Mantras are a way of healing through sound, based in the ancient and beautiful world of Hinduism.
In Hinduism it is considered that each of us has a soul which goes through an endless cycle of reincarnation called Samsara; affected by karma, through deeds and actions. Mantras are a way of connecting to our soul or ‘higher-self’, helping us to make better decisions and life choices as we are vibrating at a higher level.
In ancient Sanskrit texts, Brahman is from where all sound originates - divine consciousness or absolute reality. The sound of the universe is represented through a trinity of deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Brahma is the beginning, he is the creator. He represents waking consciousness, that of impressions, thoughts, desires and depicted playing the cymbals. Vishnu is the middle of creation and destruction, creates sustenance; having a conch shell or flute and goes through various incarnations. Shiva represents destruction, necessary for the creation of life to once again begin. Each is a manifestation of Brahman, the one single transcendent power which resides in everyone and everything.
Creation - sustenance - destruction are part of one continuum, not separate processes. It teaches us that we are not just ourselves, but vibrations of our parents, grandparents, great-grand parents, community and environment and nature itself. Touching a rock or flower, it will hold your vibration. We are more than our physical body which can only be in one place but our consciousness exists everywhere, as told in the Ancient Sanskrit verse below:
“The Supreme Entity is the vastest entity; the ultimate source of all cosmic emanations. The Supreme Entity, which is difficult to conceive, is the subtlest of the subtle. He is farther away than any other entity, but again he is nearer than the nearest. Only the one who looks into the innermost recesses of himself can realise the Supreme Entity.”
The Awareness of Vibrations and Understanding Consciousness
Each of the three deities, or aspects, has a vibration A - U - M, respectively. Oscillating between the three sounds produces OMM; representing the fullness of creation or the primordial sound of Brahma. AUM is said to encompass all spoken language as only these sounds can be produced without a tongue, from which word or vibration originates. The magic is in the hidden sound of silence, hinting at transcendent energy, hidden away from our conscious awareness.
The formation of sound is much deeper than our general perception - that we simply speak from the throat. There are four stages to the manifestation of sound within the trinity - pure silence, that which can be seen internally, that which can be whispered and finally spoken sound.
Para is pure silence - sound beyond the perception of our senses. It is inaudible, it is the existence from which all sounds manifest. Because of its latent energy it is often referred to as an ‘unstruck’ sound or divine consciousness; there is no distinction between the object and the sound - the sound contains within it all the qualities of the object. The second stage in the creation of word is where the sound must be imagined, called Pashyanti; sound is neither produced nor heard. In this ‘mental’ sound the object is perceived as different from the sound. The third stage, Madhyama, is the immediate unexpressed sound, an internal whisper before finally external speech rises from the heart and hits the vocal cord into the physical, called Vaikhari.
These four existential realities correspond to the four states of consciousness - waking (conscious), dreaming (subconscious), deep sleep (unconscious), and pure consciousness. It teaches us that our reality is not absolute as consciousness is not perceived by our entire being. In the waking state, we get caught up with objects and lose awareness of our true nature or our soul. When the soul travels in the world of dreams it loses consciousness, and becomes one with unconscious subjectivity, one of bliss. In dream sleep we are free from objects and can transcend to pure consciousness. Our experience of life will depend on one’s refinement of consciousness.
Perceiving the Existence of Sound
Someone once told me, it is important to become the key which opens the box or someone else will opens it, and then you can only listen’. We need to become conscious.
I always like to relate to this through music. 4min 33’ by John Cage, a 20th Century composer, and his famous recorded silence. We are not simply listening to silence, he created a form of sound. We are taking part in a performance of life, because we are aware of the silence - and have made intentions to listen. Without the creation, it is simply doesn’t exist. Any object does not exist independently of its observer. It is our attention and intention Intention is the energy in those middle layers of sound manifestation -- prayer, spells, invocations, mantras - we create them into desire. The four stages of sounds teach us that the body, mind and spirit all have a purpose. The body creates effect through thought, the body can not create on its own.
Mantras in their Different Forms
Mantras have developed through many Eastern religion and traditions over time, including, Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism. Sikhs use mantras to concentrate on God, above materialism. In Iranian cultures mantras are a way of unifying sound to bring focus and enlightenment. In the ancient Hindu text, the Rig Veda, mantras were considered to be powerful, sacred sounds or vibrations which created a presence or focus.
The simplest meaning of mantra is an utterance of sound. Mantras have a form, and some have a syntax or a literal meaning, but often just syllables which used to generate specific energies. The earliest mantras were written in the ancient languages of Sankrit or Pali, with the most basic translation being man - ‘mind’ and tra ‘vehicle’ and therefore, mantra, is a vehicle through which you can shift your mental and emotional state through the sound of a language - rather than a language itself.
