Purpose of Mantra

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When I first went abroad and visited countries where the predominant religions are Christianity, Islam and Judaism, I was hesitant to talk about mantras. I thought their impression was that mantras belong to the vedic or Hindu dharma. I only taught them asana, pranayama, relaxation and meditation, nothing more than hatha yoga and raja yoga. I was always quiet about mantra and when people asked me about mantra, I avoided it. I did not want to give them the impression that I had come to teach Hindu dharma. I went abroad to teach yoga for mental peace and physical health. To my surprise, the request and demand for mantra was so great. You may not believe that now when I go abroad my only program is mantra diksha. I do not teach asana and pranayama, I have no time for them!

The only thing I have to give now is mantra diksha and spiritual name. The wish to obtain mantra is so great in those countries where religions are non-vedic that sometimes I give mantra from morning to midnight. Every mantra takes roughly ten seconds, because I keep cards ready with different mantras like Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Om Namah Shivaya, Sri Ram Jaya Ram, according to different sadhakas. I ask them a question and then hand them a card.

While I was in Czechoslovakia, I was pestered so much about mantra. I hesitated for it was a communist country and I had to be very careful while talking about something that looks like a religion. One day, it was almost one o’clock in the morning, I was sleeping and someone knocked on my door. I came out and said, “What do you want?” A lady replied, “I want a mantra.” I said, “This is not the time for mantra; come in the morning.” She said, “I want it so much. I cannot wait until morning because I might be dead. Maybe my mind will change in the morning. Now I am eager to have a mantra, so I want it now.” Then I asked her what mantra she would you like to have. She said, “I want the bija mantra of Devi Durga.” I asked if she had any concept of Devi Bhagavati Durga. She said, “Yes, I know she is the divine shakti.” I asked her, “What is your religion?” She said, “My parents were Roman Catholic.” I asked, “Why don’t you have the mantra of your Devi Bhagavati Mary?” She said, “No, I want to have mantra, not the name of god or goddess.”

Now you understand that mantra is not just the name of a particular person, man or woman. It is a combination of varana and akshara, colour and form, and thereby has the capacity to attain very great frequency and vibration. Mantra yoga is a type of nada yoga in which a particular sound is produced. When you produce that sound, mentally or audibly, it creates a vibration on different levels of consciousness or chitta. Chitta is like an ocean and when you produce a mantra either mentally or audibly, you are creating great vibration.

Usually we do not use the term ‘god’ or ‘goddess’. The proper words are ‘devata’ and ‘devi’. Etymologically the root is deep, to enlighten, to shine. Therefore, the words deva and devi refer to an object which is prakashit, jyotirmaya, illumined, effulgent.

Now we come to a very important point. When you close your eyes, at first you see nothing. Sometimes thoughts come into your mind. At this particular moment, if the vision of Devi, Rama or guru happens to come in your chitta, what will you call it? When in meditation or dhyana the object of your meditation becomes clear and you see it, what will you call it? You will say, ‘My mind is now enlightened’. The words devata and devi mean illumination.

Mantra is the most important element for the purification of mind. The etymology of mantra is ‘manana trayate tasmat mantraha’. Manana means reflection; thinking about something again and again. Trayate means freedom, liberation. By the reflection on a particular word, when your mind becomes free from vasana, vikshepa, maya, mamata, bandhan, desires, dissipation, illusion, attachment or possossiveness and bondage, that is called mantra. The role of mantra is to make your mind free. Without making your mind free from these limitations, it is not possible to have darshan. If you do not clean your mirror you cannot see your face. If you cannot make your mind free from these things you cannot see the atman, the soul. Therefore, for atma darshan, paramatma darshan, realization of self or visualization of your guru, your ishta devata, the first important thing is to make the mind free.

