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Traditions of Buddhist Meditation Chants

Traditions of Buddhist Meditation Chants


Buddhist meditation chant is a type of musical poetry which is quite similar to the religious practices of Hindus, Jewish, and Christians. The mantra thrives in the world of Buddhism with each school practicing traditional chanting. It is perceived as a practice. Recital of verses is said to nurture awareness of Buddha’s qualities. Chanting became more popular with the emergence of Mahayana traditions which combined certain aspects of the non-Buddhist practice with spirituality or the “Tantra.”

What is Tantra?

Tantra is described as a ceremonial or mystical text between the sixth and 13th centuries. It is an observance of Tantra doctrine that involved Yoga, meditation, and mantras. The Tantra used mantras extensively to communicate with and influence the gods. Buddhism utilized the technique to relate with the attributes of enlightenment. The Mahayana created a structure of figurative symbols in human appearance to embody an enlightened status. Tantra, recitation of holy verses, and meditation are interrelated which brings us to the topic of Buddhist Meditation Chants.

Traditions of Buddhist Meditation Chants

In Buddhism, chanting grooms the mind for meditation as a component of formal practice. Primary forms of chanting are Thevada, Mahayana Sutra, and Vajrayana. For the Thevada tradition, chanting is performed in a Prakrit language or dialect called Pali. There are times that vernacular translations are mixed. Mahayana Sutra chants supposedly reveal the real character of Shakyamuni Buddha who reached enlightenment a long time ago. Vajrayana tradition dictates that chanting is a creative rite that focuses the mind on a particular divinity. For practitioners of this tradition, the chant, Om Mani Padme Hum has become widespread worldwide.

How to Perform Meditation Chants Correctly?

Set a specific time for meditation chanting specifically in the early morning when you are most serene and not rushing things. Aside from sunrise, sunset is also ideal for meditation. As a practice, refrain from meditating and chanting after eating. Sit on the floor with crossed legs Maintain a straight back and keep your eyes closed for the duration of chanting. A quiet and orderly bedroom is the ideal way for meditation chanting.

It is not necessary to chant perfectly. In fact, those who are well-versed in meditation say there is no correct or incorrect method.  You simply have to sit motionless with eyes focused on a blank space. There is not fixed formula for chanting. However, it must be done profoundly or intensely. Meditation chanting will take many years of practice. You have to feel at peace with bliss and contentment covering your entire body.

Chanting for Enlightenment

If you visit a Buddhist temple, you will surely see people chanting which refer to the Buddhist schools of recited liturgy. Yet, the content differs extensively. For neophytes, the practice looks uncomfortable particularly in Western-influenced countries where the standard text is sung or recited during regular worship services. The bottom line is Buddhist chanting is not meant to worship but to become enlightened or wake up from mistakes or illusions. This is the essential part of meditation and chanting that beginners have to learn.