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Indian Spirituality => Mantras and Slokas => Topic started by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:43:34 PM

Title: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:43:34 PM
How to use a Mantra
in Yoga Practice
by Swami Jnaneshvara Bharati

Mantra Yoga: Mantra practice is a central aspect of traditional Yoga. Following are 13 practical tips on how to use a mantra or sacred word. These suggestions are general in nature and should apply to most any use of mantra. 

Opposites can both be useful: Mantra japa (repeating or remembering mantra) can seem a bit complex when we ask what one should or should not do, or what is right versus wrong to do. Actually, two seemingly opposite practices can both be useful, with one simply being subtler than the other, or having a greater tendency to lead attention inward. One method may be a starting place that naturally evolves into the other. 

 Two ends of a spectrum: All of the descriptions below contrast one pole of a spectrum with the other (external-internal or gross-subtle). In this way, the practices can easily be compared, while seeing the relative value of one versus the other. One form of practice might be useful at one stage, and the other more useful later on. 
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:45:41 PM
Universal seed mantras: The foundational, primary sounds are called seed or bija vibrations in Sanskrit. Such universal sounds can also be called basal, prime, primordial, essential or basic sound vibrations, as well as other descriptive names. 

Om is such a sound, especially when focusing on the Mmmmm... sound vibration, which is somewhat like mentally remembering the sound of a buzzing bee. Both inhalation and inhalation might be done smoothly and slowly, while remembering that Mmmm... sound mentally. Om Mantra can be used as a seed vibration alone, or along with deeper meanings.

Soham is a universal mantra vibration, with Sooo... being remembered with inhalation and Hummm... being remembered with exhalation.

Ahhh... can be remembered with inhalation and Ummmm... remembered with exhalation.

Many other such sound vibrations can also be used, whether or not coordinated with breath. For example, any of the single-syllable vowel sounds can be used, with or without an Mmmm... sound at the end.

It is the practice itself that will convince one of the viability of such universal sound vibrations as means of relieving the autonomic nervous system, while calming and focusing the mind. Mantra practice like this will prepare the mind for deeper meditation beyond the syllables of the mantras.

Longer mantras: There are many longer mantras in many languages. Some are like positive affirmations and some are for specific, desired benefits. Some are related to religions, and some are not. The principles of using mantra that are listed below are universal, applying to all of the many types of mantras.

Compact prayer: Some mantras can be described is as short, compact prayers. One can easily think of examples where a particular sentence or phrase from a longer prayer or writing forms a compact prayer or mantra. Once again, the principles below are universal, applying to any of these types of mantra.

Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:48:19 PM
  parrot-like repetition
repetition with feeling

 Repetition with feeling 

One can recite a mantra solely as a mental process, somewhat like training a parrot in rote repetition. While this may help train the mind to be one-pointed, it is not nearly as beneficial as reciting the mantra with feeling. Recitation along with feeling is a deeper process that brings greater benefits. 

In either case, it is important to note that the use of mantra merely to repress emotions is not the intent. With emotional challenges, mantra can have a stabilizing effect while a person deals with those challenges in other healthy ways as well.

Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:50:02 PM
chanting mantra aloud
chanting mantra internally

Chanting internally

Chanting mantra aloud can be a very enjoyable and useful process, whether alone or done with a group of people.

After some time that process turns inward, and the chanting is done in the inner silence.
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:51:01 PM
repeating mantra with conscious willpower
allowing mantra to arise and repeat itself

Repeating itself 

One might initially use willpower to remember the mantra. This training the mind has a centering or balancing effect. (However, it is not a good idea to use mantra to repress, avoid, or escape from other thoughts and emotions.)
Another approach is to sit silently, with attention inward, and allow the mantra to arise and repeat itself. It might take some patience, but this is a subtler practice.

Notice that repeating with willpower is a form of expression, while allowing mantra to arise and repeat itself requires attention. (Expression and attention relate to the indriyas.)

The process of attention is more internal than the process of expression. Also, attention leads to concentration; in turn, concentration leads to meditation; and then, meditation leads to samadhi. 
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:52:16 PM
intentionally repeating mantra fast
allowing mantra to come at its own speed

At its own speed 

Some practitioners and teachers of mantra recitation intentionally see how fast they can recite the mantra. This can definitely create a groove in the mind for remembering the mantra.

