Mantra is a simple yet extremely powerful tool to connect us to the latent faculties of the mind and higher self.
My personal experience has been that coming from a Judeo-Christian childhood and adopting this foreign practice later in my life, it’s very easy to get lost in the weeds of uncertainty due to cultural ignorance and unfamiliarity. I am very grateful, however, for the timeless and ancient teachings of the lineage in which I am currently studying, as I feel like a lot of deeper insights have been elucidated by my gurus and teachers, lighting the path for my own personal practice. I’d like to share some of these tidbits with you, so you can benefit as well.
Just as the seeds of karma have been planted with our past actions, ripen through the passage of time and arise through the force of nīyati at the correct moment, the planets exert their influences through the manifold divisions of time and provide divine clues for us to interpret and decipher these karmas. In Jyotiṣa (Vedic Astrology), when we encounter problems and obstacles with our lives and seek help, a competent astrologer will not only reveal the causal effect of our karmas to us and show us timing of life events, but also offer counsel in how to best remediate the fruits of these negative actions, in order to create positive shifts in our lives. Typically, this is done through various forms of Upāyas, or means of karmic remediation. This can be done through various prayers, rituals, or actions (even donations to various charities) to improve the effects of how the planetary influences are showing up for us. Each planet embodies the divine archetypal force of its ruling deity, so it would make sense that connecting directly with the divine embodiment can alter the quality of these karmic results.
Mantra is a simple and extremely effective Upāya through which definite changes can be experienced. That said, the right mantra prescribed can be like medicine when we are facing issues in our lives.
What is a Mantra?
Mantra is a word in Sanskrit derived from two syllables: Man and Tra. Man is derived from the word Manas, which reflects the mind. Tra means to protect. We can therefore assume that the word itself helps to protect the mind and also to traverse the vacillating waves of thought to peer into higher levels of consciousness.
Sanskrit itself is reputed to be a divinely cognized language by the seers of India, cognized through sound, thought and shape. The structure of the Sanskrit alphabet itself is phenomenal as its sounds utilize all portions of the mouth and throat. It has been used orally for transmission of sacred hymns, mantras and teachings for many years. In fact, the adage even exists “He who understands Sanskrit, knows God.”
Just as our consciousness can dance with our perception of reality and create thought, and thought creates speech through physical sound, sound carries vibration, and vibration can penetrate back into subtler realms of thought and consciousness.
Mantra is a tool that directly and effectively enables this process.
Does one need to understand the translated meaning of a Sanskrit mantra to gain benefits? Do I need to worship the deity of that mantra to gain benefits? What about pronunciation? What if I don't believe in deities?
In short, there are two main categories of mantras, called siddha (these are formally given by a Guru and empowered by their lineage/practice), and prasiddha (mantras which do not require formal initiation). Since most Vedic Astrologers (including myself) primarily give prasiddha mantras for karmic remediation, the scope of this article will specifically address those.
The potency of a prasiddha mantra (those which have not been empowered by a Guru) is developed over time through consistent practice and sound, not intellectual or linguistic understanding. As stated previously, the Sanskrit language itself contains vibrational power through sound. Mantras contain something called Nāmarūpa (the names associated with the invocations carry form and power within themselves) and can produce a direct positive effect through this. The Nāmarūpa also directly carries the potency of the deity being invoked through sound. Worship and devotion of the ruling deity can help, but should never become an obstacle for those unfamiliar with Vedic influenced deity worship. In fact, many non-Hindus employ mantras for great benefit, so one should not have to propitiate the physical form of Ganesh on an altar, in order to benefit from recitation of a Ganesh mantra to remove obstacles in their lives (although – it can help us to connect in a more intimate way). Mantras should be accessible to all people from all walks of life, irrespective of spiritual or religious heritage. A skilled astrologer will also be keenly aware of this when consulting with the client and always try to alter the Upāya to fit the client’s devotional and cultural preferences.
Another viewpoint is that mantra is a practice of invoking the subtler forms of the five great building blocks of reality, the great elements of Space, Air, Fire, Water and Earth, through physical sound meditation.
As such, proper pronunciation does carry importance, although we should never discount intention as an underlying factor as well.
As a general rule of thumb, if a person doesn't have higher beliefs in deities, this will be be reflected within the horoscope. Mantra is a science, because in skilled hands, it can deliver replicable results. Trust in the process, see the result.
How can I begin practicing Mantra?
The actual practice of Mantra is a detailed subject. I hope to one day teach a class encompassing the scope of this as I’ve learned to date, as it is too complex of a subject to outline here.
The process itself is commonly called Mantra Japa (recitation of mantra).
For starters, when you have found a mantra (better to get help from a knowledgeable astrologer), find a quiet spot in your home. Take a quick bath or shower, or wash your feet. You can ritualize your practice by lighting a wax candle or a Diya (oil candle and cotton wick), and some incense. Sit cross legged (if possible), and keep your spine erect but relaxed. Close your eyes. Chant the mantra aloud audibly and listen to the sounds as you are making them. Meditate on them as they imprint themselves onto your consciousness. Once you have created an intimate relationship with the sounds themselves, you can proceed to repeat the mantra in a whispered voice or even mentally (this is called manasika japa). Try to focus on the sounds and make a mental effort to recenter your attention if it wanders (which it invariably will).
It is beneficial to have a mala (rosary) consisting of 108 beads. Typically, a rosary made of seeds of the Tulsi (Holy Basil Plant), or Rudraksha (from the sacred Rudraksha Tree). Also, certain types of rosaries are more beneficial than others for certain practices.
There is a special way of activating and holding the rosary, which I will subsequently teach in the future. But for how, hold the rosary with your thumb and middle finger (the index finger should not be used) and shift through each bead (starting from the 1st bead adjacent to the bead/tassel, this is known as the Guru bead) and recite the mantra once. Then shift forward to the next bead with your thumb, and recite it again. Then shift to the next bead, and continue the process until you have reached the tassel on the other side (108 mantra repetitions in total). This is typically called one complete mala of recitation. On occasion, certain practices will require multiple malas of practice, and this is an easy way of keeping track.
Alternatively, you can also time yourself and discard the mala completely. Set an intention to repeat a mantra continually for 10 minutes, and set the timer on your smartphone.
Take some time afterwards to remain in the peaceful state of your practice. Do not rush or jump away from your practice too quickly. Try to retain the peaceful after effects of the practice throughout your day, or before falling asleep at night.
Are you interested in learning more about mantra? Would you like to learn some easy, safe and effective mantras for practice? Let me know!