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A Common Buddhist Chanting in English

2009年04月02日 09:53:00 佛教在线 点击:0

at International Buddhist Gatherings

Henry DANG, J.P

Secretary General of Buddhist Federation of Australia

Rationale

Chanting plays an important role in the practice, preservation and continuation of the Buddha Dharma throughout the centuries. Various Buddhist traditions have developed Buddhist chanting over time either in Pali or other national languages in harmony with their cultural and ethnic traditions.

While the Buddha was alive, his words were recorded by monks and nuns who chanted them and stored them in their memories. Every day they would meet to chant through their ‘recordings’, thus preserving the Buddha’s words for us today. In time, especially after the Buddha’s Final Nibbana, these chants became not only times to check the teachings, but also occasions when devotion was expressed to the Buddha as Teacher of the past and as inspiration for one’s own aspirations to be realised in the future.

Pali was perhaps the lingua franca throughout Northern India in the Buddha’s days. Buddha taught in the language of the people, forbidding his disciples to turn his words into learned Sanskrit, which the general populace could not understand. While Pali has remained the language of the original texts of Buddha’s Teachings and that of the Commentaries written upon them, each Buddhist country has a strong tradition on Dharma in its own language.

This has obviously been a desirable development because it has allowed a Buddhist tradition and culture to flourish over the centuries in each country and, this has been made possible because the Teachings of the Buddha have been translated and made meaningful to people in their own various national languages.

Thus, Buddhist Chanting can be said to have the following benefits:

(a)It reminds one of Buddha’s teachings and helps in the memorising of the texts to keep
Buddha’s teachings alive in mind;
(b)It helps purify the karma of body, speech and mind;
(c)It expresses one’s strong commitment to, and confidence in the Dharma;
(d)It is a direct way to cultivate respect that the practitioners may better absorb from the Triple Gem;
(e)It can be used to great advantage as an extension of meditation in to words to produce calm, some peace within. Many meditators use chanting as a preparation for meditation.

Why Common Buddhist Chanting in English?

At the level of the international Buddhist General Conferences / forums and other international gatherings, we are confronted with a practical problem: while the English language has been accepted as the lingua franca for oral and written communication, the common culture of such international conferences or gatherings has not evolved as yet to the point where, at least in official functions, all participants have a common chanting or to paraphrase a familiar English saying where we can all chant from the same chanting sheet.

A Common Buddhist Chanting in English could become an important tool for effectively propagating Buddha Dharma and extending the benefits of chanting to a wider audience that either speaks English as first or second language. The Buddha did not want fictional stories to be constructed in the content of Buddhist chants. Therefore the chanting is based on various levels of statements of truth. Modern science is rediscovering the powerful healing effect the human voice can have.

Key elements of Buddha’s Teachings from various Buddhist traditions should be incorporated in the Common Buddhist Chanting and they can be used skilfully as starting points to get new people to get a greater appreciation of Buddha Dharma. This is especially important if we consider that, at the time of the Buddha, the tools of communication and transfer of knowledge we have today and we sometimes may take for granted, were not available. The most common way available to communicate and preserve the teachings was by the means of the human voice and chanting was an essential part of this process.

Any final version of a common Buddhist chanting must be comfortably accepted by Buddhists from different traditions in relation to the style, content and chanting time (expected to be about 15 minutes).






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