Author: Randeep Singh / go to all articles on Yoga Concepts
Mantra Yoga, How does Japa Meditation Work?
Mantra Yoga is based on sound.
Sound as a form of energy is the seed
from which all matter has evolved.
As per the Upanishads the whole
universe has evolved from the sound,
which reverberated as “Om” in the beginning.
The physical aspect of the universe is
nothing but condensed form of that energy itself.
Sound reverberates in almost everything in the universe;
the gurgling sound of the flowing streams,
the rustling sound of the air blowing through the trees and the thud produced by the foot being placed on the earth while walking are all vibrations inherent in everything around us. Sound can also help relax the mind by harmonizing its wavelengths as with the Himalyan singing bowl technique. As it can produce relaxation response, chanting mantra helps reduce blood pressure when used as a tool in Yoga therapy.
It is the power of the vibrating cosmic energy – prana – that gives rise to the corresponding sound, thus sound has enormous power of its own. Scientists today agree with the ancient yogis on the prevalence of vibration which reverberates ceaselessly throughout the cosmos. This vibration is the substratum of everything which makes up the universe.
As this pulsation is present within all objects, it is also within us. This inner pulsation is the throbbing present at the root of the mind, mind is nothing but the pulsating energy comprising the thoughts which is very different from physical brain, which is the true mantra, and is nothing but the divine cosmic energy also known as Kundalini as explained in Kundilini Yoga.
The Science of Mantra
From that inner pulsation through the maitrika shakti infinite number of letters and syllables arise which give rise to the inner and outer world. Letters and syllables come together to form words. Each word so formed has its own power and produces its own reaction.
The mundane word “apple” when spoken at a grocery store will put us in touch with the fruit called apple only and not with anything else, the general word for a particular fruit has the power to put us in touch with that fruit ( our goal) only, similarly a spiritual word has the power to put us in touch with highest goal of human life, the Self. The word which can put us in connect with our desired goal (embodies our goal) is known as a general mantra. Mantra literally means the tool of the mind, “man” means mind and ” tra” stands for the tool. A spiritual mantra is no ordinary combination of letters and syllables but a living force.
It is believed that the sound, vibration of the name of God is God itself.
Mantra is the sound-body of the God, it is the God in the form of sound. The power of sound of a word can be estimated from the fact that a abusive word lased with the sound of hatred can instigate the receiver to react with rage equal in intensity to the negative vibration of the word that was spoken to him. Imagine the power lying latent in the word that is the name of the God.
As per mantra literature speech manifests within a human being at four levels. Generally one is only familiar with the grosser aspect of speech – the words one can hear – or the articulated speech known as vaikhari. The tongue articulates the sound which actually arises from a subtler level located in the throat known as madhyama.
Still deeper another subtle level of origin of the cause of speech is located below madhyama, which can be experienced in the heart known as pashyanti. The actual origin of sound actually lies still deeper at the transcendental level of speech the naval region. This level is known as paravani.
The words which we hear coming from the speaker’s tongue are the grosser form of sound, speech which had originated at the paravani level and has passed through the pashyanati and madhyama levels before being transformed into a audible speech.
Paravani – Naval region: At this level the sound is present in its unmanifest form. Paravani is actually all pervasive, it is the subtle vibration from which all the forms of the universe manifest. This is the region where all words, sounds, and languages arise from pure consciousness which Samkhya calls as Purusha.
Like all the colors of the peacock feathers remain dormant within its egg till the stage of their manifestation has been reached, all syllables and words exist within paravani in an un-differentiated seed form.
Here no particular wavelength of the sound energy exists. it is the unchanging primal substratum of all languages and is pure energy, or sakti. This undifferentiated state of sound vibrations corresponds to Sabda-Brahman the divine vibration that pervades all.
Pashyanti – Heart region : As the sound rises from paravani to pashyanti – the heart level above it – it begins to assume form with the help of a peculiar energy known as maitrika shakti, though it doesn’t achieve clear differentiation at this level. It is the telepathic state in which the thought begin to take a form.
All thoughts take place here universally but their is no differentiation between thought, form, or name. The thought experienced here is without any particular language, its just the vague experience of the thought.
