Ancient Teachings and Practices
Mala Meditation Beads
The yogic path is steeped in ancient teachings and auspicious practices. One tradition is the use of mala beads in conjunction with meditation practice. A mala is a string of beads used in japa (mantra) meditation to count mantras, prayers, or intentions. Mala is the Sanskrit word meaning garland.
Mala meditation beads are an ancient tool that when used have the benefit of keeping the mind focused and clear from intruding mundane thoughts, anxieties, obsessions, and so on. By fixing the attention and thoughts on a Divine mantra, the mind becomes purified.
A full mala strand contains 108 counting beads, in addition to the guru bead. The number 108 is permeated with deep meaning within numerous traditions, and represents the wholeness of existence. To learn more about the significance of 108, click here. The guru bead provides a starting and ending point for counting the repetitions of the mantra, and is never counted or crossed over. In India, where this tradition originates, it is known that one never crosses the True Guru. There is also a smaller, 27-bead version of the mala, which can be used for a walking meditation practice.
The tassel signifies the many (individual strands) becoming One. In addition, the tassel represents the roots of the lotus flower. Without roots, there can be no flower, signifying that one needs to be rooted and well grounded to Mother Earth, in order to flourish physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
The Knot as Silence
The knot between each bead holds a great deal of significance, and represents the “space between things” – of utmost importance in this tradition, also known as The Silence. A regular or daily meditation practice helps one learn to enter this sacred, silent space. By doing so one becomes transformed. The transformation occurs not due a force outside of us, but rather is the light emerging from within, and radiating outwardly.
The Practice of Japa Meditation
Spiritual Beads in History
Meditation Beads, in one form or another, have been used by many cultures and religions. Depending upon the faith, they have been known by different names and variations, such as prayer beads, rosary beads, and worry beads. Over two-thirds of the world’s population utilize some type of counting beads as part of a spiritual practice. The use of beads in prayer appears to have originated around the 8th century B.C.E. in India.
In the Hindu tradition, the mala strand is held with the right hand, and draped between the middle and index fingers. Ideally, the hand should be at heart level, if tolerated. This has the effect of both protecting the mala from touching the floor, while energetically pulling the mantra, with the pull of each bead, toward the heart cave. The left hand can be cupped below to support the mala if needed.
Meditation Beads as Sacred Objects
For meditation practice, the mala beads should not be touched with the pointer finger, as this is the ego energetic pathway. Starting at the bead next to the guru or meru bead, begin by pulling or rolling each bead, corresponding to the recitation of a mantra such as OM. This may be done silently or out loud. Do this 108 times, traveling around the mala, until once again the guru bead is reached. To go another round, use the thumb and fingers to carefully flip the mala, beginning again at the guru bead. In this way the tradition is honored and the guru is not crossed.
Once created with Divine intent and specifically used for meditation practice, a mala strand is considered as a sacred object, and should be treated as such. Meditation malas should be kept on an altar or within a sacred space, or within a special bag or box. Malas should not touch the floor or any unclean surface, although the Universe understands and quickly forgives accidents.
Meditation Beads versus Spiritual Jewelry
One should not make a habit of wearing mala beads specifically used for a meditation practice out on the town, due to the risk of absorbing negative energies. In addition and for the same reason, they should never be touched by anyone except the owner. They can, however, be worn next to the skin, underneath the clothing.
For those who LOVE the look and have a fondness for genuine semi precious crystals, it would be wise to have one set dedicated for meditation practice, and separate malas to wear as energetic and protective spiritual jewelry. That “Boho” look is sure to fetch many compliments!
The Auspicious 108
108 in ancient and modern times
The number 108 carries a very powerful significance in the science and spirituality of India, as well as in other traditions such as Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, with references in the Bible as well. 108 is meaningful in mathematics, martial arts, astrology, literature, science, nature, even in playing cards. In fact, 108 is so prevalent in all of existence, that it would seem to be a unifying factor for all beings.
There are 54 letters in the Sanskrit alphabet, each having a masculine and feminine form, totaling 108. There are 108 ancient texts of India, known as the Upanishads. There are 108 sacred holy sites in India.
It is said that there are 108 energy lines or nadis converging to form the heart chakra. In the science of Ayurveda, there are 108 marmas or energy intersections on the subtle body, which correspond to areas on the physical body.
