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A mantra (मन्त्र) is a religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras originated in India with Vedic Hinduism and were later adopted by Buddhists, Sikhs and Jains, now popular in various modern forms of spiritual practice which are loosely based on practices of these Eastern religions.
The Sanskrit word mantra- (m. मन्त्रः, also n. मन्त्रं) consists of the root man- "to think" (also in manas "mind") and the suffix -tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be "instrument of thought". Mantras are interpreted to be effective as sound (vibration), to the effect that great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation (resulting in an early development of a science of phonetics in India). They are intended to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations. Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra.
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Mantras have some features in common with spells in general, in that they are a translation of the human will or desire into a form of action. Indeed, Dr. Edward Conze, a scholar of Buddhism, frequently translated "mantra" as "spell". As symbols, sounds are seen to effect what they symbolise. Vocal sounds are frequently thought of as having magical powers, or even of representing the words or speech of a deity. For the authors of the Hindu scriptures of the Upanishads, the syllable Aum, itself constituting a mantra, represents Brahman, the godhead, as well as the whole of creation. Merely pronouncing this syllable is to experience the divine in a very direct way. Kukai suggests that all sounds are the voice of the Dharmakaya Buddha -- i.e. as in Hindu Upanishadic and Yogic thought, these sounds are manifestations of ultimate reality. Accepted scholarly etymology links the word with "manas" meaning "mind" and 'trâna' for protection.
For many cultures it is the written letters that have power -- the Hebrew Kabbalah for instance, or the Anglo-Saxon Runes. Letters can have an oracular function even. But in India special conditions applied that meant that writing was very definitely inferior to the spoken word. The Brahmins were the priestly caste of the Aryan peoples. It was they that preserved the holy writings -- initially the Vedas, but later also the Upanishads. For years, they were the only ones who knew the mantras or sacred formulas that had to be chanted at every important occasion. However, with the advent of egalitarian Hindu schools of Yoga, Vedanta, Tantra and Bhakti, it is now the case that intra-family and community mantras are passed on freely as part of generally practiced Hindu religion. Such was the influence of the more orthodox attitude of the elite nature of mantra knowledge that even the Buddhists, who repudiated the whole idea of caste, and of the efficacy of the old rituals, called themselves the shravakas, that is, "the hearers". A wise person in India was one who had "heard much". Mantras then are sound symbols. What they symbolise and how they function depends on the context, and the mind of the person repeating them. Studies in sound symbolism suggest that vocal sounds have meaning whether we are aware of it or not. And indeed that there can be multiple layers of symbolism associated with each sound. So even if we do not understand them, mantras are not simply meaningless mumbo jumbo -- no vocal utterance is entirely without meaning. We can look at mantra as a range of different contexts to see what they can mean in those contexts: Om may mean something quite different to a Hindu and a Tibetan Buddhist. The analysis of Kukai, a 9th century Japanese Buddhist is revealing. See below.
While Hindu tantras eventually came to see the letters as well as the sounds as representatives of the divine, it was when Buddhism travelled to China that a major shift in emphasis towards writing came about. China lacked a unifying, ecclesiastic language like Sanskrit, and achieved its cultural unity by having a written language that was flexible in pronunciation but more precise in terms of the concepts that each character represented. In fact the Indians had several scripts which were all equally serviceable for writing Sanskrit. Hence the Chinese prized written language much more highly than did the Indian Buddhist missionaries, and the writing of mantras became a spiritual practice in its own right. So that whereas Brahmins had been very strict on correct pronunciation, the Chinese, and indeed other Far-Eastern Buddhists were less concerned with this than correctly writing something down. The practice of writing mantras, and copying texts as a spiritual practice, became very refined in Japan, and the writing in the Siddham script in which the Sanskrit of many Buddhist Sutras were written is only really seen in Japan nowadays. However, written mantra-repetition in Hindu practices, with Sanskrit in any number of scripts, is well-known to many sects in India as well.
Mantra in Hinduism
Mantras were originally conceived in the great Hindu scriptures known as the Vedas. Within practically all Hindu scriptures, the writing is formed in painstakingly crafted two line "shlokas" and most mantras follow this pattern, although mantras are often found in single line or even single word combinations.
