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Jainism – a way of life

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17

MANTRAS AND YANTRAS IN JAINISM

The origin of mantra-system can be traced in the Hindu scripture Atharvaveda . This text deals with the practical side of life, with man, his protection and security, destruction of the enemies, the use of magic charms, removing evil omens, welfare of common man, marriages, funerals and the like. The science of mantra is included in the wider spectrum of tantra.

Tantra could mean rule, regulation, system or administration. Tantra can be regarded as a branch of knowledge, which offers a systematic, and scientific method by which high spiritual powers can be achieved in human life for realisation of the self that leads one to the path of salvation. Tantra on the other hand has also earned bad name due to some practiceners desire to pursue ‘black magic’. The word tantra has been derived from the Sanskrit root tan meaning to expand.

The ultimate goal of all Tantric practices is the unification of the finite soul with the cosmic soul for which the practicener (sādhak) relies exclusively on pure love for the divine mother, the cosmic dynamic energy.

The tantrikas invoke the power (Shakti) of the Divine Mother through yogic processes to awaken the dormant state of the cosmic energy. In tantric practices the finite soul or jiva attains to become cosmic soul (static energy, Shiva) in order to unify with Shakti. This process of transformation is tantra itself. It can be done either by yogic practices where a Practicener (sādhak) awakens his dormant state of cosmic energy by way of opening chakras and thereby making energy to rise in the spinal cord. The risen energy (kundalini energy) reaches the sahasrāra chakra in the brain.

The other method is by way of using mantras and yantras. This way a sādhak attempts to unite with the mantra-god (devatā) by way of devotion and systematic recitation of mantras. He may use yantras for meditating upon. Yantras (or mandalas as Buddhists often call them) are certain figurative symbols. The energy that flows in universe goes through channels. These channels are visualised and represented in yantras. Yantra diagrams could be circular, triangular or quadrangular in shape. There is however a difference between mandala and yantra. Mandalas are not always associated with any ‘semi-gods’, whereas yantra-worship includes worshiping some semi-gods or goddesses (called devatas).

The terms mantra, yantra and devatā are correlated. The sound-variations and the names make the mantra. The symbols of letters of the alphabets and the forms are ascribed as the yantra and the ultimate knowledge is the devatā. The word mantra comes from the combination of two words. Man and tra. In Sanskrit ‘man’ means mind and ‘tra’ means instrument. Tra could also mean protection. Therefore one, which protects mind, is called mantra. Mantras are not prayers but its purpose is to form close relation and personal identification with the presiding deity.

Sound vibrations caused by rhythm of the particular letters and words are most important. Sound radiates and reveals some vibrations which can only be realised. Mantras are made up of special letters and words. Special letters are combinations of subtle sounds of single letters (aksharas). The special letters thus formed are called beej-aksharas. The particular mantra for a particular sādhak is used. There are also some personal-god (ishta) -mantras which have been devised to invoke particular devatā.

The basic mantra is Aum or Om. Hindus, Jains, Sikhs and Buddhists all believe in this first divine letter. This is called a pranav mantra. As it consists of a one seed (beej) only and it has a power of its own, it is used as a prefix to most mantras. The word ‘aum’ or the combination of other letters may be recited voicefully or voicelessly thousands of times over and over again. This process of repeated recitation is called Japa and it produces a cumulative stream of energy.

Mantra could be just one seed (beej) or the combination of certain beejākshara together with special invoking phrase. The following seeds (beej) are widely used to strengthen any mantra.

Seed

Significance

Aum

Fire seed, seed of devotion, it is a lotus and it is a main prefix. This can be used as a mantra

without attaching other words to it.

Hrim

Seed of energy, illusion

Kshi

Seed of the earth

Pa

Seed of water

Swā

Seed of wind

Seed of the space/ universe. The above Swā and this are used together.

Aim

Seed of knowledge

Klim

Seed for attraction

Shrim

Seed for wealth

Jain letter Arham

(The whole sound represents Arihant = enlightened one and has a power in it’s sound)

A is the first letter, eternal, divine. R is like fire but it is auspicious.

Ha is the seed for space. Last letter of the Sanskrit alphabet.

M is the dot for meditation.

Each mantra creates its own special kind of resonance (nāda) in the space. Thus the cosmic energy can be reflected in the world of sound through syllabic mantras. A mantra may be a benign mantra or a cruel mantra. The mere uttering of certain beejas (combination of letters) do not make mantra a living mantra. The eternal shakti has to be aroused through the mantra.

Effect of mantras

The mantras are made up of sounds. Most sounds usually have meaning but certain mantra-beej have no meaning. The significance of such mantra-beej is that it is a thought force and creates energy. It is this thought force or the will power that helps in bringing results.

In ‘Studies in Mantra Shāstra’ Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe) says:-

“Through Mantra the mind is divinely transformed, contemplating, filled by and identified with, divinity in Mantra form, which is a gross (sthula) aspect of Devi, it passes into her subtle (sukshma) light form which is the consciousness beyond the word of Māyik-forms”

Japa:- Continuous recitation of mantra, usually voicefully, is called mantra jaap or simply Japa. There are three types of Japa.

Bhāsya Japa:- Recitation of mantra continuously and loudly.

Upānshu Japa:- An observer can see that the sādhak is moving his/her lips but can not here what is being said.

Mānas Japa:- Japa done in mind only.

Haribhadrasoori, in his book the Yogasāra states that reciting Japa means practicing spirituality. But this statement is appropriate only for those who have performed all the necessary activities like cleansing one’s body physically and mentally and are doing jaap as per the procedures laid out in various books. Haribhadra also states that one can get devatā’s favours by doing japa. Japa can be done with or without the aid of a rosary. Haribhadra also writes the simple procedure of doing japa. It can be done in front of devatā (Image or yantra). It is better if it is done in pleasant natural surroundings. Once the sādhak is seated, he must keep his vision on the tip of his nose. (He is seeing everything but he is not looking anywhere. His eyes are thus fixed and though he is not thinking about anything, he is fully awake. While reciting a particular mantra his mind should ‘see’ the letters and beejs. If he cannot concentrate then he must at least temporarily give up and try later.

Japa should be done for any given time. Ideally the person, who is doing it, should decide how long he is going to continue before starting. Two ghadis (48 minutes) is the ideal time.

Japa with the aid of rosary (mālā): Different types of rosaries are available. Jains normally use rosary with 108 beads. However for the Uvasaggaharam Stotra, a rosary of 27 beads are also used. One can recite one mantra whilst moving one bead at a time. The whole Uvasaggaharam Stotra can be recited while moving one bead at atime.

Japa by using fingers. We have three divisions on each of our finger. There are twelve divisions on four fingers. By moving the finger of other hand on these divisions we can count one to twelve. Thus 12 Japas can be done this way. However by using both hands one can do Japa in the multiple of 12. This way can do twelve x nine = 108 Japas. This is same as using a mālā.

Yantras

Yantra are visible form of the symbolism of mantras. Yantras are painted on papers or leaves or carved out on metal plates. In worship it is said that even a human body is a yantra. . The yantras are centred on a single point on which a sādhak concentrates. Often mantras are inscribed on such yantras. Once the sādhak enters into the yantra he gradually makes progress towards the inner patterns. Finally he focuses all his energy on the centre point.

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Some yantras associated with Uvassagaharam Stotra and the Bhaktamar Stotra (Two of the famous nine recitations) are given here. These yantras are used in ceremonial worship practices or as focus point in the meditation.