An Introduction to Yoga/Lecture IV/Chapter 3
The Use of Mantras
Let us see how far we can help ourselves in this difficult work. I will draw your attention to one fact which is of enormous help to the beginner.
Your vehicles are ever restless. Every vibration in the vehicle produces a corresponding change in consciousness. Is there any way to check these vibrations, to steady the vehicle, so that consciousness may be still? One method is the repeating of a mantra. A mantra is a mechanical way of checking vibration. Instead of using the powers of the will and of imagination, you save these for other purposes, and use the mechanical resource of a mantra. A mantra is a definite succession of sounds. Those sounds, repeated rhythmically over and over again in succession, synchronise the vibrations of the vehicles into unity with themselves. Hence a mantra cannot be translated; translation alters the sounds. Not only in Hinduism, but in Buddhism, in Roman Catholicism, in Islam, and among the Parsis, mantras are found, and they are never translated, for when you have changed the succession and order of the sounds, the mantra ceases to be a mantra. If you translate the words, you may have a very beautiful prayer, but not a mantra. Your translation may be beautiful inspired poetry, but it is not a living mantra. It will no longer harmonise the vibrations of the surrounding sheaths, and thus enable the consciousness to become still. The poetry, the inspired prayer, these are mentally translatable. But a mantra is unique and untranslatable. Poetry is a great thing: it is often an inspirer of the soul, it gives gratification to the ear, and it may be sublime and beautiful, but it is not a mantra.