Here is a mantra I often work with during the day. It’s an adaptation I made of the much-loved Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. (St. Francis is my favorite Christian saint, among other things, because of his love of animals, and especially birds! See: The Compassion of the Swans)
In Buddhism, working with a mantra is different from the usual method of meditation—I would describe it as a kind of combined mindfulness practice and metta, or loving-kindness practice. Rather than the breath being the focus, or states of concentration, the focus is on the meaning and feeling and spirit of the words.
You might spend many minutes on any one verse—holding it in your heart, feeling it, tasting it, letting it diffuse throughout your being. Frankly, I rarely get through all the verses, but usually get “full” and grounded in love well before the last verse.
There’s no “right” way to work with the mantra, but as in prayer, or meditation, you will probably find that your mind wanders off and away from contemplating the meaning of what you are saying, or reading. Again and again, you’ll need to bring your thought, and your heart, back to the verse to contemplate what it means to you and to the world.
Be patient, be loving, but persist! It can take a while for the meaning and import of the words to sink in and begin to melt the hardness, coldness, and indifference in our hearts. If you get discouraged sometimes, always remember you are getting in touch with what’s best in you—your deepest desire to love and be loved.
I know this mantra by heart now, but in the beginning, I would carry it around on a 3×5 card so I could refer to it. From time to time during the day, I’d take a break from whatever I was doing and read and ponder the words on the card. Soon, I had it memorized. Over time, I was amazed at the deep changes that took place in me as I consistently worked with this earnest aspiration to be an expression of love and goodness in the world.
May this mantra, this prayer, this deep aspiration, be a help and inspiration to your life as well. I offer it from my heart to yours.
A Buddhist’s Mantra
(based on the Prayer of St. Francis)
May I be an agent of love in this world.
Where there is hatred, let me bring loving-kindness;
Where there is injury, forgiveness;
Where there is doubt, insight;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
May I console as well as be consoled.
May I understand as well as be understood;
May I love as well as be loved;
For in giving we receive;
In forgiving, we are forgiven;
In dying to self-centeredness, we are born to the deathless.
For your inspiration, here is a very lovely piano transcription of “Pie Jesu” by as played by Angelicus from the collection Bella’s Lullaby: