From the very childhood I have been attracted to mantras. My great grandmother was a very devout woman who loved to chant the name of Krishna. This was much before the spread of “Hare Krishna” movement in the west. She used to chant the name for hours with the help of her rosary in the morning and evening after her household chores were over.
What is a Mantra?
A mantra is a powerful spiritual formula, which makes the mind calm and tranquil. Every word we utter, every sound we hear has an impact on our body and mind. Mantras are spiritual words of power that has the capability of transforming human consciousness.
Mantras in different spiritual traditions
Mantras are often silently repeated in mind. There is nothing magical about it. It is pure science of sound vibration. There are many mantras that are practiced in every major spiritual tradition. Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism widely depend on the practice of mantras for spiritual evolution of an aspirant. In Hinduism, there are mantras used even for secular purposes, such as attracting abundance, curing a disease, getting rid of enemies, getting a life partner or winning a court case.
In different phases of my life I have tried and experimented with different mantras. I love the powerful sound vibration and healing effect they bring.
‘Om’, ‘Gayatri’ mantra and ‘Maha-mrityunjaya’ mantra are some of the powerful mantras that are widely practiced by the Hindus. Om or Omkar is also practiced by the Sikhs.
For Christians, the name of Jesus and Mary are considered as mantras. Catholics also use “Hail Mary” or “Ave Maria” as sacred mantras. The Muslims chant the name “Allah” or “Allahu Akbar”, which means God is great.
In Buddhism, “Om mani padme hum” is widely practiced for compassion, joy and peace of mind. The Tara mantra “Om tare Tuttare ture Soha(/swaha)” is also very popular. It brings many benefits to the chanter, material as well as spiritual. It is said to protect you from inner and outer enemies, bring abundance and spiritual wisdom.
From my teacher in Rishikesh I have learnt a powerful chant that involve the name of Rama. Hindus believe in many incarnations of God. In Indian mysticism, Rama is considered as one of the most powerful incarnation of the Divine. The name “Rama” is widely chanted by people all over India. It was also the mantra of the great Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi used to chant the mantra as the name of God, without referring to any personal aspect or incarnation. There is another mantra “Om Namah Shivaya”, which is very popular.
How to meditate with a mantra?
Mantra Meditation is an exceedingly powerful practice. Once you have chosen your mantra, stick to it for some time to see the result. Set aside a time for your practice. Repeat your mantra silently in your mind. Keep repeating it slowly with gap between every utterance. If any thought comes to your mind, which is very natural, just smile and ignore it and gently go back to your mantra. If the thought is very persistent, just make a mental note of it, promise to get back to it after your practice is over and then go back to your mantra.
This vagaries of an wondering mind sometimes becomes very ridiculous. You will find that during this brief period of ten to fifteen minutes, you remember everything from trivial matters like what you are going to have your dinner to serious things like you have left your key in the car. My students often report such experiences with their mind. Do not be rude with your mind. Just note what it brings and go back to your practice of repeating the mantra slowly. silently in your mind.
Be Watchful while practicing Mantra meditation
Be alert and aware while repeating the mantras. Unconscious repetition often brings unawareness, which make people irritable. Try to be mindful of the sound or the meaning when chanting the mantra.
People often repeat their mantras silently while doing mechanical chores like washing dishes, waiting in a line and so on. I never advice my students to chant their mantras in a state of unawareness.
If you can not decide which mantra to chant, you can just chant “OM” or “AUM”. This is the mantra of universal cosmic consciousness. You can learn various mantra meditation techniques with the word “Om” in Dr. Amit Ray’s book “Om Chanting and Meditation“. This is an excellent book to get you started with mantras. In this book you will know things like ‘where to chant’, ‘how to chant’ and other tidbits of mantra chanting and meditation. Mantra meditation can lead you to the joyful silence of your heart.
Do not alter your mantra frequently. Give it some time, once you chose your mantra. The practice of mantra meditation can make your life calmer, richer, more purposeful and fulfilling, if you persist with the practice twice in the day, in the morning and in the evening.