Meditative chanting is not-moving mind itself. It is the experience of chanting as purely sound. When you become one with chanting, you experience your true self, our true nature. The sound and you are not different anymore: you become one with everything. Therefore, when you see your true nature, you also see the essence of everything in the universe. With regular chanting practice, your non-moving center becomes stronger and stronger. With a strong center, you can control your emotions, conditions, and situations in life.
In our temples, people live and practice together. Everyone enters with strong opinions, likes and dislikes. For many of us, meditative chanting is not easy at all: we may have many convoluted thoughts, likes and dislikes. However, when we practice correctly, we hear our own chanting voice and the chanting of those around us, and our consciousness is purified. If I have the smallest aversion to my voice, it means that my mind is not clear; I don’t hear my voice as it is, because my hearing is distorted with emotions and thoughts.
If so, more practice is necessary: chanting until the voice of the individual becomes the voice of the universe. In the end, we realize that meditative chanting is not merely for the sake of our own happiness. We don’t merely chant to feel better, but we mostly chant to progress on the Path correctly: to purify ourselves and attain enlightenment, thus liberating ourselves and all beings from suffering.
When you chant and hear you own voice, you are already one with everything; suffering disappears and true happiness arises. We call this Nirvana. If you stay in Nirvana, your mind is as pure and clear like space. ’Pure and clear like space’ means ‘clear like a mirror’. If yellow comes, then it shows yellow. If white comes, then it is white. When someone is happy, I am also happy. When someone is sad, I am also sad. When someone is hungry, I feed him/her. We call this Great Love, Great Compassion, and Great Bodhisattva Way. This also means Great Wisdom. This is chanting meditation, chanting Zen.
When you perceive the sound, everything becomes the sound of the universe: the bird chirping, lightning striking, the dog’s barking – everything that can be heard. When you have no ‘I’, you can perceive everything as it really is. Therefore, when you chant with a clear mind, the sound is the sound of the universe itself. When you are attached to your ‘I’, the sound is the sound of the ‘ego’. However, if your mind is clear like space, the barking of a dog, or even a car horn can bring you enlightenment: the sound and you become one at that moment. If the sound and you become one, you don’t hear the sound anymore – you are the sound.
A famous Zen Master attained enlightenment only by hearing a rooster’s crowing. Another Zen Master was sweeping the yard when a pebble hit a bamboo: he too attained enlightenment. The sound and him became one. Therefore, the question of sound in Zen is very easy. Any sound can lead to enlightenment. The only important thing is to perceive it and become one with it without any judgments; without creating ’I’ and ’sound’. This is a key moment.
Therefore, when you chant, perceive your own chanting and the chanting of those around you. Or, just hear the sound of the bell or the sound of the moktak, and thus cut off the thinking process. If you do so, your wisdom mind becomes stronger, attain enlightenment and save all beings from suffering.