Basic Buddhism
A Common Buddhist Chanting in English
Henry DANG, J.P
04/07/2011 23:48 (GMT+7)
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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

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).

WFB endorsed Common Buddhist Chanting

Herewith enclosed is the English version of the Common Buddhist Chanting which has been endorsed by the 24th General Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) held in Tokyo on 14 – 17 November 2008. This Common Buddhist Chanting was originally initiated by the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) Standing Committee on Unity and Solidarity at the 22nd WFB General Conference in Shah Alam, Malaysia in 2002. It is the significant outcome of a year-long collective work with strong commitment and dedication of the Common Buddhist Chanting project committee in Australia with the guidance, assistance and support of the Senior Buddhist Sangha, Buddhist leaders and scholars of various Buddhist traditions.

Although best possible efforts have been made to collate, select and refine the choicest statements and wordings from various Buddhist traditions in order to come off with this version of the Common Buddhist Chanting, further constructive comments and amendments are welcomed.

The Common Buddhist Chanting in English should be used in all international Buddhist ceremonies, meetings, conferences and other official Buddhist functions, which have participants of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds. Buddhist organizations and interested people in particular, those of English speaking background are encouraged to use the Common Buddhist Chanting in their Buddhist practice and functions. Worldwide appropriate propagation and implementation of this Common Buddhist Chanting would certainly be regarded as a significant practical work for Buddhist unity and solidarity purposes.

More than 2,000 participants of The Australian Observance of the United Nations Day of Vesak 2007 (B.E 2550) held at Sydney Town Hall proudly enjoyed, for the first time in Australia, this Common Buddhist Chanting, the rhythm / music of which was dedicatedly composed by the PANCASIKHA (Musicians and singers’ group in Thailand). Other rhythms of this Common Buddhist Chanting would be much appreciated and welcomed.

Common Buddhist Chanting (Buddha Puja)

(Homage to the Buddha)

Nammo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato Sammasambuddhassa (Repeat all 3 times)

(Taking Refuge in the Triple Gem)

I take refuge in the Buddha.

I take refuge in the Dhamma.

I take refuge in the Sangha. (Repeat all 3 times)

(Offering Chant)

(If while offering light)

I pay homage to the Awakened One, who dispels ignorance.

Like a brightly shining light, he eliminates the darkness.

(If while offering incense)

May this cloud of perfumed incense reach the ends of all spaces.

May its virtue override the opposing winds of vice and uphold morality

And allow all sentient beings to develop their Bodhicitta and attain Nirvana.

This offering I make to the Dharma.

(If while offering flowers)

I offer to the Sangha these fresh, fragrant and beautiful flowers.

May its virtue lead to the liberation of every sentient being.

(Loving Kindness Chant)

May all sentient beings be happy.

May they live in safety and joy

All sentient beings, whether weak or strong,

Great or small,

Short or tall,

Seen or unseen,

Near or distant,

Born or yet to be born,

May they all be happy.

Let no one deceive or despise another being in any state;

Let none by anger or hatred wish harm upon another.

Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life;

Even so, let one cultivate a boundless love toward all sentient beings.

Let one radiate that boundless love towards the entire world.

Above, below and in all directions;

Without hindrance, without ill will, without enmity.

(Transformation Verse)

Sentient beings are countless; May they all be saved

Emotional afflictions are boundless; May they all be extinguished.

The Dhamma Paths are many; I aspire to learn them all.

Awakening is the highest achievement; I aspire to attain it.

(The Heart Sutra)

Form does not differ from Emptiness;

Emptiness does not differ from Form.

That which is Form is Emptiness;

That which is Emptiness is Form.

Gone, Gone. Gone beyond, Gone far beyond. Awaken, Rejoice (Repeat 3 times)

(Merit Dedication)

May the merit made by me, now or at some other time, be shared by all sentient beings here.

By rejoicing in this cause, this gift of merits given by me, may all sentient beings live a happy

life, be free from hatred and may they find the path secure, and their good wishes all succeed.

(Merit dedication may be extended at this time to include a specific individual or groups and/or a desirable outcome for a contemporary issue)

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