What Are Vedic Meditation Mantras and How Do They Work?

“As a result of the regular practice of Vedic Meditation, one becomes less gullible, less suggestible, and more capable of usinbg their intellect in the proper way, which is to differentiate and discriminate that which is true, from that which is evidently not true.”

Thom Knoles

Episode Summary

Mantras are central to the practice of Vedic Meditation, but different understandings about what the word mantra means sometimes lead people to misunderstand how the mantra is used.

For some, the word mantra means ‘a slogan’ or a tagline of sorts, used as a way of encapsulating a group point of view. For others, a mantra is a tool to aid concentration or to use as an affirmation.

In Vedic Meditation the use of the mantra is very different. To understand this difference, you need to understand the distinction between ‘charm’ and suggestibility, which Thom explains simply and beautifully in this podcast episode.

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Episode Highlights


Mantra – A Mind Vehicle



Bija Mantra



Attraction and Distraction



Beyond Meaning



Hypnosis and Suggestibility



Suggestibility is a Social Problem



Becoming Less Suggestible



Using the Intellect in the Proper Way


Jai Guru Deva


Vedic Meditation and Mantras

Mantra – A Mind Vehicle

People are very fascinated by the word ‘mantra,’ M-A-N-T-R-A. Mantra has even entered the Western parlance. If I read a Time Magazine, I can learn that the Republican Party has a mantra, or the Democrats have a mantra.

[00:00:57] What does mantra mean? Well, it’s come to mean, in the West, something that you repeat, and that’s partially correct.

[00:01:03] There are hundreds of thousands of mantras described in the Vedic world. The Vedic worldview has the definition of mantra as being ‘man,’ M-A-N, which is a derivative of manas, which means mind, and ‘tra,’ which means a vehicle or a conveyance. A mantra, therefore, is a mind vehicle.

[00:01:25] And there are very distinct types of mantras. People learn mantras when they go to yoga classes, people are chanting aum and things like that. Whether they know, or they don’t know what the things mean, it seems to be part of the culture of going to yoga or going to other kinds of spiritual meetings, where some kind of chanting of mantras exist.

Bija Mantra

[00:01:47] And indeed those things are mantras, but they’re not what we call bija mantras. Bija, B-I-J-A is the qualifier. It means in Sanskrit, a seed. A seed mantra or bija mantra is an individuated mantra. An individual learns a specific mantra that is designed to be very resonant with that individual’s own body type and characteristics and needs.

[00:02:14] Vedic Meditation teachers are thoroughly trained in how to select the correct mantra, bija mantra, for an individual.

[00:02:23] When you learn your mantra in Vedic Meditation, you don’t speak it. You don’t chant it. It’s not something you write. It has no intended meaning, no intended meaning. It doesn’t work on the level of meaning, it works on the level of phonics or sound.

[00:02:40] The sonic value of the mantra is that it produces, when you think it, a beautiful mellifluous quality, a resonant, repetitive vibration that the mind becomes very charmed by. And that vibration, that mantra, has a nature. Its primary characteristic is that each time you repeat it, it becomes subtler, fainter, vaguer, and begins to lose its distinct boundaries of pronunciation.

[00:03:10] But as you repeat it effortlessly, it also becomes increasingly charming with each repetition. And fortunately our mind is designed in such a way that it will always move toward greater charm without any effort.

Attraction and Distraction

[00:03:26] If you’re listening to music, for example, in this room, that could be, let’s say mediocre, but from another room comes wafting in another melody, which is absolutely fascinating to you, it will not require any effort for your mind to move from the less pleasant melody to the far more pleasant melody. It just goes absolutely by itself.

[00:03:47] When we like this happening, we call it attraction. “I was attracted to the more pleasant music.” If I’m trying to concentrate on the mediocre music and I hear the more pleasant melody coming from outside, I’ll refer to the same phenomenon as distraction. “I was distracted by the more pleasant melody.”

[00:04:07] Attraction distraction, share a suffix, the word traction. Traction means pulling. The mind naturally is pulled by anything that registers greater happiness or greater charm. And so the effortlessness of Vedic Meditation in allowing the mind to move without any force in the direction of that least-excited state is mediated through an individual’s mantra, which has been selected for them by a qualified teacher.