A more advanced or internal practice is to allow the mantra to come at it's own speed. Over time, the mantra will naturally shift in speed, sometimes moving very fast, faster than the mind might normally be able to recite. At other times, it will naturally move very slowly.
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:53:22 PM
counting mantras
not counting mantras

Counting or not counting 

Counting practices can help to focus the mind and create deep impressions that have a stabilizing effect.
A practice where a specific number of mantras is done over an extended period of time (called a purascharna) can be a very beneficial practice in clearing or purifying the mind. For example, one might do 125,000 repetitions over a few months. A larger and longer practice is called a maha-purascharna.

Yet, when counting mantras, awareness might tend to stay more on the surface level due to the external aspect of the counting.
When the counting is set aside, the mantra can more purely shift to a deeper form of meditation, where attention is naturally drawn to the mantra as a single object of focus. 

Both practices, counting and not counting, are useful and have their place in sadhana (spiritual practices).
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:53:52 PM
with mala or counting beads
without mala or counting beads

With or without mala 

In the beginning of using mantra, it can be beneficial to use mala or counting beads when remembering mantra (mala usually has 108 beads). By getting the physical body involved through the motion of the fingers, it can be much easier for the mind to stay focused. 

However, setting aside the mala, disengaging the use of the motion of the body (the karmendriyas) allows the attention to more purely go inward, past body and sensory awareness, following the mantra as it leads you inward.

Both types of practice, with or without mala, are useful and have their place in sadhana (spiritual practices).
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:54:52 PM
 as word and meaning 
as a feeling
as a constant awareness 
as soundless sound / silence 

Four levels 

Mantra will naturally move inward through stages, if allowed. It is important to remember this, so as to not unintentionally keep meditation shallow when it is trying to move into deeper peace.

For example, the word shanti means peace or tranquility. The feeling that gradually emerges is more internal and peaceful than is the repetition of the syllables alone. When the syllables drift away, one might then meditate on the feeling of peace itself, which is more subtle. Initially, this feeling might fade quickly, and be resurrected by again remembering the syllables of the mantra.

Gradually, that feeling has fewer breaks or distractions, and becomes a somewhat constant, pervasive awareness.

This eventually leads inward to a deep awareness that is the root of the sound. It somewhat defies description, but as a root of the sound, it is like a soundless sound of the mantra that is resting in silence.   
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:55:25 PM
 external repetition of the name or mantra 
internal remembering of the name or mantra
silent longing for what is behind the name 

Mantra as a name of God

Some practitioners use as their mantra a name of God from within their religion, or as given by a teacher.

At first the mantra or name might be used externally through repetition, chanting, or in song.

Or, the name or mantra might be recited or remembered internally.

Then, the name or mantra itself might drift away, as the grosser sound is replaced by a deeper longing or communion for what is behind the name or mantra.
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:56:16 PM
 not allowing mantra to "lead" you to silence
allowing mantra to "lead" you to silence

Mantra will lead 

Sometimes the mantra is naturally trying to lead attention into silence, and the practitioner thinks that mantra is being forgotten. There may be extra effort to then continue to recite, or internally speak the mantra.

Deeper than this is to allow the mantra to naturally lead attention to its deeper, subtler aspect that rests in the silence.

This leading process can be tricky in practice, as one might just be falling asleep. It requires a bit of practice and attention to notice the difference between drifting off into sleep and going into a deeper, quieter, more clear state of mantra meditation.

This leading quality is one of the most important aspects of mantra practice.
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:57:12 PM
 internally "speaking" or "reciting" the mantra
internally "listening to" or "remembering" the mantra

Speaking vs. listening 

A good way to understand this dimension is to think of songs you may have heard. Once those sounds are in your mind, they automatically arise, without any effort.

Initially one may internally speak or recite the mantra.

Later, the practice is more like listening to or remembering the mantra, than actively speaking.

