The other important limb of tantra yoga is the Mantra. We have discussed in some detail the philosophical and psychological theory of Mantra in the category on Vedic Yoga. There is no essential difference between the vedic and tantric theory of the mantra. But there is a minor practical difference on the use of the mantra. For the Vedic sages the mantra is not just a yogic technique but a spontaneous expression of their aspiration or realisations. But in the tantra, mantra is a method and a means to come into contact with the cosmic powers and divinities, devatas.
But how this contact is established? To answer this question we have to recollect a little the Indian idea of creation through the creative Vibration of Sound. In this Indian perception, the entire universe emanates from a primal creative vibration, OM, in the creative consciousness of the absolute Reality. All the forms in this universe, not only the physical forms, but also the forms of mind and spirit including the forms of the Gods, who are the various names and forms of the One Divine Being, are the different expressions, in the various levels of the cosmos, of this primal creative vibration in the supreme consciousness of the divine Being. To put in a nut- shell, the universe is the sound-body of Brahman, the divine Reality. The Mantra in its physical and external form is the gross expression of a subtler form of sound vibrations in the mental level and this subtler sound-vibrations are in turn expressions of the still subtler sound vibrations of some cosmic- spiritual powers of the consciousness – force, chit-sakthi of the spirit. So the Gods are gradiations of the supreme consciousness of Brahman, which illumines the world and the notes of the Greath Rhythm of the Word which creates the worlds. And Mantras are the gross outer form-(in terms of human speech)-of the sound-body of the gods; they are supposed to reproduce within the limitation of the gross human speech, the subtler vibrations which accompany the manifestation of the Devatas in their corresponding higher planes. These mantras when repeated in the right way and in the right spirit, act as invocation to the divinities.
This is the tantric conception of the mantra which has a certain scientific validity, tested and verified by ancient as well modern scientists. The ancient Indian texts on the science of Music conceived each note of music, raga, as some sort of a living entity or a goddess with a particular form. It is said in these ancient music texts that when a particular raga is sung, the forms of the corresponding ragini appears in the subtle plane. This is probably a discovery made by people with a clairvoyant inner vision which can see supraphysical forms. But it is interesting to note that these discoveries made by ancient Indian musicians are confirmed by some modern scientific experiments. Swami Sivananda, a great yogi of modern India, in his book “Japa yoga” describes some of these experiments carried by one Mrs.Watts Hues. We will not enter into the details of the experiment. But these experiments demonstrate in the physical level that each sound-note creates specific forms. In the same book, the author also gives some more examples: “while in France madame Finlang’s singing of a hymn or Virgin mary “O Eve Marium” brought out the form of Mary with child Jesus on her lap and again singing of a hymn to Bhairava by a Bengali student studying in France gave rise to the formation of the figure of Bhairava with his vehicle, a dog.”
What is the role of the Devatas or Gods in Tantra yoga? The Gods are in their highest status are the direct manifestations or aspects of the supreme Divine. They are the guardians of the divine Law which governs the world, guides of human and terrestial evolution and the beneficient friends and helpers of Man in his progressive evolution to the Divine. The mantra is one of the methods for invoking these higher cosmic powers into human life to help the evolutionary progress of man.
This is the “philosophy” behind the tantric use of the Mantra. Now coming to the psychological and practical aspect of mantra yoga, we have to examine what is the psychological process by which it works and the psychological conditions under which it becomes effective.
The mantra in its outer form is just a collection of words with or without meaning. In tantra-yoga there are many mantras like for example “Hrim” or “Shrim” which have no apparent meaning. When they are repeated mechanically, it creates only empty sound in the vocal chords and nothing more happens. But when the mantra is repeated with sincerity faith, contemplation, devotion in the mind or heart or in short with some sadhana or tapasya it creates potent vibrations in the mental plane which can travel to the devata. But according to the tantra even this is not sufficient. For the Mantra to be spiritually effective it has to be charged with spiritual power of the Guru.
For mental aspiration is not sufficient by itself to bring about a spiritual realisation of the Gods of the highest spiritual plane. For this to happen the aspiration of the mind has to be supported by a spiritual power. If the mind of the aspirant is pure, sincere and strong, its call, prayer, or aspiration can reach the Gods and they may descend with their spiritual power into the mind of the aspirant to help him to raise to their own higher level. But if the mind of the seeker is weak or in other words it lacks mental, moral or spiritual strength to raise by its own effort or bring-down the help of the Gods by the purity, sincerity and intensity of its aspiration, then it needs spiritual reinforcement from the human plane. Here comes the crucial role of the Guru in Mantra-sadhana of the Tantras.
In the tantric tradition when Guru initiates the disciple in mantra-yoga he gives both the Mantra and the name and form of the Devata for worship and contemplation taking into consideration the natural inclination and the psychological and spiritual needs of the disciple. It is said in some of the tantric texts that when the guru initiates the disciple in mantra yoga, he is supposed to spiritually identify himself with the Devatha and transmit the mantra of the Devatha in serecy into the ear of the disciple. This means, the Guru becomes a human channel through which the vehicle of the Mantra, the power of the Devata enters into the consciousness of the disciple.
This is the reason why tantric texts constantly emphasise on the unity of the Guru, Mantra and the Devatha and the oneness of the trinity with the self of the aspirant. There are beautiful passages in the tantra which describe this unifying vision. Here is a passage from the Mahanirvana Tantra: “Think of the Guru in the head; think of the deity in the heart-lotus, think of the mantra in lustrous form on the tongue; think of yourself one with the luster of the three.” Another passage from a different text says: ‘know thyself through the union of the Guru, Mantra, Deity, thy being, thy mind and thy life-force”. The central idea behind the above verse is that the Guru, Mantra and Deity and the self of the aspirant should not be viewed as distinct and separate entities but as different forms of the one divine consciousness and force, chit – sakthi. This spirit of non-dualistic unity pervades the entire philosophy and practices of tantra including the devotional elements like worship which in other system tend towards dualism.