Why start a daily practice?
If you are interested in exploring the Buddha’s teachings, we recommend a daily practice at home, even if you can only spare a few minutes a day. Practice helps us to integrate Buddhist teachings into our lives, and it reminds us that we can take refuge in something reliable. It helps us to get to know ourselves, and over time we may notice ourselves becoming more kind, more patient, and more peaceful. There is no substitute for spiritual practice – we can read and discuss thousands of books without being transformed in the way that practice transforms us. Practice affects us in mysterious ways…
What is Bright Earth’s approach to practice?
We are strongly influenced by Pure Land Buddhism. This school of Buddhism was founded in 12th Century Japan so ordinary people could receive the benefits of a Buddhist practice, regardless of how much time they had available, how academic they were, how much money they had, or whether or not they lived ethical lives.
The practice for Pure Land Buddhists is simply saying the nembutsu, the name of Amida Buddha. We usually use the form ‘Namo Amida Bu’ which is Japanese. There are various tunes and you can count your nembutsu, using a mala (like a Buddhist rosary) or not. We have a free 30 day course on email if you’d like to give it a try.
During practice at Bright Earth temple we also do silent sitting, make offerings, make bows to the Buddha, listen to Dharma talks and do walking meditation. All of these forms of Buddhist practice and others can be helpful.
Here at Bright Earth we also have an emphasis on ecological Buddhism, and so some of our practice takes place outside – for example walking meditation on the hills, or silent vigils for the Earth in our local town. You can read more about our general approach here.
Where and when should I do my practice?
Rev Koyo Kubose of Bright Dawn recommended having a Special Place Of Tranquility (SPOT) where you can do your daily practice. This might be a corner of a bedroom, a quiet space in the spare room or a particular spot in the garden. You could make a small shrine, with a buddha statue or an image of a buddha in the centre. You can add a candle, incense, flowers, or any other special objects.
When you do your practice will depend on your schedule and how busy the rest of your life is. Some people find it helpful to set their alarm early and do their practice before the tasks of their day begin. Some people do some walking meditation in their lunch break or put time aside before dinner or before they go to bed. Experiment and see what works for you.
What should I actually do for my daily practice?
Practice is very personal. We would encourage you to choose from a ‘menu’ of different practices, decide how much time you can spare, and see how it goes – making adjustments as you go. Here are some elements you could choose from:
- You could incorporate two gasshos (bows) into your practice using Rev Koyo Kubose’s ‘Everyday Gassho’ – read more information here.
- You could do five or ten minutes of nembutsu chanting, with or without a mala (a string of beads to help you count your recitations) – read more information here.
- Do some chanting to other Buddhas or Bodhisattvas – here are some tunes.
- You could do some silent sitting – just sit quietly and pay attention to your breath.
- You could make an offering to the Buddha on your shrine, lighting a stick of incense or making an offering of flowers or water.
- You could make some bows or full prostrations to the Buddha.
- You could go for five minute of slow, silent walking around your garden or your local park, or sit quietly outside somewhere.
- Start or finish your practice by reciting the refuges and the precepts, or reciting our closing verse – all here or below.
We would suggest that you keep it simple to start with, and make it short enough to be manageable daily or almost daily. Alongside this short period of ‘formal’ practice, you might want to incorporate reminders of the Buddha into your daily life with the informal practice suggestions below:
- Learn a blessing and say it before meals as a way of reminding yourself to be grateful for the food you receive.
- Say ‘Namo Amida Bu’ or ‘Namo Amitabha’ out loud or silently during the day when you remember to.
- Carry a mala (Buddhist beads) with you and use them to recite nembutsu.
- Remember the Buddha when walking in nature or at difficult moments.
- Remember to be grateful.
How do I know if I’m ‘doing it right’?
You may not feel more peaceful after your practice, or think that you are receiving any benefits at all. Persevere, and pay attention to how your daily life is feeling. Buddhist practice works on us all differently, and we can trust that it is helpful to do. If you have any questions or concerns, do speak to your tutor.
Practice as gratitude
Some Pure Land Buddhist teachers say that it isn’t necessary to do lots of Buddhist practice in order to become enlightened, or to become a better person. Simply saying the nembutsu ensures that we are accepted by Amida Buddha just as we are now, and also that we will go to the Pure Land (the field of merit that surrounds Amida Buddha) when we die.
This means that Buddhist practice is seen as an expression of gratitude for what we have already received. You might want to experiment with this approach as you practice. How would it be to trust that you have already been ‘grasped, never to be abandoned’ (Shinran) by Amida Buddha?
Take what you like and leave the rest
If any of these ideas don’t feel right to you at the moment, that’s fine. Choose whatever is comfortable, try to keep an open mind, and keep practicing.
Enjoy your daily practice. Namo Amitabha.