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I will concentrate on the nature of mantras and how they were used in ancient times or in ‘Vedic’ civilizations that go back more than 5,000 years and were employed not only for spiritual emancipation but in military applications as well. In other words, mantras were used to defeat the enemy in times of war.
WHAT IS A MANTRA?
The definition given in the glossary of the “Bhagavad-gita As It Is” by His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, the Founder-acarya of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness is: A transcendental sound or Vedic hymn. And in the Srimad-Bhagavatam translated by the same author, that glossary defines mantra as: A sound vibration that can deliver the mind from illusion.
Then there is the maha-mantra which is the great chant for deliverance as recieved from a spiritual master in the parampara or disciplic succession. But for our edification we will address the use of mantras in ancient or “Vedic” times as weapons of war.
In the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1-7-20 it states: Since his life was in danger, (Asvatthama on the battlefield of Kuruksetra) he touched water in sanctity and concentrated upon the chanting of the hymns for throwing nuclear weapons, although he did not know how to withdraw such weapons.
Srila Prabhupada’s purport to that verse is as follows:
“The subtle forms of material activities are finer than grosser methods of material manipulation. Such subtle forms of material activities are effected through purification of sound. The same method is adopted here by chanting hymns to act as nuclear weapons.”
In another exciting purport by His Divine Grace, in SB. 1-7-27 he states:
“The brahmastra is similar to the modern nuclear weapon manipulated by atomic energy. The atomic energy works wholly on total combustibility, and so the brahmastra also acts. It creates an intolerable heat similar to atomic radiation, but the difference is that the atomic bomb is a gross type of nuclear weapon, whereas the brahmastra is a subtle type of weapon produced by chanting hymns. The subtle science of chanting hymns is also material, but it has yet to be known by the modern material scientists.”
Having said this, let us proceed.
Thomas Ashley Farrand who has written many books including “The Power of Mantras” says,
“They are formidable. They are ancient. They work. The word “mantra” is derived from two Sanskrit words. The first is “manas” or “mind,” which provides the “man” syllable. The second syllable is drawn from the Sanskrit word “trai” meaning to “protect” or to “free from.” Therefore, the word mantra in its most literal sense means “to free from the mind.” Mantra is, at its core, a tool used by the mind which eventually frees one from the vagaries of the mind.” He further states:
“Mantras start a powerful vibration which corresponds to both a specific spiritual energy frequency and a state of consciousness in seed form. Over time, the mantra process begins to override all of the other smaller vibrations, which eventually become absorbed by the mantra. After a length of time which varies from individual to individual, the great wave of the mantra stills all other vibrations. Ultimately, the mantra produces a state where the organism vibrates at the rate completely in tune with the energy and spiritual state represented by and contained within the mantra.”
KILLING WITH SOUND
It is a fact that “sabda” or sound vibration can have a wide variety of uses. There are many mantras for various purposes according to time and place and there were those who were expert in their delivery. We know from common experience that sound at high pitches is capable of breaking glass. In Stephen Knapp’s article “Frequencies that can kill, heal and transcend” he states, “The science of vibrations and frequencies and how they effect people is something that has been around for thousands of years. We can still find evidence of this in the ancient Vedic texts of India. These explain not only the results of using the frequencies of words and mantras, but also supply instructions in some cases. The sages of ancient India used it to produce various results in the rituals they performed, and from the mantras they would recite. If the mantras were recited in particular ways, certain amazing results would take place, including changing the weather, producing certain types of living beings, or even palaces. Others used it to produce weapons, like the brahmashtra weapon, which was equal to the modern nuclear bombs. Specific mantras could be attached to arrows, with the sound causing powerful explosions when the arrow reached its target. Others used the science of vibrations to bring their consciousness to higher levels of perception, or to enter spiritual reality.”
He further elucidates:
“Nicola Tesla, the Croatian born inventor, had performed experiments at the turn of the century that revealed that air, at its ordinary pressure, is a conductor for large amounts of electrical energy over great distances without wires. This meant a few things: That electrical use for the purposes of man would be available at any place on the globe. And that electricity traveling through the air shows how frequencies and waves of powerful energy do not need wires to be generated at one place and received in another.”
WARS WITHOUT BOMBS?
More interesting, Mr. Knapp goes on and discusses various experiments that have been conducted in regard to the use of frequency or sound, as an instrument of war:
“Some ELF (extremely low frequency) broadcasts from the Russians were thought to cause depression in humans. When the Russians first started transmitting in 1976, they emitted an eleven hertz signal through the earth. This ELF wave was so powerful that it upset radio communications around the world, resulting in many nations lodging protest. The U. S. Air Force identified five different frequencies the Russians were emitting in a wild ELF cocktail. They never broadcast anything below eleven hertz, or anything that would be beneficial. They had more sinister things in mind. ELF penetrates anything and everything. Nothing stops or weakens them. At the right frequencies and durations, whole populations could be controlled by ELF, or even killed. Once the killing range of these frequencies is perfected, it could make nuclear bombs obsolete. It could kill almost immediately with powerful adverse frequencies. Whole populations could be killed indiscriminately from radio frequencies transmitted from the other side of the globe without damaging anything else. A conquering army could simply take over the land and buildings without a battle.
Thankfully, these potential weapons do not seem to have been perfected as yet, or such research is cloaked in the highest levels of secrecy. Appropriately, Tesla once said that peace can only come as a natural consequence of universal enlightenment.”
That frequency can be used in times of war and that humans are basically “electrical” beings, Mr. Knapp ends his thesis on a positive note: “Researchers have found that frequencies under seven hertz create a general feeling of relaxation and well being, known as the alpha state. The most beneficial frequency on earth is said to be the 6.8 hertz frequency. Interestingly, the Pyramid at Giza has a constant frequency of 6.8 hertz running through it. Although researchers have studied it, they don’t know where it comes from or why in such an ancient structure.
This points to the idea that the ancients knew the importance of frequencies and how to use them in order to provide an atmosphere for attaining a peaceful state of mind for entering higher states of consciousness and perception of spiritual reality. The use of yoga has utilized this principle for as long as it had been known–many hundreds of years. Concentrating on the steady breathing, as in hatha-yoga, is a means of leveling and harmonizing the electrical impulses of the body and the beating of the heart. Invoking the alpha state by a natural means allows one to also reach a vibrational state in which the consciousness can enter higher levels of being and perception. The body is not only conducting the more balanced frequencies, but it begins to generate them as well. It is as if the body and mind are creating its own atmosphere in which it can further its more spiritual development, with or without the proper atmosphere around it. Building structures, like the pyramids and pyramid-like temples, which are common in such places as India and Central America, may provide the assistance for doing that, along with the physical exercises of yoga and the use of prayers, mantras, or rituals.”
Sri Jayendra Swamigal in his article regarding mantras gives his interpretation: “Astra” and “Sastra” are terms used in Dhanurveda (military science) denote two types of weapons. Knife, arrow, spear, club and so on-real weapons-come under the term “sastra”. “Astra” is what is energised by a mantra into a weapon. If you discharge just a darbha or a blade of grass chanting or muttering the appropriate mantra it will be turned into a weapon. Sastras are also discharged similarly with mantras. If you hurl something at an object or person muttering the mantra proper to it, the object or person will be destroyed when hit. The twice-born (Brahmins, Kshatriyas and Vaisyas) have the duty of discharging “Astras” every day to destroy asuras or the evil forces besieging mankind. Does not “Astra” mean that which is discharged, thrown or hurled? What is the “Astra” which is to be thrown or discharged [by the twice - born]? We throw water so as to drive away or destroy the demons or evil forces that have taken hold of the minds of people.”
IN TIMES OF WAR
In my article, “War! Holy or Not-Is God on Our Side”, I attempted to address the nature of applying violence even in a spiritual or “Vedic” civilization according to time, place and circumstances. In doing so, I related the famed battle of Kuruksetra that took place 5,000 years ago in which 640 million soldiers were slain in a battle that lasted 18 days. In this battle, mantras were employed by both sides as a way of achieving victory. The unique aspect of this war is that God, or Krsna was personally present on the battlefield and in fact, arranged the war that is the primary subject matter of the famous Indian epic, “Mahabharata.” This was arranged not as a way of condoning war but rather, showing that even amongst great men in order to uphold religious principles they must sometimes be called to arms to defeat the atheistic, evil or demonic elements that sometimes manifest in human society. With a view to this end, Vamadeva Shastri (David Frawley) in a very incisive 1999 article for The Institute of Vedic Studies entitled, “Himsa and Ahimsa: The Need For A New Policy of Protection” writes:
“In spite of modern Gandhian stereotypes the classical Hindu way to deal with Rakshasas and Asuras (people of egoistic or violent temperament) was never simply ahimsa (nonviolence). It could in fact be quite aggressive. Ahimsa in the sense of absolute non-violence is a sattvic or deva dharma for people of devic or refined temperament. With gentle people you have no need or right to be unkind.
