Thursday, June 26, 2014

Chanting as a Means of Liberation

"Chanting is a simple tool which burns the sins of several human births... Never fear. Our ancients have proclaimed that this Iron Age, Kali Yuga, is an age full of contrary conditions and adverse factors
that makes it almost impossible to lead a good life, a spiritual life, a life of goodness, righteousness,
and spiritual practice."
But at the same time they have said, 'In this great ocean of adverse factors and conditions, there is one wonderful redeeming feature, and that is the chanting of the Divine Name of God.' Done with devotion it brings about a severance of all ties binding the individual soul to samsara (cycle of birth and death)
and confers upon it liberation."  .............................Sant Tukaram

"Let people quote the Scriptures and sacrifice to the gods, let them perform rituals and worship the deities, but there is no Liberation without the realisation of one’s identity with the Atman, no, not even in the lifetime of a hundred Brahmas put together." .............Sri Adi Shankaracharya in "Vivekachudamani"

Sant Tukaram was a sixteenth century spiritual poet who promoted the bakthi movement as a source of liberation through more than 5000 poems written in his native language, Marathi. Chanting is a Vedic practice which has been in vogue from ancient times in the Gurukulams where the sacred Vedas were taught to individual devotees in their daily practice of sadhana (spiritual practice). The mantras have the requisite meter and vibration when recited in the proper manner as taught by a Guru or spiritual adept. The same is true in many spiritual traditions such as Buddhism where intonations are an integral part of preparation for deep meditation. The Christian Gregorian chanting is also intended to produce the same effect when chanted within the Gothic structure of the cathedrals. Most traditions have explicitly stressed on the external dimensions of the  practice rather than the internal state of the devotee.

This article is to really explain what Sant Tukaram meant by " chanting of the Divine Name of God... Done with devotion". The devotional aspect is very important compared to the 'Name of God'.
To define this deeper definition,  I have specifically quoted both Sant Tukaram and Adi Shankaracharya. Chanting of the Devine name in itself creates a duality in as much as the devotee is being isolated from the Deity. Though this may introduce a sense of humility in the devotee but the greater potential within the Self is excluded. This is the reason that Adi Shankaracharya stresses the need for the realization of one's identity with the Atman. In this identity the relation between the Atman and Paramatman is deepened.

While chanting the holy name of the Divine is essential in meditative or contemplative exercise, we must remember that it is only one limb of the process. In this process regular thoughts flow into our mind. Do not fight them and this step is known as "Restrain - no thought" then comes a stage where you "React to no thought" and then we learn to "Retain no thought" if we cannot maintain this flow then we "Return to the Holy word". These are the four "Rs" stipulated by Thomas Keating, a contemporary Trapist monk, in his "Contemplative Centring Prayer" as to why God's name is to be invoked.

If we chant in a continuous flow then we tend to get rooted in the mantra itself and cannot transcend to the level of reaching within.

Any sadhana should be operative at the emotional level and not at the mental level. This is the reason that I have recently quoted: "Silent inner prayer is the real prayer. Any articulation, repetition, chanting, singing, if it does not evoke a craving in the spirit for deeper communication, all oral prayers are a waste of time and breathe." .....................Deepananda

This article is not to decry the practice of chanting mantras or singing carols or Gregorian chants but this very act should evoke a heightened state consciousness through which the higher aspects of oneself can be realized through a liberation from our ego and sensory rootedness.

Love to you all


  1. There were great saints like Thukaram in India. The Krishna devotee MiraBai and the Kali devotee Ramakrishna Parahamsa are the two examples. These people had the power to influence others and help them to lift themselves up spiritually. Mira Bai's husband became a true follower of Krishna because of Mira's piety.. If not for any other reason to hear the Lord's name in itself is enriching and can bring about a change at some point in one's life

  2. Thank you EMPTY, for your observation. The emotional content which leads to ecstasy and personal detachment from the sensory world is what leads to transformation in the subject as well as in the consciousness of individuals who are participating in the process of emotional wave that engulfs the saint during the recitation of God's name. In this process the consciousness of Mira Bai and her husband, Prince Bhoj Raj, merged with the Krishna consciousness.