Sowing the seed
Navni Chawla explains how harnessing the power of a mantra can nurture our spiritual practice to flower into higher consciousness
The word ‘mantra’ is derived from the Greek word ‘menos’ which means ‘mind’ and the Sanskrit verb root ‘man’ which means ‘to meditate.’ A mantra is a sound or syllable that links our lower consciousness to higher consciousness, aka divine consciousness. It may just be a series of words but it is as transformational and powerful as a prayer. A mantra has two components: One, the sound which has an energetic implication and a strong impact on the mind. The second one is the meaning of the word (or series of words) in the mantra which also manifests in the deeper layers of consciousness.
Japa, or the chanting of a mantra, has many positive effects on one’s overall being. Even when it is chanted very superficially, it still benefits the one who is chanting. It also impacts their immediate environment by infus ing positive vibrations around them. A person who merges the chanting of mantra with the breath into one meditation practice, after a point, transcends it and becomes one with it. Upon delving deeper, the mantra is dropped completely. It may also happen that one just becomes a watcher and the mantra arises from the inner depths; one simply listens to it internally.
How does a mantra cleanse you?
We usually have a non-linear thinking mind; our thoughts are helter-skelter and haphaz ard. A mantra gives you a consistent thought to dwell on, thus replacing all other random, negative, positive, and unnecessary thoughts. It brings you to a completely neutral and col ourless state. Here, you are equanimous. You become free of the push and pull of the mind. You are also free of all polarities that constant ly fragment you and keep you in conflict.
In some traditions like AHYMSIN (Associa tion of Himalayan Yoga Meditation) in Rishi kesh, a seeker is initiated by a guru and given a bija mantra. It is called so because the mantra is sown like a seed (bija) into the beds of the subconscious. As you keep remembering it more often or practising it, the energy of the mantra starts enveloping the mind field more and more. And just like how a foetus cushioned in the amniotic sac is protected in a mother’s womb, in the same way, the mantra carries you and keeps you safe. Its effect permeates all the gross and subtle layers of your being.
The transformational power of a mantra
On the path of self-conquest and self-exploration, people undertake many different practic es to actualise their spiritual progress. Mantra chanting is one of the most powerful meth ods to fasten one’s spiritual evolution. In the AHYMSIN tradition, during the mantra diksha (initiation), a personal mantra is given to the initiate. It is like drawing a drop from the universal mind and planting it into the initiate’s mind.
How is the mantra chosen?
There are different mantras for different personalities and purposes. For example, a student may be told “All you lack is the coolness and flow of water. So, you shall be given a wa ter mantra. You could
also meditate on your mantra while sitting beside flowing rivers or waters.” Thus, overtime, as an initiate keeps practising the mantra given to him, the visual of flowing wate rs keeps impressing upon the subtler layers of his personality. And as a result, the groove of the mantra keeps becoming deeper and deeper. Gradually, it also starts changing the personality. All the impurities of the personality are slowly shed.
And the pure and real Self starts to shine through. So many times, the mantra also be comes a true personal friend. You can remem ber it wherever you are. In a turbulent situa tion too, the mantra comes to your rescue. It soothes and calms your nerves, and brings a stable force to your life. It grounds you.
The mantra centres you. It is a word or phrase that remains with you all the time. Your mantra also becomes a door to meditation. When you learn to use your mantra and keep in touch with
it, it becomes your internal quiet power. Whenever something from the out side comes to excite, aggravate, or disturb you or make you afraid, then your mantra becomes your guiding light. It stops you from being overpowered by any external disturbance or being sucked into the drama. Rather, it gives you the strength and willpower to remain centred and focussed amidst the chaos.
And, therefore, once that state of consciousness is established for you, all the reactions that arise from it are also centred and still. Hence, the nature of the outcome of the actions andreactions changes too, and positivity and love start to flow from you into your external environment. Someone once said that you have no control over any situations arising outside of you. The only thing you can control and focus on is your internal state. And practising the mantra gives you the reins of your mind and emotions. It gives you access to control and modify your internal states. It makes you a creator of your destiny.
“A mantra is a sound, a syllable, or a set of sounds. It is known not by its meaning but by its vibrations. It provides a focus for the mind and helps one become aware of his or her internal states. It is a way to understand one’s self and coordinate one’s external and internal words. “The mantra is a friend that helps the mind become one-pointed and slowly leads the stu dent to a deep state of silence, to the Centre of Consciousness within. It is a spiritual seed sown in the soil of the self. It is a therapeutic guide that leads one through various levels of being and, finally, to the unity between indi vidual and Cosmic Consciousness. The man tra is an important means on the path of Self Enlightenment. You are encouraged to practise meditation regularly, remember your mantra, and make it part of your life. When meditat ing, use the mantra silently and consciously. At other times, you can use it consciously or unconsciously. In time, you will find your mantra guiding you in daily life.”
~ Swami Rama of the Himalayas
The process of initiation
In the Himalayan tradition, the ceremony of initiation involves certain processes. Because it is a major turning point in a student’s life, they are asked to purify themself for at least a day prior to the initiation.
A mantra provides focus to the mind. This is done by consuming a sattvic (pure), vegetarian diet, not indulging in emotional ly disturbing activities, and keeping a serene mind. At the time of initiation itself, the stu dent brings a gift of fruits and flowers.These offerings are symbolic of our five senses: rupa (sight), gandha (smell), rasa (taste), shabda (sound), and sparsha (touch). They hint to wards a student’s sincere intention to not re nounce sensual enjoyments but rather to inte grate them for the higher benefits of spiritual unravelling.
At the place where the initiation takes place, the student sits meditatively awhile. The student and teacher briefly meditate together. Then, the mantra is whispered into the student’s right ear, after which the meditation is continued for a few more minutes. The ceremony ends with the blessings showered on the student. This is the process of giving and sharing the highest level of knowledge. The student gives their willingness and trust to seek the Truth and to embark on the journey to Self-discovery. The teacher, or guru, through the grace of the lineage of gurus, gives the mantra, guidance, and commitment to help the student blossom on his spiritual path.
Keeping the sanctity of your mantra
When a mantra is passed down to you, it contains the blessings of the lineage of the masters of that tradition. Getting initiated with a mantra is as sacred as a marriage, for a mantra becomes your constant companion through all the happy times as well as upheavals of life. It is often suggested to keep your mantra a secret and practise it continually. A sincere and consistent mental practice of mantra repetition purifies one’s emotional states and refines the personality.
“The mantra is a friend that helps the mind become one-pointed and slowly leads the student to a deep state of silence, to the Centre of Consciousness within.
One could even keep a daily fixed time to chant one’s mantra. This establishes a deep, intangible, and subtle connection with the Divine. It is also suggested to not utter the words of your mantra from the mouth. The secrecy that you keep around your mantra makes it even more powerful. The more one practises the mantra in mauna (silence), the deeper one goes into meditation. It is also said that a mantra is for inward absorption only. A word spoken is power lost. The mantra becomes like that seed from which your tree of spirituality grows.
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