Does Chanting Work Or Is It All Just Mumbo Jumbo?

Written by Edward Vilga

I am perpetually baffled by Hindu deities. I just don’t “get” them. 

On the other hand, my dear friend Bryn seems to be on an intimate, first-name basis with the entire pantheon. It’s like Krishna and Shiva are friends she could call to help her move.

I love being at a kirtan for 20 minutes –– enough time to say hi to my friends and enjoy one number –– and then I’m good to go.

In the yoga world, it’s almost impolite to ask chanting fans if they actually believe in the deities directly, or if they're just somehow useful metaphors, or whether they feel there’s some vibe-y energy associated with the sounds of mantras. Maybe it’s because part of me constantly questions whether it’s all just a lot of Mumbo Jumbo.

When I was teaching The Laughing Lotus in NYC, chanting at the beginning of class was customary. Although a bit of a rebel, I’m also a Team Player, so for years I began each and every class with the same chant (In fact, I often joked that it was the only chant I knew):


GUM (seed syllable for Ganesh)

SHRIM (seed syllable for Lakshmi)

MAHA (“great”)

LAKSHMIYEI (endearing form of “Lakshmi” — and not the one hosting on Bravo)

SWAHA (“We salute you”)

This was the chant to receive money, recommended by the big mantra guy Thomas Ashleigh Farrand.

And for 40 days, I practiced this chant.

On Day 39 I attended a benefit performance of a dear friend’s production. When I arrived, I saw the only person on earth who I felt had seriously wronged me financially and –– against all odds –– we were literally forced to sit together ... for two and a half hours! (And trust me, we were both desperately avoiding this; the usher pretty much insisted.)

So, after 39 days of chanting to receive money, rather than a big bag of cash at my door, I was forced to spend time with my Financial Enemy #1.

The funny thing is, it did create a breakthrough for me. I couldn’t use it to pay the rent, but it allowed me to re-evaluate that financial chapter from a new, in-your-face perspective.

Was it because I’d shifted my personal vibration (whatever that means)? Was it the direct invocation and intercession of Hindu Deities, for once taking my call? Or was it simply that I shifted my own perspective through a steady practice of a sound meditation?

I do find this intriguing: in one of his books, Farrand assures the reader that chanting to Lakshmi — the goddess of wealth and prosperity — is a much more effective if you include “Gum,” the seed syllable for Ganesh. In other words, chanting Om Gum Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha is way more powerful than just Om Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Swaha.

Ganesh is typically known as the elephant-headed god who is the remover of obstacles. But everyone always forgets he is also the placer of obstacles.

So, yes: there’s the idea that you are asking Ganesh simply to remove the obstacles to your abundance –– ie, restoring the natural flow. But there’s also the sense that Ganesh’s obstacles are perhaps potentially increasing abundance, that his inclusion of contrast and challenge makes for more abundance than would be present if he were omitted.

Knowing that one tiny digit in a sequence can plug me into the right Wi-Fi password and Instant Access to the Internet (ie, Infinity) I’m willing to believe that maybe there is a magic invisible code that allows you to tune in, tap in, and turn on.

So maybe there is some magic in chanting after all, whether it’s through meditation or raising vibration or just self-fulfilling prophecy. And like a lot of magic it can be unpredictable (ie, orchestrating a reunion with your arch-nemesis.)

Does it matter?

I’m for anything that lets the Gum energy reveal the Shrim, even if I’m not sure what my exact relationship is with Hindu gods and goddesses.

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