Breathing While Chanting

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  • Kelly M.
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 225

    Breathing While Chanting

    Hello,

    I like to chant the Heart Sutra from time to time, but cannot effectively breathe between the rapid succession of syllables. It has been my experience both at our own Zazenkai and in listening to the recordings of the Heart Sutra that have circulated around Treeleaf, that there does not seem to be any pauses for breath; I can’t figure out how everyone else is breathing :? . Is it possible to effectively breathe during the Heart Sutra without ‘breaking the rhythm’ of the chant?

    Thanks guys (and gals),
    Cheers,
    Kelly
    Live in joy and love, even among those who hate
    Live in joy and health, even among the afflicted
    Live in joy and peace, even among the troubled
    Look within and be still; free from fear and grasping
    Know the sweet joy of living in the way.
  • Eika
    Member
    • Sep 2007
    • 806

    #2
    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Hi, Kelly.
    Is it possible to effectively breathe during the Heart Sutra without ‘breaking the rhythm’ of the chant?
    My answer is not really without a great deal of vocal practice. My advice (and it is only that, nothing more) is too breathe whenever you need to, and be OK with the gap that it produces in the chant. The reason you don't hear gaps in the recorded chants is that there are multiple "performers" chanting who all breathe at different spots. Each individual part has gaps, but as a group, all syllables are represented. So, don't try to do it perfectly, only sincerely.

    My take . . .

    Bill
    [size=150:m8cet5u6]??[/size:m8cet5u6] We are involved in a life that passes understanding and our highest business is our daily life---John Cage

    Comment

    • Jundo
      Treeleaf Founder and Priest
      • Apr 2006
      • 39456

      #3
      Re: Breathing While Chanting

      Hi,

      Well, I am not sure that anyone has ever standardized exactly how to chant the Heart Sutra and other chants into English. The reason is that the length of sentences and phrasing in English is really quite different from in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan etc. There is no "official version" in English. But, as far as I do, it is best to breathe at the periods at the end of sentences, and at the commas (ending long phrases ... not the commas marking individual words in a chain).

      So, for example, if you listen to the first few lines of this fellow (with a strong Bronx accent!!!!) chant in English, you will hear him do just that (until he seems to give up in the middle and just talk through the rest of the chant).

      (For Realplayer)


      For example, you can hear how he chants these lines ...

      Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, practicing deep prajna paramita,
      clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty, transforming all suffering and distress.

      Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form.
      Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form.
      Sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness are also like this.

      Shariputra, all things are marked by emptiness -
      not born, not destroyed,
      not stained, not pure,
      without gain, without loss.
      Therefore in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness.
      Now, for the Japanese version, here is a priest from the Ennyoji temple in a pretty standard version. You can hear that it sounds as if he just grabs a breath where he can, but taking long breaths that allow him to go quite a ways before his next breath. Also, if you do it for awhile in Japanese, you find that there are certain phrases that lend themselves easily to a breath (e.g., I find for me, right before the appearance of each "Hannya" later in the chant). I was once told to try to make it to the end of the sentence in Japanese too, but it is hard and does not really sound right to my ears. Also, as Bill said, if everyone were to take their breath at the same spot for a group chant, it might sound strange.

      (Also for RealPlayer)



      Kan ji zai bo sa gyo- jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji
      sho- ken go on kai ku- do is-sai ku yaku.

      Sha ri shi shiki fu I ku- ku- fu I shiki
      shiki soku ze ku- ku- soku ze shiki.
      Ju so- gyo- shiki yaku bu nyo ze.

      Sha ri shi ze sho ho- ku- so-
      Fu sho- fu metsu fu ku fu jo- fu zo- fu gen ze ko ku- chu-
      Mu shiki mu ju so- gyo- shiki mu gen-ni bi zes-shin I
      mu shiki sho- ko- mi soku ho- mu gen kai nai shi mu I shiki kai
      mu mu myo- yaku mu mu myo- jin.
      Nai shi mu ro- shi yaku mu ro- shi jin
      mu ku shu metsu do- mu chi yaku mu toku I mu sho tok'ko.

      Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
      shim-mu kei ge mu kei ge ko mu u ku fu
      on ri is-sai ten do- mu so- ku gyo- ne han.
      San ze sho butsu e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
      Toku a noku ta ra sam-myaku sam-bo dai.
      Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta ze dai shin shu ze dai myo- shu
      ze mu jo- shu ze mu to- to- shu no- jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko.

      Ko setsu han-mya ha ra mi ta shu soku setsu shu watsu
      Gya tei gya tei ha ra gya tei hara so- gya tei.

      Bodhi sva-ha- ka han-nya shin gyo.
      Gassho, Jundo

      PS- Lynn, maybe you were taught specific rules?
      ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

      Comment

      • chicanobudista
        Member
        • Mar 2008
        • 864

        #4
        Re: Breathing While Chanting

        Originally posted by Jundo

        Kan ji zai bo sa gyo- jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji
        sho- ken go on kai ku- do is-sai ku yaku.

        Sha ri shi shiki fu I ku- ku- fu I shiki
        shiki soku ze ku- ku- soku ze shiki.
        Ju so- gyo- shiki yaku bu nyo ze.

        Sha ri shi ze sho ho- ku- so-
        Fu sho- fu metsu fu ku fu jo- fu zo- fu gen ze ko ku- chu-
        Mu shiki mu ju so- gyo- shiki mu gen-ni bi zes-shin I
        mu shiki sho- ko- mi soku ho- mu gen kai nai shi mu I shiki kai
        mu mu myo- yaku mu mu myo- jin.
        Nai shi mu ro- shi yaku mu ro- shi jin
        mu ku shu metsu do- mu chi yaku mu toku I mu sho tok'ko.

        Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
        shim-mu kei ge mu kei ge ko mu u ku fu
        on ri is-sai ten do- mu so- ku gyo- ne han.
        San ze sho butsu e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
        Toku a noku ta ra sam-myaku sam-bo dai.
        Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta ze dai shin shu ze dai myo- shu
        ze mu jo- shu ze mu to- to- shu no- jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko.

        Ko setsu han-mya ha ra mi ta shu soku setsu shu watsu
        Gya tei gya tei ha ra gya tei hara so- gya tei.

        Bodhi sva-ha- ka han-nya shin gyo.
        :shock:

        My question is what are good tips to memorize the whole thing. Heck. I can barely memorize my SS# & phone number. :mrgreen:
        paz,
        Erik


        Flor de Nopal Sangha

        Comment

        • Kelly M.
          Member
          • Sep 2007
          • 225

          #5
          Re: Breathing While Chanting

          Thanks Bill and Jundo,

          I had a suspicion Bill that recordings of group chants were deceiving as perhaps the individuals were all pausing at different times. And it sounds like I have been doing it 'right', pausing for breaths between sentences. Excellent, in the future will not worry about missing syllables when chanting in groups, and in the mean time, I will simply enjoy the silence between the sentences when chanting alone.

          Gassho,
          Kelly

          PS- I feel a lot less self-conscious about the tone of my own chanting after listening to that Heart Sutra 'a la Bronx'. It was still beautiful, but in a hilarious way.
          Live in joy and love, even among those who hate
          Live in joy and health, even among the afflicted
          Live in joy and peace, even among the troubled
          Look within and be still; free from fear and grasping
          Know the sweet joy of living in the way.

          Comment

          • lindabeekeeper
            Member
            • Jan 2008
            • 162

            #6
            Re: Breathing While Chanting

            Ah yes, the fellow with the bronx accent is Lama Surya Das. He is actually from Long Island, NY. His mother calls him the deli lama.

            Gassho,

            Linda

            Comment

            • Jundo
              Treeleaf Founder and Priest
              • Apr 2006
              • 39456

              #7
              Re: Breathing While Chanting

              Originally posted by chicanobudista
              Originally posted by Jundo

              Kan ji zai bo sa gyo- jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji
              sho- ken go on kai ku- do is-sai ku yaku.

              Sha ri shi shiki fu I ku- ku- fu I shiki
              shiki soku ze ku- ku- soku ze shiki.
              Ju so- gyo- shiki yaku bu nyo ze.

