|[ Excerpt from The Science of Yoga, page 177 ]
Since the early 1970's, when mystical invocations were sold for hefty sums to the impressionable, aspiring 'spiritual class' of America by the rising yoga star from India, Mahesh Yogi in his Transcendental Meditation movement, the word mantra has steadily seeped into the realm of everyday vocabulary.
Nowadays it is used in reference to any form of affirmation, positive or negative, by anyone from self-help gurus to politicians, to television talk-show hosts and new-age spiritualists alike. Used and abused is a fitting way to put it.
The origins of mantra extend back thousands of years to the most ancient scriptures of mankind, known as the VEDAS. The word mantra comes from the root man, or manas, which means "mind". We refer here to the 'higher mind', a sixth sense beyond the capacity of reason -- that which is intimately connected with consciousness.
The Sanskrit word manas refers to this 'higher mind' and the suffix tra denotes a 'tool.' Therefore the term mantra can be generally defined as a "tool of (for) the higher mind."
A mantra is a sound (syllable) or a word, or a group of words that are repeated verbally or mentally.
Mantras, however, are not simply derived from just any words, phrases or sounds. They are not mere 'affirmations' of the lower psyche, used for purposes of a material nature, such as to gain confidence, or to overcome negative tendencies.
Mantras are not tools of English or of any other contemporary language. They are very specific articulate sounds whose proper utterance leads to an awakening of the consciousness through the unification of the subconscious, the conscious mind and the cosmic (Universal) consciousness.
Therefore, a mantra must be specifically constructed by one, known as a Mantri, or "mantra-maker", who understands these arcane vocal sounds and their power to evoke certain psychic forces and to unite the functions of the various dimensions (pancha kosha, or five bodies) of the being.
Mantra takes a prominent position in many of the rituals and practices of various spiritual traditions. These sacred utterances evoke, in a mysterious manner, higher powers and qualities within the unseen, un-manifest universe...
NOTE: This yoga article is an excerpt from The Science of Yoga, an online yoga training program with streaming yoga videos and 600 pages of step-by-step yoga instruction.
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