What is a mantra? A mantra is a divine power encapsulated in a specific combination of sounds.
When a mantra is continuously recited with feeling and attention, the inherent power in those sounds is invoked. The mantra then protects the one who repeats it.
The meaning of the Sanskrit word, mantra itself assures us of this. Mantra is made up of two syllables, man and tra. Man means “to think” and tra means “to protect” or “to free from the sorrows of the world.”
The divinity in a mantra is the deity that is associated with it.
Examples of mantras that you can recite
Here are some examples of mantras.
Om Namah Shivaya (Prostrations to Lord Shiva)
Om Shree Rama Jaya Rama Jaya Jaya Rama (Victory to Lord Rama)
Om Namo Narayanaya (pronounced Om Namo Naraayanaaya) (Prostrations to Lord Narayana)
Om Aim Saraswatyai Namaha (Prostrations to Mother Saraswati)
The names of the deities invoked in the mantras such as Lord Shiva and Lord Rama carry different vibrations and appeal to different people.
They are commonly called “Lord” or “Gods” and have various names and forms. But there is essentially only one God, Self, Source, Supreme Truth or Reality. All divine names and forms are Its innumerable manifestations.
To make it easier to understand, think of how the one ‘you’ takes on different roles and clothes for different purposes. You remain the same whether you are being a parent, a motorist, an employee, a cook, a shopper, or a gardener.
The divine manifestations are invoked through their respective mantras and are associated with different qualities, ideals or goals that seekers hope to gain.
For example, Lord Shiva is associated with compassion, purity and meditation. Lord Rama’s qualities are nobility of character, adherence to duty, gentleness that is not meek but ready to stand up and fight for the good.
Lord Narayana, also known as Lord Vishnu, is the Preserver of the Universe. He represents the bliss that is within each of us. He destroys sorrows and brings devotees to the bliss of their own true Self. Mother Saraswati is the presiding deity of learning and knowledge of the Arts such as music and dance. She also bestows the knowledge of the Self.
Many mantras begin with Om. This is because Om represents the ultimate Truth or Reality that gives all deities their existence, life and power.
Here are simpler and shorter mantras that are equally powerful:
A story of how continuously reciting a mantra brings inner transformation
A mantra is meant to be recited continuously. Bringing your mind back to the mantra over and over again when it wanders into other things is a great spiritual discipline. It helps to purify your mind and makes it single-pointed. This practice is called japa. Japa is the repetition of a mantra.
Mantras are in Sanskrit and so you may wonder what would happen if you are unable to pronounce a mantra the right way?
The beauty of repeating a mantra is that even if you don’t pronounce it properly but have full faith in its divine power, the mantra will still provide you with the blessings of protection and with sustained japa, bring you great inner transformation.
There is a story that illustrates the power of prolonged japa done with sincerity and faith.
One day, a saint happened to walk by. When the bangle seller saw the saint, he immediately prostrated at his feet as a sign of respect.
The saint intuitively understood that the bangle seller would be greatly benefitted by the repetition of the mantra, Om Namo Narayanaya. So he told him to continuously chant this mantra.
The bangle seller was unfamiliar with mantras and wasn’t sure if he could pronounce this one properly. But with full faith in his heart that the saint knew what was best for him, he agreed to do so and asked, “How long shall I repeat this mantra?”
The saint picked up a small stone from the side of the street, handed it to the bangle seller and said, “Keep this stone in your pocket and repeat this mantra continuously. Stop only when this stone has transformed into sweet candy.” The saint then gave him his blessings and left.
The simpleminded bangle seller took the stone and started reciting the mantra immediately. He was convinced that the stone would turn in to candy one day.
As time went on, being unfamiliar with the mantra, he started to recite it improperly. “Om namo Narayani” he repeated. Every now and then, he would reach into his pocket to see if there was any change in the stone. This went on for years…
Gradually the mind of the bangle seller became purer and purer. He started to meditate and went within for long periods of time. Until one day, the poor bangle seller emerged from his meditation as an enlightened soul. When he reached into his pocket, he found that the stone had indeed transformed into sweet candy.
Such is the power of reciting a mantra continuously with full faith and concentration.
The benefits of reciting a mantra
Reciting a mantra is a preparatory discipline that promotes your spiritual growth.
It purifies your mind and makes it ready for meditation. It is in meditation that you will finally rediscover your essential spiritual nature.
But even before achieving this lofty goal, reciting a mantra brings many benefits. Being a divine invocation, it immediately uplifts your mind and protects it from negative thinking.
It settles down worrisome emotions, positively changes your mood and brings clarity of thought. This enables you to take better decisions and actions and so, reduces the chances of feeling regret or guilt down the road.
Reciting a mantra divinizes your mind, helps you achieve peace and protects you from negativity and harm.
It is a powerful formula for spiritual growth and inner transformation.
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