Mantra Meditation & Chanting – by Namadeva Acharya (Thomas Ashley-Farrand) www.sanskritmantra.com
“Mantra” means transcendental sound vibration, sound that transcends the material world. It does not originate in the material world; it originates in the Kingdom of God and descends to the material platform without losing any spiritual potency.
A mantra is not something that anyone can make up, but rather must be received through the spiritual master who has received it from his spiritual master who received it from his spiritual master, and so on. It is transmitted from spiritual master to disciple since time immemorial. There is no historical beginning; rather, the elemental source of this divine learning begins with God Himself.
A mantra is the descent of the Absolute Truth in the form of sound vibration, making it possible for us to receive Him. Hearing and repeating such sound vibration has the gradual effect of cleansing the heart and mind so that a person experiences his real identity more and more each day.
There are several ways to chant a mantra. The first is simply to say it repeatedly. The second way is called japa yoga. The practice of japa yoga necessitates use of the tongue, ears and fingers. This means that a person no longer needs to make a distinction between internal and external activities.
Many people think that meditation is internal only. They fail to recognize that their internal consciousness is affected by their external activities. Great sages have understood how external sense perception-whether via the sense of touch, sight, or hearing-actually affects consciousness. If you hear a song via the ears, that song will remain in your mind.
Whatever you do with your senses affects your consciousness.
This means that whatever you do with your senses affects your consciousness. Do not imagine that “spiritual” simply means something internal only; the internal world cannot be separated from the external world.
Therefore, the senses must be engaged in ways to help a person remember his identity and his relationship with God. Instead of leaving the senses idle (which is actually an impossibility), the senses can be engaged in japa yoga.
Yoga means “linking up” or “union” with God. Japa yoga means chanting the mantra with the sense of touch (the fingers and the lips) and the sense of hearing (the ears). Using a set of beads, the method is to repeat the mantra while holding or touching one bead at a time. Remember to chant loud enough for your own ears to hear the mantra, and try to pronounce each syllable clearly. Japa yoga is usually practiced alone.
The best way to practice japa yoga is in the morning after rising and showering. You can sit and chant for a while or, since many people find it difficult to sit for a long time without getting sleepy, you can also chant japa yoga while walking–especially somewhere like a beach or park where there is not much disturbance. The early evening around sunset is also a nice time to chant japa.
Set aside a time of day and chant a certain number of times on your beads beginning with once around in the morning and once around in the evening. And then you can gradually increase the number of rounds you are chanting each day.
The mantra can also be chanted in the mind. This needs very little explanation. If a person is regularly chanting the mantra out loud, then automatically and spontaneously it will also begin to appear in his mind. Kirtan is another way of chanting a mantra. Kirtan means the chanting of a mantra with more than one person. This is congregational chanting, whereas japa yoga or chanting in the mind are individual practices. A mantra means sound that is non-different from God, and God never dissolves or becomes diminished. He never loses His potency and infinite power.
What Are Mantras?
A saying from the Vedas states, “Speech is the essence of humanity.” All of what humanity thinks and ultimately becomes is determined by the expression of ideas and actions through speech and its derivative, writing. The true form of human evolvement is thus based on the principle of the Speech and its expression. Everything, the Vedas maintain, comes into being through speech. Ideas remain unrealized until they are created through the power of speech.
In mainstream Vedic practices and in traditional Hinduism or even Buddhism, the sound or the chant of a mantra is thus perceived to be the stepping-stone for spiritual realization and finally the attainment of ‘Moksha’ or Nirvana. In The Kalachakra Tantra, by the Dalai Lama and Jeffrey Hopkins, the Dalai Lama states, “Therefore, without depending upon mantra…Buddhahood (attaining the virtues of Buddha) cannot be attained.”
Clearly, there is a reason why such widely divergent sources of religious wisdom as the Vedas, the New Testament and the Dalai Lama speak in common ideas. Here are some important ideas about mantra that will enable you to begin a practical understanding of what mantra is and what it can do.
Definition # 1 : Mantras are energy-based sounds
Whenever a word is spoken it most certainly produces an actual physical vibration. Over time, if we know what the effect of that vibration is, then the word may come to have meaning associated with the effect of saying that vibration or word. This is one level of energy basis for words.
Another level is intent. If the actual physical vibration is coupled with a mental intention, the vibration then contains an additional mental component that influences the result of saying that particular word. The sound is the carrier wave and the intent is overlaid upon the waveform, just as a colored gel influences the appearance and effect of a white light.
In either instance, the word is based upon energy. Nowhere is this idea truer than for Sanskrit mantra. Hence though we may claim to be aware of the general synopsis of a particular mantra, the only enduring definition is the result or effect of saying the mantra.
Definition #2 : Mantras create thought-energy waves
The human consciousness is in reality a collection of states of consciousness that exists in an extensively distributed way throughout the physical and subtle bodies. Each organ has a primitive consciousness of its own. That primitive consciousness allows it to perform functions specific to it. Then come the various systems. The cardio-vascular system, the reproductive system and other systems have various organs or body parts working at slightly different stages of a single process. Like the organs, there is a primordial consciousness also associated with each system. And these are just within the physical body. Similar functions and states of consciousness exist within the subtle body as well. Therefore the individual organ consciousness is overlaid by system consciousness that is in turn overlaid again by subtle body counterparts and consciousness and thus this loop continues infinitely on this pre-arranged path.
The ego with its self-defined “I” assumes a pre-eminent state among the subtle din of random, semi-conscious thoughts that pulse through our organism. And of course, our own organism can “pick up” the vibration of other organisms nearby. The result is that there are myriad vibrations riding in and through the subconscious mind at any given time.
Mantras start a powerful vibration that corresponds to both a specific spiritual energy frequency and a state of consciousness in seed form. Over time, the mantra process begins to override all of the other smaller vibrations, which eventually become absorbed by the mantra. After a length of time that varies from individual to individual, the great wave of the mantra halts all other vibrations. Ultimately, the mantra produces a state where the organism vibrates at the rate completely in tune with the energy and spiritual state represented by and contained within the mantra.
At this point, a change of state occurs in the organism. The organism becomes subtly different. Just as a laser is light which is coherent in a new way, the person who becomes one with the state produced by the mantra is also coherent in a way which did not exist prior to the conscious undertaking of repetition of the mantra.
Definition #3 : Mantras are tools of power and tools for power
Mantras are truly formidable. They are ancient and they work extremely powerfully. The word “mantra” is derived from two Sanskrit words. The first is “manas” or “mind,” which provides the “man” syllable. The second syllable is drawn from the Sanskrit word “trai” meaning to “protect” or to “free from.” Therefore, the word mantra in its most literal sense means, “to free from the mind.” Mantra is, at its core, a tool used by the mind that eventually frees one from the distractions of the mind.
But the journey from mantra to freedom is a phenomenal one. The mind expands, deepens and widens and eventually dips into the essence of cosmic existence. On its journey, the mind comes to understand much about the essence of the vibration of things. And knowledge, as we all know, is power. In the case of mantra, this power is tangible and wieldable.
Statements About Mantra
Mantras have close, approximate one-to-one direct language-based translation.
If we warn a young child that it should not touch a hot stove, we try to explain that it will burn the child. However, language is insufficient to convey the experience. Only the act of touching the stove and being burned will adequately define the words “hot” and “burn” in the context of “stove.” Essentially, there is no real direct translation of the experience of being burned. Similarly, there is no word that is the exact equivalent of the experience of sticking one’s finger into an electrical socket. When we stick our hand into the socket, only then do we have a context for the word “shock.” But shock is really a definition of the result of the action of sticking our hand into the socket.
It is the same with mantras. The only true definition is the experience that is ultimately created in the core of the person chanting the mantra. Over thousands of years, many people have had common experiences and passed them on to the next generation. Through this tradition, a context of experiential definition has been created.
Definitions of mantras are oriented toward either the results of repeating the mantra or of the intentions of the original framers and testers of the mantra.
In Sanskrit, sounds which have no direct translation but which contain great power that can be “grown” from it are called “seed mantras.” Seed in Sanskrit is called “Bijam” in the singular and “Bija” in the plural form. Let’s take an example. The mantra “Shrim” or Shreem is the seed sound for the principle of abundance (Lakshmi, in Hinduism) If one says “shrim” a hundred times; a certain increase in the potentiality of the person to accumulate abundance is achieved. If one says “shrim” a thousand times or a million, the result is correspondingly greater.
But abundance can take many forms. There is prosperity, to be sure, but there is also peace as abundance, health as wealth, friends as wealth, enough food to eat as wealth, and a host of other kinds and types of abundance that may vary from individual to individual and culture to culture. It is at this point that the intention of the person begins to influence the degree of the kind of capacity for accumulating wealth that may accrue.
Mantras have been tested and/or verified by their original advocates or users.
Each mantra is associated with an actual sage or historical person who once lived. Although the oral tradition predates written speech by centuries, those earliest oral records annotated on palm leaves discussed earlier clearly designate a specific sage as the “seer” of the mantra. This means that the mantra was probably arrived at through some form of meditation or intuition and subsequently tested by the person who first encountered it.
Sanskrit mantras are composed of letters that correspond to certain petals or spokes of chakras in the subtle body. And knowingly there is a direct relationship between the mantra sound, either vocalized or sub vocalized, and the chakras located throughout the body.
Mantras are energy that can be likened to fire.
You can use fire either to cook your lunch or to burn down the forest. It is the same fire. Similarly, mantra can bring a positive and beneficial result, or it can produce an energy meltdown when misused or practiced without some guidance. There are certain mantra formulas that are so exact, so specific and so powerful that they must be learned and practiced under careful supervision by a qualified teacher.
Mantra energizes prana.
“Prana” is a Sanskrit term for a form of life energy that can be transferred from individual to individual. Prana may or may not produce an instant dramatic effect upon transfer. There can be heat or coolness as a result of the transfer.
Some healers operate through transfer of prana. A massage therapist can transfer prana with beneficial effect. Even self-healing can be accomplished by concentrating prana in certain organs, the result of which can be a clearing of the difficulty or condition. For instance, by saying a certain mantra while visualizing an internal organ bathed in light, the specific power of the mantra can become concentrated there with great beneficial effect.
Mantras eventually quiet the mind.
At a deep level, subconscious mind is a collective consciousness of all the forms of primitive consciousnesses that exist throughout the physical and subtle bodies. The dedicated use of mantra can dig into subconscious crystallized thoughts stored in the organs and glands and transform these bodily parts into sanctuaries of peace.