Saturday, May 19, 2012

About Mantras

Photo shows roof of Naini Mata Temple in Nainital with text overlay by Ashok Malhotra



My cousin Pradeep and a face book friend posted something this morning about a Mantra on his wall:

Mantra Dhaarnaa Yon Kar, Vidhi Se Le Kar Naam
Japiye Nishchaya Achal Se, Shakti-Dhaam Sri Ram

These verses in Hindi may be translated as:

From right Teacher learn right technique of repetition of right name
Then mediate with greatest faith, Upon the Lord’s most vital name

I fully agree with my dear cousin that the chanting of Mantras done correctly is a powerful technique, even magical. That is the reason one has magicians chanting spells in fairy tales to perform magic. Recently a college classmate and dear friend got into serious legal difficulties. His name is Rajat Gupta. Until recently he was one of the most senior corporate executives on our planet well known to Prime Ministers and Presidents including Obama and Clinton. He can be found in Wikipedia. However, amongst some of his friends were also some that indulged in illegal insider trading. Those friends are in prison now but because of his association with them some suspicion has fallen on Rajat Gupta as well and those proceedings will begin in court tomorrow. We (his close friends) believe or at least hope that he is innocent and that would be proved in a court of law in due course. Over the previous year, as he prepared for this trial, I have sent him emails with encouraging words. My friends know of my interests in spiritual philosophy and in times of difficulty sometimes expect some spiritual advice. Mind you though it is only in times of difficulty because who cares for stuff like God and Spirituality when the going is good? To my older friends I have just two suggestions nowadays:

4. Trust and believe in God
5. Learn and practice a mantra containing His name

This is for older friends though. For younger ones I add three more steps:

  1. Enhance the virtues of Love, Truth and Simplicity
  2. Work hard but do not overwork
  3. Enhance cleanliness and order in your self and around you.

These first three steps are not suggested to older persons because they presumably already know more about it than I do or are too far gone to make any worthwhile changes in this direction now. These five steps are just my own classification for spiritual progress and it is a classification I have adapted from a spiritual teacher of Nainital (Baba Hairakhan). Others divide spiritual methodologies into different number of steps. The eight steps of yoga propounded by an ancient teacher of yoga – Patanjali – are the most well known. Yoga is essentially any practice that enhances spirituality and because each step enhances spirituality, individual steps are yogas too and can be given special names. I have termed step number 3 as entropy yoga borrowing from my engineering background and there is an entire older blog post on that in this blog as well as other articles on the Internet on that. Step number 1 encompasses much of what is termed as ethical, moral and good behavior and therefore at the present time we shall skip its elaboration so as to return to the topic at hand – mantras. For example, simplicity includes absence of affectations and pretensions, lack of greed, lack of pride, contentment, humility etc. etc.

We have an email group of friends that corresponds regularly sending group emails and a very dear friend Gill often responds that all this spiritual stuff is all bunkum. My suspicion though is that secretly he practices much spirituality because in his behavior he is very spiritual. I suspect that he practices Mantra meditation too and that his secret mantra is the most popular mantra of the Sikhs – Wahe Guru – meaning the Lord is great. I shall send him a link to this blog and let him contradict what I have written about him as a comment here if he wishes to.

On the other hand in his most recent email Rajat Gupta- the other dear friend facing the Judge - has responded that he regularly practices another mantra that is highly regarded by the Hindus since ancient times – The Gaytri Mantra. This mantra is a bit long containing around fourteen words or so in Sanskrit that praise God and seek his guidance for right behavior. I said around fourteen words because in Sanskrit it is possible to join or break words changing their number in a phrase. I too practice the Gayatri mantra from time to time but for regular chanting I prefer shorter ones.  A mantra can be as short as a single word or it may contain many.

