What is a Mantra?

Photographing Vibration

When we hear music we love, we can feel it moving us. Something in us is vibrated by the music. It's as if our very cells are dancing, even if we are sitting still. Here is a video of water, with some cornstarch in it to thicken it, vibrating to a frequency produced electronically. The patterns are interesting and orderly, and bear resemblance to the yantras drawn by meditators.

One of the hardest points to get across to beginning meditators is that we don't sit still in order to try to force stillness on ourselves. Life IS motion. We only sit still in meditation in order to savor the motion of life – the same way that people sometimes sit still when listening to music. There are times when we want to let the motion of the music carry us deep inside.

When we meditate, the substance out of which we are made vibrates in harmony with the universe. You can feel it. You can feel the disorder and the order dancing in your body. It's hard to take, but afterwards you feel great.

Mantras, as in the sounds we listen to in meditation, vibrate our subtle structures. As we fall in love with the sounds of the mantras something in us vibrates in resonance. Mantras are usually some variation on a hum. Think of the sounds you make when you are in pleasure or delight: ohhhh, or mmmmmm, or Ahhhh. These are the sounds we make spontaneously when we are in pleasure or awe. Something in us vibrates in resonance with that delight. Ahhhhmen. Amen.

In lectures, I often show slides from the book Cymatics, by Hans Jenny. Here is a video of a cornstarch slurry being vibrated. You can see the orderly patterns emerging and dancing. Link.

The ultimate mantra, of course, would be to listen to the tuning fork of your own soul, your own divine essence, and then notice your life as it is – what, if anything, is out of tune with my essence?

YouTube has some interesting videos on resonance. The way sound vibrations can shake up matter.

This first one employs a high-pitched sound. The sound is somewhat irritating but the pattern is beautiful. Turn the volume down.

A video of Hans Jenny, in one of his Cymatics demonstrations.