By Pepe Danza
As we know from recent scientific developments, the “material” aspect of matter is an illusion. Everything is vibrating, everything is alive. If we were to accelerate any given vibration until it was audible, we could hear the signature note that each object is broadcasting. In other words, if essentially all is vibration, then essentially all is sound.
Most scriptures tell us that the first seed of Creation was Sound. In esoteric texts there are innumerable references to the use of sound for healing and/or potentially destructive uses. Some sources explain how the Pyramids were built by moving enormous stones through the power of sound, and we all know the famous image of the opera singer breaking a glass at a distance with the power of her voice.
These are all bits of information and knowledge that can help us start to understand the potential behind the practice of Mantra and Chanting.
We can think of a Mantra as a unit of energy that connects us with, and awakens in us, a certain primal force that could be said to reside dormant in our very DNA. They can be keys that unlock certain forces within us, and once awakened, or remembered, they can bring us closer to our center and our full power as human beings.
In the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, for the most part, Mantras are connected with what is imperfectly termed “gods”. In western terms I think we can understand these forces better with Jung’s term Archetype. Each of these “gods” or deities has a certain “power” that can be actualized in us through their invocation.
In other words, these are not actual beings residing in the “clouds”, but Archetypes that reside in us as potential, and through tools such as Mantra, Chanting and Visualization, we can access and cultivate these potential powers consciously.
For example, Shiva is a most beloved deity in India. He represents the destructive power of “God”. In order to build something new sometimes we have to destroy or let go of that which doesn’t serve us anymore. The pain we may have to go through is directly proportional to the attachment we have to that which needs to be destroyed in order to make space for the new. The dance of Shiva is a reminder and in fact a celebration of the reality that the only constant in Life is Change, and that it is actually a fabulous Dance, a dance performed to the sacred rhythm of Time, and that ultimately it is all Maya , or illusion. This is not an excuse to bury or deny our need to mourn and/or feel our emotions fully, but it is a very important perspective that can help us move through life with more ease, wisdom, and a lighter step.
So… when we find ourselves stuck with outmoded behaviors, or we need to change our physical reality, we can call on the power of Shiva by using Mantra. This is a powerful psychological tool that can empower us, almost instantly, depending on the strength of our connection with the Archetype.
There are a myriad forms that can connect us with the energies of forgiveness, compassion, abundance, joy, creativity, assertiveness, love, etc. Whatever capacity we want to cultivate or enhance, it won’t be hard to find an Archetype to aid us and accelerate our process.
Now, having talked about the psychological aspect, the student of spirituality may well be puzzled by the devotional aspect of the practice from the Hindu standpoint. Do these people really believe there is some fat guy with an elephant head in heaven that can grant us wishes? To that I would reply that the western mind doesn’t seem to question fat naked little children playing trumpets in the clouds in our own culture, or babies being born without sexual contact, or saints in “heaven” listening to our needs.
All of these religious aspects need not be ridiculous if we again approach it from a Jungian perspective. Maybe we can allow for the possibility that these Archetypes, through the working of the Collective Unconscious over literally thousands of years, do take a life of their own in some metaphysical realm. In other words, they become a specific reservoir of energy that we can tap into in order to further our spiritual path.
When we express our devotion to Rama, we are expressing devotion to the qualities of faithfulness, unconditional love, protectiveness of the family, and high values that the figure of Rama represents. Ganesha opens our capacity to move through life with joy, ease, devotion and wisdom.
In Buddhism we have figures such as Avalokistewara (related to Kwan Yin in China). He/she represents the quality of total compassion, and the total commitment to help our fellow passengers on this existence to attain their highest potential.
Each of these entities has their mantras, usually several, through which practice we can call upon their particular energy for our own healing and empowerment.
All of these philosophies, or religions, as the case may be, believe in the ultimate Oneness of the Creator, or Original Creative Source, but they allow for the fact that within Creation the One divides into the Many, and different aspects then take certain “personalities” in order to accomplish the Work.
In Africa, for instance, these gods or archetypes usually line up with the elements, and so we have the personification of Fire: Shango, or Water: Iemanja. In the Hindu system Indra is the personification of the energy of Fire, and we could say that Saraswati, the patroness of the arts and learning, is the equivalent of Africa’s Mother Iemanja.
When we practice devotion to these figures we are bringing their energy into our lives. To the outward eye it may seem that we are paying homage to “idols”, and in some cases this may be accurate, but the proper practice is a sound spiritual and psychological technique that mirrors techniques such as NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), where these figures would be called “anchors”.
That in the East many believe in the “objective” existence of these “deities” and the power of their mantras, there’s no question, and, at the end of the day, Life is a vast and fascinating mystery where, literally… anything is possible.
Pepe will teach a yoga class based on the above principles beginning in September – Mondays at 5:30pm in Prana Yoga College center. Please see schedule.