The most basic mantra is Aum, which in Hinduism is known as the "pranava mantra," the source of all mantras. The philosophy behind this is the Hindu idea of nama-rupa (name-form), which supposes that all things, ideas or entities in existence, within the phenomenological cosmos, have name and form of some sort. The most basic name and form is the primordial vibration of Aum, as it is the first manifested nama-rupa of Brahman, the unmanifest reality/unreality. Essentially, before existence and beyond existence is only One reality, Brahman, and the first manifestation of Brahman in existence is Aum. For this reason, Aum is considered to be the most fundamental and powerful mantra, and thus is prefixed and suffixed to all Hindu prayers. While some mantras may invoke individual Gods or principles, the most fundamental mantras, like 'Aum,' the 'Shanti Mantra,' the 'Gayatri Mantra' and others all ultimately focus on the One reality.
In the Hindu tantras the universe is sound. The supreme (para) brings forth existence through the Word (Shabda). Creation consists of vibrations at various frequencies and amplitudes giving rise to the phenomena of the world. The purest vibrations are the var.na, the imperishable letters which are revealed to us, imperfectly as the audible sounds and visible forms.
Var.nas are the atoms of sound. A complex symbolic association was built up between letters and the elements, gods, signs of the zodiac, parts of the body -- letters became rich in these associations. For example in the Aitrareya-aranya-Upanishad we find:
- "The mute consonants represent the earth, the sibilants the sky, the vowels heaven. The mute consonants represent fire, the sibilants air, the vowels the sun? The mute consonants represent the eye, the sibilants the ear, the vowels the mind"
In effect each letter became a mantra and the language of the Vedas, Sanskrit, corresponds profoundly to the nature of things. Thus the Vedas come to represent reality itself. The seed syllable Om represents the underlying unity of reality, which is Brahman.
Mantra japa was a concept of the Vedic sages that incorporates mantras as one of the main forms of puja, or worship, whose ultimate end is seen as moksha/liberation. Essentially, Mantra Japa means repetition of mantra, and has become an established practice of all Hindu streams, from the various Yoga to Tantra. It involves repetition of a mantra over and over again, usually in cycles of auspicious numbers (in multiples of three), the most popular being 108. For this reason, Hindu malas (bead necklaces) developed, containing 108 beads and a head bead (sometimes referred to as the 'meru', or 'guru' bead). The devotee performing japa using his/her fingers counts each bead as he/she repeats the chosen mantra. Having reached 108 repetitions, if he/she wishes to continue another cycle of mantras, the devotee must turn the mala around without crossing the head bead and repeat.
It is said that through japa the devotee attains one-pointedness, or extreme focus, on the chosen deity or principal idea of the mantra. The vibrations and sounds of the mantra are considered extremely important, and thus reverberations of the sound are supposed to awaken the prana or spiritual life force and even stimulate chakras according to many Hindu schools of thought.
Any shloka from holy Hindu texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutra, even the Mahabharata , Ramayana, Durga saptashati or Chandi are considered powerful enough to be repeated to great effect, and have therefore the status of a mantra.
A very common mantra is formed by taking a deity's name. Called Nama japa and saluting it in such a manner: "Aum namah ------" or "Aum Jai (Hail!) ------" or several such permutations. Common examples are "Aum namah Shivaya" (Aum I bow to Lord Shiva), "Aum Namo Narayanaya"; or "Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevãya," (Salutations to the Universal God Vishnu), "Aum Shri Ganeshaya Namah" (Aum to Shri Ganesha) and "Aum Kalikayai Namah" and "Aum Hrim Chandikãyai Namah." (i.e., mantras to Devi.)
Some Hindu mantras
Arguably the most representative mantra of all the Hindu mantras is the famed Gayatri Mantra:
- ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: |
- तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् |
- भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि |
- धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
- Om Bhūr Buvaḥ Svaḥ
- Tat Savitur Vareṇyaṃ
- Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
- Dhiyo Yo Naḥ Pracodayāt
It is considered one of the most universal of all Hindu mantras, invoking the universal Brahman as the principle of knowledge and the illumination of the primordial Sun.
Lead me from ignorance to truth
- असतोमा सद्गमय। तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमया।
- मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय॥
- Asato mā sad gamaya
- Tamaso mā jyotir gamaya
- Mṛtyormā amṛtam gamaya
- Om śānti śānti śāntiḥ
(Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad I.iii.28)
"from non-being to being lead me, from darkness to light lead me, from death to immortality lead me."
