The Characteristics of a Mantras
by Avadhutika Ananda Mitra Acarya
The mantra is like a rocket engine that propels the mind beyond the “gravitational fields” of the lower levels of consciousness, through all the turbulence of the subconscious mind, to the superconscious – and beyond. Thus, a correct process of meditation involves the generation of immense psychic energy through intense concentration on the mantra.
Some systems of meditation which involve internal repetition of certain sounds, advise the meditators not to concentrate on them. Such techniques are quite relaxing and refreshing, but for spiritual elevation, concentration is essential – the intense effort to focus the mind on the mantra. Like the farmer whose mind was concentrated on his sick son, or the chemist concentrated on his research, or the medium concentrated on her crystal ball – the fixed attention of the mind on any object of thought will produce the necessary internal energy to elevate the mind to subtler levels. Experiments on Ananda Marga meditators whose process begins with concentration have shown that, rather than being asleep or passively relaxed, their bodies and minds are in a state of intense physiological activation: more energy, rather than less, is flowing through them.
Three Qualities of a Mantra: Pulsative
What is the special effect of the mantra, that by focusing the mind on it, one can transcend the ignorance and illusions of the lower mind?
A mantra must have three qualities to hold the restless mind steady, to energize it, and to transport it to subtler realms. It must be pulsative, incantative and ideative.
First, it must be pulsative. It must be of two syllables so that it can flow rhythmically with the breathing, for breathing has a profound effect upon the state of one’s consciousness. You may have noticed that whenever you are angry or upset, your breathing is fast and short; but when you are absorbed in any task, you naturally breathe slowly and deeply.
The functioning of breathing is closely associated with the flow of vital energy in the body, called prana, which in turn greatly affects the mind. If the breathing is fast and irregular, the prana becomes unsteady and agitated; the mind becomes disturbed and perception and thinking are unclear. Thus control of breathing pranayama is an important part of yoga training. The more the breathing is slowed and regulated, the greater the composure in the prana, and the greater the concentration and control of the mind.
Once there was a minister who had greatly displeased his king. As punishment, the king ordered him imprisoned in the top of a very high tower, and the minister was left there to perish. That night, the minister’s faithful wife came to the tower, crying, to see if there was any way she could help him escape. He told her to return to the tower the following night, bringing with her a long rope, some string, some silken thread, a beetle, and a pot of honey. Wondering at this strange command, the wife obeyed, and the next night brought him the desired articles. The minister directed her to tie the silken thread firmly around the beetle’s leg, then to smear its feelers with a drop of honey and place it on the tower wall, with its head pointing upward. Attracted by the scent of the honey, the beetle crawled slowly up the wall, drawing the silken thread behind it. Hours later, it reached the top, and the minister caught it and untied the silken thread. Then he told his wife to tie the other end of the thread, dangling on the ground, to the long string. The minister then pulled up the thread until he could grasp the end of the string. Next he instructed her to tie the rope to the other end of the string, and pulling up the string, he grabbed the rope and tied it to the tower window – and slid down to freedom.
The silken thread is the motion of breathing the string is the prana or vital energy, and the rope is the mind. By controlling the motion of breathing, we can gain control over the prana; by controlling the prana, we can control the mind. Then we attain liberation from all bondages.
Thus the mantra must be of two syllables so that its slow and rhythmic internal chanting will serve to slow the breathing, steady the prana, and calm and control the restless wandering of the mind.
The Second Quality of a Mantra: Incantative
The second quality is incantative. The mantra must have a certain sound, a certain vibrational pattern so that when it is chanted internally, it will elevate the individual’s own vibration, or “entitative rhythm”.
Each entity of this creation has its own particular entitative rhythm, its own note in the universal harmony. From pulsing quasars to oscillating electrons – from the ultrasonic melody of mountain ranges to the ceaseless reverberation of the creatures, singing and drumming, whirring and clicking, laughing and crying – all the notes are orchestrated in a vast cosmic concert.