Madhyama – Throat level : As the thought so formed from the sound rises to the madhyama level in the throat it begins to take a recognizable form. The words begin to emerge and create the world of differences within us. Here the words are fully formed, just waiting to be uttered by the tongue. The thought takes a distinct language here and the words do formed are affected by preconceptions, emotions and mental impressions.
Vaikhari – Tongue level: At last the words formed in a particular language reach the vaikhari level, the tongue where they are articulated as speech and can be heard. Here the sound is dense and audible with maximum differentiation. The thought gets translated into a coded state or language. The spoken word is the most concrete state of thought.
The mantras have the power to travel from the gross level at the tongue – vaikhari- to the deeper next level till it reaches the naval region – paravani level – and merge with the supreme consciousness it has originally originated from.
This travel to this level is facilitated by the repetition of the words forming the mantra. Initially the mantra is repeated at the level of the tongue while one listens to it and focuses the mind on the tip of the tongue where its vibrations are being produced.
After some time it reaches the madhyama level, the throat. One repetition at this level is equal to thousands of repetitions at the tongue level. From madhyama level the mantra descends to the pashyati level – heart – where the vibrations gain more power.
One repetition at the heart center is equal to thousands of repetitions at the throat level. When the mantra is vibrating at this level the practitioner gains immense powers ( sidhis) of hearing and seeing distant sounds and knowing the past and the future. One can feel the continuous flow of the waves of bliss, its a state of intoxication of the mind.
Finally the mantra descends to the naval region – paravani – where it connects to the Self. Now the entire body begins to vibrate with the mantra and one experiences the supreme truth. The words of someone who has achieved this come from the paravani level and thus never fail to produce their effect.
What is Mantra Yoga, and how it Works?
A mantra is a mystical energy encased in a sound structure. It is divine power wrapped in a sound body, this power can be released and made to take form by concentrating upon and repeating the mantra over time. Mantra yoga is the practice through which the power hidden within the mantra is applied.
Each mantra is made up of a combination of sound vibrations extracted from the fifty alphabets of Sanskrit language. Ancient sages who have realized the supreme consciousness knew the power of sound and thus have created mantras, of various potency hidden within them, by combining sound vibrations of different frequencies from the Sanskrit alphabets. Even Patanjali, suggests using sound as an aid to meditation while he explained the various stages of meditation in his sutras.
As vibrations of different frequencies carry different powers right pronunciation of the mantras gains significance. Mantra yoga meditation or japa meditation is the practice of channelizing one’s consciousness from the lowest to the highest level of pure thought.
When a mantra is repeated verbally, or mentally it lifts one from the gross to the subtlest level of supreme consciousness. One becomes one with bliss as one realizes supreme consciousness. Sound has the power to generate images- visualization, ideas, emotions and form.
Mantra Yoga is one of the direct ways of realizing the supreme consciousness. It clears the smoke screen of the lamp of the real Self of all the dirt of anger, lust and greed that was shrouding the light within it. In order to realize the powers hidden within a mantra it has to be repeated with faith, devotion and purity of mind. God in reality is not an individual entity, it is in fact an experienced realized on a particular wavelength.
Repeating a mantra connected with a deity, as an object of meditation, produces the form of the deity within the mind of the practitioner. Through constant practice, or abhyasa, this form becomes the center of one’s consciousness and can be directly realized. Thus mantra of a deity is same as the deity itself. If one practices mantra yoga by concentrating on the meaning of the mantra and the attributes of a particular deity one can realize the deity much quickly. A mantra is supposed to have six parts:
- Rsi – Rsi of a mantra for yoga is the one who had Self-realization through this mantra, and gave this mantra to the world. he is the seer for this mantra. Sage Vishwamitra is the Rsi for Gayatri mantra.
- Meter – Meter governs the inflection – modulation- of voice of a mantra.
- Devata – It is the presiding deity of a mantra. it is a supernatural being as the informing power of the mantra.
- Bija – The seed of the mantra, the significant word or a string or words that form the mantra. It is the essence of the mantra and gives it the special power.
- Sakti – it is the energy of the vibration forms set up by the sounds of the mantra. This energy connects the practitioner to the devata.
- Kilaka – Its the pin, or the clip that keeps the consciousness – caitanya – of the mantra plugged to it. The kilaka can be loosened, or removed by constant repetition of the mantra, once it is removed the – mantra caitanya – is revealed., the devotee has the darshan of his ista devata.
