Mantra is a syllable, a sound, a word, or a set of words found in the deep state of meditation by the great sages. It is not the language in which human beings speak. Those sounds which are received from the superconscious state lead the seeker higher and higher until he reaches the perfect silence. The more awareness is increased, the more mantra reveals new meaning. It makes one aware of a higher dimension of consciousness. Mantra is very powerful and essential, a compact form of prayer. If remembered constantly, it becomes a guide. Exploiting the noble tradition by selling mantras in the marketplace is absurd.

I used to collect mantras like people collect material objects, hoping that some new mantra I was about to receive would be better than what I already had. Sometimes I would compare myself to other students and think, “My mantra is better than his mantra.” I was very immature. I call it crazy spirituality.

Mantra is a compact form of prayer.

There was a swami who lived quietly deep in the Himalayas between Uttarkashi and Harsil. I went to see him, and when I arrived he asked, “What is the purpose of your coming?”

I told him, “I want to receive a mantra.”

“You will have to wait,” he replied.

When Westerners go to someone for a mantra they are prepared to spend a lot of money, but they don’t want to wait. I tried the same thing. I said, “Swamiji, I am in a hurry.”

“Then come next year,” he said.

“If I stay now, how many days will I have to wait?” I asked.

“You will have to wait as long as I want you to wait,” he replied.

So I waited patiently, one day, two days, three days. Still the swami wouldn’t give me a mantra.

On the fourth day he said, “I want to give you a mantra, but promise that you will remember it all the time.”

I promised.

He said, “Let us go to the Ganges.” Countless sages have done spiritual practices on the banks of the sacred Ganges and have been initiated there.

I stood by the river and said, “I promise I will not forget this mantra.” I repeated this promise several times, but he still delayed.

At last he said, “No matter where you live, live cheerfully. This is the mantra. Be cheerful at all times, even if you are behind bars. Anywhere you live, even if you have to go to a hellish place, create heaven there. Remember, my boy, cheerfulness is of your own making. It only requires human effort. You have to create cheerfulness for yourself. Remember this mantra of mine.”

I was both very happy and very sad, because I had expected him to give me some unusual sound to repeat. But he was more practical. I apply this “mantra” in my life and find it successful everywhere. His spiritual prescription seems to be the best of physicians—a real key for healing oneself.

Source: Living with the Himalayan Masters by Swami Rama

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Stories of the Sages