The mind is constantly moving. And that’s a very good thing. In order to ensure our self-preservation, the mind must investigate the objects of the world, entertain memories of what it believes has happened in the past and imagine what might possibly occur in the future. This incessant activity of the mind––that leads to action, consequence and experience––is both vital and rewarding. However, when the presence of our detachment, discrimination and will power is missing from its deliberations, the mind operates like a powerful storm that can wreak havoc in our lives.
If we want to quiet the mind and tap into its vast library of illuminating superconscious wisdom, we must consciously continue its training that began at birth. From infancy, our mind has been schooled by parents, teachers, clergy and the media in our culture’s primary philosophy: dualism. Through the process of “somebody training,” we’ve learned partially helpful, but essentially flawed and misleading information about the nature of our reality. The falsehoods begin like this: “On a certain date and at a specific time, ‘I’ was born as a separate, individual human being, and now ‘I’ am living in a vast universe of ever-changing objects; ‘I’ experience pain, but if ‘I’ can secure the right objects and relationships, they will make ‘me’ happy and eliminate ‘my’ pain.” This subject-object paradigm inflates the self-importance canonized in the concept “me.” Worse, it denies this Truth: the body-mind-sense complex is merely a vehicle of action for the “Real Me” (eternal, consciousness, wisdom and bliss––Sat-Chit-Ananda) that can wisely, joyously and fearlessly participate in a full range of human experiences.
Misunderstanding who “I” am, the conscious mind remains under the influence of unconscious fears, anger, self-willed desires and the pressure to protect “me,” the individual, and to stave off the fear of “my” imagined annihilation that death represents. Faced with this unsettling sense of profound lack, the mind frantically scours the world of objects in search of happiness and security. Yet, without a philosophy of life grounded in the Truth that the “Real I” is simultaneously a citizen of two worlds (imminent and transcendent; mortal and eternal), the mind, prodded by its nagging sense of lack, operates with the perpetual anxiety that it might miss whatever valuable experience lies just around the next corner. This is why we manufacture and employ an awesome array of electronic gadgetry like cell phones, computers and television sets. These promise a seemingly endless supply of opportunities for happiness and security for the mind to ponder and explore. “I must investigate because I can’t afford to miss out on something that could make me happy and secure,” the mind explains in desperation.
In an attempt to replace its deep-seated notion of lack with security and happiness, the mind gravitates toward objects of both pleasure and pain. The mind is easily infatuated with the passing pleasure associated with an object we “love,” so the senses, ego and unconscious forces eagerly plant thoughts, words and suggestions in our consciousness to reprise and prolong the feeling. (Viagra anyone?) Pain, on the other hand, can also be attractive to the mind, but for an entirely different reason. Because pain puts an immediate end to pleasure, it has great power to command the mind’s attention. From a yogic perspective, pain is a message from our inner, intuitive quantum wisdom advising us that a conflict between our outer actions and inner wisdom presently exists, and that we need to address that conflict and make some appropriate change in our lives. But without this understanding, the mind generally opts for some pleasant, self-medicating solution that will somehow drug the pain out of our conscious attention for the time being. Such solutions, of course, never address the real cause of the pain; they only mask it temporarily while creating (in many cases) side effects that cause us physical, mental and emotional dis-ease.
Fortunately, the mind can become more discriminative and creative––and can thereby make the body healthier and life far less stressful. By learning to let go of old, unhelpful habits, the mind can increasingly access and employ its very own superconscious wisdom that empowers us to make conscious, discriminating choices guaranteed to bring lasting peace, happiness and security. But for this noble endeavor, the mind needs a leader. That is the role of the mantra.
In any new undertaking you need a guide to help direct your energies toward the attainment of your chosen goal. If you truly desire to be healthy, happy and secure, a personal mantra can provide that leadership role.
The mantra is a word or series of words that represents a perfect harmonic or subtle vibration that generates love, fearlessness and strength in the unconscious portion of the mind. These qualities, in turn, inspire the individual to make new, healthy lifestyle choices that positively benefit the entire body-mind-sense complex.
An understanding of the word mantra can be found in its etymology. The word mantra joins the Sanskrit words man, “the mind,” or “to think” and tri, “to cross.” When used regularly and earnestly, the mantra can help you cross over, or overcome, the turbulent, unhelpful habits of the unconscious mind.
