Mantras have a soothing way of connecting with you even without you knowing the mantra meanings.
Did you know that there are several types of mantras based on mantra meanings?
While any mantra, when used correctly for chanting or meditation, will deepen your spiritual practice, knowing the kinds of mantras will help you choose the right one for you.
A quick guide
Every mantra is written for a certain purpose. Some are written to aid healing, some are written in praise of a mythological deity, while some are specifically designed to activate certain areas of your body or brain.
That's why there are chants that have a meaning, as they describe a deity or a desired goal, and knowing these mantra meanings help us pray, or ask, or meditate better.
On the other hand, several mantras that are designed only to trigger certain responses from the body do not have any literal meaning. Such mantras are a woven sequence of the right sounds to create the right physical or neurological response or outcome.
Lastly, there are mantras that appear to be just sounds put together, but these sounds may have a symbolic meaning, too. The best example is ‘Om,' which works on a physical level, and yet, has a grand, universal meaning.
Let's take a closer look at some of the most common types of mantras based on mantra meanings.
Mantras derive meaning from their inherent sound. The Sanskrit language is such that every sound holds its meaning. The Pali language is similar to Sanskrit in that regard.
In Hinduism, most mantras are written in Sanskrit. And in Buddhism, mantras are usually found in Pali.
Mantras have their roots in Buddhism and Hindu philosophy. In Vedic texts, mantras are described as a tool for the mind. In Buddhism, a mantra is used to train the mind and invoke positive qualities. Buddhist mantras signify the teachings of the Buddha.
Hindu mantras are found in almost every ancient text, including the Vedas and Upanishads. Mantras are also found in epics like the Mahabharata and Ramayana.
Here are some important mantras based on mantra meanings.
These types of mantras are generally a form of prayer, dedicated to a specific deity or divine incarnation. Such mantras offer praise to the deity, describing their form and their powers, and seeking their blessings with health, wealth, and prosperity.
For instance, the mantra Vakratunda Mahakaya is dedicated to Lord Ganesha, the god of all auspiciousness. The powerful mantra is chanted before the beginning of anything new; like a new day, an auspicious ceremony, a new business or job, etc.
It is also one of the first mantras chanted during religious offerings in the Hindu tradition.
There are several such mantras written as invocations of Lord Shiva, Goddess Saraswati, Goddess Lakshmi, Buddha, and several other divine entities.
Gayatri mantras are unique in their meaning as well as in the rhythm of their composition.
The purpose of a Gayatri mantra is removing resistance and negativity from the mind and from life and creating harmony with our inner, outer, and higher powers.
The Gayatri mantra “Om Bhoor Bhuvaswaha | Tat Savitur Varenyam | Bhargodevasya Dheemahi | Dhiyoyonah Prachodayat ||” is considered to be one of the most powerful chants of the world, with the ability to guide the mind, body, and spirit towards enlightenment.
The other important Gayatri mantras include the chants dedicated to the 5 elements of the universe: Prithvi (Earth), Jala (Water), Akasha (space), Agni (fire), and Vayu (air).
Each of these is chanted to seek joy, healing, and harmony with the 5 elements that exist out in the Universe, as well as within our bodies.
Various Gayatri mantras have also been written in praise of different Hindu deities as well, including Lord Shiva, Lord Krishna, Lord Vishnu, Lord Dhanvantari, Goddess Lakshmi, The Sun God, etc.
There is a whole sphere of mantras written with the sole purpose of invoking inner peace and a lasting sense of inner balance.
These mantras don't typically focus on describing or offering praise to a deity, but channel our attention inwards, to clear our thoughts, recognize our true selves, and realize our purpose in life.
Peace mantras can be found in Sanskrit, Pali, and many other ancient languages and their respective cultures. These chants have the potential to awaken our higher consciousness, that's why they are commonly used with different forms of meditation.
The power of a peace mantra used during meditation, heartfulness meditation, transcendental meditation, or any other modalities, is that it can sharpen the focus and promote a deeper spiritual understanding of ourselves.
Some great examples of peace mantras are the Nirvana Shatakam, Shaanti Paath, and Lokah Samastha Sukhino Bhavantu.
The Nirvana Shatakam is most commonly used for breathing meditation, yoga Nidra, and emotional healing. Known as the world's most loved mantra for inner peace, the meaning of its six verses is empowering, timeless, and inner eye-opening.
Mantras have been used as a part of holistic healing since the early Vedic period in India. Mantras were a means not just to practice chanting, but they were also often used to document the making of Ayurvedic medicines.
The healing properties of mantras include the ability to soothe pain, remove the overwhelming stress resulting from the physical discomfort, and build stamina.
One of the most effective healing mantras of all time is the Sudarshanashtakam. The mantra contains 8 verses, with long, hard, and complex phrases.
This explains why it would be difficult for an ill person to chant the mantra initially since it requires breath control and strength of voice.
However, the benefits of the Sudarshanashtakam can be reaped even by practicing focused listening, or mantra meditation.
Another powerful chant for healing from illness and pain is the Buddhist chant invoking the Medicine Buddha: ‘Tayata Om.'
Healing chants are also often dedicated to specific divine incarnations of health and well-being.
For instance, Lord Dhanvantari, who symbolically holds a pot of the potion of immortality is known as the god who has the powers to bestow good health and longevity on humans.
It is tradition to chant Dhanvantari mantras for loved ones who need physical healing. Such chants can also be found in the name of Lord Shiva, Hanuman, as well as different forms of Buddha.
Every session of yoga begins with a prayer mantra, seeking the blessings of Patanjali, the father of yoga. The prayer ‘Yogena Chittasya' is a chant that every student of yoga must learn and master since it instills the humility, devotion, and focus that yoga requires.
Similarly, mantras are spread out throughout different activities and postures of yoga – to be chanted in a specific manner and a certain number of times.
Traditionally, these chants are recited by the Guru, while the students repeat after that, or simply close their eyes and focus on the chant.
The sun salutations, known as Surya Namaskara, are also performed in line with the Surya Namaskara mantra – which is made up of 12 names of the Sun God – one for each posture within the Surya Namaskara.
These are mantras that are not phrased to depict a literal meaning, but to activate and balance certain areas of our body and mind.
For instance, the practice of chakra cleansing and chakra healing is further empowered by the use of chakra healing mantras. Here, specific syllables have been recognized to activate, restore, and balance the energy in different chakras of our energy body.
Another example is transcendental meditation. The mantras used for transcendental meditation are unique because they cannot simply be chosen by a student or a practitioner.
Instead, transcendental mantra sounds are chosen by the Guru for the student, depending upon what the student is struggling with, or seeks to attain.
So, do mantra meanings affect the quality of your practice? The short answer is, no!
Mantras affect us because of the inherent sounds. Mantras are sounds woven together to help you strengthen your intent.
Vedic texts suggest that it is not even necessary to know the meaning of the mantra. In Buddhist teachings, students are not taught the meaning but rather the process of mantra recitation. That's because knowing mantra meanings is not as challenging as bringing the discipline to your mantra recitation.
So if you are just starting out, I would suggest that you focus on the experience of chanting a mantra. You will eventually imbibe the mantra meanings in your meditative practice too.
However, knowing the mantra meanings can enrich your meditative experience. The stories surrounding around a mantra can get you closer to the characteristics of the deities, values, or feelings mentioned in a mantra.