Differences Between Chanting and Meditation

Many of you have come from different kinds of spiritual practices many of which have included some form of meditation. A frequent question is, “How is chanting different from meditation?” Since I have only tried one form of meditation, and there are many, I am going to describe the chanting practice and you can compare it with the meditation practice you do.

Chanting Practice

The chanting practice in Nichiren Buddhism is not an inward practice. It’s an outward practice done with the eyes open. The chant is done with the voice while focusing on a mandala which is called the Gohonzon. I’ll discuss the Gohonzon in a different post.

The purpose of chanting is to tap into the creative power, compassion and wisdom that exists within of us, so that we can bring those enlightened qualities out to be used in everyday life and to be able to put our lives in rhythm with that energy.

Practitioners chant about goals and issues and then go out and deal with them in daily life. In this way you will transform your life, overcoming weaknesses and maximizing strengths as you walk the path to enlightenment. This chanting practice does not withdraw you from the world but rather strengthens and grounds you in the world.

Meditation

Meditation or samadhi generally is a silent, inward mental practice where a person focuses the mind on one point so it becomes perfectly tranquil and the practitioner becomes inwardly serene.

Nichiren Daishonin, a 13th century monk, who deeply studied Shakyamuni’s teachings and became the founder of this branch of Buddhism, taught that the needs of the time determine which practices to use. He teaches that chanting and reciting two book of the Lotus Sutra is the discipline needed during our time. It takes about 15 minutes twice a day and accords with the realities of 21st century life where people must work for a living and then attend to the needs of their families.

Chanting is not a goal in itself, but rather the means of allowing the practitioner to manifest his or her innate wisdom in society while working both for the enlightenment of self and others. Every day we sit and chant to polish our lives and bring out the qualities of compassion, courage and wisdom so we can use them in our daily lives and in society.

Question:

Maybe you practice a certain form of meditation and are not sure how it would be different or the same as the chanting practice. I can compare and contrast them if you will describe to me what you do.

Next Topic: How Can I Learn to Chant

13 Responses to Differences Between Chanting and Meditation

  1. Cat February 1, 2014 at 7:37 pm #

    I prefer chanting. It quites my mind and provides serious self reflection. Meditation is wonderful for some; however I prefer chanting that provides meditative moments…….

    • Margaret February 2, 2014 at 4:44 pm #

      Me too. I love the way it grounds my life.

  2. Darrel Beer February 9, 2015 at 8:10 pm #

    That is a good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Brief but very accurate info… Thanks for sharing this one. A must read post!

  3. Carla Orcutt September 4, 2015 at 12:18 am #

    For me chanting is a path, a key to connect with the creative energy of the universe. Chanting reveals possibilities and opportunities to address any issue I might be facing. Chanting guides me to take appropriate action in the world.

    • Margaret Blaine September 4, 2015 at 5:05 am #

      It is for me as well.

  4. Jennifer April 26, 2016 at 8:59 pm #

    Chanting IS meditation. Not sure why you would think it isn’t. All meditation is a way of raising your energy to tap into your consciousness. It is a way of going WITHIN. There are many ways of doing just that. The real aspect of the gohonzon is that it reflects to you your life state. That’s why we call it “polishing your mirror” so you can see your SELF clearly. It is an inner practice even though it is done with our eyes open. The gohonzon itself (the scroll) only serves as a point of focus, and as a symbol of our highest state of life. “Never seek the gohonzon outside yourself” is said because the realization we awaken to during chanting is that of our life experience is mirroring our state of being. The real gohonzon is within each being. Peace.

    • Margaret Blaine April 27, 2016 at 12:50 pm #

      Your points are well taken: you could call it a form of meditation. I made the differentiation because I think the popular understanding of meditation is that it is is sitting in a state of being. I didn’t want to confuse it with our more active chanting process. I also think the goals are different. Meditation aims for enlightenment lifetimes away. While we chant, we tap our inner Buddhahood to become effective in life today.

    • Wayne May 26, 2016 at 4:13 pm #

      Nice response 🙂

  5. Rani krishnamoorthy August 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm #

    Just a few months before I was introduced to this life changing philosophy. I had sensed that this is the way of life I was yearning for. Chanting nam-myoho-renge-kyo making me more refined the most both at my work place and personal life-space.incredible potentials of mine I had regained in my life. Thanks to the wonderful human who had introduced this philosophy into my life and made me taste sweetness .

    • Margaret Blaine August 26, 2016 at 4:39 pm #

      What a lovely comment. I hope you told that person what it has mean’t to you.

  6. Wayne April 22, 2017 at 2:12 pm #

    As the eyes focus on the Gohonzon and the ears hear the sound of the Daimoku, the thinking mind settles and a feeling of joy wells up. At this point the constructed, habitual, karmic self falls away. Now there is no someone chanting, there is just chanting as the obstructed state of Buddhahood is revealed. This is my experience and my words. For me it seems a process of revealing rather than tapping into. For me it is an active form of meditation 🙂
    Wayne.

  7. tvisha jaitha July 11, 2017 at 10:25 pm #

    hi magaret could you throw some light on the differences or similarities between chanting and vipassana. Since both have been derived from Gautama Buddha, i would like to further understand both the topics. i have attended a vipassana camp earlier and recently have joined chanting.

    • Margaret Blaine July 13, 2017 at 2:43 pm #

      I’m afraid I’ve never practiced vipassana. Nichiren Daishonin says that in this time, the defiled time of the Latter Day of the Law, that silent meditation is not a sufficient practice to enable people to achieve enlightenment. Primarily because it takes a lot of concentration and time, which we people today don’t have. He says that even in T’ien-t’ai’s time very few could achieve it. He says that the practice and benefits of the deepest kind of meditation are all encompassed within the chanting of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, and that it is the practice suited to the time.

      i hope this is helpful.

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