Muz Murray
from: Muz Murray
Category: Mantra

The Secret Science of Sound

   Once upon a time, when humankind was closer to the beginning of the world and its mysterious workings, the art of Mantra—or the Yoga of Sound—was one of the most universally respected of the sacred sciences. It had its practitioners and applications in the fields of building and architecture, medicine and healing, music, physics, warfare, law and government. But its most subtle and secret practices were reserved by the adepts for the development of inner powers, intercession with the gods, or for more spiritual and evolutionary purposes. It is in these aspects in which the science still exists today.


   Fragmentary evidences from forgotten civilisations and ancient legends indicate that there was once a universal Science of Sound, perhaps stemming from an original rootstock. In ancient India—or Bharatavarsa as it was then known—the divinely inspired revelations of the mantric scriptures (the Vedas) became so integral to the smooth functioning of society that the spiritual laws they expounded were implemented into every aspect of both sacred and secular life. Even a king’s prime minister was known as a Mantri—meaning ‘one who has the mantra.’ And this is reflected in the fact that even today in modern India, the present Prime Minister is still known as a Pradhana Mantri—or Chief Mantra-Keeper!


   It is therefore on the sub-continent of India where the most comprehensive mantric tradition has existed in virtually unbroken continuity since time immemorial. As a spiritual practice it still survives in the care of a widely scattered coterie of knowledgable masters and yogic adepts. Yet even among them much appears to have been lost through lack of sufficiently eligible students of quality who could be entrusted with the secrets of evolution through sound. Another problem has been that for thousands of years, the priestly class of Brahmins who have traditionally been the ‘keepers of mantras’ have kept them for themselves. They have generally been opposed to allowing the study of the Vedic mantras by ‘lower castes and foreigners’ and have jealously guarded them either for their own kind, or simply for power and priestly profit. This attitude is unfortunately contrary to the injunctions of the Vedas themselves, which clearly specify that these mantras should be given to all classes of beings including foreigners, and not solely be kept just for Brahmins.


   Thus it was, that yogis of another philosophical persuasion known as tantrics,  stifled by Brahminical rigidity, began to utilise other mantric forms which they discovered for themselves. They too safeguarded their techniques by creating a secret coded cipher language known only to initiates. Their deliberate esoteric obscurantism was developed precisely in order to confuse outsiders and to further outrage the Brahmin priesthood by utilising sexually suggestive metaphors for their internal psychological states and mantric practices.


   All this, together with the scarcity of available teachers adept in mantric intonation, has doubtless contributed to the lack of recognition by many western yoga practitioners of the practical and spiritual utility of mantra and the appreciation of its value as an evolutionary tool. Perhaps because of its seeming incomprehensibility to western ears, those with only scraping acquaintance of mantra tend either to irrationally fear it, or consider it as some kind of superstitious ‘mumbo-jumbo’ akin to the stage conjuror’s recitation of ‘Abracadabra’ while performing a trick. But even the conjuror’s usage is a forgotten vestige of the word-power of Middle Eastern arcane magic schools, whose adepts actually used  the Abra-cad-abra  formula as a specific curative vibration during their practice of healing. Echoes of this lost art still resound in such usage and also in the folk tales and customs of many races.


   Simply defined, the word mantra  itself can be considered as meaning ‘thought-protection’— or ‘that which protects the thinker’. Conversely it can also mean ‘that which protects us from our own thoughts’ which makes its practice extremely beneficial for the overburdened intellect. The first syllable man—meaning ‘thought-principle’ comes from the Sanskrit word manas—mind, or mental perceptual faculty  (although some maintain it is from manana—‘to meditate’). Either way, it would appear that the English word Man—the thinking animal, is derived from this original root. In fact, many European words, especially those via Greek and Latin origin, also derive from a common Sanskrit rootstock. So the language of mantra is not so far removed from us, nor as outlandishly ‘foreign’ as some like to imagine.


   The second syllable tra, is considered to come from the root trai—to protect, or from trana—meaning ‘protection or liberation from the phenominal world.’ Other authorities state that tra  indicates ‘instrument’ (of liberation) or ‘to free.’ Thus a mantra is that which is instrumental in freeing us from the disturbing influences of worldly life and leading one to inner peace. It is a specific remedy protecting us from the pollution of our own thought processes, which are often no more than a constant flow of mentally repetitative inanities, fears, projections, apprehensions and negativities.


According to legend, the language in which the scriptures were revealed to the rishis (seer-sages) while in deep meditation, was unknown to those who heard it. It was apparently not a language which was spoken by any race upon this earth, but one which came from ‘elsewhere’. They called it Deva-Brasha—the Divine Language, or Devanani—the Language of the Gods. The sage-seers are said to have repeated the celestial songs over and over in awe and joy and chanted their cadences until, in their refined consciousness, they were able to intuitively grasp the meaning of the sounds they heard and the energies they felt. In this way they discovered the extraordinarily revitalising effects these subtle vibrations had on the body, mind and soul.


