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Monthly Inspiration: September 2014

Mantra and Japa

By Jessica Bellofatto

The thought manifests as the word;
The word manifests as the deed;
The deed develops into habit;
And habit hardens into character;
So watch the thought and its ways with care,
And let it spring from love
Born out of concern for all beings…
As the shadow follows the body,
As we think, so we become.
Buddha, Dhammapada
Indian philosopher & religious leader (563 BC - 483 BC)

I love this teaching from the Dhammapada, and for me it also brings up the idea of using a mantra as a meditative tool but also as a daily tool to continually check in with ourselves; to shift any negative thinking into positive thinking. 'As we think, so we become.' This is a powerful and very radical idea. How often do we blame others or external circumstances for our own suffering or unhappiness or misfortune when we should really be looking in the mirror? My teachers at Jivamukti long ago defined mantra as 'protection FROM the mind.' This resonated for me because who couldn't use a little bit of protection from our own minds? It sounds funny but it's true. The mind creates and sustains so much separateness, so much divisiveness, so much fantasy and illusion that if we could step back or step out of the mind for a moment (or many moments) and gain some clarity and perspective, we would likely be much better off. So Japa, or repetition of a mantra, can be an amazing way to protect, and then ultimately, transcend the mind.

Yoga is defined as our natural state. The state in which we are missing nothing. The state of happiness, bliss, unconditional love, our original, true nature. Doesn't this sound lovely? As practitioners of Yoga, as sadhakas (spiritual seekers), we are taught various ways to return to this original state. Mantra is one of these ways. And, as the Buddha taught, as we think, so we become. So we work, throughout the day, every day, all day (?!) One word, one phrase, one chant can shift us immediately. When repeated over and over again, it can be the tonic that soothes the soul, quiets the mind, and deeply releases tension in the body that again, might not exist if the mind was not harboring so much negativity!

The sacred syllable AUM (OM) is a mantra. The English phrase 'Let Go' is a mantra. The Little Engine that Could 'I think I can, I think I can' is a mantra.

The late BKS Iyengar said, "Repetition of a mantra or sacred prayer like AUM is called Japa. As I mentioned before, the mind tends to fluctuate and become distracted. By bringing it back to a single point like AUM, the Sadhaka silences the thoughts and becomes one with body and mind. For me, focusing on the breath while in the asana with total one-pointedness is meditation. It is with this steadiness of intelligence that one witnesses the presence of soul."

So Mr. Iyengar also points out that breath can be mantra.

This month at KamaDeva Yoga, we will chant various mantras and translate them together. We will explore how the use of the breath in asana practice can also be used to 'protect the mind.' We will learn how a mantra can be in any language but that the Sanskrit language is the language of Yoga, and the Sanskrit language is a vibrational language, literally vibrating our cells at a higher frequency, making us feel good.

Join us as we explore the use of mantra as a yogic tool. We can't wait to see you!

Much Love, Jessica and the KamaDeva Family

KamaDeva Yoga, 15 Lumber Lane, 2nd Fl, East Hampton, NY 11937 Tel: 917.301.6919 Monthly Inspiration Archives