What stories and songs stir our hearts, reminding us of the brevity of all we cherish? And what texts and melodies still our minds, opening us to light, clarity, and compassion? This retreat explores the recitation of Buddhist poetry from Cambodia and beyond that speaks to themes of love, loss, devotion, and letting go. We’ll explore these poems from two perspectives: as sounds, shaped by traditional Khmer practices of singing and chanting, and as stories, crafted by Buddhist authors for the sake of unsettling our attachments and deepening our aspirations.
We’ll begin with the basics of chant in Theravāda and other Buddhist traditions. We’ll then focus on the Cambodian tradition of melodic and highly expressive “Dharma songs” (thoa bot or smot). Our practice and inquiry together will include sessions for learning chanting techniques as well as discussions of these Buddhist poems in the context of our lives. Along the way, we’ll reflect together on questions of music, culture, language, and heritage.