The role of the Mantra

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The Mantra:

Om kâram bindu samyuktam nityam dhyâyanti yoginah Kâma-dam moksha-dam chaiva. Om kârâya namo namah.

Can be translated as follows: Yogis constantly meditate on the syllable “Om”, which is composed of the sounds “O” and “M’.This, Om, fulfils all our desires and leads to liberation. Hail again and again to this symbol Om.

India has contributed some valuable teachings. You know the image of the dancing Shiva. But there is no such image of a dancing Shiva in the West—this is a unique contribution from India. One of the beautiful fruits that are brought to you by India is its spiritual teachings, including the mantra.

We cannot say since when the power of mantras has been discovered. It has always been there, and recognized as the most effective method of the various disciplines within Hinduism. We speak of the Vedas, of which there are four and which are a fundamental part of the sacred Hindu Scriptures. The Vedas have been translated, in order to make them easier to understand, but Hindus themselves do not try to understand their translations. Instead, they go to great lengths to sing them with the right sound, the correct intonation, and the traditional rhythm and modulations. This is a law that cannot be violated. It is thought that reciting the Vedas without due respect for the established rules will bring a curse. 

There are schools throughout India where students learn to sing and very precisely modulate the sacred texts, in Sanskrit, just as it has always been. Singing the Vedas is auspicious, it brings blessings. It is from here that the tradition of the mantra and its repetition originates.

Several years ago, I met a priest who sang Vedic texts, and I asked him what they meant. He did not know. “We were taught to sing very precisely”, he answered, “and I do not know what these phrases mean.” At the time, I was astonished and thought that he sang like a parrot, but now I understand better what he meant—the singing itself is what is most important.

All ceremonies in India include Vedic chants. It is a tradition that is so old, so widespread, and so alluring that even among Buddhists a priest will always sing a sacred text. It is believed that reciting a Vedic chant is enough to bestow good things on the entire household. Sri Krishna says, in the Bhagavad Gita: “I am the great Sama.” The Sama is a Veda that is always sung with specific modulations. 

Hindus believe that one can purify oneself of sins by meditating on the mantra, by being freed, and attaining bliss. This is salvation. Therefore, one who can learn a mantra will obtain everything.