I just felt this enormous longing …just longing…longing and connection with the nature around me! I felt so happy but at the same time I wanted to die …It was quite powerful !
What is mantra or mantram as it is also known?
Many people will make an association with it with the image of orange robes, garlands, exotic locations and incenses. But actually it has been known all over the world for centuries, only different cultures call it different names.
It is a Sanskrit word. According to the explanation which Eknath Easwaran gives in his book’’ Meditation’’ the name ‘’mantra’’ links to the roots ‘’man’’ (the mind) and ‘’tri’’ (to cross).’’ ‘’The mantram, repeated regularly for a long time, enables us to cross the sea of the mind’’. It transcends our mind beyond mundane reality, it actually connects us with our deeper, true self.
In Hatha Yoga Pradipika, mantra is described as subtle sound vibration, it is a tantric process for releasing energy and expanding consciousness from the limitations of mundane awareness.
Mantra could be a spiritual sentence, a formula of words or sounds which has enormous power that has been transmitted from age to age, from teacher to a disciple following a lineage or religious traditions. The practitioners wanting to achieve this state silently repeat the word as often as possible as each repetition ads to their physical and spiritual well-being.
After all Mantra is a spiritual tool which include the name of God or of the supreme reality or the Self at some form or another. One can come across different theories that explain that mantra is a part of the basic vibrations of the universe, like ‘’OM’’, which we will talk about later.
Following the examples which Eknath Easwaran mentions in his book we can see that some great mantras and very commonly used ones can be found in every religion and tradition from thousands of years ago until today:
1. Christianity - ‘’Jesus’’, or ‘’Hail Mary ‘’, or ‘’Lord Jesus Christ, son of God have mercy on us ‘’ or just ‘’ Lord Jesus Christ’’. These are mantras to awake the love and the mercy in our hearts like Jesus Himself and the wisdom and unconditional love like Divine Mother as Mary.
2. Judaism- ‘’Barukh attah Adonai’’(blessed art thou, O Lord) , to help in time of distress and turmoil , emotional cultural etc.
3. Islam -‘’Allahu akbar’’(God is great) or simply ‘’Allah’’(God).
4. Buddhism -‘’Om mani padme hum’’ (the jewel in the lotus of the heart’’), corresponds to the hidden divinity in each one of us.
5.Hinduism ‘’Rama’’ or ‘’Om namah Shivaia’’ or ‘’Hare Rama-Hare Rama, Rama-Rama,Hare-Hare, Hare Krishna –Hare Krishna, Krishna –Krishna, Hare-Hare.’’
Rama also was Mahatma Gandi ‘s mantra. It is to evoke joy and inner strength.
But most popular of all is mantra ‘’Om’’
In Patanjali’s sutra 27 :‘’tasya vacakah pranavah ‘’ (the word expressive of Ishvara is the mystic sound OM).
Because it is difficult to understand anything without a name, Patanjali gives the supreme Purusha /God a name. Using the interpretation of Sri Swami Satchidananda’s yoga sutras of Patanjali ,it states that every form vibrates with certain sound. Although the supreme is omnipresent and ever pervading, Patanjali wants a name that gives us unlimited idea and vibration which includes all sounds and all vibrations. He says it is ‘’Mmmm’’. Because we can’t easily say ‘’mmmm’’ so he writes it ‘’om’’. In the sutra 27 ‘’om is called ‘’pranavah’’- humming.
Om is the word for the supreme. Even in the Bible it is said ‘’in the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God and the Word was God’’. In the Vedas :’’The name of Brahman is Om ,and Om is Brahman’’.
The ‘’om’’ sound can be split in three - A (ah), U(oo) , M(mm).
In the Mandukya Upanishads ‘’Aum stands for the supreme reality. It is a symbol for what was, what is, and what shall be. Aum represents also what lies beyond past, present and future.’ It is divided in four stages- A,U,M and anagata (unspoken , beyond verbal pronunciation).
A –is the beginning of every sound, our first sound when we are born is normally a cry like ‘’Ahhhh’’, it is almost every nation’s alphabet first letter or sound. ’’A’’ sound is produced by opening the mouth and making the sound, it is produced in the throat where the tongue is rooted. It corresponds to the first level of consciousness Vaishvanara (Mandukya Upanishads), where senses are turned outward and one is aware only of the external world.
Then comes U – pronounced between the tongue and the palate, closer to the lips. U is Taijasa or the second state of consciousness (Mandukya Upanishads), the dreaming state , the senses are turned inward where ‘’one enacts the impressions of past deeds and present desires’’. Then closing the lips, producing M. In Mandukya Upanishads it is referred as Prajna state of consciousness .One neither dreams nor desires. There is no mind, no separateness, but the so called sleeper is not conscious of it, when he/she is ‘’awake ‘’ to this state it will ‘’open the door to the state of abiding joy’’(Mandukya Upanishads)
So in other words - A is creation, U is preservation and M is culmination or beyond. A-U-M, according to Swami Satchidananda, includes the entire process of sound and all other sounds are contained in it. Om is the origin or the seed of all the sounds and words, it is dormant in all other words.
But after the sound ends, there is still a vibration, says Swami Sachidananda. That is the unspoken sound or so called anagata. This corresponds to the forth, the super-conscious state, called Turiya ‘’neither inward, nor outward ,beyond the senses and the intellect, in which there is non other than the Lord.’’(Mandukya Upanishads).
