What is a Mantra and How
Does It Work ?
Mantras are powerful sounds. Mantras are the ones
that have when chanted produce great effects. These are chanted
repeatedly and that is called Japa. Japa is a key part of Hindu
Mantras are very rich in their meaning. While doing
japa one can meditate on the mantra and its meaning. As the mind
dwell more and more into that, the mantra conditions the mind and
takes up to the higher states and forms the path to the great
liberation - eternal bliss !
What makes mantras so special as compared to the
normal words ? Mantras are not human composed. One may wonder how
can that be possible. Especially given that there are sages
associated with the mantras ! The point to be noted is that these
sages are not composers of these mantras, as we normaly compose
the sentences; they are not the inventors, but they are the
discoverers of the mantra. They get to know the mantras in a
state in which these words do not emanate from their thoughts,
but they are just passive audience to it. Those who go deep in
meditation and realize God may be able to get a feel of this
To be such a discoverer, even though they are just
passive hearers, needs great amount of qualification. Only the
perfect one can unchangedly reproduce the mantra heard. The only
one that is absolutely perfect is God. All other discoverers
reproduce that mantra only as pure as their closeness to
veda samhitAs are full of mantras and hence have
been preserved for ages in their pure form by utilizing the
various techniques like patha, krama, jaTa, gaNa pATas, that
ensure that the chanter clearly gets the correct letters and even
the correct level of sound for each letter (svara). The chanters
are advised to chant the mantras only after getting the right
pronunciation of it, so that the mantras are presered against
deterioration with time. There would be gurus who initiate the
disciple in a mantra. guru ensures that the disciple got the
mantra right, so that the person can chant independently as well
as initiate others in that mantra. Ensuring this preservation
vedas were passed only through the tradition of guru and
disciples and was never written down till very recent past. (It
is really amazing to note that without being written down the
vedas have been preserved in pure form across the land by these
techniques. Though the texts are freely available now for anybody
to read, it would be important to ensure that these mantras are
properly learnt and then chanted. This way the treasure that as
been preserved so carefully over multiple milleniums do not
deteriorate due to indifference.)
It is to be noted that many of the hymns of
thirumuRai are known to have great powers of mantras that are
practiced even today.
While there are plenty of mantras available, there
are a few that are chanted with high esteem by the shaivas.
Definitely those are highly powerful ones that can lead the
chanter on the great path to mukti (liberation). praNava,
paNJchAkashra, gAyatri to name a few. For shaivites the Holy Five
Syllables (paNJchAkshara) with or without combined with the
praNava is the ultimate mantra.
Definition # 1: Mantras
are energy-based sounds.
Saying any word produces an actual physical
vibration. Over time, if we know what the effect of that
vibration is, then the word may come to have meaning associated
with the effect of saying that vibration or word. This is one
level of energy basis for words.
Another level is intent. If the actual physical
vibration is coupled with a mental intention, the vibration then
contains an additional mental component which influences the
result of saying it. The sound is the carrier wave and the intent
is overlaid upon the wave form, just as a colored gel influences
the appearance and effect of a white light.
In either instance, the word is based upon energy.
Nowhere is this idea more true than for Sanskrit mantra. For
although there is a general meaning which comes to be associated
with mantras, the only lasting definition is the result or effect
of saying the mantra.
Definition #2: Mantras
create thought-energy waves.
The human consciousness is really a collection of
states of consciousness which distributively exist throughout the
physical and subtle bodies. Each organ has a primitive
consciousness of its own. That primitive consciousness allows it
to perform functions specific to it. Then come the various
systems. The cardio-vascular system, the reproductive system and
other systems have various organs or body parts working at
slightly different stages of a single process. Like the organs,
there is a primitive consciousness also associated with each
system. And these are just within the physical body. Similar
functions and states of consciousness exist within the subtle
body as well. So individual organ consciousness is overlaid by
system consciousness, overlaid again by subtle body counterparts
and consciousness, and so ad infinitum.
The ego with its self-defined "I" ness
assumes a pre-eminent state among the subtle din of random,
semi-conscious thoughts which pulse through our organism. And of
course, our organism can "pick up" the vibration of
other organisms nearby. The result is that there are myriad
vibrations riding in and through the subconscious mind at any
Mantras start a powerful vibration which
corresponds to both a specific spiritual energy frequency and a
state of consciousness in seed form. Over time, the mantra
process begins to override all of the other smaller vibrations,
which eventually become absorbed by the mantra. After a length of
time which varies from individual to individual, the great wave
of the mantra stills all other vibrations. Ultimately, the mantra
produces a state where the organism vibrates at the rate
completely in tune with the energy and spiritual state
represented by and contained within the mantra.
At this point, a change of state occurs in the
organism. The organism becomes subtly different. Just as a laser
is light which is coherent in a new way, the person who becomes
one with the state produced by the mantra is also coherent in a
way which did not exist prior to the conscious undertaking of
repetition of the mantra.
Definition #3: Mantras
are tools of power and tools for power.
