“Mantra” – we have all heard this word before, even if it is only through the phrase “repeating something like a mantra”. But there is much more behind this term. Many yoga novices perceive the chanting of mantras at first as rather alienating (yes, me too!), but then discover their love for the mystical sounds. But what are mantras and how do they affect us?
I talked about this topic with Suryadevi and Devadas.
Suryadevi has been an enthusiastic yogini for about eight years and has already experienced various yoga styles on her way. Music has accompanied her since her early childhood: she was passionate about playing the flute and singing in the choir.
Since 2022, she has been learning to play mantras on the harmonium and has recently begun practicing the ukulele. When she is not performing music, she makes beautiful jewelry for which she also uses the power of mantras: she energetically charges her handmade gemstone malas and bracelets with her own special healing mantra.
Devadas has been interested in spirituality since childhood. After graduating from high school, he came in contact with the Bhaktiyoga movement, where he was deeply inspired by chanting and reciting the mantras. As a result, he devoted himself completely to the spiritual path, traveled to India several times and also began to play the harmonium there.
Back in Germany, he began to play it in downtown Munich. Today he lives his vocation as a mantra musician, but also as a yoga teacher, health advisor and director of an Ayurveda correspondence course.
One of Devadas’ seminars brought the two together – fittingly, it was one called “Mantra Singing from the Heart.” Today, they share their lives together, as well as their passion for mantras – not only with each other, but with the world. As a couple, they give numerous seminars on mantra singing, learning to play the harmonium, or mantra meditation; Devadas has also released several mantra and yoga CDs of their own.
Dear Suryadevi and Devadas, first of all thank you very much for taking the time for this interview! With your experience in the field of mantras, you are the absolutely ideal interlocutors for this topic. How did you come into contact with the healing power of mantras?
Devadas: I read the Bhagavad Gita during my high school graduation in 2001-2003. After graduating from high school, I twice attended a Sunday festival of the Hare Krishna movement, an international society for Krishna consciousness, in my hometown of Stuttgart, where kirtan was sung intensively and also very interesting and moving things were said about the transformative effect of spiritual mantra practice.
This motivated me to visit a spiritual festival of the Hare Krishna movement. The impressions I experienced there and the intense energy of the mantras did not let me go from then on. I then spent two years in the temples of the Hare Krishna movement and traveled to India five times in the following years. It also made me decide not to study medicine but Ayurveda and yoga, which I still think is the better way for me.
Suryadevi: I first came in contact with mantras during my yoga teacher training in the desert of California. While chanting the Gayatri Mantra, which is one of the oldest mantras, my heart immediately opened wide. Since then, singing mantras with others has given me immense joy and become my great passion.
A beautiful passion! For those of the readers who don’t know anything about mantras, what is a mantra?
Suryadevi: Mantras are primal sounds that help us to detach our consciousness from excessive identification with material sense objects and reconnect with the spiritual source of consciousness. Mantra is a Sanskrit word and literally means “that which liberates the mind.”
Devadas, you mentioned the term “kirtan” earlier. What does it mean?
Devadas: Kirtan translates as “praising the holy names of God.” It refers to the chanting of mantras and spiritual songs. Kirtan and mantra singing are interchangeable terms. Mantras and kirtan songs are traditionally chanted in alternation, with one person singing before and the group chanting after.
This alternation of active singing along and passive listening can be a very meditative and joyful experience, if one is willing to engage in it. Typically, kirtan is accompanied by harmonium and possibly drums and cymbals.
The phrase “repeating something like a mantra” probably originated from this alternate chanting – what does this repetition do for us when chanting mantras?
Suryadevi: The mind can come to rest through it, if one gets involved in it, and an expanded spiritual state of consciousness arises.
Through which then the meditative experience just described comes about?
Repetition aside, how do mantras and kirtan affect us in general?
Devadas: Mantras and kirtan bring us into connection with our true Self, the original source of all sound and energy. We enter an expanded spiritual state of consciousness that is experienced as very sublime and pleasant.
The heart opens, so to speak – the access to our Spiritual Self becomes very easy to experience. Thus, the qualities of the True Self, such as pure divine joy and love, can show themselves unhindered.
That sounds very similar to the spiritual effects of yoga practice. Is that why mantras and asanas complement each other so well?
Suryadevi: In short, our energy body consists of chakras, the energy centers, and nadis, the energy pathways, and the Sanskrit word nadi comes from nada, which means sound. So the word nadi already contains the hint that we can have a healing effect on the energy body through mantras and sound. Asanas do the same, they affect both the gross and the subtle body.
Also, each asana is associated with one or more chakras and life themes, which we can support through the action of mantras, which also each act on specific chakras and their life themes.
Devadas: The soothing sound of the mantras helps yoga practitioners to better unwind during the yoga class and easily go deeper into the asanas.
Do you also personally use the power of the mantras in this way?
Suryadevi: For us, too, we regularly sing kirtan and use mantras daily for blessings, for example before meals, for protection and energetic purification, and for healing. From time to time we also do a Homa – a fire ritual intense fire ritual with mantra recitation to effectively enhance the effect of the mantra.
Devadas: When we practice with mantras with participants of our seminars, yoga classes and concerts, it is a wonderful uplifting sadhana (spiritual practice) for ourselves. Sharing the dimension of mantras with our fellow human beings is also the greatest joy for us, for which we are very grateful.
This sharing takes place in the form of seminars. What is the purpose of these seminars and how do you want the participants to feel afterwards?
Devadas: In our seminars we focus on healing and transformation. We are aware of the healing power of sounds and silence. But also we always connect with nature.
Suryadevi: Our seminars are inspired by our own lifestyle and healing path. Therefore, we want to share our knowledge with others and inspire them to also joyfully walk the path of healing and spiritual transformation themselves. The main qualities we teach are relaxation, joy of life, self-love, and playful lightness.
Where do the ideas for your topics come from?
Suryadevi: The topics and content for our seminars come directly from our personal experience with mantras, healing and spiritual transformation. Our whole life is deeply connected with mantras and these topics – so you could also say that the topics for our seminars are taken from our everyday life and experience itself.
Do you also choose the mantras for your yoga classes according to these aspects?
Devadas: Yes, each mantra yoga class is named after a particular life theme, such as “BHAKTI – God Love & Self Love”. The mantras, sutras and sometimes self-penned poems are each chosen thematically to fit this theme and the respective yoga exercises.
To what extent is a mantra yoga class even more profound than a yoga class without mantra accompaniment?
Devadas, you have even recorded several CDs. How did that come about?
Devadas: In 2007, a passerby encouraged me to record my own kirtan CD while I was singing kirtan in the pedestrian zone in Munich. That was actually the trigger that this passerby repeatedly encouraged me to do so – even downright challenged me 🙂
From 2006 – 2013 I sang regularly about 3 times a week for a few hours mantras in the center of Munich as a “Transcendental Street Musician”. This resulted in my first three CDs “Mantra Rasa – Transcendental Street Music 1 – 3”. In later years, starting in 2015, another Kirtan CD, a meditation and deep relaxation CD and two Mantrayoga lesson CDs were created.
In the meantime, you have started your joint heart project “Surya Spirit”. Tell us something about it to top off this interview.
Suryadevi: “Surya” stands for the sun and “Spirit” for the immortal soul. Translated, it means something like “the radiant self.” With our project we want to remind people to find the access to their true self in a simple and understandable way. We inspire them on their transformative healing path of spiritual awakening.
Thank you so much, you two!
Are you curious about what Suryadevi and Devadas have to offer? Then check out their seminars!