“Singing or chanting are very beautiful and beneficial ways of channeling emotional energy.” ~Swami Rama
On one of my recent trips up north, I decided to spend an evening in Rishikesh specially to attend the Ganga Aarti (a ritual of worship by the river Ganga) at Parmarth Niketan. I had heard a lot about it and the last time we were there, we had missed it due to an extended session of river rafting. This time I made sure I was there well before it started. The sun was yet to set and the sky was still lit with orange hues. The priests had just finished arranging the aartis. The crowd was gradually stepping in and finding their place on the steps by the river bank. And then it began.
The air was soon filled with the soothing sounds of live chanting and soulful music. The vibration of the mantras was pulsating. The focus had subconsciously shifted towards positivity. I was amazed to see a group of young boys with special places facing the river to perform the aarti. The atmosphere was pious and pristine. With more people joining in the aarti, the divine energy of the group kept rising. Age, country and language had no barriers as there were Indians and foreigners together enjoying the rhythmic reverberations. I could feel the goosebumps of this positive spiritual energy that surrounded us by the river Ganga. ‘Maa Ganga.. Ganga Maa…’. ‘Maha Mrityunjaya mantra..’ and other resonating mantras seemed to raise the aura of all present. So profound was the awareness of the moment. Yet so intense was the consciousness to be easily lost in a trance!
“By chanting, we strip away our outer appearances, our smaller selves, to let the light of our true nature shine forth.” ~Rabbi Tirzah Firestone
This whole experience got me thinking of how mantras and prayers have always been an integral part of our tradition. We were introduced to mantras in our childhood when it was so easy to rote learn without questioning what they meant. Chanting of mantras is an ancient practise of Vedic origin but transcends all languages and religions. Be it in Jainism, Buddhism, Islamic or Hebrew, prayers and mantras are used to invoke the Divine entities. Long before science could support it, mantras were instrumental in healing practices. So also mantras were used to initiate a relaxed state of mind before going into meditation. They have a frequency that helps us align with our higher consciousness. Mantras act as a vehicle for our awareness to move inward. A means to the path of enlightenment.
It is scientifically proven that music and sounds have a positive effect on our body and mind. Here are the benefits of chanting mantras:
- Calms our mind
- Stimulates the brain cortex
- Reduces the heart rate
- Improves blood pressure
- Charges the nervous system
- Synchronizes the right and left brain hemispheres
- Awakens our creative processes
- Removes energy blocks and energises our chakras
- Increases our level of concentration and focus
There are groups of ladies I’m aware of that use mantra chanting for eradicating troubles in other lives. Of helping people they don’t even know of by the sheer power of group chanting and praying. ‘Om’ chanting is a regular feature in yoga and meditation practices. There are many chanting classes burgeoning world- wide. And it doesn’t matter if they do not get the pronunciation right of the Sanskrit mantras. The benefits of meeting together and chanting, feeling the group energy rise and connecting with our inner self far outweigh the challenges of language or diction.
That memorable evening by the Ganges will be etched in my memory for a really long time. It has reinforced my belief and faith in chanting mantras. It is a practice I want to consistently reiterate with my children. I hope more and more people embrace this powerful practice in their daily lives.