Issue 14 – 19 May 2017 – rattuos
We are brought up with thousands of ‘sayings’. One for example is ‘there is no time like the present’, another ‘tomorrow never comes’. Some are based in wisdom, some in religion, some in wit but collectively they represent pillars of our societies. I do not intend to recount our sayings, praise them or dismiss them. I just wanted to mention them.
Children used to be told that ‘the bogeyman will get you’. That was just one saying designed to terrorise a child into good behaviour as seen by adults. A famous political saying which was posted on advertising stands all over the UK in 1964 was ’13 years of Tory misrule’. This slogan was credited with unseating the Tories and perhaps became a template for the future. We had many during the war ’the walls have ears’ for example suggesting spies were all around. The walls really do have ears these days.
What I do want to point out is that sayings are powers or influences in their own right. Rarely do we know the author of them, which is not to say that the authors are unknown just that we do not usually know who they are. In the same way we rarely know who actually wrote our scriptures because we are told that God wrote them or his messengers dictated them.
There are also ’phrases’ that we use a lot. Again we rarely know the author but use them as a kind of shorthand. ’Get your skates on’, ’drove like a maniac’, ‘you’ve got to be joking’ etc. They are clichés which are quite hard to lose once acquired much as swearwords can be. Some people cannot stop themselves interspersing almost every sentence with one.
Well language is not exactly what we think it is. It is quite limited in many ways and some words go back to prehistory – two we will find in most languages in one form or another – ‘father’ and ‘mother’, usually very similar in pronunciation. In Latin for example pater and mater. In Egyptian the gods Ptah and Maat or Mut. Papa, Daddy, Mama, Mummy all come from this. When we say these words they echo through the ages and when we repeat these sayings the same thing happens and a link is made.
When we say ’Go to Hell’ to someone do we mean it? It is the most serious curse and links to this whether we mean it or not. If a Judge says ’Guilty’ and intones a death penalty this also connects to links throughout our history and that is what results whether he or she mean it or not. ’Kill him’ or ’kill them’ have the same ominous link and result. It is something few of us will ever hear said with meaning ourselves except in films.
Conversely Shakespeare is famous for adding many phrases and dimensions to our language raising it to the level of the classical languages where poetry and prose were so prominent. Here was a man who attended court as a youth and was educated with the finest brains in the country. They attended Lord Burghley’s school in London and included Francis Bacon and the Earls of Essex, Southampton, Oxford and Rutland – all considered by some to be the real authors of the plays as was the young man’s Italian tutor at Oxford, Florio. This man eventually became the 8th Earl of Shrewsbury on his brother’s death on 8th May 1616 following an illness which meant he had to ‘kill’ his Shakespeare alias on 23 April 1616 (St George’s day) to clear the way to his succession. But still the plays and poems continued to be written for him by his friends under this collective name. Little wonder we have such a massive and inspiring body of work and a continuing mystery over authorship. These men took much of our verbal language, sayings and knowledge at the time and immortalised it for us.
Under this section I must also include ‘mantras’. I have always been suspicious about young men and women being given usually Sanskrit words by their gurus, words that they do not really know or understand but repeat many thousands of times when in their deepest meditations. Let us look deeper at the word mantra:
“A “mantra” (/’mæntrə, ‘mɑːn-, ‘mʌn-/ (Sanskrit: मंत्र); is a sacred utterance, a numinous sound, a syllable, word or phonemes, or group of words in Sanskrit believed by practitioners to have psychological and spiritual powers. A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning.
The earliest mantras were composed in Vedic Sanskrit by Hindus in India, and are at least 3000 years old. Mantras now exist in various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. In Japanese Shingon tradition, the word Shingon means mantra. Similar hymns, chants, compositions and concepts are found in Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Christianity, and elsewhere.
The use, structure, function, importance, and types of mantras vary according to the school and philosophy of Hinduism and of Buddhism. Mantras serve a central role in tantra. In this school, mantras are considered to be a sacred formula and a deeply personal ritual, effective only after initiation. In other schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism, initiation is not a requirement.