   The revealed teachings were known as sruti (shruti) — ‘that which is heard’. This derives from the Sanskrit root sru—to hear. Thus the yogis who heard them were known as sruta-rishis  (clairvoyant and clairaudient ‘Seer-Hearers’). 'That-which-was-heard' evidently had no characters in which it could be written down. Therefore the sruta-rishis transmitted the mantras from generation to generation by an oral chanting tradition, with a tremendous exactitude and precision, so as not to lose so much as a syllable of the divine language. In any case, it was considered at the time too sacred to be profaned by writing it down.


   So it was that the Vedic scriptures were learned by heart and passed on with utmost fidelity for hundreds, or even thousands of years, before being committed to writing in primitive script and recorded on birch bark and palm leaves around 350 A.D. Some scholars say 350 BC. But it was only in later centuries that inspired refinement of the letters resulted in the mystic characters of an alphabet which was henceforth known as Devanagari—the Divine Script. This alphabet has come down to us representing the language which has been organised by philosopher-grammarians and is now known as Sanskrit or samskrita.


   Sanskrit is the mother of many Indian dialects and has been a major unifying factor in the spiritual education of the many different peoples of India for thousands of years.  It has never been a ‘dead’ language as some are inclined to believe, but has always been the most vitally vibrant of all languages. The word samskrita or sanskrita itself means ‘the perfectly constructed, or ‘the polished’ (language). It contains the most extensive vocabulary of subtle spiritual terminology unparalleled in any earthly language. And for this reason it is the tongue in which the great gurus and yogic adepts have conversed all down the ages until the present day and still continue to do so.


   Considering its pedigree, it is understandable that some authorities only accept as true mantra those Vedic scriptures which are considered to be sruti or ‘revealed sound’. However, the tantric yogis of later centuries—who broke away from ritualised Vedic authority—also tuned-in to obscure sound-forms which had no comprehensible meanings, yet were experienced to have profound effects on the consciousness when repeated in the prescribed manner. These sounds were known as bija-mantras, or ‘seed-sounds.’ The Hindu ascetics who utilised them, and later the Tibetan Buddhists who took them up, developed tremendous inner force and wisdom as a result of their practices. Evidently these seed-sounds are genuinely mantric and are accepted without question as such by the majority of practitioners outside the orthodoxy.


   Even the random sounds of nature have been known to act on the consciousness much in the manner of mantra. Sounds such as the wind in the willows, or the clack of bamboos in the breeze, the song of the sea, or the splash of water in a pond have all caused instances of satori—or miniature enlightenment experiences to many sages. Not everyone is sufficiently elevated to be plunged into ecstasy by the sound of clothes flapping on the washing-line or to hear celestial harmonies in the wind. But it is reassuring to know from the masters of mantra that by using the original mantric sound-formulas one can eventually enter into the same state of rarified consciousness as the rishis of yore and the sages of today.


   For thousands upon thousands of years, the most enlightened minds on this planet would not have persisted in chanting obscure ‘mumbo-jumbo’ sounds if it did not unfailingly produce consistent and worthwhile results. The repetition of mantra—known as japa—is a scientifically replicable practice which, when persevered in, unfailingly leads practitioners into communion with the mystery we call ‘God’ and the yogis call the ‘Self’.


   Even in the early stages of practice, mantra japa quickly eliminates worrisome and negative thought-processes, replacing them with relaxing alpha brain-waves, which leads one effortlessly into a deeply meditative condition. Some mantras awaken joy and ecstasy, some bring healing vibrations to the body and some illumine the consciousness, instilling freedom from fear. Chanting mantra creates dynamism in the body at the same time as tranquillising the mind. The mantras are self-empowering and help us to develop mental stability and inner strength. They also act like a purifying shower-bath on the soul. After practice one comes out of a session feeling whole and cleansed to the core of one’s being.   


   Thus mantra japa assists us to ultimately transcend language and enter into Universal Vibration—the experience of Oneness with that Omnipresent Consciousness underlying all things. This is the meaning and final goal of all yoga—union with the Absolute.


   Chant then, and be blesséd


Muz Murray


 


Taken from "The Mystery of Mantra" (a work in progress)  


Mantracharya Muz Murray (Ramana Baba) will be leading Mantra and Mysticism workshops in Britain this summer. For a programme of events see his website: www.mantra-yoga.com. 


Or for learning about mantra by CD, contact: Inner Garden Distributors, 47 Baldwin’s Hill, Loughton, Essex, IG10 1SF, UK. Email: igd@mantra-yoga.com

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