This is a transcript of a talk that Swami Veda Bharati made on January 14, 1997, at Himalayan Institute Hospital Trust in Dehradun, India.
Japa is a special science. It is a science of devoting the mind's energies to a specific goal so that particular divine conscious forces may arise within us and make us their dwelling place. Through which ever deities' japa you perform, the qualities, the attributes of that devata enters into you. What is a devata? The pictures and images are not the devata. Devas are conscious, living forces. We give them bodies because we project those forms onto them. In the mantra vidya [mantra science], we think of the mantra as the body of the devata. A Devata has two forms, a jyoti form and a nada form. There is the universal conscious sound, the Maha Nada of the cosmos, and certain waves of that cosmos are the mantras. These mantras have been revealed in the "minds" of the rishis. (I am using the word "mind" incorrectly but we are just getting started, and it is the best word I can use at this level without going into a detailed treatment of this very deep topic. Please review my past tapes on the subject of mind.)
In the beginning of reciting a mantra we always remember the rshi of that mantra. For example, the rshi of Gayatri is Vishvamitra to whom the mantra was revealed. Mrtyunjaya mantra is Shiva's form and will settle people into its ultimate goal, into their ultimate goal: moksha (liberation). You may say that you do not want to think that far about moksha; however, liberation and enlightenment do not come dramatically; they come in tiny little steps. When one knot of your character, of your psychology, is loosened, one small step is taken toward liberation. We are unable to loosen that knot. So a prayer for moksha is a prayer for loosening our immediate knots. In the practice of japa, which mantra should be done, by whom, at what time of life? When we give mantra diksha (mantra initiation) in our tradition the guru has taught the student-initiator (dikshata) to observe the personality and let the mantra be transmitted.
In our tradition mantra becomes the mind's link with the entire tradition. We call the mantra as though it were a drop of Guru's mind. It is through the mechanism of the Guru-given mantra that you become linked to the entire guru-parampara. And if you keep strengthening that with japa, the bindu enlarges and slowly begins to cover more and more of your mind. In the Siva Sutras, which is the primary text of the Kashmir Shaivism tradition it says, Chittam Mantram. The entire chitta becomes the mantra. This is a later stage when the entire mind becomes one with that mantra; that is, if the mantra is given in the yoga tradition. In India right now we have many priestly traditions or sectarian traditions. People of a particular sampradhya or sect are given the same mantra. Shrivaisnu are given one kind. Guadia are given a different one. Very few of those who grant those mantras in the sampradhya are yogis. But what yogis do, as our master did, was influence first those leaders and teachers and give them the power so that the mantra would be fruitful. Our master had done that with Christian leaders and with Muslim holy men. He strengthened their power to make that mantra fruitful to their disciples.
The mantra in the yoga tradition is a direct linkage; and it has its own mechanism, its own internal development. And you will find it revealed inside you very, very slowly because you do not have time yet in your present way of life. Then, in addition to your personal mantra, a person may be given personal practices called purashcharanas. You keep your personal mantra, your guru-mantra in your mind while you are walking or whatever, and for a certain period of 3 months, 6 months, or one year, you may do a special practice of Gayatri or Mrtyunjaya called a purashcharanas.
Now also with these mantras, it is better to first be initiated and then afterwards to do these intensive practices. Sometimes when these practices are done collectively, there is a larger affect on the mind. The collective mind settles down and loosens its knots. Those who sit together for meditation will become a family. When you sit together, the field of consciousness is awakened. In this way, minds become part of a single Guru-field; then they find such a quiet link, that without having to speak much they understand each other. That is why I would like to see more collective mantra japa. If I am gone and not present, still you will feel the Guru-link through this regular meditation practice. If you can somehow find time to join in this uniting of the minds, the benefits will not only be spiritual and karmic, but also social, for it is with our minds that we create friendships.
Now in mantra science, as I said, which mantra is given for whom, when, for how long? Now the second consideration is: How? You want the shakti to arise, but you block the shakti by sitting in an unbalanced posture, and so you say that nothing is happening. First consider the simple mechanics to the practice and train the body to sit correctly. After the basic physical mechanism, there is the pranic mechanism, measured in the correct breathing. Then there is the mental mechanism, the process of doing the japa.
Let me tell you one secret about the mind. Modern Western medicine and Western schools of psychology are deficient in understanding mind. Yoga has a very different definition of mind. Mind is an energy field. It is not one single field with one surface. You think that this apparatus by which you think all these different thoughts and constantly produce beta brain waves is the mind. No, this is only the surface level of mind. Mind has many, many, many, many layers. At each progressively deeper layer the mind is of a higher and yet higher frequency. And the way to go into the mind and understand it is through stillness by way of deep relaxation practices. Through relaxation practices you become absolutely still. Then you slowly learn to go into the higher frequency layers of the mind. Those are deeper layers of mind where the mind moves faster. So whatever you put into that layer of mind will move faster. Japa is that kind of a science. It is the science of going into the deeper layers of mind which progressively become of a higher and yet higher frequency. Now please read the Mrtyunjaya Mantra:
Om Tryambakam yajaamahe
Sugandhim pushti vardhanam
Mrityor mukshiiya maamritaat.
