The sound of the bell.
The bell is a tool, a “bell of mindfulness” that reminds us to be in the present moment, should we become distracted. It also lets us know when something is beginning or ending. When the bell is rung three times, we stop whatever we are doing and relax and become aware of our breathing. We stay still and silent until the sound dies away. By stopping to breathe and restore our calm and our peace we become free and restore our mindfulness.
Within the practice, the bell is “invited” to sound, rather than being “struck”, the tool being used to invite the bell is therefore known as the bell inviter. The person inviting the bell (“the bell-master”) needs to feel really solid, at peace and present in the moment. Accordingly he or she needs to concentrate their awareness so that the bell will produce a beautiful sound and be of maximum benefit to those present, the Sangha. To help the bell master accomplish this, the bell-master may first focus on his or her breath and recite the following gatha:
“With body, speech and mind in perfect oneness
I send my heart along with the sound of the bell.
May all who hear it awaken from forgetfulness
And transcend all anxiety and sorrow.”
Before the mindfulness bell is invited to sound it is important to “wake up” the bell. To wake up the bell contact is made by the bell-inviter on the edge of the bell and held, creating a short muffled sound. This allows the those present to prepare for the full sound of the bell. This is particularly useful at the end of a meditation session to avoid startling anyone with the full sound of the bell.
The sound of the bell gives us an opportunity to come back to our breath and dwell in the present moment. On hearing the sound of the bell, we concentrate for at least three breaths. If desired, the following gathas can help us in this practice:
Listen, listen, this wonderful sound
Brings me back to my true self.
The sound of the bell is the voice of the Buddha
calling me back to my true home.
Before inviting the bell again, the bell master will allow enough time for three in- and out-breaths.