Tag Archives: Mantra

The Main Traditional Indian Yogas

Yoga is viewed in the Vedanta tradition as the path which seeks to unite one’s own soul with Atman (the “True Self,” which is equated with the essential, ultimate, eternal, unchanging, nature of the universe).

Most of the Yogas other than Hatha are mostly meditative and more directly aimed at Yoga as end-goal and “union.”

An Overview:

Jnana Yoga: Union acquired through knowledge. Jnana Yoga is the path of spiritual wisdom and knowledge, in which the intellect penetrates the veils of ignorance that prevent man from seeing his True Self (Atman). The disciplines of this path are those of study and meditation.  Jnana Yoga may be considered the practical application of Advaita Vedanta.

Bhakti Yoga: Union acquired through love and devotion. The most popular Yoga of Indian masses is Bhakti. This is the Yoga of strongly-focused love, devotion and worship, at its finest in love of the One. Its disciplines are those of rites and the singing of songs of praise (called Bhajan or Kirtan).

Karma Yoga: Union acquired through action and service. Karma Yoga is the path dedicated work, selfless action and service, without any concern for the “fruits” of action.

Mantra Yoga: Union acquired through voice and sound. The practice of Mantra Yoga influences consciousness through repeating (or chanting) certain syllables, words or phrases. A form of Mantra Yoga is the Transcendental Meditation, which is widely practiced in the West. Rhytmic repetition of mantras is called japa. The most common, highly-regarded mantras are ‘OM’ and ‘OM MANE PADME HUM’.

Yantra Yoga: Union acquired through vision and form. Yantra Yoga employs sight and form. The visualization may be with the inner eye. A yantra is a design with power to influence consciousness; it is generally a two- or three-dimensional geometric composition, but it can be an objective picture, an inner visualization, or even the design of a temple.

The Main Traditional Indian Yogas Laya and Kundalini Yoga: Union acquired through arousal of latent psychic nerve-force. These combine many of the techniques of Hatha Yoga, especially prolonged breath suspension and a stable posture, with intense meditative concentration, so as to awaken the psychic nerve-force latent in the body, symbolized as serpent power (Kundalini), which is coiled below the base of the spine. The force is taken up the spine, passing through several power centers (chakras), until it reaches a chakra in the crown of the head, when intuitive enlightenment (Samadhi) is triggered. The disciplines are severe, best practiced under the guidance of a master teacher or guru.

Tantric Yoga: Union acquired through the harnessing of sexual energy. Tantric techniques are applied to distinguish psycho/physiological systems. The control of the sexual energies has a prominent part and the union of male and female plays a ritualistic role. Tantric Yoga closely guards its teachings and techniques, being the most secret of all the yogas.

Hatha Yoga: Union acquired through bodily mastery (particularly the breath); central to all Hatha Yoga disciplines is the regulation of breath, the harmonizing of its positive (sun) and negative (moon) or male and female currents. Hatha Yoga is the most widely practiced yoga in the West, and its best-known feature is asana (poses). Hatha yoga has practical benefits to the health of the nervous system, glands, and vital organs. It’s often a predecessor to (and purifying preparation for) Raja Yoga, which is work upon consciousness itself. Hatha Yoga is the most practical of yogas, working upon the physical body, purifying it, and through the body upon the mind. It’s the Yoga of physical health and well-being.

Raja Yoga: Union acquired through mastery over the mind. Its principal text is the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali. Raja Yoga is considered royal because the Yogi who practices this yoga regularly becomes ruler over his mind. Raja Yoga works upon the mind, refining and perfecting it, and then through the mind upon the body. It’s the Yoga of consciousness, considered by most, the highest form of Yoga.

The Main Traditional Indian Yogas

Mala – Hindu Prayer Beads

Mala beads (or prayer beads) contain quite a bit of mystery, especially for those who are unfamiliar with them or the practice of mantra meditation. Malas are also referred to as mala beads, Buddhist beads or Buddhist prayer beads. Mala beads have been used in Buddhism and Hinduism for centuries.

They can be made in a range of different colors and from a variety of materials, and although they’re generally used for the same basic reasons, they mean something slightly different to all who use or wear them. If want to learn more about these beads and how to use them, this article is for you.

If you practice yoga or meditate regularly, it may be good to consider using mala beads as an aid to meditation.

What exactly is a Mala?

Mala beads are a strand containing 108 beads commonly used for keeping count during mantra meditations. The 109th bead on a mala is called the sumeru, bindu, stupa, or guru bead. Malas can sometimes be made of 27 beads or 21 beads for use in shorter meditations. Malas are customarily made with round beads which are usually 7-8mm in size (sometimes 10mm), and their spherical shape allows them glide easily through your fingers.

Traditional malas are made with Rudraksha beads, lotus seed beads, yak bone, Bodhi seeds, or wood. Healing malas are made from assorted gemstones, which each have their own energies, properties, and colors. As an example, there are numerous malas that are made from black onyx, turquoise, rose quartz, or jade. Malas are used as a tool to help the mind focused while meditating, or counting mantras (Sanskrit prayers) in sets of 108 repetitions. This practice is known in Sanskrit as japa.

Why is using a Mala helpful?

Many people find meditation to be a bit tricky! It can be quite a challenge to sit still and quiet your mind for an extended period of time. The mala can provide a indispensable “anchor” during meditation. It also enables the user to easily keep count during mantra repetitions.

Just how is a Mala used?

Start by holding your mala in your right hand (in India the left hand is considered impure) and using your thumb to “count” each mantra by touching the bead during the recitation and then gently pulling the bead towards you on completion and moving on to the next bead. The index finger is extended and should never touch the mala (The index finger represents the ego, which is recognized as the greatest impediment to self-realization in ancient Hinduism). The large “sumero” (head bead) should not be counted or touched by the thumb and is used as a beginning and ending point of the recitation or repetition.

According to Hindu custom, the sumero is never crossed or passed over, so if more than one round (rosary) is planned, the mala must be turned around to resume again in the reverse direction.

Wearing a Mala. How is a Mala worn?

This is a personal decision and is up to you! Malas create lovely necklaces, and can also be looped multiple times around your wrist; but a mala should never simply be considered a piece of jewelry. It’s a commonly accepted that when malas are used regularly for meditation and repeating mantras, they absorb and retain the beneficial vibrations of the practice. So the more you wear it and use it during meditation, the more positive energy it absorbs and reflects back.

Final notes:

Contrary to popular belief, malas do not in and of themselves have some inherent power unless you “awaken” your mala during sacred prayer and meditation. There’s a lot more to the power aspect of malas than this, but in summary, it is your belief and your faith which is the deeper secret of the mala’s potential. Your relationship to your mala is based on the devotion you cultivate through controlling your own mind, during prayer, meditation and while reciting mantra. Basically, it’s your heart felt faith, good intentions and prayers that create the power.