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 initiation.
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. I
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,