The Celestial Chant
Beauty, Clarity, Tranquillity, Connection
By Zi-Xue Translated by Yong-Hui and Shi-Mao
1 Listening for the Essence of Music
According to legend, when Confucius was learning to play the Guqin (a string instrument) from Master Xiang-Zi, he continued to practise relentlessly even after he had mastered a tune and the techniques, so that he could listen for the essence of the music and be able to name the composer. On one occasion, Confucius told Master Xiang-Zi that the composer was none other than Emperor Zhou-Wen. An astounded Master Xiang-Zi immediately bowed to his student because other than his teacher, Master Xiang-Zi had not met anyone who was able to tell the composer by his music.
To know a composer by his music is truly an exceptional ability. To know the essence of the music, we need to go beyond the lyrics and the tune; we have to listen with our heart to immerse in the music and resonate with the musician and composer. This is similar to meditation in which we need to connect our heart with Nature to become one with Nature. From this perspective, meditation and music are both about ‘knowing the essence of the music we hear’!
Mankind, with our wisdom, has gone beyond words to integrate meditation and music to convey our epiphany (a moment of enlightenment). When we immerse ourselves in magnificent music, our body and mind will resonate with it, and with the composer and musician, thus transcending this materialistic realm into the celestial realm.
2 The Celestial Chant – Exuberance of Compassion, Truth and Love
“It is very easy to connect with the arts in meditation practice. And at the most profound level, the arts connect you with all beings in every thought, just like the spiritual connection when ‘Consciousness’ speaks to you in silence. Hence, taking the arts route is a shortcut for the meditation practitioner,” said Meditation Grandmaster JinBodhi. The Celestial Chant is a recording of Grandmaster JinBodhi connecting his body and mind with Nature. The Celestial Chant was recorded just before the turn of the century. During the recording sessions, Master requested that all lights be switched off after several failed recording attempts. While everyone waited quietly outside the studio, Master sat alone in the darkness and entered into high Jhana (deep meditative state). All of a sudden, Master let out a long “Ah …” that awakened the consciousness of every being.
The pitch of Master’s voice goes up and down, at times emotive, at times clear and warm, at times in tactful deep bass voice, at times narrating, reprimanding, inspiring, at times with profound understanding and lamentation. And in some moments, Master’s voice sounds thunderous enough to alleviate unceasing worries, and at other moments, it evokes the sunlight in spring, exuding boundless warmth and comfort, or the feeling of spring water washing away stress and fatigue from weary bodies. This is a heroic call to the Divine Consciousness of Heaven and Earth to lead all beings towards luminosity and help them shed grievances and regrets.
As Master continually repeats the long “Ah…” singing chant, the chant carries Master’s boundless compassion, immeasurable wisdom and loving wish for all beings: This life journey is short and full of sufferings; those seeking enlightenment should observe natural phenomena, be clear-minded, be their authentic spiritual selves; let go of all attachments in order to transcend the sufferings of the cycle of existence in the six realms; lead a simple and humble life; resonate with the rhythm of the Universe; and be one with the Divine Consciousness to synchronise with All, thus achieving eternal happiness and fortune.
Master once said: “A piece of good music has immense energy that will captivate your thoughts and emotions. The forceful energy will send your tears flowing when the song turns sorrowful. With diligent practice, such compelling music will flush out strain and misery, and harmonise your body and mind. At the same time, this is an enjoyable piece of art.” Undoubtedly, Master was singing in the Divine realm during his studio recording, and transcribing his enlightened view of the human realm. The Celestial Chant abounds with immense energy from his compassion, and such showers of energy may cleanse and rejuvenate the listener’s body and mind. The Celestial Chant has already touched many listeners’ hearts, cleansed and strengthened their bodies and minds.
3 Transcend with The Celestial Chant
The Celestial Chant has four movements: ‘Life’s Journey’, ‘Enlightenment’, ‘Transcendence’ and ‘Letting Go’. These four movements are named according to the journey to enlightenment. Our life’s journey is filled with ups and downs where happiness and sorrows are intertwined. These are what drive us to take on the bodhisattva’s path of care and concern for others, and serve as the impetus for our search for enlightenment.
