Should I practice chanting at home?
In theory, everyone should chant sutras at home. However, I know that it is not practical in every home and in this busy world that we live in.
But, yes, it is suggested that at home, one should have both a Morning Service and an Evening Service. This is a tradition that was started by Rennyo Shonin, who lived from 1415 to 1499. He was the 8th Monshu (head priest of the Hongwanji tradition) who is credited with organizing and re-vitalizing Shin Buddhism. From the time of Rennyo, there are many households in Japan that would chant the Shoshinge twice a day. In more recent times, this tradition has fallen away.
On a practical side, chanting the Sutras is a meditation using our voice to quiet ourselves to be able to receive the Dharma. Even to chant a short sutra, such as the Ju-Sei-Ge or San-Butsu-Ge, even once a day, is a nice way to gather the family and share some unique quality time.
In America, the tradition of chanting everyday was not emphasized and very few families have continued the tradition.
What is the benefit or chanting at home? Can you please elaborate?
Chanting the Sutras is a tradition from the early days of Buddhism. It was initially a way of helping one memorize the Sutras (words of the Buddha). Today, with the printed word, with the Internet and other means of communication, we can listen or read the words of the Buddha in different ways.
Sutra chanting is one of the universal characteristics of all schools of Buddhism. The sounds might be very different and the languages might be different, but the repetition of the words of the Buddha carries a very powerful message of Wisdom and the powerful expression of Compassion.
The benefit goes beyond just repeating the words. To chant is to change our breathing; to chant together with others is to manifest the Sangha; to chant is an expression of gratitude to our teachers.
As Shin Buddhist, chanting the Sutras together at Service is probably the ultimate expression of Sangha—it is doing something together.