The Vedic Mantra-The Psychology of the Inspired Word – M.S. Srinivasan

[Published in the Journal of Yoga and Physiotherapy, New York]

The Manthra   is an important part of the Vedic yoga.  But what is exactly the Vedic mantra?  We must  remember here  that  the  vedic conception of the manthra is very  different  from  the traditional  religious  conception of it as the repetition of a  sacred  word.  Manthra for the Vedic Rishis was an integral part of their mystic sacrifice to the divine powers.  It was used by Vedic sages not merely for invoking the help of the gods but also for many other more important spiritual purposes. This article is a brief review of the meaning and significance of the Vedic Mantra in a psychological perspective.

The Creative Word

First  of  all  the manthra for the vedic sages is  a  potent  means  for creative  self-expression  of their realisations.  It is the  inevitable  Word which  expresses  as faithfully and as perfectly as possible  the  vibration  or sound-from  of  the supramental truth or idea realised by the sages  in  their consciousness.  And, secondly, the Manthra is the means by which the truth seen is established and made an integral part of the consciousness of the seer.  The creation of the Vedic manthra is not a mental activity; it originates from the superconscient part of the seer, received in the depth  of his  heart,  brought forward by the contemplation of his  conscious  mind  and finally breathed-out in the form of the inevitable word.

What is the basis of this great importance given by the Vedic Rishis  to the creation of the Manthara?  To answer this question we must go back to the Vedic theory of creation.  In the Vedic thought, the word is considered as a great creative force.   According to one of the Vedic schools  of  thought, universe  is created by the Vac, the goddess of speech.  Let us first examine the psychological basis of this Vedic conception.

The Sound, Vibration and the Word

If we introspect a little, we can see that the origin of human speech  is an  inner sound forming into words or in other words an inner  movement  or vibration  of  consciousness,  a movement of thought, feeling, sensation  expressing  itself through a set of words.  Our human speech is in its essence the sound-form of a subjective movement of consciousness.   We need not bother much here about the physiological process by which this inner movement is translated into the gross speech and word.  We are here concerned mainly with the psychological and spiritual origin of the speech and word.

According   to  ancient  Indian  grammarians  every  inner  movement   of consciousness  tends  towards self-expression in the form of an  inner  sound, word  and language even when it is not outwardly articulated in  gross  speech and  word.  The speech and the word are considered as creative because it gives a precise form to an inner movement of consciousness which would have otherwise remained inchoate and  unmanifest.  For in the Indian view  creation  is  not forming  something  out of nothing but Srushti which means  “loosing  forth”  into manifest  form  that which remains unmanifest.  It the Vedic conception the process of human speech is a diminished figure of the process of the original creative Act which gives birth to the World.  Now let us leap again from the psychological to the metaphysical plane to examine the validity of this Vedic concept.

The Eternal Vibration

One  of  the  well-known  and common ideas  of  all  ancient  occult  and spiritual traditions of the world is the concept of creation proceeding from an eternal Vibration in the  supreme Reality or the original existence.  According to the   Indian spiritual tradition when the absolute willed to create the world, this  supreme will  manifests as the original Vibration, Spanda, in Its infinite being.   This primal vibration is the Vedic Vac, the eternal Word which gives birth to the world.

This creative Vibration is normally equated with OM, the original sound.  But  the vibration is not only “Sound” but also “Light”; it is at once  “Light and Sound.”   For the essential nature of the creative power of the Reality  is consciousness which is at once the eternal Light of Awareness which knows  and reveals and an eternal Energy inherent in Light which creates.  So the supreme creative Word is a rhythmic vibration of energy in the light of the creative consciousness of the Supreme, rta-chit or rtm-jyothi of the Vedas.

But creation of what? Not illusions but truths, truths of the divine Reality projected in its creative consciousness in the form of a harmony of creative ideas, rta, of the Vedas.   Each creative idea is a luminous vibration of consciousness pregnant with a self-realising truth which unfolds itself in the cosmic evolution according to its own unique and inherent self-law swadharma.  This harmony of creative vibrations of truth of things in the supreme consciousness of the Reality is the primal Word.  The entire cosmic movement is nothing but rhythmic and progressive unfolding of this eternal creative vibration, the Vac, the word, Om, in Space and Time.  This is the vedic theory of creation.

The Inner Hearing and Vision

Now what is the relation of his Vedic theory of creation to the Vedic Mantra?   The highest truth of things of life and nature is an eternal vibration of light and sound in the consciousness of the creative Divine and can be seen and heard by the inner spiritual vision and hearing of the Seer and Poet.  The Vedic singer is at once a Rishi, the seer who has seen and a Kavi, the poet who has heard the Truth.  The Manthra is the word-form of the luminous sound-body of truth.  An ideal manthra must be the inevitable and inspired word which can exactly reproduce the rhythm and music of the sound-body or vibration of truth seen and heard by the inner vision and hearing of the seer.  Thus creating the Mantra is the combined work of two spiritual faculties of revelation which sees and the inspiration which hears the truth.  This is the reason why in  the Indian tradition, the Veda is called as Sruthi, something “heard”.

For the Rishi who fashions the Manthra, the function of Manthra is to establish the power of truth seen and heard by him in the very substance of his consciousness and make it a part of his being.  For the one who chants or hears the manthra, it can reproduce the vibration of truth in his consciousness and thereby lead him to the same experience and vision of the seer of the manthra.

 Sanskrit: The Manthric Language

Sanskrit  language  in general and the Vedic sanskrit  in  particular  is believed  to  have  such mantric power.  For the Vedic  mantras  are  called as chandas,which means “metres” and these metres are considered in  the  ancient vedic  tradition as the reflection of the cosmic metres, the  Great  Universal Rhythm,  Rta,  which  governs the world.  Sanskrit alphabet is based on certain fundamental root-sounds which can be made through the human vocal instruments.  The Sanskrit grammar is based on the principle or intuition that there is a definite relationship between the sound, word and its meaning.   Apart from this theoretical considerations, the manthric power of Sanskrit language is a well-tested fact even in our modern age.  For some, both from the east  and west,  the  mantric power of Sanskrit is a living spiritual  experience.   For example, Vyas Houston, an American Sanskrit scholar, say in an interview:

“Sanskrit seems to promote healing and generate inspiration whether you understand it or not.  I spent many years chanting what I did not understand.  But as I became proficient enough on chanting, more and more of the actual meaning come through.  Now when I chant, I do understand the meaning.  And it has aligned me much, much more deeply with the teaching, because I am getting the resonance as the meanings conveyed in its awesome body of sacred teachings.”  (1)

This  personal  experience  of  a  western  sanskrit  scholar  shows  the tremendous spiritual-creative power inherent in this ancient Indian language.


  1. Yoga International, May – June, 1992

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