While reciting mantra, what changes take place in the physical, psychic and emotional body of the practitioner?

Mantras are a combination of varna and akshara. ‘A’ means no and ‘kshara’ means destruction. Akshara literally means imperishable, and every akshara has a varna. Varna means colour. You may have read the book on tantra ‘Varna Mala, Garland of Letters’, by Sir John Woodroffe. Varna does not mean alphabet. Varna means colour. These akshara, these letters, have colour, frequency and a particular element as the presiding deity. They have a form and this is very important. You may not understand this. I know, because I give mantra to illiterate devotees also. If I tell you to recite Om Namah Shivaya, you cannot go further, because you have certain ideas about Om Namah Shivaya. You have a base, whether it is Hindi, English, Gujarati or Urdu. You can only imagine on the basis of what you know. You cannot imagine Om Namah Shivaya as a pure sound, because there is an obstacle which you have created for yourself. An illiterate person has no conditioning. He does not know the form of Om. He imagines the sound, and therefore every sound has form. Even most of the musicians don’t know this. We cannot throw off the form we have given to a particular sound.

Every sound has a form, frequency, colour and length. When you practise the letters of the mantra you are practising the combination of a few – for instance Aim Hreem Kreem. When you bring them together, the effect is on the basis of the content of those letters. A-u-m has three sounds, Na-mah-Shi-va-ya has five sounds, Ra-ma has two. Some mantras have five, some seven, some have eight or nine sounds. They are combined and their effect is on the basis of the particular combination. When you are practising the mantra, the effect is like taking a pebble and throwing it in a quiet pond. The ripples form circular patterns. If you take four pebbles and throw them, what happens? If you take a rock instead of a pebble, it will create waves. In the same way, the mind is like an ocean of chetana, consciousness. If you throw a sound like Om into that consciousness, it immediately creates vibrations known to us as sound waves.

Sometimes the effect is temporary, but if you go on reflecting on it again and again you can maintain the continuity of the waves. Then they go deeper and influence other areas of the mind because the mind is composed of layers. You call it conscious, subconscious, unconscious. In yoga we call it sthula, sukshma and karana, the gross mind, subtle or astral, and causal mind. Different layers of consciousness are affected by mantras. If the mantra is chanted at night it goes very deep, it influences the subconscious and unconscious dimensions. If the mantra is practised in the morning, it affects the external areas of the mind, the conscious mind.

Can you tell us about Kirlian Photography? What is the aura? Is it prana?

The research done on Kirlian Photography has brought out a very important truth – every object has an area of magnetism called an aura. In the Vedas it is said that every object has an invisible field and that field is known as the pranic field. In Sanskrit we call it mandala. You have seen the aura or halo around great saints. When people did not understand it they thought it was just the imagination of an artist and that is how people thought for a very long time. When scientists, like the Kirlians, started their research, they used a special camera which operated on a high voltage of energy, about one thousand volts.

Thousands of objects were exposed to that photography. They found some sort of field around the objects. You may call it an electromagnetic or pranic field. They exposed coins held by thieves and also held by a temple priest, leaves which were torn by nature and which were cut by a knife. Different thumbs of healthy and unhealthy, spiritual, unspiritual, depressed or elated people. Each object had different auras. They came to the conclusion that this aura is the pranic field which is influenced by the emotional personality. Everybody has an aura. You may call it a magnetic aura, pranic aura or mandala. It can shrink, it can expand, it can even touch another person.

On the basis of this photography, spiritual healers in the West are awarded certificates for spiritual healing. Spiritual healing is more or less the same science which is being practised in rural India even today. Its modern version is spiritual healing. Those who claim to be spiritual healers are exposed to Kirlian photography. Their auras are examined and if it is found that their pranic aura is very powerful and can influence the organism of another person, they are given a diploma. They are registered as spiritual healers. Some people have a very powerful pranic emission. These pranic emissions are controlled by different chakras where pranic energy is stored like in a battery.

In different lives, whether you practised yoga or not, you were evolving, and have been evolving and this evolution is the ascendance of consciousness in various chakras. I am not talking about Darwin’s theory of evolution. Here evolution means the consciousness of energy which evolves from matter and goes beyond matter. Matter is one state of energy.

Matter is not different from energy but matter can manifest itself in the form of energy. That is called transformation, and also evolution. In the course of time, even matter evolves and manifests in the form of energy and whatever energy is there in this material plane is nothing but the manifestation of the evolved form of matter. Body is matter. Mind is matter. Mind is not a non-material substance. Mind is not a spiritual substance. It is not a divine substance as it is referred to in religious language. It is matter and this matter can also emit pranic energy through a process of evolution.

The chakras have inherited prana which you have achieved in the course of your evolution as a human being through different incarnations. Consciousness, the atman or individual awareness does not necessarily start in mooladhara chakra. Most of us have our individual awareness above manipura chakra. Quite a few have it in anahata. This is what I mean by evolution. The ascent of individual awareness from a material base through a particular channel to the spiritual level is called evolution. In millions of years, man may have the same form as today – a bit taller, a bit shorter, a bit fatter, a bit thinner, but we are going to be more or less the same. Nature has come to a halt in so far as the natural evolution of the body is concerned. With the human incarnation it is the evolution of energy which is beginning and there are people who have this magnetic energy from birth, this prana is awakened in them – and in others it is not. Through the practices of yoga, tantra or other allied sciences, this pranic energy can be developed.

