Chants, Rants and Trance

Chant monk copyThere’s no doubt that concentrating on rhythmically repetitive sounds and motion from a group in unison can induce a trance like state, often quickly and to nearly everyone. But are these extra sensory experiences enlightenment, entertainment or self-illusions?

Contrast chanting with a silent, motionless meditator, who, rather than loudly chasing after and trying to induce bliss, is breathing to a pattern, waiting for the right conditions where bliss develops spontaneously. To a North American or European observer, the ease of this meditation is deceptively difficult, the results neither quick nor observable. It’s difficult to brag about this type of meditation.

If you are focused primarily on provable results that can be seen, discussed at a party, boasted and documented on video, then chants are the way. A visit to a public Buddhist centre might loudly confirm this suspicion. But what do the monks do when no visitors are watching?

Fixing attention on the meditative breath develops awareness of the present moment, or “Right Concentration“, coupled with a parallel depth of understanding. This, instead of trying through volume and repetition to force conditions causing a lost track of time, space or consciousness.

Through breathing mediation we can learn to stay in reality, not seek hallucinations or illusion. By awareness of this moment, this time in reality, we can take guidance from the past and provide for the future. But it’s less impressive than chanting!

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