The Sri Yantra is an incredible, 12,000-year-old symbol known as “the holy wheel,” and is, by far, the most popular personal talisman in the East. Drawings of this symbol have been found on ancient stones in India.
The Sri Yantra is a symbol of wealth, harmony and protection. The word Sri means abundance, wealth or splendor. Yantra means “instrument” or “machine.” The meaning of yantra is usually translated as “a tool for the mind.” Yantras are an important visual aid for meditation. In addition, the form itself is a conductor of positive energy.
The Sri Yantra design can be placed outside or inside a home for spiritual protection. This intricate design can also be incorporated in jewelry and personal accessories.
The five-element system is an ancient healing system focused on the transformation of energy. This system uses a basic set of elements to classify forces in nature, types of food, personalities, symbols, colors, mantras and more.
There are some differences between various natural element systems, although they all share the fundamental principle of change through energy conversion. In the Vedic system, the elements utilized are water, earth, ether, air and fire. Mantras can be classified according to each element.
Although all of the elements are powerful for different purposes, I’d like to concentrate on how to use the fire element and fire mantras to literally light a positive fire in your life. The concept of sacred fire exists in nearly every spiritual tradition. Fire is a physical symbol of the removal of obstacles within and without. In fact, chanting near or over a physical fire can increase the action of mantras in general.
To expand your capacity for breath is to expand your capacity for life. The lungs are the ideal container for the breath and for the production of sound. Breathing takes a unique combination of strength and relaxation. As you breathe in, the alveoli—clusters of tiny “balloons” at the ends of the branches of your airways—are filled and expanded. As you breathe out, the “balloons” relax and deflate.
The capacity of the lungs can be increased in several ways, including chanting mantras and singing in general. The diaphragm (below the lungs) and the intercostal muscles (between the ribs) play key roles in both singing and breathing. As you expand your lungs to breathe deeply to sing, the ribs expand and the intercostal muscles will strengthen and increase the potential volume of your lungs.
The holiday season brings to mind the ever-present story of the Wise Men who followed a star to find the baby Jesus. Clearly, astrology is an important science! In fact, some experts in Eastern disciplines view astrology as the main Vedic science connected to mantras.
In his book, Manta Yoga and Primal Sound, David Frawley explains the association: “Mantras work on a subtle level that reflects the same forces as the planets and stars. While astrological positions are patterns of cosmic light, mantras are patterns of cosmic sound.”
One of the most amazing things about Vedic astrology and the use of mantras is that you don’t have to know whether a particular planet is placed well in your chart or not. Although a deeper knowledge of astrology or a consultation with a Vedic astrologer can be extremely helpful, astrological mantras function like adaptogens.
The old mansion in Chestnut Hills was three stories high, including an attic apartment. There were thirteen rooms for rent. I was in my early twenties and new in town with very little experience living on my own. I responded to an ad, rented a room and started a job in a restaurant downtown.
Shortly after settling in, I found a spiritual organization that appealed deeply to me. I began to attend regular study groups and services. This particular path was going to be a central influence on my soul’s journey for decades to come. My association with the group was a significant milestone.
One day a few months later, a friend I had met at work came over to visit me at the mansion. The phone in the kitchen rang while we were getting something to eat. My friend answered and went upstairs to let the couple in the attic apartment know that they had a call. There were no cell phones or wireless phones back then!
The rain was coming down lightly as the sun was setting on a beautiful spring evening. I was driving from Livingston to Bozeman, crossing into the shadow of the mountains as I reached the pass separating the Gallatin and Bridger mountain ranges. The temperature was 45F. The danger of snow and blizzards was only a distant concern. The date was March 25, 2016.
As I drove along, I passed a car. Then another. And another. Something about this struck me as odd. I am a fairly conservative driver. Usually the other cars are passing me! I glanced down at my speedometer. Sixty miles an hour. Exactly the speed limit. The road curved gently back and forth between the mountains. Why was everyone driving so slowly?
I felt an increasing sense of fear and dread. Something was wrong. Maybe there was an accident ahead, or I had missed a sign about road construction. Maybe there were elk or deer on the road that everyone else knew about except me. Whatever was happening, I’d better slow down, too. Now!
The benefits for the brain of chanting mantras or reciting sacred texts in Sanskrit has moved from the realm of ardent devotees into the arena of hard science. James Hartzell, Ph.D., a neuroscientist researching the topic, has looked at physical changes that happen in the brain during the memorization and recitation of Sanskrit texts. He is calling this “The Sanskrit Effect.”
Hartzell has discovered that Sanskrit pandits (Brahmin scholars) have over ten percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, a measurement consistent with higher cognitive functioning. The right hippocampus, connected to long and short-term memory and sensitive to auditory and visual patterns, has also been shown to have more grey matter across nearly seventy-five percent of its structure.
When I first began chanting, I had been on thyroid medication for over twenty years. The thyroid is the largest organ associated directly with the throat. According to esoteric teachings, the throat is the seat of power where emotions, intentions, praise, and criticism are all expressed.
The women in my extended family have struggled with thyroid issues for generations. On a physical level, my genetics for this particular organ are probably not ideal. Energetically speaking, the throat is a place of both vulnerability and strength. This can be heard in many of our idiomatic expressions. To attack someone else with lethal intent is to “go for the throat.” To put forth great effort is to “grab something by the throat.”
Chanting is a fantastic tool for creating a healthy, balanced thyroid because the vibrations of singing pass directly through the thyroid gland. There are also specific sounds that are precisely connected to the throat chakra.
Everyone experiences heartbreak of some kind. We’ve all got our life credentials! I suppose we are each affected to different degrees by different types of experiences. The depth of the heartache seems to be related to the significance of the event in your life and the things that matter to you the most.
I know what it’s like to have pain in your heart that keeps you awake at night. That kind of pain is shockingly physical—the kind that makes it hard to breathe or move or think. You don’t know how or when the pain will cease and whether hope and joy will ever return. But now, I have a new way to heal myself. I have learned to chant!
A few years ago, I had an experience that was deeply painful. No matter how desolate I was feeling in the aftermath, every morning I got up and drove my car to an isolated spot (to avoid disturbing my family), turned on my music and began to chant. It was a huge effort on many levels.
Neuroscientists are beginning to recognize the amazingly positive effects of group singing. Kirtan is a form of devotional group singing. Kirtan is the repetition of mantras or longer chants known as bhajans. This form of group singing is sometimes led in a call and response format and sometimes as a sing-a-long.
Research is proving that group singing dispels anxiety and depression even more effectively than medication. Best of all, there are no problematic side effects. Group singing changes the chemistry of the brain and the body. Singing releases endorphins and oxytocin (feel-good hormones) and reduces cortisol (a stress-related hormone). The practice of group singing appears to be a magical antidote to the modern poisons of stress and isolation.
These changes have been shown to happen irrespective of skill level. In other words, you don’t have to be a skilled singer to reap the benefits!