What is a Mantra?
The word mantra is based on the Sanskrit roots MAN (mind) and TRAI (liberation device). In Hindu, Buddhist, Sikh, and Kundalini Yoga usage, it has come to mean “spiritual sound formula.” Hindu scripture calls mantra “that which, when contemplated and repeated, will offer protection.”
A mantra is a form of meditation using a sound, word, or phrase. The oldest known mantras can be found in the Vedas, which are ancient religious texts from India that are nearly 6,000 years old.
Mantras are continually recited silently or aloud and are often combined with breath and rhythm. The practice of mantra meditation is said to help slow down thoughts, improve mental clarity, and enhance peace of mind.
Mantras have a rich history in some of the most ancient cultures of the world. At their core, they harness the inexplicable, inseparable human connection to Divine sound called Naad.
Mantra meditation has long been used to increase awareness of the self in the present moment and enhance personal and spiritual growth. Mantras may also help reduce stress and promote relaxation and can aid on the journey toward self-realization.
The proper study of sacred mantras includes the physical and spiritual anatomy; the system of subtle channels in the body; diagrams of spiritual energy processing centers (chakras); and the human voice, which powerfully influences all of the above. Mantras are also key to techniques for awakening one’s own kundalini energy; the Divine Feminine Shakti that sits at the root chakra (Muladhara) that reaches up and uncoils along our spine yearning to connect to the Divine Masculine Shiva energy located in the crown chakra (Sahasrara).
You do not have to necessarily subscribe to the Hindu, Sikh, or Buddhist (Dharmic) religions in order to use and benefit from the healing power of mantras or meditation. Sincere seekers on many diverse paths; Judaism, Christianity, Spirituality, and others, have used mantras to enrich their lives and deepen their own spiritual practice. That being said please use the ancient technology of mantra sound healing with an open and devoted heart. Set aside time to practice and take it seriously.
If the power of the sacred mantra touches your soul and enriches your life and practice, consider donating to Indian charities to help pay tribute to the land where these sacred sounds come from. I donate $22 of every 1:1 Meditation session; in addition to my own personal monthly donations. On my resources page, you will find many teachers, charities, and organizations that would love your support.
If you are a Westerner, I implore you to research your mantra first and listen to that mantra chanted, spoken, and sung by native Indian language speakers, from different regions. Regional accents vary heavily from area to area on such a large subcontinent, so do your research when being called to a new mantra. That being said, chanting with an open heart and pure intention is far more important than mastering the pronunciation right away, it will come with practice and immersion.
There are many groups online for Sanskrit learning where people will be more than happy to help if you reach out. For me, Hindu and Sanskrit Mantra are a bit easier to pronounce at first. When using Sikh and Kundalini (Gurmukhi) mantras, spoken Punjabi utilizes many tongue movements in mantras that we simply do not make in everyday American or British English. Kundalini yoga incorporates Gurmukhi mantras so you may want to check out a class online or near you.
There are also Tibetan/Nepali Buddhist Mantras, that share many Sanskrit roots. I simply do not use them in my own practice at this time. I have been to several Buddhist temples in my life and have always found the people there very kind and open. If you are interested in Buddhist mantras, I would reach out to a temple or meditation center near you.
You are invoking the sacredness of an ancient culture and sacred sounds that have been revered for thousands of years, please approach Mantra with the proper reverence and devotion. Mantra meditation is not trendy, it is a sacred devotional practice and I implore you to treat it as such.