The Theravada Buddhist tradition is a beautiful, ancient path of meditation and wise action. It has been my primary practice tradition for 12 years, nurturing me through long silent retreats both here and in Asia, and offering solid, trustworthy guidance for a spiritual seeker.
Theravada means “The Way of the Elders”, and is the oldest living Buddhist tradition in the world. The Theravada monastic tradition has continued in an unbroken line from the Buddha’s first disciplies over 2600 years ago. The monastics keep alive the ancient sacred language of Pali, a relative of Sanskrit, the language in which the words of the Buddha were first written down.
The Pali chants range from simple phrases that can be used like mantras, to beautiful verses praising the Buddha or reminding us of Dharma teachings, to entire suttas, or scriptures, that lay out the Dharma in clear and inspiring poetry. Singing the words is a profound way to allow them to enter you, and even in an ancient language that few of us can speak, the power and truth of the words comes through.
I have always loved these chants, and in 2005, Jack Kornfield asked me to research and compile new melodies for them that could be used on retreat. The versions that we have learned from our Thai and Burmese teachers are beautiful, but can also be dry. Many western practitioners (like me) respond to a more… passionate devotional style, and love the Hindu/American devotional chanting of Krishna Das and the kirtan tradition.
I am working on a CD of Theravada Buddhist chants with Geoffrey Gordon, and will finish recording this summer. I hope to create a CD that is both meditative and uplifting, inspiring practitioners to learn these beautiful, ancient chants and bring them to life in the fire of practice.