One may or may not literally hear an inner sound. It is the mental stance of listening or remembering that is being practiced here. It is somewhat like remembering a person whom you love. The name of the person may come and go in your mind field, but the memory of the person is not dependent on the presence of the name.
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:57:57 PM
 pushing away thoughts with mantra
allowing thoughts to flow through the mind before remembering mantra

Dealing with thoughts 

Mantra can unwisely be used to repress ones thinking process. Mantra should not be used to avoid life and dealing with mental and emotional issues. At meditation time, one can easily get into an inner fight between the mantra and the stream of thoughts. This is not the best thing to do.

Better than fighting, is to allow a period of time for inner reflection or internal dialogue to explore and deal with those thoughts and emotions. Then, it is much easier to remember the mantra as it naturally arises in the stream of the mind. 
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:58:38 PM
 approach that "japa" means reciting mantra
approach that "japa" means listening to mantra

Japa and listening

Some translate the Sanskrit word Japa as reciting or repeating, while others translate Japa as listening or remembering. One is an active process of expressing, while the other is a passive process of paying attention.

These are two different approaches to the use of mantra (mantra japa). The process of actively reciting or repeating is more externally focused, while the process of listening or paying attention is more internally focused.

The active process is easier to practice in the beginning, while the attention process is more internal and advanced.
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: pramanisa on June 11, 2007, 11:59:40 PM
 approach that "ajapa japa" means automatic repetition of mantra
approach that "ajapa japa" means constant awareness of mantra

Ajapa japa 

For the approach whereby mantra japa means actively repeating (noted above), this process might become automatic over time (like spontaneously singing a song you have heard many times). This automatic repetition is one form of the term ajapa japa. 

For the approach whereby mantra japa means listening or paying attention, that awareness might gradually become a constant awareness of the underlying feeling associated with the mantra. This is another, subtler form of the term ajapa japa.

Where mantra japa means repetition, then putting a- in front of it means without repetition. Hence, ajapa japa is repetition without repetition (it is automatic).

Where mantra japa means listening or remembering, then ajapa japa means constant remembering without the effort of reciting to cause that awareness. 
Title: Mantra Japa and Ajapa-Japa
Post by: pramanisa on June 12, 2007, 12:03:30 AM

A key to stabilizing the mind

Many students of meditation and spiritual life complain of a noisy mind, out of control senses, and emotional challenges. One of the most significant, single suggestions of the ancient sages is the use of mantra japa, or sacred word to focus the mind. No amount of intellectualizing will convince you of this. It must be practiced for the benefits to be experienced.

Constant remembrance of mantra

Regardless of what mantra you use, one of the most important principles is the practice of constant remembrance. By cultivating such a steady awareness many benefits come:
•   One who practices mantra japa in this way will find that the challenges and stressors of daily life are not nearly as disturbing.
•   The mantra gives a place of refuge, an oasis in which the mind can rest.
•   It is not escape, denial, or repression, but a tranquil companion.
•   The objects of the senses begin to lose their control over actions.
•   The incoming streams of negative thoughts, emotions, and desires from the unconscious mind attenuate, or become weaker. 
•   The mantra japa gradually becomes a best friend of the mind.
•   Mantra japa leads one in the direction of deeper meditations, and subtler spiritual experiences.

Japa and Ajapa-Japa
Japa means repeating or remembering the mantra, and Ajapa-Japa means constant awareness. The letter A in front of the word Japa means without. Thus, Ajapa-Japa is the practice of Japa without the mental effort normally needed to repeat the mantra. In other words, it has begun to come naturally, turning into a constant awareness. The practice of constant remembrance evolves in stages:

•   At first, you intentionally repeat the syllables of the mantra internally, as if you are talking to yourself in your mind. You allow the inner sound to come at whatever speed feels comfortable to the mind. Sometimes it is very slow, as if the mind were wading through a vat of honey. At other times it is very fast, as if flying through the sky without restraint.
•   With practice, the mantra japa is repeated automatically, like a song that you have heard many times, which just comes on its own. (Some practitioners consider this automatic repeating to be the meaning of Ajapa-Japa, though there is a subtler meaning, as described below.)
•   Gradually, you merely remember the mantra with attention drawn to it. It is more like noticing what is already happening, rather than causing it to happen. It is somewhat like the attention stance of listening rather than speaking, though you might not literally hear the sound.
•   In time, the feeling of the mantra is there, even when the sound or remembering of the syllables is not there. For example, sometimes people will say, "OM, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti," where the word Shanti means peace or tranquility. During the remembering of the word there may be two things--the word and the feeling of peace or tranquility. When the syllables fade away, the feeling may still be there; this is remembrance of the feeling of the mantra.
•   As the practice evolves, there comes a pervasive awareness of the mantra, subtler than both the syllables and any surface level meaning or definition. This constant awareness is the meaning of Ajapa-Japa of the mantra.

