Swami Satyananda Saraswati, Yogamagazine 1980
There is a mysterious substance behind man’s existence. The wise men have tried to define and explain it, but most people have not yet been able to understand it. In the last decades, a tremendous awakening has taken place all over the world and now people have accepted the fact that there is a very mysterious power at the core, at the basis of existence.
From where do the thoughts come and from where does the consciousness emanate? There are thousands of such questions which man has not been able to answer. We can discuss and explain them very clearly in theoretical terms, but they will never be understood in this way, because this mysterious substance is not a matter of knowledge, but of experience. We may have perfected our intellectual concepts; we may comprehend the nature of the substance in perfect mathematical terms and be able to explain it in thousands of equations, but the ultimate thing that needs to be achieved is ‘the experience’.
When we realise the necessity of the experience, then we have to take a different direction altogether. The experience is not an outcome of intellect or even of scientific thinking, it is the culmination of a process of jumping over the mind. Knowledge is confined within the category of the mind; the experience is beyond mind, intellect, and emotion. Knowledge can be redefined but experience cannot. What is the way to the experience? Do we get this experience through a process of transmission? Can this experience be explained and understood, or is it an outcome of a process in which you transcend time and space barriers?
We know of two ways to achieve this experience, the vedic way and the tantric way. We have heard plenty about the vedic way in the past, but now we are talking about the tantric way of discovering this mysterious substance. Maybe you already have your own personal opinion about tantra. If so, for the time being, please forget all those concepts, otherwise it may’ not be possible for you to comprehend the entire role of tantra. Tantra literally means expansion of consciousness and liberation of energy. There are books which say that tantra is occultism, magic, sexual sublimation, or an underground spiritual practice. However, this is not the grammatical, etymological, philosophical or traditional meaning of tantra.
A process by which you are able to expand your personal consciousness is one aspect of tantra. Our consciousness is confined within an area; the mind functions within a given space. The activities of the mind and its capacities are related to the senses and sense experience. For example, you can only hear as much as your auditory system allows you; you can only see as far as your optic system allows you. This is the limitation of the personal mind. There are minute forms in this universe which you are unable to see. There are resonant waves of sound which you are unable to hear. This indicates that the mind functions within a very small, confined area.
Therefore, what we have to do is to break the barriers, then the mind can flow out of its confinement and experience infinity. But mind is dependent on the information supplied. If the sensory channels are incapable of supplying the information, then the mind is paralysed. If your judgement, logic, or mathematics fail to supply the necessary information and decisions to the mind, the mind fails. This is the limitation of mind. If you want to break this behaviour pattern, then you have to adopt a new system; you have to expand the mind.
Science of mantra and yantra
Expansion of mind takes place through certain techniques in which you isolate the mind and allow it to slow down. This is the process of tantric techniques. In this system the first technique is the science of mantra. If you want to expand the mind and realise the mysterious substance behind man’s existence, then mantra is the first step.
Mantra is a vehicle for awakening the deeper forces within oneself. Each mantra has certain wavelengths and frequencies that are able to penetrate the internal structure of the mind. If you practise a mantra even without trying to concentrate your mind, the sound waves that resonate during the practice permeate through and through your physical and inter-physical system. The different types of waves that you initiate while repeating the mantra, permeate a new dimension of your consciousness according to your practices. When you chant mantra, sometimes it produces standing waves, resonant waves, or rhythmic waves. When these various waves are produced, they not only influence the atmosphere outside, but the whole mental structure of your personality.
A sound is not just a noise. It is a wave that carries electrical vibrations with certain amounts of energy. When you practise mantra, the sound produced moves in a certain pattern. However, the sound recorded by your consciousness is not exactly the same as the sound heard through your ears. In the deeper mind, the sound of each mantra has its own archetype. Therefore, the sound of mantra has a totally different effect on our consciousness than other sounds which we may produce or utter.
Many people ask, ‘What is Om?’ Om is the dimension of your consciousness. When you chant Om, it penetrates into your consciousness and assumes a geometrical pattern. Every sound has a specific form- circular, triangular, rectangular, hexagonal, and almost any combination of so many types of geometrical patterns. These forms are not hypothetical, suppositional or imaginary. They are archetypes, and each sound has its own corresponding archetype. The archetype of mantra is known as yantra, and therefore, mantra is the subtle form of everything.
