To derive the full benefit of mantra recitation, one should learn to align the mantra with his breath. Only one mantra can be effectively aligned with breath. It is also not advisable to have too many mantras. One has to firmly believe in one mantra and the concerned deity, who will certainly protect the practitioner, however, subject to his or her karmic account. The procedure herein described is meant for a single mantra, and trying to align more than one mantra with breath will not confer any benefits to the aspirant.
The basis for this practice is paraprāsāda mantra “hamsa”, where “ha” stands for Śiva and “sa” stands for Śakti. Union of Śiva and Śakti (Brahman and His Power) is the cause for creation. Brahman which is in the form of a soul is deep within one’s body which is protected by causal, subtle, and gross bodies. Causal body is made of breath known as prāṇa. In order to sustain this prāṇa, our inhalation and exhalation helps. The first thing that comes into the body is prāṇa (soul is excluded because, without soul nothing exists) and the last thing that leaves the body at the time of death is also prāṇa. Thus, as long as life exists, prāṇa is the vital force that sustains the body. By our breathing, this prāṇa is sustained. Our breath acts as fuel to maintain our body system. We breathe approximately 21,600 (15 breath per minute) times between two dawns, i.e. in 24 hour period. Breathing pattern is not always the same. Sometimes we breathe fast and sometimes we breathe slowly. All of us do not breathe 21600 times a day. It varies. Normal breathing range is between 11 to 15 breaths per minute. During our sleep, breathing rate is drastically reduced.
Let us first take the example of Bālā mantra
aiṁ - klīṁ - sauḥ -- sauḥ -klīṁ - aiṁ -- aiṁ -klīṁ - sauḥ
ऐं - क्लीं - सौः -- सौः -क्लीं - ऐं -- ऐं - क्लीं – सौः
This mantra consists of three parts, 1. aiṁ - klīṁ - sauḥ; 2. sauḥ -klīṁ - aiṁ; 3. aiṁ -klīṁ - sauḥ.
Do normal breathing and there is no necessity to take a particular posture like sitting, walking, standing, etc. To begin with, one may choose a posture of his or her choice. For example one can begin the practice by sitting on a chair, concentrating only on the mantra and one’s breathing. Now do normal exhalation (it can be inhalation also). While exhaling, mentally recite the first part of Bālā mantra aiṁ - klīṁ - sauḥ to fit the entire exhalation. If you take, let us say three or four seconds to complete your exhalation, the first part of the mantra should be recited for the entire three or four seconds. The second part of the mantra should be aligned with inhalation of three or four seconds (the duration of inhalation and exhalation varies from person to person; three or four seconds is taken only for explanatory purpose). Third part of the mantra should again be aligned with exhalation. The following chart will explain this further.
Exhalation – part 1 of the mantra
Inhalation – part 2 of the mantra
Exhalation - part 3 of the mantra
Inhalation – part 1 of the mantra
Exhalation – part 2 of the mantra and so on.
If this pattern is observed, part 1 of the mantra is recited during both inhalations and exhalations, as inhalation and exhalation happens one after another. Suppose, if one practices only the first part of Bālā mantra aiṁ - klīṁ - sauḥ , then the same mantra should be used during both inhalations and exhalations.
In the initial stages, one may find it difficult to continuously align the mantra with the breath. But by practicing at all the available opportunities, one’s breathing will get aligned with the mantra ultimately. If mantra is long, then the mantra is to be split as per nyāsa-s. Mantras should not be split without knowing how to split it. One’s Guru alone can guide on the mantras initiated by him. Generally, a mantra is conveyed through first line, second line, etc. Let us now take Mahā ṣoḍaśī mantra as another example.
Mahā ṣoḍaśī mantra is this:
om śrīṁ hrīṁ klīṁ aiṁ sauḥ -- ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः (part 1)
om hrīṁ śrīṁ -- ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं (part 2)
ka e ī la hrīṁ -- क ए ई ल ह्रीं (part 3)
ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ -- ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (part 4)
sa ka la hrīṁ -- स क ल ह्रीं (part 5)
sauḥ aiṁ klīṁ hrīṁ śrīṁ -- सौः ऐं क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं (part 6)
If we look at this mantra, part 1 has seven syllables (akṣara-s) and part 2 has only three syllables. Naturally, part 2 is to be fitted properly to last the entire inhalation or exhalation as the case may be. Even if one is not able to adjust part 2 to fit into the entire inhalation or exhalation, it does not matter. If there is a second or more available during the recitation of part 2, one should not go to part three during that particular inhalation or exhalation. Part three can be commenced only during the next inhalation or exhalation and should not be recited during the available gap during part 2 breathing.
The biggest drawback in this practice is that one is bound to forget the recitation of mantra during major part of 24 hour period. Obviously, this cannot be practiced during sleep. But with persistent practice, perfection can be attained in about 45 days. Then, the mantra will gradually begin to yield results. The benefit of this practice in the initial stages would be the highest level of concentration on the mantra itself. When perfection is attained, the practitioner is bound to realize the oneness of the mantra, the concerned deity and himself.