One of the drawbacks of the world morphing into a global village is the dilution of customs, traditions and rituals. Some like me tweak it to suit our convenience. Some of them do not practice them since time is a premium, or some of us find it totally irrelevant to today’s times. Some consider traditions as mere dogmatic beliefs in today's space age. Some rituals are not observed as in days of yore, the least we could do is know why our ancients practiced it. An attempt can be made to understand their significance if not practiced or performed. Atleast this will help the Gennext to know about their culture in the authentic form and this is the prime reason for my culture series . One such ritual or tradition which we hold on to is the chanting of mantras. Mantras are powerful combination of words which when recited repeatedly creates positive vibrations in our body.
The chanting of mantras was a part of our ancestors daily life. Various mantras like the Mrityunjaya mantra, shiva mantra, gayathri mantra, navagraha mantra etc were recited by our ancestors as part of a daily life routine. In the name of Sandhya vandanam, these mantras were chanted in rhythmic tone with ups and downs. These mantras created a resonance in the body which is now defined as the neuro linguistic effect(NLE). The effect of the Sanskrit mantras on our neurons. This NLE is supposed to be instrumental in the production and spreading of curative chemicals in the brain which are in turn responsible for curing effect in the body. Thus mantra chanting practiced by our elders is no way a superstition it is indeed a science. Modern day doctors infact prescribe listening to mantras for BP, normalization of heart beats, and even cholesterol and adrenalin level. These mantra chanting are practised with breathing techniks called pranayam.
The mantras should be practiced in a soft and steady tone with the right pronounciation. Chanting the mantras everyday is excellent and important at a particular time because like in physics, the time, space and observer are the three important factors. Similarly the time, space and the person connected with the chanting of the mantras are the three important factors for deriving the benefit of mantras. To derive full benefits of the mantra chanting , sit in a comfortable position in a calm place. The ideal timings are the prabhata sandhya(morning twilight) and sayam sandhya( evening twilight). In these moments, the mind vacillates between one state to another. There is no stability and the mind is confused and can slip into lethargy and generate negativity. The chanting of the mantras moves the mind to a meditative state and radiates positivity. Mantras are chanted to combat stress and for positive effects in our body.
This mantra chanting is very ideal for today’s children, the reason why many schools have adapted it now along with meditation and yoga. The various lifestyle changes have an effect on our health. One of the most important factor is the shrinking of pineal gland in the children. This gland is located in the geometric center of the brain( chakra). This is larger in the children and reduces in size during the time of teenage years. But due to the lifestyle changes, it undergoes calcification earlier these days at the age of 7, 8 etc. The effect of the vibrations of these mantras help in late reduction of the pineal gland which is later taken over by parathyroid. The release of hormones by the parathyroid gland is what brings about rewiring in their behavioural patterns like withdrawing themselves, shyness and many behavioural changes which were not part of their childhood.
These mantras are best learnt under the guidance of a guru. In certain communities, Upanayanam or the sacred thread ceremony is performed where the child is initiated into the Gayathri mantra recitation by a guru. In olden days, this also acted as an initiation of the child into the vedic school. This gayathri mantra is recited 108 * times by the child because repeation of the mantra makes it more effective.
The Gayatri mantra is considered as mahamantra and is not restricted by religion, it is considered as the mantra of humanity. It is defined with 24 syllabbles corresponding to the 24 vertebrae of the spine. The backbone is what provides stability to the body, similarly the gayatri mantra brings stability to the intellect. In vedic traditions, a child is first initiated into the highest knowledge – the gayathri mantra and only after that does he receive the other forms of education. The chanting is disciplined in the ratio of 1:2:4:1 which is inhalation:retention:exhalation:retention. This way this mantra coupled with pranayam increases the lung capacity and lowers the BP and heart beat to bring a soothing effect on the nervous system. It is researched and proved that chanting the Gayatri mantra once vibrates each cell of the body 2 lakh 25 thousand times thereby boosting the blood circulation and oxygen absorption in the body.
Of course, it is important to have faith, reciting with faith will yield better results. From my personal experience, i can feel the resonance of the chanting and its effects. Now, we have introduced this to my children too, both my children chant the mantras with good faith.
(*108- is a holy number as practised in chants. much before the decimal system was discovered, the counting was done by the horizontal lines on the fingers. With the thumb as indicator the 3 lines on the 4 fingers were counted to 12 and hence most chants are in multiples of 12 like that of 36, 48 ,108etc)
(Info courtesy: my yoga teacher, traditions and rituals by muthuswamy Varadarajan and The hindu symbols by Narayan)