Can a monastic tell me the first chants to learn as an Anagarika/Samanera? I’m looking to memorize material. I’m now working with paritta chanting. I’m specifically looking for the chant before having the meal, and any other ones would be awesome! Thanks!
Most of us would use the Bhikkhu Manual for learning basic chants. You can get a soft copy here:
Generally we’d start with the basic blessing chants, the recollection of the triple gem, and some other commonly used chants (natthi me saraṇaṁ aññaṁ for example). When the basics are down, we’d learn the parittas.
I would encourage people to memorize the first three discourses before learning parittas. They are much more important and central to Dhamma. You’ll learn a good chunk of the basic Dhamma vocabulary. In addition, the language is far easier, as it follows the normal patterns of Pali syntax. Parittas (and verse generally) often employ obscure vocabulary and grammar. So it’s a bit like trying to learn English by starting with Shakespeare. I understand that you may not be interested in actually learning Pali at this point, but still, I think it’s worth it to approch the language in a sensible way; you may be surprised at what you can learn.
Thanks Bhante. This is a bit off track, but through your studies have you come across the most effective memorization techniques from the vedas, greeks, and others? I know the Veda had some techniques about repeating over and over in different patterned word order, but it seems like that would take forever, rather than using mnemonics. Or maybe you’ve heard of monastics using mnemonics effectively? Thanks🙏🏻
Repetition, repetition, repetition is my aid
As a lay person, I find that playing a good clear recording of chants regularly helps in memorizing them. Even my 9 year old has memorized the Karaniya metta sutta since I started playing a recording every morning, although she has no clue about the Pali words and exact meanings. We try to recite regularly without the book so that helps too. Some people have a knack for memorizing , but it can be learned.
To be honest, I never learned any techniques, I figured it out for myself. But I was able to memorize large amounts of Pali in a fairly short time, and retain the knowledge. Here’s how I did it.
- Actually memorize passages. Don’t expect it to somehow “sink in”.
- Break up texts into short passages that you can really memorize in one session.
- Go over the new passage until you can recite it quickly and fluently without mistake every time.
- Focus on precision: make sure you understand every detail of Pali pronunciation and get every syllable exactly correct.
- Learn the meaning of the passage along with the recitation.
- You don’t have to do a lot every day, but at least two short sessions every day.
- Every day, recite everything you have learned before learning something new.
- Once you have memorized a text, recite the whole thing every day for a month, then at least once a week for a year.
- Once you have started memorizing a text, don’t stop. This is the number one reason why monastics fail in their attempts to memorize long texts like the patimokkha. They get half-way through, then drop it and think they’ll pick it up again later. They don’t!
- Because of the above reason, choose your text wisely. Start with short and easy texts and work your way to longer ones.
- Reciting while walking seems to help.
@sujato I will refer back to this Bhante, and I hope you can one day do a collaboration with your friend Lynne Kelly. She’s brilliant with memory techniques. I just posted about that in the “Life Hacks”