The source of this ceaseless rhythmic movement is the Infinite Consciousness, soundless and still, the ocean of peace. Undisturbed by any vibration, it flows in an infinite straight line through eternity.
The ancient sages, who had merged their minds in this sea of unexpressed Consciousness, realised that the universe is a vibrational play of varied waves with different wavelengths. By their intutional powers, they came to understand the laws of universal harmonics governing this vibrational flow, and they developed a subtle science of sound to affect the rhythms of creation – without any mechanical apparatus.
Indian music, developed by the great yoga master, Shiva, over seven thousand years ago, was one branch of that science. The classical ra’gas, or musical scales, are so subtly attuned to the rhythms of nature that each raga is to be played or sung only in a certain season and at a certain time of the day, to produce a specific emotional effect in the musician and audience. One raga is played only at dawn in the spring, to evoke the mood of universal love, another is sung only during the evening in summer, to arouse compassion; still another only during midday in the rainy season, to summon courage.
It is said that the masters of music had control over not only human emotions, but all natural manifestations as well they could produce heat and rainfall at will, and the vibrations of their voices alone would cause finely-tuned musical instruments to resonate in accompaniment! Historical documents describe the remarkable powers possessed by Tansen, the 16th Century court musician of Akbar the Great. Commanded by the Emperor to sing a night raga while the sun was overhead, Tansen’s vibrational song instantly caused the whole palace to become enveloped in darkness.
But the subtlest of all these sciences of sound was the science of mantra. The masters knew that each individual’s entitative rhythm vibrates at a particular frequency. Like many instruments in a symphony playing in harmony, the combination of all the various “bio-rhythms” of mind and body (psychic waves, heart beat, metabolic rate, etc.) produces the individual’s particular “melody”. If this individual melody is raised to subtler and slower frequencies, it ultimately becomes infinite – and the mind merges in boundless Cosmic Consciousness.
Through long inner experimentation, the yogis developed a series of powerful sounds or mantras which, when chanted internally, resonate with the individual’s entitative rhythm and gradually transform it into the infinite straight line of Supreme Peace. These sounds originated from inside their own bodies and were systematized into the oldest alphabet and language on earth – Sanskrit.
Sanskrit: The Human Body’s Eternal Song
Close your eyes for a moment and just listen.
What did you hear? Even when we are in a “quiet” environment, so many sounds bombard our ears : the dull drone of machines, distant voices carried on the wind, birdsongs, telephones, construction noises, traffic it seems impossible to escape external noise in this modern world.
But if we can withdraw our minds from these external sounds, we will hear much subtler, inner vibrations. In the absolute stillness of soundproof chambers in scientific laboratories, insulated from all external noise, some people have been able to hear some of these intemal sounds : a high-pitched resonance, and a deep throbbing the vibrations of their own nervous system, and the pulsing of their blood.
Thousands of years ago, yogis meditating in the utter silence of caves or mountains, were able to withdraw their minds not only from external sounds, but from the noises of the physical body as well. They could then focus their minds on centres of subtle energy inside them. Along the spine and in the brain, there are seven psychic energy centres or chakras which control the functioning ofmind and body. Most human beings are unaware of these chakras, but when the mind and body become more refined through meditation, these subtle energy centres can be perceived and controlled.
The chakras have been described by enlightened saints and mystics of all spiritual paths and cultures – by Buddhists, ancient Chinese, Hindus, Tantriks, Christian and Jewish mystics, Sufis, and Native American Indians. Recently, science has detected them as well. Sensitive instruments have measured energy emanations (beyond frequencies which are known to come from biochemical, anatomic systems), surging from the surface of the body at the exact locations of the chakras.