Why do people do Mantras?
Sound is vibration but with a form. Words hold power and the importance is observed in many traditions, not just Hinduism. Mayans thought life was given through the power of word. The Hopi Indian legends mention a Spider Woman who sings the song of creation. Word holds power as it is a form of vibration and must be created. Mantras then, help us to connect to Divine Consciousness, Para. The law of vibration would suggest that we attract energies that vibrate on our level, and when in tune with Para we can improving our thoughts and emotions, helping us to obtain a peaceful, happy and successful life.
Tina Turner is known for chanting Buddhist Mantra. In interviews she says that it helps her to feel better and think correctly to obtain the things that you want. I would say it helps you to develop your connection to nature or Divine Consciousness, making me more aware of my actions and their effects, helping me to make better decisions.
Many people do them to gain focus before a meditation. By enunciating a mantra, the tongue taps certain points in the mouth and the breathing patterns slow our heartbeat stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system, producing a relaxed state. The repetition makes the unconscious become conscious or the automatic becomes deliberate. It is also energising as we are pulling energy from the root chakra up to the heart and throat.
How To Do Mantras
The most simple form of awareness can come from being present. The universe vibrates, or hums - inaudible, produced by atoms and electrons at the most basic level. If we sit and listen (actively), the whole world becomes sound, you can see the air move - beautiful really.
Each cell in the body vibrates at a frequency when we can we can change the frequency and bring back balance. There are many different types but the simplest is AUM. Why not try it? It is important to use the energy of the sounds, 'feel' the sounds and 'become' the sound.
Breathe in, hum and exhale to make a bee-like noise, moving between the three sounds. The idea is to feel the vibrations in your body.
“A" is an open sound formed with open lips and it resonates in the front of the mouth (Brahma), feel it in the stomach too. “U” is produced from the back of the mouth with closed lips (Vishnu) and in the chest. “M” is produced with closed lips and it resonates forward in the mouth and buzzes in the head. After “M” there is silence, a transcendental state of mind, we are connected to universal consciousness.
If you want to progress you could choose a mantra to suit your intention (ideal before a meditation session as they create focus). It is suggested that inaudible internal mantra chanting is supposed to have maximum benefits as this is Para (Divine Consciousness) helping to draw your awareness inwards and merge with your true self. If you are just starting this is quite hard, so saying them out loud is also fine to begin feeling the vibrations. The best time to chant is between 3.30-5.30am as creativity is supposed to be highest, but anytime is fine! Try to always face North. Certainly, create a relaxing, warm environment and switch off distractions.
Below are a list of mantras. First focus on your breathing. Bring energy from the root, up through your heart and out the top of your head. Allow your awareness to move inward by listening to the sounds around you - birds singing or wind blowing through the trees. Once you feel connected and relaxed, begin chanting your chosen mantra! Listen to the internal sounds you are creating, until it simply becomes a vibration or ‘song-like’ Ancient yogis believed that repeating a mantra 108 times amplified its power but simply repeat as many times as it feels comfortable to you. If you are going for the 108, Mala beads can be helpful to keep count.
Some simple but beautiful mantras are:
Om Shan ti Shan ti Shan ti – “I radiate my presence as peace, peace, peace” Use this mantra for peace of mind, peace in the body and peaceful speech.
Kar un a Hum - “I am compassion” - This mantra is good for learning to live in the present and be compassionate in situations where you may have judgment.
A Ham Pre ma - “ I am love” Simple and perfect. You are love and hold the love for others.
Om Mani Pad me Hum - This chant is said to hold the energy of Guan yin, the god of compassion. The Dalai Lama is said to be in incarnation so this is a popular chant.
Par a mesh war i Na mah - “my true self has unlimited power”. This is great when you need a little extra confidence and to believe in your truth.
Nam My oho Ren ge Kyo - a popular Japanese Buddhist mantra.
In Vedic tradition, mantras are associated with a particular deity and by chanting you can obtain their associated energies. Note, that it is not like a ‘third party’ but rather you are connecting to your own projection of your true-self. For example, Chanting “Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna, Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare’’ is said to connect to Vishnu, bringing peace and devotion to your own soul.
Affirmation or Mantra?
The idea of repeating words or phrases have become popular. Life-affirming statements help to occupy our conscious mind. Repeating phrases like “I am safe” or “I am worthy” create a feeling of safety and worthiness. The brain is ’tricked’, especially when there is significant repetition and similar to Mantras, but with out the power of sound and energy.
Affirmations are brilliant for a quick mental activity to train the mind, instead of buying in to our worries. For example, in 2008 I had to have a knee replacement but complicated by blood condition it turned into quite an ordeal, with significant recovery. The trauma left me worrying about a potential future operation, could I really do that again in 20 years? I became obsessed by such a negative thought. A very talented teacher told me to make an affirmation and phrased in the positive - to cancel the bad thought and replace it with a good one. I came up with the affirmation “My knee will last me my lifetime, in grace and ease”. Of course, for it to work I had to have an awareness to first recognise my negative thoughts so I could then affirm instead. Very few of us actually listen to our thoughts and that is the key. It just requires practice and focus. There is the odd occasion the negative thoughts come back in times of stress, but rarely. Maybe I will need a second operation, maybe I won’t. Either way, the affirmation helped me to box my anxiety off so it doesn’t affect my daily life.
I include some affirmation examples that may be useful:
Every cell in my body is perfect and healthy, with grace and ease
I support others easily but also receive help when I need it, in grace and ease.
I am safe and protected, in grace and ease
I commit to the good in my life, with grace and ease.
I speak with clearLy with confidence, in grace and ease.
I conquer my fears each day, with grace and ease.
I am grateful and have everything I need, in the present moment, with grace and ease.
Is there Any Science behind Mantras and Vibration?
How we hear is based in electricity and vibration. Sound waves enter the ear canal and vibrate on the ear drum. The vibration then cause the fluid to move which is converted into nerve impulses, they get carried to the brain and processed in the brain (cognitive) and converted into sounds. The ancients clearly knew the importance of frequencies for attaining a peaceful mind; and entering into the non-physical state was considered beneficial but also in science.
Wachholtz (2005) showed that prayer facilitated relaxation, accompanied with a lower metabolism, lower breath rate and distinctive slow brain waves. Gao (2019) found that cardiac activity was more stable compared to resting state, stating that the physiological changes illustrate the mechanisms through such practice exert stress-reducing effects. Bernardi et al (2001) found rhythm formulas, breathing at six breaths per minute induce favourable psychological and possibly physiological effects. Kumar (2021) found increased grey matter in priests that were proficient in mantra, supporting memory function and neural plasticity. Fox (2016) found that meditation produced congruent beneficial effects in brain activation.
The evidence above also tells us that there is more than the energy we can see and hear. There are many inventors that have tried to demonstrate that sound creates form. Ernst Chladni in his ‘Discoveries in the Theory of Sound’, 1787, demonstrated sound on a flat surface. Watts Huges, a Welsh singer, created the Eidophone which demonstrated the sound of shapes in 1904. Hans Jenny studied the vibration of fluids with his Tonoscope (Cymatics: The Study of Wave Phenomena, 1967). Masaru Emoto, in his book, Messages in Water said that language and spoken word hold emotion and how sounds influence water.
Not All Vibrations Are Good.
Animals communicate through vibration. Animals know that an earthquake is happening far sooner than a human. Modern science measures sound vibration in terms of hertz. Our planet is saturated by frequencies we can’t see - television, radio waves, microwaves; the Woodpecker is perhaps the most well known radio transmission by the Soviet Union. Low frequencies are used in submarine communication. Some recent epidemiological studies have suggested that the exposure to extremely low frequency (ELF) electromagnetic fields (EMF) affect human health. Our brain waves have a frequencies in different states.
Frequencies of less than 7 hertz are said to create a feeling of well being, known as the alpha state. The most beneficial frequency is said to be 6.8 hertz, our planetary heartbeat. Hatha Yoga is a form of concentrated breathing to invoke the alpha state, in particular, said to harmonise the electrical impulses in our brain.
Imagine if we just thought of emotions in terms of frequency and having to tune back in … ? According to the Wave Theory, resonance between two waves occurs when the two waves traveling in the same direction and having the same frequencies, overlap - and perhaps how we can use sound to restore our basal frequencies.
Doctors have commented on the power of prayer patients of which often had a faster recovery. It make sense that we want to vibrate in sync with our natural environment. We are simply vibration - a continuous flow of energy ever changing, we hold presence. Everyone is just a frequency, emotions are just frequencies, its just a case of tuning in to which ones you want.If we put our ear to the heart of nature we can perceive its will and our frequencies can sync for a healthy mind, body and collective consciousness.
Research on the effects of music and emotion now know that music does create changes in our physiology, and that they are not just perceived. Our body must feel the vibrations and sound therapy/ music therapy is a valid area in holistic wellbeing.
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