What is a Mantra and How Do We Use It?

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The etymology of the word mantra comes from Sanskrit, an Indo-European language of the Hindu and Buddhist religious texts, the translation of which is variable. The word is composed of the term “man” which means thinking and “tra”, which can be translated as a suffix designating an instrument or as the term meaning “protecting”. Mantra therefore means “instrument of thought”. It is estimated that the first mantras came from the Vedas (recoveries of sacred texts and founders of Hinduism) appearing around 1500–1000 BC. J.C. They will then be revived in tantrism, then broadcast in Tibet, South-East Asia and the Far East. A mantra is a sound made of one or more syllables that will be repeated several times like a litany. It is used in meditation to help the mind refocus and remain focused. A mala of 108 pearls is often used to count the number of mantras, as can be done with a string. The important and essence of the Mantra are in the resonance that this litany will create in the different bodies. A Mantra is actually a sound that resonates but in Hinduism, sound is creative. The universe is created by a sound -the OM. A mantra has internal and external transformative powers. It also changes the person who receives the sound. This means that listening to a mantra is beneficial. In a mantra, meaning doesn’t matter; singing the OM without knowing its meaning will do you as well as if you have the knowledge. It’s the sound that’s going to count. The importance of sound well is therefore essential. A misspoke and poorly voiced mantra will be totally ineffective. Its purpose is multiple, it is found essentially in meditation.

Yoga prepares your body and mind for meditation. The mantras will put you in a state of resonance and thus free you from the vasanas (latent tendencies in one’s nature). Mantras help you progress to your yoga discipline and thus help you practice meditation. We often talk about the search for awakening, but we could also use the term release. To understand this link, let’s go back to the origins of yoga. The term comes from the word “yuj” which means in Sanskrit union. Like mantras, the origins of yoga are uncertain, old and plural. It can be defined as a practice aimed at different tools, liberation and union. The term “yoga” is also found in the Vedas, then in the Upanishads, texts that comment on the teachings of the Vedas and in the Bhagavad Gita, an epic poem from the Mahabarata, a fundamental text of Hinduism. Finally, the Yoga Sutras, attributed to Patanjali, are considered today as the codifying source of yoga, probably written between the 2nd and 5th centuries BC.

In this collection of 195 aphorisms, Patanjali defines yoga as the cessation of fluctuations in the mind with the aid of 8 “members”:

    Yamas: Moral rules of conduct

    Niyamas: Daily rules of conduct

    Asana: The practice of a stable and comfortable posture

    Pranayama: Breath control

    Pratyahara: Withdrawal of the senses

    Dharana: Concentration

    Dhyana: Meditation

    Samadhi: Pure state of consciousness

It is not necessary to have studied Sanskrit or to be able to understand each word. We are not primarily influenced by mantras on a thinking level. These are much more the energy effects of word sequences and the devotion deployed during the practice of the mantra. Sound vibrations are believed to affect the room’s entire energy field when the same rhythm repeatedly continues. The ensuing vibrations travel throughout the body all the way to the sensitive soul, where they transform into vital energy. They strengthen the body, quiet the mind, and induce a meditative state.

While the modern and western use of the term yoga is much more focused on the postural aspect, many forms of discipline also place concentration, meditation, and the search for a state of appeasement. To this end, singing mantras is used just as much in more energetic forms such as Kundalini Yoga, or more dynamically, such as Ashtanga Yoga. Thus, singing mantras in one’s yoga practice is a wonderful tool at the disposal of yogis who seek liberation, whether from the mind, energy, stress or physical body pain. In the Yoga Sutras, from Patanjali, there are several tools beyond the postures to achieve the “true” purpose of yoga. It is liberation and union, the state of Samadhi, pure consciousness, observation of reality as it is and the completely dissolved ego. It is done in different stages that go more or less crescendo. It starts with yamas and niyamas, rules of moral and social lives. Then the postures (the asanas), the control of the breath (pranayama) as well as the control of the senses, concentration, meditation before the state of dissolution of the self, Samadhi. Singing mantras is then a means of being able to reach these different states.

