Mantras are used by many spiritual traditions to aid busy, active minds calm down on a deeper level. But what do mantras actually mean? How do they support meditation, then?

Characteristics of a Mantra

A mantra is a word or phrase that the meditator repeats throughout their practice. The mantra is usually spoken silently and inwardly.

A mantra is simple to utter, simple to remember, and doesn’t call for any intricate pronunciations.

A mantra is usually advised to be a word or phrase that the meditator does not immediately connect with any particular meaning in order to be most effective. If it did, it might start a chain of thoughts that would stop the word being repeated smoothly and the meditation from happening. This is why mantras are frequently written in tongues different than the meditator’s native tongue.

The Aramaic word “Maranatha” is frequently employed in the practice of Christian meditation. Sanskrit is usually used in meditation. A mantra, however, is a sound vibration as opposed to a word or phrase in the conventional sense. One “sounds” the mantra rather than “saying” it.

How it Works

The busy mind can calm down at a deeper level than it ordinarily does by repeating a mantra. The dynamic nature of the mind means that it is unlikely to cease just because we want it to. During meditation, the mantra gives the mind something to concentrate on, enabling it to let go of its attachments to the past and the future and rest in the present.

The mind can relax by repeating a mantra to give it a break from its regularly busy schedule. It calms the mind, and afterward, one may feel that their thoughts are calmer, clearer, and more focused.

What if?

It is perfectly natural for the mind to continue to pace during meditation. It is advised for meditators to recognize when their minds have wandered and to gently bring them back to their mantra. The tendency for the mind to wander is not an issue. Because mantras operate at a deep level, the mind is still at a deep state of rest even when the practitioner feels as though they have not “succeeded” in their meditation.

When the monkey mind interferes with the chant, it is not a failure but rather a gentle and easy reminder to refocus, letting go of judgments and irritation by bringing back the sound of the mantra.

~ School of Meditation EST. 1961

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