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How can you use chanting to awaken?
Ramana Maharshi’s meeting with a master of Sanskrit and non-dual philosophy (Vedanta) named Ganapati Muni, speaks to the effectiveness of chanting as an avenue for awakening.
At the time, Ramana had been living in silence for 11 years in a cave on a mountain (Arunachala) in south central India. One hot fall afternoon, Ganapati Muni was in despair over his inability to achieve Realization despite enormous efforts. He had spent many years visiting sacred places, performing ascetic practices, memorizing texts, reading extensively, arguing Vedanta philosophy, and performing mantras and invocations. He rushed up the hillside to see the sage, now in his late twenties. Ganapati Muni fell at his feet, clasped them in his hands and said that despite all his efforts, he still did not understand what spiritual practice (tapas) was. He begged Ramana to tell him the nature of spiritual practice.
Ramana looked at him silently for about fifteen minutes and then said only two sentences, the last of which was “When a mantra is repeated, if one watches the Source from which the mantra sound is produced the mind is absorbed in That; that is tapas (spiritual practice)”. Ganapati Muni was overwhelmed and awakened by this insight.
Using mantras to focus on that place from which they emerge, and into which they dissolve, can open the door to awakening. Particularly powerful chants are Vedic chants, often over 3,500 years old. They are relatively simple, have been phonically tuned in Sanskrit, a/the root language for most Indo-European languages, and have a great impact on the mind. Some of these chants have been chanted by millions of people over thousands of years.
Chanting is more effective if your breathing is focused as to how each inhale and exhale is done. Inhales are most effective done from the “bottom up”, i.e. first using the diaphragm, then the ribs, then the upper chest. Exhales are most effective done “top down”, i.e. first using the upper chest, then the ribs, and then the diaphragm.
Russill Paul, in his excellent The Yoga of Sound: Tapping the Hidden Power of Chant and Music, lays out the approach of using three tones and prescribes these arrangements. Focus the lowest tone, Ha, deep in the belly. The intermediate tone, He, is focused in the heart. The upper tone, designated Te, is focused on the region of the forehead, brow, or third eye.
The words approximate the Sanskrit and capture its power without being too complex.
The meditative impact is strengthened if each line is chanted on one out breath, followed by a silent inhale.
These chants can be done as many times as you are moved to do.
|Ignorance||to||eternal bliss||lead me|
This chant is an asking to be led from the non-being of ignorance to the being of realization, from the darkness of ignorance to the light of understanding, and from the death of ignorance to the eternal bliss of knowledge.
Classically, this request was made to your guru, God, etc. In this work it is your personal I asking for help to awaken, your self beseeching your Self. This chant can be a powerful surrender, a recognition that you can’t do it by yourself.
|Lo kah||sa mas ta||sukhi nu||bha van tu|
May all beings in all worlds (on all planes) have peace, happiness and well-being.
This chant, which is often known as the “Peace Chant”, has been used for millennia in many places by many folk to capture that feeling. There are many arrangements. A popular one is Paul’s:
While this chant is traditionally used to ask God, Buddha, Jesus, the Ultimate Reality, etc., to give peace and well-being to all beings in all worlds, it can be directed to someone close to you, someone with whom you are having some difficulty, and/or yourself (often the most abused and mistreated of the three).
|God/the universe||please remember||all that I have done||please remember|
The literal translation for “krato” is “the one for whom the deeds are done”. There are four different tonal sequences:
|He||Krah||tho||smah rah||kru thahm||smah rah|
|He||smah rah||kru thahm||smah rah|
|Te||tho||smah rah||kru thahm||smah rah|
|He||tho||smah rah||kru thahm||smah rah|
While this chant is used classically to make certain that God remains aware of what you have done so that He/She will reward you appropriately, in this work is it used to surrender all that was done and who it was that wanted them done.
As the chants are done, watch the mind. What happens as the chanting continues? Can you see where this chant comes from and where it goes to when the sound dies away? Who is doing this chant? If you chant for some time, you may have the experience that the chant is doing itself. What does that say about you? Where are you then?
Copyright © 2007 by Gary Weber