Value of Mantra

Swami Satyananda Saraswati

When one accepts a mantra from his guru, as well as establishing a relationship with the guru, he is receiving a sound of great power. A personal mantra is one of the most precious things in life. Everything can fail you, but your mantra never will. Do not look at it from a religious point of view. You must see the mantra from the practical point of view.

Just as you sow a seed, you must plant the mantra deep within, so that in the course of time it will permeate your whole being. Every morning, before you commence your daily activities, and at night, before you retire to bed, you should repeat your mantra. Take your mala and sit down quietly in a comfortable meditative posture. The spinal cord should be upright and straight and the eyes should be gently closed. Hold the mala near your heart and with every repetition of the mantra, move one bead. The mantra can be repeated mentally or verbally. If your mind is turbulent, repeat the mantra verbally. If it is reasonably calm and quiet, say the mantra mentally, without moving your lips or producing a sound.

Always commence your mala rotation from the first bead after the sumeru (the junction point of the mala). Supposing your mantra is 'Om Aim Namah', every time you say 'Om Aim Namah', move one bead. Like this, repeat the mantra 108 times, moving the beads in co-ordination with each repetition. When you complete one round of mala rotation, turn the mala in your hand and commence another round. Never cross the sumeru. In this manner, practise as many rounds as time allows. If you can devote ten minutes to the practice, this is perfect, but if you can only spare five minutes, this is also good. Gradually, in the course of time, you can increase the number of rounds and practise for up to an hour each time.

When you are repeating the mantra there should be no tension or suppression. Let your mind be free. The purpose of mantra repetition is not to develop concentration but to withdraw the senses and still the mind. Even if you practise without concentration the mantra will do its job. In the course of time you will find that your mind has come to the point of unification by itself. No effort is required from your side.

Those who suffer from nervousness, fear, anxiety and other acute mental manifestations should always keep a small mala of 27 beads with them. Whenever they are free, even if it is just for a few minutes before lunch, after dinner, while talking to someone, waiting for the bus or train, or while watching television, they can repeat the mantra mentally.

Practise the mantra whenever you are idle, during the day or at night, whether you are thinking sensible things or useless things. If you keep your mind occupied with the mantra whenever it is free, you will soon find that the mind no longer wanders like a vagabond. The mind now has a base, a point to which it can return. Through this simple practice one can bring about a great transformation in the mental state. Mantra is a very powerful tool for handling all the manifestations of the mind.

Throughout your life you have been thinking and thinking, almost incessantly, and if you examine your thoughts, you will find that 99% of them are unnecessary. Just imagine how much mental energy is wasted on all those useless thought processes. If you had a base on which to centre your mind you would have strong willpower, a one-pointed mind and a lot of vitality. Now, if you can understand that your thinking consumes energy and mantra conserves energy, then you will realise the secret of mantra.

So, once you have a mantra which has been charged by a guru, it will immediately start to change the course of your life if you accept it with your heart and mind and utilise it daily. Each time you sit for practice, remember your guru, and at the end of the practice remember him again. Keep your eyes closed throughout the practice and relax your body and mind. Forget your name, forget your home and forget your environment. Just repeat your mantra, immerse yourself into it and become the mantra itself.

Using a mala

The purpose of the mala is to keep your awareness on the practice. At times you may be so involved in your thoughts that you forget what you are doing. It is only when you complete a round of mala rotation that your attention is brought back to the practice. A mala is also used to indicate how much practice you have done.

The mala should always be held in the right hand between the tips of the thumb and the ring finger. The middle finger moves the beads and the second and little fingers don't come into contact with the mala. Rotate the mala towards the palm. When you reach the sumeru you have completed one round. Turn the mala with your fingers and start the second round.

Traditionally, the mala is always held just in front of the heart. The left hand is cupped and placed in the lap facing upwards. It can be used to catch the lower end of the mala to prevent it from swinging about and becoming tangled. If you prefer, your right hand can be placed on the right knee and the mala can rest on the floor.

Types of malas

For mantra meditation you should have a mala of 108 beads. They must be strung on strong cotton thread which is knotted between each bead. The most commonly used malas are tulsi, rudraksha, sandalwood, coral and crystal. Tulsi beads are made from the stems of tulsi plants which are highly revered for their psychic properties. Tulsi has a strong and purifying effect on the emotions and is soothing to the mind. The sensitivity of tulsi makes it one of the best mediums for practising mantra, however, it should not be used by those who take alcohol or a non-vegetarian diet.

Rudraksha, the seed of a jungle fruit, is the second most commonly used mala. It is not so sensitive to psychic things and there are no restrictions regarding its use. Rudraksha improves blood circulation and functioning of the coronary system and reduces high blood pressure.

Sandalwood malas are sweetly scented and contain pacifying and protective vibrations. They are cooling and beneficial to those who have any type of skin disease. Coral malas are used by those who have eczema, ringworm, scabies, etc., or mental disorders like schizophrenia and neuroses. Crystal malas have psychic properties and are used for higher tantric sadhana.

Rules for Practice

  • * Once you have received a mantra from your guru it should never be changed unless the guru advises it.
  • * A mantra is absolutely personal and should not be revealed to anyone.
  • * Mantra can be repeated at any time and in any place, although it is best to practise at a regular time each day, either early in the morning after asanas and pranayama, or before sleep at night.
  • * Mantra can be practised with or without a mala and in any posture, but when you are practising in the morning or before sleep, it is best if you practise with a mala and in a meditative posture with eyes closed.
  • * Clothing should be loose and comfortable. Many people experience greater steadiness and tranquillity if they place a geru dhoti over their head and shoulders during their mantra practice.
  • * Do not try to concentrate while practising mantra, otherwise you will create tension.
  • * Repeat the mantra quickly if the mind is disturbed and slowly if the mind is more relaxed. If you are sleepy, repeat the mantra verbally.
  • * The mala which is used for mantra sadhana should never be worn around the neck or lent to other people. When it is not being used it should be kept in a small bag of its own.
  • * The mala given to the disciple by the guru, at the time of initiation, should be used in preference to all other malas and must always be reverently kept.
  • * A mala which is obtained directly from the guru's ashram is made by sadhaks and is therefore preferable to those available elsewhere.