The words written to explain the mantra are not the meaning of the mantra. First you must understand the meaning of the word "meaning." What is the meaning of the word "water"? What is the meaning of the word “jal”? One word is not the meaning of another word. One word cannot be the meaning of another word. That which you taste, that which you put into the mouth, that which quenches the thirst, that object is the meaning of the word. Otherwise is “jal” the word and its meaning is water, for the English speakers? Or is “water” the word and its meaning is jal , for the English speakers? That is why we have a word “padartha.” The meaning of the word is padartha. The absorption of power, the awakening of power, the experiencing of that force, the pacification of the mind, that process and that experience itself is the meaning of the mantra, not the translation. This translation is not the meaning. The meaning will be understood perhaps a hundred incarnations from now. You will become the meaning of that mantra. So for now, this mantra looks only like a prayer.
Now the next thing to remember is that there are two aspects to such a mantra. One is the prayer contained in it, and the other is the vibration. One is the prayer itself, and the other is the vibration of the sound. The sentiment that is in that prayer should become very intense; that is one should work to increase the intensity of the sentiment contained in the prayer translation and the intensity of the concentration on the vibration that is the sound of the mantra. Therefore you do not "do" the mantra; that is, we do not just "say" the mantra; mantra is happening by itself.
The translation I have given here is incomplete, but it will have to do for now. One ancient translator has translated try-ambikarn as "he who is one with that feminine force." Ambika also means "the eye." Tryambika, then can mean "one with three eyes." There is a whole Tantric text on Mrtyunjaya Mantra called Netra Tantra. This mantra is referred to as the netra mantra, “the mantra of the eye." When a person says, I cannot see my way, why is that? So here you have three eyes to see your way. There are special mantras for the awakening of certain chakras. This mantra is the "three-eye" mantra. So the second meaning is "one with the three eyes." A third meaning is "he who is one with the Three Mothers (the Three Shaktis).” The Three Shaktis are iccha shakti, jnana shakti, and kriya shakti (the Power of Will, the Power of Knowledge, and the Power of Action). I have explained the relationship of these Three Shaktis with the Five Koshas in previous lectures.
So, the translation would be:
Try-ambakam: "The one with these Three Shaktis :" to him.
Yajamahe: "We make sacrificial offerings."
Those who make offerings in a religious context perform outer ritual, bahir-anga. Those on the path of a more pure spirituality perform them as antar-anga, inner worship. Our outer forces we burn into our greater higher forces. That is yajamahe, in the process of antar-anga, in the internal yajnas. Because here you are not on the path of religion, you are on the path of yoga.
Su-gandhim: "Our lives become fragrant with meritorious deeds,"
This is one way of looking at this word. You may have heard of fragrances emanating from the body of yogis. One of my first experiences with Baba (Swami Rama) was in 1969 on Divali Day when I first saw him. A few weeks later, we had been invited to the home of Howard Judt, who had sponsored Swamiji's first trip to Minneapolis. After dinner Swamiji said, "I will give everyone a gift." We were all excited. He said, "Tell me your favorite fragrance." Somebody said: "Jasmine." Somebody said, "Lotus." Somebody said, "Sandalwood." He said, "All right, give me your handkerchief." He put his hand on the handkerchief, and the fragrance was on the handkerchief. He did that for everybody. Mrs. Arya was there and said, "I do not have a handkerchief." So he touched the corner of her sari, and for 6 months the fragrance was there. A week passed and we had lunch again. This time Sushumna, this body's daughter, went to Swamiji and said, "I didn't get any perfume." So Swamiji took her long hair in his hands and perfumed her hair with his very touch. So this mantra is the mantra for the siddhi of su-gandhi. But don't waste your time on such a siddhi. How does such a siddhi come? Earlier I said this was a mantra of the Third Eye (Ajna Chakra). The Third Eye also controls the nostrils. But also the abode of su-gandhi is prithivi tattwa, and prithivi tattwa resides in the muladhara chakra. This is also the mantra for awakening the su- gandhi of the prithivi tattwa by awakening the muladhara chakra. That is why I have translated it:
Unto Him who awakens our shakti right from the muluadhara chakra,
thus, activating fragrances in our body, prana and mind.
Every word has a depth. You reach there and there is a further depth; like the ocean, you keep diving. Yet, by only intellectual understanding nothing will happen. There are many of you who as students must study hard using the power of concentration. If you practice a concentration for one-half hour in the morning, then mind becomes concentrated. And not only then. Now I have said something here and you have not understood what I have said. I said, “Mind becomes concentrated,” so you think what you read you will be able to concentrated on. But that is not what I said. I use the term in the sense in which a medicine becomes concentrated, a chemical becomes concentrated, an energy field becomes concentrated. That is how mind becomes concentrated. So in this incomplete explanation, I am giving you an indication of the power hidden in the mantra. So, awakens the shaktis; then
Pushti-vardhanam: "Unto him who nourishes all our shaktis, strengthens and increases our devotion by His grace, and makes us advance into the spiritual dimension."
