I was never into mantra, until I was introduced recently at an ashram where I was staying. Now it’s a beautiful part of my practice. I read a post about different types of yoga (karma, bhakti, kriya etc ). In truth my experience is they all merge into one another, you cannot be a bhakti, devotional, without insight (jnana yoga) you cannot be a kriya yogi without bhakti… so on & so on.. that’s what I think anyway, based on my experience (and it’s been said by those much wiser than I). That mantra can bring insight I never would have believed… experience is the mother of all teachers!!
This morning my meditation started with repetitions of Gayatri Mantra, using a mala. Using a mala of 108 beads is good practice for me if I use the mantra as pratyahara. That is, sense withdrawal, as a preparation for concentration, dharana, and meditation, dhyana, if one is so lucky.
Regarded as the ‘Queen’ of mantras; Gayatri is an aspect of the goddess who is said to embody this mantra.
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yonaha prachodayat
Let us meditate on the light of the adorable sun (being the sun in the sky which allows life on earth to exist, but also the light of consciousness that gives existence to all things)
May it awaken our spiritual perception and understanding (here the prayer is universal, that not only ourselves, but all beings be allowed spiritual perception and wisdom)
On all the planes, physical, vital, mental and beyond.
(translation and explanation by Swami Nischalananda Saraswati, ‘Mantra Yoga and Ashram chants’)
SO how does mantra help anything?
I can only say from my experience.
Firstly, before I can concentrate, then meditate, I have to get my mind under control. This is pratyahara, where most of the yoga techniques live. Repetition of a mantra leaves no room for random thinking.
Secondly, I can think, but in a focussed way, on the meaning of the words as I say them. This is a mantra with a mighty powerful meaning if I can start to get a glimpse of the truth of the words. Not only that, it expresses the understanding that all beings have the thread of consciousness running through them. And that my wish is for all, as well as myself.
Thirdly, the focus of the mantra after a while becomes, for me, the sound of each syllable as I pronounce. There is an interface between the outer world (or rather, my perception of it) and the inner world. That interface is my physical existence, in this case my voice expressing sound. Such a thin sheet separating the outer from the inner.
SO what is the inner?
(Some yogic texts use the word ‘spaciousness’, the inner space, beyond mind.)
And Fourthly, that can lead to an intuitive recognition that sound vibration manifests into the outer world,takes form as sine-wave vibrations in the air, on that thin layer of being which is my ego, my voice, my will to express. ** And it comes from, where?
This is the beginning of nada yoga, the yoga of sound, which is another aspect of yoga that …the more I explore, the greater it becomes. My young friend Ketty who is profoundly deaf since birth, although she will never hear the sounds of birdsong, could listen, with practice if she was so inclined, to inner sound which is of great beauty. Practice, concentration, and also something I call grace.
But bindu is said to be a point. A point where manifestation into the physical world happens. Cosmologists call such a point a ‘singularity’. So the manifestation of sound from unmanifest sound, and nada yoga, is said to be related to the bindu for this reason.]
The bindu is represented as the dot on the symbol for OM
** How sound is produced by a person is delightfully complex biologically. Ask me if you want more detail!! It makes you realise what an astonishlingly beautiful process is the evolution and manifestation of the physical world from the unmanifest (as represented by bindu).