Kundalini Yoga Mantra is both a science and an art. As a science, it works in an extremely precise way, if you can understand the subtle dynamics at play. As an art, it takes you on an individual journey, through the layers of the subconscious, until you touch your own Supreme Conscious Soul. All that is needed is a commitment to do the practice. The practice, then, opens the door to the experience.

One of the most fundamental Kundalini Yoga mantras is Sat Nam – the Bij Mantra, or “Seed Mantra.” Sat Nam is created from the Five Sacred Sounds that cut the ego, called the Panj Shabd. Those sounds are: Sa-Ta-Na-Ma. It looks like four sounds at first, but the “a” – you can exaggerate to feel it “Sa-a, Ta-a, Na-a, Ma-a” – relates to the fifth sound.

The technique of Sa-Ta-Na-Ma rests in the five elements. In yogic terminology, the creation is a manifestation of five basic elements: ether, air, fire, water and earth. Though we incarnate as pure beings, as pure spirit, the five elements weave themselves around our Soul-Light to give us the ability to experience life. From the sensual to the subtle, from the horrific, to the joyful, the five elements create a sensory system for the soul. This is the mechanism through which we interact, feel, learn and grow.

In the polarity of life, however, each element has a challenge with it, as well: what the Sikh Masters called a “poison” or a “thief.” These thieves, also five in number, can block us from seeing the Divine within ourselves and within everything around us. The thieves are the intention of the element to draw us completely into the finite creation, causing us to forget the Infinite Creator who is actually running the show. The thieves are: anger, pride, greed, attachment and lust. (Note: lust does not include every sexual desire. Some traditions teach that lust is sexual desire that is not in the will of God.

Acting from the five thieves, we create karma, or consequences, in our lives. We relate only to the finite ego, and not to our Infinite Self. However, at the same time, you cannot get rid of these thieves. As long as you have a body, you will experience these five energies. The key, as Guru Amar Das, the 3rd Sikh Master once said, is to “tie up the thieves in your own home.” They live inside of you. But if you develop your awareness of them and learn how to command yourself so that they do not take over your body and mind, they can live immobilized within you, unable to cause harm to you or to anyone else.

So how to “tie up the thieves?” That is where the Panj Shabd comes in. This mantra works so that you can become supremely conscious of the play of the elements in your body and mind. It gives your Infinite Self command over the elements, so that the thieves stay put. You may feel greedy, but you do not act on it. Anger may surge within you, but your soul surges back and makes sure the anger doesn’t interfere with your destiny. Pride is the illusion that “I” am the Doer. “I” am the cause of something happening. It comes from an imbalance in the ether element, and it is probably the most difficult challenge for a human being to overcome. Meditating on Sa-Ta-Na-Ma can bring even pride into balance: where you can recognize the belief that “I am the Doer” as false; and surrender yourself to the One who Does everything, and to whom you belong.

Sa-Ta-Na-Ma literally means: From Infinity into birth into death into rebirth. It describes the sacred cycle of the soul-life. Which is different from the cycle of finite existence. In finite existence, we recognize birth and death. But in the soul life, we say that we come from the infinite, to merge back into the Infinite. There is a cycle of birth, death and rebirth as the path. Meditating on the Panj Shabd balances the elements and restrains the thieves. But it also is a continuous reminder of our True Identity – of our Sat Nam. Who we truly are is not who we think we are in this moment. Who we truly are is the Infinite Light of God on a lengthy journey through time and space to wake up to that fact. To own it and make it our reality. When we remember Sat Nam – our True Identity – that gives us the consciousness to act in accordance from our highest self, and not get caught in the undertow of the five elements that can drag our consciousness under.

Meditate on Sa-Ta-Na-Ma, using Kirtan Kriya, and embrace the human experience in its fullness. There is no need to fear the thieves. They are part of life. But through the Panj Shabd, we can tie the thieves up and live in the beauty, bounty and bliss of the soul.

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