Updated: Feb 5
Q. I kept thinking about the use and importance of the word"story"as a way to approximate truth or trampolines, since language or concepts can never reach absolute truth. What would be the connection (if there is one) between a story (that implies a set of articulated words) and certain words or sounds as those of mantras?
A. A story is collection of sounds and concepts that convey an understanding to the listener. Stories are used not only to approximate subtle truths, but everyday truths. As I type these words, I am telling a story. As you have a conversation with someone, you are telling a story. The word "story" acknowledges that we invariably include certain ideas that we deem important while invariably excluding those we don't, intentionally or otherwise.
The goal of a mantra is not to convey a particular understanding to the intellect. The mantra works through its subtler reverberations. It works through non-conceptual language, just as feelings of love or anger do. Just as love and anger are universally recognized across cultures, mantras work irrespective of the explorer's capacity to understand.
But if you look closely, you will see that all sounds are a kind of mantra. Soft sounds like "aaa" and "mmm" have an effect on the human system, as do harder sounds like "tt." So stories will have two kinds of effects–that of the intellectual understanding and that of its reverberation. This is what good storytellers and even good audio books do. They use silence, emphasis, tone, and more to bring out the acoustic quality of the experience, along with the emotional and intellectual quality. All are linked.
Those sounds that have been designated mantras for thousands of years generally have a powerful effect not only because they were popularized by subtle minds, but because they have been repeated innumerable times over millennia, which adds to the effect of the mantra. If a mind is in a receptive mode and the pronunciation is accurate, changes can happen quickly.