Much of my first week as Ino has been delightfully consumed with training students on the drums, bells and vocals that attune us (literally) to the rhythm of our sitting and service. There are religions of melody and religions of harmony, and from my perspective, Buddhism falls in the latter category. Indeed, the Sanskrit word sama, translated in English as “right” (as in the Eight-Fold Path of right speech, right action, etc.) actually means “in tune.”
To harmonize, to align, to resonate. These are the qualities of the bells, drums and voices that come forth in our service. Even after more than 20 years in this practice, I still break out in a smile when the assembly begins a chant somewhat tentatively, on a range of oft-discordant notes, and then suddenly without effort finds a common pitch and well-tuned harmonies – even among people who are dissonant for the rest of the day.
There is hope in those moments, an unspoken pull toward resonance that trumps the separate self. How interesting that we so deeply fear losing our self, yet we come to harmony so quickly in chant, willing to give up our own pitch-position for the reward of being in tune. No need for everyone to be on the same note -- harmony has a better chance of finding more matching frequencies from which we say, “Ah, yes, that’s my note! I can belong. I can be at home with the song in my heart.”