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Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…

Sometimes students have written to or asked Swami Veda Bharati, Swami Ritavan Bharati, and other senior teachers in our tradition questions about practice.  This is one such “Question and Answer,” or Q&A.


If a mantra is given by an initiator, rather than by an enlightened Master, I do not understand how a person, just a normal human being, can give something to another normal human being that will be effective.


Randall Krause (Mokshadeva), Lalita Arya (Ammaji), and Michael Smith have answered this question.

From Randall Krause (Mokshadeva):

Your concern is that the mantra from an initiator is given by a non-realized person, and you wonder how that mantra could be effective? It’s a good question. What’s important to understand is that the mantra does not come from the initiator; it comes from the Guru. Swami Rama was known as Gurudeva— a person who has brought his mind to the level of the Guru. But the Guru is not a body, is not a person. Because of Swami Rama’s great spiritual achievement, he could speak from that Guru force. But, an initiator, even though not at such an exalted level himself or herself, has been blessed with the ability to receive mantras through intuition from the Guru and pass them on to aspirants.

Swami Veda used to tell stories of how Swami Rama showed him multiple times that the mantra and initiatory energy come through him (Swami Veda) not from him. The Mantra is said to come from the Guru not from the initiator. In one story, Swami Rama asked Swami Veda (who was known as Dr. Arya at that time) to tell him his (Swami Veda’s) personal mantra. Although Swami Veda had repeated that mantra thousands if not millions of times, he could not remember the mantra. Then Swami Rama said “now you can remember it,” and then Swami Veda remembered his mantra. Swami Rama told him that this was to show him who controls the mantra.

I’ve talked with Stoma Parker, who is one of the initiators, and he told me that when he gives initiation he goes into meditation and waits for the mantra to appear in a particular place in his mind—that’s how he described it. Only then does he give it. Swami Veda, who was an expert of mantras, told me that he doesn’t give the mantra, it comes through intuition, from the Guru. He would often think about what mantra would be good for a person but when initiating he’d give the mantra which came through intuition— which may have been different from the mantra he thought would be the right one.

One of Swami Rama’s prime teachings was not to worship any person, not even the Gurudeva. Only worship the infinite—which is within you. The goal of the Himalayan Tradition is to make each of us strong; it is not to make us weak and dependent on some other person.

The mantras given by the initiators are from the Guru, from the Self. Now, you may choose not to believe any of this. That is up to you. Swami Veda also said not to believe anything he said, but to do the practice and verify for yourself. So it's up to you.

From Lalita Arya (Ammaji):

A questioning mind is always a good sign that one is thinking and not just following blindly. And our Guruji encouraged queries, but always used to say after his lecture, Do not just believe what I say, go out and practice and find out for yourselves.

Naturally when we do this sincerely all kinds of puzzles arise in the mind and in order to go forward when the answers do not come from within, we seek them out. Bhakti, devotion, Faith & Trust that the Guru we have chosen and who has chosen us has to receive these in order for us to progress.

The Mantra Initiator in our Himalayan Tradition is like any "normal human being", but is different because he/she has undergone training in this ancient Tradition from someone who Knows. The Initiator is chosen to carry the work of the Tradition and one of these is to initiate the trained student.

When the Guru trains - it is a difficult path - we are faced with challenges - and as students we too go to the Guru for answers. We trust not only in that Guru, but in the entire Tradition of Knowledge & Wisdom passed on from Lineage to Lineage over thousands of years. It is like breath - when we lose it, it leaves us, but does not disappear, it merges. So is with the Learning, the Grace & the Blessing we receive within that Sangha of Elders.

As Mokshadeva pointed out, it is not the "normal human being" who initiates - it is the thread of inspiration, belief and surrender through which that sound-vibration in the form of a mantra comes and reverberates so that it can be passed on. When we sit to initiate we have no idea what that mantra will be. We prepare ourselves with the necessary tools, meditate so that our minds are calm and ready to receive so we can give forth.

I would like to share an experience I had with one initiation - this student had come to the ashram, undergone the necessary training, submitted an application for initiation. It was approved and an appointment was scheduled. Unfortunately, the student had to leave urgently that evening and the initiator was not at the ashram. He was sent to me by the ashram office as I was in residence at our private home there, and he explained his predicament. I said OK, fine, go to the Initiation Room. I will meet you there. I prepared my mind, went and initiated him.

As he was leaving, he thanked me and then said - It is remarkable - the mantra you gave me is one I remember receiving long ago from another tradition, but had never really practiced it. I was shocked that it is the same mantra that came back vividly to me as you whispered it to me. ,

I was not surprised at all, I smiled and said to him, “Now go and practice it. It seeks you as much as you need it."

May Grace attend us all.

From Michael Smith:

Thank you for the beautiful thoughts that were shared on Mantra Initiation.

I’m not the person to write about this, because it’s all secondhand, but one of the most amazing things I’ve heard about in terms of the initiatory process in the Himalayan Yoga Tradition is that Swami Veda was able to give “charged” mantras to people in different spiritual paths (Islamic, Christian, Buddhist etc.), and that is true ALSO with the various initiators in the tradition.

So, if a person asks for a mantra particular to her/his tradition, the appropriate mantra will “come.” There are many profoundly baffling things that occur when we connect with an authentic lineage – but, for me, the gift of receiving a intrinsically viable “sound” that can nurture and guide us through our lives is paramount.

I give you the end of a golden string,
Only wrap it into a ball,
It will lead you in at Heaven’s Gate
Built in Jerusalem's wall.
William Blake

Editor’s Note:

To read “Mantra – What and Why” by Swami Veda Bharati, please click on title link.

If you have a question about spiritual practice, you can use the "Contact the Spiritual Committee" link on the Ahymsin website to ask it.

Previous columns can be read at “Dear Yoga Mentor, My Question Is…



The Himalayan Tradition of Yoga Meditation

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