During the workshop at Studio Panterra last weekend, a question surfaced regarding mantra. Since Francois Raoult is an ethnomusicologist by training, it is perhaps natural that mantra and sound are components of his practice and study. Here is some of his discussion:
We are interested in how the sound is embodied and how it flows through you. We’re not so interested in simply repeating the sounds for the sake of saying them.
The mantra doesn’t need to be polished; there is often a rough quality to it. It is not a song. Kirtan is somewhere between mantra and songs.
In old Indian temples mantra is alive and intense with old people chanting in crackling voices, sweating, etc.
Mantra of sound is a bindu or seed form. We’re not interested in meaning of word, but in the SOUND itself, such as Alleluia or Amen. Early Gregorian chant (in Latin) was very mantric.
Mantra is a shamanic power tool – don’t mess around with it foolishly.
When to begin mantra practice: Don’t do something too esoteric until you have some mastery of the exoteric. For example, if your trikonasana really stinks, don’t add jnana mudra! Side note: Mudras can devolve into gimmickry, but if you are aware and use them sensitively, they may be a powerful addition to your practice. Interestingly, most mudras Westerners can’t do because our fingers are too tight.
When chanting mantra, your voice has to be free of any gripping or holding. The sound has to well from deep within.
The Iyengar take is that ASANA IS THE MUDRA and BREATH IS THE MANTRA.
You should not repeat a mantra audibly without responsibility; you have to feel it deep inside. First you have to project your voice – there has to be some juice. Then you shape the sound, and then go introverted.
Every sound is a mantra, even the rain.
The percussion of acorns falling on skylights and a steady beat of rain augmented the continuous brahmari humming of a roomful of yogis stretched individually upon blankets, palms turned skyward.
F. played the singing bowl as we relaxed, healing our grief and stress. Ahh, savasana!