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What Is a Mantra? What is a Sanskrit Mantra?

What Is a Mantra?


Mantras, simply defined as mystical „formulas”, are sonorous expressions of subtle cosmic forces, allowing access to the ineffable reality that it designates.

The mantras become effective for the practitioner only after a direct initiation received from the spiritual guide.

The initiation process involves a “transfer of energy” from the spiritual guide to the aspirant and cannot take place unless the guide has awakened and amplified within his own being that aspect or that energy of a certain subtle cosmic force or power.

During initiation, the disciple’s degree of receptivity and state of mental stillness are very important; he must reach a state of emptiness inside and then open his being in order to receive the energy which is transmitted through initiation.

In a certain way, during initiation, the aspirant shares his experience with his spiritual guide and this sacred moment is, first of all, a communion of souls.

Whatever form it takes, the impressive experience of initiation gives the practitioner the certainty that he can achieve his spiritual goal – fulfillment of the Self and communion with God.

This deep event gives him knowledge of the nature and purpose of spiritual practice. It is as if, for a brief moment, the gate to the ultimate liberation is half-open and the disciple can get a glimpse of the incredible divine light that dwells there.

As of this moment, the disciple becomes confident because he is not a blind seeker anymore, but one who knows his path and where he is going.

By tenaciously continuing the practice of yoga, spiritual energies gradually awaken within, leading him to a complete and deep transformation, to a real inner revolution, from a limited being, focused almost exclusively on herself, to an illuminated, spiritually awakened being.

The mantra purifies and refines the subconscious

A mantra is a “verbal vehicle” on the path to enlightenment. In the spiritual tradition, there are two main categories of mantras: the so-called long mantras (Dharani) and the short mantras or the seed sounds.

In esoteric terms, only those from the second category are proper mantras. This second category, of archetypal sounds or symbols – “words”, is of great importance in meditation techniques.

These short mantras, presented in genuine spiritual traditions, are rooted in the fundamental archetypes of the manifestation. C.G. Jung is the Swiss scientist who discovered the existence of archetypal images that represent the core content of the collective subconscious, noticing a certain uniformity in the way the people represent them.

The triangle, square, circle, cross, and less abstract images, such as the creative matrix, the tree of life, and the wise old man are part of the primordial archetypes, inter alia. These primordial images appear spontaneously, from the subconscious to the level of consciousness in dreams, visions, meditations, or emotional states of maximum intensity.

“Vehicles of the spirit”, the mantras are a means of bringing to the conscious level and purification of images and active influences, positive or negative, that exist in the subconscious. Hence, through refining and purification, the striver truly becomes his own master.

The human being – the mirror of the Universe

Sanskrit mantras are not, as it is sometimes erroneously believed, magic formulas whose force allows the defiance of natural laws and when pronounced aloud, they can always create miracles.

They are sacred formulas – that are directly or indirectly connected with the control of prana, thus acting as a stimulating factor of the human being’s latent force.

The effect of a Sanskrit mantra is more powerful than a simple evocation of an actual image or symbol.

Mantra awakens in the striver’s being a corresponding attitude, as well as all the qualities linked with that power or cosmic subtle force on the human microcosmos level. So, the systematic use of mantras helps us become a perfect reflection of the Universe’s harmony.

„What is above (in the Macro cosmos) is the same as what is below (in the microcosmos of our being). And what is below is the same as what is above to complete the miracle of the Whole”, says the ancient Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus.

Perfection and unity in diversity

A mantra acts as a mental integration factor of the being. It awakens certain potentialities of the human being, in correspondence with the level of action, bringing it to the state of perfection, unity.

Therefore, each mantra acts specifically on different levels of the being. This archetypal sound can raise the human being to universality.

Mantras offer the possibility for the man to achieve harmony between the inner world and the outer world, the harmony between body and spirit.

It consolidates the force centers of the being

As mentioned above, short mantras are the expression of essential, archetypal sounds. They have no discursive, conceptual meaning, accessible to the limited mind, as they are prior to the development of language. These seed – sounds or bija bring to life primordial images of the subconscious.

For example, LAM bija mantra is connected to the square symbol, associated with the earth element, VAM bija mantra is connected with the half-moon symbol, associated with the water element, etc.

These elements are linked to properties such as solidity (earth), fluidity (water), heat (fire), etc, which are also associated with the functions of different force centers (chakras) of the body.

Using a bija mantra harmonizes that certain subtle force center (chakra) and thereby, Mantra Yoga joins the spiritual paths of purification, harmonization, and refining of the being, such as Hatha Yoga and Kundalini Yoga, etc.

Mantra, yantra, and mudra – three facets of a Single Reality

The entire esoteric – symbolic superstructure of the Tibetan tradition is based on the reality of “the three mysteries”. According to this tradition, actions, words, and thoughts are three different expressions of one and the same Single Reality.

For Tibetan tantrics, yantras, mudras, and mantras are, in a sense, identical – they unify the forces of the body, soul, and spirit, allowing the striver to become the master of his own destiny and to reach the state of perfection.

In mystical experience, all barriers between the individual and the Absolute disappear. Those who have awakened the Universal Truth or Absolute Reality within their being became saints, sages, great yogis, and spiritual models for those who aspire to perfection.

Mantras have the power to awaken within the human being the consciousness of a reality beyond words and thinking, beyond what can be expressed through language.

Intense subtle vibrations, awakened and amplified within the striver’s being through sacred formulas, make possible the perception and experimentation of the deepest dimensions of consciousness. Thus, purification and inner refining occur and the process of spiritual evolution is pushed forward.

Mantras are subtle sounds that correspond to certain key aspects of energies or cosmic subtle forces. In secret schools of the East, there are different ways to practice meditation using the mental emission of mantras.

Mantras have a special role, as they are a genuine support through which we charge with various subtle energies and, in many cases, they also have the role of protectors of the being who uses them. Using a certain beneficial mantra results in a concomitant gradual transformation, felt in the body, psyche, and mind.

The mantra also has an important role in the sublimation of various dominant low energies and this process is catalyzed by its mental emission.

Usually, yogis perform mental emission of the mantra simultaneously with an accurate, clear, and continuous view of the certain power’s yantra or the cosmic subtle force.

On a subtle level, the mantra is considered as one with that power, force, god, goddess, etc. Any mantra contains the essence of energies, experiences, and realities specific to this aspect of the Macrocosmos. The practitioner must keep strictly secret any mantra for which he received an initiation.

Spiritual Level

The effectiveness of a “mantric vehicle ” doesn’t consist in the force of the vehicle itself; the mantra has no force unless it is used correctly.

Without an initiation and without knowing the correct way to work with a mantra, this sacred formula is as expressionless as a mathematical or chemical formula for a person who is not familiar with it. We do not create water by mechanically repeating H2O.

Similarly, we will not achieve any significant effects using a mechanical repetition of mantras, without being initiated or knowing its meaning.

A mantra’s meaning lies not in the grammatical sense, in its verbal content, but in its relationship with the experimental world, in which all emotional, spiritual, and cultural aspects have a specific role.

The mantra is also a symbol of initiation because it authenticates and confirms the link between the spiritual guide and the striver.

For the striver, repeating the mantra permanently evokes the moment of initiation, at which point his conscience was revealed to a new dimension, because, during the transfer of energy, the door to the Supreme Liberation was open for a brief moment.

Image credit – Shutterstock

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