In the beginning, say the Vedas, there was the Word.
The Vedas describe this Word, this sound, as a spontaneous vibration, a spandana which created and filled the entire universe. This spandana or vibration was not an audible sound but the rishis, the seers articulated it as Aum, the first Mantra.
Many mistake a mantra for a religious chant but instead it is an integral branch of yoga and just like yoga it has nothing to do with religion. Some mantras may sound like prayers while others may be propounded as having great mystical powers but the ancient seers were exploring the science of sound when they created them.
In our daily lives we are constantly influenced by different sounds. The disturbing sound of traffic, or the calming birdsong, the tune that encourages us to shop or music that helps us sleep. We often find that when we are feeling low listening to upbeat music makes us feel better. All of this happens on the subconscious level without us thinking about it.
All of universe is vibrating. Every particle in every animate and inanimate object is constantly vibrating to a different frequency. By tuning into different sounds we tune into different states of being.
The yogis understood this too. Sound, they realised could expand our consciousness, transform us and even heal us. They developed this into Mantra Yoga.
During meditation or contemplation we often ‘see’ or become aware of our emotional blockages, our pain and suffering. But just knowing or seeing is not enough to remove the blockages. The solution lies beyond the intellect and rational thought.
Most of our reactions are governed by two emotions – fear or anger. These emotions lead us into creating a false reality in our minds. We further validate this reality by thinking about it constantly, often on a loop.
How can we escape this personal reality that we create in our minds and see the true reality?
We could become aware of our internal conversations and limit them with the help of meditation but it is not always as easy as it sounds. Or we could short-circuit the endless loop of thought by introducing a new frequency.
The yogis realised that one of the easiest way to break the cycle of thought is to repeat a mantra – a word or collection words with a higher frequency. Where the meaning of words is irrelevant and the only thing that matters are the vibrations.
Words create worlds. Even our silent inner conversations. So why not use them constructively to create a positive world, to help us on our onward journey.
The chanting of mantras uplifts us by creating new neural pathways and by breaking old patterns of thought. The specific vibrations work on the deeper levels of our consciousness to increase our prana – the vital life force that enables us to live well. Life often seems hard not because we are faced with difficulties but because we feel helpless in the face of those difficulties. When our prana flows freely, we can regain control of our lives. We can find again our purushartha, the ability to shape our lives as we want.
The vedas claim that speech exists in four forms.
1) Vaikhari or dense, audible spoken words which translate thought into coded sound – i.e. language
2) Madhyame or mental speech, where words are filtered through the mental prism to be interpreted. Interpretations are always clouded by our individual perceptions.
3) Pascyanti – telepathic speech which is without audible sounds, when we can tune into the non-verbal.
4) Para – transcendental sound, the pure un-manifested sound. It is the undifferentiated energy or cosmic vibration that unites us all and is present in us all at all times.
Mantras help us travel along these different layers to eventually merge with silence. When sound returns to its source it becomes non-duality and in it we experience oneness, a state of yoga or union with the Cosmic consciousness.