The purpose of chanting ?

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  • Silva
    Member
    • May 2010
    • 109

    The purpose of chanting ?

    I'm surprised and dismayed by the rather mechanical tone of chanting. Far away from Christian gregorian chants.
    The Heart Sutra is so beautiful, I find it difficult to reduce it to just a noise (this isn't a critism of your vocal qualities Jundo!). Of course no sensations, no perceptions, formations and conciousness...
    There must be a particular purpose to this tradition of chanting ?
    Breathing ? I couldn't tell when you took your breath Jundo ?
    I got confused, blundered ans ended up simply reading.

    Please point me in the right direction,

    gassho,

    Sylvie
    "...the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. "
    Eihei Dogen
  • Shohei
    Member
    • Oct 2007
    • 2854

    #2
    Re: The purpose of chanting ?

    Hiya!
    Jundo chants sound just like Jundo chanting Perfect!

    Im chanting my sad toneless flat awful sounding face off lately practicing the Heart Sutra in Japanese, Trying to make my voice give life to it.
    It was brought to my attention by a wise bear that when comfortable and not "trying" so hard...it sounded natural (though yes still very Robotic).
    When striving the throat closes up changing the whole game. This all said... flat or not, Good or not its melodic or not... its the content and the intent.
    Some times I went through the motions and it shows... avolo bla bla bla bla bla bla gate gate gate... "wth am I muttering here?"
    Othertimes it has grows up and out of me from our toes.(though it still may have a similar sound *ahem*)

    Taigu Chants a mean sutra - Perhaps we should have music classes? But really the best classes and singers still wont make a beautiful sound. Its is in your heart/body/mind

    And i still sound gawd awful no matter what i just said :P

    Gassho
    Shohei

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    • Jinyu
      Member
      • May 2009
      • 768

      #3
      Re: The purpose of chanting ?

      Hi!
      I remember a teaching from Deshimaru roshi about chanting. Unfortunately, the only thing I really remember was about the value of chanting as a breathing exercise.
      He was answering to a student who asked him : "why should we chant something we don't understand at the end of each zazen?" (most people in AZI chant the Heart Sutra in japanese - I must confess me too, it feels a bit strange to chant it in French or in English).
      But he also talked about it as a way to finish each zazen, I mean as an interface between "zazen time" and the "rest of the world time" ( distinction wich doesn't exist by the way, but people often feel this distinction).
      He prefer to chant every chant (the 4 vows of the boddhisatva and the heart Sutra + the dedication) at the end of each zazen, but here at Treeleaf we do things otherwise.

      I think he didn't chant at all when he first came to France, but bring these kind of things to his practice at the time his Sangha was growing. But Taigu must know this A LOT better than me!

      Sorry I'm a bit vague on this, but that's all I know on the subject... :roll:
      gassho,
      Luis/jinyu
      Jinyu aka Luis aka Silly guy from Brussels

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      • Jen
        Member
        • Feb 2008
        • 166

        #4
        Re: The purpose of chanting ?

        Hi Sylvie,
        We chant as we do because no one wants to hear me try to sing :lol:

        I was at a Shin Buddhist temple once where the minister was explaining how to chant. Paraphrasing here, but he said it was too easy to get hung up on melodies. A chant was there to help open a path to the mind, not there to help express the mind. Chanting is rhythm, basic, simple, as it is. A melody is complicated, and often the meaning gets lost as we try to maintain a melody in spite of the words.

        For me, chanting does help me get in the right frame of mind for zazen. If there was more than just the near monotone rhythm to focus on, I would begin the chant with sweaty palms and a fear of 'getting it wrong.' I would spend all my time trying to chant right instead of just chanting.

        Gassho,
        Joshin
        Joshin
        Not all those that wander are lost- JRR Tolkien

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        • Jundo
          Treeleaf Founder and Priest
          • Apr 2006
          • 39456

          #5
          Re: The purpose of chanting ?

          A very good topic.

