By Shalan Savur
Chanting mantras for a minimum half hour daily is spiritual alchemy.
You feel low, sad and defeated. You think woefully, wistfully, “Alongside the pain of life walks the joy of death.” Change it by just one word to: “Alongside the joy of life walks the joy of death.” Instantly, without any effort, you double your options. This is the power of thought. Thought can be a noise in the head that condemns, agitates, tires, stings, suffocates, and judges; or thought can be beautiful music in the mind that commends, calms, energises, soothes, stimulates, and accepts. Thought has power. Always remember, you have power over your thoughts.
Thoughts are nothing but a string of words charged with emotion. They are like a river and they keep flowing. You must not be drawn into their currents. They must not influence you. You should just watch them flow by like you would watch a river flow by. Buddha taught this beautifully to his disciple Ananda.
As they were walking through the woods, they passed a stream. An hour later, Buddha asked Ananda to get some water to drink from the stream. Ananda ran back swiftly, but found the water muddy. He waded into the stream but could not find any section that was clean. So, he returned and reported to Buddha that the water was dirty and undrinkable. Buddha said, “Return to the stream, don’t wade in it, just sit on the bank, observe it and wait.” Ananda followed Buddha’s instructions. He sat on the bank and observed the flow of water. Gradually, the mud settled down leaving the water crystal clear and pure. Joyfully, Ananda carried back to Buddha a jug of fresh, clean water.
Thus, Ananda learnt from his great master that when you become a witness of your mind, the thoughts subside gradually, leaving your mind fresh, clear and pure. When the mind is cleansed of thought, everything appears aglow and sacred because you are closer to the Divine without the thick crust of thought separating you from it. You cannot feel low, sad, defeated in the presence of Divinity; you can only feel joy.There are two kinds of thoughts: good thoughts and negative thoughts. Good thoughts are those that are concerned about others’ welfare or one’s own spiritual growth. Negative thoughts are about either harming and disturbing others or stirring restlessness and unhappiness within oneself.
Negative thoughts should not be entertained. They inhibit the wholeness of life and lead to illness in the body. Ease becomes dis-ease, or a bad condition turns chronic. Thoughts travel through our nervous system and neuro-endocrine pathways and affect our cellular functions. Good thoughts have no opposite. They stand by themselves. They are not the opposite of negative thoughts. You cannot fight negative thoughts with good thoughts. Good thoughts do not fight as that creates an inner conflict, struggle and pain. Negative thoughts are best vanquished by neutral means like chanting mantras. Then, the force they exert gets converted into positivity. If you constantly interact with negative people without the spiritual solitude required to balance your mind, then your positivity too can get converted to negativity. This push and pull between negative and positive forces creates tension and ill-health.
Chanting mantras for a minimum half hour daily defuses stress, unties the knots of tension and, ultimately, transmutes the positive and negative forces into goodness. It is spiritual alchemy. There are four stages of chanting. In the beginner’s stage, your attention is divided between chanting the mantra and listening to it. Gradually, you enter the listener’s stage where you are not conscious of your chanting; you only hear the mantra as it is coming from your heart. Slowly, your mind moves into the vibrations stage – you stop hearing the mantra and feel only its vibrations in your head, body, and being. Last is the awareness stage – there is no chanter, no listener, but you feel the mantra pulsating from all directions towards you like a cosmic orchestra.
As you go through these stages, thoughts become secondary, issues lose their urgency, problems lose their relevance, and pain loses its suffering. Chanting prolifically is an active meditation, a dynamic, participative meditation. It does not force the mind to be silent and still, rather it cajoles the mind to allow its thoughts, ideas, reactions, and reflexes to be drawn into its rhythm. Gradually, all the noise of the thoughts quietens into a musical hush. You become less concerned about external things. The inner aspiration to add value to your life and the lives of others intensifies. Loneliness vanishes as you feel you are a part of something greater. Pain no more has the ache of solitariness. For once, the ego sits quietly on the sidelines as the liberated self flies inward to a centre full of gentle grace and melodious lightness.
Shalan Savur is co-author of the book Fitness for Life (Jaico) and teacher of the Fitness for Life programme.
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