Maha-Mantra meditation

By Swami Bhakti Aloka Paramadvaiti

The word mantra descends from two Sanskrit syllables: man, which means "mind", and tra, which means "liberate". In other words, the mantra is a sound vibration that helps to liberate our mind from the influence and anxiety of the material energy. The mantra is a help to fix the mind, to calm it and send waves of peace and harmony. Maha means "great". The mantras are generally extracts from sacred texts like Veda, Upanishads and Puranas. All mantras and all processes for self-realisation are condensed in the maha-mantra Hare Krishna. Besides this, Lord Caitanya established this mantra, the chanting of the Holy Names of the Lord, as the recommended process for self-realisation in this age.

The transcendental vibration established in the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra, is the sublime method to reawaken our original consciousness. The chanting is a call for the Lord and His spiritual Energy, that He will give protection to the conditioned soul. The words Krishna and Rama direct to the Lord Himself. The name Krishna means "the most attractive" and Rama means "the highest pleasure". Thus the meaning of the Hare Krishna mantra is:

"Oh my most attractive Lord, the origin of all pleasure!
Oh spiritual Energy of the Lord, please be so kind
and engage me in Your devotional service!"

The chanting of the Holy Names, or the maha-mantra Hare Krishna, can be done in two ways; individually, which could be in silence, mumbling or with high voice, or it could be collectively with others, sometimes accompanied by music instruments. For personal meditation, it is recommended to chant the maha-mantra on Japa, a rosary with 108 beads, made especially for this purpose. For each bead one repeats the whole mantra.

The maha-mantra should be pronounced carefully and as it is written. One should repeat it over and over again. Let your mind bathe in the purifying vibration that comes from the maha-mantra. Furthermore, this mantra has another advantage: you can use it anywhere and anytime; at home, going on bus or plane. Lord Caitanya has given us the maha-mantra. He has recommended it for the ordinary fallen souls and He has given it to everyone, whether qualified or not. The only condition to chant it is to have faith. If you have just five minutes or if you are sad or bored - start to repeat the mantra with high voice, or mentally if necessary, and you will immediately withdraw from the mundane noise and your thoughts become clearer.

To chant the Holy Names of the Lord is not just an act of belief and hope, but also a scientific act to come in contact with, and automatically get connected to, the Absolute Being. It is through this connection that one becomes purified; it is not simply a question of faith. When there is a contact between two substances, the superior substance has always influence on the inferior, and through this contact, the inferior substance will assimilate the characteristics of the superior. This means that when we chant the Holy Names of the Lord, we will by the contact assimilate the characteristics of the Absolute Truth, and these characteristics are pure. In other words, to chant the Holy Names of the Lord means to associate directly with Him. And when one associates with God, one acquires divine characteristics; and when one is completely purified, one becomes an associate to the Supreme Lord. The chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra gives principally the following effects:

1. It purifies the heart
2. It extinguishes the fire of the material existence, transforming the material consciousness to spiritual consciousness
3. It lets us taste the most elevated nectar at each step
4. It grants us Prema, or divine love

Since we are living souls of a spiritual nature, on principle we are entities who are conscious of God, but due to our contact with the material nature since time immemorial, our consciousness is distorted by the material atmosphere. The material atmosphere in the world where we are acting at the present is called Maya, or illusion. Maya means "that which is not". So, in what consists this illusion? It consists in that we all try to be possessors of the material world, while we in reality are in the jaws of its many laws. If a servant in an artificial way tries to imitate the Almighty Lord, this is called illusion. We try to exploit the resources of the material nature, but each time we get more and more entangled in its complicity. Therefore, although we are dedicated to a hard fight to conquer the nature, nevertheless we have become dependent on her. This illusory fight against the material nature can be stopped immediately if we reawaken our eternal Krishna consciousness. To chant Hare Krishna is the transcendental process to revive this original and pure consciousness. By chanting this liberating sound vibration, we can purify our hearts from distrust and fear.

This singing of the Hare Krishna mantra comes from a spiritual plane, and therefore this sound vibration is superior to all the inferior layers of the consciousness, which means the sensual, mental and intellectual ones. Accordingly it is not necessary to understand the language of the mantra, neither it requires any mental speculation or intellectual adjustment to sing this maha-mantra. It is automatic since it comes from the spiritual plane, and therefore anyone can participate in the chanting, without any requirement of quality.

This practicing, which is an amplification of repeating the maha-mantra, embrace many things: the common shared sentiment that characterize those who chant together, elevates the level of the consciousness and stimulate the forming of strong spiritual bounds in the congregation. The individuals, as well as the groups, are benefited by the act of chanting, since it elevates the mind to the level of devotion, which prepares it for meditation.

To sing during some moments before reciting the maha-mantra in a meditative way, is a simple and effective method to canalise excessive negative energy in a right direction, because all songs are expansions of the maha-mantra. Many people initially feel strange or uncomfortable to begin the act of chanting. But later, persons from the most different backgrounds and attitudes, find themselves marvellously transformed of this experience, since it is something that demands so little but gives so much in exchange. There is no need to be a great singer or meditator to experience the warmth and love that comes from chanting simple phrases of devotional character.

Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama
Rama Rama Hare Hare

Swami B.A. Paramadvaiti
Translation: Manah Siksa Devi Dasi