The Mystic Syllable
Human mind is always under the influence of external and internal events.
These events generate tremendous thought waves and makes the mind restless.
Taming the ever turbulent mind is not an easy task. That is why most of the
people miserably fail to attain higher stages of meditation. They may sit with
eyes closed and no other activity at hand but they simply can't meditate.
Attaining deep stages of meditation requires a lot of rigorous training and to
that end reciting Mantras is one of the most effective way.
The word Mantra is a combination of two syllables - Man + Tra.
Man means thinking and Tra means liberation. Thus Mantra
is a combination of one or more words that liberates the practitioner if
contemplated upon. There is also another meaning of the word Mantra - the one
who protects. Thus Mantra protects the practitioner from physical, mental, moral
and spiritual dangers.
One important aspect of Mantras is that they are not invented but rather
discovered. Ancient Indian sages (called rishis) and Yogis discovered
them in the super conscious state of mind. In the deep state of meditation these
combinations of letters and words were reveled to them.
A mantra usually takes the form of one or more letters arranged in a
definitive sequence of sounds of which the letters are the representative signs.
Thus mantras are sounds. It is our day to day experience that sound represents
some form. For example, when you say "donkey", this word creates certain form in
your mind that you identify as donkey. This world consists of forms that have
names. Name and its form are two sides of the same coin. Without the one the
other cannot exist. If you have name it must have form and if you have form it
must have name. Remember that when you hear some foreign sound which you never
heard before it still triggers a form in your mind but your brain cannot
identify that form clearly.
Mantras being sound are vibrations. These vibrations are responsible for
forms. During school days many of you might have verified this fact with a
simple experiment. You take a tuning fork and strike it near a cardboard on
which fine particles of iron are arranged. The particles arrange themselves in
certain shape or form. This sound vibrations are responsible for generating
forms. This is an important concept in Yoga and Tantra. Later you will
learn some more details about sound and creation.
Mantras can be classified as Vedic, Pauranic or Tantric.
The Vedic mantras are from Vedas, Puranic mantras are from
puranas whereas Tantric mantras are from Tantras. Vedic mantras are
generally knowledge oriented e.g. Aham Bramhasmi (I am Bramhan), Tat Twam Asi
(You are That). Puranic mantras are generally devotional e.g. Om Namo Narayama,
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevays. Tantric mantras often do not have any meaning but
they are Bija mantras (seed mantras) e.g. Lam, yam, Aim etc.
Irrespective of the class of mantras the sacred word Om is considered as the
highest of them. Om is considered as the essence of all the Vedas. People often
believe that Om is a letter of Sanskrit alphabet. However, in reality it is
language independent. It is a sacred sound that symbolizes the Supreme Reality
and this supreme reality cannot be tied to a particular language.
Mantras are used to tame the mind. Reciting a mantra again and again is
called as Japa. Thus Japa means the repetition of a mantra with faith and
devotion. Japa is of three types:
- Vachika or loud
- Upanshu or chanted in soft voice so that only the practitioner
can hear it
- Manasik or mental recitation
Out of these three types the Manasik Japa is the best. However, during
initial stages it is recommended to chant it loudly. This way the mantra is
embossed clearly on your mind. One important thing to remember while doing Japa
is that one must concentrate on the Japa. Just "lip service" is not sufficient.
It is easy to get your mind carried away while doing the Japa. One needs to
bring it back time and again. Below are some suggestions that aid concentration:
- Visualize the mantra as you are reciting it
- Visualize as if you are writing the mantra while chanting is going on
- Listen to the mantra with great attention with "mental" ear
- Clearly visualize the form represented by the mantra you are chanting
You will find that once the mantra sinks and gets embossed deeply in your
mind it works at subconscious level also.