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Published on Dec 15, 2011
New England Buddhist Vihara and Meditation Center (Boston Buddhist Vihara) Boston Sri Lankan Temple, Grafton, MA
Why do Buddhists chant?
The practice of chanting goes back to the days of the Buddha, when writing was not common. His teachings were memorised by monks in chant form and passed on. This was how the Buddha's words were transmitted for several centuries. They were finally written down on ola (palm) leaves in the first century AD in Sri Lanka. The teachings are preserved in the ancient Pali language, which has many words that cannot be directly translated without losing the meaning.
The entire collection of teachings is known as the tipitaka (meaning three baskets) and comprise the vinaya pitaka (disciplinary rules for monks), sutta pitaka (discourses) and abhidhamma pitaka (higher teachings).
Chanting is done today as a form of veneration, to help purify the mind, and as a means of protection against undesirable events.