When we hear about the term meditation, we often imagine a person sitting on the floor in a cross-leg position chanting a Sanskrit word ‘Om’. Sounds familiar, isn’t it? This is essentially an example of mantra meditation. The practice of mantra meditation can be found in various Buddhist and Hindu traditions and holds significant value in personal transformation.
For beginners, it is very confusing to hear terms like mantra meditation. There are so many unanswered questions like what exactly is mantra meditation? Where did it come from? How to do it? Is mantra meditation a religious practice? We will explore all these questions one by one in this article.
What is mantra meditation?
A mantra is derived from two Sanskrit words ‘Man’ which means mind and ‘tra’ refers to go beyond, travel or liberation. It is pronounced as ‘Man’ + ‘tr’ as in ‘tres’ in Spanish with no emphasis on the ‘A’ at the end as opposed to ‘Man-tra’. The mantra becomes an object or a tool to free our minds from the fluctuations and provide a path for self-transformation and awareness. Several people also approach mantra meditation with a non-sectarian approach by using a mantra in their own language.
By now you must be thinking that why use a specific word to chant and how can it create a difference in your life?
I will explain this using a simple story.
“Once there was a monkey called Chaga in a small village. Everybody in the village was tired of notorious Chaga. Chaga would come and steal food from their homes. People decided to get rid of the monkey and let loose a few dogs. The dogs would bark incessantly but the monkey was very intelligent. It would climb up the trees and find a way to steal food. Several other methods were employed, all in vain. In the same village, there was a man named Ramu, who was fascinated by this intelligent monkey and decided to make friends with him. He sat under a tree and put a banana next to him. The monkey came and took away the banana. Slowly, slowly the monkey started coming closer to this man and one day sat next to him and ate his banana. Ramu was waiting for the exact same moment. He held the monkey and took it home. He made friends with the monkey and trained it the next few months. Ramu earned a lot of accolades and money using the hoo-ha of Chaga, the monkey.”
The mind is like a notorious monkey and chanting meditation is like giving this monkey a job. When the monkey gets busy, the village or our body becomes peaceful.
Mantra meditation has its roots in Vedic traditions. The earliest mantras were composed in Vedic Sanskrit by Hindus in India, and are at least 3000 years old. Initially, practices like Yoga and meditation were performed only under the supervision of a teacher or Guru. The idea was to provide the student with the right meditation technique based on his/her present emotional, physical, mental and spiritual condition. The teacher gave the mantra specific to the vibrations of a student. The mantra was a sound which would reverberate with the student and also allow him/her to get into the meditative state by focusing on one word. A continuous Japa or recitation of this word would be done in the series of 108, 1008 etc. You might have seen a lot of people carrying a ‘rudraksha mala’ with 108 beads for Japa or mantra meditation practice. This, however, is not mandatory.
What happens when you chant?
1. Your body is composed of billions of cells where it holds 75% of the water. The water inside the body is continuously vibrating, so are the hormones. In fact, everything in the universe, the planets, the stars, the trees, have a specific vibration and rhythm. When we chant a specific mantra, we increase the vibrations in our own body and creates a balance. Also, we try to establish the state of resonance with the universe. If our body functions in total harmony with the universe, imagine how compassionate and stress-free we can be.
We have said that mantras create different frequencies of vibrations when we chant them. A lot of people have performed experiments on the effect of frequency on water and the results are amazing. Here is my favorite experiment:
2. Secondly, if we observe, all our feelings of anger, fear, grief are mere thoughts. If you can change your thought pattern, you will change your life. The human mind is so evolved that a person has a new thought every 90 seconds. Thinking is not the only problem, however. Overthinking is what leads to a damage. During mantra meditation, we shift our focus from thoughts to the mantra thereby stopping the cyclic thought process.
3. In yogic sciences, there are several energy channels in the body and one of the most significant lies in the throat also known as Vishuddhi or throat chakra. As we chant, the throat chakra opens up allows the prana to move freely. Also, a lot of stored emotions find a way out when our throat chakra opens.
How to choose your mantra?
Choosing your mantra depends whether you want a spiritual or a secular meditation practice. I personally believe meditation is a spiritual practice and that mantras were designed in a way that it resonates with the vibrations of the universe. However, if you want to you a mantra in your own language feel free to do it.
Since the mantra was usually given by a teacher based on several characteristics, choosing it yourself needs to be a scrutinized process. Transcendental meditation(TM) is a type of chanting meditation in which a sacred mantra is given to a student by the teacher. But it will cost you a fortune. But you can choose a mantra that resonates with you. The most basic mantra that works for all is ‘AUM’. ‘AUM’ has the frequency of 432 Hz and is known as the frequency of everything in the universe.
“Penetrate deep into the word “Om”. Gradually the word will disappear and only the silence will remain. The word is a support. The meaning is within you. Om brings out that meaning which is hidden in your soul.”
Other popular spiritual mantras are,
3.Om Namah Shivay
4.Shanti, Shanti, Shanti
5.Lokah Sukhino Bhavantu
If you want your practice to be more secular and you can’t seem to find inclination towards Sanskrit mantras, you can use mantras like
4. Let Go
1. Choose any seated posture you are most comfortable in.
2. Take your chosen mantra and start chanting. Remember, the speed of chanting plays a vital role in what you are feeling. If you chant fast, you become energized and if you chant slow, it calms you down. Chanting fast creates gamma waves and slow chanting produces theta waves. So, depending upon the outcome you want, choose your speed. If the mantra is small, chanting slowly is recommended. If the mantra is big, then fast chanting can be done. However, make sure the words are coming out clear when you chant.
3. Depending upon the chatter inside you can choose the pitch of your chanting. If there’s a lot going on in your mind, keep your pitch high. You can lower the pitch when the mind starts getting quiet.
4. If your chosen mantra is a one-word mantra, then inhale deeply and chant when you exhale. If the mantra is long, keep breathing while you chant but be aware of the breath.
5. Start with chanting 30 times and slowly start progressing.
6. Sit in silence for 10 mins after chanting and feel the vibrations in the body starting with your feet. You will see how charged up the body feels and how you can actually feel the vibrations moving inside the body.
Mantra meditation is a very powerful tool to start your meditation practice. If you can find a teacher to do help you with it, the better your practice will be. However, if you are doing self-practice, choose a neutral mantra to start with the practice. If you are a beginner and would like to know about other practices you can refer to my basic meditation guide for beginners here. The aim of meditation is to raise self-awareness and consciousness and a mantra will help you truly elevate your vibrations.
Chakshu is a US alliance certified yoga teacher, a biotechnologist and an Ayurveda evangelist. Her passion is to help people live a toxic-free life, emotionally and chemically. She loves reading self-help books. When she is not writing, she is busy thinking about life.