Meditation practice trains us to better understand the resonance between beings and the Universe, and empowers us to become more successful, joyful and blessed, as well as to finally let go of joy and worry, success and failure, gain and loss. It helps us to attain mental bliss, and a more beautiful and fulfilling life journey. The sound of string instruments, together with the chorus, accompanies The Celestial Chant.
The music and Grandmaster JinBodhi’s crystal-clear chanting lifts the listener from darkness into luminescence, helping them to pass through and understanding the pain and despair of life’s journey.
As Master continues chanting in the second movement, he is accompanied by a background chorus singing the eminent verse from the Sixth Patriarch of Zen, Venerable Hui-Neng: ‘Fundamentally no Bodhi tree exists, nor is the frame of a mirror bright. Since all is void from the beginning, where can the dust alight?’ You feel like you are drifting freely in the Universe as you listen to the chanting and singing, letting go of your worries, restraints and attachments. You feel peaceful and joyful.
The third movement, ‘Transcendence’ slowly develops with a dream-like chorus in the background: “Ten thousand lotuses bloom, and their fragrance fills the entire world.” As you listen to this singing, you feel the connection with the greater Universe and begin to sense sparkling lotuses blooming in front of your eyes, each unique and fragrant, permeating the human realm and bringing peace, health, purity and goodness…
The sudden low drum beats accompany the Master’s sonorous voice, singing, “We arrive without, we depart without, a life after status and wealth…” This wakes us up from our meditations to realise: “We arrive and depart empty-handed; why let any worldly matters put you down.” So, why are we full of attachments to worldly matters? Our struggles in life always stem from our pursuit of status, wealth and relationships, and one constantly feels as if one has reached the lowest point in life. However, one must realise that dawn comes after the darkest hour, and it is only a matter of changing perspective.
If we set our eyes on greater things, won’t we be able to easily overcome these illusory problems? If we reduce ourselves to a smaller scale, we will become less greedy, egoistic and unreasonably demanding.
Love and hate, the cycles of life and death, myriad affections, happiness and suffering – we all know these from personal experience: The threads of our emotions are endless, making us broken-hearted and miserable until we die… In this human realm, there will always be pain and suffering we must face. Master teaches that as long as we are compassionate, widen our perspective from “I” to the greater Universe, and treasure others with love and compassion, the ups and downs we face in life will perhaps be different.
When our hearts and minds are as magnanimous as the vast ocean and sky, ‘we love everyone on this Earth’ as Sun Yat-Sen once said, or, as Buddha said, “I do not detest, there isn’t any I do not love.” Such a beautiful and perfect life is worthy of our praise and a long whistle and leap across the cosmos; for when we look back, the fates of past lives were simply ocean waves. Master explains this as like being on board an aeroplane and above the cloud level; all our Earthly problems disappear. We don’t see the traffic problems, or competition and enmity between people; it’s as if we are on a different planet in another realm. All our troubles are transitory.
4 The Mind-Enchanting Celestial Chant
Listen repeatedly to The Celestial Chant and immerse yourself continually in the wisdom of the Divine Consciousness. As we connect with Grandmaster JinBodhi in the short span of 40 minutes, all our worries and pain gradually disappear. In place of that is a sense of inner relaxation and happiness, as if we are letting go of all the pressurising relationships and emotional baggage, and nourishing the spirit with nutrients. We are left feeling stronger, happier, and ready to continue the journey.
The Celestial Chant nurtures the heart. Perhaps after listening to The Celestial Chant, we will view the world from a higher and broader perspective, instead of the narrow-minded view of the frog in the well. As our goal in this life expands to greater heights over the longer term, our mindset will transcend beyond the focus on the self; as such, the ego, frustration and pain will simultaneously reduce. This will in turn drive us towards greater aspirations and achievements. This is the actual intent behind The Celestial Chant.