I received a question about the use of mantra in meditating and why we do this.

Many people do not fully understand what yogic meditation taught in the Vedas and passed down by authentic lineages of self-realized teachers really is. Meditation is not really the activity of stilling the mind or emptying it of material thought, those are actually pre-meditation exercises practiced as Pratyahara and Dhāraṇā in the eight limbs of yoga.

Meditation is the absorption in transcendence. The easiest and most effective way to do that is to engage the mind and senses in Mantra Meditation.

This is a playlist with step-by-step guidance on how to practice different types of Mantra Meditation such as; Mantra with breath, Kirtan, and Japa meditation. There are also a number of guided meditations to help build a personal practice – LINK

Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya

So, I’ll be speaking on something that came in as a request. For the last few weeks we’ve been asking if people had things that they’d like to hear about, either a question or a particular topic that you want us to speak on. So in response to that we’ve been getting a few questions in. And this one is is, “Why mantra meditation?” So I was actually really pleased to get that question. I’m glad somebody is actually asking that question, because it’s really important and touches on the heart of what self-realization, and what spiritual life, and what meditation is all about.

So meditation is for the purpose of self-realization. That’s why it should be done. The side effects of feeling more peaceful and more calm, being able to face fears and anxieties, being able to live in this world and deal with things in a more balanced way, these are all side effects. The feeling of more joy, and particularly when one is deeply engaged in the process of meditation, is one of the great effects that you can derive from meditation.

But before I answer the question, “Why mantra meditation?” let’s consider for a moment what is meditation. Meditation is not just a stilling of the mind or to be in a state of no thought or no mental activity. Quite often people think that this is meditation, but actually this is a preparation in the ashtanga yoga process. The ashtanga yoga process is more what we’ll call a mystical process of yoga. It was also very much tied to the path of devotion. In this process there were two things that one should practice prior to being able to actually meditate.

One of those things is was called pratyahara and the other one is dharana. Pratyahara meant to withdraw the senses from the sense objects, means to become, during that time, disengaged from the world. And the comparison is given, it’s like in the Bhagavad-gita, it talks about, just as a tortoise withdraws its limbs within the tortoise shell, so the yogi should learn how to withdraw the senses from engagement in this world, to come to this place of stillness.

The other one is called dharana. Dharana means to bring the mind into a singular focus, because meditation is about being able to really step back from the mind. The mind is understood to be one of the subtle coverings of the living being.

In the yoga paradigm you have an eternal spiritual being, the actual person, who is covered by two material bodies. One is the gross body, this thing that you can see me moving around in, we relate to being the person, but it’s actually just a covering of the person; and then the second covering is one of subtle nature, and it’s constituted by three things. One is the mind, which is something that we sort of like relate to, and we’re often completely caught up in, almost all the time; the buddhi, or the intelligence. This is a faculty that makes it so you can actually step back from the mind and begin to control it; and then what’s called the false ego, the ahankara.

The ahankara is considered the seat of all of our loss of spiritual understanding. It’s based on false ideas of who I am. When I say I’m a man, I’m a woman, I am young, I’m old, I’m thin, I’m fat and whatever, when I begin to describe myself as being the material body and having particular types of desires or mentality or whatever, and say that is me, this is considered ignorant. It is not truth.

And so the process of meditation was about disengaging.

I mean all of us experience that we’re almost entirely living our life in the mind, and what’s going on. The advances in AI, the use of all these devices, and connected to the internet, and virtual realities of different types that we’re becoming absolutely overwhelmed with are, from a yoga point of view, really bad, in that they add to the false concepts that makes it so that we are not inclined to take this inward journey and actually rediscover our actual self and reconnect with our true and eternal being within. We’ve become absorbed in that which is external and that which is temporary, that which is passing.

And so the process of meditation was for the purpose of self-realization, to realize, for that to become a reality of who I actually am, in the very core of my being, my essence. So meditation was for this purpose.

I am an eternal and transcendental truth, a transcendent reality. The body is not a transcendental truth. It’s not a transcendent reality. It is a temporary thing. I may be overly and completely utterly absorbed in it, and think that this is everything that there is—reality is that’s not true. This will pass, as everything does, as all bodies do.

So, self-realization means I actually discover who I am, at the actual core of my being; and for me to be able to do that I must recognize that that which is external is material. It is temporary. It is fleeting. That which is eternal and spiritual, that is me, the person within, the actual being within, the atma, in Sanskrit, which means the self, the atma.

So how do I do that? How do I get there? Well I must become absorbed in that which is transcendental. Right now my absorption is that which is material, that which is temporary, fleeting, passing. I must become absorbed in that which is transcendental. That is what meditation is, and that’s why meditation was undertaken.

So what does it mean to become absorbed in that which is transcendental, that which is spiritual? Well we must consider what is—what are the options? What is transcendental? What is spiritual? Well first you have the actual atma, the living being who is residing within the body, but my problem is I can get sort of like fleeting awareness, like people that try some of these practices where they go on these silent retreats: you don’t speak and engage with others for like a 10-day period. People talk about, Wow it’s astonishing how much it moves you. This is like the very beginning of catching a little glimmer of a transcendental reality. But if I am unaware of who I really am, how can I be totally focused on that? So that’s like a major problem for me. It is difficult.