          I confess to being a lousy singer and chanter. I'm tone deaf, have unpredictable rhythm, asthma (our new cat set it off again), sinus troubles, and I often start gagging at some point. I am even banned at some local Karaoke spots. I chant a little bit differently each time, often with my foot tapping and fingers snapping ... and sometimes I whirl around like a dervish. Actually, I have tried to "loosen up" the chanting style from the formal way the Japanese do it ... but the results are sometimes successful and sometimes not. One time, I remember trying to chant in a way vaguely inspired by Billie Holiday.

          Taigu is a wonderful chanter ... in voice and in spirit. I am going to press upon him to present some video chanting lessons around here (much as he presented sewing and sitting lessons). Taigu?

          As to the philosophy of chanting ...

          Well, I recently wrote about this.

          In chanting, we may lose oneself (truly losing "one-self") in the music of the chant ... but study of the meaning of the chant must not be neglected, even if the meaning is not thought about, and merely felt in one's bones, during the chanting. Once you grasp the underlying meaning of the chant ... it is fine to then drop that away into emptiness, drop "you" away into emptiness (that "emptiness" being the Heart of the Heart Sutra, after all), and just chant to chant. "Just chant", just as we "Just Sit" ... for it is all "Zazen". Each note just each note, no where to "get to" even as we diligently and carefully more ahead. Shikantaza.

          So, "on key" chanting is perfect chanting ... and "off key" chanting is perfect chanting. However, yes, perhaps it is better to stay on key! 8) Taigu?

          Gassho and Wheeze, Jundo
          ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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          • Silva
            Member
            • May 2010
            • 109

            #6
            Re: The purpose of chanting ?

            So if I understand I just chant zazen as I sit zazen so it can be my own (mezzo soprano ) simple zazen chant ? Chanting on my own is misleading, I feel my voice and the verses, should dissolve into what surrounds me, an offering to the sentient world around me...
            I understand what Jen says about melodie and not getting caught up into that, it makes sense.
            Sounding like a robot would not be sincere,I 'd be forcing myself... unless there's some technical reason for it ?
            Dogen ?
            Taigu ?

            au secours!
            "...the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. "
            Eihei Dogen

            Comment

            • chicanobudista
              Member
              • Mar 2008
              • 864

              #7
              Re: The purpose of chanting ?

              I know chanting is a human activity....but...sometimes....let chanting be chanting......there is no woman behind the curtain....just this moment when you chant. Like the bell that your ring. You. Bell. Sound. Silence. Everything. This moment. Just this.

              Originally posted by Silva
              Sounding like a robot would not be sincere,I 'd be forcing myself... unless there's some technical reason for it ?
              Is the bell that we ring in zazen sincere?
              paz,
              Erik


              Flor de Nopal Sangha

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              • Taigu
                Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                • Aug 2008
                • 2710

                #8
                Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                Hi everybody, Hi Sylva,

                Had a very short sleep. It is very early this morning. Beautiful day, really. I will take some time tonight to answer your question.

                Take care and listen to sentient beings, isn't evrything and everybody chanting in a kind of way?


                gassho


                Taigu

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                • Silva
                  Member
                  • May 2010
                  • 109

                  #9
                  Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                  Is the bell that we ring in zazen sincere?
                  Yes it is - it sounds "true".

                  the answer was in the question!
                  Thank-you I see more clearly now,
                  gassho,

                  Sylvie
                  "...the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. "
                  Eihei Dogen

                  Comment

                  • Taigu
                    Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                    • Aug 2008
                    • 2710

                    #10
                    Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                    Indeed, Sylvie, when the question penetrates your entire body-mind, the answer manifests itself...

                    Nevertheless, I shall write a few clumsy things about chanting later.

                    gassho

                    Taigu

                    Comment

                    • Taigu
                      Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                      • Aug 2008
                      • 2710

                      #11
                      Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                      Hi Sylvie, hi all,



                      Back home and a bit of time ahead. No, I won't open a singing course because I am not a specialist and I don't really think it is necessary.
                      At the last Rohatsu retreat, Jundo was apparently amazed at my Tibetan like singing and stuff. I told him it was practice and training. Well,as I started to sing the heart sutra 33 years ago, in a way, it kind of helps. And I also learned how to open my throat a let the voice bloom in a steady and constant flow. But Jundo amazed me when, with no voice, he started to act and dance an incredible mantra...Much better, I thought, than anything else...(the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence )

                      So why do we sing? That's a good koan than can only be answered in the act of singing itself. It is true that sometimes the Zen style of singing sounds a bit robotic...It is because we are not supposed to modulate, phrase and find ourselves spaced out, fusing and merging with all things in the vibrant cosmos. Our singing is the expression of our true voice and nature, uncontrived, not fabricated. No need to carve the voice, allow the sutra to go through the open gate and do it as often as possible. The rhythm given by the mokugyo ( This wooden fish, hollow like ourselves) keeps us on the ground, roots us in this realm which is nothing but Amida-Buddha-original face- Land. No other land that this one, we don't sing to Buddha, we, in singing, express Buddha's presence as a voice. Our voice. Singing is also originally a good bonding practice, monks making one voice, neither one nor many. Chanting the texts is a good way to digest the understanding bypassing the intellect and its dual perception and endless games. Chanting is also taking us to the source, the origin, the spring: chanting does not allow us to think about the verses and stuff, just to act them freely without any extra thinking. Raw. No fancy conceptual sauce in the dish. As it is. The true taste.


                      So Sylvie, just sing. You don't need to lower your voice. This is a great vid of a Monja Coen, a Soto Zen nun trained in Japan singing the heart sutra in her native tongue and native sex. What is important is the steady rhythm and the ease you may experience. Notice the traffic sounds, mobile phone, feet and various sounds...Heart sutra too. No difference!!!

                      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3GCzt9yTAQ[/video]]

                      But I am sure that you feel already much better and can converse with the bell next to you...

                      Gassho


                      Taigu

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                      • Silva
                        Member
                        • May 2010
                        • 109

                        #12
                        Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                        Thank-you Taigu,

                        now I am free to "just chant "with "just devotion",

                        Gassho,

                        Sylvie
                        "...the bell's melodious sound continues to resonate as it echoes, endlessly before and after. "
                        Eihei Dogen

                        Comment

                        • disastermouse

                          #13
                          Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                          I'm sure I could look this up on wikipedia, but can someone please explain the wooden fish? Not in a Zen way, but in a very real way, please explain where the heck the wooden fish came from.

                          Chet

                          Comment

                          • Taigu
                            Blue Mountain White Clouds Hermitage Priest
                            • Aug 2008
                            • 2710

                            #14
                            Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                            Hi Chet,

                            I have just this... Deshimaru used to explain that the fish symbolizes awareness because even dead, its eyes are wide open. Outside the Zendo, a wooden fish often hangs and is stroken a number of times to anounce the begining and end of the sitting period. That fish often has a pearl in its mouth, that bright pearl that Dogen talks about in the chapter of shobogenzo bearing the same name...


                            Gassho


                            Taigu

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                            • Jundo
                              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
                              • Apr 2006
                              • 39456

                              #15
                              Re: The purpose of chanting ?

                              Originally posted by Taigu
                              This is a great vid of a Monja Coen, a Soto Zen nun trained in Japan singing the heart sutra in her native tongue and native sex. What is important is the steady rhythm and the ease you may experience. Notice the traffic sounds, mobile phone, feet and various sounds...Heart sutra too. No difference!!!

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J3GCzt9yTAQ[/video]]
                              Thank you for that, including the cell phone that went off right at the heart of Rev. Coen's Heart Sutra ... and became a lovely part of the whole. Nothing is left out. :wink:

                              The ceremony that Taigu mentioned during our last "2-day 'All Online' Rohatsu Retreat: ...

                              http://www.treeleaf.org/sit-a-long/arch ... 09---.html

                              ... when my voice completely left me due to laryngitis ...and all that remained was to stamp my feet and sway and spin and twirl like a top ... was a very special chanting for me too.

                              But ya know ... in my heart (no fooling) ... I feel the chant-dance of the Heart Sutra should sound/look like this ... and I will find a may to get there ...

                              I'm Goin with Kannon!

                              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9heR9wGhCM0[/video]]
                              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

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