Word, Chant, and Song

Spiritual Transformation in Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, and Sikhism

By Harold Coward

Subjects: Comparative Religion, Religion, Music, Hindu Studies, Buddhism
Series: SUNY series in Religious Studies
Hardcover : 9781438475752, 194 pages, September 2019
Paperback : 9781438475769, 194 pages, July 2020

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Table of contents


1. Hinduism: Mantra Chanting and Singing in Spiritual Transformation

2. Buddhism: Word, Chant, and Song in Spiritual Practice

3. Word, Chant, and Song on the Islamic Spiritual Path

4. Sikh Spiritual Practice: Word, Chant, and Song


An accessible introduction to the centrality of word, chant, and song in the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and Sikh traditions.


In academic religious studies and musicology, little attention has been given to chanted word, hymns, and songs, yet these are often the key spiritual practices for lay devotees. To address this gap in knowledge, Harold Coward presents a thematic study of sacred sound as it functions in word, chant, and song for devotees in the Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, and Sikh traditions. Each chapter begins with a brief introduction of a particular tradition's word/scripture, followed by case studies showcasing the diversity of understanding and the range of chant and song in devotee practice, and concludes with a brief illustration of new trends in music and chant within the tradition. Written in a style that will appeal to both scholars and lay readers, technical terms are clearly explained and case studies explicitly include devotees' personal experiences of songs and chants in public and private religious ritual.

Harold CowardM is Professor Emeritus of History and Founding Director of the Centre for Studies in Religion and Society at the University of Victoria in Canada. He is the author of numerous books, including Yoga and Psychology and The Perfectibility of Human Nature in Eastern and Western Thought, both also published by SUNY Press; The Philosophy of the Grammarians (volume five of The Encyclopedia of Indian Philosophies, with K. Kunjunni Raja); Mantra (with David J. Goa); and Pluralism in the World Religions.


"Accessible, informative, and interesting, this is a fine contribution." — Anantanand Rambachan, author of A Hindu Theology of Liberation: Not-Two Is Not One