the sound which protects the mind.
Updated: Mar 22
MANANAAT TRAYATE ITI MANTRA means the sound which protects the mind from disturbing factors, evil factors or even distortions. “Sound which protects the mind” is mantra. The sound which protects the mind is mantra; the sound which pacifies the mind, which quietens the repeating compulsive thinking patterns of the mind, is mantra. So mananaat trayate iti mantra, the sound which protects you, the sound which brings peace and harmony. As most of you know, mantras are in Sanskrit and the information I have about mantra - how they originated, most of the mantras - is that in the ancient times what we call in India as the Rishis, the sages who were meditating in the Himalayas and mountains… they simply perceived these sounds from existence in their deeper states of meditation and then they meditated on those sounds for years before passing in on to the people, realizing and understanding the essence of that mantra and understanding the vibration of those sounds. So in mantra, the prime focus is on the vibration and the energy that it creates… the combination of this Sanskrit alphabet. Of course, there is a meaning, but in the earlier days the focus was not in the meaning; the focus was always on the vibration that it creates. It’s a little bit like, if you want to put a child to sleep, that particular lullaby or whatever you would sing, would need to cover that vibration… it could be in German, in English, in Sanskrit, in Spanish… but it needs to carry that flavour, that essence. So in the same way, these Sanskrit mantras have very clear, profound vibrations for very different purposes. The meaning was shared later because the human psyche evolved during the years and there was a need for people to relate to the meaning of the sound, then the Rishis passed the meaning also. But primarily there focus was always on pronouncing it correctly and in that way allowing the energy to work accordingly.
So for example, there is a mantra: Om Namah Shivaya (Manish explains the correct pronunciation saying how in the west most of the time the same mistake is done in the way of pronouncing it) …so things like these, when they are pronounced correctly, they exactly create the vibration that it is supposed to create. So in the practice of mantra, the teacher will always show you the correct pronunciation: the right pronunciation has the significance for allowing that energy to work on the practitioner. And I am also saying mantra, not mantrá… actually the word is mantra… so what happens is that a lot of words which came to the west became “á”… like Ram became Rama, Yog became Yoga, Buddh became Buddha… but that is ok, it’s already too late to change that, but when it come to mantra singing, mantra practice… as a person from India, what I’ve learned and understood is that it’s important the right pronunciation. Intention is good, intention is necessary, but it’s not enough… if I say, “I am a pharmacist, but I intend to be a heart surgeon,” I just cannot go there and start doing surgeries because I am intending to do it - no, I need to learn. So in the same way, for the practitioner is important that we approach it with the correct guidance and right source. So of course I will go a little bit in the details about the types of mantras that exist, but before going into too much talking, let’s tune in, go in, create a nice invoking, welcoming space.
<A certain mantra is instructed and practised by the group, just listening to Manish singing a certain mantra with a certain meditation. This is done for 10 minutes.>
“See, this is the power of mantra, we haven’t even said it, even when it’s chanted inside, it creates such a beautiful space, such an amazing vibration…” - it takes you really deep, really in, uplifting the consciousness; because in our normal life we live at a certain level of consciousness, and there is always a choice: either to fall down or to rise from that level. And of course, to fall down is easy, to rise is tough: it takes effort, it takes persistence, it takes some willpower… so even such simple practices can help in that. So, any time if you feel a little distressed or down, this practice is one of the best… just go in, slow down the breath and do this mantra. In fact, this is one of the subtle practices of mantra, and subtler is always better. See, when two people are in love, they don’t even speak loud, they whisper… so this is like a love affair with yourself. When people are angry, they scream, they shout, to make a point, then nothing happens… but they think they’re making a point by screaming. The subtler we go, it becomes deeper, more sensitive, more effective. And this practice can become so intense… if you practice this regularly, you will feel, that even in your routine work, wherever you’re working, office or anywhere, maybe somewhere this mantra is continuously going on… if it reaches that stage, it’s the best: that without us making and effort, it happens. But it will happen slowly, slowly after a level of practice. That’s why many times in India, many people, their whole life they repeat a mantra! Initially they would spend one or two hours for years and years… not once a week; and then at some point it becomes a part of a natural process, natural living… suppose like someone here is talking but behind the mantra will continue - and that will be the best.
