The Chanting Practice of
Dr Ashin AcaraThe practice of chanting of religious scriptsexists in every religion. It is usually led by priests or religious leaders, but increasingly lay people have learnt to chant some scripts asmany believe that chanting is beneficial to one’swell-being. However, one must be familiar withthe particular script as there are many differentkinds of chants, each for a different purpose.Some are meant to pass on merits to thedeceased, while other chants are for mentalenergy, victory, health, and other positive outcomes.
Origin of the Theravada Buddhist Practice
The practice of Theravada Buddhism chanting is said to be rooted in the recitation of the dhamma by early Buddhist monks for whom recitation was the only way to learnthe dhamma. They had to learn the dhamma by heart, because writing had not yet been well established. Hence the many repetitions in many Buddhist suttas, making iteasy for memorisation.
Content in Chanting
Today some Theravada Buddhists, monks, nuns and lay devotees, chant Pali textsfrom the tipitaka. They chant words of the Lord Buddha such as suttas and attributesof the Three Gems. Some chants are compositions made by Buddhist scholars whichusually deal with attributes of the Three Gems and life of the Buddha, while some aresummaries of suttas. Before the chanting, Buddhists usually take refuge in the ThreeGems—the Buddha, Dhamma and Sangha - they also take refuge in the Five Precepts(pancasila) after making offerings of light (candles and joss sticks), flowers, almsfood, water, fruit, to the Buddha image.
Purposes or Benefits of Chanting
Most of today’s Theravada Buddhists chant to acquire devotional faith in the ThreeGems as the attributes of the Three Gems are included in all of today’s formal chants.Thus while chanting we remember the attributes, and that is how our faith in theThree Gems is developed and established. Moreover, recollections of the attributesare part of meditation (Buddhanussatibhavana, Dhammanussati-bhavana and