Source of Mantras
Mantras are units of sound contained in a combination of syllables or words.1 The universe is composed of the single energy of which two beams are sound and light. One does not become activated without the other, especially in the inner spiritual space. The sound units that are called mantras are not ones that are passed on from ear to ear; that is their only physical manifestation.
( Note: Before starting on this, please read the booklets/articles by Swami Veda Bharati entitled "Beginning Meditation" (https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/beginning-meditation.html) and "Mantra: What and Why." (https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/mantra-what-and-why.html) The present article is meant mainly for those initiated with a personal mantra.
In the highest state of meditation, one’s spiritual self is in total at-one-ment with the Divine who, being omniscient, is the source of all knowledge and Word. The ancient Indian philosophers of language called it shabda-brahman, the Word that is God. All of that divine knowledge is available for the spiritual self to tap into.
In its trans-revelatory state that knowledge is referred to as para, the Transcendental Speech (fem.).
As the knowledge in the form of speechless speech and the wordless word flows into the individual spiritual self, it is called pashyanti, the Seeing One (fem.).
From here a ray of consciousness emanates and touches the mind’s interior surface that is facing the self and not the senses and the world. This interior surface is called antah-karana, the intuitive faculty. Here the ray of consciousness flowing through and from the spiritual self produces a mental vibration. The mind is stirred with the awareness of a flash like that of lightning. Then in a micro-moment, which could be as subtle as 10 to the 57th power part of one second, the entire book of the Veda or all 330 million mantras may be revealed. The experience is like a seed (bija) or a single dot (bindu) containing the details of the picture of a vast area taken from a satellite. The point has yet to be developed for the picture to manifest itself in detail. It has been described as all the colors of the peacock’s fan contained within the peahen’s egg. This state is called madhyama, the Middle Speech (fem.).
As the knowledge rises from the depth of buddhi to the outward surfaces of the rational mind it becomes verbal thoughts. The words are nothing but a process of manifestation, a vibration of a lower frequency than the preceding ones. This verbal thought in the mind is named by the ancient grammarians and philosophers as vaikhari, divergent and harsh sound (fem.). This is only the first stage of vaikhari.
Now this vibration from buddhi, mind and the relatively low frequency verbal thought, creates a quickening in the yogi’s vitality field, prana, which then activates the speech organs and the articulate sound emerges, the final product that the disciple’s ears hear in the process of transmission, initiation and teaching.
Thus, what people called Revealed Word is actually the veiled Word at the lowest frequency of knowledge. It is veiled by the layers of individuated mind. The true unveiling is only in the highest meditation which is a wordless dialogue or interchange between God and soul. It is as though someone was in the innermost room of a cave that is a treasure house of light and as he comes out he unravels a ball of thread. Emerging from the mouth of the cave he hands the other end of the thread to the disciple and advises him to follow the thread inward until the seeker of treasure reaches the internal golden womb, hiranyagarbha, the first and last guru. The disciple, receiving the sound of the mantra then uses it to gradually penetrate into the various stations in the cave until the womb chamber of pure consciousness is reached.
Different types of sound units have different effects on the mind field and upon the prana field. Therefore they have different effects on different psycho-physiological systems within you. For this reason, to trigger a state of consciousness, you get hold of the corresponding sound unit of a particular mantra. Then over years, decades of practice, a student tries to trace that sound unit to its original vibration in the prana and from there into the mind. In the process, mantra alters our samskaras, our mind states, and thereby frees those areas which are blocked in the prana, even in the physical centers.
What is Japa?
Japa is mental recitation, or better still, the remembrance, of a mantra, which gradually awakens energy vibrations in the mind field. The practice of meditation really begins with mantra-diksha, the event of receiving a personal mantra by initiation through a qualified teacher or preceptor in the tradition of a particular lineage; all the rest is preparation.
There are several ways of practicing japa. People sometimes do daily japa, reciting a mantra aloud. Kirtan or chanting is also a form of japa. For total beginners there is even a form of japa which is writing one’s mantra 125,000 times. This is a form seldom advised in our Tradition. Just having a mantra is not enough, there are beginners’ to highly advanced steps in the practice of mantra. All of these steps are stages in japa.
The highest form of japa is mental japa, in which one is immersed only in the silence of the mind. Here, the four phases of the practice and experience of mental japa are explained.
Phase One of Mental Japa
After one has,
established the correct posture,
has relaxed the body,
established diaphragmatic breathing,
has spent the necessary time doing alternate nostril breathing,
one goes into the feeling of the flow of the breath.
The flow of the breath may be felt along the path of the breath from the navel to the nostrils.
Or it may be felt only in the nostrils, just as one does with the word, the universal mantra, So Ham, before receiving a mantra in initiation.
