Key West Tara Mandala Blog June 2023
May All…How We Use the Word “May” in our Practices and Prayers by Ellen Yeshe
May all beings have happiness and the causes of happiness.
May all beings be free from suffering and the causes of suffering.
May all beings never be separated from the supreme joy that is beyond all sorrow.
May all beings abide in equanimity, free from attachment and aversion
Here we are in June, and I continue to contemplate the use of the word MAY in our practices and prayers. As you know from my “May Gatherings” email, I became aware of how often the term MAY is used in our practices, prayers, and gatherings. The exploration of the use of this word continues!
During our Saga Dawa gathering last Saturday, June 3rd, we explored the month of Saga Dawa as a Month of Merit. The dedication of merit often starts with the word…May.
“May the merit gained through this practice swiftly bring all beings to the realization of their true nature and through that blessing, may all beings without one exception be liberated.”
Lama Tsultrim Allione has said: “Merit creates the interdependence with your practice so your mind does clear and you can see the true condition of the nature of mind.”
How do we use “MAY” in language and the dharma?
The dictionary shares several ways the word “may” is used. For example, we use it to ask permission, offer consent, or make polite requests.
The word “may” can indicate the possibility of something.
The dictionary also explains we use it to express a hope or a wish.
May I Pause….
Upon further reflection, I feel our use of the word ‘may’ in the dharma encompasses many definitions. Throughout May and June, I have been pausing to feel “may” as I begin a prayer, set an intention, or offer merit by asking myself to notice my intention of saying “may.”
I wonder, am I asking or offering or something else?
Does this feel dualistic or non-dualistic?
Am I asking for or offering to someone outside of myself?
This brought to mind a teaching from Lama Tsultrim on No giver, no receiver, no gift, which she offered in her teachings on the Six Paramitas.
From Lama Tsultrim:
“To take the practice of generosity a step further, you can infuse generosity with the view that there is no inherent separate existence in the giver, the gift, or the receiver. This view, known as the threefold emptiness, turns practicing generosity into something beyond simple, virtuous action. It helps us not be attached to the outcome of giving, thus freeing us from any expectations.
It is very interesting when you practice to have the experience of this non-dual offering. At first, you may wonder how you can offer something to someone who is not separate from yourself, but then you begin to have a non-dual experience of offering and receiving as one thing. It is similar to when you make love. If the experience is really good, then there is this feeling that there are not two beings anymore, just one non-dual. There is no giver or receiver; it is just oneness.”- – Lama Tsultrim Allione
When I feel into a phrase such as “May all beings benefit,” I tune into the heart of Bodhichitta and take the vast view that I am not separate from any being. By pausing to feel my aspiration and intention, I feel my connection with all life.
A quote from Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo helped me to look at my prayers as being one with, not separate from.
“Ultimately, in Buddhist practice, there is no separation between giver, receiver, and gift. Whatever we do, whatever we offer, we are not practicing for sentient beings. We are practicing with sentient beings as sentient beings. It’s infinitely interdependent.” – Jetsunma Tenzin Palmo
Avoiding Rote Offerings
If we have been saying some of these phrases and prayers for a long time, we can fall into the trap of the words becoming rote. We all know the Four Immeasurables by heart. We can easily say the words from memory. But it is our heart that must be engaged as we say them.
I invite you to pause and connect with the phrase, the words. Say them slowly with meaning. Feel your kinship with all sentient beings. Say them as an infinite sentient being. You will be purifying your intention by realizing the emptiness of the circle of three: the agent, the action, and the object and feeling interdependence. Pause before moving on. Feel the radiance of the words.
It is said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama offers this prayer every morning.
“May I be a guard for those who need protection; a guide for those on a path; a boat; a raft; a bridge for those to cross the flood;
May I be a lamp in the darkness, a resting place for the weary, and healing medicine for all those who are sick.
For as long as the earth and sky endure, may I assist all living beings.”
Please Add a Comment Below:
I invite you to consider how you use “may” when we say the immeasurables or in one of our prayers and practices.
What is the nature or energy of your offering? Is it a request, a hope or wish, or an example of a possibility? Or is it all of those things or something else?