chanting cover           Kotodama chanting allows us to express suppressed emotional energy and for us to ‘let go of’ old baggage. This system works on many levels. Different sounds reverberate different emotional centres. These sounds, many of which have been chanted for thousands of years, can have a profound effect on our state of being. Again on a simple level, think how we are perhaps excited by certain music and even depressed by other music.

Take one sound, for instance the sound “Ah!”, if you fell off a cliff you would most likely shout “Ahhh…”, when you suddenly understand something, perhaps you would say “Ah! Now I understand!”  If your friend is ill or injured you might say “Ahhh, are you ok?” The sound “Ah” when chanted in a certain state is considered to be on an upward vibration. In our first example it is spatial, the second intellectual and the third emotional.

From these examples we can perhaps see the relationship between the sound that we make and our physical, mental and emotional states.

The practice of Kotodama can be an inspirational uplifting and joyful practice.

Kundalini Yoga practice is to gently un-block the stagnant energy centres or chakras within the human organism. Over a period of time base physical energy is transmuted to compassionate spiritual energy, and possibly bringing the person to a spiritually enlightened state.

The techniques involve guided visualisations with deep emotional involvement and this often facilitates a profound release of stress and gives a state of feeling ‘free’ even in the early stages of development.

With practice one can ‘tap in’ as it were to the usually hidden conduit that connects us to the vast potential of the life force of the cosmos.

The relaxation techniques taught are again progressive in nature and can lead a person to deep states of awareness and sensitivity giving rise to a deeper understanding of our inner life, and perhaps giving us access to otherwise unknown dimensions of our humanity.

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The practise of chanting is very benefical to health and works on many levels. Different sounds vibrate different spiritual centres, invigorating the body and releasing trapped energy. Repeated chanting energises our physical, mental and spiritual activities, providing positive adaptability to any environment.

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History of Chanting

According to the Oxford English Dictionary the word ‘chant’ is both a noun and a verb, also (now Scottish) chaunt, compared with the late 17th Century, old and modern French verb, ‘with chant’ which is derived from the Latin, ‘cantum’.

The word ‘chant’ is defined as:

1.’ a song; singing’ from the late 17th Century,

2. ‘in Music, a short musical passage in two or more phrases each with a reciting note to which any number of syllables may be sung for singing unmetrical words; a psalm, canticle, etc. so sung’ in the late 18th century.

3. ‘a measured monotonous song, a musical recitation of words; a singsong intonation in talk’ from the 19th Century.

This history of chanting extends beyond the time of the known origin of the word which is listed in the Oxford and Etymological Dictionaries.

In the Oxford Companion to music on the subject of Church music Scholes states that:

‘It must be remembered that there are in the musical exercises of religion other purposes than the helping of the worshipper to experience those moments of mystical communion or of making an ‘offering’. In music lies the one effective means of communal expression. The largest bodies of worshippers may join in expressing their faith, their hope, or their charity in song whose necessary simplicity seems to detract nothing from its emotional strength when it is sung with unanimity and fervour. The duty here imposed upon those charged with the ordering of music in the service of religion is the provision of a large and varied body of religious poetry and accompanying music, dignified yet simple.’

Some persons support the use of bad music to lead men into good ways, since usually they are, from some natural incapacity, or through lack of early musical environment, incapable of feeling the difference between good and bad in music, and sometimes, even of realizing that ‘bad’ exists. There is good and bad in everything else, so it is reasonable to suppose that there is good and bad in music.

This is the Christian Orthodox view of music.

Association with the ‘bad’ in any aspect of life has a darkening effect on the mind, whereas association with the ‘good’ brightens the mind. If two pieces of music, good and bad, have equally strong attractive qualities, the ultimate end in view will be better attained by the use of the good. And ‘good’ yet highly ‘attractive’ music does exist and has powerfully aided religious movements from the beginning of Christianity to the present day.

In the meaning of art, the highest form of written expression is calligraphy. Poetry in calligraphy is written in classic arrangements. Diverging from this was frowned upon by the ancients.

As calligraphy is to the eye, so is chanting to the ear.

Therefore, in deference to and in acknowledgment of powerful wisdom of the ancients, we train our minds accordingly. In a Dhamma ending age, there are plentiful examples of chanting that will not give practice fruit. We choose to follow the methods instructed by our Teacher in chanting.

The Buddha stated that we should not ‘sanskritise’ the Dhamma, that is, do not to put it into short rhyming stanzas.

So we chant with pauses between the syllables. We do not attempt to flow the syllables into a continuous melody, for if we did, we would be sanskritising like Hindu chanting.

For example, we chant ‘na’ silent space…’mo’ silent space…’tas’ silent space…’sa’ silent space and so on. We do not chant under any circumstances continuous melody such as opera that is sung with high pitched continuous melody. The ability of the singer, say a soprano, to hold a note without a break is considered to be a virtue in western music. If we chanted like this in the Buddhist world, we would be in error.

When we sing, ‘ti voglio bene assai, ma tanto tanto bene assai’ in Italian high key, we sing it as ‘tivogliobeneassaimatantotantobeneassai’ with no silent space. It becomes a feat of breath control and technique to express this type of expression. The popularity of opera is that there are definite melodies which are easy to copy up to a point by inexperienced singers who when they phase the words run out of breath.

Running short of breath tends to cause tension and aggravation of the mind so it could not be conducive to samattha meditation.