Our world is physically constituted by three basic energies viz. Sound, Light and Heat. According to the electromagnetic wave theory, the ever-expanding universe is described as a limitless ocean of energy waves. Discovery and utilization of some of these have given rise to inventions like radio, telephone, television, laser, X-rays, gamma-rays, etc. Enormous combinations or superimposition of compatible waves are supposed to give rise to the energy particles, various subtle particle-states and ultimately to the atomic and molecular forms of matter. The root cause of the existence of different physical forms/states of any kind of material – howsoever subtle or gross it might be – is the ‘collision or superimposition’ of some of these omnipresent, ever vibrating, energy waves.
The eternal forms of sound vibrations are synonymous with respect to their physical existence. This in other words corresponds to the vaidik concept of shabda
(eternal sound/cosmic vibrations) as the origin and controller of everything that exists (in gross or subtle form) in this universe. The vaidik and tantrik mantras are meant to be specific configurations of syllables (sonic codes) that could generate specific energy-currents of shabda. In terms of its meaning in Sanskrit, the word "mantra" also implies – ‘a liberator of mind’. This indicates the psychological impact of chanting or japa
of a mantra.
Implications of Ancient Theories:
As per the scriptural descriptions, often the vision of the syllables for subtle sounds (Nada) in the etheric ocean had been revealed to the rishis (Indian sages of the vedic times) through an afflatus or intuition in their inner selves or the mantras were just ‘heard’ by them in a state of trance. This is the reason why most of these mantras are known as – shruti (‘heard’) or as – ‘conveyed by the cosmic voice’.... These depictions also signify that mantras are compilations of sound-elements rather than linguistic structures.
In his book "The Garland of Letters" Sir John Woodroffe elucidates some of these aspects as – "The vaidik varnas (letters – sonic patterns - used in mantras) are eternal and represent in themselves and their variations all the possibilities of articulate speech in all languages. These varnas represent both the vowels and the consonants. The vowels are continuous sounds formed by varying the size of the mouth cavity. The consonants are particular interruptions of those sounds. They cannot be sounded without vowels; for this reason, the vowels are referred as shaktis (power streams) of the consonants. The varnas are classified according to the ‘natural sound’ of their pronunciation. The subject matter of varnas occupies an important place in the "Tantra Shastra" in which it is sought to give a practical application to every ancient doctrine concerning Shabda
or the Mantra
Shastra". Sir Woodroffe further discusses these in detail in the light of foundational works on Sanskrit Grammar.
The scholarly works on these topics also refer to five different forms of natural modes of pronunciation or expression of letters or words. A combination of these together with the mention of the multiplicity of the phonemes associated with the vaidik varnas, indeed makes it interesting to investigate the science of mantras.
The ‘elements’ of ether are highly sensitive subtle ‘particles’, which can vibrate at a frequency up to 34×109 cps. At the absolute high frequencies these oscillatory particles constantly emit a unique light. The radiation of this light can travel with a velocity of 108 meters per second. The vibrations of the etheric elements never stop. They are supposed to stabilize at the outer layer of the earth’s gravitational sphere and continue vibrating there at constant ultra high frequencies. They attract the weaker waves of similar frequencies and get attracted by more powerful ones of the same range of frequencies. In either case, the superimposition of such compatible vibrations gives rise to an extremely powerful field of attraction. The ‘influencing power’ of this force of attraction is also bestowed upon those whose ‘thought waves’ match with these suprasonic waves.
Japa or chanting of the mantras is only a means for creating specific vibrations of the omnipresent subtle power of shabda. When we awaken somebody by pushing him by our hand, the hand simply plays the role of a tool; it is not a part of the process of awakening. Similarly, the specific configuration of syllables and the sound (including the sublime sound) produced by the japa
of a mantra
is only a means for activating specific field of the cosmic energy of shabda. Which mantra
is suitable for awakening what kind of subliminal energy center – is described in the viniyoga (structural classification) of that mantra. All of the Vaidika and the Tantrika Mantras have distinct viniyogas.
The viniyoga of each mantra has five components – (i) Rishi, (ii) Chhanda, (iii) Devata, (iv) Bija and (v) Tatva.
