You carry Mother Earth within you. She is not outside of you. Mother Earth is not just your environment. In that insight of inter-being, it is possible to have real communication with the Earth, which is the highest form of prayer.
Thich Nhat Hanh
One night I said a mantra once and a spectacular inner experience began rapidly unfolding. It was as if something grabbed me and pulled me down into the earth herself. I startled in surprise, opened my eyes, and was almost as quickly plunged back into a deep state of consciousness.
Out of this single mantra ("Om shreem Mahalakshmiyei namaha") was released a dynamic play of energies, expressing themselves as multiple forms of universal growth and nurturing. Immersed in the Earth, I felt the musical hums of the soil, water, the alchemical combining into the harmony of new life, and a crescendo of growth as a seedling rapidly thrust upwards, through the soil, towards the sun. There was the sense of teeming, unceasing, unstoppable energy recombining into infinite forms. It was ecstatic. The entire experience felt like an explosion of energy and unfolded like a time lapse video. It lasted, oh, about 2 temporal seconds which is when I was pulled into a profound state resembling sleep. But the echoes have lasted much longer…
Mantras are vast fields of spiritual energy which contain interpenetrating levels of consciousness. When I awoke, I felt like there had been four very distinct resonances within this field. Maybe there were more but I was only capable of attuning to these four at the time. Some quick research clarified things for me. There was Lakshmi, the source of all abundance; Bhumi Devi, the Earth; Sita, the force of fecundity and nurturing; and Tulsi, the Queen of the plants within the Ayurvedic system. Four interconnected Earth energies. Four Earth "Goddesses". I've already blogged about the first two, today I would like to expand on this experience by looking at the latter two and additionally what this meditative experience taught me about mantras.
SITA: THE EMBODIMENT OF NURTURING
An avatar is a Sanskrit word that means "descent, alight, to make one's appearance" and refers to the unmanifest taking form. Sita is considered one of Lakshmi's avatars and the daughter of Bhumi Devi, the Earth.
Sita has been lauded for centuries as the the model wife of the epic story the Ramayana. She is considered a paragon of familial devotion and sacrifice. But Sita precedes this story as an ancient Vedic fertility deity where she is the potency of the Earth, the primordial capacity for growth. Sita literally means “furrow” in reference to the agricultural trenches made by the plow. Over time Sita assumes a more human character until she becomes the heroine of the Ramayana and represents the human embodiment of archetypal feminine qualities.
In brief, baby Sita is found laying in an agricultural field by a King. She is recognized as the daughter of the Earth and also known by the name Bhumija, the daughter of Bhumi. Bhumi specifically refers to "soil". As a young adult, she marries the virtuous Rama and their marital life unfolds filled with challenges. (Maybe you can relate?!) At certain points in their lives, Rama is banished to the forest and she remains by his side; she is kidnapped and when she is returned to him, he suspects infidelity; she undergoes trial by fire and survives unscathed; nonetheless she is banished again and raises her two sons alone becoming the first single mother of mythology. When the children are old enough, she returns them to their father and Rama, overcome with regret, begs her to return. But she's had it. She cries out to Bhumi Devi, the Earth, to take her home. The earth opens and embraced by her mother, she disappears, never to be seen again.
Sita is many things within this story for it can be appreciated on multiple levels. She is, among other things, an extension of the Earth's fertility and abundance. As a human embodiment of the feminine, she epitomizes the qualities of devotion and nurturing. It is not so much that throughout her life she passively devotes herself to her husband but in my own opinion, that she just is true to her own nature, her own Dharma, as an avatar of the feminine capacities of unconditional love, selfless giving, and a holding space for family. Her family duties fulfilled, she then returns to the source of her own feminine empowerment: the Earth.
Sita, as archetype, is an aspect of the human psyche: she is the force or capacity within us that nourishes and nurtures others. She is the mother that cannot stop giving.
TULSI: A FORCE FOR HEALING
Tulsi is another avatar of Lakshmi. Mythology states that Saraswati, in anger, cursed Lakshmi to be reborn as a plant. Vishnu, the preserver deity, consoled her by explaining that this had been predestined: she would be known as Tulasi (Tulsi) and capable of purifying all levels of existence.
Tulsi means "the incomparable one" and is considered to be the Queen of the plants within the Indian Ayurvedic system of healing. Tulsi, otherwise known as Holy Basil, is considered to have almost magical restorative properties and to be a woman’s plant specifically. Within Ayurveda, all natural forms are considered to be the home of universal forces or "deities" and the Tulsi plant is thus worshipped as the embodiment of the Goddess herself.
Tulsi is an embodiment of vitality and abundance in plant form. Additionally, she has the capacity to connect one to her own source energy.
So let's get personal now, shall we? Much of my adult life had been spent feeling disconnected and longing for the natural enviroment of my childhood. My youth was spent climbing trees, wading in streams, and exploring the woods. I felt, as we do in childhood, intimately connected to my surroundings. As an adult I cultivated a love of wandering and travel, which partially arose from a fundamental sense of disconnect from my urban surroundings. What happened that night in meditation basically brought me much of what I felt I lacked in my life. We are offshoots of the irrepressible, abundant creative energy that manifests all forms. I now feel viscerally connected again to a particular channel of this energy but instead of now seeking this connection outside, I can connect to it inside. Certainly brings new meaning to "being grounded" and "feeling rooted"!
MANTRAS CONNECT US TO THE FABRIC OF EXISTENCE
When we chant a mantra we are entering into a resonant luminous field of energies enfolded within the vast interconnected fabric of consciousness. We are yoking our intelligence to a greater intelligence and tapping into specific forces and wisdoms. Certain mantras encode the universal energies and archetypes that manifest as natural forms in nature and our psyches. We can have a visceral experience of their consciousness which can engender a great appreciation for all forms. Of course, mantra is not necessary to attain this but does allow us to connect with said energies and expand them within our own being. Jung introduced us to the concept that visual symbols were powerful keys to forces within the psyche, well, so are sonic symbols.
I loved how this experience was inherently musical. Out of the fundamental vibratory pattern of Lakshmi unfolds the fecundity of the Earth, the healing vitality of plants, and woman as the "soil" for fertility and devotion. Maybe avatars are simply the harmonics unfolding from a fundamental vibration!
To close, such experiences are drawn from teachers and lineages for spiritual "knowledge" is like a river that flows from being to being. I consider myself incredibly fortunate and privileged to have a generous, skilled teacher and to have benefitted from other teachers in the past. Mantras are considered to be empowered by the consciousness of the teacher who gives them to you, thereby creating enhanced opportunity for your own progress. It's up to us to then provide a fertile, nurturing soil for the cultivation of the flowering of own consciousness. It's a phenomenal tradition that nourishes me on a daily basis, care to join me?!
The ancient traditions of yoga provide us with so many tools to expand our awareness and deepen our sense of Self. Join me Monday, Nov. 13th for an evening of Mantra and Meditation hosted by Transitions NDG. More info here.
Here are my "musings" on mantra and sound as a transformative path.