What is a Mantra?

The Sanskrit word mantra is derived from two words: ‘man’ meaning thought, and the suffix ‘tra’ meaning ‘tool’ or ‘instrument’. A mantra is basically an instrument of the mind – a sound, a combination of sounds, words or syllables.  Practically speaking, it is a tool for deep internal transformation and is used as a medium to achieve a deep meditative state which will help focus the mind and evoke a higher state of spiritual awareness. It will free the mind of the unnecessary and reach the subtle layers of consciousness.

If used silently, mantras are believed to have the ability to subconsciously alter an individual’s habits and patterns of thought, and when spoken or chanted aloud, direct the healing power of prana (life force energy).

The most well known and widely used mantras are set out below:

Om

Om, or Aum as it is pronounced is the most well known of all mantras. In Hindu tradition, Om is believed to be the entire universe and is the first sound from the beginning of time. Being both a sound and symbol, it is considered to have high spiritual and creative power and contains supreme wisdom. It has become the most widely used symbol within the yoga community and is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions.

Om Namah Shivaya

This is probably the most iconic and beloved Hindu mantra which dates back thousands of years. Shiva is one of the three primary deities and considered in Shaivism (one of the four most widely followed sects of Hinduism) to be the most important and accepted supreme being. It means adoration (namas) to Lord Shiva, and the syllable ‘ya’ at the end of the mantra denotes an offering. As such, the mantra literally translates to ‘I offer to Shiva a respectful invocation of His Name’. It is used to invoke appreciation and is believed to be beneficial for all physical and mental ailments.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti

Shanti literally translates to ‘peace’. In Buddhist and Hindu traditions it is chanted three times to represent peace for all living and non living beings; peace for the universe; peace for each and all things in this whole cosmic manifestation. Hindus not only pray for their group or for themselves, they also pray for every one and every thing.

Hari Om

Hari means ‘the remover’ and refers to purifying and removing all suffering. It translates to the ‘remover of bondages’. This mantra awakens prana within the body, opens the heart and will erase sins and bad karma.

In order to feel the positive benefits of mantra chanting, it is important to have complete faith and a strong will in order to achieve your desired objective. Regular practice, preferably twice a day will aid you in being free from all worries, resulting in stability of the mind and body. It may take time for you to find a mantra that you are comfortable with, but once you do, you will come to feel a sense of stillness within the mind and body.

Hari Om