An intrinsic relationship between sound and prana under-lies all creation. At the beginning of creation, when the first movement arose within the field of dormant consciousness and mahaprana manifested, sound also came into being. With the first movement of cosmic energy the first sound manifested, which was Om. This transcendental sound is also called “nada”, the highest level of sound vibration. From nada emerged kalaa, the manifest universe of time, space and object. In scientific terms, this may be related to the event of Big Bang.
In the Bible also it has been said, “In the beginning was the Word, and Word was with God”. In order to become manifest, the unmanifest and indivisible has to take on form. Due to the close relationship between prana and nada in the process of creation, sound is one of the best vehicles for the transmission of prana shakti at the microcosmic level also. Therefore mantras, sounds containing psychic force, are often used in the science of prana.
What are Mantras?
Mantras are cosmic sounds, which were discovered in higher states of meditation when yogis explored the different layers of the mind to discover the source of existence.
Normally, one hears sounds only within a certain range of decibels; beyond or below that range the frequencies change and cannot be heard. However, in the casual state of consciousness one becomes sensitized and begins to hear and see many things. The mantras that the yogis discovered were sounds vibrating at particular frequencies in each dimension of the personality.
Each mantra has two important qualities, known in Sanskrit as varna and akshara. Varna means ‘colour’ and akshara means ‘letter’ or ‘form’. The letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are akshara, which also means ‘imperishable’. For once a mantra is uttered, it becomes a part of the eternal Akashic record. Every mantra has six parts. First, it has a rishi, who had self-realization through the mantra and gave the mantra to others. Sage Vishwamitra, for example, is the rishi for the Gayatri Mantra. Second, every mantra has a metre. Third, it has an ishta devata(presiding deity). Fourth, it has bija (seed), which is its essence. Fifth it has its own shakthi, energy. Sixth, it has a kilaka(pin) which unplugs the chaitanaya(consciousness)hidden in the mantra. When the plug is removed by constant and prolonged repetition, the Chaitanya is revealed.
A mantra requires correct phonetic pronunciation, intonation, concentration and creation of the associated mental image or form.
Prana and Mantra:
Sound is a form of energy that has frequency, pitch, volume and tone, as well as subtle qualities. Scientifically, sound is vibration at a particular frequency and it is able to produce physical changes in an organism.
Stonehenge, Easter Island and the Mayan monuments were moved into place using the principles of sound, an accomplishment now lost to modern civilization. The power of mantra and subtle sound frequencies has been known and used down through the ages by ancient civilizations in order to awaken the inner consciousness and exert an influence upon the external forces of nature.
The principle behind the use of mantra in pranic practices relates to this intrinsic relationships between sound and energy. Every movement of energy manifests sound and every sound carries energy. The pranas are activated with the chanting of mantras, and the orientation of existing pranic flows are altered or emphasized, so that the mind and perception changes. This brings about harmony in the vibratory field, the pranamaya kosha. Mantras carry a high psychic charge and are able to penetrate deep into the psyche. Mantras do not work at the level of the conscious mind, but at the level of the deeper mind.
In scientific terms, mantra repetition regulates and balances the autonomic nervous system. It facilitates synchronous breathing, directly resulting in cardio-pulmonary resonance, which is indicative of autonomic balance. The ‘magical’ effect of group chanting or kirtan is due to the fact that during cardiopulmonary coherence the electromagnetic field of the heart is most powerful an pronounced. The powerful and coherent electromagnetic heart field of one person can affect the heart fields of others, leading them to coherent synchrony. During group chanting the electromagnetic fields of all the individuals are both pronounced and synchronized with each other.
Pranayama and Mantra, in fact, make a very powerful combination. Together they are like a missile with an atomic weapon on its head. Prana is the missile and mantra the atomic weapon on top. When mantras are carried to different parts of the body with the help of prana, they can create actual changes in the physical structure and function.
There are many types of mantras of all lengths and descriptions. Trantric mantras are carriers of specific pranic energies and must be used according to certain rules and for particular purposes. They must be learned under the guidance of a trantric guru. There are mantras for bringing down a fever, counteracting poison, removing disease, creating an anaesthetic effect removing obstacles, conquering enemies, attracting someone, improving health, gaining wealth, sound sleep, marriage, progeny and long life. However, it is necessary to study these mantras very carefully in order to utilize them properly. Universal mantras, such as Gayatri Mantra, Durga Mantra or Mahamrityunjaya mantra, are sometimes chanted before, during or after healing. A mantra may be chanted for a particular part of the body during contact healing as the hand is passed over the affected part.
Use of Mantra in Pranayama:
Specific mantras may be used in pranayama to create the rhythm of inhalation, retention and exhalation. However the best mantra is Gayatri, as it corresponds to the ideal breathing pattern of pranayama.
Gayatri mantra represents cosmic prana. It is comprised of twenty-four syllables which contain the entire form of prana.
The twenty-four syllable basic form of Gayatri mantra as it appears in the Rig Veda(3:62:11)is:
Bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat
This can be translated as: “Om. We meditate on the divine light of that adorable Sun of spiritual consciousness. May it stimulate our power of spiritual perception.”
Gayatri Mantra appears in the Rig Veda, the oldest written literature in the library of humankind. In India, children at the age of eight are initiated into the practices of Gayatri Mantra, Pranayama and Surya Namaskara in a ritual called Upanayana Samskara.
The Upanishads say that Om (or Aum) is the primordial sound.
The word bija means ‘seed’, which refers to the unmanifest state of existence. Within the seed lies the potential of manifestation. If the seed is sown under conducive conditions, it explodes into a plant. In the same way a bija mantra is a seed, which manifests in various experiences when practised in japa.
The first bija mantra is Om or Aum. The three primal sounds, ‘A’, ‘U’ and ‘M’ are the basis of the vocal structure. They combine together to form the sound Aum. From this first seed mantra, other seed mantras were derived.
When Mantra Om is practised, for example, one enters into a meditative mood very quickly. Another example is the mantra Hreem, which has no intellectual meaning, but awakens the pranas and kundalini shakti.