But many of the yoga processes they would do that, through a process of elimination, going through the sankya yoga process, by discovering what I am not. For instance: they would look at their hand. What if I no longer had a hand? If this was removed amputated in an accident would I still exist? Would I still be complete? The answer is, Yes. One of my limbs, two of my limbs may completely be removed but I would still be a complete person. It’s not like I’ve become two-thirds of a person or half of a person. I’m still a full person, and my body is suffering some losses here; and so they would go through these kind of processes, and meditate upon it, and reflect upon it in order to try and see what is left.

Another option that the majority of yogis, the process that they engaged in, was in what was called Paramatma meditation. This word param means supreme, so the supreme atma or the Supreme Soul. So there is an understanding that amongst all living beings, “nityo nityanam, cetanas cetananam” that amongst the infinite ocean of living beings there is one that is special. There is one that is unique. There is one that is supreme. And he was referred to by the yogis, this Paramatma, as being the Lord residing within the core of my being, within my very heart; and the yogis would engage in a process of meditation upon the transcendental features, the transcendental characteristics, of this sublime transcendental Lord of my heart. But that is also very difficult.

So since time immemorial this has been known but about, just over 535 years ago, or thereabouts, there was a unique personality, was considered an incarnation, an avatar, in India, in the eastern part of India. He was known as Caitanya Mahaprabhu, and he brought into focus these most ancient teachings, that the easiest way, particularly for people in this time and age, to become absorbed in that which is transcendental is to become absorbed in this spiritual sound vibration. This is what is known as mantra, but not just any mantra. It is a special category we address as shri nama which addresses the divine names.

So the process of meditation that was prescribed was like what we do in these evenings, this kirtan, the vocalization, the chanting, the hearing and the chanting of these transcendental sounds. These spiritual sounds have come from that spiritual platform, and they have descended and been passed to us through an unbroken chain of spiritual teachers, and they contain—when one receives them in this way they contain an enormous spiritual potency that is utterly transformative.

So one does not have to endeavour to still the mind or engage in a lot of the practices that were undertaken by the great ashtanga yogis. One can in any environment, but more especially when there is two or more people gathering together it has a unique potency, that in a group, or a congregation, a sangha, to hear and to chant these spiritual sounds, these transcendental sounds—and what one is doing in this case, it is like—and then I often talk about this, something that people can easily picture in their minds: when you see people bathing in the holy rivers of India, and they will stand waist deep in water, and with folded hands they will immerse themselves under the water and come up again, and then usually offer respects to the Supreme. So what we are doing in mantra meditation is literally immersing ourself in the purifying and the transcendental waters of these spiritual sounds, shri nama, these divine names; and by doing that it has a powerful and automatic effect of purifying the mind and the intelligence and reconnecting us with our inner spiritual self, our actual being. We are, in effect, taking spiritual nutrition that is both purifying us and enlivening us, and granting us spiritual insight, and awakening us to our true spiritual identity, and reconnecting us with this Supreme Soul, this Paramatma.

So that, in short, in summary, is really what the process of mantra meditation is, and all of the things  I’ve laid out in this brief talk are actually essential: where you receive a mantra from, how you receive it, how you engage in utilizing it are important considerations in having the effect and experiencing the purification from these transcendental sounds; and it is the easiest. I mean it’s sublime, and it doesn’t require anything. You can do this anywhere. One doesn’t need a good voice. You don’t need to be able to have a particularly melodious voice or anything like that; but simply by hearing attentively, listening to, just in a surrendered way, and taking it into your heart, and then in a heartfelt way, with attention and with devotion to now say these spiritual sounds, these transcendental sounds. It means we are becoming immersed in that which is completely transcendental, and that has a deeply purifying effect and will bring us to the platform of complete self-realization and God realization. That is the outcome. That is the benefit. That is the focus.

As one becomes more dedicated to this process then there will be, if you can—if you like, tips and tricks, things that you can apply to make it so that you are more receptive, because the more receptive we are, the more we can embrace and take in this transcendental experience, this transcendental sound, the more increasingly we experience the effects of this purification and the more quickly one advances in their spiritual realization and experience.

And perhaps at some point going forward I can speak to you a little bit more about it, that those who actually become very dedicated and focused on this practice, there are different stages of spiritual attainment and spiritual experience that come from it. But for now I would just really like people to–to encourage people to consider making a daily practice, building this habit of a daily practice, even for a short time, but a consistent amount of time to engage in this meditation, to build your own personal practice. It is the consistency that is like really important.

Having received this mantra from an authorized source, from a bona fide source, one will experience its potency and power, and by a regular engagement with this spiritual sound it will bring tremendous internal change, a complete change, a revolution of the heart. Doesn’t matter whether you–what kind of philosophy that you follow, or whether you are engaged in any particular religious activity or not. It doesn’t matter. If you add this to your life you will become a better person, and you will become a better practitioner of whatever type of—if people want to try to live a more compassionate and engaged life, to be kinder. You’ll become better as a person, and your own internal spiritual life, or if you have a religious life, it will be tremendously enhanced by doing this.

So thank you very, very much for the opportunity to speak with you. And of course now I invite you to engage in this process. So again, as I mentioned, just open your heart and mind. Listen to and receive the transcendental sound, and then repeat with attention, and full self-realization and God realization can become yours.

So the mantra that we will use is Haribol Nitai-Gaur Nitai-Gaur Haribol.