On a road trip to Montana, my then-boyfriend pulled his Subaru into Sinclair’s filling station for some gas. He specifically chose Sinclair’s because he needed to remember that this place he spoke of from his childhood (with the giant green dinosaur) existed. This station had to be where Fred Flintstone bought his gas for that stone hotrod of his.
I beat a quick path to the ladies room while he was enjoying the gift center. Someone left a copy of “Chant and Be Happy” written by A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada on the paper towel dispenser. I waited through several toilet flushing cycles to see if anyone claimed the book, or if the rightful owner might pop back thru the door in a panic. No one ever glanced at it. Maybe I was the rightful owner? Stephen was still inside playing with blow-up brontosaurus twenty minutes later when I snuggled into the front seat with my new-found spiritual gift.
The sun was rising on Going-to-the-Sun Road heading out of the town of St. Mary toward Glacier National Park. Everything about my geographical space and time aligned beautifully with what I was reading. And starting to chant. The word phrasing of “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” came easily to me; I found I could focus my sight on the glorious landscape ahead while setting an intention, while I was rhythmically repeating the mantra and drinking in the feeling of peace and love as the car floated on.
Chanting is a natural form of prayer. Just words, intention, energy and spirit. All required is mindful concentration and an open heart. I tread lightly since I am no expert, but chanting has grand benefits attainable to all who incant.
According to the laws of Buddhism, the 13th-century priest Nichiren established the practice of chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. He concluded that the Lotus Sutra contains the full truth of Buddhism: that everyone without exception has the potential to attain Buddhahood. The title of the Lotus Sutra in its Japanese translation is Myoho-renge-kyo. By chanting “Nam,” or devotion to the essential message of the Lotus Sutra, we activate the state of Buddhahood in our lives. Rather than being a prayer to an external being, chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo is an expression of the determination of the human spirit, seeking to come into rhythm with the reality of the universe. Through continuing in this practice of determined intention we bring forth our highest potential from within our lives.
But does chanting make me a Buddhist, you may ask? Chanting doesn’t make you Buddhist anymore than doing Yoga makes you a Hindu. But the hours you spend sitting in zazen on a tatami mat or perfecting your Downward Dog in the sand could be intensified with the Om chant. Coming from Hinduism and Yoga, the Om mantra is considered to have high spiritual and creative power but despite this, it is a mantra that can be recited by anyone.
It is said improves your concentration and helps you focus on whatever your goals may be. This single word produces the sound and vibration which allows you to feel at one with the universe. Chanting of the Om Mantra purifies the environment around you and creates positive vibrations.
Also, the vibrations and cadenced articulation also have a physical consequence on the body by slowing down the nervous system and calming the mind similar to meditation. When the mind is relaxed, your blood pressure decreases and ultimately the health of your heart improves.
I chant to truly do my mission on this earth. Good intentions change the world, right? According to my experience, I create happy sound energy while I build my own mantra which I find becomes more comfortable than any other popular mantras. For each of us, there is a unique mantra that you can connect to. Find out your own rhythm. It can be a prayer, a sacred song, or just meaningful words.
Chant your chosen words or chant silently in your mind. You can do this any place you want. No special alter or rug is needed. Chanting be done at any time, in any posture, while lying in bed, driving the car, standing in line or grocery shopping. Keep on trying to chant uninterruptedly. If the mind wanders, bring it back to your chant, without feeling frustrated. Gradually, chanting will become a habit, happening naturally, just like an unexpected gift in the ladies’ room.