How to do Japa Meditation
Instead of verbally chanting the mantra for yoga as a repetition exercise one can even write the mantra in the note book for at least half an hour daily. This practice is known as likhita japa. One must maintain silence – mauna – while writing the mantra and repaeat the mantra of yoga mentally in order to make a intense impression on the consciousness.
The mantra for yoga must be written at least for an hour on Sundays and non working days. Write the mantra clearly in ink, this will develop the power of concentration.
Thus likhita japa is one of the very powerful techniques of improving concentration. As it helps one reach the state of meditation it showers one with all the spiritual benefits that come from doing meditation regularly.
Mantra for yoga must be practiced either at dawn or at dusk as sattva guna is predominant at these times of the day. One must face north or east while doing mantra yoga as these directions imparts a subtle influence and increases the efficacy of the japa.
Facing North tunes one with the spiritual currents coming from the rsi of the Himalayas. One must sit on a sheet of cloth spread over kusa grass, deer skin, or a rug in order to conserve body energy. One must sit erect and steady to aid concentration of the mind. Condition the mind by doing some prayer to the ista devata as this will as this will increase sattvic guna in the mind.
Now begin the japa meditation by pronouncing each syllable correctly and distinctly. The mantra for yoga must not be repeated, chanted too fast or too slow. Increase the chanting speed only if the concentration is lost. Remember its not the number of repetitions that will help the devotee realize God, but it is the devotion, attitude, concentration, purity, and one-pointedness of the mind that will do the needful.
The mantra must be repeated at the same speed as one talks. The chanting can also be coordinated with the breathing; once with the inhalation, and once with the exhalation. Listening to the mantra as one repeats it helps the mind to get permeated with it. Coordinating the repeating of mantra with the breath will circulate it through every cell of the body.
The beginners can avail the aid of a japa mala, rosary, as it fosters alertness and focus for the physical energy. A japa mala also helps maintain a rhythmic continuous recitation. it generally has 108 beads, each bead signifying a single repetition, which helps the practitioner remain conscious of the repetitions made as one the beads are sequentially run within the fingers.
One extra bead, known as Meru, is a bit larger in size, reaching which signals the 108 recitations of the mantra being completed.
The fingers moving on the beads should never cross the Meru, once they reach it begin running the japa mala in the reverse direction chanting the mantra once over each bead. The japa mala must never be touched by the index finger, as it represents ego, use the middle finger and the thumb for moving the mala for recitation. The japa mala should never hand below the naval, keep it wrapped in a clean cloth when not in use.
Practice mantra yoga meditation at the same place each day. One can either chant the mantra aloud, or just mentally. The mental recitation of the mantra is considered more powerful. In order to break the monotony from setting in due to prolonged recitation of the mantra one can vary the volume of the chanting from vocalizing it aloud to whispering it to reciting it only in the mind.
Meditating upon the image of the deity of the mantra being chanted enhances its effect as the sound and form reinforce each other.
The sound vibrations itself are potent enough to create the form of the deity of the mantra within oneself, one must try to image the image of the deity in the heart or the area between the eyebrows for maximum impact. Repetition of mantra has cumulative effect, with consistent, prolonged practice it gains in power. One can attain complete absorption of the mind by verbally articulating the chosen mantra.
One must never beg God for worldly objects while chanting the mantra, visualize the heart getting pure and the mind gaining tranquility as the recitation progresses. One must keep the mantra one recites private, do not disclose it to others. Ones the mantra yoga meditation is over, do not immediately jump back to the worldly affairs.
Stay absorbed in the tranquility that was generated due to recitation for at least 10 minutes, or indulge in some light prayer in which try to remember the love of the God, then slowly prostrating to the divine power one must get up and return to the daily chores.
Conclusion: Mantra is the sound energy which is repeated vocally as well as mentally in the form of words of certain frequencies. These frequencies, particularly generated by the words formed from the Sanskrit language ( also called Devanagiri or the language of the Gods) have the power to tune the practitioner to the supreme consciousness, leading to a state of meditation.
In order to benefit from mantra one chooses to chant one must adhere to certain guidelines. The time, place and state of mind of the practitioner play a crucial role in extracting the desired results from doing mantra yoga meditation.