One of the things I love about chanting mantras is how unequivocal it is. You either do it or you don’t.
When I’ve chanted a mantra 108 times I have no doubt in my mind as to what I have done. What it might mean to have done it is another matter, but done it I have, no question. There are many things we do that have such a sureness about them – the washing up, the shopping, the hoovering. You see the results on the draining board, the full fridge, the clean floor. So what’s the big deal about chanting mantras? The answer is in the physical, temporal and countable nature of this particular spiritual practice.
Chanting mantras is not something you can ‘sort of’ do. You can ‘sort of’ meditate, you can ‘sort of’ do yoga and you can ‘sort of’ cultivate a feeling of compassion. But in the chanting of mantras there’s no two ways about it. You’ve chosen the mantra, you’ve taken your beads and started at the first and chanted through to the last. You can’t pretend to yourself that you’ve done it when you haven’t and you can’t convince yourself that you haven’t done it when you have.
The nature of a spiritual practice is interpretative. One person’s prayer is another person’s useless muttering; my meditation experience is someone else’s scoffed at navel-gazing. Short of miracles – water into wine, raising the dead etc – there is no physical evidence for spiritual practice and its effects. It happens inside the one who practices and, though it may manifest in changes in behaviour and attitudes or appearance, there is no firm evidence for it one way or the other.
Many of us who are drawn to spiritual practice are attracted by its promise of healing. Something in us is not happy, not comfortable, not OK. We may even know the reasons for that. Spiritual practice represents the possibility that we may be able to transcend our unhappiness, discomfort and non-OK-ness without the necessity of hating the reasons for those feelings, or the one(s) who brought those feelings to us. Blame, hatred and vengefulness only breed more of the same negativity and the cycle of hurt and hurting spins on. In the end it is all predicated on feelings, and those are as open to interpretation as the surface of the earth is to the sky.
Chanting mantras, no matter what it might represent to this or that person, is a spiritual practice that exists firmly in quantity, time and action. It makes no real difference what it brings. Chanting for anything is not what counts; what counts, 108 times, is the execution of the act, 108 times. There’s no leap of faith to make, just a breath, engagement of the voicebox and mouth parts, repeated 108 times.
Try it – what have you got to lose? The illusion that you know what it’s all about? Just a few minutes a day can deliver you from such a burden as that 🙂
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha