The Beauty of Mantra and HarmonyOn Fri, 16 December, 2022 - 16:23
Back in 2016, Vipulakirti led a few volenteers from the Birmingham Buddhist centre Sangha in recording several beautiful mantras that he has composed over the years.
Inspired by the expansive qualities of Ancient Gregorian Chant these recordings are designed to help the listener learn both the mantra and the associated harmonies. In each recording you’ll hear the first and second parts sung separately, followed by both of them together. Here you’ll find a downloadable PDF featuring the musical scores.
The recordings were originally recorded by Ben Grey and have been remastered by Zac from the Free Buddhist Audio team.
Here are a few words from Vipulakirti himself:
Each of these mantras has a second harmony part, or in the case of the Amitabha mantra, two harmony parts. However the basic mantra, the part you hear first on each recording, can stand alone and I suggest that where there is no one confident to sing the harmony part then just the mantra alone is used. It may be, however, that if the harmony part is sung just by a single person it will be effective, at least in small situations.
Each recoding consists of a few rounds of the basic mantra followed by a few rounds of the harmony part (or parts in the case of the Amitabha mantra) then a few rounds of the mantra and harmony together.
These mantra tunes have been written with the following principles inmind:
That there is a constant and frequently repeated rhythmic pattern.
That the melody and rhythm are simple enough to be comprehended in a short time and that having been learned no thinking is required to maintain them.
That the melodies don’t have a strong ‘flavour’. Too strong a melodic ‘flavour’ can be undesirable since it can trap the mind in a particular emotion and therefore not be ‘open-ended’ enough . Perhaps it could be argued therefore that on a single note (monotone) is the best way to chant a mantra and this may be so. For the busy working city dweller however, the ‘leg-up’ of a tune can be a big emotional help.
The point about flavour can best be illustrated from examples in the Christian tradition. Ancient Gregorian Chant doesn’t have a strong flavour, it is quite ‘expansive’ and ‘open ended’ like the clear blue sky (even though by unfortunate association this might not seem the case to ex-Catholics), whereas tunes like Crimond sung to ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ and ‘Abide with Me’ have a quite overpowering flavour and are not so conducive to ‘infinite possibilities’.
I am very grateful to all of those at Birmingham Buddhist Centre who gave of there time to take part in the chanting of these mantras and in particular to Taragita who got everyone together and co-ordinated the event and to Ben Gray for making the excellent recording.
Find out more about mantra:
The Symbolism of Colours and Mantric Sound by Sangharakshita - In this lecture Sangharakshita explores the rich symbolic significance of colour and sound, highlighting their role as crucial agents of transformation.
Introduction to and History of Mantra Meditation - By Wildmind