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June 2009

This issue of Yoga focuses on Swami Sivananda’s teachings on mantra and music.

High on Waves

Music Yoga

May I Answer That?

The Flame of Divine Name

Rama Smarana

The Science of Mantra

Practising Japa

Gayatri Japa Day

Faith and Mantra

Sankirtan for the Soul

Stages of Sound

Nada Upasana

Nritya: Divine Dance

Krishna’s Flute



The Science of Mantra

Mantra yoga is an exact science. It has been said, Manana trayate iti mantrah – “By manana (constant thinking or recollection) of which one is released from the cycle of birth and death, that is mantra.” Mantra is that by meditating on which the jiva or individual soul attains freedom from samsara, the phenomenal world. By its aid it attains in full the fourfold fruits: dharma, virtue; artha, wealth; kama, pleasure; and moksha, liberation.

A mantra is so called because it is achieved by the mental process. The root man in the word mantra means ‘to think’. And tra comes from trai meaning ‘to protect’ or ‘to free’ – from the bondage of samsara. By the combination of ‘man’ and ‘tra’ comes mantra, which calls forth the four aims of the being, as enumerated above.

Understanding the phenomenon

Sounds are vibrations. They give rise to definite forms. Every sound produces a form in the invisible world, and combinations of sound create complicated shapes. The textbooks of science describe certain experiments which show that notes produced by certain instruments trace out definite geometrical figures on a bed of sand. It is thus demonstrated that rhythmical vibrations give rise to regular geometrical figures.

In mantra practice, the vibrations produced by the note are all-important. Therefore, emphasis is laid on the pitch (swara) as well as form (varna) of the mantra. ‘Varna’ literally means colour. In the invisible world all sounds are accompanied by colours. Different notes in different pitches give rise to different shapes. In the science of mantra, different mantras are used to invoke different gods.

The repetition of a mantra has a mysterious power of bringing about a manifestation of the divinity, just as the splitting of an atom manifests the tremendous force latent in it. When a particular mantra appropriated to a particular god is properly recited, the vibrations so set up create in the higher planes a special form, which that god ensouls for that time period. For example, repetition of the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya, produces the form of Lord Shiva. The repetition of Om Namo Narayanaya, the Astakshara Mantra of Vishnu, produces the form of Vishnu.

A mantra is divinity encased within a sound structure. It is divine power manifesting in a sound body. What happens when the mantra is recited? The repeated recitation of the mantra produces in the mind the form of the deity connected with the mantra, and this form becomes the centre of your consciousness when you directly realize it. It is therefore said that the mantra of the deva is the deva himself.

The sacred mantras are vital symbols of the supreme divinity directly revealed to sages in the vedic and upanishadic times in the innermost depths of their beings during moments of communion. These symbols are unfailing keys to gain access to the transcendental realm of absolute experience.

Six parts of a mantra

A mantra has the following six parts:

  1. It has a rishi who had self-realization for the first time through this mantra, and who gave this mantra to the world. He is the seer for this mantra. Sage Vishwamitra, for example, is the rishi for the Gayatri mantra.
  2. The mantra has a metre, which governs the inflection of the voice.
  3. The mantra has a particular devata or supernatural being, higher or lower, as its informing power. This devata is the presiding deity of the mantra.
  4. The mantra has a bija or seed. The seed is a significant word, or series of words, which gives a special power to the mantra. The bija is the essence of the mantra.
  5. Every mantra has a shakti. The shakti is the energy of the form of the mantra, that is, of the vibration forms set up by its sounds. These carry the individual to the devata that is worshipped.
  6. The mantra has a kilaka, pillar or pin. This plugs the mantra chaitanya, consciousness, that is hidden in the mantra. As soon as the plug is removed by constant and prolonged repetition of the name, the chaitanya that is hidden is revealed. The devotee gets darshan of the ishta devata.

Potencies of different mantras

Mantras are in the form of praise and appeal to the deities, craving for help and mercy. Some mantras even control and command evil spirits. By constant repetition of the mantra, the sadhaka imbibes the virtues and powers of the deity that presides over the mantra. You can attain God-realization by doing japa of any mantra. All mantras have equal potency.

  • Repetition of the Surya mantra bestows health, long life, vigour, vitality and brilliance. It removes all diseases of the body and the eye. No enemy can inflict any harm.
  • Repetition of the Saraswati mantra – Om Shri Saraswatyai Namah – will bestow wisdom and intelligence, and make one a learned person. You will get inspiration and compose poems. You will become a great scholar.
  • Repetition of Om Shri Mahalakshmyai Namah will confer wealth and remove poverty.
  • The Ganesha mantra will remove any obstacle in any undertaking. It bestows wisdom, as also psychic powers and wealth.
  • The Mahamrityunjaya mantra will save from accidents, incurable diseases and calamities, and bestow long life and immortality. It is a moksha mantra. Those who practise japa of this mantra daily will enjoy good health and long life, and attain moksha.
  • Repetition of the Subrahmanaya mantra – Om Shri Saravanabhavaya Namah – will give success in any undertaking and make one glorious. It will drive off evil influences and evil spirits.
  • Repetition of the Shri Hanuman mantra – Om Shri Hanumate Namah – will bestow victory and strength.
  • Repetition of the Gayatri, the Pranava, Om Namah Shivaya, Om Namo Narayanaya, Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, one and a quarter lakh times, with bhava, faith and devotion, will confer mantra siddhi.
  • Om Sri Ramaya Namah, Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya are saguna mantras which will enable you to attain saguna (manifested) realization first, and then nirguna (unmanifested) realization.

Awakening a mantra

A mantra is a mass of radiant energy. It generates and accelerates the creative force and can bestow supernatural powers. Spiritual life needs harmony in all parts of our being. The whole being must be in perfect ease and in tune with the divine and then alone can the spiritual truth be realized. The mantra produces this harmony. When awakened, it has the power of revealing cosmic and supra-cosmic consciousness and bestowing on the aspirant joy, illumination, freedom, supreme peace, eternal bliss and immortality.

The divine consciousness latent in a mantra is awakened through its repetition and the power of the aspirant’s spiritual practices. The mantra of a deity is that letter, or combination of letters, which reveals the deity to the consciousness of the aspirant who has invoked it through the power of his sadhana. The aspirant should try his level best to realize his unity with the divinity of the mantra. To the extent that he achieves this, the mantra power supplements his worship power. Just as a flame is strengthened by winds, so also the aspirant’s individual shakti is strengthened by mantra shakti. Then the individual shakti joins with the mantra shakti to make it more powerful.

Initiation into the divine name or mantra diksha is one of the most significant rituals in spiritual life. To receive the guru mantra from a realized saint is the rare fortune of an aspirant. A tremendous transformation begins to take place in the innermost core of the initiated. The initiated himself is unaware of the glory of initiation because of moola-ajnana, the veil of ignorance, that still covers him. Nevertheless, the transformation starts with initiation, and like a seed that is sown in the earth, ultimately culminates in the fruit of realization.

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