is the videos above fan bei type of chant? within fan bei, there is still so many different tone, pacing and melody.
In a way, yes, and the context of what the Venerable Master Xing Yun meant was more on how recitation/chanting can be accomodated to various life situations and methods.
how would the senior monk/nun direct or tell to the group to chant in a manner similar to the chanting videos above?
for example a choral director would tell the mass choir to sing in a g major.
It's quite a process....
1. Before the start of the chanting session or liturgical celebration, about 5-15 mins before the commencement, the lead chanter or a designated usher/hospitality host would do a short briefing for the Assembly (especially for newbies and visitors) on the liturgical event for the day/evening, introducing the how to's and so forth and some might even add a quick commentary on the ritual on its history, significance, the mechanics of when, where, how, what to do, page numbers and so forth.
When the lead chanter and/or co-presiding Dharma Host is leading, the rest of the chanting team members and the Assembly are discouraged from vocalizing ahead or after to prevent confusion/chaos and to allow for a harmonious uniformity and conformity. This goes for all other actions like bowing, kneeling, standing, sitting and walking circumambulations.
2. Other than the above, indications of when to be silent, when to start chanting and other gestures of standing, circumambulatory walking, sitting, bowing, hands to palm, relaxing the palms and so forth are all done by listening to the lead chanter intone/chant the opening/starting, standard usage of the Dharma instruments like the hand bell, great chime bowl, drum/bell by the lead chanter or a member of the chanting team at the front altar area. Or for some specific movements, the usher would intone 'Bow!', 'Palms to Hand', 'Arise!'
3. By usage of the reference chanting text provided which is common in content both for the lead chanter & team plus the Assembly. Some of it have the full marks indicated of when to chant, intone, silence and the various body movements. Please refer to attached pics as below. First pic is on the Three Refuges and the second one on the Incense Praise. Another sample from another organisation here
4. By frequent attendance of such chanting sessions and liturgical celebrations, familiarity and repetition aids one in getting accustomed to the standard procedures, thereby aiding the lead chanter & team for a smoother leading and practice. Another way is to collect chanting and ritual CDs and DVDs and by watching and following these aids, it's another way that some places make recordings and albums by the lead chanter and team to educate and disseminate such information and practice.
5. There are chanting classes that are available in some places that teaches one on the how to's on:
a. purpose of Dharma chanting
b. how to recognise tunes and tones & teaching the standard musical notes used by them
For example, the opening of the chanting session normally starts with beating the big drum in three sets drumming according to this partial passage from the Flower Adornment Sutra, one word per drum beat: (bear in mind that all of these are in Chinese, I am providing the English translation here)
"If one wishes to understand fully, all Buddhas of the Three Periods of Time, Buddha Buddha Buddha Buddha Buddha...'
(here, as one gets to the 'Buddha', the drum beat gradually goes softer and softer and fades off and after the third set, it ends with a fourfold beat of 'Amita Buddha' or another fourfold 'Buddha, Buddha, Buddha, Buddha')
Another one: certain intervals between chanting, the drummer will pick up on this interval by drumming one beat to each word:
Three Periods of All Buddhas, Buddha Buddha Buddha Buddha Buddha....Amita Buddha followed by the lead chanter resting the hitting stick on side the great chime bowl and the assistant lead chanter does one knock on the wooden fish or for certain parts, the hand bell stick rested on the side of the handbell. These motions are not without meaning, in the former it means that the coming portion of the chanting is utilising the wooden fish, like continuation of reciting a text with wooden fish hitting and in the latter, it is utilising the hand bell, usually used in parts where the Three Refuges or certain Dharma verses are chanted.
Another example, in the case of an Incense Offering Praise, the hand bell or the hand flat gong is used with the wooden fish (the first verse)
'Lu Xiang Zha Re' (The censer with incense lighted)
'Lu' is intoned and stretched to the count of 1-2-3-4, then moving on to 'Xiang' with two strikes of the hand bell/hand flat gong in 1-2 and silent counts of 3-4 and then moves on immediately to 'Zha' by one hit of the wooden fish & cymbals, and then count 1-2 with two strikes of the hand bell/hand flat gong and silent count of 3-4 before moving on immediately to 'Re' by hitting the great chime bowl, wooden fish & cymbals.
Dynamics of the above:
i. Each Dharma instrument is managed by one person, the lead chanter is always in charge of the great chime bowl, the assistant lead chanter, the wooden fish
ii.. Each member of the chanting team must listen and time the tune and tone counts as per the text to blend in and await his/her turn to use the designated Dharma instrument
iii. So, teamwork is crucial here, although the lead chanter is at the forefront, h/she must be attentive to the rest of the team members and the text.
