Thursday, October 14, 2010

// // 1 comment

Sanskrit Chants

image003 (9) by Reb Gutman Locks @ Mystical Paths

Question from J.L.:

     I am expecting my fourth child; we are a frum (religious) family. My sister is secular and told me that she is going to come and stay with us for a month to help out after I give birth.

    She said that recently she was exposed to Sanskrit chanting, and that she feels so connected to it. She chants everyday for an hour. My concern is that she wants to expose my children to this. Is this unsafe for them spiritually? What about for her?

Gutman’s Answer:

    Your concern is well-founded. Those chants are always related to praising idols or idolatrous concepts. If you cannot tell her not to do it at all, then tell her not to do it in your home, and not where your family will hear them. They certainly are harmful.

    The effect of these chants, and other forms of idolatry, are well known. They even effect unborn children, as was the case with Rivka when she was pregnant with Yaakov and Esau.

   You should be gentle with your sister, since she most likely has no idea of the meaning of those words that she is mindlessly repeating, and she really believes that the chanting is beneficial. However, do not let her bring those kinds of books and things into your home.


     Thank you so much for your quick and thorough reply. Now, my issue is how to tell her without making her feel bad? She is so excited about the chanting and wants to share it with us. I want her to have a positive experience here in my home.


    You must be gentle, but let her know that this information is not new, and that if she would chant in Hebrew, you would love to hear her, and you would love for the children to hear her, too.

   The Talmud credits one of the Sage's mother with his having become a scholar, because she would stand by the study hall window when she was pregnant with him so he would absorb the sounds of Torah learning even while in the womb.

    Do a little online research and find some “exotic” Hebrew chanting that your sister might like. There are the Chassidicnigunim—(wordless melodies), and there are the Yemeni Jewish chants, and such.

     Another helpful thing would be if you can get her to find the translations for the words she is saying. Perhaps, when she realizes that they are from another religion, a religion that openly worships idols, she will be sensitive enough to appreciate your religious preferences, especially in your home. Try to avoid an argument, but still, it is your home, and they are your children.


      I decided to write her an e-mail, which I have attached, and she just called me. She told me she very much appreciates how I told her about my concern, and that she will do the chants alone somewhere, not near the kids. She also assured me that she doesn't connect it to idol worship, but to her own heart.

Here is the e-mail I sent her:

Darling V,

    I want to thank you again for really going out of your way to halt your life and decide to spend time helping me--a truly selfless act that will be forever memorable to me.

    I know it will be a true bonding experience for both of us since Hashem made it in such a way that it will really just be you and I and no one else.

     Since we have gotten closer over the past couple of years, I know you would want me to express to you any concern or feeling I have outwardly and honestly with you.

     When you told me about how you chant Sanskrit I was excited that you found something that resonated with you and did something as disciplined as doing it for a full hour every day.

     That is very impressive and inspiring. And I only hope to grow spiritually as you will be around me here. My only concern is that the roots of Sanskrit are connected to idol worship.

     I know your intention is not to worship idols at all, but maybe you are not truly feeling how much power those words and the connection to their sources may have upon you.

     I can't tell you what to do, I know you are living with the “flow of life,” and taking with you what you learn. I hope I can also be a source of knowledge and guidance for you, as your older sister.

     I am interested in the chanting, but perhaps we can work on Hebrew verses together when you are here instead ofSanskrit, and maybe you can teach the kids the Hebrew verses in chanting forms?

    Like, I can imagine how the Shema would be so insanely powerful to chant. Maybe you can do some research online on it before you come?

    I would really feel uncomfortable with the Sanskrit chanting in my home, and I really hope you can understand where I am coming from, and the home I am trying to build.

     I hope we can create our own personal chants that will have meaning between us, and come together from both our worlds into a place of harmony.

    I am really excited to have you here, and I hope you understand.

     Feel free to express to me how you feel.

I love you and always will,


Gutman’s Response:

    Your letter to her is absolutely beautiful, truly a masterpiece.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Rabbi Gutman,

    May I make a suggestion that could be passed on to J.L. and then to her sister:

    Personal prayer for an hour a day can be a great replacement for chanting. Even if her sister is "secular", this notion of talking to G-d on your own terms can lead to the same euphoric feelings that chanting does and can (and does) bring a lot more good into one's life. It would greatly help if they pick up the book:
    In Forest Fields - The Garden of Prayer by Rabbi Shalom Arush.
    or they could find more information about doing Hitbadedute on R' Lazer Brody's website.

    If J.L. mentions this more to her sister, she can help bring her even closer to G-d but in a non-forceful way.

    Shabbat Shalom!


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