The secret of success of any sophisticated experiment is nothing but the skillful and intelligent application of the tools or equipment – in which understanding how these tools work, play a major role. In the great subjective experiment called meditation, where the mind or the state of consciousness is altered and we move into new realms of experiences and into new states of existence, which is ever perfect and serene compared to the state of our mind at this moment.
Mantra – The greatest tool for the mind.
The mantra in Sanskrit is defined as ‘mananat trayate iti mantra:’. Which means – that which helps the mind in reflection/contemplation. It is using a mantra that we alter our state of consciousness or delve deeper into ourselves in meditation. Mantrasiddhi or the achievement through mantra is never through mechanical repetition. This is why we need to understand the significance of each mantra and get a hint as to how to successfully apply our mind in contemplation, in other words – understanding the significance of a mantra gives us a road map to the higher state, towards which we have to turn our mind’s attention faithfully and consistently.
For example, Let us consider the Mahamantra
‘Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya’.
The majority of Hindus are unaware of the true significance of this mantra, and they use it at all the wrong place and achieve no result. Mantra cannot heal your illness or make you rich – as said earlier, it is only a tool for your mind in meditation.
Let us now take each word of the mantra and understand its true significance.
‘Om’ or ‘Aum’ – is the sound representation or a symbol for the ultimate substratum of the universe. Thus it is called ‘Shabda Brahman’, where ‘Shabda’ means Sound and the word Brahman comes from the root ‘Brah’ – meaning growth and ‘man’ meaning without limitation. Thus ‘Aum’ or ‘Om’ Represents the ultimate reality behind the manifested world of names and forms.
Namo – This can be divided into two i.e. ‘Na’ and ‘Mo’ , here ‘Na’ stands for ‘Narayana’ – which represents the cause for the universe,the Spirit and ‘Mo’ stands for meya – which means that which can be apprehended or in other words, the manifested world (the effect).
Moving on to the next word, Bha-ga-va-te.
Here, ‘Bha’ stands for ‘Bhasayati’ meaning – which is expressed. This sound represents the jiva (soul) which is identified with the manifested state - waking state, that jiva is given a name which is Viswa, and the macrocosmic aspect of it is called Virat.
‘Ga’ stands for ‘Gam/Gach’ meaning – that which is going. This sound represents the jiva (soul) identified with dream state or the transition between waking and dreamless deep sleep and the jiva (soul) which is identified with this state, is called Taijasa and the macrocosmic aspect is called Hiranyagarbha.
‘Va’ stands for ‘viliyate’ meaning – dissolution into the cause. This is representation of Jiva (soul) and its experience of total dissolution into the cause. The jiva is called Prajna and the macrocosmic aspect is called Eeswara which in english can be translated as GOD.
‘Te’ sound represents the ‘The Fourth’, Samadhi State. This state is difficult to be put into words because it is beyond the realm of the intellect, yet Vedantic masters have made such brilliant effort in expressing their transcendental experience in the form of mantras. Here is a translation of one such mantra which indicatively defines the fourth state or Samadhi state.
"It is not that which is conscious of the internal subjective world, nor that which is conscious of the external world, nor which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness, nor that which is simple consciousness nor is it unconsciousness, It is unseen by any sense organs, the mind, uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable, essentially by of the self alone, negation of all phenomena, the peaceful, the auspicious, and the non-dual, This is what is considered as the Fourth (Turiya), This is the Atman and this is to be realized.”
Here also, we see a library of suggestions given to student at his seat of contemplation. These are in no way a descriptive definition of the truth, but only an indicative definition to turn our mind's attention in meditation.
Moving on to the last word of the mantra (‘Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya’),
‘Va’ sound represents the earth element
‘su’ sound represents the water element
‘de’ sound represents the fire element
‘va’ sound represents the air element
‘ya’ sound represents space.
In one of Shankara Bhagavadpada's text known as Thathva Bodha he teaches the origin of the universe to the student, in which he says, Space is projected from the Atman or the Self. From space came air, from air came fire element, from fire element came water and from water element came earth, from earth – the different living beings (plants, animals etc )
When thus, we contemplate on this mantra, we can use the above-mentioned information as a road-map to focus the mind's attention consistently towards its source, which is the indwelling self. Which when practiced ere long – the mind becomes volatile and pure in the fire of meditation and – when the mind becomes extremely pure (silent/calm) it is transcended and the reality shines forth by itself. That is the ultimate goal of the greatest subjective experiment of human existence – Samadhi.
Inspiration for this article is the teachings of
H.H. Acharya Mahamandaleswar Kashikananda Giri Ji Maharaj
Reference: Srimadh Bhagavatham, Mandukya Upanishad