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Chanting: The power of prayer amplified

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2015 | 6:00 AMDr Glenville Ashby
Tibetan monks chanting sutras.

Throughout history chanting has been used as a medium to communicate with deities, saints, and God.

It has also been a substantive part of physical and spiritual healing, and even applied to effect change in economic and political affairs.

The secret of this cross-cultural practice, used by mainstream and New Age movements, has been carefully guarded by the priestly class because of its magical effects.

But for chanting to bring us in communion with the Divine, detailed attention must be paid to intonation, cadence, and pronunciation of the words being uttered. In some cases, chanting needs to be accompanied with music and performed at specific hours of the day.

What then are the forces behind this little-understood spiritual indulgence? Do we really contact the world of spirit when we chant or is it a purely imaginative, psychological exercise, a kind of delusion, as some argue?

CHANTING AND THE SPIRITUAL WORLD

Chanting presupposes the existence of spiritual beings that are ever willing to facilitate our desires. Chanting is said to be alchemical, raising our consciousness, removing us from temporal, secular concerns into the timeless realm of bliss, the abode of the Universal Spirit.

Essentially, chanting is a highly charged, focused and repetitive form of prayer. It is an invocation using carefully selected word or words (called mantras) because of their inherent power. It is the power of prayer tenfold.

Chanting is based on the premise that words emit vibrations, are imbued with power and can bring about 'magical' change. We have a most profound example of this in the Bible. God is said to have created the world through a series of invocations (Genesis 1:3). Words are imbued with energy, some more than others, and are made more effective when properly intoned. According to Hindu lore, reciting or chanting Aum (or the Universal Word) brings us closer to the Supreme. It is the highest vibratory word, the Alpha and Omega of all existence. It is God.

In John 1:1 the Bible states, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God."

 

DIFFERENT FORMS

 

 

AND LANGUAGES

 

"This symbol Aum is indeed Braham (God). Whosoever knows this symbol obtains all that he desires. Whosoever knows this symbol is adored in the world of Brahma," states the Katha Upanishad.

Other familiar chants or mantras include Buddhism's Nam-Myoho-Renge-Kyo (I devote myself to the highest Lotus Sutra or Highest Principle); "Ya Allah," said by Muslims; "Jesus," repeated fervently by Evangelicals during deliverance prayers; and the "Hail Mary' by Roman Catholics.

Sikhism's daily recitations are taken from the Gurbani or sacred hymns. Devotional songs to the orishas in Yoruba

tradition are also chanted.

Esoteric orders, such as the Ancient Mystical Order of the Rosae Crucis (Rosicrucians), use a series of vowel sounds to bring about deeper meditative and spiritual states.

Not surprisingly, because of its cryptic, mystical nature, chanting is subject to misinterpretation and sensationalism.

It is therefore important to know the meaning of the words that are chanted and the

intention of the chanter.

 

HEALING BENEFITS

 

Chanting has long been used for physical and spiritual healing.

Jonathan Goldman, a sound healing specialist who has produced music for meditation, relaxation and healing, and has studied Tibetan overtone chanting, believes that we become one with divine energy when we chant; that the chanter and deity or god are intertwined.

The healing benefits of chanting are supported by Dr Alfred Tomatis whose extensive research on Gregorian chants, in particular, showed their positive impact on the nervous system. And Wellness writer Christy Melroy stated in her article, 'Chanting is Good Habit,' that the practice normalises our adrenalin levels and brain patterns, and lowers our cholesterol.

 

CHANGING SOCIAL, ECONOMIC AND POLITICAL FORTUNES

 

Besides its curative effect, chanting has been known to bring about changes in our environment; to beckon the gods who are charged with our economic, social and political lot, to intercede on our behalf and help us shape our destiny.

Chanting helps us on multiple levels. This was vividly exemplified by Native Americans who chanted during elaborate ceremonies for rain whenever hit by droughts.

An excerpt from a Navajo Thunder song used during the Mountain Chant Ceremony demonstrates the power of chanting on the elements: "The Voice that beautifies the land! The voice above, the voice of Thunder within the dark cloud; again and again it sounds, the voice that beautifies the land."

Interestingly, of all Navajo ceremonies, the rain chant demanded that both sexes be involved because of the urgency of the situation. Also, for such an undertaking to be more effective, a greater number of participants were needed.

This lends credence to the biblical aphorism in Matthew 18:20: "For where two or three have gathered together in my Name, I am there in their midst." In other words, when spiritual energy (released by chanting) is directed by individuals who share the same culture, belief systems, and intention, their goals are more easily realised.

Remarkably, many cultures still rely on ceremonial chanting to change their fortunes. Recently, Sonny Skyhawk of Indian Country Today (Media Network) related a story of Uintah dancers who were invited to a ski resort in Park City, Utah, in 2012.

They were asked to perform traditional chants to alter weather patterns. It snowed for three days after the ceremony. To this day, Skyhawk's response reverberates: "Who is to judge the power of prayer or belief?"

n Dr Glenville Ashby is a spiritual wellness consultant and president of Global Interfaith Council Corp.

Feedback: glenvilleashby@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter@glenvilleashby