Mantrayog- An Introduction
(Extract from an article on Mantrayog)
It has been the quest of humankind as a whole to develop it to achieve higher goals and to raise its level of consciousness. Each person with a raised consciousness has given humankind a very valuable legacy, be it in the field of the sciences or the arts. No scientist can work without higher inspiration nor can any artist produce any worthwhile piece of art without a deep inspiration as well as a higher level of consciousness. There is an unsaid agreement amongst intellectual humans that we must work to expand our potential for all positive works, deeds, language, speech, art, culture, thoughts, and philosophies for the betterment, the benefit and evolution of humankind. It is not just to expand that potential but to rapidly expand it. From one perspective we can term the spiritual quest as the drive for all things of higher intellectual consciousness. Intellectuality can be understood as the ability to create something original. In most humans the capacity utilisation of the brain is very limited, normally between 10- 15 % capacity only. So from another perspective we may term spirituality as the realisation of the full potential of the human mind, of hundred percent. We could also say complete consciousness, perfection in deeds (karma), realisation of the self or god realisation. Each person seeks to expand his or her intelligence, to be full of love, to be happy; that is the aim of all spiritual practices.
Often, not understood by most is the fact that spirituality and spiritual practices are really a means to expand one’s potential. The techniques used in yog and tantra are meant to cause rapid change in the practitioner to enable them to successfully utilise their expanded capabilities. The western world, western system of education and most people educated within this system are unable to appreciate why the Hindu system of Yog and Tantra is strongly linked to god. God in one sense is the representation of Knowledge and Compassion. Power without compassion is a brute; such brute power can never benefit this world. The world needs power and strength that are constructive, therefore the wise ancients realising this linked everything to god, to knowledge and compassion.
Another point that is mostly not understood by most sections of all societies is that spirituality and spiritual techniques belonging to different traditions including all religions and cultures is an ancient work that is a summation of the spiritual development of centuries; it is the heritage of all of Humankind; that these traditions need to be preserved and used for the benefit of Humankind as a whole. Unless, to the contrary, there is cause for concern and reason, where in the name of spirituality, there are practices that are destructive, gory, or inhumane; there should be no attempt to destroy or disturb traditions especially in the name of religion or for political ends. Religion is a socio-political structure whereas spirituality is the search for self realisation. Hinduism is not one unified structure but it is a basket of spiritual practices and philosophies to help one become self-realised.
The word Yog can be understood as an event, from the spiritual point of view, an event where the individual consciousness merges into the higher levels of consciousness or where the individual jivatma (individuated self) merges or experiences the paramatma (the permanent self).
As we all know there are numerous paths that lead to perfection. One can follow any one or a combination of practices from Jnana yog (The path of Knowledge), Bhakti yog (The path of Devotion), Dhyan Yog (Meditation), Raj Yog (The path of liberation through unattached karma done for others), Hatha yog, Ashtang Yog, Laya Yog (The yog of dissolution), Mantra yog and so on. Here we focus on the practice of mantra yog.
Mantrayog has been considered as one of the seven paths to reach perfection or Siddhi. Possibly in Hinduism, mantrayog can be considered as the most popular system of spiritual development having the largest number of practitioners and Mantra Yog has a very sound base of thousands of practitioners who have reached perfection. In short, it is a tried and tested spiritual practice as well as a very popular spiritual practice.
Mantra yog in terms of actual practice is the repetition of certain sounds or words. Now how does this work?
Very simply put, words have enormous power over our lives. Call a person by their name and they will appreciate you. Put their name on a board and they love it. Each person is so attached to their name. People can go to any extent to promote their name. Praise a person and they will love you, but call a person with an insulting word and see the negative reaction. This is a simplistic explanation of the effect of word.
However, from the perspective of Mantrayog, the mantra is considered a conscious vehicle that makes one take a specific pathway to develop certain qualities, all the while taking one towards perfection. Any-One mantra alone has the power to take one to enlightenment and liberation.
Mantras or the practice of repetition of sounds or words has been used for centuries in all traditions including Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, Sikh, Christian, Muslim and other traditions.
Over the centuries, the science of Mantra has developed into an enormous body. Possibly it may take an individual several lifetimes to achieve a true understanding of this gigantic science. The explanation of an individual mantra alone can be at the least a few pages of writing, while the entire science itself, perhaps several volumes.
Often one may hear various results of mantras, some very positive and sometimes, even complaints that somebody did a certain mantra practice and did not achieve any results or did not achieve the desired results. As with every scientific experiment, there are certain factors and conditions that need to be fulfilled to reach the desired result. In the practice of Mantra there are up to 32 such factors that may be needed to be taken into consideration to reach the desired results. A mistake in any one place is enough to ensure failure of an experiment. As with all traditional knowledge belonging to the Hindu tradition especially the Spiritual tradition, one of the primary factors is the grace of the Guru. The mantra must be received through the grace of the Guru. We have a saying in India “That which is inert will not increase consciousness, only the conscious will increase consciousness”. So an inert book will never give one what can be received by the grace of the Guru.
On the other side of the coin, another frequently heard complaint is the reaction caused by the mantra. Many people are unable to tolerate it. If your experiment is not controlled by an able Guru, it is destined for failure. At the same time the practitioner too needs to have a mature understanding of the effect of the mantra. The mantra works by starting a process of purification at the subtle level and from there the process continues.
To wish to become perfect means first to accept that you are imperfect and need to be transformed. Just like Gold is melted to be transformed into beautiful ornaments similarly a spiritual person has to tolerate the fires and the forces of change. Only such a willing, courageous and fearless person will make it across through the fires of transformation. True spirituality is like walking barefoot on a razor sharp sword through a fire, towards light and bliss.
In Hinduism mantras are divided into various categories and classes. The divisions have been explained later in this article.