It is important to note here that different monastic Orders will use different styles, tunes and tones, such is the liturgical flexilbility. E.g for the same Incense Praise chant, the same tune style can have variants: the common tune, a slightly different stretched version of the common tune and the usual count of 1-2-3-4 can be changed to 1-2-3 and other styles. Some will use the plain tone, some will use an ocean wave style where one uses several tones for one tune and other combos.
So, the result is a monastic from Monastery/Temple A may not be able to be a lead chanter in Monastery B but probably just join in as part of the common Assembly unless Monastery B is a sister chapter of A or that h/she is trained in another format. So, put together 3 monastics from A, B & C and you get three styles of chanting.
c. How to handle various Dharma instruments appropriately
d. if one is interested to be a designated lead chanter or part of the chanting team, one can attend the ongoing practice/rehearsal classes held before a major celebration and so forth.
e. some places offer study commentaries on the various Dharma Repentance texts on its history, content, significance and so forth as part of the class
See below for sample vids as explained above. Addendum Information
a. So basically, there's a presiding lead chanter who has a back up assistant lead chanter. Sometimes, when there's one or up until a few visiting/invited senior monastic or an abbot/abbess, then the co-presiding Dharma Host(s) [who will normally wear the red precept sash with a long rosary & tassel in the back] will be given certain parts to lead with the original presiding lead chanter still in charge.
Now, this team can comprise of these dynamics:
i. an all monastic team of monks only
ii. an all monastic team of nuns only
iii. a mix of monks and laymen
iv. a mix of nuns and laywomen
v. a mix of monks or nuns & laymen and women
vi. the co-presiding Dharma Host can be an Abbot/Abbess
See sample pic below
b. The order of the chanting assembly in this tradition is as follows:
i. Divided mainly into 2 sides: male & female, the former taking the west/right side & the latter taking the east/left side
ii. So, the lead chanter will take his/her place on the west side, where a Dharma instrument known as the great chime bowl is placed and the assistant lead chanter will stand at east side, where the wooden fish is. The co-presiding Dharma Host will normally stand in the empty space center of the Assembly, as one can see in the above pic. In some special days of annual liturgical celebrations, one can see the co-presiding Dharma Host with 2 monastics behind him and 4-6 laity members to represent the Fourfold Assembly of monks, nuns, laymen and laywomen when presenting certain offerings in the celebration. See a sample pic below.
iii. Order of standing/sitting in the Assembly is according to Ordination seniority for monastics and type of Precepts for the laity
For example, on the male side, the first row may comprise of monks and from left to right, according to ordination seniority and then the laymen on the second row, from left to right, those with Bodhisattva Precepts first, then those with Five Precepts, then those with less than Five Precepts and finally those with Refuge only.
All of these categories are in their respective ritual robes and after these, in successive back/later rows, come those who belong to the earlier lay categories who come for the chanting session without wearing the optional ritual robes and those who are non Buddhist visitors/friends. In reality, not all places follow such order and there may be variances from place to place. But as far as the chanting team is concerned, one willl always see them in ritual tobes.
c. Basic sample observances and guidelines
i. Only the chanting team members are allowed to use the respective designated Dharma instruments under the guidance of the presiding lead chanter and the co-presiding Dharma Host, if present for the same reasons as above. See pic below for the basic set of Dharma instruments used (although there are more varities.)
Left to right:
hand drum (there's also the larger ground level drum paired with a bell on the side), a pair of cymbals, hand flat gong, wooden fish, hand bell and great chime bowl
ii. It is also said that the level of music/sound produced by the usage of Dharma instruments must be mindful and should not drown out the vocalised Dharma words from the texts. Hence, the Buddha Dharma is given precedence whilst utilising sound/music as an offering to the Triple Gem and all sentient beings.
iii. Decorum is expected from all members of the chanting team and the Assembly as a form of elegance adorment, discipline and mindfulness. How the texts are chanted/sung/intoned, the Dharma instruments held and used, personal attentiveness to the session and so forth are important considerations for Dharma practice.
Samples vids fanbei style: the first one featuring the Ksitigarbha Bodhisattva Repentance and the other the Fo Guang Shan Monastic Choir singing an excerpt praise to the Five Directions Buddhas from another rite known as the Yogacara Flaming Mouths.