Why do we chant?

Sutra chanting is a religious action recommended for Shin Buddhist followers to carry out in their daily lives. We express our joy to be able to encounter Namoamidabutsu and the Pure Land teachings through chanting the sutras.

Buddhist chanting also contains meditative, ritual, and learning aspects. Being fully engaged in chanting enables us to focus on the present moment; this focus is helpful to receive the dharma message. Shin Buddhist chanting relies on simplified melodies that can be chanted together, uniting the sangha.

Sariputra, in that Buddha-land, when a gentle breeze begins to blow, causing the arrayed jeweled trees and decorative jeweled nets to stir, they produce subtle, harmonious sounds. It is as if a hundred thousand musical instruments were being played spontaneously. ​-- Amida Sutra

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Buddhist Chant Video Demonstrations

Shin Buddhist Demonstration of Chanting - Junirai. Junirai, or the Twelve Adorations, is a Gatha written by Nagarjuna (c. 2nd-3rd cent. B.C.E.), the first of seven Patriarchs of Jodo Shinshu. He praises the beauty and sacredness of the Pure Land which manifests the virtures of Amida Buddha, and expresses the desire to be born in the Pure Land. The spirit to praise and revere is repeated twelve times, thus the verse is known as The Twelve Adorations.
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Juseige (English translation)

Juseige: Affirming the Forty-Eight Great Vows

These forty-eight great vows which I,
Dharmakara Bodhisattva,
Established for myself and all beings —
None to be excluded —
In the ongoing timelessness of this present moment
Affirm the reality of the infinite
Within this world of birth-and-death.

Through these vows I vow
The Vow that is primal vow of life itself.
Until this shall be fulfilled for each one,
I will not accept the great supreme enlightenment.
I will not rest as Amitabha,
The Buddha of universal reality,
The Buddha of truth of things-as-they-are.

Throughout all time
In every generation of beings,
If my vow does not become
The source of wisdom and compassion,
The cause of this great awakening
In each and every one everywhere,
I will not accept the great supreme enlightenment.
I will not rest as Amitabha,
The Buddha of universal reality,
The Buddha of the truth of things-as-they are.

Upon my becoming a Buddha,
My name shall resound
Throughout the farthest reaches of the universe.
If there is even one place
Where my name is not being heard,
I will not accept the great supreme enlightenment.
I will not rest as Amitabha,
The Buddha of universal reality.
The Buddha of the truth of things-as-they-are.

To attain the great supreme enlightenment
To become the dharma teacher of gods and men,
I shall, without ceasing,
Practice the great practice: Brahma-carya,
The all inclusive
Most difficult
And final practice
Without the hindrance of desire,
In the dhyana-samadhi of contemplation
From which the purest wisdom,
The immeasurably pure compassion
Of the workings of my vow shall flow.

This Great Vow shall be all-penetrating,
A shining light of wisdom and compassion,
An inconceivable light
Illuminating our inner darkness,
Enabling us to see our ignorance,
Our hatred,
Our unquenchable desires,
Our own deep, awesome true reality.

But the Vow’s incomparable enlightenment rescues us,
Just as we are!
From the heavens of self-pride,
The hellish torments of the worlds of illusion
Which we constantly create.

The Vow’s unfailing light replaces our blindness
With the eye of wisdom.
It dispels the illusions of these empty worlds
To which we cling.
It transforms the realms in which we suffer
And opens to us the real world of things-as-they-are,
The Pure Land,
The realm of this extraordinary light.
Amitabha, Amitayus, Infinite Light and Life
Awakens us to a joy that never diminishes —
The true happiness of working for the welfare
Of all beings everywhere,
The true happiness of Buddha-hood,
The universe endowment of the Vow.

For the sake of all beings,
To all, at all times, everywhere,
With the light of wisdom itself
I preach the Dharma.
My vow assures this treasure of all treasures,
The virtue among virtues,
The inexhaustible storehouse of Dharma
Which my Name shall convey.