The sun’s diameter is 108 times larger than the diameter of the earth. The distance between the sun and earth measures at 108 times the sun’s diameter.
9 x 12: both of these numbers have spiritual significance in many traditions. 9 x 12 = 108. Also, 1 + 0 + 8 = 9. Powers of 1, 2, and 3 in math: 1 to the 1st power = 1; 2 to the 2nd power = 4 (2 x 2); 3 to the 3rd power = 27 (3 x 3 x 3). 1 x 4 x 27 = 108.
1, 0, and 8: 1 stands for God or higher Truth, 0 stands for emptiness or completeness in spiritual practice, and 8 stands for infinity or eternity.
The Science of Mantra
Yoga's Beginnings in the West
Following Yoga’s initial introduction to American shores in 1893 by Swami Vivekananda, the US saw an upsurge in some eastern paths and traditions that became popular with the hippie counterculture and New Age movement beginning in the 1960’s.
During these times, a number of eastern Sanskrit terms became incorporated and assimilated into Western culture and language. As foreign words are brought into the mainstream, a perhaps unintended effect is that some of the deep meanings associated with these terms have been misconstrued, misunderstood, ignored, or simply forgotten.
True Meaning of Mantra
One such term that has fallen victim to this scenario is the word Mantra, which has become loosely known as a word or phrase repeated over and over by one praying or meditating, OR as a word or phrase to bring about self improvement. For example, one may choose a sequence of words to feel empowerment, improve self love, help with motivation, to feel validation, and so on; this then becomes their “mantra”. While these affirmations can be a worthy practice leading to the sought after effects, they are not technically mantras, by classical definition and deep meaning.
As defined in “Meditation and Mantras”, by Swami Vishnudevananda, a mantra is a “mystical energy encased within a sound structure. Its vibrations directly affect the chakras, or energy centers of the body”.
Mantras, by true and accurate definition, are Sanskrit invocations of the many different aspects of the One Supreme Being. They are unique, mystical formulas of sacred syllables. When chanted out loud or silently, these sacred sounds pass from the verbal level through the subtle mental and telepathic levels, and onward as pure thought energy.
Ancient Sanskrit Invocations
True mantras cannot be fabricated to suit an individual, but rather, have always existed in their latent sound energy state. These mantras were then revealed to the ancient Rishis (Hindu sages and saints) in Sanskrit, to then be passed down in the oral tradition of the guru disciple relationship.
Sanskrit is the world’s oldest language. It is believed that all languages have originated from Sanskrit. It has been spoken since 5,000 years before Christ. In India, Sanskrit has always been the means of communication with the Divine energies at the more subtle levels of existence and reality. Sanskrit has an affinity to the fifty primeval sounds, and is thus the most direct way for the practitioner to approach the transcendental state.
How Mantra Works
The mantra is chanted out loud or silently, to invoke the spiritual qualities associated with that particular mantra. As the mantra travels through the physical and etheric being, the nadis or subtle energy channels are opened, purified, and energized. With regular repetition, eventually the spiritual qualities of that particular mantra will be invoked and manifested at all levels, transforming the body, mind, and spirit.
Virtually every cultural and religious tradition uses some form of chanting as a spiritual tool. In the yogic tradition, of utmost importance is for each practitioner to have a personal and direct spiritual experience with the Divine. Therefore, one must actually do the practices, with sincere effort and willing heart. Only then can one appreciate the transformation and reap the abundant rewards.
A Mantra for Every Occasion
As each mantra invokes a precise power, they can be used for very specific purposes, such as spiritual development, protection, warding off harm, and healing of dis-ease. Mantras are chanted during the auspicious occasions of both birth and death, and any momentous events in between. They are chanted for the practitioner to embody the very qualities of the mantra itself. They are chanted by those crying out in despair, and by those experiencing the ecstasy of merging into the bliss of Oneness. Mantras can be incorporated into the activities of daily living, such as when cooking, when doing household chores, or when out in nature. In this way, all activities can be elevated and transformed into Divine experiences.
For those on the yogic path, one may choose to become initiated into a mantra by their guru or spiritual teacher of a particular lineage. Once initiated, this becomes the main mantra chanted during japa meditation. However, as mentioned above, one may use the power of mantra for additional specific purposes.
Mantras and the Subtle Realms
Much like crystals, mantras do their work in the subtle realms. Western culture is conditioned to expect immediate gratification, along with instantaneous, measurable results. With subtle energies, however, this is not always how it manifests. Often, the old, stagnant, ingrained, heavy energies must be shifted first, and at times this can be unpleasant. Never underestimate how powerful mantras can be, and also, never underestimate what calamities a particular mantra may be preventing from happening, that one may never realize.
I was once listening to a talk in which an attendee raised their hand to ask a question about the practice of mantra. The attendee said, “When I chant mantras, nothing happens!” To which the speaker’s reply was, “Exactly!”
Meditating on the Universal Mantra, OM
For those wishing to begin a japa meditation practice but who are not initiated into a mantra, or who are otherwise unfamiliar with this practice but would like to try, an excellent mantra to begin with is the all powerful, universal mantra, OM. To learn more about the Power of OM, click here.
Mantras are said to increase in power in direct relationship to the number of times repeated. A mantra is fully empowered by becoming “seated” in the heart after 125,000 repetitions, achieving what is called Mantra Siddhi. When this occurs, it is said that the mantra is chanted inside automatically, without one’s consent – essentially meaning the energy and vibration are continuing within – whether japa meditation is performed or not. The outcome is that the aspirant attains new levels of intuitive wisdom, bliss, and even subtle, Divine powers.
Mantra as a Practice
The practice of chanting a mantra is considered the easiest form of meditation. Sitting in a comfortable position with the eyes closed, the mantra is repeated silently or aloud. When the mind inevitably wanders, simply come back to the mantra, without self judgement. When done in conjunction with the use of meditation beads, this is known as japa meditation. When sung or chanted aloud to music within a group, this is known as kirtan. When combined with intention, or within a spiritually charged group setting, mantras can become even more targeted and empowered.
Pay careful attention to the speed and rhythm of the chanting, along with the correct pronunciation, aim, and esoteric meaning of the mantra. Allow the mind to be focused on the mantra, letting the thoughts go while maintaining a slow, deep, steady breath. As mentioned, do not become discouraged or frustrated when the mind wanders, or sneaks up with its incessant, mundane thought patterns. In fact, this is completely normal and to be expected. Simply notice the thought, let it go, and return to the mantra. With practice, it becomes second nature. Some days will be easier than others, and this is normal as well. Most important is consistency in practice.
Mala Meditation Beads created by Rock Kandy come fully supported with additional details regarding these ancient teachings and practices. In this way, one can begin and sustain a successful, daily japa meditation practice.
In the words of Self Realized Master HH Swami Sivananda, “An ounce of practice is worth a ton of theory”.
The Power of OM
The Symbol's Meaning
The true spelling of OM is actually AUM. The significance of these three letters is multifaceted, and signifies the three periods of time (past, present, and future). In addition, the yogic teachings demonstrate that human life has three states of existence, which are depicted within AUM.
1. “A” is the waking state, experiencing life through the five senses.
2. “U” is the dream state, and is more subtle, as it is experienced completely within the mind.
3. “M” is the deep sleep state. The state where everything that we know collapses into a void of nothingness. It is thus a daily vacation from karma, and even from ourselves, as during this state there is a complete unawareness of one’s own existence. All attachments, including those most near and dear, drop away. The yogis call it “resting in the non-dual state”. Upon awakening and returning to the waking state, all that remains of this experience is the sense that one “slept like a log”, or “didn’t know anything”; each culture has its own description of this state. Some dismiss this state merely as “unconsciousness”. However, according to the the yogic teachings, it is believed that there is nothing BUT consciousness.
4. The small, curved dash above the symbol represents Maya, Sanskrit for illusion. This includes all names and forms in creation, manifesting as matter. Also referred to as Maya Shakti, the Divine Feminine force of creation. When one becomes deeply entangled in the maya, it can hinder the connection with Source, due to the senses being continuously absorbed with matter. It is depicted as the barrier that keeps most shrouded in perceived separation from the One. Maya Shakti is both the source of illusion, and also the source of liberation from that very illusion by means of a spiritual path.
5. In addition to the waking state, the dream state, and the non dream/deep sleep state, the yogis speak of one additional state. This is known as Turya, or simply The Fourth. So called because human language cannot encompass or describe it. While it is neither wakefulness, dreaming, nor the deep sleep state, it is the presence that pervades and upholds all three states, yet remains unchanged and unaffected by any of the three states.
