Posted inOther Teachings

Spiritual Practice for a Global Sangha, by Ruben Habito, Part 6

January 7, 2017

…we embrace all that sangha is, which is none other than the reality that we are as interconnected with one another and with all living beings.


The Maria Kannon Sangha

Here in Dallas, Texas, we are blessed to have a community of persons who come together to practice Zen meditation on a regular basis, at a small zendō we call the Maria Kannon Zen Center. As “Kannon” is the Buddhist icon of compassion, “Maria” is the Christian icon of compassion.

Among those who come to join in our zen meditation sessions, some identify themselves as Buddhists, some are Christians who also continue their own church attendance and Christian devotional practice, some from the Jewish tradition, and others not sure of their religious belonging, or do not particularly care.

Sitting in the same hall together in silence, facing a wall, putting the mind to rest in focusing on the breath, we find support in one another’s presence, and feel a deep bond with one another. This is so even though in some cases we may not even know one another’s name, or hardly know about one another’s personal background or occupation. Despite this, we experience what sangha entails in a most intimate way.

In this silence, there is no longer Christian, Buddhist, Jew, Muslim, Hindu, atheist or agnostic. In this shared silence, our eyes are opened to the Mystery that allows us to breathe every breath, step every step, live every day of our lives here on earth, and our hearts are filled with gratitude for this web of interconnected life that allows each one of us to be who we are.

At the end of our meditation sessions, we also recite together or chant verses and passages from Buddhist scriptures, including the Four Sublime Attitudes (Loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy, and equanimity), the Heart Sutra, Zen Master Hakuin’s Song of Zazen, and others. It is in this context that we also chant the Three Refuges.

In chanting Buddham saranam gacchami , we call to mind the Awakened One, not just the historical being that lived two and a half millennia in the past, but the living reality that is within each and of us, the manifestation of our deepest, truest self, which grounds us in the path of awakening. In chanting Dhammam saranam gacchami, we give expression to their earnest search for the Truth which holds everything together in the universe, that which manifests itself in the way things are, that which liberates us from our delusions. And in chanting Sangham saranam gacchami, we acknowledge reverence and express gratitude to the assembly of all beings, past, present, and future, with whom we are connected in an intimate bond of being-together.

Further, in chanting Sangham Saranam gacchami,

…we embrace all that sangha is, which is none other than the reality that we are as interconnected with one another and with all living beings.

We are thus given the vision, and thereby empowered, to live in a way that accepts and cherishes the entire community of living beings on this Earth as our very own family. And at the same time we are enabled to take a straight look at the pain and woundedness that our Earth sangha bears, experiencing this as our very own pain. As we bear this pain of the world which is our very own, we are moved to offer all that we are and all that we have, each in our given unique individuality, toward the healing of this pain and woundedness that we carry together as Earth sangha.

In this we find our inspiration in Maria the Mother of Jesus, who stood by her Son at the foot of the Cross as he bore the pains and sufferings of the world in his own body. We find our inspiration in the figure of Kannon, Hearer of the Cries of the World, symbol of Boundless Compassion, using all kinds of skillful means in alleviating the pain and suffering of living beings.

Honoring Maria Kannon, we chant:

…Just compassion

In the light recall this,
in the dark recall this.

Moment after moment
the true heart arises

Time after time
there is nothing but this.


Written by Ruben L.F. Habito and originally published on the Maria Kannon Zen Center website, as Spiritual Practice for a Global Sangha.

Ruben L. F. Habito served as a Jesuit missionary in Japan from 1970 to 1989 and taught at Sophia University for many years. He now serves as Teacher (Roshi) at Maria Kannon Zen Center (Dallas), and is on the Faculty at Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University. His books include Experiencing Buddhism: Ways of Wisdom and Compassion (Orbis, 2005), and Living Zen, Loving God (Wisdom, 2004).

Image: IMGP7189rd, by Bill Benzon, CC by-SA 2.0, from

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