I first became aware of and interested in mantras after visiting the Himalayas in 2002. I wanted a Tibetan meditation cd and stumbled upon the famous Om Mani Padme Hum mantra whilst visiting a small market in Kathmandu. This mantra is found on every conceivable surface in Nepal and Tibet but mainly on prayer stones and prayer wheels.
For anyone not knowing what a mantra is, let me explain.
There are many definitions of the meaning, but I think that the most understandable is to break the word into two: “man” being the root sound of the word “mind” and “tra” being the root sound of the word “instrument”. A mantra is therefore an instrument of the mind. Traditionally a mantra is repeated one hundred and eight times, but there is no hard and fast rule in this regard. People who hear them for the first time often wonder if the songwriter was stuck for lyrics!
For those new to meditation, chanting a mantra is a great starting point as it helps to focus the mind on a single sacred power phrase. We all know how impossible it is to still the ‘chattering monkey’ mind and it can take years of practice to get to the state of altered consciousness that meditators strive for. This often puts beginners off, but if they started with joyful mantra practices they would soon become hooked!
The world is made up of vibrations that, with practice, can be heard if one sits very quietly. According to ancient Vedic wisdom the vibrating sounds in nature are expressing the cosmic mind and are the means through which the infinite potential expresses itself as the manifest universe.
Reciting or singing a mantra out loud creates a special pattern of vibration that has transformational properties which can manifest effects in our physical realm. These properties can be anything from healing to stress reduction and can take one to the field of pure consciousness where the vibration originated.
I said earlier that a mantra is a sacred power phrase, but in itself, a mantra is meaningless. Once one adds intention to one’s chanting of the mantra it becomes a sutra. Sutra is literally the Sanskrit word for stitch or sew (‘suture’ in English) and it means to stitch an intention to a mantra to give it a sacred purpose. Mantras have been repeated by millions of people over thousands of years and this repetition has added strength to their power of manifestation. It is far more potent to repeat an old much-used mantra than a new one, as one taps into the higher probability of the intention being fulfilled. It is also not essential to know exactly what the words mean, as long as they are said with intention.
I struck gold with the Om Mani Padme Hum cd that I bought, as it is the most practiced mantra in the world. It is a mantra of compassion and roughly means “Hail to the jewel (the mind) in the lotus (the heart). When the mind and heart are used together the possibilities to transform oneself and the world are incredible.
As a regular meditator, I can highly recommend the work of Henry Marshall and The Playshop Family for joyful and meaningful mantras for both beginners and seasoned meditators alike.
These simple, yet powerful mantras that combine the wisdom of the East with the music of the West, are easy to sing along to, both in meditation groups or on one’s own and they leave one feeling uplifted, expanded and happy. Henry gives an explanation along with each mantra so that one can choose the most appropriate mantra and visualize the effect that one desires.
I personally love all the songs but daily chant the hauntingly beautiful one called Dhanyavad Ananda (a mantra of gratitude) that can be found on Henry Marshall’s cd “Mantras II – To Change Your World”. If you haven’t already experienced the wonderful world of mantras do yourself a favour and give it a try.
Namaste and all the best for 2010.