A Brief Explanation of 15 Chantas
Our human weakness is such that from time to time we tend to forget the religious and moral laws that are ordained upon us and fall into committing sins. These sins retard our spiritual progress and become obstacles in achieving salvation. Repentance is therefore prescribed so that when one seeks forgiveness in earnest, one can have his sins forgiven. Allah says in the Holy Quran:
Say: O My servants who have transgressed against their souls! Despair not of the mercy of Allah; for Allah forgives all sins; for He is oft forgiving, most merciful. Turn ye to the Lord (in repentance) and bow to His will before the penalty comes to you; after that ye shall not be helped."
[Sura 39: 53-54]
When we do Tauba (Dua Karavi) before Mukhi-Kamadia Sahibs or take Chanta on Chandraat we seek forgiveness of our daily sins. However, because we perform these acts regularly, the seriousness of this ceremony is sometimes lost.
Once a year the need for repentance and the seriousness that is required is brought to our mind by the special Chantas which are offered on the occasion of Lail-tul-Qadra. Fortunately, on this Night of Power, through the grace of Hazar Imam, we also have the opportunity to take Chanta for relief from obstacles other than our daily sins. In total, one has the opportunity to take 15 Chantas. An understanding of the meaning and significance will help us benefit most from this once a year opportunity to cleanse our soul. The following is a brief explanation of 15 Chantas.
(Seeking forgiveness for failing to repent)
Many of us cannot come to Jamat Khana daily and even when we do, we fail to repent our sins. When we perform the Tauba (Dua Karavi) before Mukhi-Kamadia Sahibs, we often lack the sincerity for repentance. Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah has said in one of His farmans: "Soul of man is very dear to God and therefore, for its salvation it is absolutely necessary that one should seek God's forgiveness". This Holy farman explains that negligence in repenting is being cruel to ones' own soul. This Chanta, is therefore, taken to seek forgiveness for the negligence in performing the daily act of repentance. It also reminds us of the importance of the constant and sincere repentance.
(Seeking forgiveness for errors in Dasond)
Dasond is obligatory on all Ismailis and is the foundation of our faith. Unintentional errors in fulfilling this obligation may leave our soul a little burdened. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for any unintentional errors that we may have committed during the year in our Dasond. It is also a reminder for us on the importance of Dasond and the need to be accurate.
(Seeking forgiveness for irregularity in performing daily prayers)
Dua, our daily prayer is a foundation of our faith and is obligatory on every Ismaili to offer it three times a day. Failure to fulfill this obligation leaves our soul a little poorer. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for all the unintentional lapses during the year. It is also a reminder for us on the importance of Dua and the need to be regular.
(Seeking forgiveness of our sins)
In our daily life we may have committed acts which are contrary to religious and moral laws. Such violations, as long as they were not directed to any individual, can be forgiven by seeking Allah's mercy. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for sins, especially if they were committed unintentionally. It is also a reminder for us on the importance of the leading our lives according to moral and ethical principles of Islam. It is important to know that not all types of sins can be forgiven by this Chanta, and one should study various farmans of Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah on this topic.
(Seeking forgiveness for secret sins)
Secret sins can be committed through impure thoughts in our mind, even though there is no physical act seen or felt by others. Examples of secret sins are: carrying ill will or jealousy in ones heart towards someone, thinking lustfully, having evil desires etc. From time to time we fall into committing such sins. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for these secret sins. It is also a reminder to us on the importance of keeping our thoughts pure.
(Seeking forgiveness for sins from past lives)
While our life on earth is limited, our soul is eternal. Our soul has passed through many physical forms in the last four ages (Char Joog) in its quest for salvation. The fact that it has not attained salvation yet is due to the burden of sins (Karma) that it is still carrying from past lives. Some of these sins can be such that they may be hampering our current efforts for spiritual progress. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness to lighten this burden. It is also a reminder for us that what we are today is a result of many past lives and what we become in the next life will depend a lot on what we do now.
