The first stir of creation is the primal vibration or the primordial sound. It takes place without any medium (since none was there). It expands endlessly in Space which is nothing else but Brahman (the supreme Reality) extending Itself and thereby creating limits out of the limitless. But what we experience here as speech and sound is a very degraded version of this original Power. By refining and purifying this power of speech given to us we can arrive closer and closer to the primal stir which verges on the Omnipotent. The mantras, too, ascend in a hierarchy and it is a grave mistake to club all of them together just because they are in Sanskrit or a poetic metre.
The power of a mantra depends upon three things. First and foremost is the seer who received it. Its value depends a lot upon the heights and widths of consciousness to which the seer himself ascended. Just as not all scientists even those who have the common qualification stand at the same level, so too not all seers and sages are at the same level. It is the sign of tamas that even Indian mind has lost these subtle but important distinctions. Some mantras need to be given by a Guru who charges them by his power of spiritual attainment whereas others are charged through centuries of collective practice and faith in it. Examples of the former are certain beej mantras of tantric rituals. An example of the latter is the sacred syllable OM.
Secondly, the power of a mantra depends also upon the recipient. A mere mechanical japa may draw some lower energies but the great gods and goddesses cannot be drawn this way. They prefer the direct call of the heart, an emotion added to the mantra, a feeling of love and joy as when one is calling one’s beloved with deep longing. It is this that determines how many times and how often one has to recite a mantra. For a disciple full of faith and trust and longing, even a single utterance may be enough to draw the Presence longed for near. For a man of little faith and mechanical utterance full of unclean doings, it is unlikely that any of the great and powerful goddesses will come near. If they do come it will be to cleanse him of his dross rather than grant all kinds of material boons. More often than not it will draw vital forces and energies that are rather dangerous for our spiritual development and may even end up possessing the unchaste sadhaka rather than helping him beyond some material gifts or vital successes. Yet these vital successes may very well pave the way towards a failure of his soul now trapped in the lure of worldly success and ambition.
Finally, the mantra may spring up spontaneously within one’s heart in which case one has to take it as the mantra given to him by the Lord Himself who resides in the heart of all creatures. It could be a word or a string of words or phrase, in any language (for the Divine speaks all languages) which then becomes the individual’s means to connect his individual self with the Divine. A short mantra such as the word Maa is understandably better since it is easiest to connect and carries within it the spontaneous feeling that the word evokes.
Here is what the Mother reveals to us about the mantra.
THE MOTHER ON MANTRA
“[Disciple] I would very much like to have a ‘true mantra.’
I have a whole stock of mantras; they have all come spontaneously, never from the head. They sprang forth spontaneously, as the Veda is said to have sprung forth.
I don’t know when it began – a very long time ago, before I came here, although some of them came while I was here. But in my case, they were always very short. For example, when Sri Aurobindo was here in his body, at any moment, in any difficulty, for anything, it always came like this: ‘My Lord!’ – simply and spontaneously – ‘My Lord!’ And instantly, the contact was established. But since He left, it has stopped. I can no longer say it, for it would be like saying ‘My Lord, My Lord!’ to myself.
I had a mantra in French before coming to Pondicherry. It was Dieu de bonté et de miséricorde … [God of kindness and mercy], but what it means is usually not understood – it is an entire program, a universal program. I have been repeating this mantra since the beginning of the century; it was the mantra of ascension, of realization. At present, it no longer comes in the same way, it comes rather as a memory. But it was deliberate, you see; I always said Dieu de bonté et de miséricorde, because even then I understood that everything is the Divine and the Divine is in all things and that it is only we who make a distinction between what is or what is not the Divine….
For the moment, of all the formulas or mantras, the one that acts most directly on this body, that seizes all the cells and immediately does this (vibrating motion) is the Sanskrit mantra: OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH.
As soon as I sit for meditation, as soon as I have a quiet minute to concentrate, it always begins with this mantra, and there is a response in the body, in the cells of the body: they all start vibrating….
It rose up from here (Mother indicates the solar plexus), like this: Om Namo Bhagavateh OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH. It was formidable. For the entire quarter of an hour that the meditation lasted, everything was filled with Light! In the deeper tones, it was of golden bronze (at the throat level it was almost red) and in the higher tones, it was a kind of opaline white light: OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH, OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH, OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH….
So each one must find something that acts on himself, individually. I am only speaking of the action on the physical plane, because mentally, vitally, in all the inner parts of the being, the aspiration is always, always spontaneous. I am referring only to the physical plane.
The physical seems to be more open to something that is repetitious – for example, the music we play on Sundays, which has three series of combined mantras. The first is that of Chandi, addressed to the universal Mother:
Ya devi sarvabhuteshu matrirupena sansthita
Ya devi sarvabhuteshu shaktirupena sansthita
Ya devi sarvabhuteshu shantirupena sansthita
Namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namah
The second is addressed to Sri Aurobindo (and I believe they have put my name at the end). It incorporates the mantra I was speaking of:
Om namo namah shrimirambikayai
Om namo bhagavateh shriaravindaya
Om namo namah shrimirambikayai.
And the third is addressed to Sri Aurobindo: ‘Thou art my refuge.’
Shriaravindah sharanam mama.
Each time this music is played, it produces exactly the same effect upon the body. It is strange, as if all the cells were dilating, with a feeling that the body is growing larger … It becomes all dilated, as if swollen with light – with force, a lot of force. And this music seems to form spirals, like luminous ribbons of incense smoke, white (not transparent, literally white) and they rise up and up. I always see the same thing; it begins in the form of a vase, then swells like an amphora and converges higher up to blossom forth like a flower.
So for these mantras, everything depends upon what you want to do with them. I am in favor of a short mantra, especially if you want to make both numerous and spontaneous repetitions – one or two words, three at most. Because you must be able to use them in all cases, when an accident is about to happen, for example. It has to spring up without thinking, without calling: it should issue forth from the being spontaneously, like a reflex, exactly like a reflex. Then the mantra has its full force.
For me, on the days when I have no special preoccupations or difficulties (days I could call normal, when I am normal), everything I do, all the movements of this body, all, all the words I utter, all the gestures I make, are accompanied and upheld by or lined, as it were, with this mantra:
OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH … OM NAMO BHAGAVATEH …
all, all the time, all the time, all the time.
That is the normal state. It creates an atmosphere of an intensity almost more material than the subtle physical; it’s like … almost like the phosphorescent radiations from a medium. And it has a great action, a very great action: it can prevent an accident. And it accompanies you all the time, all the time.
But it is up to you to know what you want to do with it.”
[The Mother’s Agenda, September 16, 1958]