Feel the flow of the breath, with the same cautions as when practicing the word So Ham: no jerks, no breaks, smooth flow of the breath, silent flow, no pause between the breaths. Eliminating the pause between the breaths is the most difficult part of the process, because that is the door through which external thoughts enter the mind, through those pauses. So, exhale, and immediately inhale, smoothly and slowly.
One experiences the mantra along with the feel of the breath. Some one-word mantras or bija mantras (seed words) pose no problem.2 But there are mantras that are a little longer, five letters, twelve letters or syllables or more. Those who are not initially familiar with them have difficulty with these intermediate-length mantras. So, the advice given is to remain aware of the flow of the breath, let the mantra come in whatever way it comes with the breath. It may be divided over several breaths. Do not try to synchronise. Let us say that your mantra is ‘om namo bhagavate vasudevaya.’ You may want to do namo with the exhalation, bhagavate with the inhalation, vasudevaya with the exhalation, and so on. Thus you let it flow, one word merging into the next because of the breath awareness. You are doing the mantra mentally, but with the feeling of the flow and the touch of the breath in the nostrils, or on the pathway of the breath from the navel to the nostrils, unless you have been given some other method by the preceptor.
Phase Two of Mental Japa
Next, mantra is experienced merely as a verbal thought. In the Himalayan tradition, the idea of japa is first to forget that the mantra is a word, and to convert the word into vibration.
The first thing one learns is to seal one’s lips.
The second is to still one’s tongue while doing japa.
Third, one learns not to permit the mantra in the other speech organs, such as the throat.
These are processes of elimination. The mantra tends to come into the speech organs the moment you lose the state of relaxation and then other thoughts intervene. Even if that happens, let the verbal thought arise, at whatever speed, whatever frequency feels easy and natural for the mind. At this point, you are not paying attention to the breath. If the breath has been well trained prior to initiation, it will remain diaphragmatic, smooth, and without jerks or breaks. If it does not, then your breath training is incomplete and you need to keep working at it. Occasionally, you still need to observe the breath flow as it will indicate to you whether you are really concentrating or not.
The subtle shift in japa comes when you stop doing mantra. Mantra is not your thought, not something of your doing. Mantra is the (manaso retaha), it is the Guru-mind’s drop that has been planted in your mind. Through that mantra you are linked to the entire lineage, therefore the lineage will take care. So, after the first, active verbal thought phase let the mantra arise, and simply observe its presence; let it be. If you keep on using your will, doing japa, you block the divine will or Guru-will working within you. So, let the mantra come and be engaged in simply observing its presence. Awareness of the presence of the mantra becomes the real japa.
Phase Three: Deepening the Mantra
Now, as to deepening the mantra, please understand here what mind is. At present you associate the word “mind” only with the instrument of gross and active thought. But mind is not just one layer. It has many, many layers vibrating at different frequencies; thus the force field called mind becomes subtler and subtler at deeper and deeper layers.
The common impression is that the mind is that wherewith one thinks the articulate thoughts; however, that is not even the shallowest surface of the mind, but only just a few waves of the sea hitting the beach. For a child playing on the beach, the waves hitting the beach are all he knows of the ocean. Similarly, our association with the mind’s ocean is limited to these noisy waves of articulate thoughts. But the depth of the ocean is much greater. The Mariannas Trench (near the Philippines) is the deepest part of the sea at a depth of 35,000 feet. If you dropped Mt. Everest there, its peak would be 6,000 feet. underwater. From the beach to that deepest part is quite a journey and a very deep dive.
At each subsequent level of the sea, divers know there are thermoclines—layers of water at a certain temperature, just above or below another layer of a very different temperature. As one dives, at the boundary line between the thermoclines, suddenly half of one’s body is in a colder temperature and half in a warmer one.
So it is also with diving in the mind’s ocean. At these deeper layers of the mind the frequency of the vibration incrementally becomes higher and higher. Whatever thought or word you put into that layer will then vibrate at the frequency of that layer of the mind. When you dive to a deeper, higher layer of the mind, the mantra automatically becomes higher frequency. Continue to observe the level at which you find yourself and penetrate beyond that to the next depth.
At all stages of meditation, observation of the state you are in is a very powerful secret; becoming aware of that layer of the mind, of that state. Right now you are awake; but you are not aware, “I am awake.” When dreaming you are not aware that you are dreaming; when asleep you are not aware that you are asleep. With awareness, these states become the steps toward divine consciousness.
Here we should refine again: doing the mantra, remembering the mantra, listening to the mantra. At each of these stages other thoughts and images seem to come simultaneously alongside the mantra. In observing the mind very closely, I have found two distinct phenomena.
1. In one, the mantra and the other thoughts appear to be going on simultaneously, but they are actually intermittent and alternating. “Mantra; my flight time; mantra; listen to the neighbor’s lawn mower; mantra; there is too much noise around here.” But because the mind moves so fast, we do not realize that these are intermittent and alternating. The solution is to close the gap between the breaths, and make a resolve to close the gap between mantra, mantra, mantra, mantra. One may make a resolve that for the next one minute, I shall have no other thought but my mantra.
Try it. Right now, for one minute, just sit, relax the body, let the breath settle down, and resolve that for the next one minute there will be no other thought but your mantra. Begin now. (After one minute) --Keeping the mantra in the mind, gently open your eyes.
In this way, you train the mind one minute at a time. In that one minute you can obtain ten minutes worth of meditation if the concentration is intense and deep. It is not long meditation which is the secret, but the intensive and deep meditation. Close the gap between the breaths and eliminate the pause between the mantras using one minute and two minute resolves at a time.
2. The second phenomenon that I have observed is that, indeed the mantra and other thoughts do go on simultaneously. Thinking is happening at one layer of the mind and mantra is pulsating at another. At the level of the surface, waves are hitting the beach, creating sound, but ten feet below it is absolutely silent. You have to shift your attention from the surface to this deeper layer. Apply the principle of observation and when you have observed the deeper layer, the waves on the surface will not cease but will gradually cease to matter.
At any new level, people come across unprecedented disturbances. When thoughts cease, images arise. When images cease, if you manage to overcome that phase, certain types of sentiments and emotions arise. Some people begin to cry; some feel like laughing; some feel angry; some become afraid; some feel they are becoming sexually aroused. For each of these sentiments arising, you need to seek the preceptor’s advice, because then you are at a place where you may go in a wrong direction. For example, a lot of people say, “At this certain point I become afraid and I come out of meditation.” There are answers from the tradition for these questions, and a well-trained preceptor can guide you through these stages.
Phase Four of Mental Japa
The fourth phase in your meditation should be, perhaps five seconds of absolute stillness of the mind—if you can achieve it. Most people cannot manage more than one second of absolute stillness. One enters the chamber of silence and the mind becomes as though it is a crystal lake, with not a single ripple. And then from that moment of silence, again one single ripple, the ripple of your mantra arises. But keep it at that high frequency, where it is barely a word and then it is not a word, only a vibration. Then it does not take you long to do a long mantra. Japa is thus understood to be a very subtle and fine art.
Different people have different experiences in that stillness. The mind feels like
a vast field,
or one forgets oneself,
or one doesn’t know how long one has been sitting in meditation as the time simply passes.
People may think, “Ah, I have achieved final peace,” but this stillness is not the ultimate stillness. It is just that the waves have stopped hitting the beach.
However, the undercurrents of samskaras are still active. As that stillness begins to occur, experiences from the subtler part of our being, begin to arise. One may see a light, but not all lights are spiritual lights. It may be the light of prana, it may be the light of physical heat turning into an experience. It may be even something less significant than that.
Centers of Consciousness
In some cases right at the time of the first initiation the preceptor may asign different syllables or part syllables of the mantra to the different centers of consciousness. For example, if an initiate is given the mantra namah shivaya, s/he may be guided to place the mantra in the way of remembrance at five of the centers as follows:
It is not as staccato-like as it appears. The breath unifies the syllables and connects the chakras.
In most cases, however, after the mantra has been assimilated for some months or years, a specific center of consciousness may be assigned to the initiate in which certain energy patterns and forces are visualized in a methodical system.
Or the path of kundalini may be introduced when the initiate’s consciousness is ready for it. Many people nowadays play around with the idea of the kundalini but without the mantra and the proper guidance in the way of concentrations, it could even prove harmful to one’s physical and mental well-being because it is the manifestation of sound as mantra that helps regulate the energy flow.
There are many different ways of refining the mantra in the mind. These are taught as the initiate’s commitment keeps him progressing and a contact is maintained between the initiate and the preceptor.
Having a fixed time for meditation is a great secret of success. One fixed time. It is a matter of sankalpa, determination. In addition to your fixed meditation time each day whenever you can throughout the day, no matter where you are, for five minutes, for two minutes, for even one minute tune your mind to the mantra. On the other hand there is also an allowance given in the texts that say, (mumukshunam sada kalah, strinam kalascha sarvada), for those who are doing japa as seekers of liberation, there is no rule about time. And (strinam kalascha sarvada), for women also, there is no such rule. So again there is freedom. The meaning of this is not, however, that you do not keep your fixed meditation time, but you keep your meditation at all times. A certain level of japa should go on in the mind no matter what one is doing.
Mantra “Doing” Itself
Those who have received the mantra in the Yoga tradition will find that, ideally speaking, the mantra is not being done; one should learn to let the mantra be. Quite often, one has to do the mantra, but at other times one simply invites, invokes the presence, lets the mantra arise by itself and continue in the mind. A lot of times, even that invocation, that invitation is not necessary. One finds that one wakes up at night and the mantra is going on; one goes to the bathroom and the mantra is going on; or one is in the embrace of one’s spouse and the mantra is going on.