Hare Krishna Maha-mantra
- For main article see Hare Krishna
In the 16th century, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, along with his followers, spread this mantra across India through public congregational chanting (sankirtan). Chaitanya and his followers traveled from town to town singing this mantra, claiming that it would awaken love of Krishna (bhakti) in whoever happened to hear it. It is often referred to as the 'Maha Mantra' by practitioners.
Recently A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada established ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness), a branch of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, he introduced the Hare Krishna mantra to the West, describing it as: "an easy yet sublime way of liberation in the Age of Kali."
The shanti mantras
- Om sahanaavavatu
- Sahanau bhunaktu
- Saha viiryan karavaavahai
- Tejasvi naavadhiitamastu
- Maa vidvishhaavahai
- May we be protected together.
- May we be nourished together.
- May we work together with great vigor.
- May our study be enlightening
- May no obstacle arise between us.
- ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
- Om shaantih shaantih shaantih
- Om peace, peace, peace.
- सर्वेषां स्वस्ति भवतु । सर्वेषां शान्तिर्भवतु ।
- सर्वेषां पूर्नं भवतु । सर्वेषां मड्गलं भवतु ॥
- Sarveśām Svastir Bhavatu
- Sarveśām Sāntir Bhavatu
- Sarveśām Pūrnam Bhavatu
- Sarveśām Mangalam Bhavatu
(May good befall all, May there be peace for all, May all be fit for perfection, and May all experience that which is auspicious.)
- सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः। सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
- सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु। मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत्॥
- Sarve bhavantu sukhinaḥ | Sarve santu nirāmayāḥ
- sarve bhadrāṇi paśyantu | Mā kaścit duḥkha bhāgbhavet||
(Om, May all be happy. May all be healthy. May we all experience what is good and let no one suffer. Om, Peace, Peace, Peace!)
The Hindu bija mantra
The most revered of all Bija mantras is Om/Aum which is the starting point of many other mantras. (see below for an example)
- Aum Krim Krim Krim Hoom Hum:
Krim Krim Krim Hum Hum Hrim Hrim Swaha
The following subsections contain remarks on the nature and use of mantras in their context as Hindu religious practice.
What is dharma?
A western expert on Hindu philosophy and religion writes:
- Sanatan (eternal) Dharma as a universal tradition has room for all faiths and all religious and spiritual practices regardless of the time or country of their origin. Yet it places religious and spiritual teachings in their appropriate place relative to the ultimate goal of Self-realization, to which secondary practices are subordinated. Sanatan Dharma also recognizes that the greater portion of human religious aspirations has always been unknown, undefined and outside of any institutionalized belief. Sanatan Dharma thereby gives reverence to individual spiritual experience over any formal religious doctrine. Wherever the Universal Truth is manifest; there is Sanatan Dharma—whether it is in a field of religion, art or science, or in the life of a person or community. Wherever the Universal Truth is not recognized, or is scaled down or limited to a particular group, book or person, even if done so in the name of God, there Sanatan Dharma ceases to function, whatever the activity is called.
- — Dr. David Frawley
- By the laws of Dharma that govern body and mind, you must fear sin and act righteously. Wise men by thinking and behaving in this way become worthy to gain bliss both here and hereafter.
The significance of the symbol Om
The symbol Om or Aum (also called Pranava), is the most sacred symbol in Hinduism. Volumes have been written in Sanskrit illustrating the significance of this mystic symbol. Although this symbol is mentioned in all the Upanishads and in all Hindu scriptures, it is especially elaborated upon in the Taittiriya, Chandogya and Mundaka Upanishads.
- The goal, which all Vedas declare, which all austerities aim at, and which human desire when they live a life continence, I will tell you briefly it is Om. The syllable Om is indeed Brahman. This syllable Om is the highest. Whosoever knows this symbol obtains all that he desires. This is the best support; this is the highest support. Whosoever knows this support is adored in the world of Brahman.
- — Katha Upanishad I, ii, 15-17
The symbol of Om contains of three curves, one semicircle (crescent) and a dot (bindu). The large lower curve symbolizes the waking state; the upper curve denotes deep sleep (or the unconscious) state, and the lower curve (which lies between deep sleep and the waking state) signifies the dream state. These three states of an individual’s consciousness, and therefore the entire physical phenomenon, are represented by the three curves. The dot signifies the Absolute (fourth or Turiya state of consciousness), which illuminates the other three states. The semicircle symbolizes maya and separates the dot from the other three curves. The semicircle is open on the top, which means that the absolute is infinite and is not affected by maya. Maya only affects the manifested phenomenon. In this way the form of Om symbolizes the infinite Brahman and the entire Universe.
