Buddhist Chants to Heal
by Shirani Rajapakse

The rains retreats are ending
this month. Tonight monks
in the neighborhood temple
will assemble in the audience hall
to chant pirith — Buddhist sutras, words
ancient as the hills, but wiser than all
the knowledge that has been.
They will take it in turns
throughout the night
to chant the words of the Buddha,
just like they’ve done
many countless times before and will continue
into the future.              A large water-filled
                          earthenware pot
sits on the table
in front of them
as they chant.

In the morning
                          they will distribute the pirith
                          water to all present. People
will collect them in hands outstretched,
joined together, cupped
to receive the blessing.

There is a belief, older than time,
that water retains memory.
Water that holds
the vibrations of Buddhist chants heal
and we take in this water, let it course
gently down our throats
in the conviction
it will soothe us, bring us inner peace,
even momentarily.

             I’ve grown up
             with this belief
             just as I’ve
sipped on the vibrations of chants
a hundred million times
                          or more.

Its pouring again and I don’t
want to venture outdoors.
I take out my book of sutras and      chant,
first for myself, then for my family
and friends,
for all beings
seen and unseen that inhabit
the earth and the planets —
the entire universe.

I chant for the world
that is in need of healing,
I chant for the trees
                          swaying outside,
                          the birds
                          sheltering under leaves,
             lonely stray dogs howling with winds,
             animals trying to survive
                          in the wild,
people all over.

I have no pot of water,
but that doesn’t matter. The rain
thundering outside will
lift the positive vibrations of the sacred chants
and carry them to wherever
rainwater flows,
to wherever
healing is needed.

PAINTING: Miracles of Each Moment by Kazuaki Tanahashi (2003).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: What immediately came to mind as I began to write a poem for this prompt was the connection between water and healing. Many cultures practice water therapy. In Sri Lanka where I come from, water has been used for centuries as a vehicle to transfer the positive effects of Buddhist chants. We do this regularly. However, November, as I write this, is extra significant in the Buddhist calendar, as it marks the end of the rains retreat for the monks who have been temple-bound for the past three months. The last day is marked by all-night chanting. The offering of this poem is my way of transferring positive thoughts to the world and bring it some healing.

Rajapakse copy

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Shirani Rajapakse is a poet and short story writer from Sri Lanka. Her publications include the award-winning Chant of a Million Women and I Exist. Therefore I Am. Rajapakse’s work appears in Dove Tales, Buddhist Poetry, Litro, Linnet’s Wings, Berfrois, Flash Fiction International, Voices Israel, About Place, and Mascara. Find more of her work at shiranirajapakse.wordpress.com. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, and Amazon.