Paying $24.95 for a Learn to Meditate course based on a mantra, that is roughly akin to the Transcendental Meditation approach, had at least one immediate benefit for me.
It got me to pondering the pros and cons of using a mantra, versus pursuing mindfulness.
This is going to be a fairly short blog post, because after a couple of days where I experimented with repeating the one-word mantra that I chose for the course -- "peace" -- it dawned on me why I gave up on using a mantra and made mindfulness my meditation.
Yes, I still play around with repeating a mantra.
But almost always I've been doing this when going to sleep, when my eyes are closed and I'm not doing anything except falling asleep. As I said in the above-linked post:
When I was really into repeating a mantra, I found that this created a distance between what I was doing physically and my awareness, because part of my mental energy was devoted to the mantra while, say, I was doing the dishes.
Not surprisingly, that same distancing popped up when I tried repeating my "peace" mantra during the day when I was doing things. It was fine when I spent ten minutes or so in closed-eyes meditation during my morning reading/meditating time.
Not so fine when I was trying to repeat the mantra while doing anything else. I didn't like the split between that word being repeated in my head and what I was doing with my body.
So I found that what I wrote about in 2015 still held true for me: Mantra meditation basically is useless. For me, at least. In that post I quoted from a 2012 post. Guess I needed a $24.95 reminder.
I've never practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM). But for over forty years I've meditated daily, mostly using a mantra (a word or words repeated over and over) just as TM does.
...For most of those forty years I used a mantra taught by a Sant Mat organization, Radha Soami Satsang Beas, that was known as the Five Holy Names. The mantra bore some resemblance to the ones used by the Transcendental Meditation folks.
...I've come to much the same concluson as Sudarsha has: following the breath mindfully is a better meditation approach than is repeating a mantra mindlessly.
...Why would you repeat a mantra in your mind when your goal is to be aware of what exists in what I like to call really real reality?
It'd be ridiculous to remain focused on mentally repeating sex, sex, sex, sex, sex when a beautiful willing partner is lying next to you on a bed, arms outstretched for your embrace.
Likewise, it'd be ridiculous to keep saying sunset, sunset, sunset, sunset, sunset as the REAL sun is dipping below the horizon, displaying gorgeous colors across the sky.
And even if your aim is religious, does it make any sense to utter God, God, God, God, God (or other supposed names of divinity) instead of being receptively open to whatever divine presence might be capable of being experienced at the moment?
Occasionally I still use a mantra, but more and more it seems pointless to speak repeated words inside my head. Life is going on all the time I'm awake and aware; experience is happening all the time I'm awake and aware.
A mantra now seems like an unnecessary distraction from life and experience. When I'm ballroom dancing, I don't think to myself dance, dance, dance, dance, dance. I just dance.
> .I've come to much the same concluson as Sudarsha has: following the breath mindfully is a better meditation approach than is repeating a mantra mindlessly. concentration
[prolongued] concentration => attention [devotion, love for]
It can be compared with trail-running. In the beginning it is mechanical, later on, if lucky, one discovers going with the FLOW of running.
That FLOW is what it is all about ... also in mantra meditation.
It is related to so many things like for example in focusing on "arriving"at a set destination vs. enjoying going there.
It is an attitude, related to character, upbringing and inborn talent.
And .... if one is not able to do things from the heart, just for the sake of it, doing it out of love for another can be of great help .... hahahaha
It is all a mental game ... fodder for psychologists ...finding pleasure in.
Posted by: um | January 23, 2023 at 01:16 AM
Again great part is missing in the beginning I do not know what causes it. It seems something having to do with copy-paste. Sorry ...what remains makes stiil some sense.
Posted by: um | January 23, 2023 at 01:23 AM
Like all different trees are trees so are also all different human actions, actions.
The universe is ruled by the variety=of-the-same. Both vertical and horizontal to be understootd
So what holds for one action "must" hold also for another action, however different they might appear.
Take for example the ultra runner Courtney Dauwalte:
Listening to what she has to say what remains in mind is the her "devotion to and love for" ultra running.....nothing more, nothing else.... there seem to be no or few ulterior motives.
We also remember from our times in school, high school and university, for those who went there, that there was in general in every clas just one or two, student that came to class for no other reason then their love for the subject. Others come for many other reasons, fear and or pleasing others, be it fellow students, parents or just the love for a particular teacher.
Mantra yoga, is not an exemption to the rule ... reason why the advise is given to do it with love and devotion..
Those who do not have that love and devotion, tend to focus on "mastering" the technique ... and in all activities that is visible on their faces too. If they are not grim they at least serious, sober and somber ... seldom one sees a smile.
And ... do not eat food that is prepared by one that has no smile on the face ... it is empty, watery food and it does you no good.
Posted by: um | January 23, 2023 at 05:45 AM
@ um [ Those who do not have that love and devotion, tend to focus on "mastering" the technique ... and in all activities that is visible on their faces too. If they are not grim they at least serious, sober and somber ... seldom one sees a smile. ]
Beautifully put, um.
I'd add for the unsmiling ones most of us are that the mantra also
helps drown out the mind's background chatter and imagery. It's
a grim business battling distraction in the pre-smile desert. So
you give your mental kid a toy to keep him a little quieter. It's
no use trying to reason with him otherwise.
Posted by: Dungeness | January 23, 2023 at 08:32 AM
love for, devotion to, attention => [spontaneous] concentration on what is loved etc
[Prolongued] concentration => attention, love and devotion for what is concentrated on
Willpower can be seen as "the power to do things one doesn't like to do
Willpower cab be seen as the power that is set free, doing things one loves etc.
From this it is easily understood that one of these approaches easily becomes an Sisyphus project., that can become so bitter that one quits.