I offer the flowers of enlightenment
To all Buddhas-to-be.
I show my reverence to each of them.
I praise each one’s virtuous roots.

As my vows become fulfilled
I will be the champion of naturalness,
Freed from the proud thought of
“I am such.”

A Tathagata’s eye of wisdom
Penetrates even man’s self-centeredness,
Penetrates conditioned and unconditioned equally,
Piercing the depths of inner darkness.

I vow that the power of my wisdom will be such
That I will become a true Buddha.
This having become so,
The cosmos will resound with the dharma.
Flowers of enlightenment
Like a rain of light
Will adorn all beings.

Sanbutsuge (English translation)

Sanbutsuge: Dharmakara’s Song of Praise to His Teacher,
Lokesvararaja Buddha …

by Rev. Shoji Matsumoto and Ruth Tabrah Honolulu, 1984

(A translation of the essential meaning of Shinran Shonin’s interpretation of this gatha from the Larger Pure Land Sutra)

From the beginningless beginning
Of time itself, Dharma – the true reality of suchness –
Has constantly been evolving
In its infinite way.

Our ancestor, Dharmakara Bodhisattva,
He who is the treasure house of Dharma,
Took this name
Upon realizing his true identity
After having heard from Lokesvararaja Buddha
The teachings that pierce all illusions.

At his first encounter
With the wisdom and reality
That is our fundamental nature
And the nature of all that exists,
Dharmakara Bodhisattva experienced such happiness,
Such joy,
That he abandoned his former way of life and thought.
With his whole body,
His total being,
All energy, complete determination –
He concentrated on the ultimate state
Of becoming a Buddha,
One fully awakened to the truth
Of the reality that is the same
Throughout the universe.

Again seeking out his great teacher
Lokesvararaja Buddha,
The Buddha who is always
Emancipating the world,
Dharmakara first respectfully bowed,
Placed his forehead on the Buddha’s feet
And then,
Rising to walk around the Buddha three times
While he gazed in awe from all directions
At this Buddha whom he wished to become,
Feeling the Buddha’s inconceivable power,
Dharmakara put his palms together in gassho
And sang in praise.

“You, like whom I wish to become,
Have a countenance radiant with a light
Of utter sincerity, a light of boundless wisdom
Which shines on all beings
Transforming vices into virtues!
Your light is the light of compassion,
The ever-burning light-source
Of peace and happiness,
Penetrating me with its warmth.

When compared to your never-failing light
That of the most precious jewels,
That of the fiercest flames,
That of the sun and brightest stars
Are like tie black holes of the universe.

Your shinny countenance,
Your most excellent features,
Your color – which embraces all colors –
Are beyond compare.
Your voice, emerging from the depths
Of your boundless compassion,
Resounds like a lion’s roar throughout the universe
Proclaiming that Buddha-ness
Is my true self,
The true self of each and every being everywhere!

That sublime, most rare compassion
Arising from the wisdom-flow
Of your ceaseless activity in perfecting
Mindfulness and awareness:
Your ceaseless activity in perfecting patience,
And reflection;
Take you beyond this world of birth-and-death
To the stage of joy and bliss
At having become the dharma.

How inconceivable that this last stage,
The fulfillment of Buddha-hood,
You, a perfected Buddha, made the choice –
Out of Great Compassion –
To return to this world as a bodhisattva
Whose dedication and yearning
Is to awaken and free each and every one of us.

In your samadhi,
So deep, so total and yet so subtle,
Having become one
With the dharma-ocean of all the Buddhas,
You fathomed its fathomless depths,
You measured its inmeasurability,
You perceived its most profound truths.

In you Abhijna, the wisdom of a Buddha
Has for all time replaced the darkness of ignorance.
In you, Mahakaruna, the compassion of a Buddha,
Has for all time replaced the darkness of lust.
In you, through selflessness, Maha-atman, the Great Self of a Buddha
Has for all time replaced the darkness
Of Self-centeredness.