Mantras come in many forms, including ṛc (verses from the Rigveda for example) and sāman (musical chants from the Sāmaveda for example). They are typically melodic, mathematically structured meters, believed to be resonant with numinous qualities. At its simplest, the word ॐ (Aum, Om) serves as a mantra. In more sophisticated forms, mantras are melodic phrases with spiritual interpretations such as a human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace, love, knowledge, and action. Some mantras have no literal meaning, yet are musically uplifting and spiritually meaningful …..” Wikipedia
As we may note they are not really that different to prayers, psalms and hymns which are said, sung or chanted in churches except that they tend to be in our own language and more easy to understand. Some however are very difficult to understand and often repeated. There seems to be an element of self hypnosis or even brainwashing about that.
One guru famous for handing out mantras was the founder of the group known as ‘TM’ (Transcendental Meditation) so a quick look there may illustrate this. In the 1970‘s you handed over a week‘s wages, were instructed in the basic technique and given your mantra:
“…..The Maharishi is reported to have trained more than 40,000 TM teachers, taught the Transcendental Meditation technique to “more than five million people” and founded thousands of teaching centres and hundreds of colleges, universities and schools…..In Rishikesh, India, beginning on 20 April 1962, a forty-day course was held for “sadhus, sanyasis, and brahmacharis” to introduce TM to “religious preachers and spiritual masters in India”….In 1967, the Maharishi gave a lecture at Caxton Hall in London which was attended by Pattie Boyd, George Harrison‘s wife, as well as Leon MacLaren, the founder and leader of the School of Economic Science (SES). He also lectured at UCLA, Harvard, Yale and Berkeley. That year, an article in Time magazine reported that the Maharishi “has been sharply criticised by other Indian sages, who complain that his programme for spiritual peace without either penance or asceticism contravenes every traditional Hindu belief”. Religion and culture scholar Sean McCloud also reported that traditional Indian sages and gurus were critical of the Maharishi, for teaching a simple technique and making it available to everyone, and for abandoning traditional concepts of suffering and concentration as paths to enlightenment….In its obituary, BBC News reported that the Maharishi’s master had bequeathed him “the task of keeping the tradition of Transcendental Meditation alive” and that “the Maharishi’s commercial mantras drew criticism from stricter Hindus, but his promises of better health, stress relief and spiritual enlightenment drew devotees from all over the world”….In a review of the documentary film David Wants to Fly, Variety magazine reported Swaroopananda’s assertion that “as a member of the trader class” the Maharishi “has no right to give mantras or teach meditation”…..
(Swami Swaroopananda, one of three claimants to the title Shankaracharya of Jyotir Math, is “an outspoken critic” of the Maharishi)
…The Maharishi is credited with heading charitable organisations, for-profit businesses, and real estate investments whose total value has been estimated at various times, to range from US$2 to US$5 billion. The real estate alone was valued in 2003 at between $3.6 and $5 billion. Holdings in the United States, estimated at $250 million in 2008, include dozens of hotels, commercial buildings and undeveloped land. The Maharishi “amassed a personal fortune that his spokesman told one reporter may exceed $1 billion”. According to a 2008 article in The Times, the Maharishi “was reported to have an income of six million pounds”. The Maharishi’s movement is said to be funded through donations, course fees for Transcendental Meditation and various real estate transactions….” extracts from Wikipedia
It does not really tell us about the mantras only that there was some opposition to them being handed out. If there was a little opposition there was also massive support for what he was doing. All those I have known who subscribed to his TM have been extremely healthy and radiant people and I have no doubt about the benefits of meditation. The man was a major inspiration for the Beatles and many others.
His organisation can tell us more:
“TM is practised by silently and effortlessly thinking a mantra or sound, which has been passed on during personal instruction by a fully-trained teacher following careful guidelines laid down by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. It is strongly recommended that you do not try to learn TM from any other source, even if they claim to be using Transcendental Meditation mantras, for reasons which will become apparent below.
….How do Transcendental Meditation mantras work?
The mantra does not act as a focus for the mind as in other forms of meditation, but as a ‘vehicle’ upon which the attention gently and innocently rests. This allows the mind to settle into increasingly subtle levels of thinking, and finally the mantra itself is transcended and we settle into silence.
There are two qualities of the Transcendental Meditation mantra which are important for this process to occur: It is a meaningless sound. Using a word with meaning would keep the mind on the surface, thinking about the word, and not allow it to transcend (go beyond) that level.
Its vibration has a resonance with its source in the primordial hum (Om) close to the silent, blissful level of the mind which gives it a tendency to fade in that direction. This attracts and charms the mind, which itself is always searching for greater happiness, so the mind settles with the mantra towards silence.
