A mantra is a short, powerful spiritual formula, a specific combination of letters or words, hidden within it a mysterious power to bring about certain results on being used in a particular manner. When a mantra is repeated and meditated upon in a manner as prescribed, it releases the inherent power of the mantra, and this power brings about the desired transformation of consciousness thus enabling the practitioner to connect to the highest he/she can conceive of – be it God, or the ultimate reality, or Nature.
As mantra is repeated or chanted, a sound vibration representing the mantra is produced within. Steady and continuous repetition creates a stream of vibrations that makes the whole mind of the practitioner resonate with the rhythm of the mantra. The manifested universe is made of vibrations, the so called solid, liquid, and gaseous objects are but vibrations concertized into different forms, our body and mind also are vibrations of energy.
The mantra can be a powerful tool for getting some control over one’s life, cultivating beneficial habits, transforming negative emotions, or gaining a real sense of purpose in life. Mantra repetition can help us to overcome – harmful addictions, stress and depression; heal the body and mind, heal inner conflicts, improve inter-personal relationships, discover the spiritual basis of life.
Repetition of a sacred word is the most potent means to transform and purify the mind. From the purification of the mind arises clarity of vision. Other ways of purifying the mind, according to the texts of Vedanta, are moral observances, unselfish activities, charity, the practice of austerities, keeping holy company, ceremonial worship, right performance of duties, and various forms of penance. But none of these is as effective as the verbal or mental repetition of a sacred word along with meditation on its meaning. Methods such as penance and austerities cannot root out ignorance, which is the cause of conflict, suffering. They only purge the conscious level of the mind; they cannot penetrate the subconscious level of the mind in which the subtle impressions of the impure thoughts and desires are embedded.
By consciously producing vibrations of purity, the mind attains purity. Such attainment is certain even when the repetition or chanting is mechanical or without full knowledge of the science of meter and rhythm. Just as a person who mechanically follows the exact formula for preparing a chemical compound obtains that compound, without having any knowledge of chemistry, similarly the practitioner attains the result of repetition of a mantra by following the rules and observances, even though he may not know their meaning and significance.
Mahatma Gandhi declares, ‘the mantra becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal, it is repeated not for the sake of repetition but for the sake of purification. It is no empty repetition for each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.’
Rama is one of the simplest, most powerful and most popular mantra in the Hindu tradition. Rama means abiding joy and comes from the Sanskrit root ram, ‘to rejoice’. When we repeat this mantra, we are reminding ourselves of the source of abiding joy deep within us, which is the Lord. It was through the ceaseless repetition of Rama, Rama, Rama that the very ordinary young man Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi transformed himself into Mahatma Gandhi, who managed to free India from its colonizers in a peaceful way.
Some of the common mantras used by various traditions of the world:
Some Christian traditions have a mantra known as the prayer of Jesus: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us.’ ’Hail Mary’ is another powerful mantra used by some Christian traditions.
‘Om mani padme hum’ is a great Buddhist mantra which means ‘jewel in the lotus of the heart’.
‘Bismillah ir-Rahaman ir-Rahim’ is a Muslim mantra meaning ‘In the name of Allah, the merciful, the compassionate.’
‘Barukh attah Adonai’ a mantra of the Jewish tradition means ‘blessed art thou, O Lord’.
‘Ribono shel olam’ is another Hebrew mantra which means ‘Lord of the Universe’.
Om is the Seed Mantra of All Mantras:
Om is the basis of all sounds. Om is the only natural , unstuck sound which is made without using the larynx and the palate as a sounding-board, an articulate sound of which all other sounds are manifestations. Om is the most sacred of all sacred words; it is the seed mantra, or mystic syllable of all syllables. By chanting the sacred word Om and meditating on its meaning, many seekers have overcome the limitations of the mind and reached the shore of immortality.
The syllable Om, also known as the pranava, means an excellent boat to cross the ocean of worldly existence. Pra means Prakriti, or the world evolved out of it, and navam means an excellent boat. It means that which leads to new knowledge of the pure self.
Vedantic seers maintain that all desires of the heart are fulfilled through the repetition of and contemplation on Om. The symbol of Cosmic Consciousness, Om is the storehouse of infinite energy and power; through repetition of and meditation on Om one attains to everything. It is claimed that even physical illness can be cured by the repetition of this sacred word, not to mention overcoming the disturbances of the mind. By one’s repeating Om and contemplating its meaning, all obstacles in the path of meditation are overcome.
A mantra acquires added power when it is imparted to a pupil by a knower of truth as teacher. The teacher in such a case awakens the dormant power of the mantra (mantra chaitanya) by his own power. The Gayatri mantra is that most potent mantra, the essence of all mantras, and it acquires added power when it is imparted to a seeker by a competent teacher. It embodies in itself mystically all the meters and all the seers of all other mantras and their presiding deities, as well as the glory of those deities. By invoking the Gayatri, all these are invoked in oneself. By the repetition of this mantra, every sacred mantra is repeated, and by meditation on it, all the deities are meditated upon.
Meaning of the Gayatri mantra:
The Gayatri mantra occurs in the Rig Veda(111.62.10) and reads as follows in Sanskrit:
OM. BHUR BHUVAH SWAH;
BHARGO DEVASYA DHIMAHI;
DHIYO YO NAH PRACHODAYAT. OM.
The English translation reads: “Om. We meditate on the radiance of that Supreme Divine Being, the creator of the world planes – earth, heaven, and those spaces in between. May that Divine Being direct our intelligence. Om.”
Sage Sayana’s translation of Gayatri mantra: “We meditate on that supreme effulgence of the Radiant Being, the indwelling controller and director of all beings. May He stimulate our intellect entirely (to realize the Truth).
When meditating on the Gayatri mantra, the seeker is instructed to direct his attention to the radiant light of the sun. From this he is led to meditate on the source of the light of perception and understanding within, without which one cannot perceive the light of the sun. In the final stage, he is asked to meditate on the identity of the light in him and the light of the sun – the identity of the pure consciousness of his inner Self and the all – pervading Pure Consciousness of the universal Self.
Irrespective of who we are and what our faith or religion is, every one of us can benefit from the repetition of mantras but one has to exercise some care in choosing a mantra. It is important to take into account our own religions background, our response to the meaning, and the practical significance to the words. One may choose a mantra from one of the established traditions or a mantra recommended by a spiritual teacher with personal experience of its power. Having chosen a mantra, one has to commit oneself to its practice till the goal is reached.
Learn more about real Yoga In India at Shreyas Yoga Retreat in India