Repetition of a specific Sanskrit word, or mantra, results in sound vibrations that gradually lead the mind out of its normal thinking process and into the silence that underlies thought.
Before the early 1970s, these benefits were not even suspected. Meditation held little appeal for Western medicine until a young UCLA physiologist named L Keith Wallace proved that besides its spiritual implications meditation had profound effects on the body. In a series of experiments begun in the late 1960′s as part of his doctoral work, Wallace took groups of mostly college aged volunteers who practiced Transcendental Meditation (TM) and hooked them up to monitors to test critical bodily functions while they were in meditation.
Subjectively these young volunteers reported a sense of increasing calm and inner silence. Although it bad been previously thought that it took years of practice to attain a deep meditational state, the TM technique very quickly produced profound relaxation and significant changes in breathing, heartbeat, and blood pressure.
TM is based on the silent repetition of a specific Sanskrit word, or mantra, whose sound vibrations gradually lead the mind out of its normal thinking process and into the silence that underlies thought. As such, a mantra is a very specific message inserted into the nervous system. Since mantras have been in use for thousands of years in India, their precise effect on the physiology is well known as part of the science of yoga, or union.
The aim of yoga is to unite the thinking mind with its source in pure awareness. In modern terms, “pure awareness” means quantum space, the silent, empty void that is the womb of all matter and energy. Pure awareness exists in the gap between thoughts; it is the unchanging background against which all mental activity takes place.
We would not ordinarily suspect that such a state exists because our minds are so preoccupied with the stream of thoughts, wishes, dreams, fantasies, and sensations that fill waking consciousness. That is why the ancient Indian sages had to devise the specific technique of meditation, in order to show the mind its own origins in the quantum depths.
Adapted from Ageless Body, Timeless Mind, by Deepak Chopra (Harmony Books, 1993).