Buddhist chanting is about mind training. We turn inwards and do not let the mind scatter outwards. Chanting is not for “communicating” with a higher external God or Goddess. The Buddha also do not need us to please him by chanting.
Chanting is a form of mind training and we want to leave positive imprints in our mind. This is why we do not chant verbally in places that are deemed inappropriate. For example, we do not chant verbally when we are in a toilet. Instead we can mentally recite our chant.
The same applies to sex. We don’t chant when we are having sex. It will leave a mental imprint of desire mixed with chanting. Thus not conducive for mental development meant to achieve Enlightenment.
Above are general recommendation for beginners.
Chanting in a formal setting
When we chant verbally, it is recommended to make sure the place is clean and tidy. Sit comfortably but do not slouch. We can sit on the floor or on a chair and place our palms together in namaste. (optional) or simply rest our hands on our lap or knee.
We can chant with our eyes open or close or slightly open. If our eyes are open, we should try to look at a pleasing object approximately 1 or 2 feet away from the eye. This is to reduce the chances of our mind losing focus if we keep looking at different things that appear in our visual field. Pleasing object means something that is neutral. Maybe a flower, a vase, a Buddha image or something that does not stir negative emotion or mental state.
As we chant, we focus our mind on what we are chanting and shut off all stray thoughts. We should try adopt positive feelings of joy, love and compassion with equanimity during chanting. Try to shake off any ill feelings of hatred, desire, jealousy etc.
It is said that the positive energy from the sound of our chant with a positive mind will influence our surrounding.
Chanting in non-formal setting
This is about bringing your chanting out to the world. You can chant verbally or repeat your chant mentally. Anywhere and anytime. Objective is to ensure that you remain mindful of your surrounding and remember not to cause a nuisance to others. So you can be chanting mentally while on a bus to work.
As the practice progresses, your mind will find an anchor point through mental chanting, therefore anywhere and anytime there will be this chant at the back of your mind while you carry out your task. Quite impossible for most people in the beginning.
If one is sick or unable to sit straight, then practicality is more important. Chanting can be done lying down, slouched in bed etc, Main thing is to focus on the chant. It can be verbal chanting or mental recitation.
A word of caution.
My Masters said, Chanting is a tool. Try not to be attached to it. We use it diligently to opened up a door towards enlightenment. If we keep changing tools, we will be forever learning how to use new tools without getting anythings done. If we become attached to this tool, then we may forget our ultimate goal and mistaken the tool to be our goal.
Hope we have fun practicing.