Suggestions for Chanting

There are an array of traditional chants in a variety of cultures and religions. Chanting can be defined as a rhythmical repetition of a word, song, prayer, or sound. The kind of chanting referred to in this article focuses solely on the rhythmic repetition of a word. The chanting of sacred words, phrases, and the names of divine beings is one type of chant. Chanting is a powerful tool for people. It can be considered a spiritual practice with numerous functions and purposes. In this article, some issues related to chanting such as determining the number of times one should chant, how to chant in public or in unfavorable circumstances, and methods of counting chants, other means of chanting are described.


I. Number of Chants


Arbitrary number

An arbitrary number could be decided upon by chance, be a personal preference, or come from a personal insight.

Sacred numbers

See the article on this site on some special numbers from isopsephy.

A number you usually use

For example, I like to use 100.

High numbers

These are good for people with serious problems they are trying to get help with or people who are very serious about making gains. The only disadvantage is that most people don’t have lots of time to chant a name a large number of times.

Selecting the number of times to chant by lot

One potentially powerful method of devising the number of times to chant is to consult the deities directly by doing a special casting of a lot. The lot can be one of a number of tools, such as a coin, a die, or sticks. For special cases, such as when working with a dire or serious situation, or even other cases, casting a lot to determine the adequate number of times one should chant is a powerful method.


II. Chanting in Public


Be disciplined at home

Finding a space away from other people and sudden disruptions can be an issue for anyone who would like to chant. The best way to avoid this situation is have a set ritual scheduled at home so one doesn’t need to do anything in public.

Find an isolated and private space

Another option, if one feels they need to chant but are at work or are out in public, is to find an isolated space like a restroom, a corner of a park, or some trees. In many buildings, there are empty stairwells.

Chant silently

The third option is silent chanting. Though there is no sound, silent chanting can be a good substitute if one runs out of time to do chanting at an altar and feels the need to do it in public. Silent chanting can be a good option in certain cases. It’s efficacy is high, but one shouldn’t look to make it a default form. It is better to have a set place and time for chanting.


III. Methods of Counting


Prayer beads

Prayer beads are a proven and popular method for chanting. Vedic, Buddhist, and Catholic prayer beads are available for purchase in many stores. Though the number of beads on the prayer beads is usually 108 or 59, it . In order to use prayer beads, one should hold the beads with two hands. The left thumb and middle finger can be used to stablize and bring forth more beads, while the right thumb and middle finger is used to move one bead at a time, at the same pace as a chant.


This method is pretty simple. Both hands are held up, with the fingers upright. The counting begins from the left side. As soon as the chanting starts, the left little finger comes down. Then, the left ring finger comes down. The left middle finger follows, then the left index finger, then the left thumb. Without missing a beat, the right thumb comes down, the right index finger, the right middle finger, the right ring finger, and the right little finger is last. Once the last finger comes down, one starts over with the left little finger. The counting goes from left to right, repeating by jumping back to the left side. The fingers are used to count in this way until the allotted number of chants is finished. One challenging aspect is that the number of units of ten has to be kept track of, which is not always an easy task.


An abacus is another way to count chants. An abacus is a calculating tool that goes back to remote antiquity. A practitioner can use an abacus by placing it on an altar, on one’s knees, or on a chair. The hands and fingers will flip the beads on the abacus while counting.  The hands will move a lot and cause physical exertion. As a result,  the use of an abacus is not recommended for large numbers of chants. Counting hundreds or thousands of chants on an abacus will be physically exhausting. Instead, an abacus could be used to keep track of finger counting or prayer beads. Every count of ten on the hands could then be followed by moving a bead.

Chanting and moving

While exercising or moving from one point to another, a person can chant divine names, prayers, or mantras. Chanting and walking is a harmonious and positive practice, in my own experience. I’ve noticed that walking and chanting can result in greater concentration for the act of chanting.

Other types of exercise, like yoga, stretching, or exercise routines can be done while chanting. For most exercises, the exercise engaged in should come naturally to the person doing it before having the mental acumen to be able to chant at the same time as doing the exercise. Walking on the other hand doesn’t require as much focus.

One way to walk and chant is to choose a designated spot on the road ahead and chant until reaching that spot. Though the number won’t be specific, a number of chants can be done with a sufficient amount of focus. This approach can be useful for those who want to get a large number of chants done but aren’t able to count due to the act of walking. However, the entire point of choosing an auspicious number will be bypassed when engaging in this method. While using roadside markers for chants allows one to chant a large number of times with acute focus, on the other hand, it diminishes the significance of numbers and the focus required to chant and keep count at the same time.


Photo Credits

  1. Hindu prayer rudrashaka japa mala, a type of prayer bead. Photo by Kinshuk Sunil from Ghazaibad, India.
  2. An abacus. Photo by D Coetzee.