1. Meditation and chanting – an introduction
Nowadays meditation is widely advised as a practice that helps quieten the mind, relieve it from stress, achieve higher levels of concentration or relaxation, etc. In this article we explain the differences between meditation and chanting, why meditation is difficult to achieve in today’s times and why chanting is of greater value to those seeking spiritual growth.
2. Definitions of chanting and meditation
In this article we use the term ‘meditation’ to refer to the superconscious, thoughtless state. This state is experienced after intense practice.
Chanting is the repetition of God’s Name.
3. Comparison of meditation and chanting
The table below shows why in the current era of Kaliyug chanting is more beneficial than meditation.
4. Practical benefits of chanting compared to meditation
Following is a more detailed analysis of the practical benefits of chanting compared to meditation.
Uninterrupted spiritual practice: In meditation we need to sit in a specific posture. Consequently, if we suffer from backache sitting in that position can become difficult. Chanting is not bound by these restrictions. In addition, the time required to go into a meditative state when practicing meditation is not required in chanting.
Continuity of spiritual practice: Meditation cannot be done continuously for the entire day, but chanting can occur continuously. It is necessary to perform continuous spiritual practice to unite with the God principle.
Reduction in likes and dislikes: We can chant while eating. When our mind gets absorbed in chanting, we tend to forget what we are eating and this helps us in reducing our likes and dislikes. If we keep chanting while doing every activity, then all impressions are gradually reduced. This does not occur when we practice meditation.
Continuous ‘awakened state’ or the spiritual experience of God: The seeker practicing meditation comes to the state of being awake from the state of meditation since there is an attraction to the physical dimension. On the other hand, when chanting is continuous then we are continuously in the ‘awakened state’, i.e. in a way we are in a continuous state of meditation.
Attraction to the physical dimension: Impressions in the subconscious mind attract us to the physical dimension. During meditation the tendencies of the subconscious mind are only suppressed and not eliminated. With chanting they are eliminated to a major extent.
Surfacing of subtle-thoughts: Keeping the mind thoughtless means not paying attention to the outside or inside. However in this state subtle-impressions do surface at some time or the other. On the other hand, when we concentrate on the Name of God, due to deflection of other thoughts or the establishment of a devotion centre subtle-impressions do not surface. Chanting is therefore superior to a thoughtless mind.
Spiritual experiences and spiritual level: The spiritual experiences one has while in meditative states do not indicate one's spiritual level. By contrast, the spiritual experiences from chanting do. For example, achieving a thoughtless state in meditation does not indicate that one has reached Self-realisation, whereas experiencing continuous chanting that occurs automatically is indicative of 40% spiritual level.
True and false spiritual experiences: The spiritual experiences obtained through chanting are real since they occur as a result of blending with the Name, while experiencing void or thoughtlessness in meditation is illusory because one is not aware of this experience. When one is chanting, due to the awareness, one actually experiences it.
Experiencing different states: In meditation we experience a corpse-like state, while chanting gives us the experience of Divine consciousness (Chaitanya).
Artificial and natural states: Meditation is an artificial state whereas through chanting we attain a natural state of communion with God.
The ego is stronger and harder to overcome through meditation for several reasons:
- It is not easy to achieve communion with the God principle during meditation, as the idea and experience that one is in fact separate from God remains strong. The feeling that “I am separate from God” is ego.
- It is easy to have thoughts such as “I am meditating”, “I am going into meditation” which not only increase the awareness of oneself, mind and body, but also can lead to thoughts of being special and unique, thus increasing ego.
- While chanting, one is significantly more aware of God. The awareness that we are chanting only due to God's grace is also experienced. As a result, the ego of doing spiritual practice does not develop and in fact undergoes dissolution.
Chanting protects us from negative energies: In the state of meditation the mind is thoughtless. In this state, some negative energy can trouble us. On the other hand, a protective sheath that wards off negative energies is formed around us when we chant.
Completeness in spiritual practice: Chanting can be done during any and every activity, which means other aspects of spiritual practice can occur simultaneously. For example, one can make efforts to develop spiritual emotion (bhāv), unconditional spiritual love (prīti), study our personality defects and ego and make efforts to reduce them, and so on. This is important because by and large we need to undertake spiritual practice while fulfilling responsibilities such as looking after our homes, children, profession, etc.
5. Conclusion – meditation and chanting
Nowadays many people practice meditation as a psychological self-improvement technique rather than a tool for spiritual growth. Due to this, the benefits derived from such meditation are also at a psychological level.
Based on the above comparison, for spiritual growth in today’s era chanting is of greater value.
If you already meditate with the intention of achieving spiritual growth, we recommend you complement it with the spiritual practice of chanting. More information about which Name of God to chant is available in our section Which Name of God should one chant.