I have to admit that Juan caught me a bit unawares when he suggested we record and write up interviews about different topics that might be of interest for people attending his courses, or for people who find these things appealing. My mind went blank for a while and I didn’t know what to say. I looked around and continued eating. The dim light of the restaurant was an invitation to be calm and in peace. The eye of Shiva observed us from the wall, and then the word OM came to my mind. We had been eating and talking about everything in a quiet Indian restaurant in Barcelona’s city center. Having asked Juan thousands of questions in his courses and having offered my help in transmitting his knowledge, I was there, eating with him and keen to collaborate with him. When he suggested we work on these interviews, I thought that regularly exchanging ideas and impressions with someone of his experience would be a privilege. Thus, after my initial hesitation, I had no problem accepting his proposal.
For more than a decade, my endless curiosity and thirst for knowledge had led me (and still lead me) to search for books, magazines, programs, conferences, courses and places related to certain topics. A large minority of people consider these practices sufficient important not only to deeply and thoroughly study them, but also to try to integrate them in their daily life. I guess that as years of practice go by one starts to develop certain abilities, like learning to separate wheat from hay, and studying with authentic teachers, in the sense that what they say and what they do is the same. In other words, teachers that are living examples of what they teach.
We finally agreed to meet at the end of June for the first interview. Juan had given me the freedom to think about different topics for discussion, and therefore, the theme for this first interview was still unknown. Knowing myself and my tendency towards what I call «creative mental diarrhea», I knew it was going to be difficult to choose one topic to start with. When we met for the interview, I briefly commented that I had found a course on mantras in the Internet. The course was from an American Hindu called Thomas Ashley-Farrand, and seemed very complete with a lot of interesting information and abundant examples that could be widely applied. Not surprisingly, Juan knew the guy and had taken the same course. We talked about that for a while and as Juan saw my interest in mantras, he suggested we choose exactly that topic for the first interview.
Although I had already attended Juan’s course on mantras (the source of my growing interest in the topic), one of the things that I couldn’t really understand is why a practice of Hinduand Buddhist origin should be included in the Tao system. I had also wondered several times about the point of reciting certain sentences in a strange language, that I couldn’t understand and thought that, perhaps, the impact of these sounds in my unconscious mind was not the same as, for instance, someone in Bombay or Lhasa.
Juan, tell me, why it is worth practicing mantras today, in our modern age?
The energetic practices, the yogas, to which those of the Tao belong, enhance our energy and reciting mantras helps us to direct the practice to a higher level. They also allow us to restructure our consciousness by rapidly inducing inner space and silence, a break from our internal dialogue. Mantras work with sound and light, two key elements of creation, and are part of a group of vibratory practices to which belong, for instance, the energy of the plants, flower essences, essential oils and the laying on of hands.
According to Indian tradition, – which maintains the memory of millennia – these vibratory practices are precisely those that best suit this era of humanity. In ancient times, it was observed that in one precession cycle the earth goes through four different phases of consciousness, in which the terrestrial axis points to different parts of the universe. Each phase lasts approximately six thousand years.
In the first phase, the so called golden age, human beings developed spiritually through meditation, without intermediaries. That was an easy practice at that time, more spontaneous than today, and there was support for meditation everywhere. When that cycle ended, human beings lost interest in meditation, and other practices became increasingly appealing, practices in which giving and receiving were used as a bridge to connect different dimensions. Offerings, for instance of flowers, were dedicated to the gods with the aim of obtaining a response proportional to the nature of the offering. That was the second period. The third period was characterized by the performance of ceremonies and rituals, in which the divine was contacted through intermediaries or priests. Finally, in the fourth cycle, which is the current era, everyone is distracted, lives fast and feels ill in one way or another. Nowadays, the conditions for transcendental practice are extremely bad: we have neither the time nor the money. Therefore, humans find vibratory practices most appealing. Indeed, these practices can be performed rapidly and everywhere, and their effects can be felt almost immediately. The growth of practices with mantras during the last thirty years (even the word “mantra” is already included in our language) has to do with the phase we are in now.
What is the practice with mantras about?
There are different functions in nature, like for instance joy. And every function has a certain vibration, a sound, that we call the root sound or mantra. In the case of joy, its sound or mantra is RHIM. Therefore, practicing the mantra RHIM allows us to contact the energy of joy directly. There exist as many mantras as functions in nature. However, what the ancients did was to develop the most essential ones.
Most of the mantras we know today are in Sanskrit, but, is it possible that more languages with this power existed in the ancient past? For example, I imagine an Egyptian or Mayan priest saying some secret syllables to obtain a given effect, or a druid or a shaman performing a certain type of invocation…
It is said that in past times before the Flood, human beings used mantric languages. There is speculation that, during the period of the Flood (some 12 000 years ago) there were many geological changes (such as big earthquakes or constant floods), a highly variable climate and large human migrations. With the scattering of humans that occurred during the Flood, languages of that time got mixed, resulting in the loss of many of them. However, many languages of the Northern hemisphere still share common roots of sounds. In fact, from Celtic languages to China, and in India, there are roots of sounds that are identical.
Do you mean that all languages before the Flood were part of a single universal language, something like what linguists call Indo-European?
That’s right. There was certainly a time before the Flood in which the root (mantric) sounds, were part either of a sacred and ritual language or of the common language. Nowadays, every language has remains of what that common language could have been.
That makes me think of Jodorowsky explaining that in order to stop the internal dialogue we can take any word and repeat it over and over again until we stop the constant stream of thoughts in our mind. Imagine something like: Coke, coke, coke, coke… What has that to do with a mantra? And many prayers and chants from the different religions, like the Kyrie Eleison of the orthodox Christianity, do they have something mantric about them?
It may be that endlessly repeating the word coke can stop, at least for a moment, the internal dialogue. However, as the word coke is not a mantra, a root sound, it won’t contact essential functions and will not lead to the same effect as the practice with mantras. In the case of religious chants, it’s important to differentiate between psalms and prayers of the common language (which is different for each culture) and those using languages like Sanskrit or old Hebrew, which are thought to be of mantric origin. Only these languages can activate the functions of nature. Who knows, perhaps Chinese and old Egyptian are also mantric languages, and other languages as well, but in order to find that out, a lot more research must be done.
The power of sound as divine power, OM as the sound of the creative energy… What magic. I always remember the words I once heard André Malby say: a magician is he who says “chair” and then sits on what he just said. And in the Bible it is said “in the beginning there was the Word” and in the Vedas “Nada Brahma”», which means «the world is sound». Amen.