Chanting and Mantra
Often before and after a meditation class, I share some of my favorite music. Most often that includes a heavy focus on the contemporary chanting of sacred mantra.
I have always been drawn to this romantic heartfelt music .. and the wondrous gift of Spotify has allowed me to build an instantly accessible playlist. One that has provided a beautiful background vibration to my daily life .. at home while I am working, at night before sleep and even in the car while traveling.
What is Chanting and Mantra?
Chanting of mantras is found in a range of spiritual traditions including the sacred Hindu tradition of chanting Sanskrit mantras, India’s bhakti devotional tradition of kirtan (a call-and-response singing of ancient Vedic mantras), and the Hare Krishna movement which incorporates ecstatic dance.
In more recent years there has been a flourishing of artists merging ancient mantras with contemporary music, leading to renewed interest in the practice.
As I am often asked what music I am playing .. it dawned on me (yes, after meditation one night) that it would be fun and insightful to share some of my favorite chants and also dive into a little more research into their origin, history and meaning. So I decided to pick eight of my favorites and start there, also sharing links so that you might begin to build your own playlist.
Sharing the love.
Note: My taste leans towards Sanskrit inspired chanting. Sanskrit is the sacred language of ancient India that is no longer spoken but is said to have been created by wise ones as paths to awareness. So this is MY favorite. .. it may not be yours. Just saying.
Also. In many traditions, chants and mantras have specific lineage interpretations and rules and are considered a spiritual science. I share these contemporary sound formulas only to uplift, engage, and connect with the power of sound and breath. If you are keen to explore them as a spiritual practice, then a suitably qualified teacher should be engaged.
In Sanskrit, man means mind and tra means free from .. so mantra is literally a tool to free the mind
The chanting of a mantra is often described as working with ‘energetic sound formulas’ .. the vibration carries the essence of the object or quality described; so chanting ananda (bliss) repeatedly will bring one into a state of bliss. The more we chant a particular sound vibration, the more in tune we become to that vibration.
“Just as protons and neutrons are in the center of the atom and electrons are only the periphery, same is with our lives; the center core of our existence is bliss, positivity, and joy but it is surrounded by a cloud of negative ions. Mantras (Sanskrit chants) remove this cloud of negativity.”
Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
Mantras are often melodic and mathematically structured and will achieve a beautiful synchronisation of breath, senses and sound energy. The simplest and most widely known mantra is the word ॐ (Aum or Om), with more advanced forms spreading to countless verses that have to be read from the printed word for recitation. These vibrational formulas can be silently recited within, spoken or sung. Some mantras do hold sacred meaning, involving a personal deity, while others have no meaning at all; but most are musically uplifting and spiritually evocative.
“the physical effects of actually making the sound – breathing and making the sounds out loud – are very strong. I think that it’s an enhanced experience. But even when we just chant the mantra inside silently, it will work its magic, so it’s all good. The more we can immerse ourselves in it and also, just by chanting, we bring our bodies and spirits in tune so we are much more in tune and total when we chant.”
The Monday Meditation Musing is a FREE weekly email designed to provide an inspiration and meditative kick-start to your week .. a little meditative nourishment! You can SIGN UP for the Monday Meditation Musing HERE. So far in this series I have shared two chants:
The Vibrational Alchemy of Chant
At the end of our eight-week chanting journey, I am thinking that I will put all the beautiful music and mantras and insights into a small eBook, along with the full Spotify playlist. If you would like to sign up for early notification of the eBook – email me ‘Chanting eBook’.
*Image of Painting in the Dunhuang Series by Zeng Hao