- Uttering the monosyllable Om, the eternal world of Brahman, One who departs leaving the body (at death), he attains the superior goal.
- — Bhagavad Gita, 8.13
Mantras and prayers
A mantra is a sacred syllable, word or verse, which has been revealed to a sage in deep meditation. A mantra, when recited with devotion, concentration and understanding, revitalizes the body and mind with mystic power, and harmonizes thought and action.
A mantra, when repeated constantly during meditation, first loudly and then through silent and mental chanting, changes the consciousness.
Kirtan and bhajan
- Main article: bhajan
When a mantra is sung or chanted, whether by oneself or in a group of devoted aspirants, it is termed as kirtan — the glorification of God. Prayers or symbolic stories of God may also be sung in a kirtan.
The singing and chanting of kirtan creates an elevated mental condition for practicing meditation or entering into an intense form of spiritual practice. Kirtan is a powerful and unique method of recharging the subconscious with spiritual vibrations.
Mantra in Zoroastrianism
Manthras are found even in the Zoroastrian religious works. The earliest reference to them is in the Avesta to be used in yasnas (fire ritual - compare with mantras used similarly in Vedic yajnas). Prophet Zoroaster lists down various mantras in the gathas (oldest part of Avesta)
Mantra in Buddhism
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Buddhism developed its own system and understanding of mantra, which while similar to the previous practices of Vedic society, also took on its own particularities, especially according to region.
Mantra in Shingon Buddhism
Kūkai advanced a general theory of language based on his analysis of two forms of Buddhist ritual language: dharani (dhāra.nī) and mantra. Mantra is restricted to esoteric Buddhist practice whereas dharani is found in both esoteric and exoteric ritual. Dharanis for instance are found in the Pali Canon see below. The term "shingon" (lit true word) is a Japanese translation of the Chinese term for mantra, chen yen.
The word dharani derives from a Sanskrit root dh.r which means to hold, or maintain. Ryuichi Abe suggests that it is generally understood as a mnemonic device which encapsulates the meaning of a section or chapter of a sutra. This is perhaps related to the use of verse summaries at the end of texts as in the Udana which is generally acknowledged as being in the oldest strata of the Pali Canon. Dharanis are also considered to protect the one who chants them from malign influences and calamities.
The term mantra is traditionally said to be derived from two roots: "man", to think; and the action oriented (k.rt) suffix "tra". Thus a mantra can be considered to be a linguistic device for deepening ones thought, or in the Buddhist context for developing the enlightened mind. However it is also true that mantras have been used as magic spells for very mundane purposes such as attaining wealth and long life, and eliminating enemies.
The distinction between dharani and mantra is a difficult one to make. We can say that all mantras are dharanis but that not all dharanis are mantras. Mantras do tend to be shorter. Both tend to contain a number of unintelligible phonic fragments such as Om, or Hu.m which is perhaps why some people consider them to be essentially meaningless. Kukai made mantra a special class of dharani which showed that every syllable of a dharani was a manifestation of the true nature of reality -- in Buddhist terms that all sound is a manifestation of shunyata or emptiness of self-nature. Thus rather than being devoid of meaning, Kukai suggests that dharanis are in fact saturated with meaning -- every syllable is symbolic on multiple levels.
One of Kūkai's distinctive contributions was to take this symbolic association even further by saying that there is no essential difference between the syllables of mantras and sacred texts, and those of ordinary language. If one understood the workings of mantra, then any sounds could be a representative of ultimate reality. This emphasis on sounds was one of the drivers for Kūkai's championing of the phonetic writing system, the kana, which was adopted in Japan around the time of Kūkai. He is generally credited with the invention of the kana, but there is apparently some doubt about this story amongst scholars.
