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A Little Bit About Mantras-A Yogic Perspective

By Anne Discepolo

The science of mantras is based on the ancient spiritual teachings of many religions that the creative force of the universe begins with sound or vibration. For example in the gospel of John it is stated “In the beginning was the Word.” Word is a sound, and a vibration. Many eastern religions take this concept further believing that everything in creation has a certain vibration. The things that we find beautiful or uplifting such as a lovely rose or crystal have a higher vibration than other things such as a plastic bottle. Humans also have a resonance or vibration. This is partially why we feel uplifted by some people and drained or depressed by others. Humans tend to be influenced by vibrations present in people, places and objects.

The original purpose of using a mantra was simply to raise your vibrational level. Specific mantras can be used for specific purposes, such as improving health or abundance, or overcoming obstacles, but often mantra practice is just done to deepen our connection to the divine. With this deepened connection we begin to vibrate at higher levels and then can easily create positive change in our physical world.

In yogic philosophy “seed mantras” are recommended for beginners. These mantras simply have the purpose of deepening your meditation and aligning you with the highest vibration – that of the divine – and however you define that is up to your individual cultural and religious beliefs. Commonly the mantra “OM” or “So Hum” are used as seed mantras for beginners. The OM sound is repeated silently every exhale, and alternatively “So” would be repeated on the inhale and “Hum” on the exhale. To begin you would sit comfortably with a straight spine, and silently repeat the mantra. When your mind wanders, you simply, gently, bring your attention back to the mantra. After these simple mantras are mastered one may move on to longer and more complex mantras, but it is not always necessary.

Mantras can be repeated softly out loud, but preferably they are repeated silently in your mind as you listen to the internal sound at the same time. In many traditions the mantras are repeated 108 times, but you can also repeat mantras for a certain amount of time, such as ten or twenty minutes daily. In time the mind will begin to associate the mantra with the relaxed pleasant feeling that comes from this type of meditation. It is then that you can repeat the mantra to yourself during times of distress or difficult situations to quickly obtain that relaxed clarity that you experienced during your meditation. What a powerful tool! So when you find yourself sinking into lower vibrational emotions such as anger, frustration, sadness, jealousy, etc. you can use the mantra to pull yourself quickly out and begin to raise your vibration to reflect the love and compassion that we associate with the divine vibration.

In our modern western culture we often use the word “mantra” to define any phrase that we repeat to our self. Often what we think of as a mantra is better defined as an affirmation. If we were to tell ourselves silently and repeatedly a phrase such as “I am a calm and happy person” throughout our day that would be an “affirmation” instead of a mantra. Affirmations are a powerful tool to program our minds but they work differently than a traditional mantra. Using a mantra requires that it be repeated daily for a certain amount as a meditation practice. The same mantra should be used daily for a period of at least thirty days. Traditional mantras are sounds or words that are spiritually relevant. Some practitioners will use the same mantra for their entire lives.

In my experience as a yoga and meditation teacher I have seen mantras create amazing changes quickly in many aspects of a person’s life. An excellent book on traditional mantras is “Healing Mantras” by Thomas Ashley-Farrand. For religious considerations, it is helpful to know some traditional mantras are based on Hindu beliefs and may not be appropriate for Christians. Also some yogic traditions will have a guru assign a specific mantra to the student to accelerate his or her spiritual growth. However a person of any religion can use mantras. For Christians it is commonly recommended to use the Prayer of Saint Francis, in whole or part, as a mantra. Also any part of scripture that you find uplifting can be used as a mantra. To become a mantra however it must be repeated daily for a set amount of time or repetitions as a form of meditation. So although similar to prayer – mantras are different. Different prayers may be spoken at random times, particularly at times of need, whereas a mantra is used as a spiritual practice that is done daily regardless of life’s circumstances.

Thank you to Anne M. for her excellent questions in last issues Reader’s Response. I hope you find this information helpful!

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