They are formidable. They are ancient. They work.
The word "mantra" is derived from two Sanskrit words.
The first is "manas" or "mind," which
provides the "man" syllable. The second syllable is
drawn from the Sanskrit word "trai" meaning to
"protect" or to "free from." Therefore, the
word mantra in its most literal sense means "to free from
the mind." Mantra is, at its core, a tool used by the mind
which eventually frees one from the vagaries of the mind.
But the journey from mantra to freedom is a
wondrous one. The mind expands, deepens and widens and eventually
dips into the essence of cosmic existence. On its journey, the
mind comes to understand much about the essence of the vibration
of things. And knowledge, as we all know, is power. In the case
of mantra, this power is tangible and wieldable.
Mantras have close,
approximate one-to-one direct language-based translation.
If we warn a young child that it should not touch a
hot stove, we try to explain that it will burn the child.
However, language is insufficient to convey the experience. Only
the act of touching the stove and being burned will adequately
define the words "hot" and "burn" in the
context of "stove." Essentially, there is no real
direct translation of the experience of being burned.
Similarly, there is no word which is the exact
equivalent of the experience of sticking one's finger into an
electrical socket. When we stick our hand into the socket, only
then do we have a context for the word "shock." But
shock is really a definition of the result of the action of
sticking our hand into the socket.
It is the same with mantras. The only true
definition is the experience which it ultimately creates in the
sayer. Over thousands of years, many sayers have had common
experiences and passed them on to the next generation. Through
this tradition, a context of experiential definition has been
Definitions of mantras
are oriented toward either the results of repeating the mantra or
of the intentions of the original framers and testers of the
In Sanskrit, sounds which have no direct
translation but which contain great power which can be
"grown" from it are called "seed mantras."
Seed in Sanskrit is called "Bijam" in the singular and
"Bija" in the plural form.
Let's take an example. The mantra
"Shrim" or Shreem is the seed sound for the principle
of abundance (Lakshmi, in the Hindu Pantheon.) If one says
"shrim" a hundred times, a certain increase in the
potentiality of the sayer to accumulate abundance is achieved. If
one says "shrim" a thousand times or a million, the
result is correspondingly greater.
But abundance can take many forms. There is
prosperity, to be sure, but there is also peace as abundance,
health as wealth, friends as wealth, enough food to eat as
wealth, and a host of other kinds and types of abundance which
may vary from individual to individual and culture to culture. It
is at this point that the intention of the sayer begins to
influence the degree of the kind of capacity for accumulating
wealth which may accrue.
Mantras have been tested
and/or verified by their original framers or users.
Each mantra is associated with an actual sage or
historical person who once lived. Although the oral tradition
predates written speech by centuries, those earliest oral records
annotated on palm leaves discussed earlier clearly designate a
specific sage as the "seer" of the mantra. This means
that the mantra was probably arrived at through some form of
meditation or intuition and subsequently tested by the person who
first encountered it.
Sanskrit mantras are
composed of letters which correspond to certain petals or spokes
of chakras in the subtle body.
As discussed earlier, there is a direct
relationship between the mantra sound, either vocalized or
subvocalized, and the chakras located throughout the body.
Mantras are energy which
can be likened to fire.
You can use fire either to cook your lunch or to
burn down the forest. It is the same fire. Similarly, mantra can
bring a positive and beneficial result, or it can produce an
energy meltdown when misused or practiced without some guidance.
There are certain mantra formulas which are so exact, so specific
and so powerful that they must be learned and practiced under
careful supervision by a qualified guru.
Fortunately, most of the mantras widely used in our
portal and certainly those contained in this chapter are
perfectly safe to use on a daily basis, even with some
"Prana" is a Sanskrit term for a form of
life energy which can be transferred from individual to
individual. Prana may or may not produce an instant dramatic
effect upon transfer. There can be heat or coolness as a result
of the transfer.
Some healers operate through transfer of prana. A
massage therapist can transfer prana with beneficial effect. Even
self-healing can be accomplished by concentrating prana in
certain organs, the result of which can be a clearing of the
difficulty or condition. For instance, by saying a certain mantra
while visualizing an internal organ bathed in light, the specific
power of the mantra can become concentrated there with great
Mantras eventually quiet
At a deep level, subconscious mind is a collective
consciousness of all the forms of primitive consciousnesses which
exist throughout the physical and subtle bodies. The dedicated
use of mantra can dig into subconscious crystallized thoughts
stored in the organs and glands and transform these bodily parts
into repositories of peace.
Some of you may be interested or even fascinated by
the discipline of mantra, but feel somewhat overwhelmed by the
array of mantras and disciplines, astotaras and pujas you find in
here. If so, then this chapter will be of use to you. It contains
some simple mantras and their common application. They have been
compiled from vedas and upanishads, drawn from the various
headings of the deities or principles involved. These mantras
address various life issues which we all face from time to time.
If you want more information or more mantras relating to the
deities or principles involved, email to