It is so very uplifting and beautiful when the temple is filled with people chanting. It permeates the temple and cultures the heart with an exquisite feeling of sublime spirituality and devotion to God. It is nice that some of the Mount Soma residents have been exploring and enjoying chanting. Like many things, whether or not one chooses to chant is certainly a personal choice, but if done wisely it can be beneficial. Like everything, it boils down to ‘healthy relationship with’. I recently discussed chanting with Pandit Prasad and we offer the following:
The healing benefits of chanting can be particularly enjoyed if there are psychological, energetic, or emotional blocks. Clearing such blocks through chanting can, of course, be highly beneficial and open the physiology and energy system with numerous benefits possible. Some find such benefits through other pathways… for example, dance, singing, various forms of yoga or healing, personal relationships, etc.
When people are meditating regularly for a long period of time, impurities can get stirred up as they clear out of the physiology. Things like chanting, exercise, etc. can help clear them and the resultant experiences can then be quite desirable, even dramatic. Of course, that is an individual matter. Some will take to and derive benefit from one thing. Others will take to another based upon physiological needs and personal affinities.
At times, the result of adding exercise, chanting, or diet change can be truly dramatic. We just need to keep them in the context of the nature and structure of life and existence, such as we have discussed in the school. In our enthusiasm, when we start a new practice, it is best to not go overboard. Of course, such enthusiasm is understandable, though it is always best when we come back into balance.
As with all new practices, there are certain guidelines we do well to note:
Chanting for some can result in excess emotional indulgence which can turn a person into what is often called a “bliss ninny.” Then they begin to judge another person’s level of enlightenment based upon “bliss ninny” standards. This is common in many religions and social groups. Those who behave in a certain manner are considered more ‘spiritually evolved.’ Of course, we know that another person’s level of consciousness cannot be judged based upon the surface or upon our own personal affinities.
When the heart is overly enlivened (as described in Ayurveda and Chinese Medicine), it can distort perception. When blocks are cleared and emotions are excessively indulged, people can blur emotions with enlightenment. That can become an obstacle to true spiritual growth. Getting emotional about union with God can be confused with deeper union which transcends emotions. In such a case, chanting (like other things) can become a distraction that pulls people away from a deeper spiritual path. Discernment can be compromised.
We also do well to remember the elevator analogy: when you have been meditating and evolving rapidly, it is like climbing high in an elevator. If you take a moment to look at the view from that height, it is spectacular. So the inclination can be to stay with that level, be distracted by it, and hesitate to go back to what got you to that level in the first place. As a result, you can cease to continue climbing in the elevator to even higher levels.
It is as if for many years we have been cultivating a beautiful garden with fruit trees, etc. Then, if we pick a fruit and enjoy it, we may think it is the fruit that gave the gift. Actually, of course, the real gift is the cultivation that bore the fruit, not the picking of the fruit. Years of meditation and study make many fruits available, and the physiology of meditators becomes like ripe fruit. Various practices you then employ can pick the wonderful fruits we have been cultivating.
Excess chanting can even create a hypnotic state of euphoria. For that reason, some temples in India do not allow certain groups of people following such a path to even enter the temple. As stated earlier, those hypnotic states can lead a person to believe they are getting enlightened, when actually they are being misled. After spending time in India, many people become acutely aware of all sorts of practices done in the name of spiritual growth, that are more truly forms of mind manipulation. They could be forms of chanting, healing, or various spiritual practices. That is why I like to recommend: “Safety first!”
Bottom line: Like everything else, it is a matter of ‘relationship with’. Better to have a good relationship with a bad thing (i.e., staying away from it), than a bad relationship with a good thing (for example, excessive indulgence in it or emphasis upon it).
Remember that the deepest level of Bhakti transcends emotions. Bhakti is rooted in the transcendental depth of your being. Personally, I most cherish the experience of Bhakti I enjoy in deep meditation. However, I also love listening to, and being swept away by, the feeling evoked when the visitors chant at temple gatherings. When Pandits gather and chant together, it is exquisite.
So, if you enjoy chanting, do so wisely and be sure the Mantras you use, and the amount and ways you use them is done properly. If you are at Mount Soma, it is wise to take advantage of the opportunity to have it monitored. Panditji and I are asking that you allow us to do so. If you would like to chant, please let us know what you would like to do, so Panditji and I can confer with one another and offer our assistance. Then, with our blessings, if you like chanting and feel you are getting benefit from it, ENJOY!
Such an important and timely reminder. Thank you so much for the way you always take such great and loving care of us.
A good reminder indeed!
We also need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Looking from a different light, I do see such activities provide much needed support to the community and the ashram, especially for the work study participants. Of course, discernment is utterly important! It is a lifelong endeavor for each individual. Otherwise, how do we reach enlightenment!
Hi Rayshan, Thank you for your thoughtful comment. And yes, I agree with all your points. We do well to reflect, research, ponder, and look before we leap. This is especially so when we structure our spiritual practices. That is why in life I like to consult others for their perspectives. For example, Panditji and I discuss many different things almost daily before we make a decision. Actually, I can not think of a time when we did not reflect together harmoniously to support the process of making wise decisions. Running ideas past one another is wise. In fact, that is a major component of discernment, i.e. working together in harmony and loving mutual support to move forward with wisdom. In fact, thoughtfully sharing ideas and supporting one another is what a community is all about. Discernment is a fascinating process. Thanks again for your comment. It brings out good points and invites us all to kindly work together with mutual support and wise discernment. If I may digress: This all somehow inspires me to imagine an ancient ‘council of elders’ in the sky, masters of balance and discernment, like the Rishis… the upholders of Dharma.
Though this blog touches on many facets of chanting, and my comment will only touch on one. It has sparked a memory of mine that I figure I’ll share.
It was early in the morning (way too damn early) during the Hanuman inauguration all those years ago. I was headed up to Michael’s house to help with his dhoti, and bring him to the puja. After a few minutes inside we stepped out onto the front porch. It was still dark, the morning mist hug in the air creating a capsulated feeling in the immediate area. However the view of the sky/valley was completely visible, being illuminated by houses and stars alike. In the faint distance the sound of pundits chanting could be heard. It felt as a subtle whisper swimming through the ether to our location. I’m not sure how long that moment lasted, but it was incredibly powerful.
Thanks for letting me share, hope everyone is well!
This blog is so timely. I have been confused about chanting here at Mount Soma. Is it really a shortcut to enlightenment? Is it real? Is it emotional indulgence? What is going on here?
Thank goodness Michaelji steps in and sheds light on the situation. I will definitely be asking to have my chanting monitored.