The texts on sadhana — yoga practice — say in simplified essence that mantra is the fulcrum between the unknowable universal and manifest particulars. What language we use and how we use it can either lead us towards skillfully navigating life informed by illuminated understanding or blundering through things with obscured vision (or, I add, somewhere in between, but which do you want to be your goal?). If you listen for your authentic voice, what words do you want to utter, which do you want to embody, which do you want to offer? The mantra is a tool (in the best sense of the word) to find a source for our own language (thought and spoken) that recognizes the common bond of dwelling together as neighbors (near or far) on this earth, in this universe.
New York City, June 13-14
I walked over to the Capitol building at lunchtime to see the rally in support of the Jobs Bill. As I approached, attendees were chanting “jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war, jobs not war….”
The act of chanting gathered the energy together. The chanting empowered those at the rally to deepen their resolve. In this instance, their resolve was to seek in an ever more coordinated and expansive way a shift away from war and big finance and to community, environment, education, and infrastructure repair and development, employing the millions who have been out of work in this double recession. Chanting also helped bring the message into the conscious awareness of those hearing the chant, which in its simplicity served as a sign post both for the more elaborate meaning and for a more universal call for unity and change. This power to work both within and without with chanting at a rally can give a taste the powers attributed to the yoga practices of mantra repetition (japa) or meditation with a mantra. Just how mantra and chanting work is a curious and wondrous matter, but it is hard to think of a culture that has not spontaneously used chants for both individual and collective worship and power.
In 2000 or 2001, shortly before I started practicing Anusara yoga, a teacher who regularly played music in class, played for us a recording of Alice Coltrane singing a tantric chant to Siva and the Goddess Bhuvaneshvari. I only heard the chant once while we were in savasana — corpse pose/final relaxation. Although I only heard the chant once, for several months afterwards, I found myself having a recurring dream that I was wondering in a neighborhood that looked like the one where I grew up and went to high school and chanting the full chant. At the time I merely found it curious that I seemed to have learned the sanskrit just by hearing the chant one time. I have since learned that the recording may have been done right near my high school; that is where the Coltrane’s had a recording studio. I also learned that the chant was a tantric chant. At the time, my teachers were coming from a classical yoga perspective. Did I actually learn the chant by osmosis? Was having the very vibration of the chanting near where I lived and studied the catalyst for me, as a receptive being, discovering a path of tantric yoga?
I have found other recordings of the chant. One is Atman’s “Dancing to the Goddess” on the Eternal Dance CD, which is an electronica version. The other is Ragani’s “Om Mata” on the Best of Both Worlds, which is a very nice kirtan/pop version. I have several of Alice Coltrane’s recordings, which are great jazz, if you aren’t familiar with Alice Coltrane as a fabulous musician in her own right. Recently I searched again on the internet to see if the bootleg had become available. There was nothing on YouTube (though some good Alice Coltrane things to watch). I bought Alice Coltrane’s “Radha-Krsna Mana Sankirtana,” which was originally recorded in 1977 (when I was in high school) and reissued in 2005, as I thought that was a promising source. It has some good things on it, but no luck finding the recording I wanted to hear.
The chant goes like this:
Samba sadasiva, samba sadasiva, samba sadasiva, samba shambo.
Om mata, om mata, om sri mata, jagade mata.
Om bhuvaneshvari, sri bhuvaneshvari, hari parashakti, devi bhuvaneshvari.
It is a chant to the benevolent, auspicious one within, the radiant goddess, the creatrix of the world. Bhuvaneshvari is one of the ten wisdom goddesses.
Please advise if you have access to the Alice Coltrane or another recording of this beautiful chant.