Sound is the creative force of the universe and beyond.
Through sound we shape our world, the world we experience on the outside and the world that feels more hidden, on the inside. (Though they are one and the same – this is how we experience things – separate.)
Through sound in the form of speech we communicate our ideas, thoughts, and create our lives. Think about it…. have you ever chosen where to live without talking about it first? – putting your ideal place to inhabit out there with someone before? or what school to go to? or what mate you wanted to marry?
We sort it out with words first – sometimes in our own mind – sometimes with friends, family etc., and then we declare it into action.
It’s this power of creation that is behind Sanskrit Mantra. But this is not the only reason it is so powerful. Also, it gains it’s power through it’s use.
For example, let’s say you have a favorite mala that you’ve used for years. It was blessed by a wonderful Lama or teacher that you respect and even just by looking at it you feel a spiritual current run through you.
Those beads are just beads, but through your practice and other people’s practices you respect that have touched your mala, those beads now have been infused with spiritual energy. They are now holy.
The same happens with sound.
Sanskrit has been a spiritual language for millenia. Spoken by enlightened beings – great beings through the ages – it has been infused with spiritual energy. Past down from teacher to student through time. Over time, the language has grown in great power and strength to impart spiritual energy. It’s in it’s very DNA – this vibration of sound.
Not only that, but it is said that Sanskrit was given to the Rishis (sages) at the very first Fire Ceremony – where they were given the Vedas, Sanskrit and the Great Gayatri.
It is said that these Rishis heard the 50 letters of the alphabet of Sanskrit as the sounds that made up and created the universe. That there were forces that were these sounds’ foundation and that through skillful combinations of the sounds – certain formulas (Mantras) could work within the cosmos to do a variety of functions.
The sages who put forth these different Mantras are called ‘Seers of the Mantra’.
So Sanskrit is a spiritual language – a lingua pura.
Also, I believe the same holds true for Tibetan and Hebrew, as both of those languages have been used over time primarily for spiritual endeavors.
I remember back in 1989 in New York City, I went to hear the Gyoto Monks of Tibet perform at the Cathedral of St John of God. I was nineteen at the time, and was so excited as I took the cab up the West-side highway up to 112th street.
“In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the Word was God.” The gospel according to John – Chapter 1, Verse 1.
The place was packed, 7,000 people came to hear the monks. The ceiling arches seemed to reach half way up to heaven, there was so much excitement in the air as I found my seat in one of the pews mid-way up the aisle. It was December and cold outside. After a while, the monks all came in with their big hats and colorful robes ….and then it started – this cacophony….
…….of loud bells and cymbals clashing … but it wasn’t until they started chanting with the deep drone of their voices….that I was transported.
I wanted more. I felt pinned in by the pews and all the people around me – instinctively, I felt if I could lay down on the marble floor, more of the vibration would get into my body. After a while of sitting still, I couldn’t take it anymore and made my way to the aisle and lay down on the cool ice cold marble – I was in heaven.
Closing my eyes, I could not only hear the deep clashes of metal against metal shotgunning through the air and the low low resounding comfort of the chant – but now I could feel them through my body – all the way into my bones. The sound seemed centered in my heart.
The vibration of sound mixing with the very atoms that made up the cells of my body. Realigning them, transforming them, re-tuning me to another frequency. It was an experience I’ll never forget.
I know that Philip Glass played at that concert with Mickey Hart and Kitaro but to be honest, I don’t recall a thing about what they played, or even if I liked it (though I’m sure I did) – what has stayed with me all these years were the Tibetan Buddhist Mantras, the voices of those monks and what they made me feel.
This is the power of Mantra. It awakens us and transforms us in ways we don’t even need to understand.
The most simple, and the most profound Sanskrit Mantra is:
The primordial sound. Said to be the sound of the universe that one can hear in meditation. When practicing OM. Take time time to say it – starting with the ‘a’ sound with your mouth open wide and then bring the lips around to the ‘u’ and then finally closing them to the ‘m’.
It is a beautiful practice.
I’ll explain more in depth of how Mantras work in Part 2. next week.