By Roohi Saluja January 2005 In tantra, there exists an entire science that makes use of sound energy in spiritual practice. Mantras are sonic vehicles that encapsulate mystical energy and direct it towards specific aims. Beej MantraMeditation and Mantras by Swami Vishnu-Devananda explains the significance of the following beej mantras:• Haum: In this mantra, Ha is Shiva and Au is Sadashiva. The nada and bindu mean that which dispels sorrow. This is the beej mantra for worshipping Shiva.• Dum: Here, Da means Durga, and U means to protect. This is the beej mantra for Durga.• Kreem: Ka is Kali, Ra is Brahman, and Ee is Mahamaya. This is the beej mantra for Kalika.• Hreem: Ha means Siva, Ra is prakriti, Ee means Mahamaya. This is the beej mantra for Mahamaya.• Shreem: Sha means Maha Lakshmi, Ra means wealth, Ee is contentment. Beej Mantra for Maha Lakshmi.• Kleem: This is the Kamabija. Ka means Kamadeva, the lord of desire; it also means Lord Krishna. La means Indra and Ee means contentment or satisfaction.• Hoom: Ha is Siva and U is Bhairava.• Gam: This is the Ganesh beej. Ga means Ganesh and bindu is the dispeller of sorrow.• Kshraum: This is the beej of Narasimha, a fierce half-man-half-lion incarnation of Vishnu. Ksha is Narasimha, Ra is Brahma, Au means with teeth pointing upwards. How does sound affect us? Try this. Close your eyes and imagine screeching cars, blaring horns and hooting train carriages. What do you feel? Your pulse quickens, heartbeat races and blood seems to be gushing towards the heart. Now change the scene. Imagine the sound of water gushing gently over the pebbles, and a thousand anklets beating against the soft wind, in tune with the flowing stream. At once, a calm, serene feeling takes over, lulling your senses to a soft awareness. This is the magic of sound. Vedic scholar and author Dr David Frawley in Ayurveda and the Mind argues that there is a background sound pattern to our consciousness. It may be a song we have just heard, or the sound bytes from a painful or pleasurable event. Some movement of sound is always going on inside us. Like rhythm in music, it determines the rhythm of our consciousness. Furthermore sound is the vehicle for emotion, which we can either reinforce or release. We sing with joy, shout in anger, cry in sorrow and groan in pain. Thus each emotion corresponds to a particular kind of sound, and intensified emotions usually demand stronger sounds. Seed of MatterBesides sight, no other human sense is as cultivated and evolved as the faculty of sound. In fact, ancient scriptures document the creation of the entire universe as a dance, a symphony with multiple melodies orchestrated in singular harmony. The Bible mentions this as the ‘Word’ principle: ‘In the beginning was the Word, the Word was God and the Word was with God.’ Fascinatingly enough, Tantra identifies this ‘Word’ as the Shabda-brahman—the sonic Absolute that is the Ashabda-brahman, soundless Absolute stepped down to the level of shabda—cosmic sound. This Shabda-brahman is the great cosmic wavelength experienced as God. According to Tantra, in the beginning was Shakti—the unmanifest cosmos that floated like an egg in the silent, motionless Void, and in which was concentrated the seed power of all universe. A primal shudder (Shabda-brahman) disturbed the slumbering equilibrium of Shakti, and aroused the rajas (active principle) to carry out the creation of the manifold universes. Consequently, Shakti split into two aspects of magnetic force—bindu and nada, positive (male) and negative (female) forces respectively. Just like the Shiva-Shakti union that is the groundwork of Tantric philosophy, the bindu and nada are a duality in separation. The universe then unfolds and expands like a rosebud. The vibrating mass of energy keeps differentiating and expanding as wavelengths. By the fifth differentiation, energy is evolved on the gross plane, with the creation of 50 articulate sounds (varnas), corresponding, according to Tantric texts, to the 50 skulls worn by Kali. These sounds then enter various permutations creating forms. Owing to this reproductive capacity, Tantra identifies these 50 alphabets as ‘matrices’ (matrika), literally ‘little mothers’. These alphabets are further divided into 16 vowels (feminine/Shakti principle) and 34 consonants (male/Shiva principle). Stepping down generations, these primal sounds have suffered fragmentation and disintegration, but mantras remain their closest approximation till date, revealed to the ancient sages in Sanskrit syllables. ‘K’ and ‘Ksh’, the first and the last consonant, correspond to alpha and omega, and together form akshar—the eternal vibration. Similarly, ‘A’ and ‘Ha’, the first and last vowels, with the addition of ‘M’, representing the life force, comprises ‘aham’ (I), the