Simply learn to listen to the mantra within,
and become absorbed in listening.
The mantra in the Yoga tradition is called, bija (seed), a seed is implanted in the mind, that is, a tiny particle of the Guru mind is implanted into the disciple’s mind. Therefore, it has its own movement. Even if you do not do your mantra six years from now, ten years from now, somewhere it is bound to come up. It is said in the Yoga tradition that the mantra given goes with you even through death. In our teaching of the art of dying, we prefer to train people for the day when they have to leave the body and the mantra will continue with them in this way.
Progression in Purification
for penetrating through the veils and curtains of samskaras,
for countering the existing samskaras, and
for preventing the formation of new, undesirable samskaras.
Samskaras are all of the impressions of past actions stored in the unconscious mind.
Or, in the language of the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali,
to prevent the klishta vrittis (afflicted vrittis) from arising, and,
to develop and maintain one single aklishta vritti (unafflicted vritti),
so that shuddhi, buddhi, siddhi, and mukti may occur.
buddhi, awakening of pure and sattvic awareness;
siddhi, fulfillment of the purpose of japa; and,
by grace and whenever our acts mature, mukti—freedom.
We have to penetrate through the curtain of samskaras, through the five koshas or sheaths of body, prana, mind, knowledge and bliss; through the three bodies, gross, subtle, causal; to the interior-most part of the buddhi beyond which mantra does not go and at which point mantra is dropped.
Use of the Mala
One may need different types of malas for different types of mantras. One may be advised to wear one kind of mala, and use a different kind of mala for doing the mantra. All that is between the student and the preceptor.
Big bead malas slow you down; by the time you get from one side of the hill to the other, two seconds have passed. The big bead malas are okay for wearing, but for doing japa use small beads, with a little knot in between.
Do you need to use the mala? There are two different aspects to japa. Both practices have their own benefits. One often needs to go through a period of discipline with the mala: “I shall do so many repetitions.” In your practice, do a part with the mala, so that you have the basic discipline maintained, a habit is formed, and then put the mala aside and go into the mind. Experiencing the pathways to the subtler depths, put aside the mala and just go into the mind and go deeper, and deeper, and deeper.
I often advise new initiates to undertake a purash-charana immediately after initiation. The word purash-charana means “a foot forward.” That is the term for undertaking a special observance. A beginning observation of purash-charana, for example, would be for someone to do 125,000 repetitions of their mantra using a mala. Then the mantra becomes habitual, is absorbed. Knowing the number of minutes it takes to complete one mala of your mantra, and how many minutes you have available daily, you can decide how many sessions in the day you want to have. One session is at your fixed time; the hours of other sessions may vary.
When you have completed those 125,000 repetitions of the mantra, get in touch with your preceptor who will advise you whether you should do the same observance again, or do it differently. At a certain point, in your progress, the preceptor may assign
(a) special modes of breathing with the mantra,
(b) chakras or centers of consciousness to meditate upon and, together with those, sometimes
(c) certain internal visualizations, or internal rituals.
He may assign any of the five pillars of sadhana:
conquest of sleep, in lesser or greater degree.
For this guidance, you remain in touch with the preceptor. Try to put aside three days, five days, seven days, ten days, or a month every year to be rid of the world, and enjoy the freedom of a retreat for intensive practice of mantra.3
Other Aspects of Deepening Mantra Meditation
When the body is tired, the mind becomes sluggish because the mind draws part of its energy from prana. When the prana moves at a lower frequency and in erratic patterns, the mind also moves more slowly and erratically. Therefore it is most important for one who is keenly interested in developing his or her sadhana to be rested. Resting not only means sleeping enough, but it also means using conscious rest as in shavasana practices eventually leading up to the practice of yoga-nidra. To be rested also means that throughout the day’s hectic activities one gradually trains the mind to be restful so that the activity does not draw more of the energy of the body than is absolutely required for the task undertaken. Practice of silence is most restful.
Resting is not enough by itself. Physical yoga practices activate prana, align and harmonize the prana flow and transform it into higher vibrating frequencies. Once you have activated the prana through Hatha Yoga, go through a relaxation exercise, and other shavasana practices, then sit up and do nadi-shodhanam, alternate nostril breathing, to further balance the left and right flowing energies.
One also has to train oneself in many other directions of life. All the yamas and niyamas (ahimsa, detachment and so on) are guidelines for emotional purification. Otherwise, our emotions produce random thoughts, slow down the mind and exhaust the body. Emotional purification is a whole different sadhana, to go along with japa sadhana. The sadhana of emotional purification is a life-long endeavor of self-observation and self-refinement, atma-samskara, atma-shuddhi, manah-shuddhi. Emotion is where people are stuck, where the progress in our meditation gets blocked. But then the more japa you do, the more the emotions also begin slowly to purify, and vice versa.