I have been researching this with a Colombian disciple in South America. She is a professor and has been working with ECG, EEG and other scientific instruments. She is writing a thesis to be presented in two or three years’ time. She has travelled far and wide. She comes to India once or even twice a year to have consultations. She has taken thousands of photographs of the thumb of many people. She has also taken photographs of the books that are kept in my cupboard and of the same books kept by somebody else. The books have a different aura. She has also taken photographs of a wrist watch, an inanimate object. It used to belong to somebody else. First she took a photograph of it and gave it to me. I wore it for a year and then she took another photograph. This time the aura was different.

Animate and inanimate objects have chaitanya, consciousness. In Vedanta philosophy both animate and inanimate objects have atma, soul. Even a stone or an animal has atma. It is written in the shastras: Everything in the universe is permeated with the supreme consciousness. Regardless of whether it is a human being or an animal, you cannot say that it does not have chaitanya, the spark of consciousness, divinity or whatever you may like to call it.

The aura can shrink as well as grow. I remember another experiment that was done in Australia. A scientist took a Kirlian photograph of a man and a woman. After that, he asked them to shake hands and took another photograph. He found that the aura of the woman had enlarged and the aura of the man had shrunk. It was an unusual experiment. I don’t know exactly what it means. It is up to you to interpret it.

The shrinking and enlarging of the aura depends upon one’s emotional condition. Anger, greed, passion, charity, compassion, mercy and many other qualities relate to one’s emotional personality. Sometimes it has also been seen that just before death the aura is completely absent. I have tried to correlate the same with the science of swara yoga. In the science of swara yoga, when you look for your own shadow and the shadow does not appear, it means death is imminent. This has been observed and it means that pranas have begun to withdraw themselves from the body. If you practise meditation, pooja, mantra or similar sciences related to yoga, tantra or occultism, you are enlarging your own aura with these practices. The aura relates to your pranic body.

In Vedanta they talk about the five sheaths or five bodies, the pancha koshas. The grossest of these is annamaya, the gross body. Anna means food. Subtler than that is pranamaya, composed of prana. Third is manomaya, the mind body. Fourth is vijnanamaya, the body of the psyche. The fifth one is anandamaya, the sheath of bliss. These are the pancha koshas of which we are composed. When we talk about prana, you should remember that prana is material as well as higher energy. Ida and pingala represent two forms of energy. Ida represents mind or mental energy and pingala represents prana, the pranic energy. The aura I am talking about relates to the emissions radiated through pingala nadi. Our own existence depends on the prana supplied through pingala nadi.

Pingala nadi can be equated with a small local generator like the ones which were used earlier that had limited energy and could supply energy to a few thousand buildings. Later those local powerhouses were withdrawn and the big thermal, hydraulic generating stations came into existence. In the same way, the source of prana is pingala and kundalini. both. Kundalini shakti is the form of prana which flows through pingala and sushumna channels. Radiation of prana takes place from kundalini even though your kundalini is not awakened. Yet we cannot say that it is not awakened because even if it is not awakened, the radiations are there. When radiation from kundalini is conducted through pingala nadi, it becomes this prana. If the same radiation is conducted through sushumna nadi, it opens sahasrara, the thousand petal lotus on the crown of the head. The prana, the radiation which is conducted by pingala nadi, cannot open the crown lotus.

Not everybody has kundalini in mooladhara chakra. When we say that the whole of kundalini is in mooladhara, we mean that mooladhara is the abode of kundalini. During the course of evolution and through the practices of yoga or tantra, kundalini makes its way up through the chakras. You will find many of us have it somewhere near manipura and anahata. If it were in mooladhara, you would not be here now, you would not understand what I am talking about, because when kundalini is in mooladhara, the jiva or individual is in total ignorance. When kundalini has gone beyond manipura chakra, there is expression of spiritual awareness. There is a desire to discover something beyond what we see and what we know.

It is very difficult to know exactly where kundalini is. In order to trace it, the easiest method is the method of mantra. There are also other systems. You have your own mantra given by your guru. You are practising it for concentration or maybe for accomplishing some motives, desires or maybe you are afraid that God will get angry if you do not practise your mantra. Whatever your attitude, if you practise mantra by fixing your awareness in each chakra for a day, a week or a month and go through all the chakras a number of times, sooner or later you will discover exactly where kundalini shakti has reached. When you are able to discover the exact point where kundalini has ascended, you can project it. The same projection can be seen in the halo of the great saints. You must have seen that Rama, Krishna, Christ, Mohammad, Zarathustra, many sadhus and gurus have a halo. It is not imaginary, it is real.

In fact, even a criminal can be detected by reading the aura. I am not only talking about spiritual people. Criminals also have a definite type of aura. This prana is a very important thing. Do your best to enlarge it. See that it is not wasted. Meditation, mantra and yoga helps you to develop it.

3 November 1981, Bombay, Maharashtra