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
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.