Introduction to Gathas

To meditate is to be aware of  what  is going on­ in our bodies, our feelings, our minds, and in the world. When we settle into the present moment, we can see beauties and wonders right before our eyes – a newborn baby, the sun  rising  in  the  sky. We can be very happy just by being aware of what is in front of us.

One way to help us dwell in the present moment is to practice reciting gathas or mindfulness verses. When we focus our mind on a gatha, we return to ourselves and become more aware of each action. When the gatha ends, we continue our activity with heightened awareness. When we drive a car, signs can help us find our way. The sign and the road become one, and we see the sign all along the way until the next sign. When we practice with gathas, the gathas and the rest of our life become one, and we live our entire lives in  awareness. This helps us very much, and it helps others as well. We find that we have more peace, calm, and joy, which we can share with others.

As exercises in both meditation and poetry, gathas are very much in keeping with the Zen tra­dition. When you memorize a gatha, it will come to you quite naturally, for example, when you tum on the water or drink a cup of tea. But it is not nec­ essary to learn all the verses at once. You can begin with one or two and learn more over time. 


Calming the breath (i)

Breathing in , I calm my body.

Breathing out, I smile.

Dwelling in the present moment,

I know this is a wonderful moment.

Calming the breath (ii)

I have arrived,

I am  home

In the here and  in the  now.

I am solid, I am free,

In the ultimate I dwell..

The door to no-birth, no-death has opened

Free and unshakeable I dwell.

Calming the breath (iii)

Breathing in, I know I am breathing in.
Breathing out, I know
as the in-breath grows deep,
the out-breath grows slow.
Breathing in makes me calm.
Breathing out brings me ease.
With the in-breath, I smile.
With the out-breath, I release.
Breathing in, there is only the present moment.
Breathing out, it is a wonderful moment.


The mind can go in a thousand directions.

But on this beautiful path, I walk in peace.

With each step, a gentle wind blows.

With each step, a flower blooms.



Entering the meditation hall

Entering the meditation hall,

I see my true mind.

I vow that once I sit down,

all disturbances will stop.

Sitting down

Sitting here

Is like sitting under a Bodhi tree.

My body is mindfulness itself,

Free from all distraction.

Adjusting the meditation posture

Feelings come and go

Like clouds in a windy sky.

Conscious breathing

is my anchor.

Impermanence (i)

The end of the day

The day is now ended.
Our lives are shorter.
Let us look carefully.
What have we done?
Noble Sangha, with all our heart,
Let us be diligent, engaging in practice.
Let us live deeply, free from all afflictions,
Aware of impermanence,
So that life doesn’t drift away without meaning.


Inviting the bell

Body, speech, and mind held in perfect oneness,

I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.

May the hearers awaken from forgetfulness,

Transcending anxiety and sorrow.

[alternate ending]

May it penetrate deeply the universe,

Awakening beings to life.

Listening to the bell (i)

Listen, listen,

this wonderful sound

brings me back

to my true home. 

Listening to the bell (ii)

Hearing the bell,

I let go of my afflictions,

My heart is calm, my sorrows ended.

No longer bound to anything.

I learn to listen to my suffering

And the suffering of others.

When understanding is born in me,

Compassion is also born.

Impermanence (ii)

Looking at your hand

Whose hand is this
that has never died?
Who is it who was born in the past?
Who is it who will die in the future?



Hanh, N. T., & Oda, M. (2002). Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living (2nd ed.). Parallax Press.