Chanting is to intonate a syllable, phrase, or slogan rhythmically and repeatedly for the purpose of producing a specific result. It is a vocal expression of one’s intention to align one’s mind and body with the eternal aspect of consciousness which is sometimes referred to as the Divine, God, or Brahman.
The Sanskrit vehicles for chanting are sacred prayers or hymns called mantras. Many of them are thousands of years old and are regarded as an auspicious means of communicating with one’s chosen deity. The chanting of Sanskrit mantras emerged from the oldest known written texts in Sanskrit, which are named the Vedas. The Vedas express the philosophical questions and concerns of the day, through hymns. Before writing was developed, these texts were preserved by careful teaching of the chants and prayers through recitation, repetition, and refinement. Strict rules of chanting were put into practice in order to insure accuracy in the preservation of these texts. These strict rules are observed even today, and this art of Vedic chanting thrives as a result.
“People come to chant by many different paths and for many different reasons. For some, it is spiritual, a form of devotional prayer; for others it is a method of relaxation. Still others use chant as a meditative avenue to self awareness, while some find in the practice a unique social connection.” – Paul Santos: CD: “Planet Chant”.
Knowledge of Sanskrit makes it possible to grasp the subtleties of yoga, whose body of teachings are written in Sanskrit. Since ancient times the practice of yoga has included the study of Sanskrit and the chanting of Sanskrit mantras to induce calm and clarity in meditation. The word “mantra” comes from two roots: “man” means the mind, or the cognitive faculty and “tra” means to protect. Hence, “mantra” can be said to mean “that which protects the mind,” or, “that which protects one from the mind.”
“Sanskrit, the language of the human spirit, seems to be the perfect instrument for bringing about healing on many levels. Physically, its resonating power promotes healing. Mentally, it awakens the natural brightness, agility, and order of the mind. Spiritually, it facilitates an expansion of awareness, tranquility, and bliss.” – Vyaas (Tuck) Houston, director: American Sanskrit Institute