The mind has three doshas, humours, and the body also has three doshas. The three doshas of the body are kapha, vata and pitta, phlegm, wind and bile; of the mind, mala, avarna and vikshepa, impurity, veil or covering and dissipation. Until you remove the three doshas from the mind you cannot see the real thing. You may be concentrating on Devi, your guru, ishta devata or any vigraha, image, but you will not be able to see them even if you make a lot of effort because the three doshas of mind have not been removed. The shastras say that you can do this by tapasya, austerity, but do you know how difficult tapasya is? Everybody cannot do it. By shuddha or pure karma yoga you can also remove these faults but we cannot do karma yoga because it is so difficult. There are many ways of removing these doshas and out of these mantra is the easiest.

The shastras say mantra should not be read from a book but should be received from a guru. In our times and also in ancient times, gurus used to whisper the mantra into the ears of the disciples on a particular day. It became the guru mantra and the disciple is expected to start his sadhana with it. In vedic dharma everybody is supposed to do some sort of pooja every morning in which you propitiate different deities like Rama, Krishna, Devi, Durga. Everybody should do it, not for purification of mind but for pratyahara, for withdrawing the mind from the sense objects. The mind likes variety, therefore it has to be presented with varieties of deities. That is how you begin your sadhana.

After sometime when you become a mumukshu, when you want to realize the higher self, paramatma, attain samadhi, peace of mind, develop your mental powers, awaken kundalini, know things beyond the mind and senses, pooja alone will not do. You will have to have a focus, a point, an object, a vigraha for your mind. That can be done when you approach a guru for a mantra and the mantra becomes a focus. You may practise pooja of all the deities, you may observe Ramnavmi, Krishna Janmashtami, Sivaratri, Durga pooja, it is perfectly all right. It is not necessary to abandon these things at any stage of life. Even if you become a jivanmukta, a siddha, a muni or a rishi, still it is very important to have respect and devotion for all forms of divinity. However, for your personal evolution a mantra is necessary.

When you take a mantra from your guru with shraddha, bhakti and nishtha, faith, devotion and sincerity, then that mantra becomes a part of your mind, a part of your emotions. Every morning and night when you practise that mantra, you are trying to concentrate your mind. A one-pointed mind is very powerful. When the mind does not have any point, when it is running hither and thither, it is a weak mind. A weak mind does not help you in grihastha ashram, with your studies or in controlling the negative qualities that you have. You cannot improve yourself with a weak mind. You cannot influence others with a weak mind. You cannot succeed in life with a weak mind. Therefore, one should have a strong mind, ekagrata chitta, a one-pointed mind. If you can withdraw, dissolve or stop your mind, then that is best, but it is very difficult. So the next best thing is to have a one-pointed mind.

Take a magnifying glass and put it between the sun and any object, say paper. In a few seconds, the paper begins to burn not just because the rays of the sun are passing through the magnifying glass, but because they are concentrated. If the same rays fall on a piece of paper, they cannot burn it because they are dissipated. Only when you concentrate the scattered rays of the sun through means of a magnifying glass do they have the power to burn the paper. The same law applies to the mind. The mind which runs after vishaya bhoga, sense objects, can achieve nothing but ashanti, turbulence. The same mind when concentrated through the medium of your guru mantra has the power to improve your personality, make you free from sickness and help you in your studies. It is not that it can only give you intuition about your business, profession or career but so many things. In order to make this weak mind powerful and utilize it for creativity, improvement, progress, self-development, a mantra is ordained by the guru for the disciple.

You can receive a mantra from any guru. You should not wait because time is fleeting. The mantra which you take from a guru is said to be uttamavidya. Uttama means supreme and vidya means knowledge. To receive a mantra is to receive uttamavidya, supreme knowledge. And from whom will you have this uttamavidya? The shastras say it must be obtained from an ordinary person or an extraordinary person. When you find a golden bangle or a diamond in a dirty place, what will you do? You know what you will do. If that is the logic with a material object which is precious should not the same logic apply to uttamavidya?

Why are you searching for an extraordinary person? How long are you going to wait for him? Extraordinary people are not born every day like cats and dogs. They are born rarely, like Swami Sivananda, and great saints like Paramahamsa Ramakrishna. Therefore, the moment you are desirous of making your mind strong and improving the quality of your life, you must seek a mantra.

26 January 1982, Mysore, Tamil Nadu