The Significance of Mantra in Ayurveda
The word Mantra in Sanskrit is derived from "Mananaat Traayate" meaning "Just by chanting (mananaat) we can protect ourselves (traayate)". Mantras are Sanskrit words loaded with power and sounds capable of penetrating our body into deep levels of consciousness by their unique sounds and the vibrations they create. The Vedas interpret the vowels and consonants of Sanskrit as coming from the Damaru (drum) of Lord Siva. Hence in Sanskrit grammar, they are referred to as "Maaheswara Sutraani" or the formulae of Maheswara. Also a detailed description is given about the parts from where the sound of vowels and consonants originate. For instance, to pronounce "Va" in Sanskrit, the teeth and lips are involved. The individual letters of the Sanskrit alphabet are derived from the basic strands of energy vibrating at the core of our existence. The vibrations created by our sound, thought and actions really do have an impact on our inner self, our environment and hence the universe. Here rises the need to be positive and to always be optimistic.
Mantras create a positive, friendly and a healing effect (of course combined with bad yantras they produce evil effects, but that's not the subject here). In Ayurveda, apart from herbal remedies for diseases, a stress is laid on Mantra recitation also to enhance the healing. From the vedic period man has been constantly associated with Mantras - right from the moment man is born till he breathes his last. His first connection begins with Jaatakarma (ie), the reciting of mantras in the newborn's right ear, requesting the Gods to protect the newborn from evil spirits. We can find numerous references emphasizing Mantra recitation in Ayurvedic texts. In the treatment of Jwara (fever), Charaka recommends chanting Vishnu Sahasranama. In the treatment of snake bites, antidotes are prepared while chanting specific mantras to increase the efficacy of the medicine.
Recent research in the efficacy of mantras and sound therapy on our body and healing has revealed what our yogic seers have already experienced, advocated and which has been passed on from time immemorial to the present day - the Power of Mantra Yoga or the chanting of Mantras. The harmones and neurotransmitters throughout the human organism communicate with each other through distinctive vibrational sympathies. That is when we are physically and mentally healthy, it means there is a harmony within our cells which resonate well with each other. When this harmony of empathic music among our cells falls out of tune, we get disease.
Nothing attunes the body, mind and breath like the pulsation of sound. The phonetics of Sanskrit strike the palate at multiple reflex points stimulating energy in numerous meridians that awaken the dormant parts of the brain (most of which are as yet unused in average man) and enhance the circulation and flow of energy throughout the body. Apart from the physical nervous system, our Rishis classified some 72,000 naadis (bundles of tubular vessels) as part of the psychic nervous system to be the counterparts of the physical nervous system.. When a mantra is chanted, sound energy is generated and the vibrations of that energy is diffused and distributed into the physical nervous system by these naadis through six major chakras (wheels in Sanskrit and plexus in physiology) situated along the length of the spinal column and a seventh at the crown of the head.
Owing to its uniqueness, Ayurveda cannot be interpreted in modern terms. But for our understanding, the nearest possible correlation is tried here. These Chakras can be correlated to the plexuses of the modern physiology. The six chakras and their corresponding plexuses are given here in ascending order from the base of the spine.
- Moolaadhaara Chakra
- Sacral Plexus.
- Lumbar Plexus.
- Solar (celiac) Plexus.
- Brachial Plexus.
- Cervical Plexus.
- Pineal gland.
The plexuses are related to transmitting and receiving nerve impulses and blood circulation. Now coming back, when energy passes from the naadis to these plexuses of the physical nervous system, it turns neural and is passed on to the nerves which in turn obey the brain and then get circulated throughout the body through blood.
Any sound will do well in enhancing healing and make us healthy, so what is so special about Mantras? What difference does it make between reciting a mantra and talking when both are a group of letters? Back to the six Chakras now to get the answers. Each Chakra in its subtle form is a lotus with varied number of petals.
Each petal represents an Akshara (letter or alphabet) apart from a main letter, the Beejaakshara (beeja means seed). Each Chakra has a presiding deity with unique colour and features, responsible for nurturing specific organs of our body. For example, the Moolaadhara Chakra is made up of a 4 petalled lotus. The letters residing in the 4 petals are VA, S'A, SHA and SA. Its Beejaakshara is LUM. The presiding deity Saakini has five faces and resides in the Asthi dhatu (bone mass) to nurture it.
Here comes the Ayurvedic connection to Mantras as chanting of a particular Beejakshara will nourish that particular Dhatu. There are Seven Dhatus according to Ayurveda and here the six chakras with the Sahasrara at the crown of the head nourish the seven Dhatus and hence our body. Depending on the disease, the patient's condition, the Dhatus affected, Mantra chanting brings about healing. At the same time, slow or fast healing depends also on the mantra or sloka chosen for the purpose and the concentration and sincerity of the chanting person.
Just as gold in its pure form (24k) is too soft to make jewelry, mere group of words combined at random cannot effectively create healing vibrations. Gold is alloyed with copper or silver to strengthen and harden it in order to make jewels. Likewise, Mantras are chosen in a specific manner (chandas etc.. ) for a specific purpose and are loaded with power. So chanting Mantras has an effect in all planes and at all levels from the physical, physiological, mental levels to the subtle Chakras and into the subtlest energy vibrating at the core of our existence.