Chanting before a Dhamma talk?

Chanting before a Dhamma talk?

It is customary for a Sri Lankan Buddhist monk to give some chanting before a Dhamma talk.
This is generally done by giving five precepts after taking the three refuges.
When I was young I used to hate this introduction.
Now I noticed many Western monks completely overlook this traditional ritual.
Some just shortcut it.

Now I feel giving an introductory chanting is a very important part of the Dhamma talk.
I like to know your opinion and the history of this tradition.

Interesting question Sarath…

If we take for example the thai kammatthana tradtition as an example, there is generally less pariyatti (theory) in Dhamma talks but depending on the speaker sometimes you get the odd line or two of pali. The as the tradition is less scholastic and more experiential its more or less ‘the way it should be.’ But I have often thought that this style or way of giving dhamma-talks can get a bit loose…i.e lots of stories that lay people like but not much pith i.e buddha-vacana, and also for myslef i noticed sometimes its more or less laziness on my behalf to not have at least a dhammapada verse in mind as a nice way of opening a dhamma-talk. So I would agree that it is a skillful way to open a dhammatalk and would be nice if more monks did it rather than just a namo…saranam gacchami.

Also raises some interesting questions as to how did the Buddha give dhamma talks? As far as specifics are concerned there isn’t much that comes to mind…other than the dhamma-kathika sutta…

Saṃyutta Nikāya 35

Connected Discourses on the Six Sense Bases

  1. A Speaker on the Dhamma
    Then a certain bhikkhu approached the Blessed One … and said to him: “Venerable sir, it is said, ‘a speaker on the Dhamma, a speaker on the Dhamma.’ In what way, venerable sir, is one a speaker on the Dhamma?”

“Bhikkhu, if one teaches the Dhamma for the purpose of revulsion towards the eye, for its fading away and cessation, one can be called a bhikkhu who is a speaker on the Dhamma. If one is practising for the purpose of revulsion towards the eye, for its fading away and cessation, one can be called a bhikkhu who is practising in accordance with the Dhamma. If, through revulsion towards the eye, through its fading away and cessation, one is liberated by nonclinging, one can be called a bhikkhu who has attained Nibbāna in this very life.

“Bhikkhu, if one teaches the Dhamma for the purpose of revulsion towards the ear … for the purpose of revulsion towards the mind, for its fading away and cessation, one can be called a bhikkhu who is a speaker on the Dhamma. If one is practising for the purpose of revulsion towards the mind, for its fading away and cessation, one can be called a bhikkhu who is practising in accordance with the Dhamma. If, through revulsion towards the mind, through its fading away and cessation, one is liberated by nonclinging, one can be called a bhikkhu who has attained Nibbāna in this very life.”

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Some monks even do not say that.
That is my point.

In my opinion there are a few western monks who has a bit of a paranoid and possibly arrogant attitude towards doing rites and rituals.

Rites and rituals and clinging to rites and rituals are two different things.

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That’s my point to

At our place we don’t always pay homage beforehand but will do the closing dedication (Thai style- Arahan sammā sambuddho…) even with our beginners group. Our sutta study group always opens with namo tassa and ends with closing homage.

With the BSWA Friday talk they do the chanting before they go live (before the meditation) so it’s not on the recordings. The monastic talks and lunch dana always has chanting. The same at the other Australian Forest Tradition monasteries I’ve visited.

All the Sri Lankan monks I have seen speak have paid respect (namo tassa) at the beginning. Plus their talks are littered with Pāli quotes. Which is pretty much all I understand sometimes. My Singhala is limited to evagemma, hondai, stuthi and a few others!

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There are reasons for giving a dhamma talks- asked question, monks observed to need a dhamma talk, routine, lay people invite/expect, some people challenging, as an intervention, etc. We know the Buddha sometimes started with some chit chat before starting the dhamma talk proper, according to some EBTs (compare with frivolous talks-Right speech…). In some circumstances the seating arrangement seems formal- the Buddha with his monks on one side and the audience on the other. This however might have been for practical reasons, not entirely clear what… However he went to the extent of seeing who was able to understand the dhamma. In the anupubbiya kata he would make sure he reduced the five hindrances in the listener’s minds before discussing the dhamma/Four noble truths. I wondered if reciting some stanzas would have a similar effect.At the very least reducing the five hindrances would help with retaining the memory of what was discussed. It’s also possible that the stanzas for going for refuge might be late or commentarial (which doesn’t devalue them).