What To Do With Previous Mantras
The question is asked often in India, before or after a mantra initiation: “What do I do with the mantras I have previously received?” Both in the West and in India there is a habit of receiving many initiations. In the West because people simply like to experiment with this mantra or that mantra, or with this teacher or that teacher; it is all experimental. In India people feel that it will add to their sanctity or holiness if they accumulate many initiations. To both audiences, our answer is that having many mantras is like having many wives or husbands. The mind becomes divided. When the purpose of the mantra is to concentrate the mind, doing many mantras is not helpful.
People of the religious traditions of India, are very highly ritualistic, using elaborate pujas, and so forth, in which, because they are sacraments, many mantras are recited, many prayers are used. These are all exterior acts. In many Tantric works, beside the Kriya Pada and Charya Pada, the chapters on the rules of ritual and chapters on the rules of daily disciplines of life, there is often a Yoga Pada, a chapter on the interior part of the observance. Very few people are familiar or conversant with the interior part of mantra and mantra practice as we are describing it here. So they satisfy themselves only with the exterior acts. In the churches and the synagogues in the West, the external rituals, prayers and hymns satisfy people the same way as they do the temple-going people in India. With a slightly different cultural milieu, the idea is the same.
Now in India, mantras are given or received or practiced in many different ways.
1. As already stated, they are part of rituals, external rituals. The priest often gives mantras; for example with the twice-born, the Gayatri mantra, given at a certain age by the priest preceptor. The people practice that Gayatri as much as possible throughout their life.
2. Sometimes the people, and I found this also in the overseas Indian communities, just decide to embark on some aspects of spiritual life, and they go to their priest or astrologer and are given a mantra. How do the priests and astrologers select the mantras? In many different ways.
a. There is Angka Vidya, the science of numerology, very ancient in India, in which the numbers have a close association with the letters of the alphabet. You find that tradition also among the Jews, where they have done an entire analysis of the Hebrew Bible to find, say, prophetic codes and so forth, on the basis of the numerological interpretation of syllables. The mantra may be matched numerologically to one’s name or birthdate.
b. In India, unlike the present day West, astrology is not merely a science of prediction. No astrologer will be consulted if he does not also give a preventive measure to change the circumstances, because with each astrological prediction it is implied that the forces can be moved around. So if Mars is in a bad place, the astrologer always tells you what the Mars mantra is for propitiation, or what other mantra may be done and what other ritualistic acts may be performed along with it. One’s rashi, the sign of the zodiac, determines what forces need to be brought into play to ward off any ill effects of the rashi, or to enhance the good effects of another one.
c Quite often, priests who are not bound to a particular religious denomination, may ask an initiate “what is your Ishta Devata?” What is your favorite form of the deity? Some speak of their family deity; others speak of the personal deity that they are most drawn to. By the word deity we mean the form of divinity, the manifestation to which we are attracted, either by family tradition or personal choice. Based on their answers a mantra is given.
3. Then there are certain mantras that come in family traditions. The families pass on the mantra from a father to a son, from a mother to a daughter. In a similar manner, sometimes the daughter-in-law receives a mantra from the mother-in-law upon marriage. Just as the son is the continuity of the father, the daughter-in-law is the continuity of the mother-in-law, because the daughter is not the continuity of one’s parental family, she’s the continuity of the marital family. So just as upon marriage a lot of times the bride receives a new name, many women have received, a mantra from their mother-in- law, or from their new marital family’s priest.
4. There are also sampradaya mantras. These signify the various religious denominations within which everybody receives the respective mantra. This is illustrated in the story of Ramanuja, who received a mantra from Nambi. The Acharya said, “The mantra should be kept a secret,” but Ramanuja went up to the rooftop and shouted the mantra to the whole world, “om namo bhagavate vasudevaya, I have received such a great treasure.” The Acharya said, “I told you it was supposed to be kept a secret.” Ramanuja said, “I am so over-joyed to receive such a treasure, I want to share the treasure with everybody.” So everybody in that tradition has the same mantra. Or there is the Chaitanya Mahaprabhu tradition in which everyone receives the same mantra. It’s like becoming a convert to Christianity and receiving the Lord’s prayer.
Now, let us say that you have received your sampradaya mantra, a mantra of your particular religious denomination, and in the rituals you recite all the other mantras as well. How do these mantras differ from the tradition of the Yogis? In each of these traditions, there is no doubt that a certain spiritual force exists. There is no question about it. Except that the focus is more on the form of the deity to which the individual is drawn through that mantra.
