MIND AND MANTRA.
Why do we need a mantra; how does it help us? A mantra is a unique word or phrase which when properly understood and correctly used will liberate your mind from all agonies, whether these are physical, mental, or spiritual in origin. It is mind that stands as a wall between you and reality, for mind normally is in a diffused, dissipated condition.
Mantra is a sanskrit word which is derived from the root man, "to think," ( in Greek menos, in Latin mens ) and is combined with tra which stands for liberation, thus meaning that which helps in liberating mind from bondage and misery. Mantra creates a mental image and is a transcending power which leads to the silence of omnipresence.
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God; the Word was made flesh." Word comes from its origin of force and reality. The source of mantra was discovered by the great sages while experiencing a specific state known as the superconscious state. When related to the source, a word carries a meaning, a feeling, and a purpose. A mere sound prescribed by an ordinary teacher cannot lead the student to higher states of enlightenment. It may help engage the mind consciously or unconsciously and as a result lead to the feelings of relaxation. However, the sound alone cannot lead one to the other shore of life. Meaning, feeling, and purpose must all be part of mantra practice if such a destination is to be reached. Moreover, the mantra must be coordinated with other yogic purification practices if it is to attain full potency.
Mantra can only be effective when the mind is purified. This long tradition is an expression of the highest knowledge and experience in the realm of human psychology, though this experience is acquired by the guidance of a guru and by constant practice of the mantra. The secret of the correct use of a mantra is too coordinate its practice with a life of self-discipline and purity. The mantra reveals its potential more and more when it is assimilated into the deeper levels of one's beings. It leads one from the surface to the deeper realms and finally to the highest state. The ancient science of mantra is an expression of man's highest knowledge and experience in the realm of human psychology. The ordinary man who is not acquanited with the theories and laboratory practices cannot understand what that science is about. Similarly, without the guidance of a guru and actual experience with a mantra, no real grasp of the potential of this discipline is possible. When a mantra is used with the help of a competent teacher, it becomes a means for making the mind one-pointed and tranquil.
Generally, we have some person in our lives to whom we can turn for help - a teacher, a psychiatrist, a wife, a friend. There are times, however, when no one can help us. For example, between death and rebirth there is an intermediate period in which we have no tongue to talk with and no body to use. The conscious mind slowly fails, and the subconscious mind which has stored up our merits and demerits becomes more active. The conscious mind is a small part of the whole. The subconscious mind is a vast storehouse of experiences, memories, emotions, fears, fantasies, and images. During the period between death and rebirth, the subconscious mind dominates our mental experiences and reveals its vast store of images and fantasies to us. At this time, there is no one to help us, no friend or counsel, and it is then that a mantra can come to our aid. During our embodied life, as we repeat our mantra, the subconscious mind slowly stores it away and brings it forth later during times of trial or difficulty, to help and guide us. During the period after death and before rebirth, our mantra may help us overcome the images of our subconscious mind and prevent us from being overwhelmed by them. The mantra can guide us through this difficult period as no friend or teacher can.
In the process of meditation, we must learn to explore our minds so that the mantra may be used effectively. The first stage of meditation is to clear the mind. We all know that we think but do not know why or what are the root causes of our thoughts. It is essential to observe the thinking process and witness the contents of our minds. To establish ourselves in our own basic nature, we need to know how to cleanse the mind. Normally we present ourselves well before others, but the problem is that we do not know how to make a good presentation to ourselves. We constantly identify with the content of the mind and with our memories. Things which trouble us inwardly are hidden from others, but we see them and allow ourselves to be disturbed constantly by them. Through meditation we gain control over these disturbances and learn to observe and witness them. Then slowly, problems fade from our mental processes.
There is a bed of memory in the mind which we store the seeds of our impressions or samskaras. Without this bed, the river of mind cannot flow. From this bed arise many of the memories and impressions which trouble and disturb us. In meditation, we learn first to calm down the conscious mind so that these impressions may be allowed to rise and pass through our mind without troubling us. Then we learn to deal with the deeper memories of the subconscious mind with which we normally have no contact. In our educational system we learn only to train the conscious mind, but in meditation we deal with the whole mind. When the conscious mind has been calmed we learn to integrate all the parts of the mind and to bring them to a single point of concentration. This is known as making the mind one-pointed.
The conscious mind is used in the waking state. We do not have total control over the conscious mind. Sometimes it sleeps, and we become "absent-minded." This is why meditation is of such great value. By mental and silent repetition of the mantra and in engaging in internal "dialogues" which help us to analyze our inner selves, we may slowly develop sankalpa, i.e., unconscious determination or resolve. Sankalpa helps us slowly to gain control over the conscious mind, to calm it down and eventually to bring the other parts of the mind and the other states of consciousness within our awareness.