The dot or bindu above represents Kutastha Nitya, or Brahman. The pure, unchanging, ceaseless consciousness, that is without beginning, without end, birthless and deathless.
OM as The Word
OM is the original sound mantra that caused the manifest universe of names and forms to come into existence. It is the sound from which all other sounds and vibrations emerge.
The Bible states “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Numerous traditions of the East teach that this Word is OM.
When pronounced correctly and beginning with a full breath, the “A” begins at the naval and holds a deep, harmonious vibration. Gradually the sound moves upward, and manifests itself at the upper part of the nostrils. As “U” is pronounced, the sound then rolls off the back of the tongue, to the end of the sounding board of the mouth. Here the sound becomes more focused and condensed. “M” is the final sound, and is produced simply by closing the lips. This is then followed by silence, as a new full breath is taken.
OM is the highest, abstract, “nirguna” mantra, or mantra without qualities. All mantras are hidden within OM. It is a sound that cannot be created by two objects striking against one another. It is said that the universe has come from OM (from the initial sound vibration that caused all of manifest creation), that it rests in OM (it is the sound frequency that forms the vibratory structure that upholds all of creation), and that eventually all of manifest creation shall dissolve back into OM.
As OM is the sound of Brahman or God, it has tremendously powerful, positive effects upon the physical body. It’s vibration and energy transforms the astral body through energetic pathways known as nadis, in addition to the physical body through the vibrations which are experienced and sustained at the cellular level. This can have a profound effect on awakening dormant physical, mental, and psychic powers.
The Power of Crystal Healing
Crystals as part of Ancient History
There are many instances of both ancient and more modern civilizations and cultures who teach that Crystals are akin to living beings. Regardless of beliefs, Crystals have been used throughout history to enhance and uplift the spirit of human kind for many thousands of years.
Crystals are the vital link between the physical and etheric realms. They simultaneously connect us to Mother Earth, and to the Cosmos – from the microcosm to the macrocosm.
Crystals are endowed with Divine intelligence in the form of sacred geometry, and carry a wide range of frequencies and properties, depending upon the atomic and structural composition, as well as the natural, powerful, dynamic forces that caused its formation.
How Crystals Work
Crystals do their work in the subtle realms. When used with respect and mindful intention, they can have impressive and lasting, positive effects that begins at the astral body level. As above, so below. When one begins to focus on and care for the astral/spiritual body, potent healing and energetic benefits are soon experienced in the mental, emotional, and physical bodies as well.
One can embrace and meditate upon the inherent properties and qualities of the gemstones being used for meditation practice. Eventually, with regularity and repetition, one may begin to notice the sought-after qualities of the crystals and gemstones begin to manifest within oneself.
A meditation practice is highly personal. Each aspirant must find what works best, according to temperament, along with any physical strengths or limitations the body may have. It is wise to approach a new meditation practice with open heart and mind, and to be prepared to experiment with various methods. Rock Kandy is happy to share some suggestions and techniques, that have been tried and true throughout the ages.
The ever present, all prevading intelligence of the Universe shall instantaneously be aware of any efforts, and will provide support along the path. Believe this and KNOW it to be true.
Crystals and Karma
It is said that when dis-ease sets into the physical body, it has been the result of chronic astral body neglect or downright abuse.
The Doctrine of Reincarnation states that the Soul continues to exist after death, and is reborn in an interconnected cycle of existence. Throughout vast, unfathomable periods of time, Souls inhabit various bodies and experience various lives. During this cycle, one’s thoughts, words, and deeds propel the Soul along this seemingly endless wheel of samsara (suffering). Energies (favorable and unfavorable) associated with past lives plus the current life remain attached to the astral body, and are known as samskaras, or deeply rooted tendencies, attachments, and aversions. Driving this are past, present, and future karmas. Thus, actions performed now and going forward will also remain attached to the astral body, as karmic seeds that must come to fruition through experience.
An accumulation of old, painful life experiences which are not fully faced, accepted, or healed, leaves behind a chronic undercurrent of emotional pain. Eckhart Tolle has coined the term “painbody”. The painbody is the residue of accumulated pain that takes over the body and mind. The painbody causes one to react in an unconscious manner. The person suffering is susceptible to triggers, depression, anxiety, radical mood swings, emotional outbursts, and so on. The inner suffering is so great, that it spills over and is shared with others. Therefore healing of body, mind, and spirit is of utmost importance, and should not be delayed. Mother Earth generously gifts Her children with an array of dazzling, beneficial, energetic tools such as crystals, so that the journey of healing can be embarked upon.
