Somehow the meditator’s attention has to penetrate the chaotic surface activity of the mind, pass through all the layers of subtle thought, and at last arrive at silence. Instead of subduing a drunken monkey, the appropriate metaphor is much more subtle: Meditation is like creeping through a herd of sleeping elephants without waking them up.
In order to dive through every layer of the mind, one needs a vehicle that can carry one beyond the thinking process. In primordial sound meditation the vehicle is called a mantra, a specific mental sound derived from Sanskrit but with no verbal meaning. A mantra is chosen solely for its ability to gradually bring a person’s attention to quieter and quieter levels of the mind.
Since everyone’s mind has innumerable layers, the choice of a mantra and the precise instructions for using it are extremely delicate. If chosen, taught, and used correctly, a mantra is as nearly effortless as mental activity can be. It begins like a normal thought but fades to fainter and fainter degrees of sound without getting lost, until it disappears entirely, leaving the mind in complete silence.
Many forms of mediation use some kind of sound or visual image as their vehicle. That might make it seem that one technique is as good as another. However, there are any number of important issues to consider when evaluating a form of meditation – above all: Did my mind actually find the silence I was seeking? Was I psychologically comfortable during and after the meditation? Did my old self begin to change as a result of having meditated? Is there more truth in my self? Every person has to decide these crucial issues for themself.
Adapted from Unconditional Life: Discovering the Power to Fulfill Your Dreams, by Deepak Chopra (A Bantam Book, 1991).