The Connection between Mantras, Mandalas and Spiritism
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©1999|
|Although traditional Hinduism and Buddhism perceive the mandala and mantra as related to the gods who bestow psychic powers and enlightenment, in many ways these “gods” function in a similar manner to the spirits of both ancient occultism and modern channeling, and are indistinguishable from them.|
The Connection between Mantras, Mandalas and Spiritism
Although traditional Hinduism and Buddhism perceive the mandala and mantra as related to the gods who bestow psychic powers and enlightenment, in many ways these “gods” function in a similar manner to the spirits of both ancient occultism and modern channeling, and are indistinguishable from them.
When the practitioner refers to contacting the “gods,” or to having one’s being or essence infused by the gods, or to achieving siddhis (psychic powers) from the gods, religious tradition may lead the person to interpret this as contact with an actual deity. However, from the Christian perspective, that person is contacting a powerful spirit entity which the Bible identifies as a demon. The pagan world, past and present, has long worshiped its “gods,” but the apostle Paul identifies these gods as demons. “The sacrifices of pagans are offered to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to be participants with demons” (1 Cor. 10:20).
To understand the real nature of mandala or mantra use is to understand why such practices are ultimately dangerous. The consequences of such practices can bring one’s life under the influence or control of an evil spirit, which may lead to demon possession. God warns us, “Let no one be found among you who … practices divination or sorcery… or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist…. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Loan….” (Deut. 18:10-12). The Bible also exhorts: “Be… alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around… looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). We are also commanded to “stand against the devil’s schemes” (Eph. 6:11), and not to be “unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor. 2-11).
Unfortunately, the millions of people today who are employing mantras and mandalas are really toying with demonic powers. Whether or not a given practitioner internalizes, naturalizes, or psychologizes the supernatural is irrelevant. The consequences of occult involvement will still make themselves felt:
Given the abundance of spiritual beings portrayed in mandalas, one might naturally raise the question of the ontological status of these creatures. Some practitioners regard them as mere symbols, but others conceive of them as objectively existing entities. Those who subscribe to idealism are able to view all entities as creations of mind and as ontologically equal.
Unfortunately, redefining spiritistic influence as merely internal and psychological functions, or as cosmic realities, does nothing to change the malevolent purpose of demonic entities who may operate behind such constructs.
We should also note that whether we are dealing with mandalas or mantras, both function as methods involving the worship of deities. As such they foster idolatry, something God has warned against. “You shall have no other gods before me,” and “Do not worship any other god…,” and “Do not follow other gods…,” (Ex. 20:3; 34:14; Deut. 6:14). Indeed, under various guises, demons have always sought the worship of humans; Satan himself sought the worship of none less than Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Matt. 4:9).
Mandalas and Spiritism
The following citations reveal how mandalas function as forms of worship, contact, and/or invocation of the “gods”:
On a popular level, however, mandalas commonly function as objects of worship…. [W]orshipers offer prayers to the deities of the mandala in order to insure prosperity and protection from adversities. On a magical plane mandalas transcend symbolism and are actually used to conjure up deities.
In Tantric meditation chanting and contemplation can produce a “mandala” world which is populated by a host of divinities.
In many traditions, it is the “deity” itself that helps the aspirant along the spiritual path, whether through entering altered states of consciousness, developing psychic abilities, performing difficult yoga postures, and so on. “Here an empowerment to practice a particular sadhana [spiritual path] is required, since the mandala is the environment of a particular deity who dwells at its center. The ritual objects or offerings are connected with a particular quality of the deity, which the ritual action invokes.”
Mantras and Spiritism
From time immemorial mantras have also been said to invoke the “gods,” and their function today in modern occultism, Hinduism, Buddhism, and the New Age Movement is no different. In fact, the mantras and the gods can become one and the same. The close association between mantras and the deities can be seen in the fact that the mantra “can become… the deity it represents,” and in the fact that some mantras “are traditionally held to be revealed by the deities themselves, whose name vibrations are latent within them, so that a god can be summoned, or at any rate his power drawn down, by uttering his particular mantra. The mantra in this case represents more than a sound, it is the vibration of the divine emanation; the deity is identical with it, and like the deity it remains eternal.” “Mantras are formed in several ways. They can come as a result of inspiration, sent direct by the deity to the devotee.”
