Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Sharing our Merit (ancient chant)

Wisdom Quarterly, Buddha Vandanā, Los Angeles Buddhist Vihara (Mrs. B.C. Pedris)
Buddha image inside of the Mahabodhi ("Great Enlightenment") Temple, Bodh Gaya, India next to the Bodhi tree (Simon Maddison/maddison_simon/flickr)
To offer the "merit" (particularly skillful karma) deriving from our deeds to benefit others, who will benefit if they approve of our deeds in their minds/hearts, Buddhists traditionally chant these Pali, Prakrit, Magadhi words from the time of the Buddha:
Akāsatthā ca bhummatthā devā nāgā mahiddhikā
Puññantam anumoditvā ciram rakkhantu sasanam
Akāsatthā ca bhummatthā devā nāgā mahiddhikā
Puññantam anumoditvā ciram rakkhantu desanam 

Akāsatthā ca bhummatthā devā nāgā mahiddhikā
Puññantam anumoditvā ciram rakkhantu mamparam

(Pronunciation guide: AH-kah-sah-TAH chah BOO-mah-TAH day-VAH nah-gah MA-hee-dee-kah
POO-nyan-tam ah-noo-moe-deet-vah chi-rham ROCK-khan-too SAH-sah-nam/DAY-sah-nam/MOM-pah-ram)

Buddha behind glass, Mahabodhi Temple (Wiki)
"May mighty devas and creatures of great power (nagas) dwelling in space and on the Earth rejoice in this merit of ours and long protect the Buddha's dispensation (sasana)."

Idam no ñātinam hotu
sukhitā hontu ñātayo
(3 times)

(E-dham no nyah-tee-nam HOE-too
sue-hee-tah HOHN-too NAH-tie-oh)

"Let this merit go to our relatives
may our relatives be happy."

Ettāvatā ca amhehi sambhatam puñña-sampadam
sabbe devā anumodantu sabba-sampatti-siddhiyā. 
(3 times)

(EH-tah-VAH-tah cha AHM-heh-hee som-BAH-tam POO-nyah SAM-paw-DHAM
SAH-bay DAY-vah AH-nuu-MOE-dhan-too SAH-bah SOM-paw-tee SEE-dee-YAH).

"May all creatures rejoice in this merit we have just acquired for the achievement of all success."

Why would anybody chant?
Dhr. Seven, CC Liu; Ven. Nyanatiloka Thera, Manual of Buddhist Terms and Doctrines
Chanting under giant Buddha statue in Sehtatgyi Paya, Burma (VicWild/potenzh/flickr)
There are different ways of learning the Dharma or the wording of Buddhist doctrine.
In the "progress of the disciple," three stages may be distinguished: theory, practice, and realization.

That is to say, a hearer (sāvaka) (1) learns the wording of the doctrine (pariyatti), (2) practices it (patipatti), and (3) penetrates it (pativedha) to realize its goal.
Chanting is a tried and true tool from ancient India to go from hearing or auditing the Dharma to  fully comprehending or understanding it.
The Path of Purification (Visuddhimagga)
There are three kinds of mundane full understading, namely: full understanding of the known, full understanding as investigating, and full understanding as overcoming. In The Path of Purification (Vis.M. XX, 3) by Ven. Buddhaghosa, it is said:
"Full understanding of the known is the knowledge consisting in the discernment of the specific characteristics of such and such phenomena, as: 'Corporeality has the characteristic of being oppressed; feeling has the characteristic of being felt, and so on.'
"Full understanding by investigating is that insight-wisdom (vipassanā-paññā), which has the three general characteristics (impermanence, suffering, not-self) as its objects, and which arises when attributing a general characteristic to (physical and mental) phenomena, as for instance: 'Corporeality is impermanent, feeling is impermanent, and so on.'
"Full understanding by overcomning is that insight-wisdom which has the above mentioned general characteristics as its objects and arises after overcoming the idea of permanence, and so on" - (Appendix).

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