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The Character of the Mantra

by Swami Veda

Book Cover: Mantra and Meditation by Swami Veda Bharati[This passage has been taken from the book titled Mantra and Meditation by Swami Veda Bharati, published in 1981 by The Himalayan International Institute of Yoga Science and Philosophy of the U.S.A. Note: This book is sometimes sold with the author’s name listed as Usharbudh Arya, Swami Veda’s name before sanyas].

No doubt, many readers are going to try to guess the “meaning” of their mantra merely on the basis of the scanty and incomplete information provided here. The mind simply does not want to move out of the grooves of a coarse association between a word and an external object at best and a mere translated sentence at worst. Unless the philosophy of language and syllables as we have explained above is understood, the practice of mantra will be misunderstood.

Ultimately it is not understanding but spiritual realization that matters, and it occurs only when the practice itself goes deep. The knowledge of the secret of mantras is received in the guru-disciple tradition, either as an experience imparted by the guru, or during one’s meditations. In addition, the personal instruction is passed on in bhuta-lipi, literally, script of the spirits, or script from the past. It is in fact a way of passing on the code concerning the mantras. Since it is impossible to give a complete detailed explanation about any mantra, and only someone initiated at a certain level can even comprehend the instruction, those specially entitled to the knowledge are taught in bhuta-lipi, which is both:

A sign language going back to pre-Vedic times, and a system of code-words in which the detailed knowledge is passed on in a very condensed or oblique form, understood only by the initiate of that level.

Some of this code is so universal that the key to the symbols and scripts of many ancient civilizations can only be discovered by understanding this code. For example, take the choice of colour in an ancient mural, equate it with the particular syllable associated with that colour, and you have a message! But the purpose of this work is limited to convey only what would be helpful to an initiate in the modern daily life. We do not pursue knowledge as information merely to satisfy a curiosity.

Is it then necessary that one should laboriously learn the Sanskrit language in order to understand the mantra? Furthermore, in what way can we differentiate the revealed nature of Sanskrit from the similar claims made by Hebrew of the Old Testament, Arabic of the Holy Quran, or even Latin? Let us attempt to answer these questions.

The Sufi tradition that shares much with Yoga and Vedanta wears the external garb of Quranic Islam while remaining above doctrinaire religions, and bases its teaching on direct experience. It developed in the countries of Central Asia (now under Russian occupation) which were centres of the Yoga and Buddhist learning before the take-over by Islam. It is interesting to note that some of the central chants of the Sufi tradition are similar to those of Tibet, for example, the deep Hum or Ho in the Allaho, reverberated from the heart centre. There are secrets within the Quran that are not understood by the commentators…

…In other words, the tradition of the Sufis cannot be seen as separate from the entire revelatory experience of humankind. The method of finding deeper meanings behind syllabic sounds is followed among the Sufis as it is among the students of Kabbalah. It is therefore to be concluded that so far as the method of unveiling a sacred utterance through experiential understanding is concerned, the traditions of Yoga, Sufism and Kabbalah all agree.

Editor’s Note:

For all Swami Rama’s and Swami Veda Bharati’s published works, please visit yogapublications.org or email [email protected].

Published works of Swami Rama and Swami Veda Bharati are also available at other venues.


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