Where do Transcendental Meditation mantras come from?
The mantras used in Transcendental Meditation come from the ancient Vedic tradition of India. They are Sanskrit sounds, the language which is the closest possible human imitation of the natural vibrations produced by the dynamism of the unified field – the field identified by objective modern science as the silent source of all creation, and by yogis in their meditation as the Self – the field of Pure Consciousness. Some mantras have healing power for specific parts of the body, but the Transcendental Meditation mantras are for transcending, which has an enormous healing effect for the whole body and mind and much more.
How do you choose the Transcendental Meditation mantra?
There are thousands of Transcendental Meditation mantras, from which a small number with known effects are used. We choose one that is suitable for you from a selection passed on by Maharishi according to a simple procedure that ensures it is correct.
Can I get my mantra from my friend, or some other source?
It is important to receive the mantra from a fully trained Transcendental Meditation teacher because they have been given a selection of mantras which have been passed down through a long line of teachers over thousands of years. The effects are therefore well known both historically and currently to be always positive and life-enhancing.
The mantras and procedures for passing them on are received by the teacher after months of intensive training, and the student is asked not to share the mantra or the way it is taught with anyone. This is for the benefit of the one already meditating (see next question), and to preserve the purity of the teaching ensuring that every person receives full and correct instruction. This is very important.
There are 4 vital aspects of the teaching that ensure that it will work for you:
Receiving a correct mantra.
Knowing how to use it properly.
Being able to correctly interpret the experiences that come as a result.
Having the support and guidance of a fully trained teacher free for the rest of your life.
Any one of these aspects missing could result in incorrect practice, lack of progress, and giving up on meditation completely, so missing a priceless opportunity to significantly enhance your life.
I don’t think I could/would want to keep my mantra a secret
This is not an uncommon feeling for people to have before they start. However after a few TM meditations, the mantra becomes very personal to you; it’s the vehicle that allows the attention to dive inwards and the mind begins to associate the mantra with the experience of settling down and enjoying inner silence. It becomes a treasured and trusted friend. Speaking the mantra aloud, chanting it or passing it on is to bring the mantra ‘out’, to reverse its natural direction – it’s of no value. Also, the Transcendental Meditation mantras only work in context. Using or speaking the mantra without its simple yet very specific instructions and personal guidance from a teacher simply doesn’t work. Because the way that TM is taught is simple and does work, once you learn you will no doubt feel, as others have, that you want friends and family to learn it in the same simple, effective and enjoyable way. We find therefore that it is actually extremely rare for anyone to abuse their mantra in this way, even if they started with the same doubt as you.
Why not Om?
As explained above, not just any sound will do. Different mantras have different effects. The mantras used in TM are a group of ‘householder’ mantras designed to enable people to experience deep, restful meditation which brings integration between inner silence and outer activity – deep rest along with energy and dynamism. Om has a strong environmental effect which is OK if chanted in a group, but if used as a personal, internal mantra, it is suited only for those wanting to withdraw from active life……
So there we have it – or do we? Enlightenment does not need a mantra, it needs the overwhelming desire to open our eyes to the truth however hard that is. What stops us doing this are the illusions which comfort us and religions top that list. They usually forbid us to look further into things which they teach us to accept without question, many of which are quite ridiculous. Sects love having secret names for God, secret rituals, secret ’truths’. In my experience they keep them secret because they are nonsensical and too easily debunked. But that is my experience. We each need our own. At least TM gives reasons for their mantras and for keeping them to yourself.
I have one saying that is close to my heart – ’the darkest hour is just before dawn’. It comforts me when times are hard as they often are. It has a history and may have been an ancient saying long before it was written down. But at least it makes sense and I have tested it to my own satisfaction very many times. However I do not meditate and mumble it over and over again. I see great benefits in occasional self hypnosis especially its ability to promote healing in ourselves but it is also easy at those times to ‘pull the wool over our eyes’. That is to say when under hypnosis – self or induced – we are wide open to suggestion and must take great care.
“The English theologian and historian Thomas Fuller appears to be the first person to commit the notion that ‘the darkest hour is just before the dawn’ to print. His religious travelogue A Pisgah-Sight Of Palestine And The Confines Thereof, 1650, contains this view:
It is always darkest just before the Day dawneth.”