens us to our supreme and innate buddhanature.”
As musician and Buddhist Duncan Sheik previously told Tricycle: “When you chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo . . . the idea is that you are getting your whole life into rhythm with the fundamental law of life. It’s that sound, that vibration, that is bringing you into that rhythm. In some ways, it’s the entrance point.”
The Power of Sangha
The idea for this Saturday’s Buddha Full Moon Meditation with Deva Premal & Miten grew out of the 21-Day Mantra Meditation Journeys that the music duo led online in 2013 and 2014, during which more than 200,000 people from 204 countries learned to chant a new mantra every day for three weeks. Students later said they felt inspired to stick to their practice knowing that a global community of meditators were chanting at the same time as they were; they felt a sense of solace and connection because they were part of a greater whole.
Our sangha “supports and nourishes us in times of isolation and fear,” Deva Premal said. But it also has an altruistic dimension. As Thich Nhat Hanh writes in Friends on the Path: Living Spiritual Communities, “You don’t sit for yourself alone, you sit for the whole sangha—not only the sangha, but also for the people in your city, because when one person in the city is less angry, is smiling more, the whole city profits. If we practice looking deeply, our understanding of interbeing will grow, and we will see that every smile, every step, every breath is for everybody. It is for our country, for the future, for our ancestors.”
The Buddha Full Moon Meditation with Deva Premal & Miten will take place at 9 a.m. in every time zone on May 21, 2016. For more information, visit the event page: http://tricy.cl/1WEdLE9
Thank you for subscribing to Tricycle! As a nonprofit, we depend on readers like you to keep Buddhist teachings and practices widely available.