This mantra-based theory of language had a powerful effect on Japanese thought and society which up until Kūkai's time had been dominated by imported Chinese culture of thought, particularly in the form of the Classical Chinese language which was used in the court and amongst the literati, and Confucianism which was the dominant political ideology. In particular Kūkai was able to use this new theory of language to create links between indigenous Japanese culture and Buddhism. For instance, he made a link between the Buddha Mahavairocana and the Shinto sun Goddess Amaterasu. Since the emperors were thought to be descended form Amaterasu, Kūkai had found a powerful connection here that linked the emperors with the Buddha, and also in finding a way to integrate Shinto with Buddhism, something that had not happened with Confucianism. Buddhism then became essentially an indigenous religion in a way that Confucianism had not. And it was through language, and mantra that this connection was made. Kūkai helped to elucidate what mantra is in a way that had not been done before: he addresses the fundamental questions of what a text is, how signs function, and above all, what language is. In this he covers some of the same ground as modern day Structuralists and others scholars of language, although he comes to very different conclusions.
In this system of thought all sounds are said to originate from "a" -- which is the short a sound in father. For esoteric Buddhism "a" has a special function because it is associated with Shunyata or the idea that no thing exists in its own right, but is contingent upon causes and conditions. (See Dependent origination) In Sanskrit "a" is a prefix which changes the meaning of a word into its opposite, so "vidya" is understanding, and "avidya" is ignorance (the same arrangement is also found in many Greek words, like e.g. "atheism" vs. "theism" and "apathy" vs. "pathos"). The letter a is both visualised in the Siddham script, and pronounced in rituals and meditation practices. In the Mahavairocana Sutra which is central to Shingon Buddhism it says: Thanks to the original vows of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, a miraculous force resides in the mantras, so that by pronouncing them one acquires merit without limits". [in Conze, p.183]
JUSAN BUTSU, the Thirteen Buddhas of the Shingon School.
Mantra in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism
Conze distinguishes three periods in the Buddhist use of mantra. Initially, like their fellow Indians, Buddhists used mantra as protective spells to ward of malign influences. Despite a Vinaya rule which forbids monks engaging in the Brahminical practice of chanting mantras for material gain, there are a number of protective for a group of ascetic monks. However, even at this early stage, there is perhaps something more than animistic magic at work. Particularly in the case of the Ratana Sutta the efficacy of the verses seems to be related to the concept of "truth". Each verse of the sutta ends with "by the virtue of this truth may there be happiness".
Later mantras were used more to guard the spiritual life of the chanter, and sections on mantras began to be included in some Mahayana sutras such as the White Lotus Sutra, and the Lankavatara Sutra. The scope of protection also changed in this time. In the Sutra of Golden Light the Four Great Kings promise to exercise sovereignty over the different classes of demigods, to protect the whole of Jambudvipa (the India sub continent), to protect monks who proclaim the sutra, and to protect kings who patronise the monks who proclaim the sutra. The apotheosis of this type of approach is the Nichiren school of Buddhism that was founded in 13th century Japan, and which distilled many previously complex Buddhist practices down to the veneration of the Lotus Sutra through recitation of the daimoku: "Nam myoho renge kyo" which translates as "Homage to the Lotus Sutra".
Then mantra began, in about the 7th century, to take centre stage and become a vehicle for salvation in their own right. Tantra started to gain momentum in the 6th and 7th century, with specifically Buddhist forms appearing as early as 300CE. Mantrayana was an early name for the what is now more commonly known as Vajrayana, which gives us a hint as to the place of mantra in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. The aim of Vajrayana practice is to give the practitioner a direct experience of reality, of things as they really are. Mantras function as symbols of that reality, and different mantras are different aspects of that reality -- for example wisdom or compassion. Mantras are often associated with a particular deity, one famous exception being the Prajnaparamita mantra associated with the Heart Sutra. One of the key Vajrayana strategies for bringing about a direct experience of reality is to engage the entire psycho-physical organism in the practices. In one Buddhist analysis the person consists of body, speech and mind. So a typical sadhana or meditation practice might include mudras, or symbolic hand gestures; the recitations of mantras; as well as the visualisation of celestial beings and visualising the letters of the mantra which is being recited. Clearly here mantra is associated with speech. The meditator may visualise the letters in front of themselves, or within their body. They may pronounced out loud, or internally in the mind only.
Om mani padme hum
Probably the most famous mantra of Buddhism is Om mani padme hum (Chn. 唵嘛呢叭咪吽, pinyin Ǎn Má Ní Bā Mī Hōng), the six syllable mantra of the Bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig, Chinese: Guanyin). This mantra is particularly associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara. The Dalai Lama is said to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, and so the mantra is especially revered by his devotees.
The book Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism by Lama Anagarika Govinda, is a classic example of how a mantra like om mani padme hum can contain many levels of symbolic meaning.