[00:04:37] And when you think the mantra effortlessly and you know the technique of employing it, the mind will completely smoothly, frictionlessly, dive into that deep inner silence that occurs for Vedic meditators every time they practice.

Beyond Meaning

[00:04:52] Bija mantras are not on the level of meaning. We’re not thinking a word that suggests to us any particular thing. The word that you learn is intentionally kept meaning free so that when you think it, it just has a beautiful, charming, smoothing effect on the mind and decreases the mind’s excitation.

[00:05:14] It doesn’t lead to hypnosis because there’s no particular suggestion being made. Any more than if you were to listen to a beautiful wind chime, or if you were to listen to a lovely chord being played on a piano, is it causing you to be hypnotized? No it’s just whatever effect it’s having on you is being had by virtue of the sound quality interacting with you.

[00:05:38] When you think your individual bija mantra, you’re thinking something which has this beautiful resonant effect on the level of sound. It doesn’t work on the level of meaning.

Hypnosis and Suggestibility

[00:05:47] Hypnosis is a very interesting subject. It involves one thing entirely, which is the suggestibility of the person who is engaging in it. Auto-hypnosis means hypnotizing yourself. Hetero-hypnosis means somebody else is hypnotizing you.

[00:06:06] Our minds do have this propensity to identify with something which, if it doesn’t violate our intellectual standard, the psyche will tend to take that up, take up a suggestion.

[00:06:20] And so it may sound a little absurd but, if you were to sit around thinking, “I’m a queen, I’m a queen, I’m a queen,” or “I’m a king, I’m a king, I’m a king. I deserve everything and everybody should listen to me,” you could, after a period of time, indoctrinate yourself with those suggestions and begin walking around, whatever you might actually look like, and whatever effect you might actually have on anybody, behaving as if you were totally entitled to regal benefits in life.

[00:06:50] People are genuinely and legitimately suspicious of the processes of hypnosis because we have to ask the question,” Whom is it that is actually coming up with what it is that you’re suggesting to yourself?”

Suggestibility is a Social Problem

[00:07:05] In hypnosis, in hypnotic techniques there’s no doubt that hypnosis works. The real question is, is it a proper thing to be doing to add yet one more suggestion, one more thing in which we’re going to entrain and indoctrinate our mind to the already existing hundreds and hundreds of things in which we’ve been indoctrinated?

[00:07:26] Suggestibility, the cruel word would be gullibility, but suggestibility is the scientific term, is in fact a giant social problem. The fact that people can buy into conspiracy theories with the minimal amount of evidence, the way in which people can become alarmed or enchanted, enthralled or frightened, angered, or motivated in a variety of other ways, through manipulative approaches to their state of consciousness, is a huge problem.

Becoming Less Suggestible

[00:07:59] One of the interesting things that has been shown to happen with Vedic Meditation is that, as you practice the technique, because the mind grounds itself more and more in this silent inner state of Being, that super-stable, inner quiet state becomes your deep inner reality, and you know this to be the truth of your own inner Self.

[00:08:21] That deep, quiet layer of you that is unmoved by all of the features of, and charming features of, the outside world. It makes you less and less suggestible.

[00:08:34] People who practice Vedic Meditation, in fact, become less and less hypnotizable as each year goes by.

Using the Intellect in the Proper Way

[00:08:42] And so then the power of Vedic Meditation does not lie in using suggestion. When we teach people Vedic Meditation, we’re not suggesting to them that any particular experience at all happens. They simply receive a mantra, which for them is meaningless, it doesn’t work on the level of meaning.

[00:09:02] The mantra works on the level of its beautiful, resonant, mellifluous quality. When you think the sound, the innocent sensory perception, internal sensory perception of the sound, decreases the excitation of the mind, and the mind, without going through, travelling through the layers of meaning, arrives at that deep inner state of Being, which is beyond all suggestion.

[00:09:29] As a result of the regular practice of Vedic Meditation, one becomes less gullible, less suggestible, and more capable of using their intellect in the proper way, which is to differentiate and discriminate that which is true, from that which is evidently not true.

[00:09:45] And so Vedic Meditation is anti-hypnotic. It doesn’t use the processes of hypnosis in any way whatsoever.

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