There is always a sound vibration within us, which was before A and will be after M.
We can tap into this inner ‘’humming ‘’ when we become quiet, when we manage to still the mind and the senses through different ways of meditation like mantra repetition(japa), Bhramari pranayama etc.
This basic sound is always part of us, no one can stop it. It is the seed for all other sounds to manifest from. Just because we can’t hear it we think we are disconnected from it, but through practice we can become aware of it within us and all around us. As Swami Satchidanadna explains it ‘’the entire world evolves from that and goes back into that again. That is why God’s name should be OM. No other name should be adequate to represent Him.’’
We can find OM in Amen , Amin or Ameen …they are only different variation of the same sound , or just simple hmmmm in the humming of the bumble bee ,the motor of your car , the couch sound ,the noise of the ocean- ‘’truth is one , seers express it in many ways ‘’ ( Swami Satchidanada quotation from the Upanishads, ‘’Ekam sat, vipraha bahudha vadanti’’).
Every chant starts and ends with OM. It is to open and enrol the creation we tap into during the chanting. So by opening a chant or a mantra with Om we connect to a certain aspect of the universal consciousness.
Om reminds me of the shape of the egg, broad base, oval walls (arches) and pointed tip.
In terms of yoga and asana, especially, it helps me and inspires me to teach or hold a posture. When we start we must be open like A, broaden and well based in our pose to support us in our journey, then the breath is the U that transcends our mind and our awareness to the deeper levels of finding our true self, while at the same time supports this pose, and finally M,the tip , the top or the one pointedness where we achieve union and peace with the our edge- physically , mentally and spiritually and we become nothing but the subtle vibration hmmmmm .Take for example Lotus pose …. Obviously it is my simple theory but it helps me to be more observant and present in my practice.
In conclusion about OM I’d like to say that every time when I start a class we start with a Om. Some students are not so open to participate , others are very enthusiastic .Their Oms are ever so present and open , especially the A bit .Which made me think that we are likely to emphasise more on the physical ,dense, aspect of the creation. By the time we slowly get to the U our breath is not enough and M is almost not existent .But for a class of beginners it is understandable to be like this.
I try to encourage them to use the full length of the breath when we chant OM but it happens with practice of course.
People who are more advanced in their practise, like some of Amma’s ( Mata Amritaanandamayi , The Hugging saint ) swamis ,hardly ever open their mouth when they chant OM , it comes out as strong and very powerful Hummmmm, resembling a motor of some kind.
So really the way we chant it shows where are we in our journey...or at least I believe so.
Observing my relationship with Om, I can see when I am physically unsettled or distracted- I have longer A, worried or emotional- I have longer U, and when I am more introverted I tend to do it like a humm …
On some occasions I chant a mantra after Om.
Mantra chanting is very beneficial to set the mood and the tone of the class. It transforms the atmosphere helps the student to get into a zone for practice, exploring and studying.
Some times I do little experiment with them. After we practised for few sessions chant and repeat after me, I leave the mantra chanting and we just have Om in the beginning and Om at the end of every class. They seem to be relieved that we don’t have to do this ‘’difficult’’ and exotic singing (as some of them call it). But soon after few classes, or even may be few months later I begin the class with a familiar chant(I say a verse and they repeat it after me) and to their biggest amusement and surprise they remember it even better than the firs attempts. Oh the joy on their faces!! Priceles! So this shows how mantra really can go deeper through certain practice. The practice is necessary to tame the mind, the mantra is always within us, it is just necessary to allow it to come back.
Mantra given to you by enlighten being comes with the blessing and the love of this being. It is also a mantra which has been tested through the times and has been part of the linage or the teaching of the guru who gives it to you. Such mantra has more power than the one you or I can chose.
There are different ways to connect and make your mantra work. Simply by saying it out loud when no one can hear you, then gradually whispering, murmuring and finely repeating it in your head. Every moment when your mind is not actively involved in some demanding or dangerous operation, like driving or cutting with knife etc.. you can use mantra while waiting for the bus , the elevator, while walking or before you go to sleep, using mala (japa) etc.
On one occasion in the beginning of my mantra practising not so long ago I set my self for a walk and just wanted to see if this mantra business is that good as they say.
I kept walking by the river and repeating it, and repeating it very concentrated and… nothing… everything was normal…until suddenly I felt this overwhelming sadness in my chest, as if my heart was reaped apart, I just wanted to explode with tears on the bank of the river, my throat felt like it had a very heavy stone stuck in it …. I just felt this enormous longing ….just longing….longing and connection with the nature around me! I felt so happy but at the same time I wanted to die …It was quite powerful but I couldn’t hold it for long as there were people walking their dogs around and it would have been ‘’well’’ embarrassing to see me sobbing like mad on the bank of the river, so I had to find a way to compose my self and go home never the same again, transformed by such surprising encounter with my mantra.
So the moral is … I don’t know what the moral is. You never know until you try it. Everyone should find it for themselves in their own practise in order to allow it to blossom in their own time from within their own heart. But always make sure you have a certain preparation before hand to know the meaning of the practice you do and be honest with your self, with your expectations and experiences….and most of all be open for anything and be patient. And practise, practise, this will show you your way,it will help you to find your own true experience whenever the time is right. Trust it!