Hindu scholar and teacher Prabha Duneja recently spoke at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on “Meditation and Mantra.” She has a gift for expressing Hinduism’s complexities in a direct, accessible style. Here are 14 pearls from Prabha’s talk.
1. Mantra meditation creates a connection with the Source. In mantra japam, whisper the mantra, one repetition for each bead. Then continue silent japam with sealed lips. As the silent japam becomes stronger, one becomes aligned with the Source of All.
2. Mantra is the word that liberates the mind and leads to the silence of the soul. The power of mantra is released by constant devoted practice.
3. Mantra and meditation are two sides of the same coin.
4. In the practice of writing mantra while doing silent japam, gradually the mantra becomes imprinted on the mind.
5. Meditation is all about attending to thoughts with attention and intention.
6. While a beginner must make a conscious effort, a seasoned practitioner relaxes into the mantra.
7. Constant mantra japam breaks the patterns of conditioned thought. Mantra replaces one thought, which has lots of links to memory, with another thought that is linked only to peace, calm, and silence. It is leaving one thought pattern and embracing another.
8. Mantra japam encloses thoughts into a small circle, fading into space and silence. It is a preliminary training that paves the way to transcendence. One can build an entire spiritual practice around silent mantra japam.
9. In the beginning we watch ourselves repeating the mantra. Gradually the mind settles and we realize we are listening to mantra, not repeating it. Eventually, perpetual communication with higher source is established. Every cell in the body becomes attuned to Om, floating with the sound as it moves in and out.
10. The gap between Om repetitions is the place of transcendence. Slowly we lose awareness of the sound and gently enter the space of transcendent being, the space between the syllables.
11. We all go through times of distraction, we all wrestle with an active mind. But at some point we need to take charge of the mind. Mantra is a great help for this.
12. Start with 5 or 10 minutes. It will naturally become longer.
13. Aim to meditate twice a day. The best times to meditate are early morning and sunset, when day and night meet. The spiritual energies are at their peak then.
14. Open the door of the inner shrine. Let us meet there in silence.
1. The initial photo of Prabha is a screenshot from the video of the 4/4/15 Prabha Duneja interview on WomenNow with Sabina.
2. Listen to the full recording of Prabha’s 4/16/15 Commonwealth Club talk here. It includes a guided meditation in the last nine minutes.
3. Prabha Duneja is the founder and president of the Geeta Society. Her most recent book is Hinduism: Scriptures and Practices, a deep dive into Hinduism and its sacred texts.
4. Also see my excerpts from Prabha’s superb translation of the Bhagavad Gita, The Holy Geeta.
Afternote: Prabha Duneja moved on from this life in 2019; her obituary is here. Such a blessing she was, and remains. A wealth of Prabha’s teachings can be listened to through the music videos at her YouTube channel, and her books are available here.