The first component contains the names of the rishi(s) or the sages – seers, who had discovered, compiled and/or completely mastered that particular mantra
and who therefore are regarded authorities on all the knowledge associated with the spiritual practice of that mantra. Such spiritual masters are the ideal gurus (guides) for the disciples who endeavor a sadhana
of that mantra. Recalling this first component of the – viniyoga of a mantra
also implies that revered devotion for those rishis and adept guidance of a noble living guru
is essential for practising (the japa
of) that mantra.
The chhanda indicates the rhythmic composition for the enunciation or chanting of the mantra. As described earlier, each mantra
can be practised with different combinations of swaras (musical accents) and gati (speed). Manasika, Vachika, Upanshu, Udatta-Anudatta, Swarita...., etc are some of the many modes of japa
that are also described in the chanda for a mantra. The specific pattern of sonic waveforms generated by the mantra–japa depends upon the syllables of the mantra
and the type of chanda used. The assignment of appropriate chhanda for the spiritual sadhana
processes of practising a mantra
is called – yati. The selection of a yati and hence of a chhanda for a given mantra
is decided with reference to the purpose of the sadhana, the configuration of the mantra-syllables and the mental and spiritual level of the sadhaka.
The third component, the devata
represents the specific cosmic field (– of the subliminal energy of shabda) in the limitless expression of the supreme consciousness
– that is aimed to be realized by the japa-sadhana of the associated mantra. We all know that out of the different programmes being broadcast via the radio waves, a radio set can receive only the ones whose frequencies it is tuned for. Similarly, from the different streams of the conscious power of shabda
present in the universe, a mantra
can be used to link the individual consciousness
with the devata
of that mantra.
As the practice of the mantra
involves devoted meditation upon the devata
along with the specified (according to the chhanda) rhythmic enunciation or chanting, the rishis had assigned visible forms to different devatas – representing different manifestations and subliminal expressions of the One, Eternal, Consciousness…. Some of the rishis also recommended worshipping the idols – of these forms of the devata
– in sacred environment before commencing the japa
of the mantras.
The bija represents the origin of the mantra. It may be understood as a group of those syllables that contain, in compact coded form, the gist (tatva) of the mantra
and thereby imply the latent existence of the specific power of shabda
in that mantra. The japa
of the bija generates the ‘energy’ essential for initiating the activation of the shakti
(sonic power) of the associated mantra.
Possibilities of Scientific Studies:
It may not be feasible to verify or analyze the role of the subtle components like ‘devata’ in the structure of a mantra
by scientific methods. Nevertheless, scientific investigations – along the lines of that in the field of musical ragas – could begin with the other components, namely the bija and tatva and the chanda, as these directly pertain respectively to the symbolic patterns, sonic configurations and phonological characteristics.
It is a well known scientific principle that continuous movement of any kind ultimately results in a circular motion. The orbits and shapes of all the planets in the universe are almost round (or elliptical closed contours) due to this simple principle. It is by the same principle that continuous (non-stop) japa
of a mantra
creates a circular domain. The ‘Taila Dharavat Sutra’ describes that – ‘If oil is dropped at constant speed for some time continuously, its flow forms a steady stream. Similarly, the repeated rhythmic enunciation of the same word (or a string of words) forms a continuous (without an end or boundary) segment of words’. A popular story in the Ramayana also gives a simple supportive example here. It describes that rishis Valmiki’s non-stop chanting of the word mara mara... bestowed upon him the sanctifying effect of the japa
of the name of the God –– "rama rama"....
The vaidika mantras are usually recited in specific rhythms as per the vaidika swaras. However, during the process of japa, the recitation of all the mantras takes place at constant amplitude without any break or pause. Therefore the speed should be so regular and constant that one can count the number of japas by measuring the time taken for the completion of specific japas in one sitting. It is this consistency and continuity that gives a cyclic motion to the sonic waves generated by the japa, and thus helps in activation and focusing of the related powers of shabda.
That circular motion generates energy – can also be observed in day-to-day life; for instance, the movement of the toy ‘top’, or the functioning of machines by the movement of a flywheel, etc. Continuous japa
of a mantra
in a consistent manner, for sufficiently long periods of time per day, can generate energy in and around the sadhaka
that would keep his physical and subtle bodies creatively active for the rest of the day....
