Chanting meditation means keeping a not-moving mind and perceiving the sound of your own voice. Perceiving your voice means perceiving your true self or true nature. Then you and the sound are never separate, which means that you and the whole universe are never separate. Thus, to perceive our true nature is to perceive universal substance. With regular chanting, our sense of being centered gets stronger and stronger. When we are strongly centered, we can control our feelings, and thus our condition and situation.
In our meditation centers, people live and practice together. People usually come with strong opinions, likes and dislikes. For most of them, chanting meditation is not easy at all because of the many confusing thoughts, attraction, and repulsion. However, when we practice correctly, we hear the singing voice of ourselves and those around us, our mind becomes clear. There is no attraction and repulsion in clear mind, only sound. In the end, we see that chanting meditation is not for our personal pleasure, not to have a pleasant feeling, but to clear our direction. And our direction is to clear our mind, to attain enlightenment, so that we can save all beings from suffering.
So when you are chanting, you must perceive the sound of your voice: you and the universe have already become one, suffering disappears, true happiness appears. This is called nirvana. If you keep nirvana, your mind is clear like space. Clear like space means clear like a mirror. Red comes, red. White comes, white. Someone is happy; I am happy. Someone is sad; I am sad. Someone is hungry; give them food. The name for this is great love, great compassion, the great Bodhisattva way. That also means great wisdom. This is chanting meditation, chanting zen.
To perceive the sound means that everything is the sound of the universe. The song of birds, the thunder, the barking of dogs, it’s all the sound of the universe. If you do not have self-consciousness, you will perceive everything exactly as it really is. Therefore, when you sing with clear mind, the voice is the voice of the universe. If you cling to the self, the voice is “my voice”. However, if your mind is as clear as space, then even the barking of a dog or the hum of a car can result in enlightenment, because at that moment the voice and you become one. When the voice and you become one, you no longer hear the voice, you are the voice.
A famous Zen master, hearing the roar of a cock, reached enlightenment. Another Zen master was just sweeping the yard when he tapped a pebble on a bamboo with his broom, he too reached enlightenment. The voice and they became one. The question of sound in zen is very simple. Any sound will do. All that matters is that we perceive and become one with it without discrimination, without creating the ‘I’ and the ‘voice’. In the moment of complete experience, there is no thought, no discrimination, only the perception of sound. This is the critical point. Therefore, when singing, grasp the singing of yourself and others, or just hear the sound of a bell or percussion instrument, so cut off your thinking. Then your wisdom mind will become stronger, you will attain enlightenment, and you will save all beings.