Of all the forms of Yoga, Mantra-yoga is, in a sense, the easiest and most effective, provided one is earnest in endeavour and pure in conduct. The term Mantra is derived from the roots Mana, to think and Trai, to protect. Mantra is therefore that which protects one from aberrations. In Mantra-yoga the repetition of God’s name, Om or Soham is essential. Mantras, when uttered, certain sound vibrations are generated and these vibrations by continuous practice become more tangible till they are able to draw the deity and place it before the worshipper for continued visualization. When the deity is thus realized, the worshipper gains powers supposed to reside in the deity. By Mantra-yoga the vision of the sought-for Devata(deity) is secured. As the Mantra is in fact Devata, only by the practice thereof the Devata is realized and no amount of theoretical knowledge will do. This is the traditional view as explained by H.H.Shri Kumarswamiji in following article.
The vibrations of sound are essential for our well-being. They are definite health-builders. The invocation or creation of vowel sounds make our glands vibrate, thus enabling them to cleanse our system of impurities. Sound vibrations can be so strong as to break walls. The Bible tells us that at the sound of the trumpets of Jericho, the whole city trembled. It is said that the famous singer Caruso could break wine glasses by sustaining a powerful note. Even patients are brought back to health by sound therapy. The yogis having discovered the powerful effect of sound vibrations on our system have devised a special yoga sound named Mantra-yoga. The Mantras are based on certain word combinations which are chanted in a specific manner so as to produce a salutary effect on our system. The effect of the Mantras is not merely on the physical system but also on the mental and spiritual being. Hence the aim of Mantra-yoga is threefold – health of the body, peace of mind and unfoldment of the spirit.
In the beginning was the word, thus is the importance of sound emphasized to us. It is interesting to learn that the formation of the universe out of chaos is brought about by sound. Certain sounds produce different sets of vibrations in the ether. Some of these are of such low frequency that they form particles of what we call matter. The clairvoyant primitive people actually saw the shapes produced in the ether by sounds. They represented these shapes as the letters of their alphabets. So most of the words and sounds of the early languages actually controlled and represented that which they expressed. Throughout history we learn of the deliberate and effective use of sound. Priests have always employed it creating certain definite reactions on the people by the use of chanting and intoning. In the ancient magical rites words, sounds and shapes were combined to gain certain ends.
In India Jaimini was the first to pronounce that sound is eternal and that it is the matrix of all creation. The science of sound holds the key to the mysteries of the universe. Even thought is a sound and sound is the cause not the effect of vibration. There can be sound without vibration. Yoga has developed the theory of static sound; in developing this theory it says that there is no vacuum in this universe. Sound changes its property according to pitch, rhythm, volume, speed, frequency, harmony, intonation and utterance. The sound energy has to be organized and channelled in particular ways to produce particular results. Mantra-yoga is an attempt to organize and canalize sound energy to produce particular results.
Chakras in the Etheric body
Of all the forms of Yoga, Mantra-yoga is, in a sense, the easiest and most effective, provided one is earnest in endeavour and pure in conduct. The term Mantra is derived from the roots Mana, to think and Trai, to protect. Mantra is therefore that which protects one from aberrations. Mantras are of the Vaikhari Vak and correspond to the gross plane of matter. Vak is of four kinds, namely, Vaikhari, Madhyama, Pashyanti and Paravak. Vak ordinarily means speech but its real meaning is sound. The potency of sound has been spoken of in high terms by all writers of antiquity. All Vaks are of four kinds three of which are latent and the last is spoken. There are four stages of speech or Vak in three of which sound is inaudible. Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari are the four stages of Vak. The first of these is Para, an inaudible sound which is located in the Muladhara. In this stage there is absence of any stress towards articulation. The second of these stages is Pashyanti where there is a mere stress towards articulation in the Manipura Chakra. The stage of Madhyama is reached when the inaudible sound or Nada arrives at the Anahata Chakra, where the sound is about to form. The last of these stages is Vaikhari when audible sound is heard. It is only at the fourth stage of Vaikhari that men give utterance to speech. Yoga has recognized two kinds of sound – heard and unheard – Ahata and Anahata As we have inaudible sound so we have invisible colour. Yoga says that “in the realm of hidden forces, an audible sound is but a subjective colour and a perceptible colour is but an inaudible sound”. In the cases of completely deaf persons medical science has shown that these sounds are received by and conveyed to the patient’s organ of sight through the mind, under the form of chromatic impressions. Regarding this close relationship of sound and colour Yoga further says that “as a string vibrates and gives forth an audible note, so the waves of the human body vibrate and thrill in correspondence with various emotions, thus producing ondulations in the psychic aura of the person which result as an asolian harp which responds to the impacts of emotions and feelings, thus bringing forth the character of the person in colour phenomena, in the form of an aura. As photographs can be taken in a room which is pitch dark by means of infrared rays, so the aura which is said to be formed of subtler matter, may be photographed by means of ultraviolet rays under suitable conditions.
