Thich Nhat Hanh became a monk at 16 and entered Từ Hiếu Monastery in Hue, Vietnam. His teacher, Thanh Quý Chân Thật, gave him the traditional first practice of our lineage - gatha study. Thay spent the next two years tending animals and learning to practice with gathas, which are short poems designed to help us see the sacred in the ordinary (pronounced got-ah.)
Gathas can initially seem trivial: How can memorizing and reciting little poems wake us up? But gathas are a deep practice. Our minds contain many beliefs and assumptions about the world. Most of these ideas are untrue and make us suffer. Gathas are antidotes that help us heal and transform our unhelpful views.
When we stop to recite a gatha before engaging in everyday activities like waking up, brushing our teeth, using the toilet, or driving our car, our views are shifted. Instead of throwing out garbage as though it were disconnected from us, we see the interbeing of all things. Instead of cutting a flower and taking its life for our benefit, we nurture gratitude. Instead of washing our hands as a duty before eating, we vow to use our hands to preserve this precious planet.
Gatha practice should be fresh and alive. Choose one or two gathas that call to you and begin there. You might enjoy writing the gathas on little pieces of paper and posting them within view of the activity you’d like to transform. Recite the gathas with your heart rather than your mind and allow them to practice you. You don’t need to figure them out or make it into hard work. After some time, switch to new gathas and keep the practice relevant and flowing. You might even like to write your own. You can download these Gathas for printing, also, from our Resources page.
Anacortes Mindfulness Community Gathas
Waking up this morning, I smile.
Twenty-four brand new hours are before me.
I vow to live fully in each moment
and to look at beings with eyes of compassion.
Taking the First Steps of the Day
Walking on the Earth
is a miracle!
Each mindful step
reveals the wondrous Dharmakaya.
Turning on the Water
Water comes from high in the mountains.
Water runs deep in the Earth.
Miraculously, water comes to us and sustains all life.
My gratitude is filled to the brim.
Washing Your Hands
Water flows over these hands.
May I use them skillfully
to preserve our precious planet.
Brushing Your Teeth
Brushing my teeth and rinsing my mouth,
I vow to speak purely and lovingly.
When my mouth is fragrant with right speech,
a flower blooms in the garden of my heart.
Using the Toilet
Defiled or immaculate,
increasing or decreasing--
these concepts exist only in our mind.
The reality of interbeing is unsurpassed.
Entering the Meditation Hall
Entering the meditation hall,
I see my true self.
As I sit down,
I vow to cut off all disturbances.
is like sitting under a Bodhi tree.
My body is mindfulness itself,
free from distraction.
Calming the Breath
Breathing in, I calm my body.
Breathing out, I smile.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment!
Feelings come and go
like clouds in a windy sky.
is my anchor.
A lotus for you
a Buddha to be.
Before Eating (The Five Contemplations)
This food is the gift of the whole universe
the earth, the sky, and much hard work.
May we eat in mindfulness so as to be worthy to receive it.
May we transform our unskillful states of mind,
especially our greed, and learn to eat with moderation.
May we take only foods that nourish us
and prevent illness.
We accept this food to realize
the path of understanding and love.
Inviting the Bell to Sound
Body, speech, and mind in perfect oneness,
I send my heart out along with the sound of this bell.
May all hearers awaken from forgetfulness
and transcend the path of sorrow.
Listening to the Bell
this wonderful sound
brings me back
to my true home.
Smiling at Your Anger
Breathing in, I know that anger makes me not beautiful.
Breathing out, I smile.
I stay with my breathing
so I won't lose myself.
Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know I am breathing out.
Breathing in, my breath grows deep,
Breathing out, my breath grows slow.
Breathing in, my mind is calm
Breathing out, my body is at ease.
Breathing in, I smile
Breathing out, I release.
Dwelling in the present moment,
I know this is a wonderful moment.
Driving the Car
Before starting the car
I know where I'm going.
The car and I are one.
If the car goes fast, I go fast.
This cup of tea in my two hands,
mindfulness held perfectly.
My mind and body dwell
in the very here and now.
Watering the Plants
Don't think you are cut off, dear plant.
This water comes to you from the Earth and sky.
You and I have been together
since beginningless time.
Communicating with Others
Words can travel thousands of miles.
May my words create mutual understanding and love.
May they be as beautiful as gems,
as lovely as flowers.
The mind can go in a thousand directions,
but on this path, I walk in peace.
With each step, a fresh wind blows.
With each step, a flower blooms.
Turning on the Light
Forgetfulness is the darkness,
mindfulness is the light.
I bring awareness
to shine upon all life.
In these vegetables
I see a green sun.
All dharmas join together
to make life possible.
to scrub and clean.
Day by day,
my heart and mind grow clearer.
As I carefully sweep
the ground of enlightenment,
a tree of understanding
springs up from the Earth.
Throwing Out the Garbage
In the garbage, I see a rose.
In the rose, I see compost.
Everything is in transformation.
Impermanence is life.
Cutting a Flower
May I cut you, little flower,
gift of Earth and sky?
Thank you, dear bodhisattva,
for making life so beautiful.
Lighting a Candle
Lighting this candle,
Offering the light to countless Buddhas,
the peace and the joy I feel
brighten the face of the Earth.