Faq on Mantra and Shri Vidya
What is a mantra? What are the specific qualities of Shabar mantras?
Mantras are compact or compressed prayer and energy. Each mantra invokes a certain specific energy creating a specific feeling or energy. Mantras are conscious vehicles that lead one to the source of light, to the oneness of everything, to God. Mantra is the divine power. The practice of mantra awakens the latent potential of the individual. Every repetition of the mantra adds a unit of energy to one’s mind and help to awaken the pathways of the mind.
Shabar mantras are used as additional practices. It is like a shortcut to reach a certain point faster. They take very little time to be perfected, unlike the traditional mantras in Sanskrit and therefore produce results very fast. Also, unlike in Sanskrit, with Shabar mantras mistakes in the pronunciations of the words in the mantra generally do not lead to negative results. They are mostly used to fulfill certain desires or for the accomplishment of a specific wish, often for healing and usually to help the student perfect some energy, practice, form, siddhi and invoke some form of divinity for a specific purpose.
Tell us a little about Shri Vidya tradition and its history?
There are different traditions of worship in India. Each different form of God in Hinduism is considered to be the representation of the same one god. According to our affinity and past life impressions we choose the form that attracts us the most. Among these is the tradition of worshipping the goddess.
Within the tradition of worship of the divine mother are numerous forms. The more difficult or advanced practices and worship are of the ten great goddesses called the Mahavidyas. The Mahavidyas are only practiced by those aspirants who are advanced in spiritual practices. Among these ShriVidya is the fourth form of the Goddess. She is a soft, beautiful and sattvic form of the Divine mother. The Knowledge is called Shri Vidya because the Goddess ShriMahaTripuraSundari first gave the teaching to the Goddess Laxmi who is also called Shri hence it got the name Shri Vidya.
Shri Vidya is ancient, from the beginning of time. ShriVidya is BrahmVidya or the science that gives knowledge and realization of the absolute, of the oneness of everything, of god and all creation. One is able to realize both the immanent as well as the transcendental aspects of god. It gives both worldly accomplishments as well as Liberation.
To this day, Shri Vidya remains very secretive. Generally, the practice is given mostly to Brahmins who have a good background of prayer and was restricted till now, but with its growing popularity, more and more persons are trying to practice the Vidya.
Often, many persons take up the practice without fully understanding its specifics and process, sometimes merely to be able to say that they practice Shri Vidya too. Such new practitioners are unable to keep up with the practice, often doing it without any real understanding and proper order, often with little surrender. To be successful in any venture, one has to have the background, as well as the ability to complete the task at hand, along with a clear understanding of the goal. Poor understanding results in the reverse, instead of uplifting the person, it hurts the person and this statement applies to almost all serious spiritual practices; for if an ignorant person makes a mistake, he can be forgiven, but if a powerful person makes a mistake, it has great repercussions.
It is difficult to practice because the mantra has a specific quality of increasing the speed of the mind and thereby affecting the body. It also needs 6-8 hours of practice per day. The practice of Nyas (the practice of placing mantras in all parts of the body to make is mantramay) alone can take upto 3 hours. In my humble opinion it is meant for a rare few and is generally unsuited for western aspirants because of its other specifics. These include certain parameters of food habits, code of cleanliness, ego issues, discipline in life, stability in married life or partner, strict brahmcharya, depth of vairagya or non-attachment, invocation of the goddess, process of worship, understanding and worship of the Shri Yantra, system of nyas, reading and pronounciation of texts in Sanskrit where a small mistake can sometimes produce negative results, process of meditation, ability to surrender, devotion to the Guru and attitude to overall spiritual development.
Another specific of the Shri Vidya Mantras are that can create tremendous attraction. Such a mantra, when given to a person who has no vairagya or little vairagya or one could even say immature vairagya leads to their downfall instead of their upliftment. In general terms, it is difficult to maintain brahmcharya, especially in the modern western environment where there are too many material distractions. We often say “one partner—always a brahmchari”. Generally, most of western society and even some section of the modern Indian society, lack discipline in terms of partnership and marriage. So to add attraction to an already burning fire, and I mean lust when I say that, will only lead to downfall. Therefore the practice must be given with great consideration to the merit of the student.
What is the significance of guru in the tradition of Shri Vidya? Do you think it's possible to perform spiritual practices without a mentor?
In all traditional Indian arts, sciences and spiritual philosophies and practices the guru is of utmost importance, be it Vedanata, Tantra, Yoga, Bhakti, Ayurved, traditional Indian music, traditional dance forms, Astrology, Palmistry,etc.
In the Indian spiritual tradition, the guru has a very respected and high importance in the system, even more so in mantrayog. Since ShriVidya is considered the highest, the cream of all mantrayog Vidyas, here the importance and significance of the Guru is even more so. One has to understand that the Guru is a tattva; one can understand the guru as that function of God that showers grace on all aspirants. The physical Guru can be looked upon as an ambassador of god or a representative of god, or a doorway to god. The Guru, God, the mantra, higher consciousness, chitshakti or kundalini shakti are all one.
One should have faith in the Guru and for their own benefit the students should connect with and serve the Guru. In India it is not uncommon for the Guru to test his disciples and to give them hard tasks. These are given to benefit and develop the student. One can only develop on the spiritual path if one gives up one’s ego and surrenders to the Guru and God. A fruit bearing ripe fruit always bends.
If an ordinary person says he would like to build a car on his own, it would not really make any sense and it is doubtful if he would really achieve something. It would be easier to buy a car. Similarly, a person who wants to go to another country on a tour with little time to spare, will be better off buying a tour than travelling on his own.
In the same way it is easier for a spiritual aspirant to walk on the spiritual path under good guidance. In the spiritual field, grace from a good spiritual master makes the journey sweeter, shorter and easier. To me individually, walking on the spiritual path without a Guru does not make any sense nor would I recommend it to anyone.
In general terms, the spiritual path is a path of fire and light. One has to tolerate a lot of pain in terms of one’s own past samskaras (deep impressions in the mind). Once these samskaras burn out, then eventually there is peace.
How do you understand humility? How much do you think this quality important in the way of spiritual development?
In the spiritual context, humility can be understood as the ability of the student to dissolve the ego and thereby surrender to god and the guru. One has to start looking at all that one does, as the grace of the Guru and God, one should lose all sense of doership. At a higher stage one loses their ego, and one is able to see everything as a flow of divine grace; one realizes that all that is happening, all the perfections that one has, have come to him/her through the grace of god.
Service to the Guru and to others is an excellent tool to help one to become humble. Swami Shivananda Saraswati who founded the Shivananda Mission used to live on the banks of the Ganga in Rishikesh. Very often when he saw that another monk had gone out, he would enter the room and clean the room or he would wash the clothes and put them out to dry. He taught himself to be humble. Now the whole world bows at his feet and he is remembered. People remember Alexander the great, Ivan the teribble, Napolean Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, but noboby bows at their feet. Humility, dissolution of ego, service, love, compassion are qualities that make a person loved and great in the hearts of people.
Without the humility that leads to surrender, there will always be two or one can say duality, you-- the doer and god. Both will always remain separate. Only when one is humble, can one surrender, only then will the ego, this false identity dissolve, only then there will be one. Aham Brahmasmi, I am god, or Aham—I, the one and only, God. Only then Advaita is possible, only then does one stabilize in the highest consciousness.