OM AMIDEVA HRIH
This Monday we ended the class by chanting the Amitabha mantra. We chose this for several reasons: the previous week a discussion about chanting had arisen in the tea break; it is good to end the class with something meditative; it is the mantra Nandaketu was given at ordination and the simple tune has a haunting, pleasing sound.
A mantra is a sound symbol for a particular quality of the enlightened mind. They also have a written form (see visiblemantra.org if this interests you). They are associated with a particular Buddhist figure which personifies these qualities in an archetypal way. Try an internet image search for ‘Bodhisattva’ if you want a taste of this colourful symbolic world.
A mantra can be chanted silently as a focus for meditation but can also be chanted (or sung) aloud. It is not as subtle when chanted aloud, however you get the advantage of instant feedback as to the quality of the effort you are making from the sound of the mantra. If you are chanting in a group the harmony (or otherwise) between those chanting also becomes apparent. Just as we can return to the breath during the day, to reconnect with our meditation practice, a mantra can be chanted silently for example when walking or on public transport. Mantras are a nucleus around which many symbolic associations and memories of experience can congregate. This makes them a very rich object of concentration. They can even be experienced as being protective. If your mind is in an unhelpful state, such as animosity then the positive influence of the mantra, with all it’s positive associations, can help to change your state of mind to one that is more positive.
Here is the basic tune: Amitabha mantra
If you want to hear a more talented vocalist enjoying sung mantra try: http://mahasukha.bandcamp.com/album/longing
For more information on Amitabha and his mantra: http://www.wildmind.org/mantras/figures/amitabha
Nandaketu and David
You can also stay in touch with us on facebook