Several spiritual masters unequivocally state that God’s name has power and chanting God’s name definitely has the power to purify our mind. When something unpleasant or inauspicious is said or heard, you might have noticed that some old people will quickly utter ‘Rama Rama’ or ‘Shiva Shiva’ and symbolically cover their ears.
When it comes to mantras, they are mostly given by qualified gurus to their disciples through a formal diksha (initiation). Such mantras mostly contain Om or other bijakshraras (like hrim, klim etc) and also additions like namo or namah.
The specific phrasing of mantras have been received through divine communion by our ancient rishis and they have been passed on across generations by various sects of Hinduism through guru-sishya parampara.
Even though we are familiar with several mantras like Om Namah Shivaya or Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya etc, Mantras are normally communicated in secrecy by the Guru to the disciple. A disciple is expected to keep his mantra a secret and not to reveal it to any other person.
If a person does not presently have access to any Guru or Satguru, then he can definitely take up chanting of Rama Nama or Shiva Nama and keep doing it with total devotion and faith. It will definitely bring in the spiritual benefits.
Satgurus and avatara purushas are capable of initiating different disciples with different mantras depending on the disciple’s taste, mental leaning or attraction to a specific ishta (personal God) and spiritual bend of mind.
According to Satguru Mata Amritanandamayi (Amma), a sadguru while initiating a disciple with a mantra, transmits a little of his Prana shakti (vital force). It is like adding a little butter milk to milk to create curd. Chanting of mantra subsequently by the disciple is like churning the curd to obtain butter (realizing God).
It means that getting a formal mantra diksha from a sadguru is the best to gain the maximum benefit of chanting a mantra.
What does Swami Sivananda say about getting Mantra Diksha from a Satguru?
To receive the Guru-Mantra from a realised saint and Sat-Guru is the rates to good fortune and the most precious of the divine blessings that may be bestowed upon the aspirant. The full glory of this Mantra-Diksha, specially when it is done by a realised soul, can hardly be imagined even fractionally by the initiated who has not yet a proper idea of what the Mantra and Mantra-Diksha really imply.
A most tremendous transformation begins to take place in the innermost core of the conscience of the initiated or the receiver of the Mantra. The initiated is himself unaware of this fact because of the veil of ignorance or Mula-Ajnana that still covers him, even as a poor man sleeping soundly in his humble cottage at night, carried silently and deposited upon a royal couch in the Emperor’s Palace, remains completely unaware of his transfer, because he is still in deep sleep. But nevertheless, this transformation start with initiation, and like unto a seed that is sown in the earth, ultimately culminates in the grand fruit of realisation or Atma-Jnana.
To reach fruition, even as the seed has to pass through a process of developing into a seeding, a plant, a sapling and then a full-grown tree, even so the Sadhaka, after receiving initiation, must make earnest and continuous effort in the form of spiritual Sadhana if the Diksha is to become blissfully fruitful as Self-realisation. This part is the Sadhaka’s sole responsibility in which task he will doubtless receive the help, guidance and grace of the Guru in the measure of his firm faith and loyalty to him.
(Excerpts from the book Japa Yoga, By Swami Sivananda)
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