People today are beset with a lot of problems brought about by the onslaught of new technology and stress. The problems of an unhealthy lifestyle, pollution, and rapidly changing views about society and all its norms that are seen in a new light drive people into trying to rediscover healthier alternatives even that of alternative lifestyles in the process.
The rediscovery of eating organic food, learning traditional Eastern techniques that aid in the wellness of both mind and body, as well as being well aware of the environment and making responsible, well-informed choices for its “maintenance” are what the people are doing right now.
Unfortunately, the art of rediscovery – discovering oneself and finding out who he truly is – is something that is sadly lost in Western lifestyle. This paper strives to go back to the basics – through breathing, chanting and mantra used by many traditional Asian wellness practices particularly the Indian ones – as well as challenging men and women today by telling the extraordinary example of Yeshe Tsogyal who defied all odds and succeeded in the rediscovery of herself.
Part I: Breathing, Chanting and Mantra
According to Das (2007), Buddhist spirituality concentrates a lot on the awakening of the person in his entirety.
The mantra, a group of sounds that are either words or even phrases, are then utilized either by chanting them or repeating them silently, and are then used for getting a person’s mind calm and focused.
Komitor and Adamson (2000) adds that mantras, with its repetitive or even unusual patterns of melody and rhythm, as well as any additional bodily movement, help people in attaining concentration, as well as “training” people to be able to breathe properly, and even in relating to other people, as well as helping with the improvement of one’s motor skills.
Werrier (2005) further describes the mantra as being an essential part of any practitioner, such as what was defined by the Mata – she describes the mantra as something that devotees would then have to take care of until the spirituality that is imbibed by the mantra itself would become a part of the person and to do this, the practitioner must also be confident and be utterly devoted to the entire process.
Budilovsky and Adamson (2003) also state that the mantras are, in Hindu beliefs, part of the gifts that their ancient seers received from the divine, and as such the mantras are handed from one generation of gurus to their students to the next, preserving them in their “unadulterated” forms.
Gurus and students alike, once students have been initiated, are then given the sutras learned by their gurus, and as a symbol of their link throughout life, students and their gurus alike must now chant the given mantra all throughout the rest of their lives.
The “unadulterated” forms of the mantras themselves – mantras kept in their original forms and tones and melodies – are, as according to Hindu beliefs, preserved the way they are to keep their power to heal the person as well as ensuring that the chanter himself to be directly connected and in touch with God himself.
Every person in the world has his or her own unique mantra that is just right for him or her, ideally given by that person’s own guru.
Budilovsky and Anderson then define several kinds of mantra according to whatever type that they are uttered, written or just repeated mentally. They are called as (in Sanskrit ) Vaikhari Japa if they are spoken, Upamsu Japa if they are either whispered or even hummed, Manasika Japa if the mantra is supposed to be repeated over and over silently, and Likhita Japa if the mantra is to be written down.
Radha (2005) explains that mantras could also be used in order to attain something that a person wants, given that the person in question also has set his mind firmly on getting that goal. She also talks about the specific mantra that each person has, such as what Budilovsky and Adamson has also talked about.
She calls this mantra as the Ishta Mantra (in Sanskrit), which is considered very special because this mantra is attuned specifically for each person. However, this does not mean that persons cannot have the same mantra given to them especially by their gurus. Radha explains that the mantra is attuned for the person, meaning that the mantra has been given to the person with his or her spiritual constitution in mind.
She also explains that getting a specific mantra could be that the person is drawn to it (the sounds), given to them by their personal gurus, or even could come to them in a dream. Choosing a mantra means that the practitioner must also stick to this specific mantra until he or she has experienced what kind of power this mantra holds for them.
The practitioner must also not give in to temptation to changing into another mantra because of mundane things such as thinking that he or she probably chose the inappropriate mantra for them, or even because of the fact that he or she has difficulty attaining some notes that are found in the mantra of his or her choosing.
Choosing a mantra means that the practitioner must ensure that he or she has a good foundation in it, before he or she can go on and receive more mantras in later development, which could be either two or three mantras.
Ungerleider (2005) states that breathing techniques form the basis of many meditational disciplines and aids in the relaxation of the person, once the proper breathing techniques are utilized. As Komitor and
Adamson have also stated, mantras bring about the proper breathing that the practitioner can attain while undergoing the meditative state, and helps the person become more attuned with oneself.
Das also defines the utilization of breathing techniques that would help the practitioner to become generally refreshed, with the accompanying mantra. Komitor and Adamson also state that proper breathing helps the person to focus on the exercise that would be done later.
Ungerleider also mentions that proper breathing does not only help a person relax, but it also helps him in attaining his maximum performance levels, especially when it comes to helping sports athletes in delivering their best performance in many sporting events.
Breathing techniques, called pranayama, is considered as somewhat akin to that of qigong in which pranayama also helps in the overall healing of the body, as well as help in giving renewed energy to the body, and even that of enhancing the body’s overall metabolism (Mackenzie & Rakel 2006).
Breathing is, as Anderson and Sovik (2000) explain, considered as some kind of natural mantra, such as what the mantra “soham” indicates. “Soham” is thought to be the sound one makes when one breathes, such that people are unaware that they are also chanting this mantra all throughout the day.
Breathing also sets the pace in one’s meditation. Anderson and Sovik cautions about trying to accommodate the mantra within one’s breathing – such as altering one’s breathing just so the mantra could be said within the pace of one’s breathing that fast.
The mantra was supposed to be said in tandem with one’s breathing, such as the breathing wouldn’t be impeded by the mantra itself. Breathing was supposed to be continuous even as one should go through his daily meditation and make one be aware of himself and could alter his awareness at will without being disturbed in his meditation.
Meditation indeed helps people rediscover their true selves by going back to who they really are, understanding who they really are, and discovering who they really are.
Chanting, the utterance and repetition of the mantra in its varied tones and rhythm, is viewed as several things for different beliefs that utilize chanting as part of their many ceremonies. Budilovsky and Adamson (2003) relate how Tibetan Buddhism sees the method of chanting as the one which then “frees” the hidden power of the mantras that are being chanted.
With the increase in the number of times the mantra is chanted, Tibetan Buddhists also believe that this also increases the spiritual energy that the mantra supposedly carries. Chanting also helps with the proper breathing of the practitioner in the utterance of the mantras, helps with relaxing the mind, make the heart beat slower and chanting also helps ease the practitioner to be able to ascend to a higher level or state of consciousness in extended periods of chanting.
Chanting is, as what Das also states, something that is akin to the sacred songs prevalent in a lot of cultures, helping them heal, helping them become attuned with themselves and transform themselves inside out.
Chanting helps with the “awakening” of the brain, stimulating both sides of the brain, and “awakening” every organ of the body. Radha (2005) also mentions that chanting also sets the practitioner’s mind to relax and get the mantra “memorized” that the practitioner would only have to continuously do the mantra anywhere that he can, whether when he’s doing chores or doing other things.
The chanting of the mantra, along with proper breathing, could help the practitioner rejuvenate his energy levels any time during the day if he so feels like it. Chanting also helps keep the mind focused on what one is doing, and sometimes even in the most seemingly mundane way, helps the practitioner concentrate on the task he is doing and appreciate everything about it and help him keep his inner peace.
Breathing, chanting and mantra are essential parts to keeping a practitioner grounded and attuned to oneself, and contribute to the overall wellness of the practitioner.
Take one out of the equation and the practitioner will lose his anchor into tapping into his own ability to heal, into clearing his conscience, into putting focus on whatever he is doing right now, the whole framework that he has set out in order to achieve the balance that he so wants. It is through the balance of this three that the practitioner may be able to tap into the wellspring that he uniquely has and make him feel totally complete.
Part II: Yeshe Tsogyal: Woman and Immortal
Yeshe Tsogyal is, as Ullman and Reichenberg-Ullman (2001) state, known as the mother of Tibetan Buddhism. Her name means “Ocean of Primordial Wisdom” and is the consort of Padmasambhava (“Lotus-Born”), whose biography she is also known to have done. Padmasambhava is widely known for being the guru who was responsible for “importing” Buddhism from India to Tibet.
Aside from being known as Padmasambhava’s biographer, Ullman and Reichenberg-Ullman state that Yeshe Tsogyal ahould also be remembered as a notable woman whose own forays into spirituality has earned her own accolades within the history of Tibetan Buddhism. In fact, she is so celebrated and her many achievements as a historical personage have received a mythical status and she is now elevated into a deity called as the Queen of Great Bliss.
Yeshe Tsogyal was the wife of Emperor Trisong Detsen, who was responsible for Padmasambhava’s entry into Tibet, and it was through the Emperor’s invitation that the guru was able to erect countless monasteries as well as be able to spread the teachings of Buddhism that came from India.
Trisong Detsen was also a philosopher and a practitioner of dharma, the Buddhist doctrine, as much as Yeshe was also a practitioner of (dharma). It was in he who arranged for Yeshe to become Padmasambhava’s spiritual consort, and this relationship was more than what people could account for as being “acceptable” between student and teacher, causing a scandal in the court and for that Yeshe was exiled.
Yeshe was not an ordinary woman; in exchange for the pomp and pageantry that she faced as part of the Emperor’s harem, she was more interested in enriching her spiritual growth and attaining spiritual wealth and gaining a lot of profound spiritual experiences.
Yeshe then goes on a journey in her pursuit of spiritual fulfillment and performed feats that were short of miraculous. Yeshe has been credited with a lot of feats such as the raising of the dead, and even going against hordes of supernatural foes, and having the elements at her command.
Her wisdom as well as her compassion was also known to be incomparable with any other. And she is also celebrated in an age wherein women were known to be inferior to men in terms of both societal and religious undertakings, serving as inspiration even up to yoginis of today, both men and women.
Yeshe was credited with the collection as well as the spread of Padmasambhava’s teachings in her journeys throughout Tibet. In order to safeguard her guru’s teachings for possible future generations, Yeshe developed the termas (“treasures”), mystical locations that ensured the security of her guru’s teachings for centuries to come, which were then only rediscovered and recovered with the help of people who are trained to find these said treasures called as ternons.
Yeshe was, first and foremost, a woman who was both wise and was more concerned with her spiritual welfare, more than what people during her time could most probably take. It was an age wherein women were not, as what UIlman and Reichenberg-Ullman already stated, considered as “valuable” – it was an age where patriarchy was the order of the day and women were considered as “lowly creatures”.
But despite these many drawbacks, Yeshe Tsogyal was able to make the most of her predicament – her exile from court and her newfound freedom in her own pursuit for spiritual growth and contentment – and achieved so many things that were considered more than what ordinary women of her time could have possibly done, bordering on what people describe as part of her holy nature.
But despite these many praises, and given her elevated status considering her as the aspect of the female Buddha Tara, Yeshe continued to remain a humble and very generous woman, winning over so many students. Her intelligence is also remembered and celebrated in her writings of her guru’s life, a composition about the practice of Vajrakilaya, her own life story and a prayer dedicated to the guru (Jestice 2004).
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