Can we chant Mantras without knowing the meaning?

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Wisdom For Seekers / Yogic Science


What chanting a mantra can do to you? Is it ok to chant a mantra without knowing the meaning?


Duration: 10 min


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Can we chant Mantras without knowing the meaning?

The following is an unedited transcript of Sadhguru's video. For better readability, breaks and highlights have been added by the editors.

Questioner: Namaskaram Sadhguru. Is it okay to chant mantras without knowing the meaning?

Sadhguru: Mantras have no meaning. See, there are two dimensions to a mantra. Mantras are not supposed to have any meanings. In the tradition, there are different types of mantras.

Mantras have no meaning

Unfortunately, the mantras which are normally known, they have given the meanings, so that people can involve. Because there are lots of idiotic people who cannot involve with anything that’s meaningless. That is why they miss the sunrise, the sunset, the moon, the full moon, everything they miss, because it’s meaningless. What is the meaning of a full moon? There is no meaning. Only if you’re in love, it means a lot. Otherwise, what is it? Nothing. It’s not meaningful means, it is not useful.

So, all the idiots on the planet will do only meaningful things. Yes. Because they have no intelligence to recognize life, and the many facets of life. It is not because you have attached a stupid meaning to it, it exists. It exists beyond you. It existed before you, it will exist beyond you. It is not, because you give it a meaning, it’s become useful or not useful.

So, the stupid in the world will do meaningful things. They may be intellectual, but life stupid. They have no life sense. If you have life sense, you will see it is the most meaningless things which really set you on fire, isn’t it so? No.

So they created two kinds of mantras. One larger set of mantras which have no meaning, just pure sound. You will see this in our music also. The Yaksha program happened just now. And many of our people who are looking for meanings were thoroughly bored, because they’re doing alaap for forty minutes – aaaa…. “Say something, say at least Shiva, shambo something”. No, aaaa.., ting, ting. They’re not getting the point because it’s about the sound.

Meanings are made up in human minds. Sound is the essence of creation

Why is sound so much more important than a word, which is a meaning? Meanings are made up in human minds. Sound is the essence of creation. If you touch the sound, you’re touching creation. If you touch a word, you’re just going into the psychological structure of human beings. Psychological structure of human beings is essentially a certain kind of madness. We can enjoy it, we can use it. But essentially, it’s a certain kind of illusionary setup. Sound is a fundamental aspect of creation.

If you have mastery over sound, you have mastery over creation itself in a certain way, because creation is just a complex amalgamation of sounds. It’s the blueprint of creation, but meanings are human things. You know the same words mean different things in different languages, even in India, you know this. The same word means different things, because it’s all made up. The sound is not made up. Sound is part of the creation. Sound is part of the existence. Sound is part of making the creation happen.

If you have mastery over sound, you have mastery over creation itself in a certain way

Right now, the whole creation is reverberating in a certain way. You cannot hear it, it doesn’t matter. But the words and meanings are a human making. It is meaningful only as a conspiracy. When I say a conspiracy – do you hear what the cricket is saying? What is he saying? You don’t know, but they’re talking. They’re also like you. Some of them are just making sound, just doing alaap. Just sound, simply enjoying the sound. Enjoying the creation in one sense means, enjoying the sound of it. If you don’t have a keenness to listen, if you don’t have a keenness to pay attention, you cannot enjoy any aspect of creation actually. You will only enjoy psychological patterns in your head.

So, this is the reason why most human beings want to speak. Most of the time they want to be talking. Not because they have something to say, because they have to find meaning. Simply the silence or sound both are too overwhelming. That is why when we say spiritual process, first thing is silence. If you are psychologically very stable, we may say, “Okay, thirty-day silence, sixty-day silence.” If you’re psychologically fragile, we’ll say, “Okay, three days.” Three days also people go crazy. We’ll say, “Okay, half a day silence, up to noon silence, after that you blabber.” They usually make it up after noon.

Those of you who talk a lot, you know, meaning is meaningless. You can simply talk, a whole lot of people are experts, they can simply speak without any meaning. They have understood the importance of sound. They can go on talking without making any meaning. Now, if you are a bird, we would pardon you. If you are this one, we would be okay. Or if you’re a musician, you would be okay to make meaningless sounds. If you’re speaking, you are expected to make some meaning.

Mantra is not to be spoken, it is to be chanted

So, mantra is not to be spoken, it is to be chanted. Chanting means it’s a – chant is of the sound, not of the meaning. Meaning is of speech. Meaning is of the word, written word and spoken word. Meaning does not belong to a chant. A chant is simply a sound, a reverberation. So, if you do not know the meaning, it’s the best way to chant if you ask me. Simply absolutely involved with the sound and saying it.

But first of all, what you are uttering, is it a mantra or is it a bhajan or is it a sankirthan, you must look at it. If it’s a mantra, mantra means a pure sound, it need not have any meanings. You can give it whatever meaning you want to start with, because without meaning you cannot be involved. But once you know how to be involved, you should not give it any meaning. ‘Aum Namah Shivaya’, does not mean you go on imagining one man sitting there on top of a mountain with something, something happening around him. No. Initially, if that’s the only way you can be involved, you can look at the Sivakasi picture, Okay? Once you know how to be involved with the sound, you get rid of the man. He is not needed. He’s a disturbance.

I’m telling people in samyama, they’re chanting, their question, “if Shiva comes? I am calling so many times, if he comes?”. If he comes, just ignore him. Because that’s not the thing about mantra. The mantra is that you involve yourself in the sound, because you yourself, your physical thing is a certain pattern of sound. Right now, you’re trying to make yourself into a different pattern of sound, so that this sound becomes an access point to the larger sound, which you call as the cosmos. A larger arrangement of sounds is cosmic in nature.

Now, you use a certain key sounds in a particular arrangement – you know, in the safe, the locks are called a combination lock? So, you have to just get it right for it to open. So, mantra is a combination, you get the right combination right, it will open up a doorway into creation. It is not the meaning. Whatever meaning you give it, however high or low, you think the meaning is, meaning is a made-up thing. It’s a psychological process. It has no existential meaning. No word has any existential meaning.

Right now, whatever English words we’re uttering, doesn’t mean anything to the trees. But if you… you can actually – these experiments have been done – if you sit here and sing beautifully – I cannot do that. But if we sit here and sing really aaa… properly, the trees, the tree is full of flower, it could be because of Yaksha. Okay the rains have aided it, but don’t… do not discount the power of the sound. Do not discount the power of the sound, it has influence on everything. Or if you chant a mantra, the tree may respond to it. If you sing music, it may respond to it. If you just generate a thought, it may respond to it. But if you speak, it will not respond. This is true with the tree, this is true with the divine.

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