In the Yoga tradition, first of all, one authorized to initiate, uses an intuitive process to assign mantras. Those who are authorized to give initiation, mantra-diksha, are taught to arrive at a mental state where intuition alone plays the major part in receiving the mantra to be given to the initiate. The idea is to reduce the mental conflict as much as possible, to unify the mind through concentration. The mantra received in the Yoga tradition is not for rituals, it is for inward absorption only. It is for penetrating the veils of the five koshas and of the three bodies until the mantra comes to a point where, as the Shiva-sutras say, “the entire mind becomes the mantra.” Beyond that when one reaches the state of a-manaska-yoga, then not only the mantra is left behind, but even the mind is left behind.
Now, again the question: “What do I do with the mantras I received before?” The mantra you received in the Yoga tradition, as I said, is for inward absorption only. If you have a denominational (sampradaya) or family mantra and you perform your external worship, carry on, with that worship with the mantra appropriate to that aspect of divinity. There is no problem with it. What you do with these, your sampradaya mantra, or your family mantra, or the one given by the mother-in-law to the daughter-in-law is a few recitations, to honor them. You have seen a beautiful piece of jewelry. If you purchase that piece of jewelry, you do not throw away your old jewelry, you still keep it alongside the new piece. But these are not the mantras for your regular meditation practice; they have different purposes, to keep your link with your sampradaya, your denomination, to keep your family tradition going, for performing exterior worship and pujas; that is fine.
Therefore, if you have other mantras in addition to your regular guru mantra received in a Yoga initiation, perhaps even new mantras given by your preceptor for special practices, every time you sit for meditation, go inwards, and do one or three repetitions of all of your mantras to remember and honor them. Do five, do eleven, you may even close your mediation with the same recitations again. But let your major work in meditation and throughout the day be with your personal guru-given mantra. In the Yogic tradition you should learn to differentiate between what people do with the mantras in an exterior context and what the interior context and purpose of the mantra in meditation practice is.
How to Do Long Mantras Faster
Often there are questions about the mind’s ability to do japa of the long mantras with effectiveness when a person only has a limited amount of time available. Many people take something like half an hour to complete one round of the mala of the Mrityunjaya mantra, for example. Similarly, with the Gayatri mantra. At that speed if they undertake a purash-charana, a long observance of completing the japa of 125,000 repetitions plus twenty per cent of that number,4 it will take years. So how can these long mantras be done with some saving in time?
Principle of ardha-matra: Half a mora Again and Again
There is a principle called ardha-matra, half a mora. A mora is the time we take to pronounce a short vowel. One learns to pronounce it in half that time. Here we are not speaking of articulation, uttering it with the mouth, nor even silently while still engaging the speech organs. Many people doing silent japa still permit it to come into the speech organs, throat, larynx or a moving tongue, even with sealed lips. Doing the mantra fast with the mouth will only increase tension and will not serve the purpose of deepening the meditation.
The principle of ardha-matra can be understood only if we know the nature of mind as explained above, the idea that mind is not just made up of one layer. It has many, many layers vibrating at different frequencies and this force field called the mind becomes subtler and subtler and subtler at deeper and deeper layers. At these deeper layers the frequency of the mind’s vibration incrementally becomes higher and higher.
It is taught in the Tantras that the mantra may thus be refined nine times, thus:
Even in the subtle point of life force and consciousness in the sahasrara chakra, in the highest center of the thousand rays, even within that bindu there are nine levels. All of that is part of the ardha-matra system. One starts with the time it takes to pronounce, no, to mentally remember a short vowel, the mora, and then reduce it by half, and then half of that and then half of that, leading to higher and higher frequency vibrations.
Let a Quiet Resolve Arise in the Mind
When you sit for your meditation, let there arise a sankalpa in your mind, a quiet resolve, not a loud determination but a very, very quiet resolve. A resolve like the sure and quiet one a person feels when s/he wants to commit oneself in love. Just simply realize this something within, that way. At each stage, each state, each phase of mediation, renew that resolve. Don’t make that resolve for the next half hour, but for the next minute. Don’t say, “I shall not permit,” bur rather, gently, “for the next minute, there shall not arise any intruding thoughts; I shall experience only the even flow of my breath.” Just as we learned above to resolve to close the gaps in our breathing process through a one minute practice, try this quiet resolve to have no intruding thoughts for one minute starting right now.
How was that minute? Now resolve in your mind that for the next one minute there will be no intruding thoughts except the presence of your shorter personal mantra, coming like a thought-wave repeating itself, a wave into which there will be no intruding thoughts for the next minute. Now resolve once again in your mind that for the next one minute there will be no intruding thought; you will only feel the flow of your breath in your nostrils with the presence of your mantra.
Now keeping that state of mind, resolve to do two repetitions of the Gayatri mantra:
Om bhur buvah svah
tat savitur varenyam
bhargo devasya dhimahi
dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.
Keep the same state of mind you were in during the one-minute following the resolve; go there and resolve that during these two repetitions of the thought wave called the Gayatri there will be no intruding, interrupting thought. Now begin. That was one minute. In that one minute, a yogi can do the Gayatri twenty-one times or many more because s/he goes into a higher frequency deep in the mind.
