Discover the secrets of Sanskrit mantra and how you can get the power of vibration for your practice and your life ... even if you don’t like chanting.
What is “mantra”?
Mantra meditation is one of the easiest and most effective meditation techniques you can use. The traditional mantra is a word or a phrase in the ancient Sanskrit language that encapsulates a higher ideal. Repeating a Sanskrit mantra over and over (either aloud or silently) is an excellent way to stay focused during your meditation practice, so you can gain the many benefits of the practice more quickly. Focusing on the mantra will help you to side-step the busyness of your mind and move it away from negative thoughts. But mantra is much more than just a tool for concentration. Ultimately, mantra meditation can transport you to a higher state of peaceful awareness.
I was curious to learn more about how that worked. As with most things in the world of yoga and meditation, when you look deeper and deeper, the hidden treasures reveal themselves. There is much more to mantra practice than meets the eye. I discovered that mantras have some “secret” powers that can greatly enrich our practice and our life.
Harness the Power of Vibration
Mantra practice uses energetic VIBRATIONS to help us to connect with something greater than ourselves, to energize our minds and bodies, and to create a specific state of being for ourselves.
You just can’t miss the powerful experience of vibrations when you chant a Sanskrit mantra. Try this very simple exercise to find out how it feels. Close your eyes and say the word OM out loud. Go ahead, no one is listening. Pronounce it A (aaw)…U (ooo)…M (mmmm). Then pause in silence. Notice where you feel the resonance of each syllable in your body, it will be subtly different. Just explore that for a minute. It seems that, linguistically, this is the sum total of all the sounds that can emanate from the human throat.
These vibrations are the result of sound, but it’s not just any sound.
The ancient Eastern traditions believe all things are composed of vibrating energy, a life force that is called prana (in the Indian traditions) or qi (in the Chinese traditions). And modern science has proven it, proven that everything in the universe is made up of energy vibrating at different frequencies. Sound, light, heat, motion, even scent are all forms of energy that is vibrating. Even things that look solid are made up of vibrational energy fields at the quantum level, including every single cell of our human body. Albert Einstein himself said: “Everything in life is vibration.”
In the Hindu and yoga traditions, it is believed that all matter and energy in the Universe was created from the most perfectly harmonious sound generated by Sanskrit seed syllables called bijas. The best known bija is Om. Other bijas include Shreem, Hreem, Kreem, Hum, Aim. These bijas can be used as mantras, either individually or together with other words, to help us connect with that universal energy. How is that possible? The sound created by chanting Om vibrates at the frequency of 432Hz, which is the same vibrational frequency as the earth’s natural electromagnetic pulses, the same as everything in nature, and some people believe it is the frequency of the Universe itself. So by chanting Om, we symbolically and physically tune into that same frequency and connect with all other living beings, and maybe even with a higher power.
Augmenting this secret power is the unique vibrational quality of the Sanskrit language. It is a sacred language, one of the oldest documented languages and said to be over 3500 years old. The philosophical and religious texts of Hinduism, including all of yoga’s primary texts, were originally written in Sanskrit. And many of the principle texts of Buddhism and Jainism were also written in Sanskrit.
All words and sounds create vibrations. But what makes ancient Sanskrit a more vibrational language than our modern languages?
Apparently, it comes from the number of soft sounds as opposed to hard sounds created using the Sanskrit letters. In any language, the soft sounds that are more resonant. The Sanskrit alphabet is made up of 49 letters and 35 of them create a soft, more resonant sound. This gives Sanskrit it’s unique resonance.
The Sacred Language
So there is power and meaning in the sounds of the Sanskrit language. And there is also secret power is in the words themselves. Joseph Campbell described it as the “great spiritual language of the world”. Sanskrit has a very long spiritual tradition, it has been used around the world in different cultures for thousands of years - the earliest mantras are found in Hindu Vedic writings in India over 3000 years ago. It is humbling to know that these mantras, still used today, carry the wisdom of ancient sages into our own modern lives.
The words themselves carry powerful meaning. But as the Sanskrit language is a powerful energetic system, you will take on the energy of the chant whether or not you have any clear understanding of the words. Just let it fill you head, your heart and your soul.
Choosing Your Mantra
Mantras are so powerful that in many traditions the mantra is passed down to a student by a teacher who understands its meaning and use, and sometimes they are passed down from generation to generation. This is still a practice widely used today.
But you don’t need to have a teacher to use a mantra. We can respectfully borrow from these ancient traditions and choose a Sanskrit word or phrase to use as a mantra in our own practice. You can choose a single syllable such as one of the bijas (ie om, hreem, kreem, shreem, hum). Or choose one whose meaning supports you in your life and practice, one that helps you to stay grounded and focused on an intention. Your mantra should reflect something you would like to shift in your life, something you want to let go of, something you would like to bring into your life. Like an in invocation.
There are so many to choose from, and the traditions are old and deep so there is much we can explore to learn more. But I think it’s best to get started simply and choose a mantra that is meaningful in the moment, and also easy to say and to remember. Here are ten Sanskrit mantras and their meanings.
Get Started Using Your Mantra
You can easily harness the powers of mantra for yourself.
To begin mantra meditation, fInd a quiet place where nobody will disrupt you, and if you are shy about chanting choose a place where nobody will hear you. Then settle yourself into a comfortable meditation posture and close your eyes. And just repeat your chosen mantra over and over. You can say or chant it out loud to get the full powerful effect of the vibrations. But the beauty of mantra is that you can still get the same benefit by repeating your mantra silently in your mind. Do what makes you feel the most comfortable and vibrant.
You can use mantra recitation any time, anywhere. Any time you need to calm your mind, take just a few moments to close your eyes and repeat your mantra over and over silently in your mind. Or repeat it while walking, jogging, doing any task. Repeat it a few times just before falling asleep. Let the effects of your practice ripple out into all aspects of your life.
Mantra practice is rather magical, so much more than meets the eye. It’s amazing to think that something so simple as the chanting or repetition of a few Sanskrit words can help you stay focused in meditation, energize your body and mind, and even connect you with all living beings. In my words, I think it’s a fabulously fun way to get the hum.
Learn Sanskrit online, and just get inspired by the blog: sanskritstudies.org
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