In order to practice the chanting of mantras one needs to learn a mantra and learn the associated techniques for their recitation. The technique involves an examination of one’s breathing during recitation ensuring that it is smooth and even. It also involves choosing a point or thought for focus because without it the thoughts would wander and the mantra will become ineffective. Mantras can be chanted aloud or silently. I believe they are more powerful when chanted silently in a quiet place. At the outset I mentioned that a Mantra should contain a reference to God but mantras without a reference to God also produce beneficial effects. However the latter are less effective, in my view. Including the name of God is only possible when one believes in God. I can almost hear my friend Gill or my blogging friend Vincent screaming - I do not believe in God. The Buddhists don’t either. Instead some of their mantras include the name of Buddha such as

Buddham Sharnam Gacchami

That means I go seek the protection and shelter of Buddha. The favorite point of focus during recitation for Buddhists appears to be their own breathing and it is my favorite too.

Mantra meditation is followed in all major religions of the world as well as spiritual practices that are not religious. Ancient Christian monks chanted their mantras with the help of rosary beads and the Muslim Sufis frequently chant the single Name – Allah. At times they clap and dance to the beat joyously in a group until they move into a heavenly trance that renews their soul and makes them independent of the world.

In my experience, Allah is the easiest and most beautiful word to chant because it beautifully synchronizes with breathing when the Word is spread over the inward and outward breaths as Al- Lah. However not being a Muslim most often I chant other mantras.

Before practicing mantra meditation one must learn some mantras that appeal. A yoga teacher – Mahrishi Mahesh Yogi – apparently made a good pile of dough selling mantras to individuals. However one need not purchase a mantra. One can discover or invent one’s own with some effort. Baba Hairakhan of Naintal suggested the single Mantra to all who sought his advice,

Om Namha Shivai

This mantra includes the name of the Lord in his formless aspect as Om and in a formed image as Shiva. Perhaps if Baba Hairakhan had lived longer I would have asked him for some more mantras. However in keeping with the tradition of the Young Babaji of Nainital he left the world young at the age of 34. I have great regards for Baba Hairakhan because he was not in the business of collecting money. He never asked any from his disciples and even today one can go live and eat free in one of his beautiful ashrams in Nainital and one would not be asked for any donations. His free hospitals and ashrams are run from donations disciples offer voluntarily in his temples or trust.The favorite mantra of the favorite eastern teacher of Steve Jobs– Neem Karoli Baba (also from Nainital district) was probably,

Jai Shri Hanuman 

It appears that  the mantra of the Christian Mystic Edgar Cayce was  "Hari Om". There is a full post on him in this blog and the link is in the side bar.

And that of Gandhi,

He Ram

For more on mantras and to listen online to one of the most beautiful mantras from the deoths of the Himalayas check out the following  link
http://someitemshave.blogspot.in/2013/08/a-mantra-par-excellence.html

Do you have a favorite mantra too? If so please tell us about it as a comment.

6 comments:

Rajive Johri said...

Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare.

Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Hare!

Rajive Johri said...

While chanting of mantras in silence is also effective, it is considered in vedic practice that chanting (correctly) vocally is MOST effective. Sound has its own energy (vibrations) which multiples the effectiveness.

ashok said...

Thanks Johri for very useful additional info.

ashok said...

Your mantra sychronizes beautifully with the inward and outward breaths while creating the right kind of stops as recommended in some forms of Pranayama.

WonderousPath said...

I guess it's the Engineer in me that feels that a mantra works on the principles of resonance... as Rajive Johri and others call it, vibrational energy... and, as such, involves one's personal beliefs, the spoken sound of the phrasing, and the meaning of the words.

I have never meditated, nor chanted a mantra. Yet I believe there is something to it. One cannot argue with the success of others.

ashok said...

WonderousPath I am an engineer too but believe that science has not yet reached the fundamentals of spirituality and struggles at the realm of dark matter and dark energy. My philosophical beliefs are based more on study followed by experience. Rajive Johri mentioned loud chanting and I think that is great for those who do not do it regularly and it is a must when done in a group. However when one meditates regularly silent chanting has been found to be more powerful. In my recent novel the mystic was explaining that chanting of nonsense words has some benefit but it also adds to clutter and noise in the universe whereas those focused on God resonate with millions of others in the universe chanting the same name and is therefore is more powerful. Hence there is much merit in your resonance principle but it is not in a physical material manner because spirituality goes into realms beyond the material.