How should we concentrate
in practicing mantras?
by M. Govindan Satchidananda
Mantras are a language between levels of consciousness, so it
is important to repeat them in such a way that one's consciousness
both deepens and widens, like a seed which grows into a tree.
In ordinary physical consciousness, our consciousness, even our
identity is absorbed int the phenomena being experienced through
the five senses. We are preoccupied with what we are seeing, reading,
hearing, feeling on the skin etc. In ordinary dream consciousness,
which includes daydreaming, our consciousness is also contracted
and absorbed in memories, imaginations like anxiety, desire, judgments.
To gain the benefit of mantra sadhana, therefore, one needs to
concentrate on not only the sound or pronunciation of the mantra,
but also on its meaning or what it is pointing to. The meaning
may best be understood as a bhava or feeling, associated with
such as ideas as love, surrender, strength, wisdom, abundance,
radiance, peace. The benefit will be even greater if one can remember
the state of consciousness one felt when one was first initiated
into the mantra. The mantra is essentially a vehicle of consciousness,
and it reminds us of that state which we were in during the initiation.
Mantra initiation is such a sacred event, and requires much preparation
on the part of both the initiator and the one receiving initiation.
It is rare that for example, we observe a day of silence, and
intensive practice of Yoga, and chanting around a mantra yagna
fire, as we did prior to the mantra initiation. So, remember that
state of consciousness, with its love, purity, equanimity, the
wide calm and energy which you cultivated before and during mantra
The seed syllalbes germinated
during the mantra initiation. Later, as one practices them on
one's own, they will grow in an expansive way like a plant, if
when practicing them, one sets aside other preoccupations. One
may do this during routine activites which do not require much
concentration, like walking or riding in a car, and even driving
the car if one is on a familiar route without much traffic. Such
practice also helps us to weed out mental anxiety and trivial
thinking, which ordinarily drains us of our mental energy.
If practiced with an aspiration
for that to which the mantra corresponds, whether it be love,
wisdom, strength, abundance, enlightenment, for example, one creates
the ideal conditions in which such states come down from the mental
plane and manifest, even magically in the material plane. As our
life is largely the consequence of our past thoughts, words and
actions, that is our karma, as we replace old habitual thoughts
with the mantra, the old karma tendencies lose their force and
dry up. Such an aspiration however, must not contain any impatience,
hope or doubt. It must be filled with feelings of confidence in
the efficacy of the power of the mantra, and surrender to the
Will of the Divine. The highest aspiration, is simply "Not
my will, but Thy will be done." Then whatever one receives,
will be in alignment with the Will of the Divine, and one will
overcome the ego-based illusion of being "the doer."
When our minds are troubled
by life's challenges, practice of the mantras can be performed
as a kind of balm, to soothe the anxiety, sadness or agitation
in the mind. Even if the mind is competing with the mantra recitation,
the latter will gradually wear down the mental chatter, leaving
one in a peaceful state.
Mantras can be done prior to
the practice of meditation as an aid to calming and concentrating
the mind, and preparing it for meditation.
It is best to practice the mantra
continuously during a given period, or for a predetermined number,
in order to develop one's will power; however, if circumstances
demand that you put your attention elsewhere, the mantra sadhana
should be temporarily put aside, until one can return to it with
full or near full attention.
Copyright: M. Govindan Satchidananda,
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