Chanting is an essential aspect of any type of Buddhist belief and is often compared to various religious recitations practiced under Hindu, Jewish, or Catholic principles. Chanting is an approach of immersing oneself in spiritual, cultural, and ritualistic practices of Buddhism that is commonly carried out in small or big groups of people.
A Buddhist chant is a type of melodic verse or invocation that is traditionally done to prepare one's mind for meditation contrary to the common belief that it is some form of a Buddhist prayer. According to practitioners, in chanting one can learn, teach, philosophize, or recall the whole Buddhist discourse.
The development of Buddhist chanting said to have started from simply memorizing its discourse during the times when books and other support materials were lacking. In order to retain the thought and essence of Buddhism, one was required to memorize its principles, learn it, and live with it. And for the propagation and preservation of the Buddhist thought, the discourse was passed on to the next generation which then became a practice until now.
The concept behind the chanting is that if a practitioner does not recite the Buddhist discourse daily, there is the tendency to forget it and leave out some of its important parts. In some way, chanting has proven to have helped the very survival of Buddha's teaching called Dhammaâ€.
With the development of technology nowadays, the purpose of chanting has also evolved. Today, chanting serves the purpose of more than the memorization of Buddhist discourse. Believers claim that in chanting one can gain confidence, satisfaction, and joy in one's life and develop a sense of devotion within the person's being. Also, the repetitive process of chanting or recitation of the Buddhist discourse is believed to bring out good karma to person who is strictly practicing it.
Translations of Common Chants
(click the name of the chant for the translation)
Jodo Shin Shu chants are often followed by the chanting of Nembutsu and end with the"Ekoku" written by Shan Tao(Zendo in Japanese, 618-681 CE), which expresses the aspiration that all beings benefit by the truth and virtue of the drahma.
The purpose of chanting Juseige comes form the Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. In that sutra the Bodhisattva Dhamakara, who becomes Amida Buddha, declares to the Buddha Lokesvararaja his intentions to become a Buddha himself.
The Three Sacred Vows, refer to Dharmakara's pledge to: establish the most incomparable Vow in the world, become a great provider and save the poor and suffering, attain Buddhahood and have his Name heard throughout the ten quarters of the universe.
The English translation of this gatha is from the Shinshu Seiten, Jodo Shin Buddhist Teaching, published by the Buddhist Churches of America, 1978.
The gatha Sanbutsuge comes from The Larger Sutra of Immeasurable Life. It is the praises voiced by Bodhisattva Dharmakara to the Buddha Lokesvraraja.
In these praises Dharmakara expresses his own desire to attain Buddhahood and his heartfelt determination to accomplish his goal for the sake of saving all sentient beings.
The English translation of this gatha is from the Dharma School Service Book, by the Buddhist Churches of America, 1981, and Tan Butsu Ge, by Rev. Guomay M. Kubose, 1976.
The Shoshinge was written by Shinran Shonin, as a portion of his much larger work, the Kyogyoshinsho. The Shoshinge appears at the end of the second chapter of the quite voluminous six chapter work, the Kyogyo-shinsho.
The Shoshinge is written in the form of a song or poem, and consists of exactly 120 lines. The Shoshinge is also one of the most fundamental of sutra chants recited in Jodo Shinshu. At our mother temple in Kyoto, the Nishi Hongwanji. the beautiful sound of ministers and lay people chanting this centuries old chant, is something almost indescribable.
In the Shoshinge, Shinran expresses his own religious faith, but he also expresses his deep conviction, his insight, his realization, his humility, and his profound gratitude, which are all his shinjin, or his true heart and mind.
The English translation of the gāthā is from The True Teaching, Practice and Realization of the Pure Land Way, Vol. I., Shin Buddhist Translation Series, Hongwanji International Center, Kyoto, Japan.
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