One of my favourite things during my year in Singapore, more than a decade ago, was to wander through Chinatown. It was always a delightful sensory experience — stepping out of the metro station, I walked right into one of its narrow streets, packed with stalls and people. I wrote about it here in 2009, and while I probably don’t use the word ‘Orient’ any more, I still think about Chinatown as fondly as I did then.
Singapore, Chinatown in particular, was my introduction to Buddhism. While I had been to a solitary Buddhist temple in Hyderabad previously, I started paying more attention to the religion only after my stint in Singapore. I know nothing about it, and all of my Buddhist experiences can be encompassed into listening to mantras and a visit to a few temples. I had the opportunity to temples from Chinese, Burmese, Nepalese and Tibetan Buddhist traditions, and look at practices from the Theravada and Vajrayana traditions. The one I remember most vividly, for obvious reasons, is the surreal experience of Taktsang; I can still hear the throat singing of the monks echoing through the cave monastery’s small, cool, quiet chambers.
Mantras played a large role in sustaining my interest in Buddhism. I didn’t listen to them regularly, but a particular set stayed in my head. These mantras were sung in a female voice, and were among the most soothing music I had ever heard. They featured on a CD with a blue cover, designed in Tibetan style, with all writing in Chinese script (I think). Recently, wanting to revisit them, but with no idea who the singer was and not being in possession of the CD, I simply searched for the verses in a female voice. Sure enough, various YouTubers had uploaded them. These versions seem popular — because they come up on top when you specify “female” — and I am not surprised.
If I had the name of the singer, or links to the channel of the company that produced the music, I’d share them. I’ve tried to find the name of the singer in the comments, and though several people seem to ask the same question, there has been no answer. Meanwhile, I’d like to share the links to the mantras with you. Most of them are not very high-quality versions, but they have brought me peace in the last few weeks. There are flashes of the pentatonic scale and the instruments evoke the grandeur of the mountains, the lightness of the clear air that is present only at the heights. I hope the mantras bring you some joy (and that the gods who guard copyright forgive this transgression).
- Om Mani Padme Hum: Invoking Avalokiteshvara or Chenrezig, the Bodhisattva of compassion
- Shakyamuni Mantra: Invoking Gautama Buddha, or Shakyamuni (Sage of the Shakya clan)
- Green Tara Mantra: Invoking Green Tara for compassion and liberation
- Prajna Paramita Mantra: For wisdom and awakening
- Vajrasattva Mantra: Invoking purity (represented by the Vajra or diamond)