Mantra is a Sanskrit word which means to vibrate the mind. Man means mind and trang is wave. A mantra is a syllable or series of words often shared in Sanskrit, an ancient tongue from India, though any dialect can be used to evoke the divine. Gurmukhi is a more recent language associated with chant created in the 16th century by Guru Angad, of the kundalini yoga lineage.
On the physical level, “the tongue stimulates 84 meridian points in the mouth, and they in turn stimulate the hypothalamus and pineal gland. When the pineal gland radiates, it creates an impulse, the entire glandular system secretes and a human being attains bliss.” Yogi Bhajan.
The medicine of mantra is further enhanced by rhythmic breathing, envisioning the meaning of the mantra in the mind’s eye, and holding a mudra, or hand position. A mantra can be sung, spoken, whispered or chanted silently within.
“Think of yourself as a divine instrument with strings. When the central channel of the spine, sushumna, is activated, the two support channels ida and pingala move with it, vibrating the entire system (72,000 nadis/meridians). All thirty trillion cells in your body begin to resonate, to dance – forming the patterns that shape you physically, emotionally and mentally.” Yogi Bhajan
Chanting mantras has the ability to neutralize binding vasanas (fears and desires) created from past karma (action). Mantras also supports a sattvic (balanced) state of being, where the mind can experience the reflection of pure consciousness.
“When we chant we tap into universal consciousness, this fuels us to go beyond conditioning, beyond addictions, beyond illusions. Chanting is a ‘Divine therapy,’ a means of cleansing the soul of unwanted psychic residue,” says Russill Paul, author Yoga of Sound.
Chanting with others further deepens the experience. When in a group setting it is important to find the balance between your voice and the group. Kirtan is a particular type of group chant with a call and response format. This provides a way to learn various chants and come into atunement with others through breath and sound.
Japa mala is a form of repetitive chanting using the 108 beads of a mala strand. The beads are held in the right hand with the thumb, middle and ring fingers, just to the right of the large (guru or meru) bead. A single bead is passed through the fingers for each mantra chanted. When more than 108 mantras are desired, the fingers travel in the opposite direction on the mala, never passing over the guru bead. Japa mala is a wonderful technique for disengaging the ego and creating relaxation, clarity and connection.
While there are thousands of meaningful mantra, I will share a few of the most widely used, beginning with OM, the primordial sound of the universe. “OM represents the Self which is the supreme non-dual reality. It symbolizes (both the) manifested and the un-manifested world, and also that which lies beyond both the manifest and the unmanifest – Brahman, which is the changeless substratum of the world experience.” Swami Chinmayananda. The mantra OM is found in Vedas which date back 10,000 years orally.
Om Mani Padme Hum is a six syllable Buddhist mantra which means, the jewel is in the lotus, or the light and love of true self is within. This mantra is associated with the Bodhisattva of Compassion and providing support for the six paramitas (generosity, discipline, patience, joyful endeavor, meditation and wisdom/awareness). Om Mani Padme Hum is said to contain within it all the teachings of the Buddha.
From the kundalini yoga tradition, brought to North American by Yogi Bhajan, the mantra Sa Ta Na Ma, also known as Kirtan Kriya, is most beneficial. The syllables of Kirtan Kriya efficiently access the various meridians in the mouth. Sa means infinite, Ta is life or existence, Naa is transformation and Maa is rebirth. When chanting Sa, touch both thumbs to both pointing fingers, with Ta touch the thumbs to the middle fingers, with Na touch the thumbs to the ring fingers, and finally with Ma touch the thumbs to the little fingers.
The Gayatri Mantra is an invocation to the sun/light and considered to be a very powerful mantra for self realization and enlightenment. Listen to this beautiful version of the Gayatri by Deva Premal
May we all use the power of mantra to dissolve all that doesn’t serve so that we may fully realize the jewel in the lotus – the love and light or true self.
Om Shanti, Prem, Jyotir (peace, love and light)
Eaden Shantay co-owns True Nature Healing Arts in Carbondale, CO with his wife and partner Deva Shantay. He is a passionate student of Vendanta (the science of consciousness) and enjoys creating sacred music. True Nature is a healing sanctuary offering yoga, meditation, chant, healthy food, a peace garden and much more. Visit http://www.truenatureheals.com