Fast circular motion at a regular pace generates a centrifugal force. Demonstration of this force can be seen in a circus – in the rotating swings or the circular motion of a motorbike rider in the ‘well of death,’ etc. Similar effect helps generation of a supernormal ‘sphere’ of sonic energy by the cyclic japa
of a mantra
repeatedly while maintaining the consistency of the pace by thorough engrossment of the mind.
That sound can be recorded (e.g., by tape-recorders), amplified (e.g., by loud-speakers), propagated (e.g., by radio and TV signals), recognized (e.g., by the radar), measured and analyzed (e.g., by spectrographs or voice-printers) – in physical terms, proves its existence in matter.... A large number of examples of the destructive and creative effects of sound on matter can also be found in day-to-day life.
The mechanical devices of radar send sound signals – via radio waves – far away in the space and receive the echoed sound back in few micro (10-6) seconds. The radio waves travel at a speed of about 295000 kilometers per second. Whenever their collision takes place with any object on their way, these waves are reflected back (to the radar that is set ‘tuned’ to receive them) at equally fast speed. The vibrations of these reflected signals contain the ‘information’ about the position, size and some other properties of the object. (This is how sound waves help in the recognition, through the radar, of an enemy’s airplane, during war times.)
The human body could also be regarded as ‘radar’ with respect to the gross sonic effects of the mantras. The extrasensory energy nuclei (like the shatchakras or the granthis.... etc described in yoga
scriptures) of this biological radar send supernormal radio signals in the ‘etheric whole’ via the vibrations of mantras being enunciated in specific rhythms.... This wonderful radar receives back the quintessential signals of shabda
as an ‘echo’ from the cosmic nucleus of the mantra.
Our gross body is a physical system consisting of bio-physicochemical components. The impact of sound on this system results in corresponding vibrations in the molecular, cellular (e.g., an enzyme in a cell or a membrane, or a hormone...) or organ (e.g., the liver, uterus or ears.....) components and generates isolated or cascade effects (positive or negative, depending on the type of sound) on the interconnected subsystems. Several instances of the negative physical effects of the impact of sound on the gross body have been scientifically verified. Examples of the positive physical effects (on the gross bodies of any living being) include – increase in the immunity of human beings under specific therapies based on sound; acceleration of the growth rate of vegetation by special music; increase in the reproduction rates of some varieties of fish and hens under certain music-based treatments.
The interest, to some extent, in the subtle power of sound has been revived in the modern era by the scientific works on ultrasound. The ultrasonic waves were successfully used for the first time in 1914 for recognition of underwater objects (like submarines) during the First World War. There has been a significant progress in the applications of ultrasound in the twentieth century. Today, the medical technology is making tremendous use of advanced ultrasonic devices for noninvasive diagnostic purposes.
Laboratory experiments on ultrasonic effects have shown that the vibrations at a high frequency – of the order of five crores per second – can produce enormous energy that would convert the surrounding material into vapors and ashes almost instantaneously. Then what about the power of the vibrations that are generated at exponentially faster frequencies by a controlled use of bio-electricity, vital energy and the sublime force of the otherwise untapped layers of human-consciousness? Why wouldn’t they induce suprasonic impulses in the etheric whole and create cosmic effects?
The effects of mantra
are based on subtler (in terms of the ‘audio’ perceptions) levels of sound than the ultrasound. The body components like the tongue and the palate are supporting tools for augmenting the frequency of the sound of the syllables of a mantra. The inner extrasensory energy-centers of the body (including those in the brain) exponentially amplify – with the help of the vital power of the bioelectricity and the strength of consciousness
(of the sadhaka), the frequency of the sound waves of the mantra
far beyond the limits of ultrasonic and supersonic vibrations.
Scientific investigations on mantras are important, considering the fact that only a handful of genuine ‘experts’ of this occult field of knowledge are available today. The creative and enchanting impacts of particular forms of sound – Indian musical ragas, in particular – on human-psychology are well accepted today. Interdisciplinary scientific research is emerging to make use of the same against psychological disorders and as a ‘tonic’ for mental health and enthusiasm for those engaged in monotonous and tiring tasks. In addition, research should also begin for understanding the patterns, meanings and complexities of the phonetic symbols used in the vaidika mantras, deciphering the spectrum of accents and rhythmic chanting patterns for these mantras and devising scientific methods to experimentally establish their veracity.