Yoga and Mantra Meditation
Westerners tend to associate the practice of yoga with the physical regimen of poses, stretches and breathing, commonly known as hatha or astanga yoga. There is much more than this in the ancient art of yoga. Meditation, specifically mantra meditation, is an integral part of the yogic tradition as it helps bring the practitioner closer to the true and ultimate goal of yoga: union with the Supreme.The Sanskrit word "yoga" means "union" or to "link up with", specifically referring to linking up with God or the Supreme Being.
The practice of hatha and astanga yoga is a preliminary process designed to assist the yogi in controlling their senses to able to focus better on the Supreme. Ultimately the practitioner is able to control and raise their life air through the chakras to attain union.A mantra is a sound vibration or specific series of words or sounds. The word "mantra" is derived from the Sanskrit word "man" which means "mind" and "tra" which means "to deliver from" or "away". A mantra is therefore a sound vibration that takes the mind away from the material and puts it on the spiritual. Hence, mantra meditation is often referred to as "transcendental sound" because the sound of the mantra transcends the material world.
Mantras are always derived from names of God or descriptions of attributes of the Supreme Being. Thus, mantras often include Sanskrit names for God such as Rama, Chandra, Krishna and Siva. Also, Sanskrit terms such as 'Hare" (referring to the energy of God) and "Shanti" (peace) are quite common.The process of mantra meditation is quite simple. The yogi focuses his attention on the sound of the mantra and repeats it softly to him or herself, or sings and chants it aloud with others. Whenever the mind wanders, attention is brought back to the sound of the mantra.
This can be done while using meditation beads (japa yoga), or in groups with musical instruments (kirtan). In time, with practice, the practitioner is better able to focus the mind on the transcendental sound and the mind has less of a tendency to wander.The purpose of mantra meditation involves a fascinating philosophy. First of all, it is believed that the names of God have a purifying effect on the consciousness.
The body is seen as a temporary, material container, housing the spirit soul (one's true essence) and surrounded by a subtle material body, or the mind. The regular hearing and chanting of mantras is seen to help clear away the confusion and misery caused by identifying oneself with one's body and mind.This false bodily identification is seen as the root of all pain and bewilderment. Imagine the spirit soul as a brilliant, shining gemstone but one cannot perceive this because it is covered by dirt and dust. Mantras serve as a sort of transcendental polishing cloth, slowly taking away the dust so that the yogi can begin to experience the true essence of the self - eternal, full of knowledge and bliss!.
Mantra meditation is therefore an important aspect of the process of self-realization. This is the ultimate goal of yoga: the realization that we are spirit in essence, part and parcel of the Supreme Spirit. The more we progress on the path of yoga, the more peaceful, blissful and loving we become. This is spiritual life.
Michael Russell Your Independent guide to Yoga.Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Michael_Russell.
By: Michael Russell
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