The Science of Mantras
The word Mantra is a Sanskrit word, which when etymologically analysed, means “to protect”. There are millions of mantras, and each has a particular deity which is worshipped through the repetition of the mantra. Mantras are words of power and are used to achieve specific results, like good health, wealth, spiritual progress, psychic abilities and so on. The repetition of a mantra with concentration, faith and abiding with the instructions given by the Guru (the person who initiates you into the mantra), will definitely produce the desired results.
Does one need to be initiated, to practise a mantra?
Yes. You cannot just practise a mantra, by reading it out of a book. The Guru is a person, who has gained mastery over the particular mantra, you want to practise. The Guru will initiate you into the mantra by whispering it, into your right ear, and also do one round of the mantra on the Mala (rosary) you are going to use. There are certain mantras which are practised by people, on faith alone and they too can show results. But it is always advisable to get the mantra from a competent Guru, as the mantra has become “alive” by his practise, and he passes this down to you in the initiation. Also when the mantra is whispered in your ear, you will know the correct pronunciation and the way it is to be chanted.
How many times should a mantra be repeated?
Each mantra has a specific number of repetitions, which when completed, will bear the desired results. This number of repetitions is called Purascharana, and usually it will depend on the number of syllables that a mantra has, excluding the Om which precedes all mantras. For example the mantra, Om Namah Shivaya, has five syllables (na, mah, shi, va, ya) and each syllable needs to be repeated 100,000 times. So the Purascharana for this particular mantra would be 500,000. After you have completed that many repetitions you will start seeing the results of the mantra in your life. A minimum of 108 repetitions should be done daily. Even after completion of a Purascharana, the mantra should be repeated 108 times daily to maintain its power.
Why does the mantra, not give any results even after the prescribed repetitions have been completed?
There can be many reasons for this. One of the main reason could be, that you have not been initiated into the mantra by a proper Guru. Another reason could be irregular practise and poor concentration while repeating the mantra. Karma (results of past lives) also plays a major part in the success of a mantra. If you have an accumulation of bad karma, it will stop the effect of the mantra from taking place. In such cases, it is advised to do the Purascharana, repeatedly until the results start manifesting in one's life. Sometimes it can also be seen that you start manifesting the results even before you have completed the Purascharana. This is because, you may have practised this mantra in your previous life and completed the required repetition in this life.
How should a mantra be practised?
The Guru will guide you into the practise of the mantra, but there are certain general guidelines which one can follow.
What should be the posture and seating arrangement, and which direction to face?
Any comfortable sitting posture, where the spine is held erect, is good. For people who cannot sit cross-legged, even sitting on a chair is fine as long as you hold your spine in a straight line, and do not get too comfortable and start relaxing. You can face the East or North directions, when you do your mantra practise. A folded woolen blanket will make an ideal seat, for practising the repetition of mantras. If you are sitting on a chair, do not let your feet directly touch the floor, and put a woolen mat underneath them.
Tulsi Beads Rosary
Should the mantra be chanted aloud? What should one visualize, or concentrate upon, while chanting the mantra?
Mantras should not be practised with an irreverent attitude, or with an attitude to find out if a mantra will work or not. Practise the mantra, only if you have full faith in it, and approach it with reverence. The most powerful way of practising the mantra is to chant it mentally with full concentration. You can visualize the form of the Deity of the mantra, as vividly as possible. You can give life and color to your visualisation, and see the Deity smiling lovingly at you. Visualisation will keep your mind from wandering and will also keep boredom at bay. Some people like to just be aware of the sound of the mantra as it is being chanted, and this is very good, but this can be practised by someone who has gained a fair amount of mastery over his mind. If you find that in the beginning it is difficult to maintain your concentration, you can chant the mantra aloud. But you should strive to come to the point, where you can chant the mantra mentally without any distraction, as the mental repetition is the most potent. It is always better to do a small ritual to worship the Deity of the mantra, before you start the repetitions, so that your mind is gets attuned to the Deity.
Lotus Seed Rosary
What type of Mala (rosary) should one use to maintain the count of the mantra?
The Mala will depend upon the Deity of the mantra. If you are doing a Shiva mantra, then a Mala made of Rudraksha beads is ideal. If you are chanting a Lakshmi mantra a Mala of Lotus seeds would be the best. Narayana or Vishnu mantras are best done with a Tulsi Mala.
How to hold the Mala (rosary)?
The Mala should ideally have 108 beads for keeping the count. There will be, one more larger bead, in the middle to indicate the completion of one round of 108 chants of the mantra. This is called the Meru and should never be crossed. If you are planning to do more than one round of repetitions, start moving the Mala in the opposite direction, once you reach the Meru. The Mala should be held in the right hand, draped over the middle finger. The thumb should be used to move the beads and the index finger should not be used in any way.
Mantras are potent words of power that are in the holy scriptures of all religions and were discovered by holy sages. Mantras have been repeated by millions of people throughout the ages, and this sheer volume of repetitions gives and maintains the power of the mantra. One cannot imagine the power one can possess, by practising the different mantras, and the result of the practise will be there in all the lifetimes that one has to undergo.