Now attempt to do the long mantra keeping the words even with the breath, dividing the mantra over several breaths. Take the fragment “Om bhur buvah svah.”
Do that and see how long it takes. For the initial practice, do just that fragment in one exhalation however many times it fits in that exhalation. Similarly, you will try on your own with the second fragment, “tat savitur varenyam,” and the third segment, “bhargo devasya dhimahi,” and the fourth segment, “dhiyo yo nah prachodayat.” Try segment by segment with the same kind of resolve that we made earlier with the shorter mantra, permitting no intruding thoughts. It is the intruding thoughts that not only bring you to the lower frequency, the shallower level of the mind, but by intruding between mantra and mantra, they slow down your japa. So eliminating intruding thoughts by these short periods of resolve will help. Recall again and again the state you experienced when you went to the slightly higher frequency level for one minute, and keep going back to that. Gradually you may increase the period of the resolve to two minutes and so on.
Let the Entire Mantra Flash as a Single Unit
Now relax completely. Let your breath settle down. Let your personal mantra come in your mind. Do not let the mantra come word for word, syllable by syllable. Let the entire mantra flash as a single unit as though your mind is a clear sky with one single star flashing, flashing, flashing.
Now let the first segment of Gayatri flash the same way.
Let the second segment of Gayatri flash and then the third segment. And the fourth segment. The entire segment as a single unit.
Now the first and the second segment together.
The third and the fourth segments flashing as a thought-wave. Remain there.
And now let the entire mantra be done. Gradually your practice will improve as the mind learns to enter its own higher and higher frequency levels.
Let the Mind Observe the Mind
There is one more secret for deepening meditation and at the same time learning to do the long mantra. Observe the mind. Let the mind observe the mind. Observe the presence of the mantra. The part of the mind that is being employed to experience the thought-wave at present is a small fragment of the mind. The rest of the mind wanders off. That remainder of the mind should be employed in observing, and gradually, the doer and the observer will merge. Those who have been initiated into a chakra will find a certain vibration in that chakra and will learn to merge their consciousness. Sit in grace and surrender. Not by your effort alone will you reach total pacification, enlightenment. Your effort only purifies the vessel. Surrender your body, prana and mind so that the Guru spirit may enter and the Guru mind may touch your mind, making your mind one of its meditation seats that it may meditate therein.
However, you may not succeed in the practice simply by reading about the “technique” described above. Seek out a qualified preceptor who will do the transmission of the vibration and will help open some of the interior doorways in a personal or small group session.
What we have tried with the Gayatri mantra also works the same way with the Mrityunjaya mantra or any other long mantras whenever they are given to you.
May you dive into the deepest layer of mind and beyond. God bless you, Om.
Two Mantra Meditation Practices
Practice One: Meditation with Mantra
1. Sit with your head, neck and trunk straight. Your spine erect.
2. Withdraw your mind from all other places and be aware only of the place where you are sitting.
3. Withdraw your mind from all other spaces and be aware only of the space your body is occupying from head to toe. Be aware of yourself from head to toe.
4. Withdraw your mind from all other times and be aware only of this moment in time. In your awareness be here and be now.
5. Relax your forehead, relax your eyebrows and eyes, relax your nostrils, relax your cheeks, relax your jaw, relax the corners of your mouth, relax your chin, relax your neck, relax your shoulders, relax your upper arms, relax your lower arms, relax your hands, relax your fingers, relax your fingertips. And breathe as though your breath is flowing all the way to your fingertips.
6. Relax your fingertips, relax your fingers, relax your hands, relax your lower arms, relax your upper arms, relax your shoulders, relax your chest, relax your cardiac region. And gently exhale and inhale, slowly and smoothly.
7. Relax your stomach, relax your navel, relax your abdomen, relax your thighs, relax your calf muscles, relax your feet, relax your toes. And breathe as though your breath is flowing through your whole body, from top to toe and toe to top, gently, slowly and smoothly.
8. Relax your toes, relax your feet, relax your ankles, relax your calf muscles, relax your knees, relax your thighs, relax your abdomen, relax your navel, relax your stomach, relax your cardiac region, relax your chest, relax your shoulders, relax your upper arms, relax your elbows, relax your lower arms, relax your wrists, relax your hands, relax your fingers, relax your fingertips, relax your fingers, relax your hands, relax your wrists, relax your lower arms, relax your elbows, relax your upper arms, relax your shoulders. Your neck straight, relax your neck muscles, relax your chin, relax your jaw and the corners of your mouth, relax your cheeks, relax your nostrils, relax your eyes and eyebrows, relax your forehead, relax the seat of your mind. And gently exhale and inhale, as though your breath is flowing through your whole body, from top to toe and toe to top, gently, slowly and smoothly.