After their appearance in the Vedic era, the mantras started to be used in tantrism that contributed to the spread of modern yoga, even though it has evolved considerably since. In the idea of the tantric current, practicing mantras is also a way of harmonizing energies by chasing negative thoughts, increasing self-confidence and protecting one’s mind through these sacred formulas. A Mantra draws its strength from the sound it produces. If the sound is poorly reproduced, if it is false, it will have no benefit. A mantra does carries a particular story, function and thought. The Japa makes it possible to resonate the sound. Every Mantra has a reason for existence. It works on different aspects of physicality, intellect and body energies. It can be said that Japa Mantra, yoga and meditation are the common practices that lead to awakening. They are separable, but they reinforce each other.

Mantras are also used by many religions, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism or Jainism to calm the mind or protect themselves, celebrate, honor. The practice of mantras is also a medium for the purpose of calming and concentration, with the physical, mental, emotional and, of course, spiritual benefits. Today, in the West, mantras are mostly disseminated as a meditative practice, linked to that of yoga. It may also be noted that the “power” of sound is found in many other religions: from Gregorian songs to the prayers of Muslims, not to mention tribal ceremonies, words can be transformed into sound and evoke mantras. Neurological researchers have done a lot of sound studies and have noticed that children practicing and listening to music from an early age are more successful than others. This sound power on the brain is now accepted by all and experienced for millennia by yogis. The sounds have a power and the vibrations they transmit go into the whole body. The Japa Mantra is an art that simply allows them to be used optimally by working on body posture and resonance.

Why Use Mantras on a Daily Basis?

When you are prone to stress or suffering from many negative thoughts, it can be interesting to use it to land and channel your inner agitation. It is a way of making connection with the inner-self, a way of awakening one’s conscience, a way of bringing harmony and a way of nurture one’s self-confidence. The more we recite the mantra, the more we impregnate ourselves with this positive energy. This one wins us entirely: the body, like the mind, draws a soothing from it. “The power of the mantra is powerful: it acts on all our emotional balance,” says Garamond. Singing mantras for a few minutes opens us up to new energy and a very deep inner calm. Such as a prayer, the mantra is also there to guide you and bring you some wisdom.

How Do the Mantras Fit Into the Practice of Meditation and Yoga?

The practice of mantra is often linked to these two disciplines.  Many teachers in meditation or yoga offer their students to start the class with a mantra (notably the “OM”), to help bring thought together and create a collective state of inner listening. Thanks to the mantra, it is more possible to be in the present moment, what both yoga and meditation are looking for. It also makes it possible to unify an assembly, to create a common vibration: the group is immediately in phase.

Benefits of the Mantras

Mantras clear your mind of negative thoughts, raise  your consciousness, and open the chakras. Before or after practice in yoga, a mantra is typically recited repeatedly during meditation. The yoga instructor speaks once on her own, and the other practitioners repeat. There are times when the mantra is already known and everyone pronounces it at the same time. If, before, the mantra was unknown, it does not take long to rally and participate in it without any problems. The mantras are generally easy to retain and are available in a memorable rhythm. The mantras will help you with concentration, stress control, getting back to yourself and amplifying the benefits of yoga and meditation. Each mantra brings its own resonance and thus its own benefits.

How to Practice Mantras?

You don’t have to sing or recite mantras aloud: Even if the benefits are different, you can recite them or sing mentally.  You don’t have to know the original meaning by heart. The very principle of the mantra is repetition, and that’s fine, because it’s also a great means of memorizing. It’s the vibration that helps to feel the benefits of the mantra, it can also be achieved by reciting in a low voice. You can see the practice of mantras as a simple exercise of letting go and non-judgment, in the heart of yoga. You can close your eyes; it helps to cut the judgment of one’s mind, to refocus on the inner listening, and to be carried by the voice and energy of others. You don’t have to sing long mantras to feel the benefits; OM is very short and yet considered the most important. You can listen to mantras; melodies can vary, because they are actually modern adaptations, but if you like one of them, listening to it regularly will make you more comfortable with lyrics and practice.

