Sharing the Beauty of Buddhist Chanting

Inside the Dharma instrument practice room at the Dharma Drum Degui Academy (法鼓德貴學苑), located near Ximending (西門町), Taipei City, the peaceful and pure Buddhist chanting echoed, performed by a group of young people practicing chanting and Dharma instruments in concentration, who are members of DDM’s Mind-Tide Buddhist Music Team (心潮梵音團隊), whose aim is to pray for blessings for suffering people through their transcending Buddhist chanting in praise of the Buddha’s virtues.

“Most young people like to sing karaoke songs to relieve their stress. Buddhist chanting actually has the function to ease our emotions too. Chanting and reciting the Buddha’s or bodhisattva’s name or sutras can help develop our wisdom and calm our body and mind,” Venerable Yan Dao (演道), monastic advisor of the Team, explained. When chanting, we are not only exercising our throat muscles, our abdomen, chest, and head also resonance, which helps us develop a healthy, happy body and mind. “Buddhist chanting as practiced at Dharma Drum Mountain requires that the chanting are in accordance with Chan practice—the singing should be simple and straightforward, pure and pristine, in a totally unadorned and unembellished manner,” said the Dharma teacher. He continued to stress that prior to practicing Buddhist chanting and the Dharma instruments, members will first do the Eight-Form Moving Meditation and sitting meditation, for “the music and voice performed with a relaxed body and mind will be more powerful in transforming people.”

The Team’s members include young people from schools, colleges, and different professions. They practice after school and work, and help with Dharma services and Chan practice activities organized by DDM. Apart from engaging in the Bodhisattva Precepts Chanting Ceremony (菩薩誦戒會) held on every first Monday of each month, the Team also initiates prayer gatherings for major natural disasters and accidents, to lead young participants to jointly recite the Buddha’s name and transfer the merit to the victims with unconditional compassion.

Inspired by Master Sheng Yen’s chanting of the Shurangama Mantra, Dai Jialing, one of the members, decided to join this team in 2013, who thought that the practice of Buddhist chanting can help one become a better listener and more considerate to others. Wang Decheng, another member, also agreed that the Avalokiteshvara's method of enlightenment by using the hearing faculty can enhance one’s practice by listening to our inner nature, and thus “become more sensitive in listening to others, with the empathy to relate to others, and to actually hear what others are saying.”

In sharing his experience, he revealed that he still needed to work more on leading group chanting, in that the challenge is to help the group chant in the same tempo, creating a more harmonious and enchanting atmosphere. “Buddhist chanting is not about individual voices, but about integral harmony of the group as a whole,” Wang said. Indeed, it is through this clear awareness and reflection that one can gradually dissolve one’s egoistic selfishness.

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