(Seeking forgiveness for promises made prior to birth)
When a child is conceived in a mothers womb it has a soul. In this state the soul is fully aware of its origin, its destination and the purpose of its life on earth, i.e. what it has to do in this life to advance to the next stage in its quest for salvation. Prior to birth, the soul promises to live according to the farmans of Hazar Imam. As we grow up, we become engulfed in worldly affairs and tend to forget our purpose in this life. Moreover, we do not always live according to the farmans. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for not having fulfilled our original promise. It also reminds us of the importance of living our lives according to the teachings of our faith and the farmans of Hazar Imam.
(Seeking forgiveness for having deviated from the straight path)
Mowlana Sultan Mohammed Shah, in many of his farmans, has used the analogy of life on earth as a bridge - the successful crossing of which leads one to the other shore, i.e. to the destination. We cross this bridge or Pul Sirat by living a life according to the tenets of our faith. Unfortunately, we sometimes commit acts which are against the tenets of our faith, and if left unchecked, such acts would slowly deviate us from the straight path. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for such transgressions and to keep us on the straight path. It also reminds us of the importance of living a righteous life.
(Seeking forgiveness for acts which prevent us from experiencing Noor)
We may have committed acts which now stand as obstacles in our quest to get close to the Noor of Imamat. Mowlana Hazar Imam in many of His farmans has said that it is His wish that we should, at least once in our lifetime, experience the Noor. This Chanta is taken to seek forgiveness for the removal of such obstacles. It also reminds us of the need and importance of performing bandagi.
(Seeking mercy from the pain of exiting from the body)
None of us knows when our life will come to an end. When our time is up, the soul has to exit from the body. The more a person is attached to this world, the more difficult it is for the soul to come out. This process has been compared to being squeezed out. Depending on a persons attachments, this process can be very painful to the soul. This Chanta is taken to seek mercy from this pain and to ease this passage. This Chanta also reminds us that death is certain and it can strike us at any moment.
(Seeking mercy at the time of accountability)
When we die, we will once again become aware of our spiritual existence and will be required to account for our behavior on earth before the soul can free itself from the worldly entanglements (which is referred to as the "grave"). This Chanta is taken to seek mercy during this time of accountability and to enable the soul to move forward quickly. It also reminds us that in the end we have to account for every act that we commit, good or bad.
(Seeking mercy during the journey leading to the first destination)
Having accounted for it's actions, the soul begins what is termed the first leg of its journey forward. During this time the soul is still attached to many earthly possessions and desires. These now become a burden which slow him down or may even prevent him from moving forward. This Chanta is taken to enable the soul to realize quickly the futility of carrying this burden and to discard it. It also reminds us that we cannot carry any of our possessions with us when we leave this world.
(Seeking mercy during the journey leading to the second destination)
Having discarded its attachments to earthly possessions and desires, the soul enters the second leg of its journey forward. Here the results of its past deeds become vividly manifest and bad deeds now become a burden. This Chanta is taken to make this part of the journey easier. It also reminds us that what we do in this world will come with us, good or bad.
(Seeking mercy in passing through 19 checkpoints)
Pir Sadardin in his Granth "Vis Tol" explains about the path that the soul has to take, after leaving the body, to arrive at its final destination. This path has 19 checkpoint where the soul could be detained or its further progress slowed down depending on its deeds in the past life. This Chanta is taken to ease this journey. It also reminds us that once we die it is not the end, rather the beginning of a long journey.
(Seeking mercy in passing through 52 narrow passages)
In addition to the 19 checkpoints, the soul also has to pass through what Pir Sadardin has compared to 52 mountain passes. In his Granth "Bawan Gati", the Pir explains about 52 passages which the soul has to navigate through, each fraught with its own set of difficulties. This Chanta is taken to ease this journey. It also reminds us that the only thing that will help the soul in its journey is its good deeds and the mercy of Hazar Imam.
Having understood the significance of 15 Chantas it is important to prepare ourselves to receive the mercy of Hazar Imam by being sincere in our repentance and to be firm in our resolve not to fall into the same errors again.