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The Birmingham Buddhist Centre sangha, led by Vipulakirti, have recorded their own versions here. Musical notation and an article about how to approach mantras and their chanting will follow soon from him, but, at the bottom of this page, you’ll find a short explanation about the mantras and the musical “principles” behind them.
Wildmind has more recordings of the mantras of the main Buddha and Bodhisattva figures.
A note on the Mantras from Vipulakirti
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 in mind:
- 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’.
The scores of these mantras will be posted here shortly together with a short article on why I think the above stated principles are important, including a discussion of ‘successes’ and ‘failures’ in recent musical experiments, both mine and others’, in Triratna.
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.