The Tradition of reciting or chanting Buddhist teachings is mostly practiced in South East Asian countries, such as Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Burma and Thailand. These cultures are different from the West in that they have more natural faith in the Dhamma, from long familiarity with it. Their world view also supports their belief in the effectiveness of hearing and reciting teachings and prayers…
In the West, by contrast, most people have a lot more skeptical doubt about such things, and they need to see evidence before they believe. Fortunately, if there is even some small amount of faith, receptivity and sensitivity, the power of hearing teachings can be felt. From there, greater devotion and more subtle awareness naturally develop, leading onwards.
A few factors are coming together when we hear, or recite what are known traditionally as Paritta, or protective chants.
One is the power of truth. These are all statements that can be verified, and that have gathered power over the centuries for that reason. They are in accord with the way things are, and they resonate in a deep way with reality. Many of these teachings you will notice, have lines to the effect of ‘By this truth… May you be well’, or, ‘…May your aims be accomplished’.
Another factor at work here is the power of faith and devotion. Paritta praise the Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha, and raise up our own faith. This is another power that gathers over time.
Recitation falls under the category of learning, and recollection, and here, also bhavana, or the cultivation, of devotion. When done regularly, this is something that can deepen our meditation practices, and support our lives beautifully in this world.
Whereas faith refers to openness, trust, and receptivity, devotion draws positive energy, or blessings to us.
Sometimes I can see how devotion and ardor opens a door between the worlds, or the levels of our being here. Pure faith opens a channel for blessings on our lives and on the lives of those we love. This is something that can develop over time and through practice, in this case, by reading, listening and recollection.
The power of loving kindness on our part makes these teachings even more effective. Love is the greatest power in the universe, and when it is brought together with wisdom, I know we can accomplish all our aims.
These Teachings were given by the Buddha out of his Great Love, Wisdom and Compassion, and as we receive them, we are further empowered, and our own mind is purified and uplifted.
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There is blessing, as in a special energy associated with Traditional teachings in all religions, that has the power to heal, to illuminate and inspire. We can receive this delightful, subtle benefit from reading, reciting, or listening to a teaching, and from remembering and reflecting on it. We can also feel a special energy when we meet a fine teacher, someone who has cultivated a deep practice. It can be healing, re-vitalizing, and deeply nourishing.
Some people may like to stop there, and just enjoy those temporary pleasant feelings, of peace and well being, but we are encouraged again and again to receive the teachings even further and to put them into practice, to attain their lasting blessings, which are the results of greater freedom, and the ability to care for others, in the best possible ways. Many of the traditional paritta are indeed exhortations to practice, and they include concise instructions, or reminders of profound teachings we can study in depth throughout our lives.
There is such need in our world for the articulation of uplifting, clear teachings. There is so much need for more real peace in our world, and in our lives. Compared to previous decades, in my view, there is more addiction and distraction, more despair, disconnect, and pessimism. There is more danger, and this, the power of need, I would say, is the main reason why spiritual reading should be done these days, and listened to, remembered and put into practice. Because of the great need that exists, our doing such things now, by nature, has real strength.
Hopefully this is enough to generate interest in the study of paritta, and in what follows.
May all beings be blessed by the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas,
the Arhats and excellent practitioners.
May we all put the teachings into practice,
and share the blessings with the whole world,
and all beings.
May all beings benefit.
August 31st, 2021
From Paritta Recitation – Protective Readings from the Pali Canon; Audio, (2022)
See also: The Power of the Word