Pauca Verba is Latin for A Few Words.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Gathas Are Like Seeds

Here is picture of the young Frasier Fir tree (Abies fraseri) I bought yesterday. The nursery folks even decorated it with a little red Christmas bow. Frasier Firs are one of a few kinds of traditional Christmas trees, the branches leaving  lots of room for hanging ornaments. But this tree is for planting outside, not for chopping. While it waits for me to find the right spot, with the maximum of sunshine, I am reminded of the need for prayer.

Gatha is a prayer-form found in Buddhism but not prayers as we often understand them in the west - some sentences (maybe out of a book) telling God what we need God to do for us. A gatha instead is a little verse that sums up or highlights a spiritual concept. Without using theological terms (a kind of foreign language to many) it is immediately accessible to the soul. 

A gatha usually features some ordinary aspect of life, helping us to be mindful of what we're doing in the movements and encounters of everyday. What we're REALLY doing. A gatha invites us to be aware of the hidden aspects of living, the underneath as we: wake up, enter a room, set a table, wash our hands, brush our teeth, rake leaves, send an e-mail or make a phone call - plant a young tree.  

One author says that gathas are like planting seeds of goodness, spirit and joy. As a response to our feelings of helplessness, gathas are seeds of desire and good intention sewn in a world burdened with killing, negativity, greed, suffering and injustice. Additionally, I'd say gathas are short exhaled expressions of surprise - interior exclamation points! 

Gathas are a way for us to take control of our own minds which are often jerked around by so many silly and wasted distractions, too much media and too much talking. We can en-circle the world by writing our own - indeed - we should feel encouraged to do so. 

As I awaken
Upon waking this morning,
I stay in bed until I smile,
grateful for these hours
and greeting all who suffer.

The days first encounter with water
Streams weave through the woods here,
rain and snow abound,
now grateful for the splash of water ~
our human commonalty.

As I put on my shoes
With a grateful heart I ask
Who made these shoes?
and that I'd walk the earth
in safety and peace.

While walking my dogs
In the dark morning hours ~
tiny headlights on my cap,
grateful for this bit of creation
entrusted to my care.

As my eyes fall on the Gospel page
At seven the pretty teacher taught me to read.
What a wonderful gift!
I hold this wish for the children of the world ~
especially the girls.

For the healing of my ancestors
In my ancestral line: poverty, imbalance and fear,
addiction and despair.
Now in this moment of recalling,
I wish them healing and joy.

Setting the table
As I set the table ~
dinner for four,
Can't we spread the table
for the world that has nothing?

In the planting of the fir tree
As an antidote to destruction
I plant the young fir tree
with hopes for an
ever-greening human unity


  1. You are a major supporting branch of my spiritual tree. Many of my thoughts on faith stem from your lessons here. And I feel more alive and healthy as a result. Growing and basking in the sunlight with this nourishment.

  2. Isn't it wonderful? And Jesus said in St. John's Gospel (10:10) "I have come that you may have life and have it more abundantly." Oh, that religion would help us to live abundantly! Thanks for writing.

  3. Beautiful thoughts.

  4. May your tree grow and spread its branches wide. The seeds of your gatha prayers out there. May they take root in people to spread your joy to them. Sewing the seeds of faith Father Stephen. Keep going!

  5. I am thinking of several gathas as I go about my day. It does give a feeling of peace and joy. Taking stock of life's little gifts and pleasures takes away some negativity.

  6. Thank you for encouraging us and for sharing your personal gathas. This glimpse into your own spiritual growth is a planting of seeds in of itself. For we can write our own gathas and spread the joyful gratefulness.

    1. A gatha is an antidote to hate and negativity. If you've got gratitude, you've got the spiritual life! Carry on everybody!

  7. Being thankful for every breath I take. A simple but necessary act that we all share. When one see someone take their last, it brings home the fragility of life and how we take for granted the smallest gifts.

  8. For those people who are feeling a connection to these gathas, I recommend a book by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist Monk, called Present Moment Wonderful Moment: Mindfulness Verses for Daily Living. It is a collection of his meditations. A friend introduced me to this method of reflective prayer during a difficult time and I found it made me more aware and appreciative of the good things in my life. I was very excited to see it here as it reminded my of that this practice of reflection brought such a sense of peace and acceptance. I never know what I might find here but it is always an inspiration!

  9. Waking up and seeing your post first thing helped get me through the day. I just want you to know how great I think you are for all the things that you do. You must bless many lives along the way. I am always grateful for anyone that touches my life end some way. Love, Jenna

  10. Grateful to you Father Stephen. Yes, sometimes it really is the little things we must stop and remember. Even a small act of kindness done for us. You might write things here for yourself, but it is a kind act to put them up and share them across cyberspace so we all might see and learn.

  11. Mindfulness can simply be noticing what we normally don't notice because our heads are too busy thinking about what we need to do or going over what we have already done. Being more aware will retrain our brains to be present in the moment and gives us a mental freedom to come out of the ruts we have established. This leads to greater happiness which in turn can be passed on. Take notice of you can.

  12. Great ideas. Wonderful. I think this will help an lot of people to stop and reflect. I will be sure to pass it on. Happy Thanksgiving Father Morris.

  13. And Blessed Advent to you and all your family!

  14. Wonderful prayer direction. Thank you for sharing.

  15. And thank you for looking up the post. I send a blessing in the Advent time!

  16. I just clicked on a link and found this wonderful Gatha post and beautiful blog. Very lovely and packed with resources. I see that you have a whole Lenten series and Intercessions for every week. A great find for me as I direct a youth group that targets high school aged kids. We meet once a week and begin each evening with some sort of self reflection prayer. I have added myself to the list of subscribers and hope to utilize your past and future posts. Thank you for making it all easily accessible.

    1. I'm delighted. Tell your young people that you have written to me and that I send good wishes and blessings. Tell them I'm happy to hear from young people and their ideas for other posts and things they would like to see addressed.