In Mantra-yoga, Brahman is known as Bindu which possesses a force or Shakti called Beeja; of the union of Bindu and Beeja or Shiva and Shakti is born Nada which is otherwise known as Logos or Shabdabrahma or Pranava. A regular current of sound is incessantly rising from the Muladhara upward and that sound emanates externaally from the very centre of the Universe. The soul attached to an external life is subject to the working of the senses and is constantly running after sense objects, hence is utterly oblivious of this external ever working sound. When however by the strenuous Sadhana the outward movement of the senses is checked and the vital forces are brought to a standstill, the Sadhaka becomes competent to hear the internal sound.
The central idea involved in the working of the Mantras is that certain sounds when uttered produce a disturbance in the Akasha which is, in its turn, communicated according to severity of such a disturbance to the higher planes. It is reasonable to suppose that the greater the disturbance, the greater will be communication to the higher planes. The nature of the disturbance cannot be judged from the known laws of physics. All that we can say is that there exists some relationship between sounds and disturbance in the Akasha. These sounds are known as Beejaksharas. There are various ways of interpreting a Mantra composed of various Beejaksharas. These Beejaksharas are not devoid of force since they are presided over by the Devatas which represent an aggregate of forces. One should clearly understand what particular force is intended to be invoked in a given Mantra.
In Mantra-yoga the repetition of God’s name, Om or Soham is essential. The repetition with intense feeling brings in its wake absorption in the name itself. The effects of this absorption become visible in what is known as Astasatwika. When a person begins to repeat God’s name and his repetition amounts to absorption, tears flow from his eyes, the body trembles and his breath becomes slow. When the mind is thus absorbed in God, his throat is choked with excess of joy, his hairs stand on end, his eyelids become half closed and his look becomes stationary. With the exultation resulting from these, he begins to sing songs of God’s praise. Finally his mind is merged in Samadhi.
According to Mantra-shastra all the Beejas originate from Para-vani which resides in the Muladhara. The force latent in Parawani which is sometimes known as Kundalini becomes manifest in the form of sounds which comprise the 50 letters of the Sanskrit analphabet. The first of all sounds that is heard is Pranava which represents the completeness of sound. It is held to be universal since it comes to mean Prana on this physical plane. Being thus the first of all sounds every sound or Mantra is considered to be its manifestation.
A Mantra consists of certain letters arranged in definite sequence of sound of which the letters are the representative signs. To produce the desired effect, the Mantra must be toned in the proper way according to both sound (Varna) and rhythm (Svara). By Mantra-yoga the vision of the sought-for Devata is secured. As the mantra is in fact Devata, only by practice thereof the Devata is realised and no amount of theoretical knowledge will do.
Mantras, when uttered, certain sound vibrations are generated and these vibrations by continuous practice become more tangible till they are able to draw the deity and place it before the worshipper for continued visualization. When the deity is thus realized, the worshipper gains powers supposed to reside in the deity. This is the traditional view.
- OM SHANTI | OM SHANTI | OM SHANTIHI -
This article ‘Mantra Yoga’ is taken from H.H.Mahatapasvi Shri Kumarswamiji’s book, ‘The Zeitgeist’.