All spiritual traditions have always used singing and chanting as an important part of their practice. It must have been the way texts have been passed along through generations in the times before people could read and write and book printing was invented. But there are many more reasons why chanting has a central place in so many spiritual traditions worldwide.
Chanting creates a bridge between the understanding of the head and the understanding of the heart. It brings body, speech and mind together in one flowing gesture. It is a joyful thing to do, which naturally brings forth your dignity; effortlessly you sit straight up, you concentrate, you relax and go through the words without any hesitation. You can use your voice to let every syllable resonate through your body and in this way let the words sink in all your cells, your whole being, way beyond the conceptual understanding.
Chanting, or let’s use the word reciting here; can be a way to build a relationship with a text, a friendship that grows, revealing insights and nuances as you get to know and appreciate each other better each time you meet again. It’s also an excellent way for a group to practice together. By chanting together right away a focus is established, and the group energy gets lifted up to a place where devotion is joyfully charged with the vibrations of all voices blending together.
I’ve heard it said that reciting sacred texts is also important because enables other beings, maybe animals or beings we can not see, to hear the sacred words and make a connection to the teachings. The Heart Sutra is an example of an extremely profound and sacred text that has been chanted for centuries, in many different languages in all the Asian countries where Buddhism is practiced.
The Nalanda Translation Committee, under the direction of Vidyadhara Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche, translated it into English, so westerners can now also chant it in a language they can understand and relate to. Here I would like to present my recorded version of this translation of the Heart Sutra.
It is meant to be chanted along, and I’ve tried to find a way so you can be free in choosing the pitch that you feel comfortable with and whether you like to recite it in a monotonous manner or more melodic. Most important is that you chant it wholeheartedly, and with the confidence that, even though you might not understand the text completely, you connect with the deep meaning and the blessings of it. May it benefit many beings!
Featured image: Prajaparamitra.
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