"Mantra" is a term often misused and misunderstood in our culture. Mantra means, literally, mind ("manas") vehicle ("tra"). Many think that a mantra is just a word repeated over and over in the mind, and that any word will do.
But when we receive a living mantra from a Master, it is not just a word. It is an impulse from the boundless field of pure consciousness, the silent potency at the source of creation. The mantra carries our awareness back to the Creator.
A living mantra contains, in seed form, the cumulative power of countless enlightened beings, extending far back into the ancient now. A living mantra is a lineage.
The art of mantra is not repetition or concentration. Repeating a word that we get from a book, or hear in the spiritual marketplace, makes the mind drowsy, and this drowsiness can be mistaken for "meditation." But a living mantra is imbued with shakti, awakened power, at the moment of initiation, under the auspices of the Master.
The mind does not need to concentrate on a living mantra, or repeat it. Quite the contrary, a living mantra de-concentrates the mind. The mantra does not repeat, but dissolves into infinity. Effortlessly, the mantra settles from the mind into the heart, finding its root as a pulsation of silence. And that is not the silence of absence, but the silence of fullness, the ocean of silence from which waves of creation arise.
A Vedic text declares, "Adau Bhagavan shabda rasahih: In the beginning the Lord created the universe through a stream of sound." The mantra vibrates in our consciousness at the finest level of energy, right between creation and the un-created, where silence becomes music. Thus the scriptures of all traditions declare that creation is born from silence through the Word.
"In the beginning was the Word," says the Gospel of John, almost a verbatim repetition of what the Mandukya Upanishad pronounced in a previous age: "In the beginning was the sacred syllable Om; all that ever was, is, or shall be is created through the sound of Om."
The mantra's vibration permeates, purifies, and energizes every atom, every photon in our body, with the subtle essence of the cosmos, which is bliss. Meditation is re-creation. There is no deeper grace than to receive a mantra from a living Master. That is why our hearts are filled with gratitude and we say, "Jai Guru Dev."
Picture: Sri Brahmananda Sarasvati, d. 1948, who passed the timeless Vedic lineage of the Shankarcharya to the teachers of our time. Jai Guru Dev.