A caller phoned in a question to the Voicemail Hotline: 937-660-4949:
Can you talk about chanting? It seems that many different sects do it. Why?
Well, you are right in that Buddhism has a lot of chanting, but that’s not really exclusive. If you think about it, just about all religions do chanting in some form. If you listen to Muslim or Christian services, you’ll often hear chanting. Whether it’s the ‚ÄúLord’s Prayer‚Äù or the ‚ÄúAdhan,‚Äù the Islamic Call to Prayer, chanting and religion go hand in hand. And yes, Buddhists do it too.
The majority of Buddhist chants are not prayers, since asking a god for intervention is not really the way of Buddhism. While we have seen in the past that prayer does exist in Buddhism, it’s not really related to chanting. Instead, most chanting is done as recitation of sutras (written works attributed to the Buddha), either to help teach the sutra or to simply keep it in mind via repetition.
Examples would be chanting the Bodhisattva vows, the three refuges, the five precepts, loving-kindness (Metta Sutta), the Heart or Diamond sutras, or the very famous nianfo of Pure Land: Namu Amida Butsu or Namo Amituofo. Sometime koans or poetry are also commonly chanted.
Generally, the purpose it to set one’s mind in a particular place for a specific ritual or meditation.
Here are some Youtube examples to enjoy:
Om Mani Padme Hum:
Buddhist Chant: The Heart Sutra: