There once was a wise sage who wandered the countryside. One day, as he passed near a village, he was approached by a woman who told him of a sick child nearby. She urged him to help this child.
So the sage came to the village and a crowd gathered around him, for such a man was a rare sight. One woman brought the sick child to him and he said a prayer over her.
“Do you really think your prayer will help her, when medicine has failed?” yelled a man from the crowd.
“You know nothing of such things! You are a stupid fool!” said the sage to the man.
The man became very angry with these words and his face became red and his temper started rising. He started shaking. His blood pressure shot up. He was about to say something or perhaps strike out, when the sage walked over to him and said: “If one word has such power as to make you so angry and hot, may not another have the power to heal?”
And thus, the sage healed two people that day.
Prayers can be very powerful if invoked with sincerity, pure motive and total shraddhaa (faith plus the element of absolute surrender). Many have experienced the power of prayer.
Words are sound waves. Sound is an energy. Sound energy has its effect on the body, mind and the environment. As with everything else, sound also has its positive and negative side. Today medical science uses low frequency sound waves to crush kidney stones without the need for invasive surgery. Similarly classical music has a soothing effect on the mind and has been used in healing the mind as well as physical ailments. We are also aware how sound pollution affects the mind and is the cause for stress as well as increase in the stress level in humans as well as animals. This can be especially seen during festivals like Deepaavali (Indian festival of lights) when there is too much sound pollution due to fireworks.
Prayers, chants and especially Vedik mantra-s (chants from the Veda-s) are well-researched groups of sound waves with different frequencies by the ancient rishi-s (sages) to have a healing and positive effect on the body, mind and the environment as well as to facilitate growth and evolution on the spiritual path for the seekers.
Rhythmic chanting is an ancient tradition. With evolution of understanding and abilities, chanting became increasingly scientific and result-oriented.
Self-realized Vedik sages could perceive the forces in the universe and managed to manipulate them through specific sound combinations called mantra-s.
Banjamin Lee Whorf, an American scholar and chemical engineer, researched the psychological aspects of language and published his findings.
“The idea, entirely unfamiliar to the modern world that nature and language are inwardly akin, was for ages well known to various high cultures… In India, one aspect of it has been the idea of the mantram and of maantrik art…
“On the simplest cultural level, a mantram is merely an incantation of primitive magic, such as the crudest cultures have. In high culture it may have a different, intellectual meaning, dealing with the inner affinity of language and the cosmic order. At a still higher level, it becomes Mantra Yoga. Therein the mantram becomes a manifold of conscious patterns, contrived to assist the consciousness into the nominal pattern world, whereupon it is ‘in the driver’s seat’. It can set the human organism to transmit, control and amplify a thousand-fold force which that organism normally transmits only at low intensities, which can’t be perceived.”
Somewhat analogously, mathematical formula enables a physicist to configure some coils of wire, plates, diaphragms and other quite inert tools to project music over great distances.
Other formulas make possible the strategic arrangement of magnets and wires in the powerhouse so that, when the magnets — rather the field of subtle forces — are set in motion, force is manifested as electric current. We do not think of designing a radio station or a power plant as a linguistic process, but it is one nonetheless.
The necessary mathematics is linguistic apparatus and without its correct specification of essential patterning, the assembled gadgets would be disproportionate and inert. But the mathematics used in such a case is a specialized formula-language, contrived for making available a specialized type of force manifestation through metallic bodies only, namely, electricity.
The maantrik formula-language is specialized in a different way, in order to make available a different type of force manifestation, by re-patterning states in the nervous system and glands; rather, in the subtle forces in and around those physical bodies. In this way you could link the subtle Eastern ideas of the maantrik and yogik use of language with the pattern or configurative aspect which is so basic in language.
The late Paramacharya of Kanchi explained the scientific nature of mantra:
“Although the Veda-s contain such noble concepts enshrined in them, the supernal sounds emanating therefrom is no less important. In fact, these sounds by themselves are potent enough; or rather, this divine potency is not confined to the “Veda Mantra-s” only, but generally it is equally true of any mantra as such”.