“A quiet mind is all you need. All else will happen rightly, once your mind is quiet. As the sun on rising makes the world active, so does self-awareness affect changes in the mind. In the light of calm and steady self-awareness, inner energies wake up and work miracles without any effort on your part” – Nisargadatta Maharaj
What is a mantra? The word ‘mantra’ literally means “mind tool”. Mantras are energetic sound postures for the mind that create emotional frequencies, expand our consciousness, rewire and transform negative thought patterns in the subconscious mind, and build positive neuropatterns in our brains. However, mantra is more than a suggestion for the mind, but also a means for attaining direct experience with the Self; the never-changing truth. Sound is the fundamental creative source of the universe. Hearing relates to the element of space (akash), which is the origin of all the elements and ever present within each of the elements (space, air, fire, water, earth). Through sound, we can affect all elements out of which our body is made and positively change our para (underlying feeling). Whether your underlying feeling is stressed, calm, or cheerful, this feeling comes from the subconscious mind and the thousands of energy centers in our bodies (chakras/nadis), all of which are vibrating to generate para. Para sounds generated by our energy are the source of all intuition, inspiration, thought, and source of all action. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the thoughts you give attention to, the lyrics you are listening to, and any negative self-talk you engage in, because they can become mantras in your mind that influence your subconscious feeling. When we have repeated thought patterns, they create lasting impressions on the soul. By using the ancient practice of mantra meditation, we can make positive impressions on the soul and control our para, bringing us closer to peace.
The practice of mantra meditation positively affects the emotional Self. Mantras generate certain frequencies that have a pattern of their own and a vibrational field that produces different intonations. These intonations influence our sympathetic and parasympathetic nerves, which influences our sympathetic nervous system; affecting our breath, digestion and other processes that are happening automatically in the body. The sympathetic response (i.e., fight or flight response) produces the neuromotor response and influences both hemispheres of the brain. Repeating a mantra creates positive emotions and activates the psychic centers, which brings balance to the nervous system.
Repeating a mantra with or without a counting device (i.e., mala) is known as ‘japa’. It is a practice used by people of all faiths- Jews, Christians, Hindus, etc.- as a powerful tool to control the mind. In Tantra, japa is used with some additional tools to make its effects more positive, long-lasting, and powerful (i.e., offering the five elements, homa, yantra). Through each repetition of the mantra, the practitioner moves from the physical/material to the spiritual/higher self. Silent japa (repeating the mantra inside), known as ‘upanshu japa’, is more powerful than japa said aloud. One way to practice silent japa is to perform japa aloud for a period of time so that the ears will hear the mantra and the brain will register it. The practitioner should gradually decrease the volume of sound and begin repeating the mantra inside. The best time of day for mantra meditation is in the early morning because it sets a rhythmic pattern for the day (theta brain waves= more easily influenced). However, you can put your mind on the mantra anytime of the day where your thoughts are repetitive and useless (i.e., when you’re unloading the dishwasher, taking a shower, cleaning the house, etc.). Once you start the mantra, finish it to keep the neuropattern. Working with written japa is also helpful in establishing the neuropattern, but not necessary. Some people may find singing the mantra aloud before bringing it inside helps create the neuropattern because it brings an emotional element. A practitioner may also speed up or slow down the mantra. When a practitioner slows down the mantra, it can create more emotion and relax the heart and mind, but also enables more space for thoughts. When the mantra is repeated with higher speed, it will eventually exhaust the mind and leave less space for thoughts. It is a matter of preference and trying out what works best in your practice.
A mala is made of 108 beads that correspond to the 108 life-force energy points in the body. There is always an extra bead hanging outside the row of beads, whose total number is usually 108. This 109th bead is called sumeru, or the “guru bead”. When doing japa, the mala should be used in the right hand. The beads should be held by the middle finger and ring finger and should be turned with the help of the thumb (the index finger and little finger should not touch the beads). The sumeru bead should never be passed (starting at the first bead next to the sumeru and ending on the last bead before the sumeru). If continuing japa after one mala is finished, turn the mala and make the last bead (the one which ended the first round of mala) become the first bead for starting the second round of mala. By using a mala for a certain time (i.e., 125,000 times), the mala itself becomes siddha (charged with energy). By wearing one, the aspirant gets energy from it; it is in fact the same energy one has put into it while doing the japa. The aspirant may also develop spiritual powers, called siddhis (i.e., astral projection, clairvoyance, clairaudience, etc.), through japa. Also, the mala conditions the brain, so that each time you see it, it reminds you of your mantra.
There are several types of mantras: mantras to explain Truth, mantras that advise, mantras that encourage a certain emotional state, and healing mantras. In Tantra, all mantras are manifestations of consciousness. Since we can’t manifest all the divine energies at once, we choose one mantra at a time (i.e., Ganesha mantra for general spiritual growth, Kali mantra for fear, Bhairava mantra for anger/irritability, Shiva mantra for simplicity/withdraw, Vishnu mantra for harmony and balance in life, Mahamrityunjaya mantra for fear of death, etc.). Some mantras like the Gayatri mantra are specifically designed to enhance self-awareness, while others may be used to reduce anger or fear, generate feelings of love and joy, and remove certain attachments and desires. The power of mantra goes beyond meaning because it is based in a deep understanding and science of sound from the Vedic culture. In the Sanskrit alphabet, each sound has a particular meaning associated with a specific effect on the energy. For example, if you have a sound that creates an energy that makes you feel more courageous, then the meaning of the sound will also mean “courage”. There are also many other benefits to repeating mantras. For example, when we say “AUM” or “OM”, the sound generated vibrates our brain and stimulates the Vagus nerve and entire limbic system, alleviating symptoms of depression and anxiety. “AUM” is the essence of all mantras and present in all scriptures of Vedic origin. “AUM is a whole that represents the all-encompassing cosmic consciousness, turiya, beyond words and concepts: the consciousness of the fourth dimension, pure self-existence”- Harish Johari.
A regular mantra meditation practice will change your life. We just need to give the peace we want some attention. If you are interested in mantra meditation, we offer monthly group Gayatri mantra meditations every second Saturday of the month (next class on 1/8/2022 at 4:30 pm) and offer meditation and intuitive energy coaching. We believe in giving everyone the tools to heal themselves, know themselves, and raise the vibration of the planet. Join us and learn how to step into your heart-centered energy and live from a place of peace.
Tools for Tantra by Harish Johari
Mantra Meditation by Peter Marchand
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