June Full Moon: Personal Observations

Good morning friends,

I just want to write a little about Uposatha practice as it has developed for me and go over a couple of observations.

Generally speaking, I have converted my entire morning chanting ritual to an English-only event, but I’ve been having fun lately (the last five or so weeks) chanting exclusively in Pali on Uposatha days. I try to take it a little further on such days and use them as opportunities to work toward memorizing a little more in Pali, so I’m usually doing a reading that is different from most of the other days of the week (the Pali for which I’ve already memorized).

The fun I derive from this originates, aside from the learning aspect, in watching the mind in it’s writhing and complaining about the various pronunciation mistakes I know I make. I don’t know if everyone is like this, but I find that I get to a point where I’m almost stuttering as I stumble over syllables that I’ve not mastered. Sometimes I’ll just laugh out loud as a totally botch a line of the text. I’m sure I’d be amusing to watch, so I guess it is healthier that I find amusement in myself rather than be upset (which would have likely been my response three years ago).

Of course, I’m reading the Pali, chanting, then reading the English. I feel like my brain is switching gears back and forth repeatedly through the entire process, but there isn’t much sense in chanting at all if one cannot derive the meaning of what is being spoken.

As for actually mastering the pronunciations, I have in my possession a CD of the Pali chants from Metta Forest Monastery which I listen to while driving to work on Uposatha days and will even listen to in my office (particularly when I’m not engaged in a meeting or anything else mentally-straining). Perhaps I just work in a really tolerant environment, but I’ve not once had anyone give me grief for it.

Very rarely I’ll chant along with the CD at home (via my Dad’s old Ipad), but I find that I have a lot of difficulty keeping up with it, especially being as how I insist on bowing slowly (much slower than the nearly non-existent pauses in the recording allow) and there is no time provided to make reads of the English translation.

I really do enjoy the process I’ve established as it keeps the mind engaged pretty much all day, even if only partially, in Dhamma. I sometimes wonder how I would fare employing the same (or similar) mode of practice every day. The main problem I think I’ve found with such an idea is that I feel like I alienate myself from my son on Uposatha days — he wants to play computer games or watch TV with me, or sing silly songs, or whatever. I just haven’t yet developed a particularly great way to incorporate Dhamma practice with my kids (especially on observance days) without the appearance that I might be trying to convert them. Of course, all this fails to even begin to address any potential alienation I could cause between myself and my wife with any dramatic changes.

I suppose it isn’t so bad to devote a single day each week as wholly as possible to spiritual pursuits as opposed to nothing at all — I just find that it seems like there is still so much more that could be gained. I’m hopeful, however, that I am still making some sort of progress even though I can’t really take a measure of it.

Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming. May you be well, and may those of you who observe Uposatha practice diligently.

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