Words and sounds, and the concepts that they convey, and even the vibrations that they emit (in the form of music, poetry, everyday language, and other forms of expression and communication), have a physiological impact on your body, mind, and spirit.
Your experiential knowledge from living life may be your first direct evidence of this, but modern science is proving that this assertion is true through ongoing research as well.
Though there is still further research to be conducted in order to get a deeper understanding of exactly how and why this is so by looking at the specific mechanisms involved in this fact, we now know, through a wide range of studies, that sound has an effect on our brain, body, and functioning, and, therefore, on our psyche, world-views, and even our sense of self/identity.
Mantras in Yoga, and specifically the practice of Japa, which is repetitive chanting/recitation of mantras in order to create inner connection and transformation, function on the basis of this understanding that words and sounds themselves can create transcendent and transformative experiences.
Paired with your breath (or life-force energy), your conscious intent, focus, and the repetition of selected words that are expressed through your body in the form of vibratory language/communication (language/communicated that is pregnant with meaning), Japa (mantra recitation) practice can be a powerfully transformative tool, that in Yoga, can be used to move you closer to Self-Realization.
In the initial stages of your Yoga practice, the purpose of Japa (if you choose to engage in this activity) is to serve as an invocation (calling in) of your True Self (and the knowledge that comes from connection with this Ultimate Reality). This invocation, which first interacts with your active memory, then eventually transforms into a reminder of the truth of your intention over time, before it gradually, with practice, changes into a habit that creates the effect of full embodiment of the knowledge/truth expressed in your invocation, making it so that by the end of it’s existence and function in your Yoga practice, a Japa, becomes engrained within you as the knowledge and essence of any chosen mantra.
Once your Japa becomes ingrained within you, as a part of your full present awareness and embodiment, no recitation/repetition/chanting is required in order to connect to the truth that your mantra invokes since, at that point, the integration of the knowledge that your Japa communicates with each recitation of your chosen mantra is completed. When complete integration occurs and full understanding/embodiment of your mantra’s message is attained, there is no separation between you and the fully Realized Self that you call into expression at the beginning of your Japa practice and you move one step closer toward Self-Realization.
After your personally selected mantra is wholly ingrained within you through continuous repetition in a systematic and consistent way (which makes it more likely to easily remember and integrate information conveyed in the communication), you become, through absorption of understanding, and reflection during your time outside of Japa practice, and clear beacon of the truth of what you are vocalizing, the living embodiment of the vibration of your mantra/invocation (both metaphorically, and literally), and you become a purer expression of your mantra’s truth.
There are many mantras that exist for your contemplation and connection with the truth of your greatest expression, and they have all been carefully crafted to clearly and accurately communicate (without distortion) the truth of who you are in simple to understand (and absorb) language.
When mantras were initially, and primarily, repeated in Sanskrit, the exact phrasing of the words, meter, and sounds used in each invocated sentence was uttered with meticulous intent, concentration, devotion, and reverence, both as a sign of respect for the grandeur of the meaning of the words uttered, and as a way to ensure that no distorted misinterpretations were introduced into any given mantra, creating problems for the full expression and understanding of the important knowledge that is communicated in these sacred phrases and sounds. This is why great care should be taken when not only selecting a mantra that most clearly “resonates” the message of the true self to you (after all, every mantra is designed to communicate the same primary message), but great care should also be taken to use the “correct” words when using a mantra in a language that is different from your native tongue as well.
If your mantra is translated into your native language from another language, the best and most accurate words should always be used. It is my understanding (since mantras exist in virtually all spiritual schools from Christianity to Islam) that as long as the right, and most accurate, words are used to communicate great knowledge, carefully selected and used communication that results in the most accurate meaning of a chant, it is acceptable to chant a mantra in any language for your personal Yoga practice.
If you wish to chant your mantra in Sanskrit once the proper pronunciations, inflections, and rhythms of a given mantra are established from a reliable source such as a teacher who has expertise in chanting, however, practicing accuracy and conscious intention are key to your success in obtaining the benefits of your invocation. When translating sounds into concepts so that they can eventually become understanding and full expression in your mind and psyche, the right words repeated over and over again matter and the same applies for Sanskrit recitation, so always be mindful that you understand the pronunciation of the words in any given mantra before continuously repeating it.
Below we will dive into the most important aspects of an effectively structured Japa practice, and review the best mantras to get you started on selecting the invocation/mantra that works best for your own personal practice.
Please note that all mantras are a variation of the universal word, sound, and symbol OM/AUM in one form or another. Although all other mantra may have words in addition to OM/AUM, or words that are different from OM/AUM, all existing mantras are representative of the meaning and essence of OM/AUM, and OM/AUM is the shortest, and clearest, way to express and summarize all true mantras. OM/AUM, in other words, is often viewed as the “seed” of all other mantras.
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If you enjoyed this post, or found it useful, please be sure to share. And if you participated in the check-in reminder, tell me a bit about your selected mantra, or Japa practice, in the comments section below.