This is the 1st of four talks at a recent retreat in New Zealand.  This talk deals with the fundamentals of receiving and then using spiritual sound, or mantra, as the foundation of a meditation practice. The talk is brief but very informative.

The kirtan at the end is a cover or adaptation of “What a Beautiful Name” by Ben Fielding & Brooke Ligertwood

We live in the worst of times; we live in the best of times. From the perspective of the Vedas, this time is described as the age of chaos, quarrel, and confusion. Tell me if, in thinking about that, if that doesn’t sort of describe what’s going on. But at the same time, this particular process of the chanting of these spiritual sounds, these transcendental sounds, these holy names, is the most effective means for complete self-realization and God-realization.

These spiritual sounds in the process that we’re using—well, I’ll speak about the sound first. These are more than just syllables. Hari bol.  It’s more than just the syllables that make up these sounds.

So, one example we can use: if it’s a sunny day and there was some sun shining through a window, and you had a fan, and the fan was oscillating and turning, the light would cast a shadow of the same fan on the floor, and you would see it oscillating and the blades spinning. If I put my hand near that shadow representation of the fan, do I feel anything? No. There’s no wind blowing. It’s only a shadow; there is no substance there. Whereas when I put my hand by the actual fan, I can feel that there’s a potency in the form of air blowing.

So, in a similar way, mantra is just not made of the external so-called syllables. There is a specific spiritual potency attached, and it is not that all syllables have that potency. Some of them don’t. It’s only a representation of the actual powerful spiritual mantra.

So, what is it that makes something powerful or potent, or just a shadow or a representation of something that is spiritually potent? I can go to Bunnings or Mitre 10, and I can purchase an electrical outlet. Then I can come here and just attach it to the wall. And then somebody comes along and plugs in their phone to charge it or plugs in a fan or a light, and what happens? Nothing happens. And why does nothing happen, even though it seems to have the right size, shape, it’s got the right label on it? It looks like it’s the real deal, but because it is not connected to electrical wiring that goes all the way back to some generation source, some source of power generation somewhere, that’s creating the electricity and transmitting it on the wire, even though I’ve just plonked it there, and it looks like the real deal, there is nothing there. So, with these examples, we can begin to appreciate and understand that these spiritual, fully powerful spiritual sounds come from a transcendental or spiritual platform, and they are delivered to us via a chain of empowered spiritual teachers.

This process, in Sanskrit this is called guru parampara. Parampara means the passing down from one to the other. And it’s not just a question of passing down something external, like the shadow, it’s a passing down of the substance. And that substance is only transmissible through somebody that has undergone or undertaken that spiritual journey and themselves become self-realized and God-realized. And such a person is considered a transparent via media, just like glass. Glass is transparent, and it’s called a via media because when you put a piece of glass in the wall, you cut a hole and you look out, then you are connected to what’s out there.  So, in a similar manner, when a self-realized spiritual teacher has taken from his own teacher and the teacher before and the teacher before going back to that spiritual dimension and is passing on that sound, that sound is not just the shadow. It is actually the substance that’s where the potency lies.

And this potency means that when you engage in the process, you will become transformed, you will become enlightened, and you will have spiritual experience.

These sounds are not just sounds as we think of sound. They actually contain within them the entire spiritual reality. They contain an entire spiritual realm. They contain an ocean of spiritual love and ecstatic happiness.

In the material condition, we are like—we’re in a fog, we’re stuck in the fog. And when you’re in the fog, you can’t see. You look out the window, you can’t see the hills, you can’t see the trees even the ones not very far away from your house or wherever you are. It’s all just a fog. And they describe the material conditions as being like that fog. That fog is so profound that we are steeped in an illusion that this material body that we have on is us. I am male, I am female, or whatever I want to identify that thing as, that I am of a certain racial extraction or a certain nationality or a certain age, whatever labels are attached to the body, that’s who I am. And I go through my whole life with that experience. That’s considered profoundly unfortunate, ignorant and filled with sadness.

The process of meditation upon these spiritual sounds is a process of dissipating the fog and developing this clarity and coming to discover your actual spiritual identity and your connection with a higher spiritual reality, a higher spiritual truth—and not just intellectually, but actually to have that realization. The word realization means it becomes real. It becomes real. It’s not just a thought or an idea, another kind of conditioning. It’s a true experience.

So, when we engage in this process of chanting, we are simply asked to let go and immerse our hearts, our mind, our body, and our actual self, immerse ourself in this ocean of transcendental spiritual wonder or spiritual sound. It’s just like in this world, if you’re all hot and sweaty, you step into the shower or you go into the ocean or a river, and immersing yourself in that water you become enlivened, you become clean, your mind becomes refreshed. That is a tiny, tiny reflection of what is the spiritual reality.

You have free will. You can choose to do things or not to do them. There is no punishment for doing wrong things, apart from the fact that you have to accept the consequences. If I’ve got my hand in the door, and I slam the door shut, ouch! It’s not like I was punished. That’s just the natural consequence of having your fingers in the door jamb when you slam the door or close the door shut. In a similar manner, if you live in a material state of consciousness, you have to accept the resultant karma that comes from that. You can choose, though, to engage in a spiritual activity or not. There’s no compulsion. It’s up to you.

But I promise if you do this, and you undertake with sincerity, simplicity of heart, humility, a mood of surrender, you actually immerse yourself in this spiritual sound, in due course of time, it is generally a gradual process for most of us, but increasingly, you will have access to a spiritual world, a spiritual dimension, spiritual experience and realization. All you have to do is receive the gift with humility and engage in the process. Okay? So that’s all I’m going to say tonight.

Anybody have a question from that, or no? If you think of something later, and you want to ask, then you can also ask tomorrow morning if you wish.

So, we’re going to chant a little bit more. What else would we be doing, right? You know, it’s just amazed me. I’ve been in many different countries and many different cultures and many different languages and everywhere where we share these spiritual sounds, and people give it a go it’s exactly the same, because we are all spiritual beings, eternal spiritual beings, brothers and sisters. We desire the same thing, and this spiritual practice delivers this wonderful experience.

So I’ll chant.  I’ll use the Mahamantra.