Chanting Sacred Verses as a Spiritual Practice


In many religious and spiritual institutions, reciting sacred scriptures and verses is an important part of worship. Engaging in this practice helps to quiet and redirect our thoughts.

While reciting verses in one’s native tongue can bring important messages and teachings to light on an intellectual level, there is also great value to repeating texts written in classical theological languages. Doing so connects us to ancient spiritual lineages and traditions in a way that our minds may not fully comprehend, but that we can nonetheless feel in our hearts.

This is why, even in English speaking countries, Catholic masses are still conducted in Latin, and Hebrew is still an important part of Jewish worship services. In India and other Eastern countries, Sanskrit is the language of classical antiquity. Countless sacred Sanskrit texts, written hundreds and even thousands of years ago, have survived and are in use to this day. Moreover, while not widely spoken, Sanskrit is still a 'living language' in the sense that new compositions designed to uplift and inspire humanity are still being written.

The 108 Names of Amma

In the 1980s, Ottoor Unni Namboodiripad, an acclaimed poet from the Indian state of Kerala, wrote 108 Sanskrit verses honoring Amma. The 108 Names of Amma, as the composition is commonly known, is a poetic tribute to her life and mission. Many who admire Amma and see her as their spiritual teacher repeat the names daily.

The 1000 Names of the Divine Mother

A longer Sanskrit text that Amma feels is beneficial to recite on a regular basis is called the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama. These 1000 verses personify and honor God in the form of the Divine Mother – the sacred feminine principle that guides, nourishes and protects us all.

How to Begin this Practice

It is not necessary to be a member of any particular religious or spiritual organization to begin this practice. The 108 Names of Amma and Sri Lalitha Sahasranama are universal and may be recited by anyone. In order to have the greatest effect, however, they should be repeated with sincerity and devotion. Simply repeating the words of either text without concentration or feeling will be of much less benefit. Conversely, Amma assures us that even if our pronunciation of sacred verses is poor, we will derive great benefits from reciting them as long as we do so with an open heart, while envisioning the Divine. In order to keep the mind from wandering and stay focused, some people find it helpful to touch the center of the chest each time a verse is spoken, and while doing so, to visualize a beautiful, white flower representing divine love opening within.

If the thought of learning all of the verses in the 108 Names of Amma and Sri Lalitha Sahasranama seems overwhelming, do not despair. You can start by practicing the short meditative verse at the beginning of the 108 Names, then learn a few names at a time. If you divide the task of learning sacred verses into small pieces and pace yourself, you will succeed.

Audio recordings of the 108 Names of Amma and the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama are available from the Amma Shop. The Archana Book provides English transliterations and translations of both texts.

Submitted by the Lawrence, Kansas Satsang

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