Harper’s Dictionary of Hinduism, observing that mantras were used for “ensuring communication with the chosen deity,” briefly discusses the occult and magical purposes of the mantras according to the Hindu vedas:
In the RV [Rig-veda] the gods were invoked by means of mantras to ensure success in impending battles (I.100), to avert drought (V68), to grant long life (1.89,9), and in the AV [Artharvaveda] to ensure escape from all danger and difficulty (XIX.7), and to grant the fulfillment of all needs. The AV mantras also served to expel the demons of fever and other diseases (V.22;III.31), to bewitch and destroy enemies (IV.18), and to stimulate love in unresponsive lovers (VI.130).
In the following citation, note how thoroughly the mantra is connected to the deity it symbolizes or evokes:
The efficacy of a mantra depends on its being or containing either a true name (nama) of the “divinity” or,… an equivalent esoteric “seed” (bija) syllable (e.g., Om), which is held to be essentially related to the being itself and to embody it when uttered. A mantra is accepted as having been revealed through the “vision” of a “seer” who directly experiences the “divinity” within his or her consciousness and whose mind (manas) then formulates a composition (mantra) that perfectly captures the name, character, and power of the “divinity.” Such a mantra can be used as an instrument for continued evocation of the “divinity” if, and only if, heard … from the mouth of a master (Guru) or teacher (Acarya) who knows how to repeat it correctly, including the proper mental concentration and intention…. The student must undertake a long discipline of repetition… until the rhythm of its sound-vibrations transforms his or her consciousness into the likeness of the “divinity.”
To conclude this discussion, we will cite a section from John Weldon’s critique of transcendental meditation, The Transcendental Explosion. In an appendix to the book, he listed the common TM mantras and showed that they were not “meaningless sounds,” as claimed by TM promoters, but that they are clearly related to Hindu gods. Notice again the close association between the mantra and the god it represents, and the ease with which the worshiper’s personality can be taken over by the god:
Sir John Woodroffe, a recognized authority on Hindu tantrism, states, “Each mantra has its devata (god); and each devata has its mantra…. The most potent way of realizing a devata is with the help of the bija-mantra,” and, “The Mantra of a Devata is the Devata” (Woodroffe, The Garland of Letters, Madras, India, Ganesh Company, 6th edition, 1974, pages VIII, 260-61).
Allegedly, the rhythmical vibrations of the mantra’s sound transform the worshiper and by striving he can raise the god’s form.
Woodroffe equates the following bija mantras with particular Hindu gods: Hrim is related to Siva and Prakriti (Vishnu as Purusha) and worships the god Bhuvanesvari; Krim is related to Brahma and worships Kali; Ram is a mantra of the fire god Agni; Ing is a variant spelling of “Aim,” the mantra of Sarasvati, and worships Vani; Shirim, a derivative of Srim is the mantra of the god Laksmi and worships it; Thim is related to the god Siva and Bhairava and worships them. Shyama is possibly related to Krishna. (Woodroffe, Ibid., chapter 26; personal correspondence with former meditators).
M. H. Harper observes, “For the Hindu a mantra is not a mere formula or a prayer… it is the deity itself.… The purpose of japa, the frequent repetition of the mantra, is to produce the gradual transformation of the personality of the worshiper into that of the worshiped. The more a worshiper advances in his japa the more does he partake of the nature of the deity whom he worships, and the less is he himself (M. H. Harper, Gurus, Swamis and Avatars, West Philadelphia, Westminster, 1972, pages 97-98, emphasis added).
Woodroffe agrees that the mantra of a god actually reveals the god to the consciousness of the one invoking it and the mantra is a symbol of the god itself and its power. The one who uses the mantra of the god is transformed into the likeness of that god (Woodroffe, The Garland of Letters, p. 277; The Serpent Power (Dover, 1974), p. 88)…. Patanjali says, “Repetition of sacred words brings you in direct contact with the God you worship,” and that psychic powers are acquired by mantra-repetition. Repeating its name over and over awakens or transfers these powers…. (Shree Purohit Swami, trans., Aphorisms of Yoga by Bhagwam Shree Patanjali (London: Faver & Faver, 1973, rpt, pp. 54, 79-80).
Maharishi [Mahesh Yogi] himself says that achieving cosmic consciousness through worship is done by “taking the name or form of the god and experiencing it in its subtler states until the mind transcends the subtler state….” This is also a description of the process of TM (M. M. Yogi,On the Bhagavad Gita, pages 293-94). … The yoga authority Mircea Eliade, in describing the mantra as the very being of the god, remarks, “By repeating the bija mantra in conformance with the rules, the practitioner incorporates its ontological essence (nature) to himself, assimilates the god … into himself in a concrete immediate fashion” (Mircea Eliade, Patanjali and Yoga (NY: Schockem, 1975, p. 183, emphasis added).
Mantra yoga theory teaches an occult correspondence between the mystical letters and sounds of the mantra and certain areas of the body on one hand and these body areas and divine forces in the cosmos on the other. By repeating a mantra you “awaken” all its corresponding forces in the cosmos. Hence each body area has its god and mantra. Gods are said to reside in the chakras (psychic centers) and their powers assimilated as kundalini rises through each chakra (Ibid., page 183; Wood, Sevens Schools of Yoga (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical, 1973, rpt., p. 92).
There should be no doubt that mantras bear a direct and essential relationship to the gods of pagan religions, gods which, again, the Bible identifies as demons.
Protection Against Evil?
The demonic potential of these practices can also be illustrated through the literature’s acknowledgement that evil deities can appear during the use of mandalas or mantras. These may appear even if the practitioner thinks he is involved with mere words, symbols, or supposedly good deities:
Certain mandalas are marked by the prevalence of wrathful figures who exhibit hideous grimaces and enhance their gruesomeness by wielding terrifying weapons. … Familiarity with these awesome beings also has a virtue of preparing one for any malevolent deities which he may encounter as forms emerging from his own consciousness.
The fact that the circle of the mandala allegedly “gives protection from malevolent forces” illustrates not only its similarity to magic ritual but also to the possibility of having uninvited nasty guests. Many of the mantras used in the Atharvaveda are actually “brief incantations or magical spells meant to ward off evil….” And in certain traditions, mantras are held to be a necessary means of “protecting the mind” from the evil spirits associated with these practices. Unfortunately, the alleged ritual “protection” offered against evil forces is no guarantee of success, as occult history itself demonstrates. Also, Buddhist authority H. V. Guenther and leading Tibetan Buddhist guru Chogyam Trungpa warn in their book The Dawn of Tantra that “practicing visualization [e.g., with a mandala] without the proper understanding is extremely destructive. Tantric scriptures abound with warnings about using visualization.”
Mantras are also potentially dangerous. “Some Hindu and Buddhist mantras are regarded as extremely dangerous if uttered incorrectly or with misplaced intent… Such mantras require a very precise knowledge of their pronunciation, intonation and timing, and frequently several days preparation and purificatory rituals before they can be uttered.” In other words the same ritual preparations and potential risks surrounding some mantras are similar to those used in occult magic ritual itself.
In addition, it is known that occultists who are unable to transmit their powers to another person at death often suffer hellish death throes. But we also find this phenomenon with the mantra user who is unable to pass on his mantra:
In India there is a belief that every sorcerer is in possession of a mantra of terrible malignancy which is the source and focus of his success and power. Such a mantra can be known to only one person at a time, and it is this last bearer of the knowledge who possesses the power of the mantra. As the time of his death approaches it begins to build up a terrifying tension and becomes an unbearable burden on the mind of the magician, causing him untold anguish. It is said that the magician cannot die until he has passed on the mantra to someone else. Stories are told of magicians of great repute dragging out their end in excruciating torment, in a state of living death because they could not unburden themselves of the mantra, since they were unable to find anyone willing to accept the secret from them, even though it bestowed material benefits.
In conclusion, mantras and mandalas may be widely used in American religious life, but people have little idea of their history, purpose, and potential consequences.
1 Corinthians 10:20
- Keith Crim, gen. ed., Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions (Nashville, TN: Abingdon, 1981), p. 456.
- Stephen Schuhmacher, Gert Woerner, eds., The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion: Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism, Zen (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1989), p. 219.
- q.v. “mandala,” “mantra,” Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th edition, Volume 6, Micropaedia, p. 582, emphasis added.
- Richard Cavendish, Man, Myth and Magic: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of the Supernatural, Vol. 13 (NY: Marshall Cavendish Corp., 1970), p. 1727, emphasis added.
- Richard Cavendish, ed., Encyclopedia of the Unexplained: Magic, Occultism and Parapsychology (NY: McGraw Hill, 1976), p. 137.
- Margaret and James Stutley, Harper’s Dictionary of Hinduism: Its Mythology, Folklore, Philosophy, Literature and History (NY: Harper & Row, 1977), p. 180.
- Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, p. 458.
- Ibid., p. 456.
- Harper’s Dictionary of Hinduism, p. 178.
- Abingdon Dictionary of Living Religions, p. 458.
- The Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and Religion, p. 220.
- H. V. Guenther and Chogyam Trungpa, The Dawn of Tantra (Boston, MA: Shambhala, 1975), p. 49
- Cavendish, Man, Myth and Magic, p. 1727.
- Ibid., pp. 1727-28.