However, when dealing with hostile and violent opponents a completely different response is required. Asuras require the danda (punishment). Let us not forget the many epic and Puranic stories in which Gods, Goddesses or Avatars fought and defeated the Asuras. Whether it is the Goddess and Mahishasura, Rama and Ravana, or Skanda and Taraka, there is not a single instance in which the Asuras were simply forgiven and allowed to go their own way without punishment. Let us also not forget how the Mahabharata extols the use of the danda for social harmony and justice.
There is only one way to really deal with Asuric people, which is to make them feel pain. As Asuric types have a materialistic consciousness, this pain must be of a material type, pain to their bodies, to their homes and to their possessions. It must be a pain where they live. Asuric types are immune to platitudes or to any kind of moralistic guilt.”
“True ahimsa means reducing the harm in the world. This may require violent action against the perpetrators of harm. One must not only defeat the enemy but also take away their weapons and insure that they cannot attack again. One must cut off the roots of violence where the enemy lives.
Modern Hindus must once again proudly honor himsa or a policy of harming the enemy, and the danda or a policy of strict punishment for those who use force to attack them. This is not to promote unnecessary violence but to prevent violence from spreading or being abetted. The same policy should extend to all spheres of current cultural encounters”
“They must attack their enemies on the level where their enemies really feel and with the weapons of the age. Some metaphysical moralistic high ground, such as many Hindus like to take, will not do but is only escapism, though Hindus should continue to practice rituals, prayers, mantras and meditations for peace but not to the exclusion of more direct forms of action in the material world. The Gandhian pity not only for the victims of violence but also for the perpetrators of violence must come to an end. Such pity is one of the most debilitating and confusing of all emotions, and is the very sentiment that Krishna strove to uproot out of Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita. Pity or compassion for the perpetrators of violence only sanctions that violence and causes further pain to the victims. It denies the responsibility that goes with the law of karma.”
While the above statements are the views and opinions of Vamadeva, from a Vedic perspective it certainly gives one food for thought especially in this time of war.
And finally, Srila Prabhupada himself, the leading exponent and scholar of Vedic thought in relating a story about Asvatthama in ancient times elaborates further:
“Then he thought of the brahmastra. Brahmastra is the last weapon. Just like it is similar to modern nuclear weapon, brahmastra. As by releasing nuclear weapon there is radiation, similarly, we have got description that when Asvatthama released his brahmastra, there was a big radiation, people were feeling very terrible heat. And then Krishna informed that “This heat is due to the Asvatthama’s release of brahmastra,” and Arjuna was advised to counteract it. Now they do not know how to counteract this nuclear weapon. Formerly they knew. I throw one kind of weapon, and if you are expert, you can counteract it. Now they have discovered the nuclear weapon, but they have not yet discovered the counteraction. Fight means I show some expert fighting craft or experiencing. The opposite party must also show something better than that. That was fighting. And in this way when one party fails, he’s killed. And if he’s killed then war stops. No more war. This was the system.
So Asvatthama was thinking of this brahmastra. Astram brahma-siro mene atma-tranam dvijatmajah. That is the history so far as we know. So anyway, as we have got experience, the nuclear weapon is very, very dangerous. Similarly the brahmastra is also very, very dangerous. And another weapon, they knew this art, sabda-vedhi. Sabda-vedhi means if I throw some arrow, it will go to my enemy wherever he is. A little sound of the enemy will attract this weapon, and it is sure to kill my enemy. Sabda-vedhi. There are many instances in Ramayana, Mahabharata. Sabda-vedhi-vak.
So such warfare of mantra, very subtle. This, at the present moment this warfare is carried on gross weapons. But finer than that, there is mantra war. By mantras the warfare can go on.”
While the gist of this article relates to weaponry used in ancient times, we can only imagine the power of the maha-mantra, (maha means great) Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna, Krsna, Hare, Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama, Rama, Hare, Hare in delivering the living entity from the bondage of karma and gross materialism when applied properly. This great chant for deliverance is the subject of another article.
Bhakta Vaikuntha has been a devotee of Krsna since 1979. email@example.com