Those ancient yogis who directed their inner ear toward these energy centres, were able to hear the subtle vibrations emanating from each 9f them – 49 different vibrations in all. Then they spoke them aloud, and each of these subtle inner sounds became one letter of the Sanskrit alphabet
Thus, the Sanskrit language – sometimes called “the mother of all languages” – was developed from the externalised sounds of our subtle internal energies. It is the human body’s eternal song.
Mantra Transforms the Entitative Rhythm
The yogis then combined these powerful sounds into mantras which are attuned to the universal rhythms of the cosmos. For thousands of years, these mantras were never written down, lest they be misused by unworthy power-seekers, but were passed down directly from guru to disciple. Even today, they must be learned personally from a qualified teacher of Ananda Marga; for different individuals, with different entitative rhythms, will receive different mantras for concentration. Thus, people of all nationalities, regardless of their language, will use Sanskrit mantras for meditation, because Sanskrit is the universal language for self-realization.
The repeated chanting of the subtle inner music of the mantra (the “incantative rhythm”) in meditation vibrates the chakras and stills the restlessness of the mind. Gradually, the meditator’s entitative rhythm slows down in resonance with the mantra
Finally, it is transformed into the straight line cosmic rhythm, and merges into the eternally still and serene sea of Cosmic Consciousness, the goal of all yoga practice.
The Third Quality of a Mantra: Ideative
The mantra is not only a vibratory, pulsating sound that harmonises all the rhythms of the mind arid body with the Supreme Rhythm. It has a specific expansive meaning as well.
Yogis have taught for centuries the simple truth : “As you think, so you become.” It is now an accepted psychological fact that the mind becomes like its object of ideation. Many experiments have shown that our consciousness tends to merge or identify with any focus of attention that is maintained for a sufficient period. Thus visualizations and affirmations will gradually transform our minds according to their object of concentration.
Understanding that people are often limited by the negative or inferior ideas they have of themselves, psychologists attempt to change our “self-image” and thus to completely transform our personality. In one experiment, a man – sweating and straining as hard as he could – could only lift 150 kilos of weight. Then he was hypnotised, and the hypnotist repeated, “You are the strongest man in the world you have tremendous strength!” Under hypnosis, he lifted 200 kilos without the slightest strain or difficulty.
Today, the “power of positive thinking,” positive affirmations and creative visualisations are being used by many people all over the world to become more successful, more popular, more wealthy. But the goal of yoga is not so narrow or limited as worldly success or wealth. It is nothing less than infinity – the infinite expansion of one’s mind to merge with the Supreme Consciousness.
Thus, the process of meditation also employs a repeated affirmation – the meaning of the mantra “I am Infinite Consciousness”, “I am one with That.” Actually, this is the reality – on the highest levels of our being, we are infinite and we always have been; we only do not realize it because we identify with our small egos, with the limited lower levels of our minds.
So by daily practice, by the constant ideation, “I am That,” we gradually lessen our false identification with our body and lower mind, and identify with the blissful Self within. As the mind gradually, imperceptibly expands through higher and higher layers, one glorious day we become completely free from all the bondages of ego and realise that we are not this body, we are not this mind, we are not this imperfect personality – we are infinite. We are the Supreme Consciousness. In that moment, we go beyond the mantra – beyond pulsation, beyond vibration, beyond ideation – and in breathless silence, we dissolve into ecstatic union with the origin of all.
Sooner or later, we will all experience it – it is the birthright of every human being. Each person is a channel for infinite power and energy and knowledge – a vessel to be filled with this never–ending bliss. The revelations of dreams, hypnosis, hallucinations, creative flashes, and intuitional foresight have given us some idea of the limitless resources of our inner spaces. Now we must check the external drift of our minds and turn our awareness in upon itself so we can explore the Kingdom of Light within.
“The Supreme Consciousness is inside you like butter in milk; churn your mind through meditation and He will appear – you will see that the resplendence of the Supreme Consciousness illumines your whole inner being. He is like a subterranean river in you. Remove the sands of mind and you will find the clear, cool waters within.”
Shrii Shrii Anandamurti