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Introduction

Mantra yoga - meditating on selected sounds - can be very good for your health,
depending on many factors that go into it. This article on various sides to it has five
main parts, and exposes traditional, Indian ways of doing it to set you on the track.
The intention is to present main points of the practice and the lifestyle that
traditionally surrounds it. There is much information given, but you need a few things
over and above it to be able to do TM (Transcendental Meditation), which also uses
mantras, and is well researched. The purpose of the article is to present information
from the yoga culture of India.
The items of the first part are general, all-round counsel stemming from Swami
Sivananda's writings, and could give you direction for getting onward and upward.
Sivananda's councel has been softened and moderated considerably by me, for
educational reasons. [1].
The second parts goes into meditation guidelines. There is a brief survey of some
main mantras according to the tradition, but not all of them. It is also good to know
that the divine qualities (parts of the goddesses) for the mantras, tend to overlap, as
do the descriptions and mantras of goddesses: they overlap, in part merge. Thus, the
qualities traditionally depicted and described for each mantra, may have to be looked
up. I suggest a look into Wikipedia's article on Mahavidyas for a good, first glance.
Thus, even though I have added a little bit to Sivananda's information about
mantras, the list of traditional, fundamental mantras is not complete, and the
mantras are not described at length either. [2].

Sivandanda is in the centre. (Detail)

What you do find is capsules on how to do mantra yoga, and the specifics of a
much used mantra to think-intone along with the naturally flowing breath. [3].
One thing is tradition, another is the results of qualified research: There is as yet
only meagre research on individual mantras and what they could accomplish. Where
good evidence is lacking, faith tends to get involved - a factor that needs to be
warned against, in the light of this: Look out into the world and see how many
different faiths there are. If a faith matters, this really means that many faiths and
persuasions and creeds are wrongly based. And where does that take adherents?
Some - even the majority - could be in for a surprise. Applied to an individual: "What
makes you think that your cult has a fit faith, if good faith matters? And what are the
odds for it, considering all the other faiths around?" [Compare]
We do not have to get involved in faith to meditate and benefit from it, for
example in TM, the best researched mantra meditation today. Buddha advocates the
same idea, basically.
❦❦❦❦

Mantra Meditation

1. Yoga Standards
Sit in a cross-legged yoga posture or any pose you like for your mantra meditation for
perhaps half an hour. Adjust to what time you have. You may increase the period
gradually in time, over years, if you stand it.

Take light physical exercises as walking, etc., regularly, at least twice a week.

Do five to nine rounds of easy, comfortable breathing exercises two, three, four, five
times a day, or as the need arises. Do not strain yourself while doing breathing
exercises. [Seriously moderated]

You can repeat a Mantra according to your taste or inclinations, up to thousands of


times daily. [Moderated] [NOTE: The venerated Shankaracharya of Northern India,
Guru Dev, does not recommend repetition of OM at all for all in the householder
stage of life. For them, meditation on OM "does not give good effects, it will be
responsible for decline and misfortune." [Gbt 323-24]

Prefer organic food, and observe moderation in diet. Milk and fruits may keep the life
going; medicine too. Gradually reduce or abstain from eating red meat, at least. You
should give up flesh-eating as fully as possible and be benefited. [Softened, parts are
added too]

Keep your meditation place all right, preferably clean [Toned down].

Repeat solid, helpful sayings. [You can use a recording device and listen to it
(recommended) to let the mind feed on good thought].

Proceed very carefully. You have to check a lot and compare on your own too: Not all
yoga teachings are ideal, not all other demands for conformity either. Not everything
yogis say is essential is truly so.

Charity to worthy and deserving ones is usually good. And charity had preferably start
at home, even though it does not have to end there. For the sake of deserving ones
we may give to many more. [Changed and amplified to conform in part to the
Buddhist perspective]
Give up essentially bad company, smoking, and do not develop evil habits out of
conformity.

Speak as truthfully as you are up to, and politely enough, also to inward Self. "Short
and sweet" can go well at times. Do not raise your voice and shout at little children or
subordinates. [Abr and mod]

Reduce [silly and uneconomic] wants in order to lead a happy, contented life. Plain
living and high thinking [may work for you].

Do not depend on servants, [but go for self-help by degrees, step by step, if needs be.
Train yourself.] Self-reliance is much in a life.

Be careful about making resolves out of guilt and in tenseness. Keep important ones
to yourself, and try to affirm them in a state of deep inwardness first of all. You may
repeat positive affirmations for years, for example morning and night. [Added]

Do not fail to fulful your most pressing duties.

Behave properly as is fit (a) for yourself and (b) under the circumstances - it is quite
an art. Tackle it to your ability [Added].

Notes

1. Adhere to "with ease and elegant composure, and not tenseness and deep strain."
That comes first. It is not "Simplicity first," but "With ease and due composure, first
and foremost." If simplifying things do not amount to catering to ease at the
beginning, in the middle, and at last, there is a need for improvement, even great
improvement. The chances are that to the degree you strain yourself, to that degree
you have missed the point in one or more of the elements, and need to do things
better, accordingly. Try to check and feel into how things are going so as to maximise
ease and delicacy (subtlety). It can be helpful to observe such all-round "doing-Zen".
2. The rules Sivananda sets up, are well-built. However, it is wise to be on one's guard
against bundles of do's and don'ts: Much outward-steering soon makes one feel
trapped or enmeshed. Basically what helps in the long run, is not only "divine and
parental" programming, but rational comprehension as you let your inner sense of "I"
develop and get competent. A third, most important point: That is ideal.

So be judicious on your own, and where you can, let handy principles go deep, but
consider some leeway and swaying in the immediate contacts, in the open field, quite
like trees. Their roots and trunk remain firmly sets, but their branches and twigs may
bend and sway much more with the wind, and without any harm done. Yet, be alert
that any metaphor halts. In some circumstances you need to stand firm also.
You have to be rational to cope in between your yoga meditation sessions, at any
rate. Note how Buddha generally avoids parental injunctions, and instead activates
your rationality, the Adult, in Eric Berne's jargon. Buddha's "Refrain from stealing" or
"Avoid stealing", is far better than a Biblical "Thou shalt not steal," and then go on
breaking it. It is largely fit for grown-ups to avoid severe, parental programming -
which is of the superego. The "parental" injunctions might have suited people in stiff
circumstances where yoga was established and a respected, long-standing part of the
culture, but check what serves you best today, in the city, for example.
Your part is to consider lots of things, and give the higher life outlets a try, so that
you may remain happy, elegant, and developing. Do this, and things could start to get
better. Good luck.

2. Meditation
The purified mind must be made to concentrate to the end that deep meditation can
be practised. The trainee may concentrate with closed eyes on the area between the
eyebrows. While meditating, various extraneous thoughts will try to enter the mind.
It is common. The moment you get aware you were sidetracked, resume your
meditation method anew - as often as it takes.

Sivananda affirms that half an hour's meditation is enough to enable the aspirant to
smilingly pass through a whole week's life in . . . misery. You should aim for
something even better . . .
Meditation must be regular.
Real happiness is within.
Without variety, the mind will easily get tired.
Yoga postures are for preparing us to gain fitness to practise meditation, ideally.

Sivananda advises that the spiritual aspirant should practise sound discrimination too.

Sivananda declares that the real 'I' is Brahman or Atman behind all overt existence.

The accomplished meditator realises his innermost Being, which is a Brahman, that is,
Atman. The mind can wake to Sat-Chit-Ananda (Deep Mind (Being) - Conscious
Awareness (Chit), and Rapture (Bliss, Ananda).

3. Mantra Yoga
Repetition of any mantra (syllable or set of syllables) is called japa.
Dhyana is meditation. There is dhyana with japa (mantra-repetition), and without
japa. Repeat a suitable mantra mentally. The mental repetition is very powerful. It is
termed manasika japa.
Select an OK mantra, preferably the one your teacher (guru) has given you.
Keep your guru-given mantra a secret, keep it private.
It is better to stick to one mantra only.
Do mental japa (mantra-repetition) for some time.
When you repeat the mantra, centre your awareness deep in your heart, and you
avoid doing mistakes.
Regularity in mantra thinking is generally fit.
Let the sound repetitions help to make your mind steady for a while.
Avoid distractions, and enjoy gladness from within.
Sivananda teaches that the seed mantras should not be repeated by those who are
not well acquainted with them, who have a very good knowledge of the Sanskrit
language and who have been directly initiated by a guru. Others should not approach
these mantras.
Bija mantras or alleged bija mantras used by the various organizations have been in
public domain for centuries. They are commonly known in India, and are not trade
secrets of any particular organization. Sivananda lists these mantras in his work, "Japa
Yoga" in the section on bija mantras. John Woodroffe too lists very many mantras in
his works.
Go for quite effortless, passive, sustained repetition of the suitable mantra.
The Yoga sutras of Patanjali and the practice of the formulas which result in siddhis
(powers) are common practices taught throughout India.
The prime goal of yoga is not getting paranormal powers, siddhis, and they may
become obstacles to deeper meditation.

4. Mantras
A bija is a "seed-letter". Generally a bija-mantra consists of a single letter. There are
variants of how Sanskrit mantras are written in English. For example, the end letter M
is spelled NG in some works. The sound that is thought of, lies somewhere between
M and N and Mg and Ng, to be more precise. It is nasal, and should reverberate high
up toward the frontal sinuses.

Mantra Selection

KAM is the bija-mantra of (particularly lustful) Kamesvari, a "branch goddess" of


Mahamaya (And one of the heart centre sounds)
HRIM is the seed mantra of Maya, Parvati, etc.
HREEM is the mantra of Vahnivasini [Tata 43-44], Mahamaya or Bhuvanesvari.
SHREEM is the mantra of Mahalakshmi.
SVAM is the bija mantra of Sarvamangala. [Tata 63]
SRIM is the seed-sound of Kamalatmika and Lakshmi. [Cot 123] It refers to
transcendent qualities of worldly wealth, power, beauty, and glory.
AIM is the Bija-mantra of Sarasvati.
HUM is the seed-sound of Chinnamasta. [Cot 78]
KLEEM is the Kama-bija - of transcendent knowledge, pleasure, victory, royal power.
[Compare]
VYAAM is the Bija of Vyasa-mantra.
RAAM (RAM) is the seed-mantra of Rama.

Further, the seed-sounds of the five elements are explained to be:

HAM - Ether (Throat centre, Visuddha chakra)


YAM - Air (Heart centre, Anahata chakra)
RAM - Fire (Navel centre, Manipura chakra)
VAM - Water (Genitals centre, Svadhisthana chakra)
LAM - Earth (Perineum centre, Muladhara chakra) [Kuo 34-38; Tog lvii-lxv; Spo 141-42
etc.)]

5. Yoga Symbolism and How to Get out of It


The teaching is that the mantra must be awakened by silent repetition of it. Don't
overdo it. Let "mantra consciousness" manifest, and so the mantra bear fruits
(effects). Glimpses of that mantra mind is reflected in the names attached to them
above. The names represent different stirs, vibrations, generally speaking. Different
qualities are attached to different stirs deep within. [Kuo 30-31, 144]
A striking example: Chinnamasta (HUM) is traditionally depicted as stark naked and
headless. In one hand she holds her severed head, and in the other a pair of scissors.
From the headless neck three streams of blood gush forth (for how long?) The head
drinks some of it, and attendants drink blood too.
How to get to the central meaning of such picturesque symbolism? A muni,
Vasistha, realised the Chinnamasta stir to such an extent that his head split asunder
even when he was alive. One should not run away with the impression that rending
asunder the head is a mere figure of speech, says S. Shankaranarayananan. Cutting
off the head of that goddess symbolises destruction of the lid of the mind, aiming at
higher, supernormal levels, and opening to such knowledge. It is said, Chinnamastha
destroys at once, and is located at the eyebrow centre (ajna). [Cot 66-77 abr, passim]
In the light of that, is HUM the sound you prefer to mull over? Hm-hm!
Further, we should ask where the evidence is that the picture is rightfully
interpreted by Shankaranarayanan above. Such evidence seems to be greatly missing,
and that is no small matter, for sincere but naïve faith has misled many. For all that,
the general teachings are that we choose a mantra that we solidly appreciate, a
mantra with stirs represented by the different stirs or goddesses behind the sounds,
as expounded in tantra works and some other works too. Let us say you feel a firm
affinity with KLEEM (KLIM), and want to see what Tantra works say about it: KLIM is
the sound of lust and love.

6. Hamsa Meditation: How to Do It


"When the mantra Ham-So is perfected, one can perceive the pure reality or essence
. . . Ham-So is . . . mantra of the breath." - Muktibodhananda [Sys 219]
This is for the beginner. If you don't learn ◦TM - frequently pointed out as best in test
among meditation methods - you can go for finding a convenient, all right mantra. A
good mantra that suits the person and correct, careful practice are both said to be
essential.
How to find a personally fit mantra? There are guideposts in Guru Dev's teachings,
and also in other teachings.
Ham-So is a variant spelling of the old Hamsa mantra. The Sanskrit sound that
concludes the 'Ham' part is not M, but between M and N and NG and MG, and nasal,
as if placed high up in the nose and made to reverberate there. Also, a long 'a' in
Sanskrit is more like the Italian 'o' in "Sole mio", or the vowel in the English "for'. In
the mantra, I suggest you try for a sound in the middle of o and a in 'for' and 'far'. This
explains the varied spellings, including Hamsa, Hansa, Hansah, Hong-So, Hong-Sau,
and Hong-Saw.
Hamsa is a basic and common meditation method that is commented on already in
a Sanskrit Upanishad, the Hamsa Upanishad. The Yoga Chudamani Upanishad refers
to it too. The method is simple, yet effective. It consists of watching the breath
without trying to control the breathing at all. Along with the ingoing breath you think-
intone ("hear-think") "Hong", or "Hang" with the "ao" vocal (but it is not a diphtong)
as explained in the previous paragraph. Along with the naturally outgoing breath you
think-intone "Saw". Variant spellings "So" and "Sau" refer to the same sound, and this
end sound may be placed much nearer to 'a' than to 'o' along the a-o continuum.
That is "all" you do: Watch your breath as an observer, and think two sounds along
with the breath as it comes and goes. It is unnecessary to associate any meanings to
the two sounds.
During daily practice the mind may wander. Each time you get aware that it
happens, bring the attention back to watching the breath while thinking the mantra.
Do not get annoyed. A secondary approach: Try to simultaneously maintain
awareness of the breath and the mantra, also when the mind roams.
The Satyananda line too teaches variants of this mantra method (ajapa japa). In
one, the mantra "Hong" or "hang" accompanies the inbreath, and "saw" the
outbreath. It is all done in a non-directive manner. [Cy 583]
In time and with calm, regulated effort, your mind will go deeper during the
mantra practice, and then worries, deep-rooted desires and great problems may
surface, that is, come within the range of your inward, sensing awareness. In some
cases you may become a little unhappy at a time. In such cases you can either try to
continue the practice of repeating the mantra and see if the unwelcome feelings
subside, or stop the practice if it becomes too much to handle at the time. Or make
do with slight exercises of just ujjayi or deep yoga breathing for the time being. You
may try and resume the boring mantra practice gently after some rest, or a few days,
or weeks, as the case may be. Do not suppress, be a witness, rather, by just being
aware (sensing) all along. That is about the best you can do. [Cy 611-12, 640-41]
Hong-saw can be thought along with the ingoing and outgoing breath while walking
and lying down too - or riding in a bus. There are no particular restrictions. [Cy 689]
Core kriya (ujjayi) can be integrated with Hong-Saw. First do the core kriya
breathing rounds, for example six, and then go into Hong-Saw diving for 15-30
minutes at the time [Cy 583]. The time is suggestive for how long to sit in your 2-5 key
sessions each day. Try to go ahead as delicately as you can, if you go into it, and make
sure to practice delicately.
Try to do the calming mantra method for at least half an hour daily. It becomes
pleasant and may be done quite without effort too. Alertness is increased too. These
are excellent benchmarks to evaluate your performance by. [cf. Cy 688-89]
There are further details to know if you want to practice Hang-Saw (Hong-Saw).
Most of them can be ferreted out in this survey: [Link]

✑ Additional: To derive as much benefit as you can from the mantra, keep it secret,
do not associate it with anything else, nor think yourself into the associations. Just
think-hear-repeat the selected sound (or set of sounds) according to plan, and glide
within after some time. TM, Transcendental Meditation, is founded on such divine
principles. And what is more, TM is the most researched method of all, and has been
found to work better than other meditation methods. It could be good for your health.
[◦More on TM]
You may see why I refrain from giving you details of most of the sounds above. It is
hardly as good for you as being given a mantra you associate nothing with in the first
place, and can trust too - based on research.
You will also see that the guidelines for doing TM are not as rigid as the ones you
have been given in the first part above. TM asks you to add meditation to your life, at
least 20 minutes twice daily. That's it. But through TM you may go further and be
taught other workable essentials. The main idea is that possible, further adjustments
are better implemented by-and-by, as seems fit, and depending on you. There are
courses along with the basic technique. [◦TM, Official Site]

Here ends an assembly that might have been called "How not to get plentifully
outsmarted".