Newsletter May 2011
Mantras and Spiritual Evolution
By Swami Satyasangananda Saraswati, Peethadishwari of Rikhia Peeth
Excerpt from a satsang - To view the complete satsang transcript, go to the "Satsang" section of our website
Mantras, kirtans and bhajans are a part of Nada yoga, the yoga of sound. Sound is a very important way of influencing the environment both externally and internally. A sound can produce an avalanche, it can shatter glass. Sound can be used for healing and can alter our states of consciousness.
Mantra sadhana is the prescribed sadhana for the age in which we live. In this age, the Kali Yuga, it is difficult for us to keep our mind focused for even five minutes – forget about for one hour. It is hard for us to sit down, close our eyes and focus on one thing. What is the sadhana for such a person who can not even sit straight because of a back ache or arthritis? And he cannot even focus his mind on one point because his mind is wandering and traveling here and there. Mantra sadhana, Nada Yoga is the sadhana of this age.
It is necessary to confront the subtle dimension of your being in order to proceed on the spiritual journey. If the body gets dirty one can have a bath. If the mind is disturbed or is in conflict, one can do some Ajapajapa. But what about this hidden dimension which is the cause of all that is subliminal in you? Sometimes you wake up in the morning and feel depressed for no reason. Nothing has happened; you just feel sad and are unable to alter that state of mind. Sometimes you wake up and are very happy or you see something and feel like crying, or hear something and get into conflict. There is no logic behind these fluctuating states of mind. You can’t put your finger on it. Why does this happen? You have everything: a nice family, a beautiful house, a fine car, a job, everything you dreamed of, but still there’s something missing. Why?
There is a part of you that you are not addressing, a latent part of you that sometimes bubbles to the surface in the form of ideas, thoughts, feelings, or dreams. You are not able to resolve or understand this, because it relates to the unconscious part of your being. Therefore, a practice is necessary that affects the deeper layers of your being.
Mantra, kirtans, and bhajans are not just words. The Ramayana is not just the story of a king who has lived in India at one time. It is a story about a very great emperor of India, but it is more than that. They are sacred texts and they are in the form of mantras. The Bhagavad Gita is not just a story – it is written in the Sanskrit language.
The Sanskrit language is composed of 51 letters which correspond with different energy centres in the body, which have their origin in the mouth near the palate. When the sounds are pronounced; like ha, sa, tha, they are stimulating these energy centres. Sanskrit is not a language of communication like other languages, like Hindi, English, German or French. These are languages of communication. Sanskrit is a phonetic language and therefore must be pronounced correctly in order to stimulate those centres. The emphasis in Sanskrit is not on understanding what is being read, but in its pronunciation so that these sacred sounds can influence the deeper aspects of our being, reaching the unconscious layer where the samskaras are stored.
When I first came to the ashram in Munger many years ago, I did not know about the Bhagavad Gita or the Ramayana. I had never even read it or heard it chanted because I was not brought up in that atmosphere. I was brought up in modern living, so I had not heard these sacred texts being chanted before. The main sadhana at that time in the ashram was karma yoga, not yoga or chanting, but hard karma yoga. One day after doing hard karma yoga from morning until night, I was quite tired, when I heard in the distance some Sannyasins chanting the Bhagavad Gita. That was the first time I had heard it chanted and immediately I noticed a sense of peace, deep inner peace, the peace which nothing can buy. You may have everything in the world, but if you don’t have peace then it’s of no use; inner peace, which brings you a sense of joy, without anything to cause it. There’s no object, no person, no event just a sense of inner joy.
I had this experience, so I began to practice chanting. In the beginning, it was difficult, but as I continued to practice I kept adding different mantras, texts and chants to my collection. I found that as I practiced, I gained clarity of mind. The conflicts, agitation of mind and the anxiety began to disappear gradually. The mind became calm, clear, peaceful and steady. My perception began to grow, so that I could understand things better. I could understand myself in relation to everyone else. I have to understand myself in the context of my environment, because I don’t exist in isolation. I have to be able to relate to everything around me; to adjust, understand, and connect. This became easy and spontaneous as a result of chanting the mantras. Without any understanding of what was happening, it occurred by itself and therefore I felt I had hit on a very valuable experience. And when I could read the scriptures and the text, they validated what I had experienced and when I spoke with my Guru he said yes, that’s it.
The basis of this body is spirit, not matter. When the evolution begins, matter is evolving on account of the seed of spirit which is within you. These qualities which come such as self confidence, awareness, and higher awareness are a part of the spiritual process. Mantra sadhana is one way of embarking on that spiritual process. I have found it very successful and a simple way of initiating the process of transformation. It is not an intellectual way– you don’t have to use the mind. Here the mind is totally at rest. It is a simple, enjoyable and an innocent way which anyone can use to evolve the consciousness and transform the subtle layers of your being.
Visit the Practical Tools section of the newsletter for a simple practice to incorporate Mantras into your daily life.
By Swami Muktidharmananda Saraswati, New Zealand Acharya
The word growth indicates a process through which something becomes bigger or wider and can be quantitative or qualitative. The external world is the world of quantity and numbers, where expansion is physical and material. Inner growth on the other hand cannot be counted in numbers, but can be experienced as a clear feeling of ever-expanding peace and joy. Material growth alone cannot produce this feeling, as it increases perishable acquisitions without preparing you to relate to them. Our inner expansion gives us the right capacity to deal with the external world.
There is no contradiction between inner growth and the dignified fulfilment of our healthy human aspirations in the external world. Aspirations, such as working, raising children, building something for the sake of others, are all healthy motivators which can give shape to our lives. These goals come from identifying our real needs in life and working towards fulfilling them.
In contrast, blind ambitions come from material desires, to have more for the sake of having more. Such ambitions often come from a place of fear, as we seek security in our possessions. In turn, this leads to attachment and the belief that we can own an object or possess a person, which is not realistic. When we do not develop our inner vision, we tend to focus on increasing the quantity of our belongings, thinking this will allow us to experience happiness. This approach becomes a curse for our life, bringing only suffering and misery.
When we experience inner growth or expansion, blind ambitions are transformed into healthy aspirations. Therefore, it is important to begin by developing depth, inner understanding and inner strength – this brings wisdom, and wisdom is the light to guide our external actions so they become a support for our inner expansion.
This harmonizing of the inner and outer components of our lives is the purpose of yoga. With the right attitude, yogis are able to enjoy the material life as the so-called materialists cannot.
But we must also understand that the fulfilment of these human aspirations is not the ultimate end of our growth, but is rather just a step. The process of evolution in our existence does not stop at the human level, but continues from the mineral kingdom to the divine one. Inner growth brings inner vision, which generates wisdom and makes our external life an expression of Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram – an expression of truth, inner force and beauty.