Occasionally, students or others send questions via email or social media and they are answered. Here is one that may be of general interest:
If a mantra is given by an initiator, rather than by an enlightened Master, I do not understand how a person, just a normal human being, can give something to another normal human being that will be effective.
Your concern is that the mantra from an initiator is given by a non-realized person, and you wonder how that mantra could be effective? It’s a good question. What’s important to understand is that the mantra does not come from the initiator; it comes from the Guru. Swami Rama was known as Gurudeva because he brought his mind to the level of the Guru. But the Guru is not a body, is not a person. Because of Swami Rama’s great spiritual achievement, he could speak from that Guru force. But, an initiator, even though not at such an exalted level himself or herself, has been blessed with the ability to receive mantras through intuition from the Guru and pass them on to aspirants.
Swami Veda used to tell stories of how Swami Rama showed him multiple times that the mantra and initiatory energy come THROUGH him (Swami Veda) not FROM him. The Mantra is said to come from the Guru not from the initiator. In one story, Swami Rama asked Swami Veda (who was known as Dr. Arya at that time) to tell him his (Swami Veda’s) personal mantra. Although Swami Veda had repeated that mantra thousands if not millions of times, he could not remember the mantra. Then Swami Rama said “now you can remember it,” and then Swami Veda remembered his mantra. Swami Rama told him that this was to show him who controls the mantra.
I’ve talked with Stoma Parker, who is one of the initiators, and he told me that when he gives initiation he goes into meditation and waits for the mantra to appear in a particular place in his mind—that’s how he described it. Only then does he give it.
Swami Veda, who was an expert of mantras, told me that he doesn’t give the mantra, it comes through intuition, from the Guru. He would often think about what mantra would be good for a person but when initiating he’d give the mantra which came through intuition— which may have been different from the mantra he thought would be the right one.
One of Swami Rama’s prime teachings was not to worship any person, not even the Gurudeva. Only worship the infinite—which is within you. The goal of the Himalayan Tradition is to make each of us strong; it is not to make us weak and dependent on some other person. The mantras given by the initiators are from the Guru, from the Self.
Now, you may choose not to believe any of this. That is up to you. Swami Veda also said not to believe anything he said, but to do the practice and verify for yourself. So it's up to you.
You mentioned having the "same fears," and wonder if anything is changing in you. But the mantra does not take our fears away. Rather it connects us to the Tradition, to the Guru and from that connection we can learn "in the silence" of meditation even without realizing we are learning. That connection gives us a chance to access intuition ourselves. But we must do the hard work of transforming ourselves. The Guru does not do it for us. Yes, it can be frustrating. All we can do is our best to do our practice sincerely, consistently, without stopping, and work incessantly to transform our personality to make it a fit vehicle for meditation. I hope this is useful for you.
One more thing, even when Swami Rama was in his body, he often had others, the initiators, initiate people. He did not initiate everyone himself. Yet those initiations by the initiators were valid and people grew and changed their lives after being initiated in that way.