Mantra as 'Active Thought'
Often we interpret the meaning of the word 'Mantra' to be that which frees (trayate) the mind (manah). However, the scholar Andre Padoux has investigated the meaning of mantra is its most ancient context. Padoux explains that Man, the verbal root, refers to an 'active form of thought' and Tra means an 'instrument, a faculty or a function'. Therefore Mantra effectively means 'an instrument of thought' or a process of using intensified thought to achieve a specific ends.
To utilise concentrated thought in any endeavor requires us to harness the mind to some degree, an accomplishment which Arjuna, the friend and disciple of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, considered more difficult than controlling the wind. However, Krishna convinces him that it is indeed possible by steady practice (abhyasa) and detachment (vairagya). In a simple sense this means to keep thinking and doing the right things while letting go of unbeneficial thoughts and acts.
In the sixth chapter of the Gita, Krishna explains that the mind should be focused on ones spiritual essence (atma), which in time will pacify the mind an enable it to experience bliss. However, for one who has never made any deliberate attempt to contain the mind, she will quickly appreciate that the mind is an unruly force and resists all our attempts to control it. The mind being the medium of consciousness in the conditioned state of the soul, determines our future movements, experiences and achievements. At death, the mind and its contents of thought determine our next life and continue the journey with us. The key to determining our future and happiness is in the determined effort to influence and control our mind. Therefore, Krishna refers to the mind as either our friend or enemy, controlled it is our friend. Conquered, the mind can transport us to realms beyond our identification with matter and the consequent suffering that stems from such identification; unconquered everything is left to folly and the deeper integration of our being with matter.
In all Yoga processes, tackling the mind is unavoidable. Having the right thought at the right time, until slowly a steady continuum of beneficial thought and transcendent consciousness is attained, is basically at the heart of the practice. To facilitate such thought ancient seers used sound and intensified thought, a process which is now commonly known as Mantra Meditation. Wither recited aloud, in a whisper or in the form of cultivated thought; Mantras contain a depth of meaning which become one with consciousness through repetition (japa). They steady our mind by bringing it to a tranquil state and ushering it forward towards a state of purity or goodness. In eventuality we should then find ourselves, seated in the core of our being and next to blissful source of all beings.
To often the use of Mantra becomes a mechanical activity separate from its purpose in utilisation of intensified thought towards the minds reformation. Mantras become something the chanter rattles off within in time period as part of a religious act either out of habit, fear or to impress others. In other words the mantra becomes separate from the chanters conscious journey towards liberation, it is no longer an 'active form of thought' but rather an unconscious and hopeful babble . In effect the Mantras become dead Mantras and serve little purpose other that the mental ease or compensation a chanter might feel while considering she is doing something religious. Therefore as we sit to recite our mantra we must allow our thoughts to become focused upon the sounds and meaning of the mantra. This is 'active thought'. We must then allow ourselves to accept the mental and emotional disposition the Mantra incites. As we continue to chant the Mantra will become one and inseperable from our being, we will then feel and perceive its essence and our consciousness will be lifted beyond the binary opposites of material joy, saddness, desire and repulsion. Entering soul space or realisation of the self we will then experience a tangible glimmer of absolute joy and beauty. We will be 'freed by our mind' only when our mind is no longer free.
Try this Mantra
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare
Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare