Indu, one of my beautiful teachers, taught: "A guru puts a seed or prana inside you. When you nurture it regularly, it will grow." Indu has such a sense of wonder about her. A strong belief in the power of the Ganga (believing it healed her eyes when surgeries failed) and an inner light that seemed to shine when she spoke of her devotion to the practice of yoga and about her teacher and guru, Mataji who became like a mother to her when she entered the ashram as a young girl.
She told me I was to chant my mantra at least one round of 108 times before sun arrives and after a morning bath. I should also recite my mantra at least 3 times before I do anything or eat anything. It will "protect me and is powerful". I don't know that there is any power in these actual words. I do believe, however, there is potency in faith. I seldom lack in it but often swell in self doubt. Like prayer, repeating an intention or mantra helps me simplify and re-examine my focus. It diminishes that fear and self-doubt and allows me view the world and my own little piece of it with more clarity.
Indu shared with us the sacred power that a guru mantra holds. The mantra is a Vedic chant that invokes transformation and is a garland of protection around your life. It awakens the power of a deity (your own expression of the Divine) in your life.
|Mataji at Ganga Arti|
As Mataji quietly slipped out of our morning class, I followed quickly after her and asked if she would give me a guru mantra. Date set: 5am on Wednesday, 2 days prior to my departure. When I arrived that morning, she called to me to come in to a smaller back room where there was an elaborate alter with Ganesha and 2 other deities on either side set on a raised platform in the corner of the room. The shining gold statues were dressed in miniature brightly colored silk clothing and jewels. Asking me to sit next to her on one of the 2 small orange cushions that lay on the floor, she was quiet for a time. Then she gave me a red bindi in the place of my third eye. "What Deity did I relate to most? Ganesha", I said without any hesitation. (The remover of obstacles. I felt God was constantly opening doors and making obstacles disappear almost as much as I felt him put them in my path as a way of polishing my rough edges. I was quite familiar with this constant refinement and yet knew intimately of His sense of protection.)
She asked to hold my right hand between her palms. The energy and heat from her hands strong, she then said my mantra is: Om Gan Gunapapaye Namah. As she chanted it, I remember thinking, thank god it's not too long. Perhaps she knew my western tongue was having trouble with Sanskrit. She chanted the mantra, I repeated it several times, then together we chanted. Once she felt satisfied with my chanting, she asked me to sit in her place in front of the alter and chant it 108 times using rough rudrucksha mala beads she gave me. When I repeat the mantra, I am to picture Ganesha, my third eye center, then picture Ganesha in my heart. As I chanted, I was only vaguely aware that she paced back and forth behind me. Once I completed the 108th, she placed her right hand on the top of my head, sat beside me, and chanted quickly a series of sanskrit I had heard her say before but was unsure what it meant. Then, she sat in silence for about what felt like 10 minutes or so. When we opened our eyes, she asked me to place a coin in front of her. I was not aware at the time that I was supposed to bring an offering, or dakshina, a gift of a coin or money which would allow for the fulfillment of the mantra. (You are to "give whatever the heart says you can offer".) Penniless, she pointed to one on her alter to lay it at her feet. Next, I placed a bindi on her forehead.
Mataji closed her eyes again, and after a period of minutes, said that my new Indian name is Prachi, which means the "glory of the Eastern Rising Sun". She must have known I would cry because on cue, she hands me a tissue. When I asked her how she knew to name me that, she just shrugged and smiled. She just knew.
"Your heart will recognize the guru your eyes cannot see." --Indu