Visitor: Is it a sin if a mantra is mispronounced due to ignorance or physical defect?
Swamiji: Some people become fanatics and think only their mantra works, and only if pronounced correctly. A devotee in Tamil Nadu used to recite Namah Chivaya (instead of Namah Sivaya) with such faith that he was able to walk on water while reciting Nama Chivaya. One day a grammarian taught the devotee to pronounce the mantra correctly as Namah Sivaya. But with the correct pronunciation, the devotee could no longer walk on water. He fell into the water because he was concentrating on the pronunciation of the mantra and had lost faith in his Guru who gave the mantra.
There was a sweeper woman who approached her employer, a proud Namboodiri Brahmin of Kerala, for a mantra she could recite. He was angry that she should ask for a mantra, as she was of a low caste. But she persisted. The Namboodiri yelled at her contemptuously “Go and recite Tapala Curry”, meaning frog curry. The woman took it in good faith and went on repeating the phrase with such devotion that she became enlightened. People asked her who her Guru was, and when she told them they went and praised his disciple’s saintliness and how good a Guru he must be. But the Namboodiri had forgotten all about the low caste woman. Now he remembered the incident and felt sorry for himself; for he was still in samsara while she had become enlightened with the ‘frog curry’ mantra! All these parables emphasise the importance of the attitude or bhava in mantra japa. The attitude is much more important than the mere sound of the word.