What are mantras?
The word mantra is composed of two meanings: “man” being a definition of mind, and “tra” refers to an instrument or vehicle. Mantras are words, phonemes, syllables or phrases used as a way to guide the mind, providing greater concentration and vibrational balance to the psyche and the human body.
Mantras are usually written in Sanskrit; ancestral language in India and Nepal. Its earliest records are found in the Vedas; Sacred texts of Indian culture discovered over 3000 years ago that treat mantras as a connection to divine and universe energies.
Mantras are not just limited to repeating words or phrases. They should be chosen according to the purpose and intent of the chanter and the vibrational power they provide.
Follow in this article a study on mantras and the power of words in different philosophies and religions. We will also go through the various uses to which they apply, as well as the specific meanings of the main mantras that exist in different cultures as well as their physical, mental and spiritual benefits.
The power of words and mantras
In the most diverse lines of human thought, whether religious or philosophical, one thing is certain: the word has power. It is through her in her spoken and written form that human beings express themselves and demonstrate their emotions and intentions, and it is through words that humanity writes its history.
We will see below how the understanding of the power of words, according to the main philosophies and religions, applies to all aspects of our lives, and is therefore vitally important for expanding our awareness and for the way we tread our paths during our existence .
■ The power of words according to the Bible
The power of words, according to the Bible, has a central and divine role. There are countless biblical references to the power of words, starting with the origin of creation.
The opening sentence of the Gospel of John, in the book of Genesis, says: “In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was God”, making it clear that the creation of time, the universe and everything that in which it is contained originated in the word, and that God is the very word.
The word is the main guide followed by Christians, being food for the spirit and guidance for all ethical and moral principles in a person’s life.
We have a clear example at Matthew 15:18-19: “But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and it is these that make a man unclean. For from the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, lovely immorality, theft, false testimony and slander”.
■ The power of words according to Kabbalah
According to the Kabbalah, a Jewish philosophical-religious system of medieval origin, the power of words is directly linked to the negative or positive energetic impact it causes, whether uttered, heard and even thought by an individual.
In Kabbalah, letters and words are considered raw materials of creation and each is a channel for specific divine energies.
The words we use in everyday life, thought or spoken, play a central role in developing our perspective and feelings. Our feelings generate actions and these generate effects. It all starts with words.
Following this logic of the Kabbalah, we are able to create or destroy through words. The words used bring things to life and changing the use of negative words to positive will inevitably create something new and supportive.
■ The power of words according to Western philosophy
The power of words for Western philosophy lies in making our thinking known to others. The word transmitter translates private thoughts into words, and the receiver translates them back into thoughts.
According to Western philosophy, we must first have a concrete idea of what we are going to talk about, and our words must be based on experience.
This more realistic focus on words has resulted in religious persecution over the centuries, as these ideas have been at odds with the divine conception of many words in the Jewish Christian tradition.
Western philosophy treats words as practical tools in improving the world for ourselves and those around us.
■ The Power of Words According to Eastern Philosophy
Eastern philosophy has a very spiritual focus on the word. The mantras, which have their origins in Indian culture, are seen as a pure and divine expression that harmonizes the human being with the universe and divinities.
In Japanese culture we have the term kotodama, which means “spirit of the word”. The concept of kotodama assumes that sounds affect objects and that the ritual use of words influences our environment and our body, mind and soul.
This conception of the power of the word with a strong spiritual and divine focus is also present in Tibetan, Chinese, Nepali and other Eastern countries that share Buddhist spirituality.
Sound as a manifestation of mantras
Sound has unlimited properties in human transformation and healing. It affects us on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual planes, being the manifestation of intentions and desires, and scientifically proven for its property to reorganize the molecular structure of matter.
Like everything else in the universe, our physical body is in a vibrational state. Our state of physical and mental health depends directly on the harmony of the vibrations of different parts of the body.
Sound as a vibrational manifestation is a key part in physical healing processes, being used by modern, spiritual and energetic science by ancient cultures through mantras.
The most significant manifestation of sound is our own voice. Whether in written, spoken or thought form, the intention that originates the emitted sound is directly related to the vibrational form and its effects. Let’s analyze the origin of the word mantra and how they work, what they are for and the importance of understanding their meanings.
■ Origin of the word “mantra”
The earliest and oldest records of mantras originate in the Vedas, the ancient Indian scriptures dating back more than 3,000 years. “Mantra” comes from the Sanskrit “Mananāt trāyatē iti mantrah”, which means the sustained repetition (Mananāt) of that which protects (trāyatē) from all miseries arising from human tribulations or the cycles of birth and death.
The origin of mantras comes from the primordial sound OM, which is considered to be the sound of creation. Scholars, seers and sages who have turned to mantras for wisdom have discovered the science of this technique. When put into practice, it removes obstacles to human growth by providing the fulfillment of the goals of every spiritual being in human form.
■ How Mantras Work
As a physical tool, the mantra works as a brain harmonizer. Through the vocalization of phonemes, the mantra activates certain areas of our brain through sound resonance.
It is through our five senses that the brain connects with the outside world, and the mantra places us at a point beyond these senses, where the mind is in a total state of peace and concentration.
