Their purpose is clear in the etymology of the word, which designates mantras as ‘tools of the mind’. As such, they have always meant to be used to connect the mind to a certain purpose, in order to benefit from the results – this is the case whether looked at from a superstitious or a psychological perspective. The esoteric importance of mantra may also be connected to the evolutionary notion that sound is the highest form of our manifestation – the direct evolute of ether (space), which is the most subtle of the five elements.
The Benefits of Mantra Chanting.
The practice of mantra meditation is a vital part of Yoga practice that should be cherished for its benefits. Viewing the purpose of mantra beyond the power of Sanskrit, beyond the Vedic significance and beyond the invocation of any deity, it is the conjoining of a vibrational, physical tool with the subtle essence of intention. From the simplest psychological level this is the easiest way to crystallize your intention and involve your whole body in committing to it. As a tool for dharana(concentration), it is invaluable - an engaging somatic method that prevents your mind from drifting. The chanting of mantras also gives you the chance to experience using your voice in a different way than you are used to, and the results of this on the vocal cords is incredible. Anyone in doubt of this should chant the mantra ‘Aum’ just eleven times and experience the depth and resonance of their voice after the practice.
Choosing a Mantra.
The choice of mantra is very personal to the individual, and depends upon their personal inclination. Those on the path of Bhakti Yoga will gravitate towards mantras of praise to a deity, and may use their practice to stimulate emotion – the mantra practice of the Hare Krishnas is a perfect example. Others may receive initiation (diksha) from a guru, who may connect you to the mantra practice of a certain tradition, or select the mantra most suitable to your temperament. In the meantime, it is up to you to choose the mantra with most meaning to you, and develop a concentrated practice of it. In this way will you uncover the incredible effects of working with intention in your daily life.
Mantras can be divided into two main types, according to your purpose:
These are mantras directed to a personalized version of God, favourite deity, or if you are a polytheist, the aspect of God that you most wish to connect to. Within the Indian context, these mantras usually take the Vedas or Puranas as their source. However, there is no need to limit the interpretation of ‘Saguna Mantra’ to the Hindu religion - chanting the name of Christ, Allah, or any personal definition of God also qualifies as a Saguna Mantra.
Mantras of this type connect with a version of God as simple Totality, in an abstract form – the concept known in Vedanta as Brahman. They are more likely to be drawn from the Upanishads and express the notion of a non-dual Reality – a God beyond personality or features. Among these ‘formless’ or Nirguna Mantras is the classic syllable Aum, which according to the Mandukya Upanishad, contains the whole spectrum of existence within its sound.
Kairali Yoga offers personalized courses in Hatha Yoga, Meditation and Indian Philosophy at the Ayurvedic Healing Village, Kerala.