The Heart of Mantra Meditation
Learn how to tame the mind through the Hare Krishna mantra.
The wisdom texts of the Bhakti tradition have a specific and compassionate design to help us access this suitable practice and detachment, in the form of a specific style of meditation using mantra. Many of us are familiar with this word, but not as much as with its actual meaning. Contemporary Bhakti scholar Stephen Knapp explains:
Man means the mind, tra means deliverance. Therefore, a spiritual mantra is the pure sound vibration for delivering the mind from material to spiritual consciousness. This is the goal of any spiritual path.
The Bhakti tradition of the Gita recommends the chanting of the Hare Krishna mantra (Hare Krishna/Hare Krishna/Krishna Krishna/Hare Hare/Hare Rama/Hare Rama/Rama Rama/Hare Hare), which is known as the maha-mantra (“great chant for deliverance”). This mantra consists of three names of the Divine: Hare (the feminine aspect of the Divine), Krishna (the all-attractive aspect of the Divine), and Rama (the pleasure reservoir of the Divine).
Just by resounding the vibrations of these names within one's body, mind, and heart, one comes into contact with the Divine, with God, who is not different from His/Her holy names. Chanting mantras engages so many of our faculties, from our hands delicately handling our prayer beads to our voices soaring in the musical chanting of these mantras, also known as kirtan.
This is something I do every day (quite early in the day, befitting my monk lifestyle) in a consistent timeframe and manner, which gives me fuel to swim the upstream tide of spiritual life in the material world. Paul McCartney said that meditation to him was akin to brushing one's teeth, in that he couldn't imagine going without it. I certainly agree with that but I know as well the intention behind meditation must go deeper.
The chanting of mantras allows us, as we learn to focus, control, and harness the power of our mind for spiritual good, to gain access to these deeper benefits of meditation. By chanting the Hare Krishna mantra, for example, we gain access to the heart of the reality of our being, as spirit soul seeking to return to our eternal loving relationship with God.
Truly, meditation is meant to bring us to this reality, and while we can certainly enjoy and prosper from the stress relief and mental growth we get from our practice, we should always be striving for the divine love that is within us, which allows us to fully connect to God and to all life around us.