Mantra Chanting, though commonly associated with Hinduism and Buddhism, is a form of practicing Yoga in which the Mantra is viewed as energy in the form of sound vibrations which give rise to specific forms. The Sanskrit word mantra-consists of the root man- “to think” and the suffix -tra, designating tools or instruments, hence a literal translation would be “instrument of thought”. All specific Mantras are also Sanskrit words or string of words that have specific meanings realized by sages in deep meditation. Examples are ‘Soham’, ‘Om’, ‘Tat Twam Asi’ etc.
Rules for chanting:
• The posture that we sit in should be relaxed and still, yet comfortable with back and head aligned in a straight line.
• It is very important that the Mantra be chanted understanding its meaning and one should be fully convinced of its importance.
• Mantras should be repeated with meaning and feeling. In traditional practice, the Mantras are chanted by counting them a specific number of times each day.
• The chants are done aloud in the beginning but after some time that process turns inward, and the chanting is done in the inner silence.
Stages of Mantra Chanting:
It is said that the Mantra will naturally move inward through four stages if we allow it to happen.
At the more external level it is chanted as a word and meaning. Later its meaning becomes a feeling. This feeling then becomes a deep, intense and constant awareness. Finally it becomes a soundless sound, a stage that defies description, but as a root of the sound, it is like a soundless sound of the mantra that is resting in silence.
The initial goal of Mantra chanting is to quiet the mind by giving it one focus of attention. We may find that the mind often has thoughts and feelings that pop up when we try to focus it on something. We tend to get carried away with these thoughts, and often create a tug of war about this process, engage in mental arguments or become angry with ourselves about these.
But we have to overcome this tendency by not getting disappointed and by gently trying to observe the thoughts and associations happening in the mind, and bringing the awareness back to the Mantra. This attitude that is developed with continuous practice will dissipate the thoughts as they happen without creating an internal conflict.
Why Mantras are chanted:
Imagine that you are standing on the bank of a river and you hear the current as it flows. If you follow the river upstream, you will come to its origin. There, you will find that there is no sound. In the same way, a mantra leads the mind to the silence within. That state is called ‘soundless sound
Our mind does not normally want to go into this silence since it has many desires to fulfill. When we chant Mantras repeatedly and allow it to grow, a new object will come to occupy the mind. A new groove is created in the mind. That is when our mind stops flowing into the past grooves and starts flowing in the new grooves that have been consciously created using the Mantras. Eventually, instead of being disturbed by our thoughts, we will begin to find ourselves repeating our Mantra, with the mind not being distracted by the thoughts. This creates a joyous state of mind no matter what the external circumstances are. This is when we learn to transcend our minds and get united with a state of silence that is the source of all existence- That is the ultimate goal of Yoga!
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