Pronunciation v/s Devotion
There are two factors that govern the efficacy of a mantra- pronunciation and devotion. For a Japa Sadhana to bear desired result, a practitioner must practice the Japa of a mantra or a stotra with proper pronunciation. The “syllables” should be chanted properly. A change in a syllable may result in the change in the meaning of the mantra. Hence, a practitioner must take utmost care to understand the meaning of the mantra and the proper pronunciation of it. There is a story about Vritra, the King of demons who performed a Yajna for killing Indra. The sacrifice was done with the mantra “Indra Shatruvarda sva” which was intended to mean “Let the strength of the enemy of Indra increase” but due to improper pronunciation, it came to mean “Indra the destroyer of his enemies”. This resulted in Indra gaining enhanced strength and hence defeating Vritra in the battle. The point is, pronunciation is very important especially in case of a Sadhana is done for attaining a specific result (Sakaama sadhana). Further, such a pronunciation becomes most important with respect to Vedic mantras, where a proper pronunciation not only include proper utterance of the words but also a proper intonation with which it is chanted. This science of pronunciation of Vedic mantras form one of the Limbs of Vedas called “Siksha”.
According to Siksha, there are 6 elements in the pronunciation of the Vedic mantras- Varna, Swara, Maatra, Balam, Sama and Santana. Varna refers to the sound of alphabets present in a mantra. Swara refers to the Intonation or Pitch with which the mantra must be chanted. Maatra refers to the “duration” of the pronunciation of each syllable. Balam refers to the stress or force with which each syllable must be pronounced. Sama refers to the modulation or general tune of the mantra. Santana refers to the continuity in pronouncing. Swara/Pitch is further classified into Uddata (acute intonation), Anuddata (low pitch intonation) and Swarit (high pitch intonation). Only when a person gets right each of the elements of pronunciation, he is said to have chanted the Vedic mantra properly. But, this is not so in the case of Puranic or Agamic mantras. There, it is enough if one manages to pronounce he syllable properly. No restrictions about the Intonation or Stress or duration exist for such mantras. The key factor in Non-Vedic Mantras is “Devotion”.
“Devotion” is most important aspect of any Japa Sadhana be it mantra japa, nama japa or stotra paarayana. Without devotion, any Japa sadhana will be reduced to a mechanical process. Such a mechanical practice will not result in spiritual upliftment. A person may be able to fulfill his material desires by a proper performance of Sadhana following all its rules and restrictions even without Devotion. But, by such a practice one cannot attain Purity of mind and hence cannot make spiritual progress. Further, if there is no devotion, then even a small mistake in a ritual will result in nullification of the results. But on the other hand, a person surrenders to deity and performs a sadhana to the best of his ability, and then he may attain success despite of many mistakes and errors. Hence, Devotion becomes vital for both Vedic and Non-Vedic mantras. In the case of Vedic mantras, both Pronunciation and Devotion are to be perfected but in case of Non-Vedic mantras, devotion plays the most vital role, as any error in pronunciation can be rectified by the intensity of devotion.
Thus, the path of Bhakti has been imparted by our Rishis for the sake of the masses. Every person cannot dedicate whole life to perfect their pronunciation and practice Japa Sadhana of Vedic mantras. Hence, for spiritual welfare of such people, various agamic and Puranic mantras and Stotras have been imparted.