In physics, the Law of Action states that “for every action there is an equal reaction.” Based on my personal experience, I can promise that when you continually give your attention to the mantra throughout the day, there will be a profound, life-enhancing effect. You may not be aware of the change immediately, but its subtle, beneficial power is continuously stored in the potential state––available to you when you need it most to enhance the body’s natural immune system and to reduce stress, anxiety and pain.
Mental repetition of a mantra is relaxing and healing for both the body and mind. Over time, the mantra’s therapeutic vibration supersedes competitive and contractive vibrations of lack, fear, anger and greed. With consistent attention, the mantra stills all contending and debilitating vibrations in the mind. As the rhythms of the heart, nervous system and other bodily systems syncopate to the mantra’s vibration, the mind becomes filled with greater mental equanimity, clarity and creativity. You will also see improvement in the way you handle stressful situations.
During the practice of seated silent meditation, the mantra does something that nothing else can do: it introduces the conscious mind to a state of stillness known as samadhi. As a result of this experience the personality willingly abandons its old, unhealthy habits and begins to discover––experientially, rather than intellectually––that true happiness and security rests at the innermost center of your being. This discovery is the greatest human treasure, and the mantra stands as a perpetual reminder that true happiness is both within you and is you––having a human experience. As twentieth century mystic Meher Baba taught, “A fast mind is a sick mind. A slow mind is a healthy mind and a still mind is Divine.”
From the Subtle to the Gross
On a practical level, the Law of Action suggests that a change must take place on the subtle plane of existence before it can occur on the gross level. Just as all of the tree exists in the seed, the very chair you are sitting on right now was originally an idea in the mind of a human being. The first and most basic manifestation of your chair appeared as a subtle thought. For the human being, the action of the body is merely a reflection of thoughts in the mind. The mind moves first and the body follows. You cannot even raise your hand without first entertaining a thought. Simply acknowledging this relationship between the subtle and the gross (mind-body-action-consequence) changes your perspective and yields great power.
Our dualistic world culture, however, has little understanding of the subtle. You can’t see the subtle. You can’t smell, taste, hear or touch it, and you certainly can’t buy or sell it. Yet every word and action has its origin in a thought. The words you are now reading, for example, were first thoughts in the mind of their author. Then, with concentrated attention, a desire grew to communicate these thoughts in a coherent manner. Only then did this essay take material form.
Remember, in Genesis it is written: “God said, ‘Let there be light, and there was light.’” The Buddha taught how the law works for human beings: “You are what you think.” Your destiny is the consequence of those thoughts, desires and emotions you choose to give your attention to and those you choose to withdraw your attention from.
Japa––Prayer without Ceasing
Many Christians are familiar with the injunction to “pray without ceasing.” In Yoga Science, japa is the name given to the practice of silently and lovingly listening to the mantra throughout the day. Japa is the same practice the ancient Hebrew, Christian and Muslim sages observed in following the Old Testament commandment to “Love the Lord thy God with all your heart, all your soul and all your might.”
Each spiritual tradition prescribes a way of remembering––a mechanism for centering your awareness on the Supreme Reality. In Judaism, a mezuzah––scriptures encapsulated in a small decorative container––is placed on the doorposts of a building, so that when people go out or come in they are reminded of the Truth and law that supports them. Catholics use the rosary beads as an aid to practicing “prayer without ceasing.” The mala, or prayer beads, for Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims serve the same goal––constant remembrance.
The practice of japa is simple, easy and pleasurable. Just rest your attention silently, lovingly and continuously on the sound or vibratory quality of the mantra as if you were listening to beautiful music. Attend to the mantra with the same emotion that parents feel as they communicate to their newborn baby. Learn to speak the language of love with your mantra as if it were your beloved. Remember: all power lies in the realm of the subtle. As you think, so you become, and for every action there will be an equal reaction. Therefore, whenever you have a few moments, take the opportunity to practice the silent, loving repetition of your mantra.
Even though your emotions can have the force of an intense thunderstorm, you always have a choice of how you direct your attention. In every circumstance, the stored power of the mantra will come forward when you need it most in the form of love, fearlessness and strength so that you can do what is to be done when it is to be done, and not do what is not to be done.
