Seeking Understanding of Chanting

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Seeking Understanding of Chanting

Post by Zenainder » Fri May 17, 2013 2:03 pm

Hello, thanks in advance to those who have the patience in helping me.

I have a simple question regarding the place chanting has in the practice. Is it a culturally related influence or does it have significance I need to consider in my practice? Personally, in my current path my focus has been mindfullness meditation and learning the dhamma through my own reading, in which I am most interested in.

Any thoughts and / or guidance?

Kind regards,


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Sam Vara
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Re: Seeking Understanding of Chanting

Post by Sam Vara » Fri May 17, 2013 7:18 pm

My experience is that it has whatever significance you want to give it. I don't think the Buddha himself recommended it, but obviously there is a lot of it about in the Theravadan tradition. This means that it might make you a bit self-conscious if you want to avoid chanting where everyone else is doing it. Conversely, it is perfectly possible to practice without it if joining in makes you uncomfortable in any way.

I have found that it can be mildly enjoyable, and is a useful way of settling down the mind a little bit before the more essential aspects of practice like meditation or dhamma talks, etc. A way of ritually preparing oneself and possibly generating a sense of purpose and community, but - for me, at least - not a great deal more.

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Re: Seeking Understanding of Chanting

Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Sat May 18, 2013 3:43 am

No, its not just cultural, and recitation of Suttas dates from the time of the Buddha. There are different ways to use chanting.

The Buddha taught certain Protection Discourses Paritta Suttas like the Metta Sutta as a protection from various dangers.

The Suttas were also chanted for the purpose of memorising and understanding the teachings. Not everyone had a photographic memory like the Venerable Ānanda, so other monks had to recite them to learn the teachings thoroughly. That is how the teachings were recorded for posterity and that oral tradition is still in use today. Many monks in Burma have to memorise large portions of the Canon to pass examinations, and to become qualified teachers. A Fabulous Memory — some biographical details of the first Tipitakadhāra Sayādaw.

Then, on one occasion, when the Venerable Moggallāna was nodding, the Buddha taught him seven methods of dispelling sloth and torpor, one of which was "Reciting teachings that one had learnt by heart."

Nowadays, of course, in many Buddhist countries reciting the virtues of the Buddha, and other similar chanting, are much more for devotional purposes, and may sometimes be done without much understanding of what is being recited. In some cases it has degenerated to the level of a superstitious ritual.

If you're learning about Buddhism, do make the effort to learn some key passages in the original Pāli, and recite them by heart while reflecting on the meaning. It will be an aid to mental discipline, an introduction to the Pāli language, and a foundation for studying the teachings in more depth. Bhāvanā means "mental development", which is not just about meditation, but also includes systematic and thorough learning.

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Re: Seeking Understanding of Chanting

Post by John1122 » Tue May 28, 2013 4:29 pm

Thanks for all the info very helpful.

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