Integrating Dharma into Everyday Life

by Lama Yeshe

A powerful technique for the control of the inner and outer environment involves the use of mantras. One that we often repeat is that of Shakyamuni Buddha,
om muni muni mahamuniye svaha. Mantras are effective because they help keep your mind quiet and peaceful, automatically integrating it into onepointedness. They make your mind receptive to very subtle vibrations and thereby heighten your perception. Their recitation eradicates gross negativities and the true nature of things can then be reflected in your mind's resulting clarity. By practising a transcendental mantra, you can in fact purify all the defiled energy of your body, speech and mind.
Whether repetition of a mantra is a transcendental meditation or not depends on you and your wisdom. Its power does not come solely from itself. It is not as if there were some ancient sacred syllables that you could recite without contemplation and they would bring you great spiritual benefit automatically. This is misconception. For instance, if you are under the sway of craving desire, your mindless repetition of the most blessed mantra in the universe will be of limited benefit. It will be just another samsaric activity.

Suppose you are sitting somewhere reciting a mantra yet thinking, 'chocolate, chocolate, delicious chocolate'. If you are totally preoccupied by the thought of this or some other supermarket treat, how can such a practice ever be a transcendental meditation? How can it lead to an everlasting peaceful result? For a mantra to be effective you need to have stilled your mind to a certain extent and to have gained at least some measure of concentration.
In addition, you should have a pure motivation. It is not enough to be concerned with gaining temporal pleasure for yourself. The true purpose of all mantras, as with all other dharma practices, is to benefit all motherly sentient beings. Rather than always thinking, 'I want, I want', try to develop the pure wish to be helpful to others. You need not be either too intellectual or super-emotional about this. Merely dedicate the mantra's energy for this altruistic purpose and beneficial results will follow by themselves.
Mantras also have the power to cure diseases. For example, some people become temporarily insane because they are preoccupied with the false energy of their distorted minds. The purifying vibration of a mantra is able to bring the mind back to a calm and smoothly functioning state and the mental illness is thereby cured. Since physical diseases are also intimately related to distorted states of mind, mantras are effective as part of their treatment as well. There is nothing magical about this. Scientific experimentation has clearly demonstrated their healing powers.
The specific connotation of the Buddha mantra, om muni muni mahamuniye svaha, is 'control, control, greatest control'. Now you might think that Buddhism emphasises control too much and feel that the lamas are saying, 'Your deluded mind is so full of negativities that you must restrict it tightly'. But this is not what we mean. Rather, if in the morning you establish a certain kind of mind you will automatically be more conscious of your actions during the day. Once set, your mind's internal watch continues to run by itself. This is true because by channelling a great deal of energy in one direction you ensure that all subsequent energy will flow along the same path.
In Tibet we say that directing the mind is 'like bridling a fine horse to make him rideable'. A horse is a tremendously powerful animal and if you do not have the means to control him properly he may gallop off wildly, possibly destroying himself and others as well. If you can harness all that energy, however, the horse's great strength can be used for accomplishing many difficult tasks. The same applies to yourself. Looked at scientifically, your body, speech and mind are nothing but varying forms of energy. Thus, if in the morning you direct this energy by strongly affirming your motivation, all the remaining energy of body, speech and mind will follow in the came direction. So the control we are talking about is similar to that of a pilot who does not restrict but rather directs the power of his aeroplane. The problem with language is that words cannot really describe inner experiences exactly. But if you yourself practice a particular teaching and gain a realisation from it, then such words as 'control' will no longer be any problem for you.