Do we need a new chanting style?

In the following video, Bhante @sujato suggest that we need a new chanting style.
I like to know your thoughts on this.

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Here is some Sri Lankan chanting styles.

Unfortunately I cannot view the video, but I’m very curious about this! I wonder what ideas Ven. @sujato has on this chanting issue.

Having stayed for a while in a pure land mahayana temple, and despite of the clear passage prohibiting singing chanting in the EBT, I must say it was really wonderful to listen to and participate in such pleasant chanting, with the smell of sandalwood incense floating about the hall. And they do it in a language which they all understand! I could completely overlook the fact that the text is evidently apocryphal! :slight_smile:


Well, I think chanting should be pleasant and enjoyable. Not too fancy, of course, but nice to do and to listen to. For a while I was chanting in the style of Ven Gnanananda, who is the last monk in the list above (although that video is actually a Dhamma talk, not chanting).

I believe that in ancient times chanting would have always been done with a simple and pleasant melody, probably based around an interval of a fifth. It is natural to do it like that, and helps memory.

These days, different chanting styles have different issues:

  • Thai: is based on the Thai tonal system, which does not relate to Pali
  • Burmese: is unpleasant and has poor pronunciation
  • Sinhala: is best, but sometimes too fancy

Anyway, I don’t really think we can get a standard style, but it’s nice to dream!


Another style of chanting: This boy remembered chantings from a past live that are actually very different from the style practised today in the country where he grew up, Sri Lanka (the texts being absolutely accurate, though):


Oh yes, Venerable @sujato, I had forgotten you were once a musician too!! :).

So let’s dream!!

I dream of a ‘choir’!! Singing in the pentatonic scale! Whatever they do is gonna come out harmonious! :slight_smile:


Maybe you could team up with Ajahn Sona! Also a former musician.
I discovered this beautiful chanting on an old Bhavana podcast

He make a similar comment about Thai va Burmese vs Sri Lankan chanting as Bhante Sujato, except he thinks the Sri Lankans chant at different speeds. In my experience that’s a much more Burmese affliction


Thanks a lot for the file! :slight_smile:
I have chanted in all three countries and I think it really is a matter of personal preference which sounds better. The Sri Lankans are obviously exemplary in Pali pronunciation, unlike Burmese. And you’re right, Burmese is super fast!

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@sujato and others- what advice would you give to folks interested in chanting, who are new to it?

With metta

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That is the worst chanting I ever heard.:stuck_out_tongue_closed_eyes:

This one is pretty good candidate for being a type of chanting style that is pleasant to listen to, but does not strike me as being musical, keeping in mind that sutta that prohibits reciting in a musical way AN 5.something?

sounds like a simplified sri lankan style to me.

One of the important audio aspects about chanting is it helps aid the memory of the sutta. Every kind of sensory association with the dhamma word acts like a memory tag. So if you can see it, hear it, smell it, it all acts like a neural search key. Especially when the sutta hasn’t been recited a long time, as we’re trying to stumble through and remember it, the tonal differences between lines helps the memory detect errors and omissions. In the style from the sample above, every alternating line has a different starting and ending tone. If a chanting style is too simple and monotone, then you get none of the benefit for error detection from the extra memory tags on alternating lines.

The Dhammaruwan chanting from when he is 2 or 3 years old is really interesting. In a different dhamma talk, I heard him say he was recollecting it from his past life, he was one of the sutta reciters accompanying Buddhaghosa traveling to Sri Lanka to translate the commentaries, so this must be around 500 CE, 1500 years ago. Does anyone know if there are recordings of his from 2 years old chanting more obscure things? That would be really cool if he was for example a MN reciter and he still remembered the MN suttas assigned to him. The recordings on record are all popular parittas.

One of the most amazing chants I ever heard was the Abhihamma patthana done by a theravada nun, who used to be a music professor and obviously an accomplished vocalist. I was at a monastery doing walking meditation, and the nun was chanting in her kuti for her mom who was ill. Now normally, when I hear the patthana, my reaction is either to fall asleep or revulsion from hearing abhidhamma (no offense intended, but just the truth), but she chanted it in a way that sounded so good I stood there for 20 minutes listening to her. It crossed the line in being ever so slightly musical, but mostly it was just the purity of the sound and pronunciation that had me hooked, kind of like the way an accomplished theatre actor sound good saying anything, even reading the instructions for setting up your computer. In this case, if I voluntarily listen for 20 minutes to abhidhamma, you have to know it was pretty amazing sound.


Is there a collection of Santi forest chantings somewhere online?

This is fantastic. Pali chanting with proper pronunciation and not too musical.

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Yes, this is exactly my thoughts in this case.

Buddha said that the Dhamma should be taught in the local language.
In the same way, chanting should be done in the local accent.
Sutta recitation by FrankK is a good example.

It is not possible to unify the chanting style.

I do the “chanting karaoke” app from Abhayagiri-- great learning tool. It is a mixture of Pali and English. At first the Pali was very hard but now actually I prefer the Pali only chanting. Chanting in English sounds odd.

Surprisingly, I have really gotten into chanting. I do it in the morning and evening and has been a huge assistance to my practice-- helps bolster my meditation!


THank you for this wonderful version of Ratana Sutta. I’m currently memorising this and appreciate the clarity, tone and rhythm of this recording

1 Like In the chanting section.


One example of a holy chanting style in the West, in an an old Western language (latin) is Gregorian chanting. It is an example of monophony (one musical voice (pitch & rhythm), although it can consist of many individual human voices singing the same musical voice) as opposed to polyphony which has multiple musical voices to create harmonies etc., so it is a simple style and not really music as we usually think of it but can be quite beautiful imo.


Wow, thank you very much! I didn’t knew him. I’m trying to start learning some pali and this will help me a lot. Besides that,I wanted to comment that as I was listening to it, after 10 min, I started to cry in a way that never suspected that could be possible by just listening to a record… many things flying in my heart! Again, thanks! /I\