The power of the mantra

It is said that the mantra is at its most powerful when it is recited in the mind with no movement of larynx or tongue.

Rishikesh

One of my most cherished moments of an ashram stay is always at the end of the day when we participate in the evening fire or arati ceremony by the banks of the Ganges. This is from my travel journal…

Another day comes to a close at the ashram and as the colors around us starts to dim as dusk falls, we are all gathered on the steps of the ghat, waiting patiently for the evening arati to take place. The fireplace is lit with small logs piled in formation. And from wherever you sit, you always have a great view of the snow-capped Himalayas in the distance, forest all round, and the crystal clear, cold waters of Mother Ganga gently lapping at the edge of the ghat. It’s winter here at Rishikesh and there is a stir as Swamiji arrives. The fire ceremony can now begin…

The fire ceremony is a wondrous thing to behold but it is more than the ritual. It’s about the power of the mantra that goes with the fire ceremony. Both have the purpose and intention of turning dross to gold. As I have written here, my personal experience of yoga has been an alchemical process of transmuting, transcending and transforming the energies in and around us to create a body of light, a vehicle that is travel-worthy for the journey home.

As within, so without… There is another fire, the fire that is invoked and kindled within the kunda, the fire-vessel at the root chakra, wherein sleeps the coiled one, the kundalini. When aroused, this fire will burn away the dross and dull, leaving behind burnished gold. That’s not to say that mere recitation alone would do the job of awakening. Rather, it’s to illustrate the fact that it forms an essential component of the sadhana, or spiritual practice, in the yogic tradition. And a guru needs to initiate you into a mantra that is meant just for you, known as the diksha.

So, every time that the mantra is invoked in silence, we are adding kindling to the fire in us, nourishing it, never letting it die out. In the words of Swami Veda Bharati, this is the story of the fire….

“Only as golden beings can we enter the hiranyagarbha, the golden womb of the cosmic field of intelligence, the universal ocean of wisdom, that tis the first and the last guru.

Only as golden beings can we enter the space spoken of in the Atharva-Veda – within the transcendent treasury dwells the dustless, immaculate, incalculable, indivisible Brahman, that tis the bright and clear light of light that the self-knowers know.

The self-knowers then have free and full access to that which Patanjali has named as tarakam jnanam, the knowledge that helps us cross over from this shore to the ‘that’ which is beyond our day-to-day ‘this’.

There is more, a lot more to learn from Swami Veda’s Mantras: The Sacred Chants, 2008, Wisdom Tree. I highly recommend it to anyone who wants to understand the web of energy that is our reality and how to wield the magic of sound through the mantra to heal, to manifest, and to do good.

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