entire divine consciousness. This ancient sonic wisdom has a scientific explanation in the Quantum Theory that argues that matter is never inert, but in a state of constant motion—continuously dancing and vibrating, much like the tandava (cosmic dance) of Shiva that explains life as a rhythmic interplay of birth and death, creation and destruction. Also, the Shiva-Shakti principle of duality in separation is invoked in the Quantum Theory. The latter expounds that the cosmos cannot be decomposed into independently existing units, rather it’s an intricate web of relations between various parts of a unified whole. Nature of MantraMantra is explained as a mystical energy encapsulated within a sound structure. Every mantra contains in its vibrations a certain power. Tracing the etymology, one discovers that the word ‘mantra’ is composed of the verbal root ‘man’ (to think) and suffix ‘tra’ (instrumentality). Thus mantra is literally ‘instrument of the mind’. According to another traditional etymology, mantra gets its name from providing protection (trana) for the mind (manas). Swami Veda Bharati in his book Mantra and Meditation speaks of the mantra as an ‘extra factor’ that cultivates, cultures and purifies the mind, making its perceptions sharp and concentrated. It draws to itself the energy that is ordinarily going into helpless, disorderly personality patterns, and reshapes and returns it to the faculties of the mind in a freshly created order. This is reverse of cosmic evolution where everything proceeds from the unconscious, unmoving and unknowable to the conscious, moving and the knowable. If you are wondering how a simple sound, syllable or word can exert such potency on the human mind, then you need to remember that mantra is not part of human language; it is not just a simple sound but a concentrated expression of Shakti. Its study is akin to the study of psycholinguistics. Ancient seers identified each syllable with a corresponding mental energy. Swami Nikhilananda, Acharya at the Chinmaya Mission Centre, New Delhi, says, ‘Human consciousness has the inherent quality of spanda (the infinite cosmic vibration) which can be evoked by awakening the power of the mantra.’ This is also called ‘mantric consciousness’ (mantra-chaitanya) that goes beyond the audible sound to the psycho-spiritual power itself. It is often argued that a mantra without a ‘consciousness’ is like any other sound. Tantra describe this power of human consciousness as kundalini-shakti—the super-intelligent force sustaining body and mind through the agency of life energy (prana). Tantric texts beautifully portray the awakening of the kundalini as the rising of the coiled serpent, the divine power that lies dormant in every human being, and is aroused and pulled upward through the chakras, the psychic centers of the body. Georg Feuerstein explains, ‘When the kundalini leaves the bottom chakra (Muladhara), it gathers the fundamental energies captured in the four letters inscribed in the four petals of the Muladhara lotus. It then proceeds to the second chakra, where it gathers the six letter energies, proceeding to the third chakra, and so on. Finally, the letter energies of the Ajna chakra are dissolved into the transcendental seed point (Om) together with the chakra itself. When all 50 letters of the basic sounds (varnas) are thus dissolved, enlightenment occurs.’ According to the Tantric sound model, there are at least three levels at which sound exists: Pashyanti—Word-principle as a pure vibration known only to the intellect, Madhyama—Word-principle as a psychic state, and Vaikhari—Word-principle as the spoken word. Beyond these is the transcendental level of the Para-Vac, which is the Supreme Speech—Shakti in perfect union with Shiva. Mantra in ActionThe intricate workings of mantras on the human psyche can be understood by dealing first with what Tantra calls nada. Swami Veda Bharati explains, ‘Nada [in Tantra] is the principle of sound that is not differentiated.…It is expressed in Indian music by the presence of a drone instrument such as the tanpura…In the background of this music, there must remain the undifferentiated monotone of a drone like that of an ooooommmmm…From birds chirping, to the cosmic rays racing through space…to supernovae exploding, to ants crawling—if all these sounds were simultaneously recorded, there would be only one single sound: ooooommmmm. The drone of that monotonic cosmic sound is the background against which every instrument of the orchestra of the universe plays…It is that line which runs above all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, joining them.’ Nada is not a part of dhvani (external sound). Dhvani instead arises as a projection of nada. The latter may
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