In Sanskrit, these mantras are very ancient… I think the last figure I knew is that there are about three hundred thousand mantras in the Vedas and Upanishads, but maybe there are more, so I’m not claiming it. But amongst all these, there are a few which we call in Sanskrit Brahmavakia, “the great sayings” meaning the most divine statements; that within one word or at the most one line, the highest truth, the purest wisdom is conveyed. Soham is one of them, just one word: soham, “I am that.” And if that is remembered throughout the life, “I am that…”
I’ll tell you one story, you know, sometimes in a workshops some things happen which are not planned… now that we are talking about soham I remember the story of one very very wise man from India, who is no more now, but maybe some of you have heard his name, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, he lived in Mumbai, a very very busy and intense city as some of you may know, in a kind of funky area, there were a lot of people, a lot was going on. He was a very simple business man, he had a little corner shop selling a few things; and then, whenever he had time he would go in his own practice of some mantra that some guru had given him. Then one time one of his friends told him that, “I am going to a nearby village to see a wise man, a guru, do you want to come?” So Nisargadatta Maharaj said, “yes, I’ll come with you,” that time his name was Maruti (Maruti Shivrampant Kambli) - Maruti is one of the names of Hanuman. So Maruti and the friend went to this village and this guru saw Maruti and immediatly sensed that “this man has something,” so he called him and asked him, “what do you do, and what practice do you do,” and Maruti told him, “I do this, this and this…” Then he suggested him something, to just focus on “I am, I am, I am…” not “I am this, I am that,” so Maruti went home and whenever he had time, he would sit down and practice. Then a few years letter he again got a message from someone that the guru is leaving the body, he’s going to die soon, so he’s calling you, so Maruti went - and there were already a lot of people gathered, but the guru called Maruti, “come here,” and then he whispered in his ear, “Maruti, remember you are THAT,” just this much… and then the guru died, and Maruti went back and he practised and within three years he became enlightened. So then his name changed; people started calling him Nisargadatta Maharaj, and one of his most famous books is called “I am that.” That’s why no I’m referring to this soham - “I am that” is one of the most spiritual classic books, in the genre of spirituality… if you ever get a chance to get hold of this book, consider yourself blessed. So he was still living in this house and meeting people, and suddenly - I’m talking about 1975, 1978… the word spread in the west also, so people started visiting him and then there were talks, and people asked him, “Maharaj, how did it happen to you?” and Maharaj said, “nothing, my guru told me, you are that, and I trusted it, that’s it.” No books, no practice, no activity, no workshops, no yoga, nothing! …”my guru told me, you are that; I trusted it” - and that trust carried him all the way.
So see… that’s why I call this Mahavakia the most divine statement - that sometimes such things can be also a reminder - what am I? I am that. Now ‘that’ is undefinable; the mind will try to create a definition, “what is that? Consciousness, this that?” No, nothing, reject every answer. Ramana Maharshi used to tell people, “the only practice you can do is ‘who am I, ask yourself who am I - ask the question and reject all the answers, don’t accept any answer;’ answers will come because mind is very creative, first it will say, “I’m Manish, I’m a singer, I’m this, I’m that… or it will say I’m consciousness, because we’ve heard this,” Ramana Maharshi said, “even reject that - when there is no answer, that is what I am.” So soham, it is “I am that”, what is that? No, it is not saying that… that you figure our. And all the wise ones, specially from India who have realized… and I’ve been with some of the living wise ones; many times I’ve asked them, and they said, “Manish, it’s impossible to describe, what is that, there is no word for that.” Yes, they’ve tried their best to express the inexpressible, but even that somewhere it falls short, because ultimately it is something which is beyond the mind and our vocabulary is within the frame of the mind. So what is beyond the mind, there is no word for it but they still try their best… and one of the words they came up with was “Shivoham,” I am bliss. “Anand” there is a word in Sanskrit called “Anand,” which means bliss. Though having grown up in India, I have heard this word, Anand, since my childhood, it’s a very common word, a very common name also; many Indian Sannyasins have this name, which works as a postfix, like Nirmalanand, Sachidanand… But then much later I realized that Anand is a word which doesn’t have an opposite. You know, there is like pain/pleasure, so there is always a duality - but “bliss” has no opposite. That’s why I realized why they called it Shivoham, Shivoham means “I am bliss,” because it’s a state beyond those dual points: the third point. So this was one of the efforts to express the inexpresable and this blisss does not mean “yeah!” no, no… nothing like that, not the excitement, not what we know as joy and this and that, or happiness… because all these states come and go - bliss stays as they have explained. And it could be even a silent flow of a river, just gently flowing - but it carries this nice blissful feeling, that’s why they called it “Shivoham.”