An urgent need
There is an urgent need for physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual healing at the individual and collective levels. If not now, when? One can only control one’s own actions. How many more lives will be spent fumbling around in a dark room, perpetually searching, to no avail, for the light switch?
Practices to Raise the Vibrations, Transforming Body, Mind, & Spirit
There are numerous physical practices that can be performed to raise the vibrations and better support the astral body, which will then in turn energetically support the physical body. Practices should be done to the level best of the individual according to constitution, physical abilities, unique circumstances, and so forth.
Practices should be done daily or regularly to enjoy maximum benefit, and include: meditation, pranayama (yogic breathing exercises), asana (yogic postures), along with additional beneficial exercise according to tolerance, preferably outside while enjoying the beauty of nature. In addition and of utmost importance is proper rest and relaxation, and a mindful, predominantly plant based diet.
First Source Sun Foods
Yogic wisdom teaches that fresh, organic fruits and vegetables, in season and at the peak of ripeness, are excellent “first source sun” foods. Meaning, these foods grow and mature, absorbing maximum sun energy in the process of ripening. This potent sun energy and vitality is then consumed and assimilated directly.
A colorful and vibrant example of “first source sun” foods, harvested at the peak of ripeness, ideal for consumption and assimilation
The yogis speak about the importance of utilizing the five outward traveling senses for Divine experiences and pursuits. To become less engaged with the objects of name and form, and more engaged in Divine pursuits. This is a sure way to greatly raise one’s vibration, and advance along the spiritual path.
Purify the Five Senses
With the eyes, observe the beauty, mystery, and wonder of the Divine in all of nature, and absorb oneself by reading spiritual scripture. With the ears, listen to Divine mantra, or the numerous Divine teachings of a path that resonates. With the sense of taste, enjoy lovingly prepared food, choosing from the wide array of fresh fruits and vegetables packed with vibrant, “first source sun” energy. With the nose, enjoy the energizing scent of the fresh air, ocean breeze, or fragrant flowers when communing with nature. With the hands, help others in need, do japa meditation, and unleash the inner artistic creativity that yearns to express itself, in whichever manner or medium.
Purify the Mind
With the mind, practice loving gratitude. Express gratitude not only for the bounty of gifts and abundance made available on this beautiful planet, but also for the many difficulties and struggles encountered on the journey. As painful as this may be, often it is the cause for an intense shift of perspective. This is the shift needed to open up to a true path, which becomes the journey toward re-communion with The Divine.
Purify the Intellect
With the intellect, begin to contemplate the question, “Who am I?” Who am I, beyond the physical body and its varying states of health and vitality or lack thereof. Who am I, beyond the emotions, beyond the ever changing mind, beyond the intellect, beyond the ego. Pull the awareness inward, surrendering as the layers fall away, becoming more and more subtle. What insights come during these sacred silent practices?
This picture remains incomplete without a fearless and searching personal inventory of one’s own poor habits, negative traits, and toxicities, standing in the way of personal transformation. To what extent does the ego run the show, versus love and consideration for all? This will look different for each individual, and will require brutal honesty and perhaps some shadow work!
Direct and Personal Experience
The ancient yogis, rishis, saints, and sages have been exploring the nature of the True Self for thousands of years. Through their own intense spiritual practices or “sadhana”, they have come to know this One Truth by direct, personal experience. Through the guru disciple relationship, the knowledge gleaned from the ancient teachings has been passed down for generations. The internet and social media can be a gift if used correctly. The modern age has brought a wealth of information and connections so that we too can begin to have first hand, direct experience. The knowledge sought can be as simple or as complex as one desires; but nevertheless, the ultimate answer is beautiful. Underneath all layers, at the innermost core, or within the “heart cave”, our True Nature is “Satchidananda”, or Existence, Knowledge, and Bliss Absolute.
Practice, Not Perfection
The goal is never perfection, but rather to realize that all of life is merely a series of practices (whether conscious or unconscious) on a winding journey. We can and should each simply do our “level best”. When a better way is learned, then this should be incorporated into practice, as one is able.
To the extent that these activities can be practiced and incorporated, will be the extent of transformation and a whole new level of enjoyment on all levels of human experience: physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual.