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Thread: Breathing While Chanting

  1. #1

    Breathing While Chanting

    Hello,

    I like to chant the Heart Sutra from time to time, but cannot effectively breathe between the rapid succession of syllables. It has been my experience both at our own Zazenkai and in listening to the recordings of the Heart Sutra that have circulated around Treeleaf, that there does not seem to be any pauses for breath; I can’t figure out how everyone else is breathing :? . Is it possible to effectively breathe during the Heart Sutra without ‘breaking the rhythm’ of the chant?

    Thanks guys (and gals),
    Cheers,
    Kelly

  2. #2

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Hi, Kelly.
    Is it possible to effectively breathe during the Heart Sutra without ‘breaking the rhythm’ of the chant?
    My answer is not really without a great deal of vocal practice. My advice (and it is only that, nothing more) is too breathe whenever you need to, and be OK with the gap that it produces in the chant. The reason you don't hear gaps in the recorded chants is that there are multiple "performers" chanting who all breathe at different spots. Each individual part has gaps, but as a group, all syllables are represented. So, don't try to do it perfectly, only sincerely.

    My take . . .

    Bill

  3. #3

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Hi,

    Well, I am not sure that anyone has ever standardized exactly how to chant the Heart Sutra and other chants into English. The reason is that the length of sentences and phrasing in English is really quite different from in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Tibetan etc. There is no "official version" in English. But, as far as I do, it is best to breathe at the periods at the end of sentences, and at the commas (ending long phrases ... not the commas marking individual words in a chain).

    So, for example, if you listen to the first few lines of this fellow (with a strong Bronx accent!!!!) chant in English, you will hear him do just that (until he seems to give up in the middle and just talk through the rest of the chant).

    (For Realplayer)
    http://www.surya.org/sounds/gate.ram

    For example, you can hear how he chants these lines ...

    Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva, practicing deep prajna paramita,
    clearly saw that all five skandhas are empty, transforming all suffering and distress.

    Shariputra, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness no other than form.
    Form is exactly emptiness, emptiness exactly form.
    Sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness are also like this.

    Shariputra, all things are marked by emptiness -
    not born, not destroyed,
    not stained, not pure,
    without gain, without loss.
    Therefore in emptiness there is no form, no sensation, thought, impulse, consciousness.
    Now, for the Japanese version, here is a priest from the Ennyoji temple in a pretty standard version. You can hear that it sounds as if he just grabs a breath where he can, but taking long breaths that allow him to go quite a ways before his next breath. Also, if you do it for awhile in Japanese, you find that there are certain phrases that lend themselves easily to a breath (e.g., I find for me, right before the appearance of each "Hannya" later in the chant). I was once told to try to make it to the end of the sentence in Japanese too, but it is hard and does not really sound right to my ears. Also, as Bill said, if everyone were to take their breath at the same spot for a group chant, it might sound strange.

    (Also for RealPlayer)

    http://www.ennyoji.jp/singyo.wma

    Kan ji zai bo sa gyo- jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji
    sho- ken go on kai ku- do is-sai ku yaku.

    Sha ri shi shiki fu I ku- ku- fu I shiki
    shiki soku ze ku- ku- soku ze shiki.
    Ju so- gyo- shiki yaku bu nyo ze.

    Sha ri shi ze sho ho- ku- so-
    Fu sho- fu metsu fu ku fu jo- fu zo- fu gen ze ko ku- chu-
    Mu shiki mu ju so- gyo- shiki mu gen-ni bi zes-shin I
    mu shiki sho- ko- mi soku ho- mu gen kai nai shi mu I shiki kai
    mu mu myo- yaku mu mu myo- jin.
    Nai shi mu ro- shi yaku mu ro- shi jin
    mu ku shu metsu do- mu chi yaku mu toku I mu sho tok'ko.

    Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
    shim-mu kei ge mu kei ge ko mu u ku fu
    on ri is-sai ten do- mu so- ku gyo- ne han.
    San ze sho butsu e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
    Toku a noku ta ra sam-myaku sam-bo dai.
    Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta ze dai shin shu ze dai myo- shu
    ze mu jo- shu ze mu to- to- shu no- jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko.

    Ko setsu han-mya ha ra mi ta shu soku setsu shu watsu
    Gya tei gya tei ha ra gya tei hara so- gya tei.

    Bodhi sva-ha- ka han-nya shin gyo.
    Gassho, Jundo

    PS- Lynn, maybe you were taught specific rules?

  4. #4

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Kan ji zai bo sa gyo- jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji
    sho- ken go on kai ku- do is-sai ku yaku.

    Sha ri shi shiki fu I ku- ku- fu I shiki
    shiki soku ze ku- ku- soku ze shiki.
    Ju so- gyo- shiki yaku bu nyo ze.

    Sha ri shi ze sho ho- ku- so-
    Fu sho- fu metsu fu ku fu jo- fu zo- fu gen ze ko ku- chu-
    Mu shiki mu ju so- gyo- shiki mu gen-ni bi zes-shin I
    mu shiki sho- ko- mi soku ho- mu gen kai nai shi mu I shiki kai
    mu mu myo- yaku mu mu myo- jin.
    Nai shi mu ro- shi yaku mu ro- shi jin
    mu ku shu metsu do- mu chi yaku mu toku I mu sho tok'ko.

    Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
    shim-mu kei ge mu kei ge ko mu u ku fu
    on ri is-sai ten do- mu so- ku gyo- ne han.
    San ze sho butsu e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
    Toku a noku ta ra sam-myaku sam-bo dai.
    Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta ze dai shin shu ze dai myo- shu
    ze mu jo- shu ze mu to- to- shu no- jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko.

    Ko setsu han-mya ha ra mi ta shu soku setsu shu watsu
    Gya tei gya tei ha ra gya tei hara so- gya tei.

    Bodhi sva-ha- ka han-nya shin gyo.
    :shock:

    My question is what are good tips to memorize the whole thing. Heck. I can barely memorize my SS# & phone number. :mrgreen:

  5. #5

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Thanks Bill and Jundo,

    I had a suspicion Bill that recordings of group chants were deceiving as perhaps the individuals were all pausing at different times. And it sounds like I have been doing it 'right', pausing for breaths between sentences. Excellent, in the future will not worry about missing syllables when chanting in groups, and in the mean time, I will simply enjoy the silence between the sentences when chanting alone.

    Gassho,
    Kelly

    PS- I feel a lot less self-conscious about the tone of my own chanting after listening to that Heart Sutra 'a la Bronx'. It was still beautiful, but in a hilarious way.

  6. #6

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Ah yes, the fellow with the bronx accent is Lama Surya Das. He is actually from Long Island, NY. His mother calls him the deli lama.

    Gassho,

    Linda

  7. #7

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Quote Originally Posted by chicanobudista
    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    Kan ji zai bo sa gyo- jin han-nya ha ra mi ta ji
    sho- ken go on kai ku- do is-sai ku yaku.

    Sha ri shi shiki fu I ku- ku- fu I shiki
    shiki soku ze ku- ku- soku ze shiki.
    Ju so- gyo- shiki yaku bu nyo ze.

    Sha ri shi ze sho ho- ku- so-
    Fu sho- fu metsu fu ku fu jo- fu zo- fu gen ze ko ku- chu-
    Mu shiki mu ju so- gyo- shiki mu gen-ni bi zes-shin I
    mu shiki sho- ko- mi soku ho- mu gen kai nai shi mu I shiki kai
    mu mu myo- yaku mu mu myo- jin.
    Nai shi mu ro- shi yaku mu ro- shi jin
    mu ku shu metsu do- mu chi yaku mu toku I mu sho tok'ko.

    Bo dai sat-ta e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
    shim-mu kei ge mu kei ge ko mu u ku fu
    on ri is-sai ten do- mu so- ku gyo- ne han.
    San ze sho butsu e han-nya ha ra mi ta ko
    Toku a noku ta ra sam-myaku sam-bo dai.
    Ko chi han-nya ha ra mi ta ze dai shin shu ze dai myo- shu
    ze mu jo- shu ze mu to- to- shu no- jo is-sai ku shin jitsu fu ko.

    Ko setsu han-mya ha ra mi ta shu soku setsu shu watsu
    Gya tei gya tei ha ra gya tei hara so- gya tei.

    Bodhi sva-ha- ka han-nya shin gyo.
    :shock:

    My question is what are good tips to memorize the whole thing. Heck. I can barely memorize my SS# & phone number. :mrgreen:
    A serious answer: Learning the meaning of each syllable, lots or repetition (especially before bed ... sleep helps the transfer to long term memory), willingness to make embarrassing mistakes even years later and ... mnemonics. This old book got me, not only through law school, but through a lot more ... I cannot recommend it enough. I once won a bet by memorizing a whole page of a phone book, including addresses and numbers, in a day (maybe I could not do it so easily now).

    http://www.fun-with-words.com/0345410025.html

  8. #8

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Quote Originally Posted by Jundo

    A serious answer: Learning the meaning of each syllable, lots or repetition (especially before bed ... sleep helps the transfer to long term memory), willingness to make embarrassing mistakes even years later and ... mnemonics.
    Thanks for the information and advise.

    __/__

    What is the proper language to chant the Heart Sutra? :?:

  9. #9

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    I recite it. No chanting going on here. One possible help might be not to stress it too much. Don't try to say too forcefully and just relax. Chant it at just an audible tone. Breeeathe when you gotta breathe.

    Gassho Will

  10. #10

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Hi all...

    I have no secrets because the only two places I've recited the Heart Sutra had it in English. Rev. Master Jiyu set hers to plainchant and there are breath marks in the musical notations. Great Vow also does theirs in English so I breathe at the end of the line pretty much.

    The only ones I've done in Japanese (sort of, because I understand that they are really just transliterations of the Sanskrit) are the dharanis and I was just taught to breathe when you can. They can go really fast!! (Thinking of the Sho Sai Myo Kichijo and the one recited during the Feeding of the Hungry Ghosts ceremony.)

    So, Kelly, just go! I'm with Jundo...if you do them enough you'll know where you, personally, will need to breathe and it will flow just fine.

    In Gassho~
    Lynn

  11. #11

    Re: Breathing While Chanting

    Sounds good to me.

    Thanks Lynn,
    Gassho,
    -Kelly

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