There is a story where someone says, "I don't believe in God." And the guru said, "Wow, what grace! The word "God" came from your mouth!" So pushti marga is that marga (path) in which one knows that it is only by the grace of God that we remember God. So the problems arise: “I am not growing. I am not increasing, I am being blocked.” Why? Because I have blocked myself by my karma, by the knots of karma in my mind, prana and body. So when grace awakens the shakti and makes your life fragrant and nourishes you, then comes vardhanam. How far can I progress? How far can I increase? As far as moksha (liberation)! You can start by liberating yourself from small karmic knots and reach up to moksha, up to amrita(ambrosia, the elixir of immortality). When the Third Eye begins to become active, one begins to see his way through life.
Urvarukam-iva [bandhanat]: "As a melon drops from the vine upon ripening, so also may we, upon the ripening of the fruits of our actions."
Not the smallest fruit; the mantra refers to the largest possible fruit, the whole melon, because our karmas are that large and that looming. So even such a big fruit becomes released from bandhanat, from bondage.
Bandhanat, Mrtyoh: "From bondage that is death."
People live in fear. Every living being has some fear. Fear is the large block. In that there are immediate fears such as someone will steal my money, or take away my job, or this or that. Yet of all these fears there is but one fear – all the fears are part of one fear – that one fear is the fear of dying. What is the death we are afraid of ? Bandhanat-fear is death. The small death we suffer, the small death we fear, that death is our bondage, our knots. And when your knot is opened then you increase and grow. You take the next step because you see the next step. The mantra is for release from bondage.
Mukshiya: "Be released, attain moksha."
Ma-amrtat: "May I never again be parted from amrta, from the immortality (of Atman, the Spiritual Self, or Parama-Atman, the Supreme Self.”
Now the task is to absorb this meaning, to contemplate it, to make it your goal for one year, maybe for life. Now, if you keep impressing the mantra upon yourself, your personality, everything that is in you, will undergo a change. Certain kinds of thoughts produce certain kinds of diseases, and not only viruses. Certain kinds of thoughts don't produce disease; they weaken your iccha shakti, otherwise known as immune deficiencies. The mental aspect of the immune deficiencies is weakening the Iccha shakti. The mantra is used more for removing the power of the disease in this indirect way. The primary purpose of mantra is moksha. Some people do japa with these kinds of thoughts. Some have a key to success and others have a key to failure. Some have a key to failure in life: "I am no good; nothing ever happens; nothing succeeds with me; it's never going to succeed," and they do the japa of this thought. And the result is that they do not succeed because the mind then becomes fixed in that frame.
But even if people do not all sit in one place to do the japa but they do the japa of the same mantra, it means that at least once a day, the mind of everyone will be alike, will be thinking the same kind of thought.
Answers to questions:
1) Yes, as japa progresses, the need for sleep reduces.
2) Once you start [a purashcharana], do not stop in the middle. If you are very busy and it is your time for japa, at that time sit down and maintain the link even if you repeat the mantra only 11 times. That is the secret of continuity. If you cannot sit for a whole hour, it doesn't matter. In the olden days we use to set a time that we would complete so many by such and such date, for in those days people sat in the ashram and life was not so busy. But today life is very busy. Now even with a person like me who spends six or eight hours in meditation, life is very busy. Those that work with me know how many centers I take care of, how many people's inquiries I answer, how many people I meet. Then I do my writing. And then do my meditation. So I find it difficult to set a date for completing a purashcharana.
Fix a time for your japa, or wherever you are maintain the link with mental japa. And now even those who are not going to do the japa, do take the training for sitting in meditation.
Try-ambakam: Unto Him who is One with the three Mothers (the shaktis of will, knowledge and action); the dweller of Ajna and the Sahasrara chakras,
Yajamahe: we offer our very selves in internal sacrifice,
Su-gandhim: Unto Him who awakens our shakti right from the Muladhara chakra, thus activating fragrances in our body, prana and mind,
Pushti-vardhanam: Unto him who nourishes all our shaktis, strengthens and increases our devotion by His grace, and makes us advance into the spiritual dimension,
Urvarukam-iva: As a melon drops from the vine upon ripening, so, may we, upon the ripening of the fruits of our actions,
Mukshiya: be released, attain moksha,
Bandhanat, Mrtyoh: from bondage that is death, and thereby,
Ma-amrtat: may I never again be parted from the immortality (of Atman, the Spiritual Self, or Parama-Atman, the Supreme Self).
Blessings to all,
Swami Veda Bharati
Swami Veda Bharati holds the prestigious title of Mahamandaleshwara in the Swami order of monks. He was also the Chancellor of HIHT University, Dehradun, which was established by Master Swami Rama. He authored approximately 18 books on Indian spirituality including a 1500 page comprehensive commentary on two of the four chapters of Patanjali’s Yoga-sutras. Before taking the vows of Swamihood in 1992, Swami Veda Bharati was known as Dr. Usharbudh Arya.