Paradoxically, despite this promise, it is essential not to anticipate specific results as the consequence of your japa practice. Mantra practice is not a quid pro quo––“If I do this, you must give me that.” If you can simply accept that you are an integral part of the One beneficent intelligence and are ready and willing to do your part, you are guaranteed to receive exactly what you need.
In the Judaic-Christian-Muslim tradition the ancient Torah states it this way: It shall come to pass, if you hearken diligently unto my commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve him with all your heart and with all your soul, then I will give the rain of your land in its season, the former rain and the latter rain, so that you may gather in your corn, your wine, and your oil. And I will even give grass in your fields for thy cattle, and they also will eat and be satisfied.
When and Where to Practice Japa
With all your heart, try to establish an intimate relationship with your mantra. Once you choose a mantra, the mantra should become your default thought, constant companion and the background music of your life. Whenever you’re not being asked to fulfill some specific duty or responsibility, mentally listen to the mantra. Lovingly direct your attention to the reverberating sound of each syllable––just as if you were tuning in a radio station playing your favorite melody.
When you wake up in the morning, begin the day by listening to your mantra. While falling asleep, listen to the sound of your mantra. In fact, if you fall asleep listening to the mantra, it will repeat itself throughout the night––sowing seeds of love, fearlessness and strength in the unconscious mind. When you’re taking a shower, listen to the mantra. When you’re preparing your meals or eating, silently listen to your mantra. When you are sick, listen to the healing vibration of the mantra. When you have an appointment with the doctor or dentist, listen to the mantra. When you’re unexpectedly stopped by a red light during your morning drive to work and a thought that evokes anger appears in your awareness, witness the anger and willingly substitute your mantra. The more you listen to the mantra, the more you benefit.
As long as you are not being required to concentrate your attention in furtherance of an action, any time is an appropriate time to listen to your mantra. It is neither necessary nor advisable to wait for a crisis situation. Whenever you think of it during the day, give your attention and listen to the sacred sound. Then, in the face of fear, or anger, or self-willed desire, the mantra will come forward into your awareness with the courage, love and strength you need.
Jesus the Christ taught his disciples, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Your greatest treasure does not lie in objects and relationships that are subject to change. These have no power to make you happy or secure. To experience true happiness, security and a state of optimal health, learn to give your continuous, loving attention to your mantra. When you silently listen to the mantra frequently throughout the day, you will be able to choose the thoughts, words and deeds that will positively assist you in every circumstance.
The practice of Yoga Science is essentially an internal and uniquely personal process. No one else hears the thoughts you think. No other individual knows the choices you face moment to moment. Essentially, your security and happiness depend only on what you choose––what you think, what you say, and how you act. Making every thought a means for your liberation is the only way to prove the efficacy of this wisdom for yourself. You cannot control what comes to you, but you can become free to always respond wisely, lovingly and creatively.
In life, each person seeks guideposts and direction. If you were visiting a friend in a distant city for the first time and you had only her address, you’d seek direction from someone who was familiar with that city. You might download a map from the internet, consult a GPS system or perhaps ask a policeman for directions once you arrive.
In the process of freeing yourself from the prison of physical, mental or emotional dis-ease, the most accurate and beneficial direction comes from within. The advice that will always lead you for your highest and greatest good comes from the superconscious portion of your mind where unerring, quantum wisdom is accessible to you. The sages of every tradition agree: successful living depends on acting skillfully from a state of equanimity no matter what the circumstance. Repetition of the mantra––in the forms of both seated meditation and japa––is an invaluable tool for developing this capacity.
About the author
Leonard Perlmutter (Ram Lev)
Founder and director of The American Meditation Institute, Leonard is the author of “Transformation,” The Journal of Meditation as Mind/Body Medicine and the award-winning book “The Heart and Science of Yoga®: A Blueprint for Peace, Happiness and Freedom from Fear.” His “Heart and Science of Yoga®” entry-level course has been certified by the Albany Medical College, American Medical Association, the Massachusetts Association of Registered Nurses and American Nurses Association for continuing medical education credit. Leonard has been a student of Yoga Science since 1975 and a direct disciple of mind/body medicine pioneer Swami Rama of the Himalayas.