Now we are going to sing a mantra called Shivoham <Manish, Vyas, CD Sattva> so the mantra is:
Sachara chara para purna... Shivoham, Shivoham Nityananda Swarupa... Shivoham, Shivoham Anandoham, Anandoham, Anandoham, Anandoham
That means whatever is prevalent around, whatever is existing around,is complete, and it is all in me and I am in all; and that is Shivoham, that is bliss.This oneness, this unity, this no-feeling of separation is bliss: Shivoham.Nityananda Swarupa… I am the eternal form of bliss. See… there’s Anand there: Nitya-ananda. Nityananda Swarupa: I am the eternal form of bliss, Shivoham, Shivoham.And the last line is Anandoham, I am anand, I am bliss.
So through these kind of mantras or statements or sutras, I think Their effort was to remind us, that if you want to identify with something,why don’t you identify with “Anand,” instead of “I am this or I am that;” because mind is always looking for some source to boost the ego, but when you say, “I am anand”the ego will not boost… ego will say, “ah well, I am not interested in that…”so that’s good, because then the ego is subsided - you know, ego wants “I am rich, I am this, I am a fantastic yoga teacher, blah, blah, blah, blah…” no! Nothing wrong in that, all those are functional roles and it is important,but beyond that, if at all we want to identify with something, then, “Shivoham! or Anandoham.”
So see, this is the science of mantra… it is not just singing and la, la, la… it is not an entertainment. Sometimes I feel that in the west in some areas it has become more like an entertainment - you know, entertainment concerts - so one time people go to a pop concert, then to a mantra concert.
All this with the right approach, the right knowledge, the right guidance and the right training - if this can be shared, I think this can show you the essence of this ancient science. So, like “what is Shivoham;” now I am sure you will remember: Shivoham, Anandoham, Soham.
And for me it will be really worth it if this remembrance continues, apart from having heard nice music and being in a beautiful space and singing together . A beautiful experience, if it becomes part of our daily living, then it’s really worth it. Experiences come and go; understanding, realizations must stay. So things like “soham” can stay, things like “shivoham” can stay, things like “anadohan” can stay…
So, Sachara chara para purna... Shivoham, Shivoham / Nityananda Swarupa... Shivoham, Shivoham / Anandoham, Anandoham, Anandoham, Anandoham
Category of mantras and invocation
As I was saying earlier, there are four categories of mantras: artha mantra, dharma mantra, kama mantra and moksha mantra. So there are certain mantras that are chanted or practised for the necessary completion of some material need or physical survival: they would fall in the artha mantra. Dharma mantra is related towards daily practices including meditation and yoga. So they are dharma mantras - dharma is actually not religion, it’s a misunderstood word - dharma actually means a way of being, a way of living. Then there are kama mantras, which are related to very strong desires, usually the low category of desires, but there are mantras for that too (laughs.) And then last and highest category is moksha mantra, moksha as some of you may know is liberation, mukti, enlightenment, nirvana. So many mantras belong to that category. Yesterday we sang one, asato maa sadgamaya, tamaso maa jyotirgamaya, mrtyor maa amritam gamaya - that belongs to that category, moksha mantra. Really… if we have to ask at all, then it is asking for the highest. And as I said yesterday, there are at least 30 million gods and goddesses in India, and maybe more. Of course there are some which are known ones … many deities, gods and goddesses, like Ganesha, Shiva, Krishna, Rama, Hanuman, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Kali, Durga, Parvati… so there are mantras to invoke all these energies: basically these deities reflect and connect with certain particular energies, that’s why for a particular purpose a particular energy is invoked to kind of ask blessings for that purpose. So what I want to say is that - let’s say if there is a Lakshmi mantra, Lakshmi is connected with the wealth; now when I say wealth it is not only the outer wealth but the inner wealth also. So, if someone is going thru a financial crisis or something, he may be suggested that, “why don’t you chant Lakshmi mantra?” So a Lakshmi mantra would be for example, “Om Sri Maha Lakshmi Namaha;” so interestingly when this mantra is chanted, it is not translated into “Oh Lakshmi give me money” (laughs), the translation is not that. The translation is simply, “Oh the great Lakshmi, I bow down to you, I surrender to you. So, what it conveys? That I surrender, I am invoking you, I am asking for your blessings; now you decide what is right for me. If really my need is true, then you will provide; if my need is not right, maybe there won’t be any provision. And the wealth could be as I said, the inner wealth and the outer.
So in that surrender there is a trust, that the right thing will happen: if the provision happens, that was the right thing; if the provision doesn’t happen, that is also the right thing. So in mantra chanting, in mantra practice, faith and trust are the most significant element.
(glimpses from Manish Vyas workshop and concert in Luxemburg) www.manishvyas.com/workshops
Watch the video related to these talks: https://youtu.be/RGEjwlCcUWs