9. Observe the gentle rise and fall of your stomach and the diaphragm muscle. Observe how that area gently relaxes as you inhale, how it gently contracts as your exhale. Observe the movement with the gentle rhythm of your breathing.
10. Establish diaphragmatic breathing.
11. Let your mantra come to your mind in whatever way it comes easy, natural and comfortable. Exhaling and inhaling, let your mantra come however many times in your breath. If it synchronizes with your breath, let it synchronize, or simply let the mind remember the mantra, in whatever way it comes easy, natural and comfortable. Feeling the diaphragmatic breathing.
12. Feel the flow and the touch of your breath in your nostrils, breathing slowly, gently and smoothly. No break in your breath, no jerks, no sound. Continue to feel the touch of the breath in the nostril. Maintain the mantra in whatever way it comes easy, in whatever way it adjusts to your breathing, however many times in your breath, or even divided over several breaths. Exhaling and inhaling.
13. If your mind wanders, again straighten your spine and your neck. Relax your abdomen, stomach, chest, shoulders. Relax your jaw, relax your forehead. Reestablish diaphragmatic breathing.
14. Again feel the flow and the touch of the breath in the nostrils. Maintain the mantra in whatever way it adjusts to your breathing, however many times in your breath.
15. Now you may ignore your breathing. Let your mantra come in your mind in whatever way it comes easy, natural and comfortable. Let the mind remember the mantra. Over and over and over.
16. And observe your mind doing so.
17. No turning away from your mantra. Relax, relax, Let the mind remember the mantra over and over.
18. And now cease all effort. Abandon all endeavor. Only let there be a quietness, a stillness, silence in the mind.
19. In this restful silence, again let your mantra arise. Pulsing, pulsing, pulsing.
20. Again, feel the flow and the touch of your breath in your nostrils, as though your breath and the mantra are a quiet stream flowing from your pool of silence.
21. Observe the flow of the breath: observe the presence of the mantra.
22. And gently, without losing touch with your breath and the mantra, slowly cup your eyes with your palms. Remaining inwardly tuned, gently open your eyes to your palms. Continuing to enjoy the feeling of calmness, you may bring your hands down.
23. God bless you.
Practice Two: One Minute Meditation Practice with Mantra
First center your body from the nose center using the breath, then establish diaphragmatic breath.
The important point is the resolve for one or two minutes to allow no other thoughts to enter the mind while maintaining the prescribed concentration.
Now, resolve to allow no distracting thoughts in your mind.
1. Feel the breath as if you are breathing with your whole body, from crown to feet for one minute.
2. Feel the breath in the navel center for one minute.
3. Feel the breath flowing in the channel between the navel and the center at the base of the nostrils for one minute.
4. Do nadi-shodhanam.
5. Feel the breath in the active nostril for one minute.
6. Feel the breath in the passive nostril for one minute.
7. Feel the breath flowing through both nostrils for two minutes.
8. Feel the breath flowing through the channel between the center at the base of the nostrils and the center between the eyebrows (sushumna breathing) for two minutes.
9. Do sushumna breathing while hearing the mantra in your mind for two minutes.
10. Sense only the mantra in your ajna (eyebrow) center for two minutes.
11. Be aware of complete silence for one quarter minute.
12. Feel the breath flowing through both nostrils with the mantra for one minute.
13. Open your eyes while maintaining breath awareness and hearing the mantra for one minute.
14. Move the body, stretch and relax.
1 Before starting on this, please read the booklets by Swami Veda Bharati entitled "Beginning Meditation" https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/beginning-meditation.html and "Mantra: What and Why." https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/mantra-what-and-why.html The present article is meant mainly for those initiated with a personal mantra.
2 In Swami Rama’s introduction to Swami Veda Bharati’s Meditation and the Art of Dying, Swami Rama has explained more about the art of dying taught by the yogis. Also see Swami Rama’s Sacred Journey, the chapter entitled “Mastery Over Death.”
3 H. H. Swami Rama’s Ashram in Rishikesh is an ideal location for such a guided retreat.
4 See the booklet "Special Mantras" https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/special-mantra.html by Swami Veda Bharati.
Suggestions for Further Study
Books by Swami Rama:
Meditation and Its Practice
Sacred Journey: Living Purposefully and Dying Gracefully
Books and Tapes by Swami Veda Bharati (formerly Dr. Usharbudh Arya, D.Litt.)
Mantra and Meditation
Meditation and the Art of Dying
Problem Thoughts in Meditation
Superconscious Meditation Series
Understanding Human Personality
Beginning Meditation https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/beginning-meditation.html
Mantra: What and Why https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/mantra-what-and-why.html
Five Pillars of Sadhana https://www.ahymsin.org/main/index.php/Swami-Veda-Bharati/five-pillars-of-sadhana.html