We often hear humming whenever we are around temples, monasteries or religious places. These hums are soothing and is a form of incantation. In Hinduism, Christianity and other religions, these incantations or humming are often considered to be a prayer but in Buddhism, chanting is not specific to prayers only.
When you visit a monastery, you may see Buddhist people bowing, or playing gongs, rolling on the floor and circulating around the main temple where Buddha statues are place and all of them have one thing in common. While doing their services, they are always chanting; not in a common language of the place though. After seeing all this (if you are still a firm believer of it being a philosophy in the debate of is Buddhism a Religion or a Philosophy) you might find it strange for Buddhism following religious practice.
Chanting and Approach to Buddhism
It may be strange at first but once you understand the Buddhism practice, you will understand Buddhism is not all about worshipping god only but is also a way to understand life and to realize enlightenment.
You can understand Buddhist chant is not limited to prayers only but is also a preparation for meditation and awakening ourselves to cultivate mindfulness.
Types of Buddhist Chants
As Buddhism are practiced differently in different areas and having different Buddhist chants should not be a surprise. A very few chants are:
- A chant can be an entire Sutra or a part of it.
- A chant can be a mantra.
- A chant can be a dharani.
- A chant can be a gatha.
How to Chant:
If you are new to Buddhism, the best advice is to listen carefully to what everyone around you is doing, and do that. Pitch your voice to be in unison with most of the other chanters (no group is every completely in unison), copy the volume of the people around you and start chanting.
Chanting is not a difficult art. If you are new to Buddhism and are unaware of the process of Chanting, simply imitate the experienced one. Remember the first day of your school when you didn’t know your national anthem. You will learn the chants as the time goes by but try to pitch your voice in unison and also understand the volume of people who are chanting beside you.