The basis of many prana vidya techniques is mantra. Many people associate mantra with spoken sound or strange Sanskrit words. The derivation of the word mantra gives some indication of the source of this ancient science. Man means profound meditation and tra means to expand or illuminate. Mantra is therefore sound revealed from profound meditation. The mantras in Tantra Shastra or Mantra Shastra occurred to the rishis and saints in or just before states of samadhi.
Scientifically, sound is caused by vibrations of a particular quality. Normally the range is from one to ten decibels. The effect of sound is to produce physical change in an organism. Some vibrations of sound are harmful, others beneficial. Sound has been concentrated to such degrees of intensity that objects have been shattered and destroyed. Sound is energy. Sound has pitch, volume, intensity, tone and certain subtle qualities. These facts were realized by the rishis when they heard and formulated mantras, bija mantras and richas. A richa is a collection of mantras, referred to as slokas. These were compiled and became the revealed books of the great religions of the world.
Mantra has two qualities, in Sanskrit known as vama and akshara.
Vama means colour and form. The Sanskrit term for alphabet is vama. Akshara is that which does not perish. This means once a mantra is uttered, it becomes part of the eternal akashic records.
Bija mantras were the first syllables that appeared in deep meditation. They are symbols of the unconscious mind. The following are some of the major bijas with their symbolic representations : aum - cosmic being, hraum - Shiva, dum - Durga, kreem - Kali, hreem - Mahamaya, shreem - Lakshmi, aim - Saraswati, kleem - Krishna, hoom - Bhairava.
These mantras are thought forms as well as sound. They have no grammatical meaning and cannot be understood intellectually. Principles of sound and the ability to use sound were known to ancient peoples. The great stones of Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Mayan monuments were moved into place using principles of sound now lost to modern civilization. The pyramids of Egypt are said to house secrets of sound which defy modern research.
The rishis of ancient India possessed knowledge of sound to a great degree, and this knowledge is hidden in the power of mantra. To realize this power, recitation is not enough. Mantra requires correct phonetic pronunciation, the proper intonation, correct concentration and creation of the associated mental image or form. All of this can only be imparted by a guru or master of the tantric science of mantra. Correct mantra practice produces not only sound waves, but also corresponding thought waves, colour, form and geometrical shape.
In western occult teachings, every letter of the Hebrew, Chaldean and Druidic alphabets is invested with power and energy. Each letter contains a specific vibration. This vibration corresponds with a number, colour, musical note, a gem or metal, and has astrological significance. The Cabbalistic system has 22 letters, each representing an idea. Certain combinations of letters are used to conjure up beneficial or malign influence.
In the western occult system, it is also observed that the physical recitation of a 'name' is insufficient. The physical reproduction even of the correct sounds does not possess its potent influence. It is the thought power, the thought content which contains the energy and with it, the effectiveness of the name. The vibration received by the hearer is charged with the emotional content or psychic radiation of the sender. This has a subtle effect on the psyche of the receiver. It influences according to the vibratory key of the thought, so that different vibratory keys produce different effects upon those contacted.
Mantra also contains a number, a musical note, a colour, gem or metal and astrological significance. In prana vidya, mantra correctly intoned projects energy, impressions, thought forms and symbols. Mantra is not sound alone; it is the revealed stuff of sound. An example of a mantra is Om Namah Shivaya. This mantra has the bija mantra hraum. It is also associated with a geometrical form, called a yantra. When given by a tantric guru, it contains form, colour and content of thought.
When a mantra is practiced, four things should be kept in mind: the mantra itself, the devata, the psychic centre and the form of invocation. The devata is not God or some divinity; devata means illumined form. It is the revealed symbol of the mantra. The psychic centres are points of concentration highly affected by the mantra. The invocation is the esoteric prayer or slokas which accompany the mantra.
Correct application of mantra is a specialized form of prana vidya. The energy content of the appropriate mantra is a subtle form of prana. In India the power of mantra is also applied as a cure for disease, poisons, fevers and other health problems. There is also a science of mantra anaesthesia. In tantra the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are directly related to particular physical and psychic centres. Correct invocation of mantra will effect an energy charge in the psyche which is transmitted to the physical body. Mantras or slokas such as Gayatri mantra, Devi Stotra and Durga mantra are sometimes chanted either before, during or after healing. In the case of mantra affecting a particular part of the body, the mantra is chanted as the hand is passed over the affected part.
An excellent mantra for prana vidya is the Gayatri mantra. According to the scriptures of ancient Indian philosophy, prana has three forms: Gayatri as a little girl, innocent and childish in the early morning; a young and charming girl, in full blossom at noon and a mature woman embodying wisdom, jnana, in the evening. The colour of Gayatri in the morning is red, at noon black, and in the evening smoky grey. These are the philosophical characteristics of prana in the Gayatri mantra. This mantra has 24 syllables:
Om bhurbhuvha svah tat saviturvarenyam
bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yonah prachodayat.
These 24 syllables contain the entire form of prana. The practice of mantra is designed to open up one's hidden faculties.
In the practice of prana vidya, transfer of prana for the purpose of spiritual awakening and also healing can be accomplished through the use of mantra.