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Updated by michaelarasm on Aug 30, 2016
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How to Perform Mantra Meditation

How to Perform Mantra Meditation. Mantra meditation has become increasingly popular in recent years. What is a mantra, you ask? A mantra is a word or phrase repeated over and over again during meditation. In mantra meditation, you repeat a particular sound or short phrase again and again. This can be done out loud (chanting) or in your mind.

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Introduction to and History of Mantra Meditation

Mantras are words or phrases that are chanted out loud or internally as objects of meditation. Often these mantras are associated with particular Buddhist figures, whose qualities can be cultivated by the repetition of the relevant mantra.

Mantra meditation predates Buddhism, probably by hundreds of years. The origins of mantras go back at least to the Vedic tradition that preceded the Buddha, where mantras were used as incantations to influence, or even to control, the gods.

In this section of our site, you can explore how we define mantra meditation, learn how mantra meditation works, and read about the various figures that mantras are associated with and what their mantras mean.

Throughout history, cultures have believed in the sacred power of words, and have believed that uttering certain words or names could control the external world, or control the unseen forces, like gods or spirits, that they believed acted upon the world. We can see that in the English word “spell”, which can mean simply to put letters together to make words, or to use words in order to control the world through magic.

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What is a bodhisattva?

The word “bodhisattva” is a compound word formed from bodhi (spiritual awakening, enlightenment) and sattva (a being, essence, spirit).

The word can then be translated as “A being set upon enlightenment,” “One whose essence is perfect knowledge,” or “A being whose essence is enlightenment.”

The word, however, has several shades of meaning, and we will explore these below.

Three meanings of the word “bodhisattva”

There are three principle meanings of the term “bodhisattva,” each of which I will discuss in more detail below:

  1. In early Buddhism, bodhisattva meant “the previous lives of a (or the) Buddha.”
  2. In Mahayana Buddhism, bodhisattva refers to a human being committed to the attainment of enlightenment for the sake of others. Becoming a bodhisattva is the goal of Mahayana Buddhism.
  3. Bodhisattva may also refer in Mahayana Buddhism to archetypal bodhisattvas: mythical beings such as Avalokiteshvara and Manjushri, who are objects of devotion.
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5 Ancient Mantras

1) Mantra: OM

Translation: The sound of the universe. It's the first, original vibration, representing the birth, death and re-birth process.

Modern adaptation: Chanting the sound OM brings us into harmonic resonance with the universe – this is a scientific fact! OM is said to vibrate at 432 Hertz, which is the natural musical pitch of the Universe, as opposed to 440 Hertz, which is the frequency of most modern music.

Decreasing your frequency to coincide with that of the Universe stills the fluctuations of the mind, allowing you to practice yoga through sound. OM is an idyllic way to begin and end a yoga or mediation practice, and also comes in handy when you just need to chill out.

2) Mantra: Om Namah Shivaya

Translation: I bow to Shiva, the supreme deity of transformation who represents the truest, highest self.

Modern adaptation: In the book Eat Pray Love, Elizabeth Gilbert is given this mantra by her Guru, which she lovingly refers to as the “Amazing Grace of Sanskrit.” Her interpretation is, “I honor the divinity within myself.” This is a great mantra to help build self-confidence, reminding us that we are all made up of divine energy and should treat ourselves accordingly.

3) Mantra: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu

Translation: May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all

Modern adaptation: Most commonly associated with the Jivamukti Yoga School, this mantra is a powerful way to dedicate yourself to living a life of non-harming and being of service to the greater good. This mantra encourages cooperation, compassion and living in harmony with the environment, animals and our fellow human beings.

4) Mantra: Shanti Mantra
Om Saha Naavavatu
Saha Nau Bhunaktu
Saha Veeryam Karavaavahai
Tejasvi Aavadheetamastu Maa Vidvishaavahai Om

Translation: May the Lord protect and bless us. May he nourish us, giving us strength to work together for the good of humanity. May our learning be brilliant and purposeful. May we never turn against one another.

Modern adaptation: A perfect mantra to start a yoga class, a new day, or even a new business with. It unites the participants and sets a tone of non-competitiveness, unity, and working together towards a common goal.

5) Mantra: Om Gum Ganapatayei Namah

Translation: I bow to the elephant-faced deity [Ganesh] who is capable of removing all obstacles. I pray for blessings and protection.”

Modern adaptation: In Hindu teachings, Ganesh is known as the god of wisdom and success and the destroyer of obstacles. This is my favorite mantra, which I always draw on when I’m facing a big challenge in life and especially when I’m traveling.

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10 Mantras For Meditation

From the Ancients:

  1. “Aum”

An oldie but a goodie, you really can’t mess this one up too badly. The “Om” is the sacred sound of Hinduism and is said to mean, variously: It Is, Will Be or To Become.

  1. “Om Mani Padme Hum”

Rhis one’s from Tibet and it means, roughly, “Hail the Jewel in the Lotus.” The jewel in this case is the Buddha of Compassion.

  1. “Namo AmitaBha”

Homage to the Buddha of boundless light.

  1. “I am that I am”

This is one of the Hebrew Torah’s most famous lines, and it was God’s answer to Moses when Moses asked for his name.

  1. “Ham-Sah”

The Hindu variant, meaning I am THAT.

  1. “I love you; I’m sorry; please forgive me; thank you”

Ho’oponopono (Hawaiian) Mantra.

Modern Mantras:

“Love is the only miracle there is.” – Osho
“Be the change you wish to see in the world.” – Gandhi
“Every day in every way I’m getting better and better.” – Laura Silva
“I change my thoughts, I change my world.” – Norman Vincent Peale