Chanting the Pure Land

—The Great Stupa of Universal Compassion, Bendigo Australia—
photos and audio by Catherine Schieve / May 18, 2018

Light in motion - C.Schieve

Light in motion - C.Schieve

I'm going through my audio recordings from the consecration ceremonies for the Jade Buddha. These are prayers, chants and mantras offered by the Sanghas - Buddhist communities - from several monasteries and centres in Victoria (for context see my previous report Welcoming the Jade Buddha):

Among those recordings I found an hour-long massed chant by a large group of devotees from the Pure Land (Chinese Mahāyāna) tradition - their centre of study and practice is the Pure Land Learning Centre in the Eastern Suburbs of Melbourne. This was a group of perhaps 60-80 people, women and men flanking both sides of the hall in front of the Jade Buddha statue, with a small group of leaders and percussion players driving the pacing and articulation of the chant over a long arc of time - well over an hour long. The chant increased speed and intensity over time, peaking after about 50 minutes with the Amitabha Mantra - the mantra to rebirth in Pure Land. People seemed highly concentrated and moved by the mantras. There was prostrating and reciprocal prayer coming from the attentive "audience" of co-worshipers in the hall. As performance, this voiced worship was so clearly a communal offering; everyone whether chanting or in silent participation engaged in doing and being together. Here is the audio (1 hour): scroll through and listen to sections of sound to get a feeling for the development of this chant. This group obviously takes their chanting very seriously as evidenced by the Intensive Chanting Program listed on the website. It was extraordinarily prayerful and moving to hear. Have a listen:

Below are a few images from this performance and prayer offering. Soon I will also post the video of this practice along with several other traditions of Buddhist chant that were offered by diverse communities to the Jade Buddha, honouring the path toward Universal Peace that it represents.