Significance of Mantras and Japa
Mantra refers to a divine name or a spiritual mystic formula which is repeated with devotion and understanding for attaining material prosperity, health and spiritual illumination. As a devotional practice, chanting the holy name of God or Japa is considered extremely beneficial. Mantra may consists of a brief prayer, the name or an aspect of the divinity, or a collection of Sanskrit root letters (Beejaksharas). Mantra consists of letters or words well calculated to bring about specific results by awakening psychic powers. Mantra is the key to unlock a potential treasure within.
Japa is the repetition of a mantra orally or mentally. As per scriptures, the repetition of mantra bestows material attainment as well as liberation. As per Hindu tradition, chanting a holy name of God or a prayer over and over again causes positive influence on our sub conscious mind. According to Patanjali, a spiritual aspirant can realize God by the repetition of a Mantra.
Mantra is a time honoured technique that enables one to gain control over mind, purify it, master concentration and eventually have god vision.
There are mainly four techniques of chanting mantras:
- The first technique is to repeatedly write the holy name of god a certain number of times a day. This is called Likhita Japa
- The second method is to chant the mantra silently and continuously for a fixed period of time. This is called Akhanda Japa.
- Third one is to sing the holy name of god rhythematically with the help of drums and other instruments. This is called Bhajans or Nama Sankirtana.
- The fourth technique is to perform japa mentally at every breadth. This is called Ajapa Japa.
Our ancient sages have studied the relation between the words uttered by lips, the thoughts, feelings of the mind and heart. Every word when uttered with feeling creates a specific psychic vibration. This plays a great part in awakening the inner latent powers of the soul, enabling a person to move towards god realization. When Mantra is chanted, gradually the mind assumes a state of purity and serenity.
In this process of mental concentration and purification, the higher thought waves begin to manifest enriching one’s life with spiritual growth.
The Sanskrit meaning of the word Bija means ‘a seed’. A Bija-Mantra is a monosyllabic holy word. This can be called as seed-mantra. Bija-mantras are a contribution of the Tantra tradition of Hinduism. According to the tantra tradition, each deity has a specific bija mantra.
This universe is made up of five basic elements. They are ether (akash), air (vayu), fire (agni), water (jal) and earth (prithvi). All the objects of sense perceptions are different combinations of these five elements. There are specific bija mantras for each of these five elements which are helpful in healing different chakras.
‘Lum’ is the symbol of earth element. This is the root letter of Mooladhara or Root chakra situated at the base of the spine.
‘Vum’ is the symbol of the water element. This is the root letter of Swadhistana chakra in the spinal column.
‘Rum’ is the symbol of the fire element. This is the root letter of Manipura chakra situated at the navel center in the spine.
‘Hum’ is the symbol of ether. This is the root letter of Vishuddhi chakra situated at the throat center.
‘Om’ is a symbol of cosmic mind at the Ajna chakra between the eye brows.
These sound symbols in different combinations give rise to mantras which are designed to yield mystic influence on the mind through their vibrations.OM is root of all the mantras. It is the source of all words and sounds. Therefore OM describes the most perfect symbol or name of the supreme. OM moves the prana or vital force in man. Om is expressed through panavayu or the vital breath. Hence it is called ‘Pranavah’. OM is the eternal and indestructible word and kills ego, desires, doubts and brings peace and bliss.
Siddha mantra is a special mantra which has to be given to a student from a competent teacher. Mantra given by a god realized soul is energized by the spiritual power of the giver. Each mantra has its own significance, so the teacher gives proper mantra based on the requirement of the student. Such a mantra has a great spiritual potency and it helps one to make faster spiritual progress. Students who have received siddha mantra from a teacher, should chant regularly as instructed by teacher.
How mantra helps in gaining concentration over the mind
Naturally the mind is uncontrolled and it gets bored doing the same thing over and over again. Japa is repeatedly chanting the same mantra. The mind initially will be reluctant to do chanting continuously. In spite of this reluctance, the mind should be persuaded to chant the same mantra repeatedly. Eventually the mind will come under control and you will be able to do chanting repeatedly.
A piece of white cloth takes on the color of the dye in which it is soaked. The mind is also like a piece of cloth. It absorbs the good or bad qualities of its thoughts. God is the purest and holiest. A mantra contains the name of god and is equally pure. So because of chanting mantra regularly, our mind and thoughts become pure.
Significance of the number 108
While doing japa, we can use a mala or a rosary of 108 beads which helps in counting. Usually in scriptures, it is advised to repeat the mantra at least for 108 times. Heart is the seat of Atma and from the heart spring 108 nerves (nadis) which send the vibrations throughout the body. This is the reason why mantras to be chanted 108 times which would activate the nerves of the heart.