May all beings be well.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free from suffering.
May all beings be at peace.
This is the chant I say each day as part of my meditation practice. There are many versions of it, as a quick Google search shows, but this is the version I learned years ago, and the one I continue to say.
Typically, the chant is recited in a series, beginning with yourself (May I be well. May I be happy, etc.) then moving to someone you love, then someone you dislike or are angry with, then to everyone. My practice has long been to say 10 of each, then, at the end, I say an extra set of 10 for myself because self-compassion is a challenge for me, and if you can’t be kind to yourself, compassion for others is out of the question.
For years, I’ve done this chant counting on my fingers. And every single time I prepare to do it, I think how nice it would be to have a mala—a string of beads used in Hinduism and Buddhism for counting prayers. It’s not like they’re hard to get hold of. I could easily have picked one up—I think they sell them at Whole Foods. Or I could have made one in about ten minutes. I just never have.
Photo by GourangaUK courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
This morning, as I lit my incense and dusted off my little altar, I once again said to myself,I wish I had a mala. And then I realized,I do. Well, sort of. What I actually have is a Catholic rosary.
When I was growing up a very devout Catholic girl, I said many rosaries, a practice my Protestant friends found astounding and hilarious, and often ridiculed. I haven’t said a rosary since I left the church at 14, yet I have one, sitting in a drawer untouched. .
My rosary was given to me by someone I love very deeply, a person who has suffered for the past several years from the ravages of mental illness. In the throes of the disease, this vibrant, cheerful, funny person vanishes, replaced with someone angry and suspicious, certain they have been lied to, cheated, victimized. In good spells, we laugh together; When the illness comes, I become the enemy, despised and hated.
A few years ago, when the disease had temporarily receded, this person gave me a rosary they had made themselves. It was a form of apology for the anger and accusations that had come before, an apology that was unnecessary. As I held the rosary for the first time, its maker looked around the room at my little Buddha and Tibetan singing bowl and said, “I should have made something else.” But I said that the rosary was beautiful, that I would cherish it. And I have, even after the illness returned, this time for good, and I was once again hated.
This morning, I got the rosary out. It is lovely: strings of sea-green crystal beads interspersed with single wooden ovals painted with images of Mary. I felt a rush of love for the person who made it and gave it to me, the person who is lost to me, perhaps forever. I wondered if it would feel right to use a Catholic rosary as a mala to count my chants. I realized to my surprise that it had exactly the right number of beads: 5 sets of 10. But it was made for other prayers, and there was that crucifix at the end. Too Christian, I thought. Not for me.
Then I thought, how could it be wrong to use this item, made and offered in love by someone I care so deeply for? And so, this morning saw me doing my Buddhist chant using a Catholic rosary and devoting my words to the person who made it, who is far away and in pain:
May you be well. May you be happy. May you be free from suffering. May you be at peace.
Causes Jill Jepson Supports
Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Interational Society for the Protection of Burros and Mustangs, National Wildlife Federation,...