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Story and Song: Learning and Living with Buddhist Chant

Residential Program
Dates: Feb 18, 2022 - Feb 21, 2022
Days: Friday - Monday
Number of Nights: 3 nights

Instructor(s): Chenxing Han, Trent Walker

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Course Description:

What stories and songs stir our hearts, reminding us of the brevity of all we cherish? And what texts and melodies still our minds, opening us to light, clarity, and compassion? This retreat explores the recitation of Buddhist poetry from Cambodia and beyond that speaks to themes of love, loss, devotion, and letting go. We’ll explore these poems from two perspectives: as sounds, shaped by traditional Khmer practices of singing and chanting, and as stories, crafted by Buddhist authors for the sake of unsettling our attachments and deepening our aspirations. 

We’ll begin with the basics of chant in Theravāda and other Buddhist traditions. We’ll then focus on the Cambodian tradition of melodic and highly expressive “Dharma songs” (thoa bot or smot). Our practice and inquiry together will include sessions for learning chanting techniques as well as discussions of these Buddhist poems in the context of our lives. Along the way, we’ll reflect together on questions of music, culture, language, and heritage.

Noble Silence:
Noble silence will be observed following each evening session through breakfast the following morning.

Experience Level:
Suitable for beginning and experienced practitioners.
    About the Instructor(s):
  • Chenxing Han is the author of Be the Refuge: Raising the Voices of Asian American Buddhists (North Atlantic Books, 2021), and numerous articles in Buddhadharma, Journal of Global Buddhism, Lion’s Roar, Pacific World, Tricycle, and elsewhere. She holds a BA from Stanford University, an MA in Buddhist studies from the Graduate Theological Union, and a certificate in Buddhist chaplaincy from the Institute of Buddhist Studies in Berkeley, California. Together with Duncan Ryuken Williams and Funie Hsu, she organized May We Gather: A National Buddhist Memorial for Asian American Ancestors.

  • Trent Walker is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Ho Center for Buddhist Studies and a Lecturer in Religious Studies at Stanford University. He holds a Ph.D. in Buddhist Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and has published widely on Khmer, Lao, Pali, Thai, and Vietnamese Buddhist texts and recitation practices. Trent began his training in Cambodian Buddhist chant in 2005, under the guidance of Koet Ran, Prum Ut, Yan Borin, and Preah Maha Vimaladhamma Pin Sem. His online multimedia book, Stirring and Stilling: A Liturgy of Cambodian Dharma Songs, aims to fulfill his teachers’ aspirations of making Khmer Buddhist chants accessible to a global audience.