How To Use The Mantra of Liberation To Break Free From Life’s Delusions
Shiva, the presiding deity for the mantra (Image by Devanath from Pixabay)
Meaning, benefits, and practice of one of the most popular Sanskrit mantras
Mantras are highly effective tools given to us by saints and sages to concentrate the mind and free us from our illusory worries. Mantras help the chanter not only by focusing his mind on the words, but also enriching his soul with their spiritual vibrations.
A brief look at the genesis of mantras tells us that they were not written by a poet or a philosopher. They were revealed to saints, not in words, but in the form of vibration. These saints then converted those vibrations into words, thus giving the chanter an ability to experience the uplifting vibration itself.
Every vibration carries its own significance. And the mantra we’ll look at today helps us to be free from the cycles of death and rebirth, thereby hastening the process of the soul’s liberation.
The mantra is called the “Mahamrityunjaya Mantra.” By definition, it’s the mantra that protects us from our deepest fear — fear of death.
The Mantra of Liberation
Here’s how it looks like in Sanskrit:
ॐ त्र्यम्बकं यजामहे सुगन्धिं पुष्टिवर्धनम् उर्वारुकमिव बन्धनान्मृत्योर्मुक्षीय माऽमृतात्
And here’s the English transliteration:
oṃ tryambakaṃ yajāmahe
mṛtyormukṣīya māmṛtāt ॥
Before diving into the full meaning of the mantra, let’s see what each word means:
Om: It is the primordial sound that manifested the three levels of existence — material, subtle/astral, causal.
Trayambakam: “The possessor of three eyes.”
Yajamahe: “We all together worship him.”
Sugandhim: “As pleasurable as incense.”
Pushtivardhanam: “The one which increases our vitality for a healthy spiritual life.”
Uruvaurukamiva: “Like a cucumber.”
Bandhanaat: “Getting freed from.”
Mrityormukshiya: “Freedom from death.”
Ma amritaat: “Not from immortality.”
Joining the meaning of each word, here’s what the whole mantra means:
“I surrender myself to Lord Shiva, who has three eyes, who is as pleasurable as a sweet smelling incense and who gives vitality to the devotee to perform devotional service. Just like a cucumber is freed from its stem naturally, be merciful upon me and release me from the shackles of death, not from immortality.”
You’ll find simpler meanings as well but this one gives justice to all the words in the mantra. Whatever meaning we give it in words it doesn’t matter much, as long as it’s mostly right. What’s important is how deeply we absorb its meaning in our hearts.
Like all great mantras, this was also revealed to great saints and sages as a unique vibration that enhances individual and collective experience of consciousness. If you’re having trouble digesting this fact, then know this.
Even gravity and other laws of physics are first understood intuitively before boiling them down to equations. Similarly, these mantras are first known intuitively and then put to words to be used by people who don’t have the same spiritual realization as the perceiver.
Recently when the COVID deaths rose in India, about 1.5 months ago, a group of our spiritual community chanted Mahamrityunjaya and Gayatri mantras every day.
Anyway, the inspiration or the presiding deity for this mantra is none other than Lord Shiva. Specifically, it addresses the “Rudra” (fierce) form of Shiva as the destroyer of delusions and transcender of death.
There are different stories about the origin of this mantra.
The most common one is about Rishi Markandeya who prayed incessantly to Lord Shiva to prevent his premature death. During his worship and devotion, this mantra was revealed to him.
Some also say that it was revealed to Shukracharya the spiritual master of demons or Maharishi Vashishtha.
What are the benefits of chanting this mantra?
As we saw, internalizing the meaning of this mantra frees us from the fear of death. It helps us dwell in the thought of our immortality (of the soul) and not be identified with this body or ego.
On the material plane, it helps us revitalize the body with energy and therefore heal ailing parts in ourselves or someone else. As the mantra says, “like a cucumber is freed from its stem naturally,” it helps in decaying the body with the least resistance or pain.
If you’ve ever learned about Karma you’d know that we carry our “vasanas” (desires) and “samskaras” (impressions of past actions) through one life to the other. Thus, thinking of this subtle level, the mantra helps us cast away our desires, fears, greed, lust, jealousy, and other negative emotions to purify our soul on its path to Self-Realization.
The name of the mantra itself means “The Great Victory over the Great Death.” It’s not just about having healthy bodies or praying for long life. It’s much deeper.
That said, it does provide obvious benefits like stress reduction, increased concentration, better health, and so on.
How to chant?
For starters, here’s a recording that will help you with the right pronunciation. You can chant it as many times are you want.
It’s generally advised to sit upright in a meditative posture, close your eyes, and focus at the point between the eyebrows while chanting. This helps to raise your consciousness up through the spine, towards the brain.
When to chant?
You’ll often hear prescriptions to chant it 1.5 hours (1 hour 36 minutes to be precise) before sunrise which is called the “Brahma Muhurta.” Muhurta means a period. According to Indian philosophy, one muhurta equals 48 minutes. Brahma Muhurta is the 14th muhurta of the night (there are 15 muhurtas every night).
This 14th muhurta or period is considered to be the most beneficial not only for chanting but also for any kind of spiritual practice. If you can wake up at that time, that’s good for you.
But if you can’t do it, don’t let that be an excuse to not practice this mantra. These prescriptions for the exact times to chant are meant to hasten the spiritual progress of the devotee. But there will be no progress to hasten if you don’t chant in the first place!
Why is it often chanted 108 times?
It’s prescribed to chant the mantra 108 times. It’s common for people to take a Rudraksha mala (a string of beads) which has 108 beads and use that to count as they chant.
108 is a common figure in the Hindu tradition. The Vedic Mathematical explanation of the number ‘108’ is associated with the distance of the Sun and the Earth and also the Earth and the Moon which is 108 times the diameter of the Sun and Moon respectively.
There are also 108 Upanishads (the treatises). Further ‘1’, ‘0’ and ‘8’ signify ‘oneness’, ‘nothingness’ and ‘everything’ respectively. Together, they depict that the universe is one, nothing, and everything all at the same time.
Most mantras are thus chanted 108 times to be in harmony with the vibrations of the universe.