In a spiritual way the mantra connects us with divine forces beyond human comprehension and chanting them elevates us to a state beyond the conception of space and time.
■ What are mantras for
The primary function of mantras is to aid in meditation. The human brain is a non-stop mechanism, and putting aside thoughts about everyday life is no simple task.
Mantras serve as an anchor for the human psyche to enter a state of tranquility, thus allowing it to enter a state of relaxation and concentration.
For ancient traditions, mantras are seen as prayers that elevate consciousness, connecting the being to divine energies.
■ What are the benefits of chanting mantras
The benefits of chanting mantras reflect on the human body as a whole. In addition to being an ancient technique to aid meditation and concentration, mantras also ease or eliminate anxieties. They increase the brain’s information-processing capacity, providing peace of mind and emotional stability.
For the physical body, mantras help with respiratory and cardiovascular function. Scientific studies have also shown that chanting mantras increases the production of substances related to well-being and immunity, such as endorphins and serotonin.
■ Do I need to know the meaning of the mantra?
What transcends the mantra beyond a mere physical instrument is the intention placed upon chanting it and the meaning of each phoneme or vocalized phrase.
A mantra chanted with sincere intent and with knowledge of its meaning releases all the energetic and spiritual potential that the phrase or phoneme carries. This makes it possible to connect with divine energies, elevating consciousness to a state beyond the conception of space and time.
Meanings of Some Known Mantras
The first step for anyone thinking of starting to practice mantras is to understand their meaning. It is through understanding what each phrase or syllable means that the full potential of each mantra is reached, in addition to being essential in choosing according to the objective sought by the chanter.
Next, we’ll talk in more detail about popular mantras like Om, Hare Krishna, Hawaiian Ho’ponopono, and we’ll also talk about lesser-known mantras like Shiva’s maha-mantra, Ganesha’s mantra, and many others.
■ The Om mantra
The mantra Om, or Aum, is the most important mantra. It is considered the frequency and sound of the universe, and it is a confluence point between different cultures, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, which have this mantra as the root for all the others.
It is formed by the diphthong of the vowels A and U, and the nasalization of the letter M at the end, and for this reason it is often written with these 3 letters. For Hinduism, Om corresponds to the three states of consciousness: waking, sleeping and dreaming.
The mantra Om, or primordial sound, frees human consciousness from the limits of ego, intellect and mind, uniting being with the universe and with God Himself. When chanting this mantra consistently, you can clearly see the vibration originating in the center of the head and expanding to encompass the chest and the rest of the body.
■ The maha-mantra of Krishna, Hare Krishna
“Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama
Rama Rama, Hare Rama”
The mantra of Krishna is recognized by ancient Vedic literature as being the most important of this era. It means “Give me the divine will, give me the divine will, divine will, divine will, give me, give me. Give me joy, give me joy, joy, joy, give me, give me.”
In the words of this mantra is the power of the energy manifestation of the throat chakra, which for Hindus refers to the energy of the first ray of God’s will.
The Maha-mantra, or “the great mantra” in Sanskrit, is widely used in Hindu spiritual practices and its origin, although not clear, dates back to the primordial texts contained in the Vedas, ancient Indian scriptures dating back more than 3000 years.
■ The maha-mantra of Shiva, Om Namah Shivaya
“Om Namah Shivaya
Shivaya Namaha Om”
Shiva’s Maha mantra, or Om Namah Shivaya, means: “Om, I bow to my divine inner Self” or “Om, I bow to Shiva”. It is widely used by Yoga practitioners in meditation, and provides deep mental and physical relaxation, having healing and relaxing effects.
“Namah Shivaya” has in its words the five actions of the Lord: Creation, preservation, destruction, the act of hiding and the blessing. They also characterize the five elements and the entire creation through the combination of syllables.
■ The maha mantra of Ganesha, Om Gam Ghana Pataye Namaha
“Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha
Om Gam Ganapataye Namaha”
The Maha mantra of Ganesha translated from Sanskrit means: “Om and salutations to him who removes obstacles of which Gam is the seminal sound.” or “I salute you, Lord of the troops.”
This mantra is considered a strong request for protection in times of imminent danger. Ganesha is the first child of the gods Shiva and Pavarti, thus being one of the most important deities for Hindus.
This deity is represented with a human body and an elephant’s head, and is also related to the duties and communication of universal intelligence and wisdom.
■ The mantra Om Mani Padme Hum
“Om Mani Padme Hum”
Also known as Mani mantra, the Om Mani Padme Hum translated from the Sanskrit means: “Oh, lotus jewel”, or “from the mud the lotus flower is born”. It can be said that this mantra is one of the best known in Tibetan Buddhism.
Used to ward off negativities and connect us with our capacity for unconditional love, it was created by Buddha Kuan Yin, who represents the compassion of all other Buddhas, as well as being called the Goddess of Compassion in Chinese mythology.
■ The Hawaiian Mantra of Self-Healing, Hoponopono
Translated from Hawaiian, it means “to correct a mistake” or simply “to correct”. It can be sung by anyone, regardless of the time of day or place they are.
