I had posted an article on how to do Japa some time back.
This post is about mantras.
While japa is about the procedure of reciting the Mantras, this post is about mantras.
Mantra is a word or group of words with specific meaning and intonation.
The letters of the words in a mantra are mystically locked to fulfill a specific purpose.
When a mantra is chanted properly , with the correct pronunciation and the Yama and Niyama associated with it shall deliver the results.
I had seen, in my childhood, people, nullifying the effect of Snake,poisonous Insects’ bites.
Mantra was also used for curing Jaundice!
I have first hand experience of the latter, where a small needle was held in water while the Mantra was being chanted mentally.
The dark Yellowish tinge of water kept in a brass vessel before the person afflicted with Jaundice slowly turned its color.
When the water comes colorless, after some days of this procedure, you are declared cured and that’s it.
There are thee types of mantras.
1.Mantra as a Part of Bhakthi Yoga.
One is devoted toa particular Deity.
To worship a Deity a Mantra is chanted .
Here the God or its Image takes the pride of place and the mistakes in chanting the Mantra does not affect, provided the image is fixed in the mind.
A word here about Mantra and Stothra.
Mantra I have explained here above.
A stothra is simply a praise of the God, it need not carry the power of the Mantra.
2.Mantra as a part of Mantra Sadhana.
Here the Mantra in all its aspects is important.
The chanting or incantation is important.
The sound is given importance more than the Deavata.
There are some stothras , Sukthas which are Mantras as well.
The Five Sukthas, Purusha Suktha, Narayana Suktha, Vishnu Suktha, Sri Suktha and Durga Suktha belong to this category.
They can be used as a Stotra or a Mantra.
A portion of the Suktha is also a Mantra.
Durga Sapthasati sloka is a Mantra as a whole.
The third category of Mantra is from the angle of Jnana Yoga, where th meaning of the meaning of the Mantra is contemplated upon more than anything else.
Though wrong pronunciation does not produce adverse effects, it is better, in all the cases, to know the right intonation in all the cases as we do not know where we have erred in the other aspects.
That is why we say, at the end of evry pooja, or chanting,
Mantra heenam, kriya heenam’ mantra to seek pardon.
To cap it all we declare,
‘Budhyaatmana Prakruthe swabhavaath’- it is my nature i have been driven to perform, implying that my mistakes are unintentional.
How to chant the Mantra.
- The duration of each tone is fixed and one should chant the mantra according to the swara with each syllable stressed to the required extent, and each tone (for the corresponding syllable) chanted for that duration.
- Chanting should not be done like singing, or like reading. It should not be muttered fast, each syllable should be properly uttered with the required stress and pronounced with clarity.
- While chanting one should sit with his back upright, and not shake or move while chanting. Chanting should be done with a fixed posture to allow the complete effect of the sound energy. While this rule in general applies to singing also (say for instance classical music), it applies even more rigidly in case of chanting a mantra.
- Whether the mantra is chanted aloud or internally, it should be done along with the swara.
Chanting mantra like a song, chanting like reading a text quickly, muttering, chanting louder than required, making unnecessary movements of hands or head, are incorrect ways of chanting.
Taittiriya Upanishad specifies six elements of chanting (Siksha Valli, chapter 2):
- Varna or alphabet (or in general syllable)
- Swara or intonation of each syllable
- Matra or duration of uttering each syllable
- Balam or stress on each syllable
- Saama or the balance of chanting (the tune of entire mantra)
- Santana or the spacing of words.
Mnatra Anushtana, The Rules.
Mantra-Anusthana is the encapsulation of mantra japa into the astanga yoga. The steps like yama, niyama, pratyahara are general rules. A few of them are: Each devata is said to have specific timings in the day when the devata wakes/sleeps. Japa is prescribed in the time the mantra adhidevata (deity of the mantra) wakes. One should do japa facing different directions when seeking different results. Asana is the posture in which japa is done. Pranayama is the breath regulation done before japa. Dharana is done through karanyasa and anganyasa, this is invoking devata in the body. Dhyana sloka is chanted after that, this is concentrating on the form of the devata. And then japa is started. Japa is the means to get one to the Samadhi state.
Man Upasna and Purascharana.
Mantra upasana is the systematic worship through Mantra. It is done for a specific duration of time or for life, in two modes – deeksha (specified) and nitya (regular). There are stipulations for deekha, such as timings, food and clothes (of the devotee), offerings (made to the devata) and so on. There is a purascarana for every Mantra. There is a specific minimal count for every Mantra for the sadhaka to “see” its effect, which is called purascarana sankhya. The count varies from Mantra to Mantra. There are five parts in purascarana.
- Japa – the mantra should be chanted for the count specified in purascarana for that mantra.
- Homa – oblations to be offered to the devata through fire, along with the mantra. This is a tenth of japa count. If japa is done 100,000 times then 10,000 oblations are offered in fire with the mantra.
- Tarpana – satisfying the devata by offering water, milk or any other specified substance. It is generally a sweet fluid. The offering is made by chanting the mantra. This is done with a hundredth of japa count. If japa is done 100,000 times then tarpana is done 1000 times.
- Abhisheka – the idol of devata is bathed with water, milk or any other specified substance, while chanting the mantra. This is a 1000th of japa count. If japa is done 100,000 times then abhisheka is done 100 times.
- Samaradhana – this is the conclusion of purascarana where Dvijas are invited and fed every 10,000th count of japa. If japa is done 100,000 times then ten dvijas are to be invited for samaradhana. There are alternatives for all these, and if nothing is possible japa itself multiplied five times should be done. If one has to do just the japa, and the purascarana is 100,000, then the mantra should be done 500,000 times to substitute for the entire process. However, homa is the most effective way to get Devata’s grace.
- Beejas represent natural phenomena. The beejas used in a mantra define the nature of Devata.
- Sound and meaning are inseparable. Meaning is known through sound and sound is realized through meditation on the meaning.
- Mantra is sound-specific or dhvani pradhana. Therefore its effect is specific to the language in which it is composed. Mantra cannot be translated, and it remains merely text and no more a mantra once translated to another language.
- Mantra and Devata are inseparable. Mantra is the sound-form or subtle body of Devata. Chanting mantra is the same as worshiping Devata, it is not merely a means but the yoga itself.
- Mantra yoga is about using the upadhi of external sound to realizing the one beyond upadhi. Mantra yoga at the four different levels of vak is basically the path of realization.
- In case of kamya, mantra serves istapurti. Mantra Japa is Karma, Yajna. Its fruit is two-fold. One is the immediate result of karma. Another is its impression on the doer. Thus along with istapurti, mantra upasana results in the elevation of the upasaka. Karma is called isti in the pravritti marga, because it results in ista purti. However when performed according toDharma, it will also ensure the doer’s elevation, develop antarmukhatva – from gross to subtle to causal. The seeker’s attention slowly shifts from the result of action to the one who grants the results, namely the Devata. And the object of worship too, gradually becomes more Devata centric and less desire centric. Thus the sadhana phases into nivritti from pravritti, and karma becomes more of nishkama karma and causes karma nivritti because of non-attachment to the immediate result. The sole objective of karma/mantra yoga will be the fulfilment of Devata’s wish, and the being starts realizing himself as an instrument of divine.