As someone who has been teaching Kundalini Yoga for 17 years, I think mantra has been the things I have been most leery of teaching. Most people do not understand it, even when it is explained. I have had students refuse to use mantra at all. Even though yoga and meditation are secular and can be done by anyone regardless of religion, some felt it went against theirs and were very uncomfortable with it.
I understand all of the reasoning behind why they did not wish to do it. In my OWN PERSONAL OPINION, I feel the real reason behind their refusal was fear. They think mantra is different because, usually, it is in a different language. What I think most of them do not get, is that mantra is really no different than the prayer they use in their own churches, synagogues and temples. Mantra is many things, which I will explain, but at it’s simplest, Mantra is Prayer, just prayer.
And so, mantra is sound. It is vibration. It is the vibration of the sound.
A couple of columns ago, I spoke of the mind having thousands of thoughts in the blink of an eye and that we could focus on our breathing to control them. Now, we have the addition of mantra to help regulate those thoughts. We use the vibratory sound of mantra to quiet all of these thoughts running around in our brain. We also use the physical sensations that are made as we chant. The tongue hits specific meridian points in the mouth. These have a positive energy, as with acupressure. It sends a vibratory sensation to the mind This is what mantra means.
*Bakri* is the sound made with the tip of the tongue. *Khanth* is the sound made from the throat. When we merge our body, mind and spirit (which is what yoga means – the union of body, mind and spirit) in deep meditation, we use *Anahat*, the sound which is never ending.
There is “kirtan”, which is the traditional, repetitive singing/chanting of songs, usually accompanied by music. The conscious repeating of a mantra is called “japa”. Most chanting will take place in the language of Sanskrit; within Kundalini Yoga, we also use the language of Gurmukhi. The more conscious you are when you chant, the more powerful the use of the mantra. In “japa”, it is helpful to use a “mala”, which is extremely similar to rosary beads. Malas will have a specific number of beads, the smallest of which is 27, and the largest is 108. This would be the number of times you would repeat your mantra, using the mala so that you do not have to count and all of your attention and focus would be consciously directed to the mantra. Mantra should be repeated clearly and with intent, pressing your fingers on each bead of the mantra.
I am unable to tell you how many mantras there are out there. Even within the yoga I teach, after 20 years, there are still mantras that I have not learned. I look forward to learning them in the future because I truly have a love for mantra.
The most used mantra in Kundalini Yoga is *Sat Nam* (with the “a” sounding like “aah). *Sat Nam* is a seed, or “bij” mantra. *Sat Nam* = Truth is my Identity. In chanting *Sat Nam*, you become a manifestation of truth.
There is also recorded mantra and kirtan available on ITunes, and Amazon. You can also find them on YouTube:
Adi Shakti Mantra, which is one of my personal favorites, as Shakti is the primal creative force of the universe, which is female —https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jxadib61VBI
and my favorite version of this mantra is:
It is absolutely beautiful and haunting for a Divine Goddess meditation.
Another mantra used in Kundalini Yoga is Ong Namo, Guru Dev Namo. This is used each time we sit down to practice, whether in a class or in our personal sadhana (daily spiritual practice). We use this to tune in to what is called the “Golden Chain” of all who do, have done, will do Kundalini Yoga. It means “I call on the creative consciousness, I call on the divine wisdom”.
Mantras can also be given to a student by their teacher, if the teacher is called upon to do so. This happens infrequently. You can, if you wish, also come up with your own mantra. Since the reason is to keep control on your thoughts, anything that is meaningful to you will work. You could use the name of your children, your favorite tree or flower, anything that has importance to you will have that same power.
I hope that you will find some time and listen to the mantras that I posted above, maybe trying them for at least 11 minutes. Keep an open mind and listen with an open heart. You may be surprised at what you find.