Several sources of study define the meaning of ‘mantra'. Yet, we only seemed to have scratched the surface of its true significance and powers.
The Sanskrit word ‘mantra' means ‘a powerful tool of the mind‘. It began as a way to document ancient rituals and rites in Hinduism.
That no longer serves as the sole purpose of a mantra. Today, we understand ‘mantra' in a much more practical sense.
A personal mantra is understood as a ‘motto' or ‘principle.' From being a term that our ancestors initially used in a religious context, it has worked its way into the mainstream vocabulary.
The majority of our understanding of the older ‘mantras' has been limited to the context of religion. While they play a key role in the Vedic Hindu, Buddhist, and other cultures, that is only one aspect of their true significance.
What relevance does the original mantras, written in some of the oldest languages of the world, hold in our lives today?
What is the best way to explain how these mantras continue to give true power to the mind, the body, and the spirit?
A quick guide
What Is a Mantra?
A mantra is either a syllable, sound, word, or phrase that is repeated while practicing meditation or yoga. In more profound schools of thought, mantras are described as spiritual interpretations weaved in melodic phrases.
Mantras hold in them deep explanations of humanity like knowledge, truth, peace, and love. It also packs wisdom about the concepts of immortality and infinity.
The Sanskrit word mantra is made up of two root words. The first part ‘manas' translates to the mind or thought. The second root word ‘tra' translates to the tool.
Simply put, a mantra is a tool for the mind. Mantras have been used as tools to attain a higher sense of self for centuries in Buddhist and Hindu traditions.
In the modern world, people have rediscovered mantras as a tool to rejuvenate their minds.
We, at Mahakatha, take pride in bringing people one step closer into the realm of mantras with our YouTube channel. Over 650,000 subscribers can't be wrong about the power mantras bear in them.
Today, more and more people delve deeper into their spirituality. Some of them believe that mantras are synonymous with intention itself. However, there is a distinction between mantra and intention.
Mantra is an instrument of the mind to enter a profound state of meditation. The intention is the seed you put in your mind.
Mantra holds the power to energize your intention and drives it to grow in your mind. With the rigorous practice of meditation, a mantra helps you to bear the fruit of your set intention.
A mantra is a purposeful composition of sounds.
Every sound in the universe is accompanied by its related vibration. Often, these are vibrations that we can sense in our surroundings as well as in our bodies.
For instance, chanting the sound ‘mmmm' creates a strong vibration that we can feel within a specific area of our body. Try to chant it for a few seconds, and you will feel these vibrations in your head, more specifically within the skull.
In the process of creating this vibration and resonance within any specific region of our body, the corresponding cells and systems are activated.
That's how sound is connected to activation. That is the foundational principle on which all mantras work.
So mantras could be defined as a carefully woven stimulus designed to produce a certain response from the body and mind.
This meant that a mantra or chant could be composed a certain way to activate, control, or balance certain areas of the brain: to calm the mind or improve its focus.
Through various studies over the years, we learned that mantras could stimulate multiple areas of our brain. These stimulations could control hunger, bring down the heart rate, and even stress.
This explains why certain mantras may be devoid of any literal meaning, and just be a sequence of sounds.
This is also what makes mantras a must-have for spiritual healing and meditation practices, like chakra healing, sound healing, transcendental meditation, and more.
Even beyond its neurological and sound-based functions, a mantra has a unique ability to soothe the mind.
Within the first few moments of chanting or practicing mantra meditation, it is quite usual for the mind to latch on to its sound. This means that the momentum of all ongoing thoughts and beliefs and responses is brought to a stop – and new momentum is set in motion.
Combined with our strong willingness and intention, a mantra has the power to consume our attention and guide it further away from any overwhelming negative emotions.
The more intense a mantra session is, the higher the vibrations resonate within us, and the deeper we move towards our non-physical consciousness. This is similar to the meditative state.
This is the reason mantras are considered to be powerful tools for meditation techniques: they multiply the mind's abilities to focus, overcome distractions, and reach a place of self-realization.
When you sit down to chant or listen to a mantra, you are setting yourself up for a journey away from your current environment or reality, and into your inner being. This is the journey where you find clarity, joy, contentment, and peace of mind.
With regular practice, mantras have the potential to harness the universal energy to co-create the most desired version of your life, one manifestation at a time.
Knowing this, let's get to the simplest, yet most articulate definition of a mantra.
A mantra is a purposeful composition of sounds that, when chanted correctly and repetitively, aligns the body and mind to align with a certain intention.
If you notice, this definition stands true for both the ancient ‘mantra' and the modern-day use of the word.
While every mantra has its benefits, there are three foundational elements on which the effectiveness of a mantra rests: Pronunciation, Repetition, and Intention.
A mantra without its exact sounds is completely ineffective. Pronouncing it correctly is of paramount importance, some would say even more important than the meaning of the mantra itself.
It is a scientific fact that every single sound in the universe sparks off a vibration. However, to sustain the desired vibration, to delve into it, to meditate in it, and to see it manifest around us, the mantra needs to be recited in perpetual flow.
Repetition is an affirmation.
What is it that you are wanting? What is the purpose of your chanting or listening to the mantra?
The answers to these questions need not be grand, they can be as simple as you want them to be. Without an intention, a mantra is like an empty bus making the stops.
For a more detailed guide of how you can go about chanting mantras as a beginner, we have a comprehensive write-up on the topic.
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.
We have a detailed write-up explaining how meanings of the mantras give rise to different types of mantras.
Done the right way, a mantra is a tool for mental, physical, and spiritual upliftment and healing.
I hope that my attempt to explain the meaning of ‘mantra' brings more clarity on your mantra meditation journey.
Meanwhile, listen to Mahakatha's mantras sung by our meditation mantra singer Preeti and experience the true power of mantras.