MANTRA TECHNOLOGY:THE SCIENCE OF SOUND
One thing that all spiritual traditions have in common, in one form or another, is the use of sound. As it famously says in the Bible: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) In Yogic technology, we call the use of sound through chanting specific words from ancient texts: Mantra. Mantra is compatible with all belief systems and works with the innate intelligence of the human system to produce specific vibratory frequencies within the body which impact on states of mind and feelings.
“Mantras are not small things, mantras have power. They are the mind vibration in relationship to the Cosmos. The science of mantra is based on the knowledge that sound is a form of energy having structure, power, and a definite predictable effect on the chakras and the human psyche.” ~ Yogi Bhajan
In simplest terms, Mantra is a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation. Beyond this, Mantra is a potent tool that profoundly impacts the human system at the physiological and psychological levels and, according to Yogic Science, “a key to other realms” (Sadhguru). The word mantra can be broken into: “man,” which means mind, and “tra,” which means transport. In other words, a mantra is vehicle to take your mind in a positive direction and deep meditation.
“A Mantra is nothing more than a collection of words strung together to create a positive effect” – Robin S, Sharma
There are several ways to work with Mantra, including listening, chanting silently and chanting out loud. As we come to traditions and cultures which are foreign to our own, this aspect of chanting in languages such as Sanskrit or Gurmukhi (used within the Kundalini Yoga tradition), can seem dogmatic, superfluous to our yoga practice – or even silly – so understanding the technology, intelligence and real science behind these practices can be very interesting and encouraging. Science is now proving what Yogis have known and experienced for millennia and increasingly, doctors and nurses also recommend mantra for medical treatment due to the outstanding research.
Specific benefits of chanting meditation include increased mental alertness, improved pulmonary function, the potential to help relieve depression and stress (Ferreira-Vorkapic et al., 2015); decreased heart rate, blood pressure and lowered level of tension. (Deodhar, 2015). Chanting vibrations with concentration enable the reduction of adrenaline and cortisol levels, reducing the levels of stress. Besides this, sound seed vibrations have a significant impact on improving the efficiency of the spinal cord and overall help to purify the mind, body, heart and soul for a happier and healthier life. (Lynch et al., 2018) It is also considered an effective meditative practice which has a further array of profound and well-documented benefits such of control of reactive emotions, concentration, mental balance and detoxification. Scientific studies have also shown cerebral blood flow to change while chanting. (Khalsa DS1, Amen D, Hanks C, Money N, Newberg A.) Chanting these sound seeds along with a constant deep breathing process improves blood circulation by providing more oxygen to the body thus restoring youthfulness both externally and internally. Myriad other health benefits include filtering out negativity, getting better sleep and nurturing throat and thyroid glands (Lolla, 2018).
While it is also nice to know what the words mean, at the intellectual level, its true power does not lie in the literal meaning of the mantra but in the vibrational effects of the sound itself. In connection with Kundalini Yoga mantras, the word Naad is also used. Naad means “the essence of all sound.” It is the universal code behind language and therefore behind human communication. Chanting mantras helps clear the throat chakra, your centre of communication.
“If your words have the strength of the Infinite in them and are virtuous, and you value them, you are the greatest of the great. If you do not value your words, you have no value. Your own word is your value as a human being.” – Yogi Bhajan
So how does mantra technology actually work at the physiological level? How do these ancient mantras, channelled by the Masters thousands of years ago, have such a profound and empirical impact on your brain and body today? The short answer is that Yogic science works very specifically with the intelligence of the human system. The way Naad Yoga works is based on the experience of how sound vibrations affect the body, mind, and spirit through the movement of the tongue, the mouth and subsequent changes in the chemicals in the brain. There are eighty-four meridian points on the upper palate of a human’s mouth. There are two rows of meridian points on the upper palate and on the gum behind the upper teeth. When you chant, the tongue stimulates those meridian points, and they, in turn, stimulate the hypothalamus which makes the pineal gland radiate. When the pineal radiates, it creates a pulse in the pituitary gland. When this happens to the pituitary, the entire glandular system secretes. Then the chemical composition of the brain becomes balanced, automatically shifting one’s outlook on life. This network of glands, that make up the endocrine system, are responsible for almost every cell, organ, and function in your body including the hormones that control your moods, growth, development, metabolism, organs, and reproduction. (WebMD)
“Our sages were scientists. Without gadgets or even electricity, the seers had mastered the science of sound.” Gurumaa
Every time you chant a mantra, you are tapping out a particular sequence, rhythm, and position that initiates a chemical reaction in the brain and body. It’s as if you have an electronic system in your mouth. Punch in the right code on the upper palate and you gain entry to the brain and your inner chambers of higher consciousness. There is a vibratory frequency that corresponds to everything in the Universe. Joy or grief, contentment or regret are vibratory frequencies in the mind. When we chant a mantra we are choosing to invoke the positive power contained in those particular syllables. Whether it’s for prosperity, happiness, intuition, or any other possible benefits inherent in mantras, simply by chanting them we are setting vibrations into motion that shall have an effect. Chanting mantras is like tuning the instrument that is you to the tone you want to create.
“Every sound activates a certain dimension of your energy system… so sounds can be used for wellbeing and health.” – Sadhguru
Furthermore, the sounds and thoughts produced by the body and mind radiate out from you and thus positively enhance your environment, the people around you and the world at large.
Great ways to experience the effects of Mantra are through the practice of Kirtan (a form of devotional or “Bhakti” Yoga where mantras are sung primarily in call and response) and through the technology of Kundalini Yoga. Mantra is one of the main pillars of the Kundalini Yoga tradition along with Kriya (movement), meditation and Pranayama (control of breath). Often Kundalini Yoga meditations will include mantra, as well as specific mudras (hand gestures) that can create a very profound, effective and enjoyable experience.
Numerous studies have also shown that the more meditation is done consistently, the more we begin to rewire the brain and increase the grey matter in the frontal cortex, which is also associated with working memory and executive decision making. The more you clear out the mind through mantra and meditation the more you are creating space on your “hard drive” and increasing your neuron velocity. We recommend that you try a 40-day personalised practice of meditation and mantra to assist in moving you in the direction you desire and to further optimise your entire being. Within the Kundalini Yoga cannon, this can be a meditation that is practised correctly starting with as little as just three minutes per day!
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- Deodhar, S., 2015. Make in India: Re-chanting the Mantra with a Difference.
- Lolla, A., 2018. Journal of religion and health, 57(1), pp.110-119.
- Lynch, J., Prihodova, L., Dunne, P.J., McMahon, G., Carroll, A., Walsh, C. and White, B., 2018. Impact of mantra meditation on health and wellbeing: A systematic review protocol. European Journal of Integrative Medicine, 18, pp.30-33.