No mysticus ever walked that path ... not even ...Milarepa, although that might seem so
Posted by: um | January 23, 2023 at 08:51 AM
Whether it’s a mantra or one of the meditation systems – if it works for you then that’s fine, but whatever path you follow know that in one form or another it all starts out as therapy. People are all different, some find that meditation or mantra’s come easily while others’ try to push themselves and struggle. All have their own motives but basically, in one way or another, such practices are all therapeutic.
Those who enjoy their practice do so for a number of reasons. It may bring a calmer, or peaceful mind; some, just enjoy being in a group with a chat and tea after and a few may have wonderful experiences. Both with chanting and meditation, focusing exclusively on a single action uses up all the available mental room (so to speak), leaving the possibility of sensations of unity with something grand but indescribable. Such peak experiences can be quite life changing, perhaps giving the recipient an enduring sense of being one with nature, the universe and everything.
All these effects are fine and many settle down with their lives feeling more at peace with themselves – and are rightly satisfied with that. There are also some who have realised much more about themselves in regard to the illusions that manifest from the misunderstood nature of the mind and self – they know who they are not.
For some though, following from their uplifting experiences yet still unaware of the nature of the mind and self, may believe they should teach others about such states and proceed to set up schools and centres. It is tempting for folks looking for some extra special meaning to their lives, to follow such teachers.
The watchword is, if a ‘teacher’ promises something or teaches anything other than ‘this is it’ or ‘nothing special’, then know that it is just for his/her own personal benefit.
Posted by: Ron E. | January 23, 2023 at 02:33 PM
"Occasionally I still use a mantra, but more and more it seems pointless to speak repeated words inside my head. Life is going on all the time I'm awake and aware; experience is happening all the time I'm awake and aware.
A mantra now seems like an unnecessary distraction from life and experience. When I'm ballroom dancing, I don't think to myself dance, dance, dance, dance, dance. I just dance. "
That's an interesting take, Brian.
I actually spent awhile thinking on this. Because I found myself agreeing with you completely, at one level; while on another level finding something a bit off, without quite being able to put my finger on it. And this is all relevant to me, because I myself practice both kinds of meditation, the mantra thing, as well as the Anapan-Vipassana thing.
So yeah, with a bit of rumination, the following is how I'd formulate my thoughts around this:
Meditation, at least at this level, is essentially training. It's like working out in the gym or the dojo. So there isn't necessarily a direct correlation between what you're doing and what the results of that might be.
So that, if your aim is to to get better at playing football, or get better at running marathons, or maybe fight better: then what exerecise you need to perform will need to conform to your goals, sure; but I don't think there's necessarily a one-on-one correlation between what you're doing and what the effects of that might be.
So, while this may sound counter-intuitive, but it may be the case that your goal of running marathons might be better served by working on the rowing machine and doing your legs and calves on the multi-gym, rather than by jogging on the treadmill, depending. Or of course, depending, it might be better served by doing the treadmill. My point is, just because your ultimate aim is to run marathons more effectively, that doesn't necessarily mean that jogging on the treadmill is a better way of doing that than working out different body parts in the gym proper. Which is better is a function of multiple variables.
Likewise, just because one stays aware to breathing doesn't necessarily mean that one should be able to be better aware of the world around us, than if one did the mantra thing. It may, or it may not, that's an individual thing, and that depends on many factors peculiar to oneself; but it isn't as if doing awareness "exercises" necessarily directly makes one more aware. Just like it isn't as if jogging on the treadmill isn't necessarily the best way to become good at running marathons. It's way more complex than that.
So that, which is better, would be a function of many diverse factors that are specific to you; and is best decided by an expert (or, lacking an expert, by yourself trying to take into account all of these complexities).
So that, while it may well be true that awareness meditation works better for you than mantra meditation, nevertheless I don't think it's right to generalize that awareness and insight meditation necessarily makes for better awareness; and your own evaluation of which is better for you is probably best grounded on a more holistic analysis than that simple one-on-one univariate formulation.
To clarify: Not disagreeing with you here. Maybe your own evaluation does encompass all of this, and you've only discussed one part of it here.
Further, all of this assumes there's actually something to mediation, beyond just the pleasure one derives from it, if any. As you know I'm agnostic on that point.
And finally, all of this is just me thinking aloud, and trying to think this through (somewhat) coherently, is all. It's not as if this conclusion of mine is somehow cast in stone. I may well be mistaken in how I've thought this out, in the ten or fifteen minutes I've devoted to this issue; and I'm perfectly willing to change my mind if you, or someone else --- or for that matter I myself, at a subsequent time --- can come out with a better argument that shows otherwise.
Posted by: Appreciative Reader | January 24, 2023 at 06:35 AM
Just another way of putting that action [meditation] should be done with, love and devotion in order to bear fruit, and from the avaita corner of Sri Nisergadata
Concentration keeps the mind busy, so that you are not allowing it to create any questions, or some other crazy activity. When you recite the Mantra, you are directly hammering your Selfless Self with: “I am Brahman. Brahman I am, I am Brahman, Brahman I am”.
After a period of non-stop recitation, your Originality will open up: “I Am That!”
Exactly when this occurs will vary widely. It depends on your approach, your involvement, and your spiritual maturity.
If you are:
- very serious,
- earnest and
- sincere about uncovering your Reality, and
- if you are fully involved in the pursuit of Truth,
T H E N ....
you will find it easy.
However, if you are casual and half-hearted, then, you can forget about it! It is not going to happen! The ball is in your court! It is up to you!
Sri Ramakant Maharaj
Meditation with the Naam Mantra
Posted by: um | January 24, 2023 at 07:16 AM