Recitation of mantras
So that is actually listed in the ways of how to recite mantras.
There is a whole long list of different ways in which one works with mantras.
And so on one level, working out loud with mantras is at least turning speech to something positive, because we integrate: the body in a certain position, imagining that we are a certain deity; reciting a mantra; and keeping in mind either compassion, clarity of mind, or whatever is the representation there.
But the deepest level of mantra has to do with shaping the energies of the breath. You shape the breath with the mantra, and that shapes the energy, which allows you a method for gaining control over the winds and the energies of the body so that you can bring them into the central channel.
And it’s done with a special type of mantra, a special type of practice – very, very advanced – for getting the winds in the central channel, so you get to the clear light mind more easily which is the most conducive for understanding voidness, etc.
So, on one level, what helps to shape the breath is at least vocalizing to a certain extent but, you know, it doesn’t have to be really loud. Of course there are many styles of recitation of mantras: and there’s loud, and there’s soft, and there’s singing, and there’s all these other things.
But ultimately, on the deepest level, what is really only required is a shaping of the breath.
Nobody else has to hear it.
So most of the time when you do mantras, what is recommended is that your mouth moves in the shape of the mantra and there is a little bit of vocalization, but really only you can hear it, so it is not disturbing everyone around.
Now of course you go to the monasteries and you hear people screaming mantras on the top of their voice, but from a textual theoretical point of view that’s usually what’s recommended: just privately, shape the breath.
So it doesn’t mean, in short, that just reciting it mentally is useless or less powerful, it is just different.
Especially since the Tibetans mispronounce the Sanskrit mantras; the Mongols get it even further away from Sanskrit; the Chinese and the Japanese, when they attempt the mantras you can’t even recognize what mantra they are saying. So then one starts to question what really is involved here, because obviously these people still gain attainments through mantras.
So it’s not an easy topic. So His Holiness the Dalai Lama recommends that, despite the fact that the Tibetans have their own way of reciting and pronouncing – like they don’t say “Om Vajrasattva”, they say “Om Benzasato,” which is a deformation of the Sanskrit – nevertheless, he says if we can do it, as Westerners, as closely as possible to the original Sanskrit, that’s better.