Donald Lopez gives a good discussion of this mantra and its various interpretations in his book Prisoners of Shangri-LA: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Lopez is an authoritative writer and challenges the stereotypical analysis of the mantra as meaning "The Jewel in the Lotus", an interpretation that is not supported by either a linguistic analysis, nor by Tibetan tradition, and is symptomatic of the Western Orientalist approach to the 'exotic' East. He suggests that Manipadma is actually the name of a bodhisattva, a form of Avalokiteshvara who has many other names in any case including Padmapani or lotus flower in hand. The Brahminical insistence on absolutely correct pronunciation of Sanskrit broke down as Buddhism was exported to other countries where the inhabitants found it impossible to reproduce the sounds. So in Tibet, for instance, where this mantra is on the lips of many Tibetans all their waking hours, the mantra is pronounced Om mani peme hung.
Some other mantras used by Tibetan Buddhists
The following list of mantras is from Kailash - Journal of Himalayan Studies, Volume 1, Number 2, 1973. (pp. 168-169) (augmented by other contributors). It also includes renderings of Om mani padme hum.
Please note that the word swaha is sometimes shown as svaha, and is usually pronounced as 'so-ha' by Tibetans. Spellings tend to vary in the transliterations to English, for example, hum and hung are generally the same word. The mantras used in Tibetan Buddhist practice are in Sanskrit, to preserve the original mantras. Visualizations and other practices are usually done in the Tibetan language.
- Om wangishwari hum This is the mantra of the Mahabodhisattva Manjusri, Tibetan: Jampelyang (Wylie "'jam dpal dbyangs")... The Buddha in his wisdom aspect.
- Om mani padme hum The mantra of Chenrezig, Mahabodhisattva, the Buddha in his compassion aspect.
- Om vajrapani hum The mantra of the Buddha as Protector of the Secret Teachings. ie: as the Mahabodhisattva Channa Dorje (Vajrapani).
- om vajrasattva hum The short mantra for Vajrasattva, there is also a full 100-syllable mantra for Vajrasattva.
- Om ah hum vajra guru padma siddhi hum The mantra of the Vajraguru Guru Padma Sambhava who established Mahayana Buddhism and Tantra in Tibet.
- Om tare tuttare ture swaha The mantra of Jetsun Dolma or Tara, the Mother of the Buddhas.
- Om tare tuttare ture mama ayurjnana punye pushting svaha The mantra of Dölkar or White Tara, the emanation of Tara representing long life and health.
- Om amarani jiwantiye swaha The mantra of the Buddha of limitless life: the Buddha Amitayus (Tibetan Tsépagmed) in celestial form.
- Om dhrum swaha The purificatory mantra of the mother Namgyalma.
- Om ami dhewa hri The mantra of the Buddha Amitabha (Hopagmed) of the Western Buddhafield, his skin the colour of the setting sun.
- Om ah ra pa tsa na dhih The mantra of the "sweet-voiced one", Jampelyang (Wylie "'jam dpal dbyangs") or Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom.
- Hung vajra phat The mantra of the Mahabodhisattva Vajrapani in his angry (Dragpo) form.
- Om muni muni maha muniye sakyamuni swaha The mantra of Buddha Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha
- Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha The mantra of the Heart of the Perfection of
- Om maitri maitreya maha karuna ye The Maitri mantra, bija mantra of MahaBodhisattva Maitreya.
- Namo bhagavate Bhaishajya-guru vaidurya-praba-rajaya tathagataya arthate samyak-sambuddhaya tadyata OM bhaishajye bhaishajye bhaishajya-samudgate svaha The mantra of the 'Medicine Buddha', from Chinese translations of the Master of Healing Sutra.
Mantra in Sikhism
Mantras have two components of primary importance - Meaning and Sound. First is the actual meaning of the word or words and the second is the effective sound (vibration). For the mantra to be effective, great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation and the level of concentration of the mind on the meaning of the word or words that are recited.
Due to this emphasis, some care has to be taken regarding the place and surrounding in which the mantras are recited; the way in which these are delivered - ie, a loud; quietly; in a group; with music; without music; etc. The purpose to mantras is to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations and to bring concentration and focus to the mind.
- Chanting is the process of the continuous repeating a mantra.