…wow- he is more likely to be viewed as stick-in-the-mud these days…

a few more:
ayubowan: formal greeting when meeting someone meaning may you live long!
enna: come
yanna: go
dana, sila, bhavana, metta, karuna, upekkha, nirvana : are all borrowed pali-sankskrit words, used in Sinhala
bohoma hondai: very good

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You missed therawan sarranai!

Enna and yanna are new to me. Stuthi!

And knowing how to say very good is important as a student of Ajahn Brahm!

The other one I felt was important is kammak naehae

Ahem…
honda lamayek: good boy/girl (…means ‘child’) used to praise children behaving well/achievements etc. also bohoma honda lamayek!
jhana is pali, but in Sinhala it is dhyana (sanksrit loan term).
You can explain that ‘Ajhan’ comes from sanskrit ‘aacharya’ meaning teacher.
most Sri Lankanks would be aware of Ajhan Brahm as has had many sessions in Sri Lanka (mostly Colombo) or from relatives in Australia where there is a large Sri Lankan community.

with metta

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Agree.
Some monks over do it.
:grin:

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Yes, sometimes a little friendly torture is just what the doctor ordered … :yum:

And one of my best moments of practice, was first three hour’s of agonizing sitting, followed by a chanting that lifted the roof completly in “my little tortured world”.

At the monastery I go to, the sequence at uposatha day pujas is: first the evening chanting, then meditation, then the refuges and precepts, then the dhamma talk. The dhamma talk itself is introduced with the “namo tassa …” homage.

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Saying namo tassa is ok and positive. I’m just pointing to it being turned into a mindless ritual and a mantra. How about some holy water with namo tassa chanted 108 times or more?! I guess even rituals have their uses and again intention is important here. It can focus the mind of the listener to the discourse to a degree.

with metta

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It does not matter. When I was young I chant them mindlesly.
Now I know what I am chanting.

This is overdoing.
However, it is customary to give Pirith water and a thread to people at the end of the ceromany.
It is just to remember the wholesome act you did and a reminder of the five precepts at least for few days.y

I think these are Hindu or animistic customs.

Maybe.

Here’s the issue- there’s no real/right motivation to keep precepts. Rituals have replaced real practice. If there was real motivation to maintain one’s sila there wouldn’t be a need for reminders. Sadly it ties in with the so called McMindfulness were timer apps are being used for the same purpose. I’m all for technology if it helps but it cannot replace key constituents of the N8FP like right effort.

With metta

It does not matter which custom it is as far as it has some benefits.

No. We all need reminders until we perfect the Paramis.

I don’t know how else to say it, but chanting leaves me cold. I don’t know what is being said, the tones and style don’t resonate with me and it doesn’t inspire anything in me. That said, I can appreciate how carrying on such a rich oral tradition of the wonderful dhamma would move people. I don’t push it way; I’m open to it and perhaps some day it will be different for me. You asked, there’s my two cents.

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It seems Hindu customs, tree worshiping, mystical strings, paramis (not Noble eightfold path), ancestor worship (relic worship), the power of mantras have replaced Buddhism in SL and we think it is real Buddhism, when it is false gold.

with metta

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Many lay people even though they can recite Chants verbatim, have little to no idea what the chants mean (myself included as I don’t know Pali). Ajahn Brahm even jokes that they wouldn’t know the difference between a funeral chant and a wedding blessing. It’s a tradition just like the Latin Mass in the Catholic Church.
As I know that chants are recitations of the Suttas in Pali I quite like it. At BSWA we recite the Metta Sutta in English and Pali which is more meaningful. The Buddha mentioned that Dhamma talks should be delivered in the local language but i don’t know if that includes the chanting.
As for the usefulness or effectiveness of Paritta chanting I’m still undecided. Also some cultures use a singing style of chanting which may muddy the precept of not listening to music.
Hopefully you won’t mind me stirring the pot a bit to progress the discussion.

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