              Sha ri shi ze sho ho- ku- so-
              Fu sho- fu metsu fu ku fu jo- fu zo- fu gen ze ko ku- chu-
              Mu shiki mu ju so- gyo- shiki mu gen-ni bi zes-shin I
              mu shiki sho- ko- mi soku ho- mu gen kai nai shi mu I shiki kai
              mu mu myo- yaku mu mu myo- jin.
              Nai shi mu ro- shi yaku mu ro- shi jin
              mu ku shu metsu do- mu chi yaku mu toku I mu sho tok'ko.

              Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
              shim-mu kei ge mu kei ge ko mu u ku fu
              on ri is-sai ten do- mu so- ku gyo- ne han.
              San ze sho butsu e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
              Toku a noku ta ra sam-myaku sam-bo dai.
              Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta ze dai shin shu ze dai myo- shu
              ze mu jo- shu ze mu to- to- shu no- jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko.

              Ko setsu han-mya ha ra mi ta shu soku setsu shu watsu
              Gya tei gya tei ha ra gya tei hara so- gya tei.

              Bodhi sva-ha- ka han-nya shin gyo.
              :shock:

              My question is what are good tips to memorize the whole thing. Heck. I can barely memorize my SS# & phone number. :mrgreen:
              A serious answer: Learning the meaning of each syllable, lots or repetition (especially before bed ... sleep helps the transfer to long term memory), willingness to make embarrassing mistakes even years later and ... mnemonics. This old book got me, not only through law school, but through a lot more ... I cannot recommend it enough. I once won a bet by memorizing a whole page of a phone book, including addresses and numbers, in a day (maybe I could not do it so easily now).

              http://www.fun-with-words.com/0345410025.html
              ALL OF LIFE IS OUR TEMPLE

              Comment

              • chicanobudista
                Member
                • Mar 2008
                • 864

                #8
                Re: Breathing While Chanting

                Originally posted by Jundo

                A serious answer: Learning the meaning of each syllable, lots or repetition (especially before bed ... sleep helps the transfer to long term memory), willingness to make embarrassing mistakes even years later and ... mnemonics.
                Thanks for the information and advise.

                __/__

                What is the proper language to chant the Heart Sutra? :?:
                paz,
                Erik


                Flor de Nopal Sangha

                Comment

                • will
                  Member
                  • Jun 2007
                  • 2331

                  #9
                  Re: Breathing While Chanting

                  I recite it. No chanting going on here. One possible help might be not to stress it too much. Don't try to say too forcefully and just relax. Chant it at just an audible tone. Breeeathe when you gotta breathe.

                  Gassho Will
                  [size=85:z6oilzbt]
                  To save all sentient beings, though beings are numberless.
                  To penetrate reality, though reality is boundless.
                  To transform all delusion, though delusions are immeasurable.
                  To attain the enlightened way, a way non-attainable.
                  [/size:z6oilzbt]

                  Comment

                  • Lynn
                    Member
                    • Oct 2007
                    • 180

                    #10
                    Re: Breathing While Chanting

                    Hi all...

                    I have no secrets because the only two places I've recited the Heart Sutra had it in English. Rev. Master Jiyu set hers to plainchant and there are breath marks in the musical notations. Great Vow also does theirs in English so I breathe at the end of the line pretty much.

                    The only ones I've done in Japanese (sort of, because I understand that they are really just transliterations of the Sanskrit) are the dharanis and I was just taught to breathe when you can. They can go really fast!! (Thinking of the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo and the one recited during the Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts ceremony.)

                    So, Kelly, just go! I'm with Jundo...if you do them enough you'll know where you, personally, will need to breathe and it will flow just fine.

                    In Gassho~
                    Lynn
                    When we wish to teach and enlighten all things by ourselves, we are deluded; when all things teach and enlighten us, we are enlightened. ~Dogen "Genjo Koan"

                    Comment

                    • Kelly M.
                      Member
                      • Sep 2007
                      • 225

                      #11
                      Re: Breathing While Chanting

                      Sounds good to me.

                      Thanks Lynn,
                      Gassho,
                      -Kelly
                      Live in joy and love, even among those who hate
                      Live in joy and health, even among the afflicted
                      Live in joy and peace, even among the troubled
                      Look within and be still; free from fear and grasping
                      Know the sweet joy of living in the way.

                      Comment

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