We begin each week with a brief ritual. Everyone stands, and those who wish to, say the words in bold below then bow in the direction of the shrine.
Namo Buddhaya (homage to the Buddha – Enlightened one)
Namo Dharmaya (homage to the Dharma – teachings / way things are)
Namo Sanghaya (homage to the Sangha – community of Buddhists)
Namo Nama (emphatically so)
Om ( with body)
Ah ( with speech)
Hum ( with heart / mind) – this is pronounced similarly to hung
sound file: Saluting the Shrine
There is much in Buddhism that is rational however we are not just rational human beings. We respond to beauty: to art, music, nature and poetry. Buddhist teaching and culture also uses colour, lyricism, gesture, sounds, symbols, myths and even scent to help convey it’s values and ideals. Buddhism uses the language of the heart and imagination as well as that of the intellect.
A simple explanation of the salutation would be that we are welcoming the influence of Buddhist ideals, turning ourselves towards The Three Jewels (Triratna) also known as The Three Treasures or Refuges. In non-Buddhist language we could say that it is an appreciation that Wisdom and Compassion can be fully manifested in mankind, that there is advice that if followed can bring this about and there is a community who have (and those who are now) doing this. If one then wishes to become a Buddhist this appreciation becomes an ever deepening commitment to helping everyone who wishes (including oneself) to becoming ever more like the Buddha through the means of the teaching.
A feature of symbol and ritual is that it can express a rich content. An instructional manual may be precise but a poem can, by stirring associations, hold several layers of meaning and evoke emotions. Therefore even a short ritual, such as this, can over time become increasingly significant as understanding and experience is associated with it.