The main mantras of Sikhism are:
Mantra in other traditions or contexts
Transcendental Meditation, also known simply as 'TM', uses what the group refers to as 'simple mantras' - as a meditative focus. TM was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. According to the TM website (see below) the practice can result in a number of material benefits such as relaxation, reduced stress, better health, better self image; but it can also benefit the world by reducing violence and crime, and generally improve quality of life. The founder was well versed in Hindu tradition, but TM attempts to separate itself from that tradition these days. Simple two-syllable mantras are used.
Mantra practice has also been enthusiastically taken up by various New Age groups and individuals, although this is typically out of context, and from the point of view of a genuine Hindu or Buddhist practitioner lacks depth. The mere repetition of syllables can have a calming effect on the mind, but the traditionalist would argue that mantra can be an effective way of changing the level of one's consciousness when approached in traditional way.
Some forms of Jewish meditation use mantras, although they do not call them by that name. Hasidic Jews sing phrases from the Hebrew Bible over and over, in a form of rhythmic chant, often accompanied by drumming on the table. They also use wordless sacred meditation tunes called niggunim, which are revealed through the higher consciousness of the Rebbes (Hasidic leaders, similar to gurus). Some subgroups of the Breslov Hasidic movement use the mantra Na Nach Nachma, based on the name of their founder, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov. All of these practices are done to achieve deveikut which means "cleaving (holding on) to God." Lubavitch Hasidim of the messianic faith use the mantra of Yechi to draw on the power of their Rebbe.
The spiritual exercises of Surat Shabda Yoga include simran (repetition, particularly silent repetition of a mantra given at initiation), dhyan (concentration, viewing, or contemplation, particularly on the Inner Master), and bhajan (listening to the inner sounds of the Shabda or the Shabda Master).
In the Islamic Sufi tradition, chants of the 99 Names of Allah are popular invocations of attibutes as are the names of the Prophet.
In Neo-Pagan ritual, deities may be invoked by a recitation of their many names or aspects.
In Christianity, repetitive prayer using prayer beads such as a rosary or chotki includes well known mantras such as the Jesus prayer and Hail Mary. A form of Christian meditation was taught by Dom John Main that involves the silent repetition of a mantra.
Also, in the game Guild Wars, mantras are used by the Mesmer profession to protect them from harm and to focus their mental and magical abilities.
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- Beyer, S. Magic and ritual in Tibet : the cult of Tara. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsisdass, 1996).
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- Lopez, D. Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998)
- The Rider Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and religion. (London : Rider, 1986).
- Skilton, A. A concise history of Buddhism. (Birmingham : Windhorse Publications, 1994).
- Sangharakshita. Transforming Self and World : themes from the Sutra of Golden Light. (Birmingham : Windhorse Publications, 1994).
- Walsh, M. The Long discourses of the Buddha : a translation of the Digha Nikaya. (Boston : Wisdom Publications, 1987)
- The benefits of reciting Chenrezig's mantra - a teaching by Lama Zopa
- The benefits of chanting Om Mani Padme Hum - another teaching by Lama Zopa
- Hundreds of free buddhist talks and huge forum.
- BuddhaNet - Buddhist Information Network with many free books
- Paintings of Vajrasattva, Padmasambhava, White Tara and a Mandala
Buddhist Mantra Calligraphy
- Buddhist Mantra Calligraphy - mantras mainly in the Siddham script, but also Uchen (Tibetan), Lantsa, Elvish and Klingon. Some instruction.
- Modern Siddham - a comprehensive guide to the Siddham script used for writing mantras in Japan.
- How to meditate - a beginners guide to mantra meditation according to yogic vedic tradition.
- Saguna Mantras
- Gayatri mantra
- About the Hare Krishna mantra
- Why chant Hare Krishna?
- Tantra, Mantra and Yantra, significance and analysis
- On the Gayatri Mantra - Nadesan Satyendra
- Mantras and Indian Music for meditation and worship
- The resource page on Science, Animation, Arts and Formula 1 racing
- The theory of mantra and japa (repetition of a mantra)
- Transcendental Meditation Official Website
- Cleansing of Chakras. Opening Up of Spiritual Heart Mantras for clear sensation of our chakras.
- Buddhist Tantra Practice
- Mantra Testimonials.
- Universal Mantra of the Mission of Maitreya
- World Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra Japa Yajna
- A Fresh Look at Mantra Yoga
- A Mantra of Breath The Taoist Mantra Practice
- Mantras for Computers
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