Choice of mantras

There are many mantras, words, or compact prayers that can be used for Japa and Ajapa-Japa. Virtually all of the meditation traditions, spiritual lineages, and religions have mantra in one form or another.

•   Some words have specific meaning, while others are seed syllables having only feeling, not literal, word-for-word definitions.
•   Some have religious significance, while others are completely non-sectarian.
•   Some have very subtle effects on energy, while others are more like positive affirmations given to train the conscious mind.

Title: Mantra, the Brain, and Words
Post by: pramanisa on June 12, 2007, 12:07:22 AM
Effects of Mantra: For thousands of years, yogis have been teaching the value of mantra in stabilizing and clearing the mind, leading one to deeper spiritual awakening. Modern neuroscience is also beginning to discover the relationship between mental functioning and the way words are used.

Ways of using words or Mantra: Notice the explanation of increased blood flow (indicating increased activity) to the various parts of the brain, depending on whether one is hearing, seeing, speaking, or thinking of words. Regarding thinking about words, the text points out that "thinking about words engages the limbic association area responsible for thought, learning, perception, and emotion."

Cultivating higher functioning: This higher functioning (buddhi) is intentionally cultivated by yogis through the practices of mantra, meditation, and contemplation. Not only do the yogis use mantra (i.e., words), but often recommend focusing the attention on this frontal part of the brain as well, placing attention in the ajna chakra, the center accessed through the space between the eyebrows.

"Remembering" the Mantra: In Yoga Meditation science, different means of using mantra are prescribed. The silent, inner remembering way of using mantra use considered a higher, more effective form than hearing, reading, or speaking the mantra. Many benefits come from the proper use of mantra, including dealing with ways of thinking, ability to learn, ways of perceiving, and positive use of emotions  Collectively, these benefits set the stage for the deeper practices of meditation, contemplation, and prayer.

Mantra is universal: In reflecting on the relationship between mantra and brain physiology, it is most important to remember that mantra is not a practice solely used by the Eastern traditions. The use of mantra, word, compact prayer, or affirmation is recommended by virtually all religions and meditative traditions, although they might describe or use them in different ways.

Varieties of Mantras:
There are many mantras, of which a few are described in this website. These are Soham, OM, and Maranatha. Each of these are beneficial in the ways described above.

Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: jyothikakr on July 14, 2009, 12:49:22 AM
Can anyone tell me can ladies apply sai vibbhuti and recite naam jaapa during those 7 days of a month , as said that they are not supposed to go to the temple  or light the diya at home .
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: friend_amrita on August 25, 2010, 06:50:55 AM
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: l3osh4ka on March 18, 2012, 07:57:20 AM
Hi my name is Ukasha and live in Sweden, few weeks ago I
      started chanting a mantra (mul/mool mantra) and there are two
      more mantras that I would like to chant, adi shakti &
      Siri mantra. So my question was, is it possible to chant
      three mantras at the same time, like chanting mool mantra in
      the morning and then Siri mantra in the evening and so on, or
      one after each, doing mool mantra for 20min and then adi
      shakti mantra for another 20min....and also if you could say
      something about the mantras and the best way to use them thx
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: marioban29 on July 25, 2012, 04:32:49 PM
Dear Parriji
(Plz help me to get back my love...plz sai baba)
I hope your love will come back soon.
I lost my love Mandy Rösler in 2001, because of my own fault.
Please, pray for me too

Sorry to all that I have no advice now
Title: Re: How to use a Mantra
Post by: marioban29 on July 28, 2012, 02:29:40 AM
"Karacharana Krn Itam Vaakkaayajam Karmajam Vaa,
Shravananayanajam Vaa Maanasam Vaaparaadham,
Vihitamavihitam Vaa Sarvametatkshamasva,
Jaya Jaya Karunaabdhe Shriimahaadeva Shambho"