Recently I stumbled upon transcripts of discourse by Jaggi Vasudev (Inner engineering programme http://www.ishafoundation.org/). He explains mantra, tantra and yantra very beautifully; a subject I have been intersted in since I was in school. I first stumbled upon the subject of tantra when I read an article on " tantara" in one of magazines called "Tantra Rahasya" I found in my uncle's room. What fascinated me in the book was that it talked about the immense powers human can achieve by mastering certain latent forces of nature through Tantra and Mantra. That time I particularly liked a tantra yoga prescribed in book which if mastered, the book claimed could manifest in body the most beautiful woman one desired. I even seriously thought of trying it out but it proved rather too difficult as It needed lot of meditation, silence and weird rituals for which equally weird ingredients were required and success was not particularly guranteed.
Anyway from the discourse I quote "The Vedas are a series of discoveries , both outwards and inwards. It was the knowledge book(s) in past in Indian culture. It delas with various aspects, from simple things as to how to eat, to how to attain your ultimate nature". So essentially it laid a framework for living life for those who were looking for such a framework. It was a collective wisdom of many saints who gained this knowledge through yoga and their own experience. It is said that certain knowledge in Vedas was disclosed and imparted to thier authors when they were deep in meditation, like enlightenment. I think since Vedas are supposed to be so comprehensive, they were like wikipedia of those time, a huge knowledge base for everything. Fantastic, isn't it!
Einstein spent lots of time on relationship between matter (form) and energy which are interconvertible. Wheras matter can easily be converted into energy , it is difficult for condensing energy back to matter (law of entropy, universe moves towards disorder and not order). But energy does have a form. For example Sound which is a type of energy has a pattern attached to it which can be discovered by feeding it into an instrument called oscilloscope. Depending upon the sounds' vibration, frequency and amplitude, the oscilloscope creates a certain form (a apttern). So every sound has a form attached to it and similarly every form has a sound attached to it. The relationship between form and sound is referred to as Mantra.The form is called Yantra , the sound as Mantra and technology of using form and sound together is called Tantra. So what those sages did was to master the relationship between various forms of existence, and its corresponding sound. The Rig, Sama and Atharva vedas are mostly about this relationship so that we can let existence reverberat within ourselves by uttering a certain sound. By mastering over sound, we also master over the form. This is science of Mantras. Now do I understand why those mantra are recited during hindu ceremonies!! In ancient times, students of Vedas practiced many years in getting the mantras right since they are about a certain sound and the pattern. They learnt how to pronounce words to emit the correct sounds. Sometime when I see Brahmins (not the caste but one who knows) reciting mantars while eating half the words I cringe. Over the years, the science was lost and only stories remained which were exaggerated and misunderstood. And that perhaps was downfall of our culture. Only rituals remained the essence was forgotten. As Our country makes amends in fields we lagged for so many years, dont we have to make amends here as well, that is to bring back the essense and tone down the rituals.