Skip to Content

Is There Buddhist Meditation Music?

If you’ve ever wondered if there is any Buddhist meditation music, then you’ve come to the right place. Whether you practice Tendai, Shingon, or Komuso temples, this article will give you the scoop. From ryokyoku to Tendai chants, there is a wide variety of music for meditation. No matter what you’re into, you can find something to suit your mood and your meditation practice.


The esoteric teachings of the Tendai school are known as “triple truth,” or perfected comprehension. These three truths are interdependent and mutually supportive of one another. While they have many similarities with Shingon Buddhist ritual, they are distinct enough to stand alone in their own right. While they are not the same, the philosophies are. Here are the three most important principles of Tendai practice.

Tendai Buddhism was originally derived from the Chinese tradition of Tiantai. In the eight century, the school was brought to Japan by Saicho (767-822). He studied under esoteric masters in China, and later re-introduced esoteric Buddhism to the Japanese people. Today, Tendai is considered a branch of Mahayana Buddhism.

While some schools of meditation practice focus on specific practices, others incorporate more eclectic genres. The Tendai school’s founders were Tendai monks, and its music reflects the diversity of this tradition. The esoteric nature of the Tendai tradition is not well understood in other Buddhist traditions. But the music and the meditation techniques it teaches are highly beneficial to meditation practice.

The Tendai tradition is the dominant Buddhist tradition in Japan. The Tendai school’s influence on the country’s culture was so widespread that it eventually swept the country. In this period, several prominent Tendai monks became influential in their respective areas. These eminent figures paved the way for the Tendai school to become the dominant tradition of Buddhism in Japan. In addition, the Tendai school helped to establish the first independent Pure Land school and related Jodo Shinshu.

The Tendai tradition is divided into sub-schools. There is a vast array of Tendai teachings, including the Shinto branch. The Mountain Kings, or sanno, were venerated by the Tendai. The temple of Mount Hiei, the “Hie Taisha Ri Ji Da She,” was associated with this school before it split from Buddhism.


Shingon is a branch of Buddhism that emphasizes the Thirteen Buddhas, a collection of buddhas and bodhisattvas. Shingon priests often make devotions to many more than the Thirteen Buddhas, but the main focus is on Mahavairocana, the Universal Principle that underlies all Buddhist teachings. Kukai taught that the great Self is one, and each figure represents a Sanskrit “seed” letter. The center of the shrine is the Vairocana, and it is in this place that the Shingon tradition manifests its practice.

In addition to music, there are rituals performed to enhance meditation. A video of a prayer service at the Kosho-ji temple in Nagoya shows a monk beating a drum rhythmically, while chanting. Tendai, the other esoteric school of Buddhism in Japan, uses the Siddham alphabet and seed-syllables of Sanskrit and uses anthropomorphic representations of deities, such as the Karmamandala.

A Shingon practice involves chanting sutras. Chanting the sutras helps the Three Mysteries of Buddha participate in the practice. Through the chanting, the Three Mysteries are brought together to achieve enlightenment. The Susiddhikara Sutra contains a list of rituals and the necessary preparations for enlightenment. The Susiddhikara Sutra is primarily a compilation of rituals.

The second disc in this series features a fusion of contemporary and rare pieces. Rare pieces from Japan, Laos, and Myanmar rarely make their way outside the country they came from, making them of significant importance to the Buddhist world. Japanese shomyo, which are considered to be among the largest and oldest of the Buddhist traditions, are also included. New Zealand and Australian compositions are also included. Celestial Harmonies has commissioned David Parsons’ Maitreya for this collection.

Komuso temples

If you are looking for Buddhist meditation music, you’ve come to the right place. The music played in Komuso temples is primarily composed of the ancient Japanese art form known as shakuhachi. Originally, only monks were allowed to play this musical instrument outside the temple, but soon after, monks started to play it for others, including lay people. Some komuso even began teaching it to lay people for a fee. But over the next century, secular shakuhachi music emerged, dampening the novelty of komuso. During the early 1800s, komuso music became so popular that the temples doubled as great clubs, giving the performers a certain level of anonymity.

Komuso music is a common part of meditation in Japanese temples, and it is also found on many of the world’s zen centers. Originally, the Fuke sect came from Japan. In the early 17th century, the shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu supposedly passed a decree that allowed the komuso to travel freely throughout feudal Japan. While this decree is thought to be forged, it remained respected for many years.

The shakuhachi flute, which originated in the 13th century, was primarily used by komuso in their rituals. The shakuhachi takes its name from its size (the word “shaku” is derived from a unit of measurement close to a foot, while hachi means “eight”). This particular flute is made of bamboo, and true shakuhachi can be very expensive.

The original fuke-shu of Komuso temples was banned in 1871. The government stripped the sect of many of its mystical qualities, but the shakuhachi survived. Today, shakuhachi is used in a western musical scale. It is now played in ensembles, a practice forbidden in previous eras. It is possible to find shakuhachi players in Japan today.


The style of Japanese Buddhist chant known as ryokyoku has been attributed to the Tendai and Shingon sects. Both styles have been described as chant-like and musical, but ryokyoku tends to emphasize chanting. Chanting, like speaking, is a way to communicate, and it is the primary act of linking human beings with God, or shomyo, the idealized state of mind in esoteric Buddhism.

The chants are a form of Buddhist art, based on the shakuhachi instruments played by the Komuso, wandering Japanese Zen monks. In the eighteenth century, a Komuso named Kinko Kurosawa collected the honkyoku, and eventually compiled it into a collection called Kinko-Ryu Honkyoku. The collection contains thirty-six pieces of shakuhachi music.

Early 20th-century international research on Buddhist music showed that there were many ways to incorporate music into the practice. Tarocco 2013 provides a brief historical overview of Buddhist musical thought and compares it with liturgical practices. Mabbett 1993-1994 compares musical practices in Theravada, Mahayana, and Tantric Buddhism. Williams 2006 gives a brief philosophical examination of music and Buddhism, focusing on the practice of Buddhist music in Japan and Tibet.

Modern buddhist-influenced music

There are two main types of modern buddhist-influenced music for mediation: meditative songs and popular music. In this article I examine each of these. The first section examines modern Buddhism in Indonesia, the second presents a biography of Irvyn Wongso, and the third provides an analysis of True Direction’s production of Buddhist songs in modern popular music. I conclude by comparing the two types of music.

In Buddhism, the relationship between music and meditation is complex. In the early times, early Buddhists associated music with earthly desires and banned its practice for monks and nuns. However, in the Pure Land, Buddhist paradises are profoundly musical, and music is part of Buddhist law. As a result, many musical practices have evolved for use in Buddhist ritual. Most involve chanting, while others employ instrumental music and dance. Music can be a means of personal cultivation, offering to the Buddha, and memorizing Buddhist texts.

Ardy Wong, a member of the group True Direction, realized that contemporary Buddhist songs could be popular for meditation, and considered using rock music to promote their Buddhist faith. The singer of the song “Dhamma is My Way” (also by the group), Ardy Wong, left the band to form his own Buddhist worship band, Sadhu United. In many ways, the two groups are similar.

True Direction’s music videos on social media are designed to reach young people who have little interest in Buddhism. By combining modern music with Buddhist themes, the group hopes to inspire young people to take up the religion. True Direction also organizes regular gatherings for members to recite Buddhist scriptures and practice meditation. Wongso hopes to introduce young Buddhists to devotional practices such as scripture reading and meditation retreats.