Music for Buddhists?

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Bhikkhu Pesala
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Music for Buddhists?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Tue May 19, 2009 12:10 pm

Does all music lead to attachment, or is some music conducive to calm, and non-attachment?

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What do you think? When I was at Chithurst, I worked on the EST Chanting Book, and there was a lot of talk about how the chants should be arranged with rising and falling tone marks in the text. In Burma, at Mahasi Yeikthā, I didn't have to attend chanting, but when the monks chanted there was apparently no attempt at harmonising. Recitation in Burma seems to be done more for memorising the texts, though some is also good to listen to. Dhajagga Sutta (first part is in Burmese, then latter part from 1:20 is the Pali text).

I suspect that after a hectic day at work, when a lay person tries to meditate, it might be more effective after chilling out for a while, listening to some music. What do you find helpful? Is it better just to listen to natural sounds, or does music help to get you into the right mood for meditation?
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Ben » Tue May 19, 2009 12:48 pm

Hi Bhante
An interesting topic! For a long time, I would listen to my teacher, SN Goenka, or his teacher, Sayagi U Ba Khin, chant various suttas or the Tikapatthana while I meditated/ SN Goenka's voice is particularly resonant and he does utilise rising and falling tones, however, many people tend to have an aversive reaction towards his chanting which they mainly encounter during the pre-dawn meditation sessions on ten-day courses. I felt that the use of his sutta chants helped generate a mediatative atmosphere either here at home or in public where I could cut out background noise by wearing headphones and play the chants via an mp3 player. More recently, I have reaquainted myself with silence as my meditation partner. I'm not sure which is more beneficial.
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby zavk » Tue May 19, 2009 1:01 pm

Hi Bhante, Ben and others,

What eases me into a contemplative mood is not conventional music as such, but this nifty generative music program for the iPhone by Brian Eno. It's called Bloom. I think it's the tone of the notes and the deep resonating bass line/ambient background sound...... The notes pretty much evolve endlessly into different patterns and configurations -- it's like anicca expressed aurally.

A sample video:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_SC4uIsD ... re=related

I don't use this for meditation though. I use it to ease me into a more general mindfulness.
With metta,
zavk

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Fede » Tue May 19, 2009 2:33 pm

Buddhist chants and Peace Music

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gcYLO8haYas
This is spectacularly wonderful, and I teach Qi Gong to this music... one girl always begins to cry as the Monks begin to chant....

"Buddhist chants: Music for Contemplation and Reflection"

Chants to the Blue Medicine Buddha.

I've been playing this a lot recently, and focussing on my father and mother, whilst walking to work. Powerful stuff.
Unfortunately I cannot find a link to enable others to listen....
http://www.amazon.com/Buddhist-Chants-M ... B000050X2A

(This link (To Amazon) enables you to listen to samples. Tracxk #3 is the one I use most frequently....)
The link also shows you the first album I mentioned... with the back of the monk, walking.....

But I echo Zavk's comment on aiding Mindfulness.....

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Jechbi » Tue May 19, 2009 3:50 pm

Thansk for the links, Bhante. :anjali:
Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:Does all music lead to attachment, or is some music conducive to calm, and non-attachment?

I think music is what we bring to the experience of music. So for some people, music might be conducive to calm and non-attachment. Depends on the individual, not so much on the music, in my opinion.

I sat with a monk from Sri Lanka once who later suggested that listening to calm music during meditation sometimes can be a way to calm. He seemed to know what he was talking about.

There's probably a difference between listening to music before sitting, and listening to music during sitting. I suppose it all depends on what type of meditation practice one is engaging.

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby pink_trike » Tue May 19, 2009 7:57 pm

Interesting topic.

I'm skeptical of a musically pre-prepared "right mood" for meditation. Tense mood, dull mood, angry mood, restless mood, bliss mood, bored mood, agitated mod...all moods are subject to meditation as they are. Meditation (both concentrative and contemplative) is the path and the fruit, no need for a pre-path, imo.

I'm also skeptical that modern music (even "meditative") has the intended effect of preparing a state of mind that is "receptive" to meditation. Why not ice cream then? Or sex? How about watching tv? Aren't they all just stimulations that move the mind, each in their own particular ways? I don't see the point in stirring the mind prior to meditation. Also, if we put most modern music in a music editing program we see that even though the output may seem to be soothing, the actual construction of the music (what we're hearing under what we expect to hear) reveals a building block pattern of electronic noise that merely simulates soothing music, but that potentially stimulates erratic or linear brain activity.

Organic (acoustic) chanting evolved with duel purpose: as a tool of memorization, and also as a tool for resetting the calibration of the brain - not to be confused with modern music which seeks to entertain and is generally not created consciously with it's effect on brain function in mind. Chanting, in most premodern cultures, was the output of a highly refined science - chants were tonally and rhythmically constructed specifically to balance the left/right hemispheres of the brain - soothing one and activating the other, with equal function as one goal - and heightened capacity for memorization as the other. The rise and fall and repetition found in premodern chanting was carefully calculated and mirrors/emphasizes/creates integration with the the breath and the pulse of existence, both external and internal. Tones and tonal variations also were carefully chosen with this integration in mind. The goal of chanting was both to open the contracted mind and re-pattern it in balance with the natural world. It was medicine. This differentiates it from "music" as we know it, and as it is constructed in the modern world.

Imo, ideally, a gong at the beginning of a meditation session clears the mind of surface garbage and sets the stage for clear awareness. Chanting sound should be functional and medicinal, not mood-enhancing. Anything else stirs the muddy glass of water.
Last edited by pink_trike on Tue May 19, 2009 8:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby David N. Snyder » Tue May 19, 2009 8:04 pm

Some musical intonation can seem calming and some soft music can seem soothing. But then there's this from the Buddha:

"Bhikkhus, there are five dangers of reciting the Dhamma with a musical intonation. What five?
Oneself gets attached to the sound, others get attached to the sound, householders are annoyed, saying, “Just as we sing, these sons of the Sakyan sing”, the concentration of those who do not like the sound is destroyed, and later generations copy it.
These, monks, are the five dangers of reciting the Dhamma with a musical intonation
."
Anguttara Nikaya III. 250

I never cared for the musical intonation or for singing for that matter, so was pleased to find this Sutta several years ago. :tongue:

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Ngawang Drolma. » Wed May 20, 2009 4:41 am

I've found some songs created with mantra on youtube. The songs are so pretty, you can't help but sing along with the mantra.
I'm not sure if it gets me into the mood for meditation, but it keeps me saying mantra all day, and feeling happy while I do it :)

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Ngawang Drolma

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 20, 2009 4:53 am

Greetings,

Music is my vice. :smile:

Music conditions mindstates, so it's possible to use music to relax, but relaxion founded on music can only take you so far. It can help attenuate cruder states of aversion, as I suspect Bhikkhu Pesala may be referring to. However, when compared to the tranquillity of the mind that comes through meditation (not even particularly deep meditation) then by comparison, music is certainly disruptive to the mind, and of course, any form of consciousness (including ear-consciousness) is a potential basis for craving.

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Retro. :)
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby thornbush » Wed May 20, 2009 5:00 am

Well I must say that if music can be used to lead one to the Dhamma, why not huh?
Of all attachments, attachment to Dhamma via music is the least of all our troubles... :popcorn:

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby gavesako » Wed May 20, 2009 6:59 am

What about this Pali chanting?

http://dhammatube.googlepages.com/arahang
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 20, 2009 9:13 am

Greetings venerable Gavesako,

Thanks for reposting this link. I've downloaded these previously and found them very enjoyable, inspiring and relaxing.

However, do you know if they are available in better quality MP3s?

Being the music addict I am :embarassed: I can easily tell that the files have been excessively compressed and much of the sound fidelity lost as a result. It seems a shame to waste such sounds, when I'm sure a lot of effort went into their initial creation.

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Dhammanando » Wed May 20, 2009 11:21 am

gavesako wrote:What about this Pali chanting?

http://dhammatube.googlepages.com/arahang


Horrible! They haven’t a clue. It's even worse than the Ambedkarite chanting that's been getting so popular in Thailand lately.

    “Beat is not rhythm, but the last sad skeleton of rhythm, stripped bare of human life.”
    – Roger Scruton, The Aesthetics of Music, p. 502.

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby retrofuturist » Wed May 20, 2009 11:23 am

Greetings bhante,

Dhammanando wrote:Horrible! They haven’t a clue.


They do however have keyboards... 8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)
If you have asked me of the origination of unease, then I shall explain it to you in accordance with my understanding:
Whatever various forms of unease there are in the world, They originate founded in encumbering accumulation. (Pārāyanavagga)


Exalted in mind, just open and clearly aware, the recluse trained in the ways of the sages:
One who is such, calmed and ever mindful, He has no sorrows! -- Udana IV, 7


Dharma Wheel (Mahayana / Vajrayana forum) -- Open flower ~ Open book (blog)

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Aloka » Wed May 20, 2009 11:35 am

I agree with Ngawang Drolma that the mantra chanting with music and/or other sounds which is available on YouTube and CD is pleasant. However I would never use music or chanting as an aid to meditation. For me, silence is best at any time!

:tongue:

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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby gavesako » Wed May 20, 2009 12:14 pm

retrofuturist wrote:Greetings bhante,

Dhammanando wrote:Horrible! They haven’t a clue.


They do however have keyboards... 8-)

Metta,
Retro. :)



Well, I must say that one of the composers is into Tibetan Buddhism (and used be into rock music before) so one can hear probably hear it...

They have produced an Audio CD "Arahang" with good quality sound. Perhaps it could also be put on the web.
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed May 20, 2009 12:49 pm

gavesako wrote:What about this Pali chanting?

I think those western monks don't know the Gītassara Sutta
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby jcsuperstar » Wed May 20, 2009 5:48 pm

oh man i hate that stuff, all the thai folks at my Wat listen to that CD......
one of them said it scared him though 55555!
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Re: Music for Buddhists?

Postby pink_trike » Wed May 20, 2009 6:58 pm

gavesako wrote:What about this Pali chanting?

http://dhammatube.googlepages.com/arahang

Sounds like entertainment to me. What's the benefit of a headful of noise piled on top of the chanting?
Vision is Mind
Mind is Empty
Emptiness is Clear Light
Clear Light is Union
Union is Great Bliss

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Disclaimer: I'm a non-religious practitioner of Theravada, Mahayana/Vajrayana, and Tibetan Bon Dzogchen mind-training.


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