Human beings normally experience three states of consciousness as we have already mentioned:
The great sages of the past found it necessary to go to a fourth state of consciousness, the state of sllepless sleep, samadhi. In this fourth state we find tranquility. It is to achieve this tranquility that one practices meditation. We slowly learn not to be disturbed when the mind interferes during meditation. We must learn simply to observe the disturbing thoughts and let them pass. For this we need patience, and we need to inspect our thinking process. We must recall that what is going on in our minds is produced by us. We should inspect it and always recognize it as our own product. Each person's thinking is his own creation. It will not help to project our thoughts onto others and to blame them for the things which trouble us; nor will it help to allow things we did five years ago to trouble us today for they are not our present actions. Brooding does not help. We should let the bubbles which arise from the depths of the pool of the mind vanish slowly. Do not fight with your thoughts for this will only interfere with your meditation even more. Simply observe things and watch them as a calm witness. Meditate; do not fight with your thoughts.
We begin by learning to inspect and analyze our own minds. First we find that we do indeed have minds because we think. We come to realize that we are not the same as our thinking process and our minds. Through analysis, through introspection we learn to discriminate between the thinker and the thinking process. You can say to yourself, "My body is different from me; my senses are different from me; my mind is different from me. These things are like garments which I wear. I may cast off these garments, but I will never lose my identity." You may lose many things, but you never lose your own Self. You always remain aware of the "I" which you can distinguish from the "I" that is doing and thinking. If you have no self-control, you are simply a slave. The first step to control and liberation is self-observation.
When you observe yourself, you find that there is a mental "train" which is constantly running through your mind. This train contains symbols, ideas, imaginings, fantasies, and fancies. We tend to identify with these things, to feel that they are part of us and yet to know that is some basic way they are of a different order of reality. We know that there is something in us, an identity which is distinct and separate from all of our mental objects. We realize this especially when we cannot see or feel; when our senses are cut off, we still have a sense of identity, a sense of self. It is that Self which must be pursued deeper and deeper, separating it from all other experiences. We may watch the train, but we must not identify with it. Recall that the train is simply our own product. There is no need to fear anything in this train of thought because we love the Self. This inner Self remains tranquil above all of the experiences and objects of this mental train. Fear means "no love"; fearlessness means "full of love." So it is love for the Self, this shared, universal identity, which will allow us to remain tranquil and transcend the experiences of our mind.
Anything that comes into our mind belongs to one of the categories of objects in the mental train. We need only to observe them. Even though it is not clear where the train comes from or where it will go, simply observe it and let is pass. Never suppress or struggle with your feelings. Never hold back your desires or try to suppress and argue. Simply watch, inspect, analyze them, let them all pass. Never identify the Self with these products of Mind.
Of course, this analysis should be done mentally. It is not necessary to express your feelings and desires openly or act them out. Simply observe, witness, and inspect them during self-examination. When new symbols arise in the mind, observe them and persist in remembering your mantra. If the mind train lingers on and refuses to go away, simply watch it. Stand there and watch the train go by.
The process of purifying, cleansing, and emptying the mind is absolutely essential for successful meditation. We must not seek too quickly and impatiently to achieve higher states and higher experiences before we have managed to empty the mind from disturbing thought and to calm it. In a monastery novices do not begin with meditation. First students are taught to purify their minds. Modern man is too impatient and wants to master the art of meditation immediately.
Learn to have a dialogue between the observer and that which is being observed. Follow the imagination in this dialogue, analyze, and observe the train of mental objects, and slowly control will be gained over these things. We rise above them, and they disappear from the domain of mind.
Never meditate after having just eaten a meal, when rushed or when angry, for these conditions occupy the mind and prevent proper observation of the thinking process. Too often in meditation, the mind is occupied, and if the mind is not free then we are not free. If we cannot learn to go beyond the thinking process, examine it. Slowly become aware of the separation between "you" and "your thoughts." Thoughts will appear and disappear, but always learn to be a witness. Do not identify with thoughts, images, and symbols. In this way we will learn which of our thinking processes are helpful and which are harmful. Always recall that our train of thoughts is our own product; it is our own direct creation and that is why it affects us.
It is at this point in meditation training that a mantra becomes invaluable. The mantra is like a seed, and we are like the soil. The mantra need time to grow. The mantra must be nourished. Perservere in repeating it mentally and silently within and slowly a new object will grow and come to occupy the mind. Eventually instead of watching our thoughts we will begin to watch ourselves repeating our mantra. The stages in the learning process are these:
Good and bad thoughts will cease to have meaning when we stop identifying with them. We will see that these are merely mental objects for us to observe and witness. We will find that that which is already realized and which never changes is the Self, and that which changes, grows, and decays is the Mind of the Self. As meditation progresses, we will separate these two and identify more strongly with the Self and less with the Mind. To accomplish this, we need only mindful self-analysis and remembering of our mantra.
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