Is singing bad for the mental development?

Many of you know that eight preceptors are not allowed to listen to music. I was such a music fan that my childhood dream was to become a singer. I stopped listening to music altogether about two years ago. The question I have is what is the reason for this rule. Does music transform your mind into an unwholesome state?

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Singing is indulging in worldly pleasure, a distraction, just like movies, TV, etc.
Singing and music also obsess the mind.

As any other sensual pleasure, no more no less, it distracts us from the four ennobling tasks.

Moreover, I would look at AN5.209 for a reference of the disadvantages that come with chanting the dhamma like music.


This is one of the biggest problems I had. This music continuously playing in my head after I listened to it to a point it really bothers me.

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I see singing in the same vein as allowing sensual pleasures to overwhelm the senses, expanding the third precept to include any sort of pleasures of the senses and not just sexual ones though I know that isn’t always a common way to see that and respect more informed studies on it.

Music is a problem for me as a being lost in emotions, it can seem like dancing and singing can offer some release from internal tension, but any relief is certainly brief and only encourages greed and delusion.


The best approach IMO is to develop samadhi. When samadhi is developed let the enjoyment of music be a ‘thorn’ to it. Replace a course pleasure with a better one!

With metta


I believe wholesome or unwholesome is too much of a word to use for singing. Let’s just use another word, desire. Singing is another action/habit that we humans often enjoy or indulges in.

I don’t see anything wrong with it. There’s like a million things worst than it we can do. And singing neither harm yourself or others (provided you don’t sing until your neighbours’ windows crack). Lol.

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This paper reviews recent evidence on the therapeutic effects of singing, and how it can potentially ameliorate some of the speech deficits associated with conditions such as stuttering, Parkinson’s disease, acquired brain lesions, and autism. By reviewing the status quo, it is hoped that future research can help to disentangle the relative contribution of factors to why singing works. This may ultimately lead to the development of specialized or “gold-standard” treatments for these disorders, and to an improvement in the quality of life for patients.

So, you know, very often there’s some nuance like this that simplistic readings of the precepts will obscure.

(The first precept doesn’t mean we can’t use antibiotics in suitable medical contexts, does it? And so forth; black-&-white thinking here is wrongheaded, as is ignoring context & concomitant intentions.

Suppose one has accepted a ride somewhere, and the driver puts the radio on. Do you say, “turn off that unwholesome sonic poison”, or do you simply engage clear comprehension and mindfulness at the ear base?)


When we listen to music we do not exercise mindfulness.
Generally, unwholesome mental states (attachment and aversion) are arising when you listen to music.
The question is how do you mindful of music?

I have read that chewing gum can help remove “ear worms” like that.
I haven’t tried this myself as yet.

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Exactly! It is a perculiarity of situation that should define our response. Every situation is different and requires our fresh thinking. Otherwise we are reduced to mechanical clockworks, but it’s easy and without burden of responsibility.

I think it depends on what kind of music you listen to, and how you do it. If you listen to good classical music you have to be very mindful, if you are not mindful you miss a lot. Mindfulness is even sharper if you listen to a piece of music you really love. Though I wouldn’t call it Right Mindfulness from the Noble Eightfold Path :slightly_smiling_face:
Also, music can be healing.

But there is no music which is more beautiful than silence. Whether music is good or bad for your mental developement depends on where you are on the path, what is your relationship with music and, most importantly, what is your relationship with deep and beautiful silence of meditation.


Same way you can be mindful when angry, horny, etc.





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I would like to ask you, what is the difference between music and poetry or painting. I know many monks writing poetry or drawing /painting. I can’t understand how this is allowable and music or dancing is not. For me creating different arts is very similar artistic process in which mind can be used skillfully.


My understanding is that it depends on the state of the mind while doing the action that is notable. If a monastic is able to keep a wholesome mind and the goal is sharing the Dharma, perhaps that monastic’s actions are then wholesome and useful?


The way I understand that monks are not allowed to engage in those activities.
Equanimity is the goal for a meditating monk which can not be reached by engaging with art related activities.
Perhaps we need the input from our leaned monk in this forum.
I wish to know what Bhante @sujato think about this considering that he was a musician before he became a monk.

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I think it depends very much on which stage you’re at.

From the music thread:

Music like this has always inspired me to think about the meaning of life and stuff, and obviously the composers must have had some introspective moments which have flown into the work.

I believe that creating art of various kinds and being inspired by it can be good for spiritual development up to some point.

Also, although I am a very bad singer and rarely do it (only if no one listens), I can attest to some truth in the findings of the study referred to in daverupa’s post.

Singing/making music/any kind of art can be a helpful way to deal with and process things which may be difficult to process otherwise. Some people are good at it and can even uplift and inspire others with it (or drag them down with them…), others not so.

I think it is obvious that artistic expression relies a lot on passion, is nourished by passion, and nourishes passion, and that passion in itself is never ultimately good and peaceful or insightful, but it is as with all the worldly winds that one can use them in a good or bad way to some extent.

Therefore, to seek enlightenment, one will naturally have to leave such things behind at some point, and that is why for monks and nuns there are rules about that, to not behave in such manners, to train themselves in becoming dispassionate about such sensual stimulation and instead seek to develop the blameless pleasure of meditation as an alternative, leading to liberating insight to go beyond all this craze (suttas in verse, like this, are also a form of art, making use of the reader’s/listener’s passion in visualizing this situation, yet in a quite more soberly and solemn tone, that will inspire one to seek to become free of passion; some music has connotations like that as well, I think, but with the musical intonation it is always tinged with this addictive taste of pleasure for pleasure’s sake alone that is so difficult to let go off [creating earworms and such]).

But we are not all on that level yet. And I think as laypeople we can even make good use of music for our spiritual uplifting and mental development, finding the right measure. I am very grateful for bands like Iron Maiden and the like, who have been a great solace in my youth.

However, I also notice that debauchery in musical indulgence can break my peace or clarity of mind, and even capacity to think and act conscientiously (as with very emotional music of various sorts, this can seep into the mind like poison and feel afterwards as if one had taken some kind of opiate [I have taken opium once, it was a really disgusting, “deadening” kind of pleasure]). So I think, yes, there is a point where it becomes quite detrimental, so we should try to be mindful about it.

And I am almost always annoyed when my colleague at work listens to his music on his headphones loud enough for me to hear. That is another thing one can lose track off: to not annoy others with one’s indulgance what oneself finds pleasurable.
Sometimes, however, I can feel good for him listening to this kind of music, even if I don’t like it or the sound chips away at my concentration, because it seems to help him with his concentration when he’s “in the flow”. So it depends on the mood and what we’re doing, and what these pleasures are used for, one can even have mudita with some people enjoying something when one does not like it and so the dislike can evaporate and attention go to more useful things. But that is actually really hard with music, because it so easily captivates one’s attention even if one is just annoyed with it (almost like a woman).


This is one of the most annoying unless you are a meditator.
Actually, many people are not aware of that they are doing it.