Hoponopono is an ancient Hawaiian mantra used as a spiritual cleansing of bad feelings and energies. It evokes forgiveness, inner peace and gratitude and is widely used by Hawaiians in everyday life.
This mantra is the reproduction of four phrases: “I’m sorry”, “I’m sorry”, I love you” and “I’m grateful”, and guides the chanter through the four sentimental stages: regret, forgiveness, love and gratitude.
■ Gayatri mantra
“Om bhur bhuva svar
Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dhimahi
Dhiyo yo nah prachodayat”
Also known as the prosperity mantra, the Sanskrit translation of the Gayatri mantra is: “O God of life who brings happiness, Give us Thy light that destroys sins , may Your divinity penetrate us and may it inspire our minds.”
This mantra is a simple prayer intended to bring enlightenment to mind and attitudes. Considered the most powerful and complete of the mantras, Gayatri is regarded by Hindus as the mantra of enlightenment.
■ The ancestral mantra of the Saccha lineage, Prabhu Aap Jago
“Prabhu aap Jago
Mere Sarve jago
Sukanta ka khel prakash karo”
Considered a powerful mantra of spiritual awakening, the Sanskrit translated Prabhu Aap Jago means “God awaken, God awaken in me, God awaken in all places, End the game of suffering, Light up the game of joy.”
For Hindus, chanting this mantra with sincere intent and knowing its meaning makes it a prayer from God to God, and it can be chanted anytime your life lacks harmony, love, peace and joy.
Other features of mantras
In addition to being ancient forms of prayer in different cultures, mantras also have other applications.
From a form of meditation, being used also in the practice of Yoga and for alignment and activation of the 7 chakras, mantras have several applications and curiosities. Check out the rest of the article.
■ Mantras and meditation
For many meditators, silence is essential, but the human mind has a natural tendency to lose focus and concentration. Mantras, in this case, are effective tools to guide the practitioner, enabling total relaxation and freeing the mind from unwanted feelings and emotions.
As much as they are widely used as forms of prayer, mantras are not supernatural words. They are a kind of fulcrum in which the brain manages to release all its dormant potential.
The posture and speed at which no chanting, the amount of repetitions, body posture and breathing during meditation practice are very important and should be noted, as well as the meaning of the chosen mantra.
■ Mantras and yoga
Mantras are used by Yoga practitioners as a way to maximize the benefits of this technique. One of the pillars of yoga is the chanting of mantras, which are key in the execution of the most varied exercises, as they bring concentration and prevent practitioners from losing mental focus.
Despite not being religious, Yoga has its origins in India and ancient physical disciplines. With breathing techniques, body movements and specific body postures, yoga practice is directed according to the specific objective of each practitioner.
■ Mantras and the 7 chakras
Translated from Sanskrit, chakra means circle or wheel, and are the magnetic centers spread throughout the human body. They are found along the entire length of the spine, and their influence is linked to vital organs in different areas of the body. There are several chakras, but 7 are the main ones.
There are specific mantras to activate each of the seven chakras, called Bejin or seminal mantras. Check each of the seven chakras and their respective mantra:
1st – Base Chakra (Muladhara): Mantra LAM
2nd – Umbilical Chakra (Svadisthiana): Mantra VAM
3rd – Solar Plexus and Umbilical Chakra (Manipura): Mantra RAM
4th – Heart Chakra (Anahata ): Mantra YAM
5th – Laryngeal Chakra (Vishuddha): Mantra RAM
6th – Front or 3rd eye chakra (Ajna): Mantra OM or KSHAM 7th
– Crown chakra (Sahasrara): Mantra OM or ANG
The energy balance of the 7 chakras is related to the proper functioning of various biological and mental functions, as well as diseases that can arise if they are misaligned or disabled.
■ Curiosities about mantras
Among the many peculiarities related to mantras, there are some interesting curiosities, such as the following:
• The mantras were references and inspirations for renowned artists in the world of modern western music. The Beatles, for example, used the mantra “jai guru deva om” in the lyrics of “Across The Universe” (1969).
• Madonna, student of Kabbalah, was strongly influenced by mantras in her work, and even composed a song in Sanskrit called Shanti/Ashtangi from the album “Ray of light” (1998).
• In order not to get lost due to the repetition of the phrases or syllables of the mantras, some practitioners make use of a kind of rosary called japamala.
• A mantra must necessarily be created in some dead language, so that it does not change due to dialect differences.
• When creating a mantra, all phonemes and sound are thought of on an energetic basis, and this energy of the mantra is compared to fire.
Can chanting mantras promote well-being?
Regardless of the form or objective pursued by those who study and chant the mantras, one thing is certain: they are effective tools in promoting physical, mental and spiritual well-being.
As much as they have a mystical and spiritualist foundation, mantras are related to the resonances and vibrations of energies, being targets of scientific studies that prove their reflections on matter and, consequently, on the human organism.
If you seek physical, mental or spiritual improvement in mantras, seek to deepen your knowledge of this ancient technique. Keep in mind that the more sincere you intend to chant the mantra and the more you know the meaning of the mantra, the greater your benefit, whatever your purpose.