Indeed, you are Bhagavat!
The Tathagata!
The world-honored one whose cosmic virtues,
Whose profound and subtle wisdom radiates
Throughout the immeasurable reaches
Of all the galaxies,
Touching the inconceivable depths of all that exists.

The impact of your enlightenment, like lightning
Striking throughout the universe,
With neither exception nor distinction transforms
All that exists in every world with Bodhi,
The innate nature of Buddha-ness,
The potential to realize what is true and real.

I, Dharmakara, yearn to experience the samadhi
Which you are experiencing.
In it, I shall open the gate of the six perfections,
The gate which includes all dharmas”
And the resolve to open this awareness to all:

Sila-Restraint practiced with
Ksanti, patience,
Virya, strongest effort,
Dhyana, contemplation that opens the eye of samadhi
To Prajna, the wisdom that frees and emancipates,
The wisdom of things-as-they-are.
Endlessly, without ceasing,
I shall yearn to attain
Anuttara samyak sambodhi –
The unparalleled Great Awakening
That transforms the universe
With immeasurable light and life.

This I shall carry out through my practice.
I will endure whatever must be endured
To attain this for everyone everywhere.

To all who are in need of help and guidance,
For all who are lost and confused,
Hopelessly wandering in these worlds of illusion,
I vow
They will become enabled to restore their confidence,
To awaken to their true identity,
Their great and total Buddha-ness,
Their oneness
With the Dharma that includes all dharmas,
Their oneness with me.

In every land,
Offerings to gods and buddhas are assumed
To insure the highest benefit to a devotee,
But I now establish this superior way
Of becoming a Buddha,
Which I shall follow firmly and forthrightly,
Though it is the most difficult of all difficulties.
It is a way which cannot be rivaled
Even by making offerings to gods and Buddhas
More numerous than the sand grains
In the River Ganges.

Junirai (English translation)

English translation of “Junirai” from the “Shinshu Seitan, Jodo Shin Buddhist Teaching,” BCA, 1978; SOURCE: Shin Buddhist Service Book, BCA 1994, San Francisco.

Before Amida Buddha whom Deva and men worship,
I humble myself in deepest reverence.
In his wondrous land of Bliss,
Surrounded is he by countless Bodhisattvas.

His golden form shines forth pure, like the King of Mount Sumeru.
His practice of Truth is steadfast, like an elephant’s pace,
His eyes radiate, like pure blue lotus blossoms.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

His countenance is perfectly pure and round, like the full moon;
His majestic light shines like a thousand suns and moons;
His voice is like a heavenly drum, yet like a heavenly bird.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

Avalokitesvara wears upon his crown,
The image of Amida adorned with many precious jewels.
He subdues the arrogance of demons and heretics.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

Incomparable, vast, and pure his Virtues are,
Clearly extending like vast open space,
His acts freely benefiting all.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

Bodhisattvas from the ten quarters
And countless maras always venerate him.
He dwells with Vow-power for the sake of all beings.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

In the golden treasure pond where the lotus flowers bloom,
Established with goodness is a wondrous throne;
Where reigns the lord, like the King of Mount.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

From the ten quarters Bodhisattvas come,
Revealing wondrous powers, they attain blissful state;
Honoring his face, they offer eternal homage.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

All things are transient and without self
Like the moon on water, lightning, shadow or dew.
“The Dharma cannot be expressed by words,” the Buddha proclaimed
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

No words of evil are in his land;
No fear of evil doers, nor evil paths;
With sincere heart all beings worship him.
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

His land of infinite expediences
Is without degenerate things or wicked beings;
Upon rebirth, non-retrogressive Bodhi does one attain
Thus I prostrate myself before Amida Buddha.

Thus have I praised the virtues of Amida,
Boundless are they like the water of the sea.
Upon receiving these pure and good qualities,
May all beings be reborn into his land.