IN-DEPTH MANTRA YOGA FOR THE SPECIALIST
Reviewed in the United Kingdom on 15 June 2014
Anything that Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shaastri) writes is always authentic, scholarly, but accessible, and based on his own study and practice, being one of the rare pandits who practices what he preaches. His astoundingly vast scholarship brings to light hard to come by knowledge from otherwise obscure areas of spiritual and yogic research.
This work is basically a specialist’s exposition of the letters and sounds of the Sanskrit Alphabet and the effects of bija mantras exclusively. There are three chapters alone on the on the vowels, semi-vowels and consonants, offering an exhaustive account of the attributes of every letter of the Sanskrit alphabet and what they represent on physical, psychological and spiritual levels. These in-depth studies, will be fascinating for the linguistically inclined who wish to delve into the nitty-gritty basics of the Sanskrit language, although it may be information overload for the average reader.
The enumeration of the remarkably diverse powers attributed to each seed-sound stretches credibility. But such is what tradition has handed down (or elaborated upon), as is the way with successive generations of yogis, each adding his tithe of experience or outlook. However, it is a mind-boggling effort to attempt to remember all the complex ramifications of every letter and their combinations in mantras. This is not a book to read lightly, but a well-referenced textbook to be referred to at need.
Strangely, Dr. Frawley, following certain Shaivite traditions, reverses the roles of Shiva and Shakti in his exposition of the Sanskrit Alphabet, designating the vowels as the Shiva principle and the consonants to Shakti or Prakriti (matter or nature). Whereas, in the tradition of the Tantra-Mantra master with whom I studied, the vitality of the vowels were give as Shakti energy and the consonants as the inert Shiva principle, unpronounceable without being combined with a Shakti vowel.
Otherwise, on the practical level, he concurs with my own experience as a Tantra-Mantra practitioner, regarding the importance of regulating mantras in accordance with the breath, which is rarely evident in Vedic chant, but which in my experience makes all the difference. And interestingly, he insists that speech, mind and breath, must be brought down to the base of the spine before it can arouse the rising of kundalini, but unfortunately does not offer any specific method for achieving this.
The ‘Divine Word’ is here defined as ‘the Goddess’ and we are enjoined to use speech as a means of worshipping her. Whilst this is a worthy notion, for my sensibilities I have no concept of a ‘Goddess’ in my world. For those, like me, not constitutionally drawn to visualising the Absolute as a Mother Goddess (or Father, for that matter), or humanly conceived god or goddess of some sort, it may be preferable to connect not with a particular deity, but to the divine quality its name symbolically represents.
Complex mantras are given, but unfortunately without an accompanying CD, the metre or rhythm in which the longer bija mantras are to be chanted is lacking. We are cautioned that such mantras “should be learned and practised with appropriate guidance.” But alas, “appropriate guidance” is far and few between, making the majority of these mantras out of reach for most students.
While concentrating on the quality of the Tantric bija mantras he also finishes off the book with a chapter on Vedic mantras.
Frawley has crammed a lifetime’s study into this slender 200 page book. And it really looks crammed. The layout of the book seems to have been done by an amateur. The Sans Serif typeface throughout (rather than Times Roman) is tiring to the eye. And the text is packed onto every page like there is a shortage of paper, with less than half a centimetre margin down the edges and sometimes only one millimetre space at the bottom of the page.
Dr. Frawley’s excellent work deserves better than that. And Lotus Press could advisedly take note for their next edition.
Muz Murray (Ramana Baba)
Author of Sharing the Quest.
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