No need for concentration
The mantra you practise creates a lot of force within your inner self. Although you can concentrate with the help of a mantra, mantra is not a tool of concentration. The purpose of mantra is to permeate your whole body, mind, and spirit with resonant vibrations. Therefore, when you are practising mantra, even if your mind is not concentrated but jumping from thought to thought, you are still getting the full benefits.
Once I told my guru that the mantra he had given me was of no use because when I practised it, my mind would jump about like a monkey. What is the value of repeating a mantra if it doesn’t concentrate the mind?
He gave me some very practical advice: ‘You do so many things in life which apparently have no value. So why don’t you continue with the mantra for an extra five minutes.’ I repeated my mantra as he ordered for years together with absolute regularity. Even though I had no faith in it, the mantra had very deep and powerful effects on the whole structure of my consciousness. I practise it even today. So in tantric techniques, mantra is the first and foremost practice, which does not require concentration.
Expression rather than suppression
Everybody wants to realise and experience the mysterious substance behind man’s existence, but they don’t want to break the wall which separates them from it. They paint it again and again and keep the secret substance in obscurity.
When you sit for meditation and a thought comes, you suppress it. Thoughts of worry, anxiety, passion, anguish – different types of thoughts come to the mind when you practise mantra meditation. If you leave them unattended, they will crop up again. This is not the tantric way. The tantric way of dealing with the mind is to attend to each thought as it arises, and finish with it forever. That is the only way you will surpass it.
Even if you are able to isolate your mind, you cannot channelize it. You may be able to disassociate the mind from the sensory channels so that the senses cannot supply stimuli, but what about the inherent nature of the mind ? Mind is a bundle of samskaras, impressions. There are thousands of memories, of experiences. How are you going to deal with this multifarious nature of the mind? If you try to perform mental genocide, you will have to pay horribly. How many impressions in the mind are you going to decry, and who is going to do the job? This is how you create animosity within your own personality. Your religious mind says this is bad, and your free mind says it is good. So you already have two checks on one mind. This creates what we call internal conflict, which ultimately makes you schizophrenic.
You must allow the mind to think without opposing, abusing, or hating it. If there are any evil thoughts in the mind, learn to accept them; do not suppress them. Whatever thoughts arise, learn to face them with full awareness. They are your inheritance from childhood, from your parents, and from society. They are your personality, your structure. They are ‘you’, and you must not try to kill yourself. Therefore, when you practise mantra, please don’t quarrel with yourself. If your mind is running into fantasies, let it go.
Learn to witness the mind. Sometimes it regresses into the remote past, sometimes it goes into the very distant and unclear future. If you allow your mind total independence and liberty, it will transcend itself even without your knowledge. The path of experience is not so long and tedious. The experience is here and now. It is already in you, so you don’t have to develop it. It has always been in existence, but you are not able to experience it because you are bound by certain limitations. Allow your mind to flow, to break its barriers, to be anarchical, to wander freely like a vagabond, to commit crimes (inside, of course). Allow it to find itself, give it space to run, and let it experience psychic forms. Don’t worry about bad thoughts, or be happy about good ones. Just see them as you see cars moving down the street. You are aware of them, but you have no personal involvement. Like this, there is endless traffic in the mind, and when you are trying to practise mantra, the rush hour begins.
The mind is constantly resonating, vibrating with all kinds of impressions, even now, but you don’t see it, you don’t know it, because your senses are engaged. As soon as you isolate your mind, you can see the whole beautiful game it constantly plays. The more you evolve in spiritual life, the more you become aware of the homogeneity of the mind. So therefore, in tantra, do not aim at killing any of the expressions of the mind. Mind is not your problem at all- you are the mind’s problem, always wanting more experiences. So whenever you practise mantra, yantra or kriya yoga, please remember that you are not going to fight with the mind. As you practise your sadhana, you must see that you don’t interfere at all with the mind and the experiences that come to you. – Swami Satyananda Saraswati given at Sivanandashram, Paris on Sept. 15th 1979