Eyes closed and legs crossed – breathing in – breathing out – Oooooooooohm!
This might be just the thing many people associate with meditation and Yoga. A lot of Yogis wear the Om-Sign around their necks and it is imprinted on a lot of Yoga-related products (mats, pants, …). But most people don´t know what exactly is this Om-thing, anyway. What exactly is
While this is, as nearly anything, a vast topic to cover, I´m going to try my best here to provide a summary about the topic of mantras (om included)
Since the usage of mantras is a more than thousand year old practice, all I can do is scratch the surface a little bit – so here we go:
What exactly is a mantra?
A mantra can consist of a single syllable (Om), a word or even a whole sentence / verse.
Just as with mindfulness, there is no clear definition . This is not surprising, considering mantras (and similar practices) are used in a bunch of different cultures and religions.
According to the Oxford Dictionary a Mantra is defined as „(originally in Hinduism and Buddhism) a word or sound repeated to aid concentration in meditation
As this definition states, a mantra is something that is repeated over and over again – does this ring a bell? The usage of mantras is comparable to the Christian Rosary.
The repetition of a mantra can be practiced in silence, whispering, singing or saying it out loud.
What´s the idea behind this repetition? In the context of meditation, the mantra serves as a sort of anchor, something to keep the thoughts in place and preventing them from drifting off.
Traditionally, a student receives his/her personal mantra from a master / teacher.
While most of us don’t have a master, you can read about some of the commonly used mantras down below. I´d suggest you try some of them out and see how you feel.
You might have come across this mantra already, since it is chanted before and / or after a yoga class. Om (pronounced AUM) is quite often describes as the most important mantra to Hindus. In Hinduism it is also know as pranava mantra. It consists of the sounds A-U-M. Try to say Aum out loud, with your full voice and feel the vibrations. It is said that this mantra consists the whole span of the human voice – maybe you can feel this while chanting it out loud. This mantra is associated with concepts of “cosmic sound” or “mystical syllable” or “unifying the whole universe” – no wonder that is sacred to Hindus, Jainas as well as Buddhists.
Mostly this Mantra is represented in a special syllable in Devanagari-writing: ॐ
Often, this mantra is interpreted as the trinity of the human consciousness: being awake (jagrat), dreaming (svapna) and the dreamless state of deep sleep (sushupti). Additionally Om includes a fourth state, the state of liberation (Turiya).
This mantra is something of a daily prayer to many Hindus. It doesn´t address a specific god (or specific gods) but the sun as their representation. It is also a prayer for illumination and increasing consciousness.
oṃ bhūrbhuvaḥ svaḥ ।
bhargo devasya dhīmahi ।
dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt ॥
Translated by S. Krishnamurthy:
We meditate upon the radiant Divine Light
of that adorable Sun of Spiritual Consciousness;
May it awaken our intuitional consciousness.
Hare Krishna Mantra
This mantra is also referred to as Mahamantra (Great Mantra) and is widely know in our western culture – first it became entangled with the 60s hippie culture and the Beatles. It is also part of the famous musical Hair and a song by Boy George, as well as in Stevie Wonders Pasttime Paradise
Another mantra you might recognise from a yoga lesson is he anusara invocation. Urban legend has it, founder of anusara yoga John Friend, received this mantra by the teacher Gurumayi Chidvilasananda
Om Namah Shivaya Gurave
I bow to the presence of God within
Our true and highest teacher
That lives in and around us as
Being, consciousness and bliss.
It is ever-present and radiates peace
Lighting the way to transformation.
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
My personal favourite. This mantra is about peace and harmony. Translated, is means something like
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.)
I hope you liked this post and found it useful. Do you use any mantras? Did you try any of my suggestions? I´d love to read about it in the comments!