The Best Known Mantra OM

There are many mantras. The most famous is the syllable “Aum” or “OM”, considered to be the primordial sound of the universe, the original vibration of creation. It is used in many mantras dedicated to deities such as “OM Namah Shivayah” or “OM mani padme hum”, known as very powerful mantras. But there are many other formulas, which are used according to the meaning that one wishes to give to the incantation. The OM is considered to be the primordial mantra, the original sound, from which the universe is structured. According to Hinduism, it comes from the sounds “A”, “U” and “M” that each represent the entire cosmic universe, and the Hindu trimurti. “A” represents the beginning, the birth and the creator god Brahman, “U”, the continuation, the life and the protective god Vishnu, and “M” the end, death and the destructive god Shiva. From this sound the universe was created. It is the sound of all sounds together, the great original sound. Five thousand years ago, and probably much longer, it was used by the ancient Sumerian mystics and priests as a secret sound. When the Indo-Aryan tribes moved eastward, settling in Northern India, they brought with them the precious and sacred syllable OM. In the most ancient Indian scriptures, OM has always occupied a prominent place. Almost all Mantras and Hymns begin and end with OM. This syllable, is also employed as a Mantra, which is thought to be the most potent of all. The miraculous power of OM is rationally explained by some contemporary Indian authorities. For instance, Suami Sivananda, a physician who later became a yogi, argues that the pituitary and pineal glands are stimulated by the vibrations created in the nasal canals by the constant intonation of OM. This may provide an explanation for a portion of the mystery surrounding the OM sound given the significance of these organs to human psychology and physiological function. OM encloses all vibrations and, therefore, all possible languages. Name and form cannot be separated from the word because the word is a thought expressed through the vocal cords. There is a word for each thought, as well as energy, power, form, and weight. OM contains within itself all forms of language and all thoughts.

Some Other Common Mantras


These three syllables are used to purify the atmosphere before undertaking a ritual or meditation and transmute a material offering into its spiritual counterpart.

OM MANI PADME HUM (The lotus jewel that resides within)

Mani Padme represents the lotus jewel, the divine essence. Hum represents the limitless reality embodied within the limits of the individual being Hum is, then, the union between the individual and the universal.

OM KLIM CRISTAVE NAMAHA (In the name of all, may my divine presence come to me)


Shanti means “peace”. The meaning of this mantra is peace in body, soul and mind, that is, in our whole being. OM shanti shanti shanti shanti is a typical closing phrase used in Hindu teachings as a call to peace.


The three transcendental syllables indicating the absolute supreme truth.

OM NAMAH SHIVAYA (In the name of Shiva)

Serves to invoke divinity.


A silent mantra that is repeated with the breath, as many times as desired. SO is pronounced when breathing in and HAM is pronounced when breathing out. It means “I am He/She/That”.

OM SRI MAHA GANAPATAYE NAMAHA (Prostrations before the Great Lord Ganesha)

Sri is a title of reverence and respect. Maha means great. Another name for Ganesha is Ganapata, who is symbolized by the elephant-headed god and stands for tenacity and power. He is the one who makes obstacles disappear and provides success.

OM NAMAH SHIVAYA (Prostrations to Lord Shiva)

Shiva is the god of solitude and ascetics. Also referred to as the Cosmic Dancer, Shiva is in charge of the destructive forces that obliterate the universe at the conclusion of each age. It is the process by which the old is replaced by the new. In a more personal sense, it is the energy of Shiva that destroys the lower nature of the individual, giving rise to positive growth.

OM NAMO NARAYANAYA (Prostrations to Lord Vishnu)

Narayanaya is other name of Vishnu, who is believed to be the protector of the world. The energy of Vishnu is what gives the universe order after creation. Lord Vishnu is the one who regularly takes human form and incarnates on earth for the benefit of humanity. The people who are drawn to this facet of God are those who have a strong commitment to the way the world functions and to preserving life’s harmony.

OM NAMO BHAGAVATE VASUDEVAYA (Prostrations to Lord God, Vasudevaya)

Bhagavan meaning Lord is reference to Vishnu. The name Vasudeva, which means “He who resides in all things and in whom all things reside,” is a form of Krishna. One of the most adored gods is Krishna. Because he is the author of the Bhagavad Gita, one of the most well-known Eastern religious texts. He is regarded as a worldwide teacher. Krishna is appealing because of his upbeat and jovial demeanor.

OM SRI RAMAYA NAMAH (Prostrations to Lord Rama)

Rama is a manifestation of Vishnu who came to earth in order to promote justice and reward virtue. The story of his life is the subject of Ramaya. The ideal marriage of devotion between a husband and wife is represented by Rama and Sita.

The recitation of a mantra is a very personal exercise. In addition, there are different kinds of mantras. Most are stated in Sanskrit, but they also exist in English, Latin or French. In any case, choose a formula that looks like you and gives you joy, strength. Each mantra has its own meaning: take the time to study each of them and choose the one that resonates most in you, depending on the situation you are going through or according to your needs, the one that will have the greatest impact on your life.

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