There are beautiful chants in all of the” world’s great religions”. From the beauty of the Sufi chants (early Islamic mystics) to the power of Tibetan Buddhist “Om Mani Peme Hung” to the devotion of the Hindu “Om Namah Shivaya” & “Hare Krishna”. The powerful Peyote prayer songs of the Native American Church, the early Christians had the hauntingly beautiful Gregorian Chants, the Kabbalah and the Jewish mystics and there are many other examples thru history.
I does not matter so much what you chant, it’s actually doing the chanting, that matters most! Choose a chant that you are attracted to and start from there. Chanting is an “experiential” thing.
Many different people try to “explain” how it works. I have enclosed two of what I consider the best verbal explanations of “how chanting works”. One is by Ram Das and the other is by author Don Campbell.
Everybody sings. Every culture in the world has some form of music, of song. But songs have different purposes in countries like India than they have in the west. In the west music is usually an emotional experience or a kind of social interaction. In India, song (kirtan) is a method of spiritual practice, an approach to the Divine.
Different purposes lead to different forms. In kirtan, for example, we often will sing the same phrase over and over and over again, sometimes for hours at a time – a form that just doesn’t exist in western music. We don’t understand the idea that you could take a single phrase and keep repeating it and repeating it, letting it carry us deeper and deeper and deeper into our being. But in kirtan you do just that.
Take a chant, maybe something as simple as a single sound such as “OM”. Try repeating it for a few minutes. You’ll feel how, with just that one sound, you can tune in so deeply. You’re using the sound as a tuning device into the sound itself. And as you listen your way into the sound, you realize that what you’re doing is to tune the dial of your consciousness, to open a door that lets you go more deeply inward.
The gateways to the soul or spirit are opened with prayer, voice, repetition and sound. The Gregorian chants of the early Catholic religion, the rhythm chants of Africa, the Peyote chants of the Native American church, the repetitive phrases at a pep rally and the mystical words unifying us to God – all are part of the transformational power of sound.
The repetition of a vocal sound modifies the breath, body and mind. Each tone vibrates the bones of the chanter, cantor, the singer and the devotee. The elongation of the vowel sound is remarkably healing to the body and the brain. The brainwaves begin to balance after just 3 or 4 minutes, and the muscle and skin temperature increases. Chanting is a simple and essential way to reduce stress and anxiety levels. The Ancients intuitively knew that the balancing of the body, speech and mind through the voice is a direct path to God consciousness.
A Mantra or chant often starts out up in the head, where you are thinking about it. You think about the word, how to say it or what it means. Then the word begins to go down into the throat, into a physical experience of the sound itself. Next it starts to move down into the heart. And eventually it becomes the engine that is running you. You are not singing the sound, the sound is singing you. It is bringing you closer and close to another plane of consciousness, offering you a way to live simultaneously on more than one plane of reality, at a time. It’s allowing you to experience other parts of your identity, to recognize that there’s a lot more to you than what you see or what you think.
Every time I get in my car it's a perfect opportunity for me to chant as I’m driving. I find I’m much more relaxed and calm. Being more calm means I make better decisions behind the wheel. I’m not so inclined to take another driver’s bad habits and inattention as a “personal affront” and I get to pray all along the way. When I do arrive, I can make much more meaningful decisions. It’s time well spent!
I feel blessed to be able to chant the many different varieties available in the public domain, some of them are posted on this site. Please enjoy.
Thanks for reading my blog and please consider chanting as part of a regular schedule, you will be rewarded!