Recitation and the sound of singing Sutta

Namo Buddhaya
In the Sutta “The sound of Singing” AN 5.209, we can read that the Buddha mentioned the five problems when reciting suttas with “ gītassarena”style, in other words, intonation, or singing as often translated.
Yet, in many Theravada traditions, particularly Sri Lanka, the recitation can be rather melodic.

So I wonder if the Pali word gītassarena referred historically to particular vocalisation style since, if I am not wrong, it is linked also to the meaning of tortuous. In other words, vocalise by playing on making sounds longer than they usually are.
thanks for any clarification :pray:


This is how Bhante Sujato translates it:

209. The Sound of Singing
“Mendicants, there are these five drawbacks in reciting with a drawn-out singing sound.
What five?
You relish the sound of your own voice. Others relish the sound of your voice. Householders complain:
‘These ascetics, followers of the Sakyan, sing just like us!’ When you’re enjoying the melody, your immersion breaks up. Those who come after follow your example.
These are the five drawbacks in reciting with a drawn-out singing sound.”


In our vinaya class, I commented that many of the monks and monasteries I had known and been to have melodious chanting too.

Anyway, one way my teacher said is going towards singing is that for one syllable, there’s changing of the tone. That is going up or down within the syllable. Accurate chanting requires long or short sound to be well grasped, but sometimes, some people may change tone for the long sounds.

Can’t chant like Imee Ooi nowadays. Haha.


Thanks, Bhante. Always appreciate your replies.
Yes, I think that is the point. I am used to the Siri Lanka style that is quite harmonious, but indeed it does not change, and it is based on reading the different Pali vowels correctly. I suppose if each verse repeats with the same tone, it is chanting and not performing. I think, in my opinion, probably that was a crucial difference: it should not be a performance. :pray:

Interesting question.

I would speculate that, for example, the usual way that Muslims “sing” the Quran (aka Qira’at) will be in line with this drawn-out singing sound approach the Buddha discouraged.

But I wonder how would, for example, the Vedic chanting stand against that. As far as I understand the Sinhalese way of chanting is very much influenced or somewhat related to that.

:thinking: :anjal: