In addition to cultivating mindfulness, faith and devotion, chanting can also be used to build concentration or samādhi. We have lots of views and opinions about how to develop one-pointedness of mind, the jhanas; we certainly have heard lots of talks on the subject. Well, we can also use this ancient practice of chanting the parittas. Learn to be really precise with your chanting, to do just one thing, to not doubt at all. Learn to recite the words that are correct for each stanza. Work with finding a feeling of being in the flow of the chant and at the same time being present with the details. Don’t allow mindfulness to slip and drift into the past or the future. Be concentrated.
It definitely takes skill to recite the teachings precisely. It requires maintaining a quality of mindfulness that knows what you are doing and why you are doing it, without wavering. We need enough concentration to sustain half an hour of attention without the mind wandering off; having enough presence to chant fully without losing energy; to remember the correct words and the correct pitch. And while we are aware of those pegs of mindfulness, at the same time we immerse ourselves in the atmosphere generated – maintaining this over an extended period of time, not just for a few syllables. Sustaining the applied energy of focus and application of mindfulness, and wisdom for thirty, forty, fifty or a hundred minutes; however long the chanting may take.
This reflection by Ajahn Kevali is from the book, Seeing the Way, Volume 2, p. 149.