Sound has an immense power. In fact the power of sound has the power to create an entire universe. It is written that God originally manifested as sound. In ancient India it was believed that it was only sound which existed in the beginning and it was only the sound which reverberated as “Om” and from that very sound, “Om” the whole world land indeed all the living objects came into being.
Mantra in a broader sense is intrinsically related to sound. Mantra is sound, and sound reverberates in everything present in the universe. When the cascade flows, the bubbling sound it makes, is mantra, even mantra is there in the rustling sound of the falling leaves. According to the ancient Indian belief within human beings there is a self-born sound which recurrently repeats itself amidst the rhythm of human breaths and this sound is also a mantra.
Mantras are an indispensable part of any form of Yoga or meditation. The words, phrases, or syllables, which are chanted thoughtfully and with growing attention, are the Mantras. Mantra Yoga meditation necessarily involves chanting a word or phrase until the mind and emotions go beyond the conscience and become super-conscious. Since the mind wanders too much, the musical trait of a mantra easily rescues the mind and brings it back to the object of one’s meditation. Both the rhythm of mantra and the meaning of it combine to guide the mind safely to the point of meditation.
The most common mantra is Aum (Om), meaning Spirit or the Word of God, which creates, preserves, and transforms. This is the most profound, yet simple mantra made up three and a half syllables. The syllable “A” is the first aspect indicating the waking state, vaiswaanara. In this state, consciousness is transformed to the external. With its seven instrument and nineteen channels, it experiences the gross phenomenal world. The second syllable “U” is the dreaming state, taijasa. In this state consciousness is turned inward and the last syllable “M” is deep sleep, prajna. In this state, there is neither desire nor dream. In deep sleep all experiences combine into the unity of undifferentiated consciousness. The sleeper is filled with ecstasy and experiences bliss and can find the way to knowledge of the two preceding states.
Another mantra is the Himalayan Shiva mantra: Aum Namah Shivaya, which is translated as “Om Homage to the Highest Lord God”. The Hindu mantra, Asato Ma Sat Gamaya means “Lead me from the unreal to the Real.” There are thousands of Veda mantras that are mainly derived from the ancient Sanskrit language. All mantras are the result of a revelation, usually to some deeply meditating proficient. Mantras are always in Sanskrit, which is the divine language of Gods, Devas descended into Earth externally or inwardly as Avataras Incarnation.
Mantra Yoga involves mantra chanting out loud at first until the body is calm and the atmosphere around oneself is serene and pleasant for meditation. Then whisper meditation almost automatically occurs and the life force begins to withdraw inward from “out-loud” chanting to whisper chanting. While whisper chanting, the prana or the life force in the body, is balanced and harmonized, preparing the way for a deeper state of serenity and of the balance of mind and emotions. Whisper chanting easily liquefies and the life force moves even deeper within the chanter, as he enters mental chanting. The mantra is simply chanted in the same area of the mind that the distraction is occurring.
When the mind absorbs into a mantra, effortless mental chanting can be done. The may dissolve a person into super-consciousness, or it may first help ventilate the subconscious mind, the storage house of old thoughts, feelings, and memories which have been neglected. The mantra may create an opportunity for these old thoughts to be released. Finally, the chanter arrives in his ecstatic, heavenly nature through the mantra. The words of the mantra eventually fall apart and fall away. Only the energy surge of the mantra remains as the awareness and becomes blissful and full of light.
Awakening Kundalini is highly effected by mantra also, which is a portion of Bhakti Yoga. All aspirants repeat the mantra given by their Guru many thousands of times. During the time of Diksha of an Uttama Adhikari, the Guru utters a particular mantra and Kundalini is awakened immediately. The consciousness of the student is raised to a very high degree only by chanting a particular mantra. This depends upon the faith of the student in his Guru and in the mantra. Mantras, when received from the Guru in person are very powerful. Aspirants in Kundalini Yoga should enter the world of mantra sadhana only after getting an appropriate mantra from a Guru. Mantras are numerous and the Guru selects a particular mantra by which the consciousness of a particular student can be awakened.
Mantras can excite the emotions, offer suggestions to the mind, and affect both the one who chants them as the one who hears them. The word mantra comes from the Sanskrit “mantrana”, which means advice or suggestion. Each mantra or word is a sound pattern that suggests to the mind the meanings innate in it, and the mind immediately responds.
Repetition of mantras with attention as directed to the source of the sound, completely engages the mind. This is the stage of Tapas or penance. The source is not in the vocal chords alone, but also the inspiration of the sound is in the mind, whose source is self. Thus the practice of mantra repetition is more than just a suggestion, a bit of advice or an idea. Mantras may be used for religious worship, for purification, for japa (repetition), for healing, to help spiritual evolution, for making offerings and in Mantra Yoga. Some mantras are only chants or expressions of nearness to the Divine. But some saints who were inspired by divine love and resolute faith used these mantras in their own spiritual practice and their followers afterwards started using those mantras, calling them mahamantras or great mantras.
Primarily it is faith, which creates the effect of mantras. Melody, intonation, pronunciation, whether silently or aloud is important factors for the effectiveness in the recitation of mantra. Moreover, the beat cycle in which mantras are recited is also important, but it alters according to the state of consciousness of the one who is chanting. An increase in the speed of chanting increases the speed of heartbeat, mind, and respiration. The beat cycle of the mantras affects the emotions.
The place from which the sound of mantra emanates, influences its tonal quality. The vocal chords in conjunction with the abdominal region, middle tones in conjunction with the chest, heart and throat regions and high-pitched tones in conjunction with the upper region of the body produce deep tones. Indian classical music uses all three regions in a continuing order, but the middle region is used most and produces a greater emotional impact on the listeners through mantras.