Chanting is an ancient practice that has played an integral role in all religious and spiritual traditions across the globe from time immemorial. The repeated recitation of a divine name is common to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and even in pagan and shamanic traditions. Chanting is best described as a rhythmic repetition (either silently or aloud) of a sound, word, prayer or song. It is an established fact that sound has tremendous power. Sound is nothing but a pulsation or vibration – a form of energy which exists throughout the entire Universe and can be harnessed to help align ourselves better with the higher forces of nature.
The purpose of chanting is to bring about a silence in the ever chattering mind. The process of repetition of a word or set of words helps bring about a temporary state of mindfulness as the brain is completely absorbed in the activity of repetition. Chanting is a very useful step in the process of learning meditation as it offers a vehicle for the mind to transport itself to a higher realm. In fact, the Sanskrit word mantra can be broken up into “man” meaning mind and “tra” meaning tool. The vibrations created by the sound and the focus on rhythmic pronunciation have a profound effect on the body and mind. The nervous system experiences a slowing down of activities and a calmness descends which reduces stress considerably and has been shown to bring down high blood pressure, reduce pain and improve immunity.
The ancient Vedic texts recommend the chanting of mantras as a part of spiritual practice. Dr. David Frawley, a renowned Ayurveda expert says that “a mantra, when carefully chosen and used silently, has the ability to help alter your subconscious impulses, habits, and afflictions. Mantras, when spoken or chanted, direct the healing power of Prana (life force energy) and, in traditional Vedic practices, can be used to energize and access spiritual states of consciousness.”
It is not necessary to learn elaborate Sanskrit verses to practice chanting. Just chanting “Om” is equally effective when it is done correctly. Om is considered a mantra even though it is a single word. Modern scientific studies have established that the sound of “OM” when chanted vibrates at a frequency of 432 Hz, which is said to be the same frequency found throughout the Universe (the humming sound of Nature).
Meditation practitioners advice the use of a “beej (seed) mantra” which can be explained as your very own, personal mantra. The beej mantra is derived from the sound of each individual’s nakshatra-pada. The position of the moon at the time of a person’s birth determines the nakshatra-pada, thus making the mantra unique to that person. Using the beej mantra helps you connect faster with the universal vibration present at the time and place of your birth.
You can chant mantras at any time of the day or night, while you are walking, commuting, driving, cooking, trying to fall asleep or while doing yoga. It is advisable to set aside a specific time for chanting away from the distraction of your daily activities.
Here are a few steps to keep in mind as you begin chanting:
- Sit up straight with your spine erect
- Gently close your eyes and focus on your breath for a few minutes as the body begins to relax
- At first, repeat the mantra aloud, focusing on pronunciation and duration. Ensure that you chant the words at the same pace. Keep track of the number of breaths between the words to help you keep pace.
- Listen to the mantra as you repeat it and allow the word to permeate your whole being
- Feel the vibrations as they occur within your body and be mindful of all the sensations you are experiencing
- With practice you will feel your voice getting deeper and gathering more power. Use this as motivation to further your spiritual growth
- Practice chanting everyday for 10 to 15 minutes to begin with and then increase it to 30 minutes as your practice improves
- You can practice with a Japa mala (similar to a rosary but with 108 beads) to help improve your meditation
- Begin with Om and over time, make an effort to learn some of the more powerful Sanskrit mantras from a reliable source. Some of the powerful mantras are Gayatri mantra, Mahamritunjaya mantra, Shanti mantras and Dhanvantari mantra.
Chanting helps you connect with your inner self as it allows you to develop a more mindful state of awareness. Use it as a tool of higher learning for the soul and to ascend to higher spiritual dimensions. Chanting can be especially useful at times of stress as it helps bring about a sense of calm, all pervading positivity and offers an insight into the transience of all experiences.
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