One of the most widely employed forms of all meditative systems. In many spiritual traditions, sound or nada is thought to be the origin of all things. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” from The Bible, John 1:1. From the Hindu and Tantra traditions, Brahma, the Creator of the universe, caused everything to be created from continual japa or “rotation” of the mantra AUM. Physics offers “Dark Energy Confirmed: How ancient sound waves shaped the entire universe.” You could reasonably infer that meditation on this mysterious “sound” might offer some clues to the very nature of our existence.
Assists the body to heal more quickly through its mental effects and vibrational resonance on the brain and other organs. Especially powerful as a therapeutic tool for cardiac patients.
Deeply soothes and calms the mind and nervous system, relieves stress, eases anxiety, helps with insomnia, facilitates the expulsion of complexes and neuroses. Helps bring the mind to one-pointedness. Leads naturally and organically into meditation.
Subtle Body Benefits
Awakens inner sound – nada – which induces samadhi - which is the only platform for perceiving the ultimate nature of reality. Focus is on anahata and ajna chakras.
Eliminates harsh and obtrusive sound in your outer world if practice is motivated by the desire to achieve the highest state of stillness in order to be of benefit to others. It takes conscious effort to never disturb the still waters of the mind of another in order to create the causes and conditions to have a still mind. It takes a perfectly stilled mind and an experience of samadhi to truly and completely be able to turn our attention to and be of ultimate service to anyone other than ourselves and our own needs.
Ideally, you should receive your mantra directly from your Guru. You could also use AUM or AMIN or AMEN, depending on your inclination and your tradition.
Never disclose your mantra to anyone, and once you have received one, don’t change it unless your Guru directs you to.
Sit in a meditation posture of your choice - make sure you are perfectly comfortable. Close your eyes and relax. Totally relax.
Practice at a regular time and place.
Rotate your mala beads as you recite in accordance with your Guru’s instructions. Don’t wear the mala that you use for japa as a necklace, nor show it to anyone. Tradition says to keep it under wraps in a soft cloth. This preserves the powerful vibrational energy of your mala.
The sumeru bead which is offset from the main string of beads tells you one round is complete and also returns your awareness to your japa.
Chant your mantra rhythmically with correct pronunciation and clear enunciation.
Put some heart and soul into it - chant with feeling and purpose! For this, you will need to know the exact meaning of your mantra!
You can chant softly, just under your breath, aloud or mentally - ask your Guru for specific instructions.
Swami Satyananda says chant quickly if your mind is disturbed, slowly if your mind is more relaxed.
For many more details on mantras and malas, please attend Swami Muktibodhananda Saraswati’s August 2016 Retreat on Gabriola Island - more details here.
This pose induces a meditative state. It can be done before meditation or as the actual meditation.
Tips from Deep Retreat
Constantly monitor your forehead, jaw, lips, teeth, tongue - make sure all are completely and totally relaxed.
The Sanskrit word japa means to rotate - as in the continual rotation of the mala or rosary in synchronicity to the words of the mantra. This rotation of the beads between your fingers provides an anchor for the mind and in combination with holding the mind steady on the recitation of the mantra itself, serves to hold the awareness steady.
Random thoughts will come up - it is possible to continue with the chanting (silently or aloud) of the mantra, perfectly in coordination with the rotation of the mala beads while simply observing or witnessing the inner thought process.
If your awareness slips, your fingers will slip on the beads or your chanting will no longer be coordinated with counting the beads.
Mantra started out as my main practice. In our Tibetan Buddhist lineage, we have a commitment to do daily mantra recitation as well as to complete four mantra retreats -anushthana - which means a vow to complete a certain number of mantra repetitions in isolation and in silence. These retreats are profoundly quieting for the body and the mind - except for the first one, which will likely be the most difficult thing you will ever do in your life!
All anushthana retreats employ boundaries enclosing a retreat space where strict silence is observed and communication and contact is cut off for the period of the anushthana.
As you repeat your mantra, visualize your anxiety, stress, rage - whatever you’d like to offload - leaving your body, leaving you clear and free, open and available to finally be there for others.
You can also imagine your mantra recitation as a stream of goodness and beauty issuing from your lips into your world, blessing all beings.
If you experience any tightness in the heart area or the head, consult right away with your Guru.