Many faiths use chanting in their spiritual practices. Chanting is rhythmically repeating something over and again. One may chant prayers, mantras or names of deities. The rhythm and repetitive nature of chanting works to ingrain the idea into the mind of the chanter, and can also be used to prepare for meditation.
Chanting is an important part of our practices. It is done for spiritual, physical and magical reasons. Chanting can be a form of prayer, so it can serve dual purpose. Personally, I use chanting more than any of my other spiritual practices. I utilize chanting for one reason or another pretty much every day, and often multiple times a day.
What you chant, when you do it and how you keep track of it is up to you. I do believe it is important as part of discipline, to count your chants. This way you don’t just quit, you put real thought and effort into it. If you’re just beginning, you can reference the many faiths that use chanting and see what their practices are. Personally, I was drawn to Buddhist practices. I use some of their mantras, and I use a japa mala (the photo above is of my old mala) most of the time. This is what speaks to me the most, and I find the practice very helpful. You can do what feels best to you, but I’ll tell you a bit about my personal choices.
A japa mala is a string of 108 beads used to count chants. The number of beads is symbolic: 1 represents singularity, 0 represents nothingness and 8 represents infinity. There are times when I don’t count my chants, but usually I do. I do one full count for each chant. You can buy a mala online, but I think it is better to make your own. The photo is of my first mala, which I made with beads I had on hand. I’ll have to get a photo of the new one I made. I was very specific about the materials and colors. I believe that making the mala was, in itself, a magic ritual. I created my own spiritual artifact.
I use some Buddhist mantras, as well as some I made myself. The Buddhist mantras are difficult to translate literally, but I will share what they are, and what I use them for. The second list will be my own mantras and what they are for. feel free to do some research on the Buddhist mantras before using them yourself.
- Nam myoho renge kyo – used for peace, centering and connecting to the Universal Energy
- Om mani padme hum – balance, removing negative thoughts and feelings and replacing them with more balanced ones, bringing good into one’s life
- Om tare tuttare ture soha – relieving pain, healing (This is one of the chants I don’t count, I use it until the pain is gone.)
- Om padmo ushnisha vimale hum phat – to have a wish or need granted
- Om shuddhe shuddhe mahaayogini mahaanidre swaahaa – to bring sleep and meaningful dreams
- Om hanu pasha bhara he ye soha – to cleanse negative karma (I also have this hung over my bedroom door in Sanskrit)
- The vitality of the Universe is within me – for health and general wellbeing
- The peace of the Universe is within me – for calm, before sleep and meditation
- The magic of the Universe is within me – to draw energy before magical practice
- The beauty of the Universe is within me – for happiness and dispelling negative thought
(All of these chants I created are a form of prayer, as I visualize connecting directly with the Source or God.)
You can use any mantras or prayers you wish in your own practices. Use already known ones that feel right to you, or make your own. Just be certain that they feel true and right in your heart. If you’re chanting something you don’t believe in, it won’t do you any good at all. If you like, you can also use visualization while you chant. For instance, I imagine a bit of light flowing around an infinity symbol over an area where I feel pain, and at the same time I use the om tare chant.
Chanting can be done at any time, in any place. You don’t have to do it out loud unless you want to. The vibration of speaking the words can add to the experience, but it’s not required. As for counting, you may learn tricks to keep track if you don’t have something to keep track on. I can chant 108 repetitions without my japa mala if need be. And as for the number, use what seems right for you, and you can search Wikipedia for “prayer beads” to see references of how many other faiths use them.