The goal of all spiritual paths is the same—to realize the Universal Spirit. This Spirit, which is referred to by various names, is all-pervading. Essentially, we are that Spirit. Yet, we do not experience it because of the limitations of our body, mind, and ego.
One way of transcending these limitations is by means of a vehicle called a mantra. A mantra is a sound structure of one or more syllables representing a particular aspect of the Divine. Through concentrated mental repetition of the mantra—called japa—the vibrations of the mantra are produced within the individual’s entire system. This brings certain healthy effects in the body and calms the senses and mind, making them fit to handle any problems. Moreover, it awakens the dormant capabilities in the individual and brings spiritual awareness too. Japa can even influence an atmosphere or a place.
Many teachers give a mantra to their students as a means of meditation because it is such an easy and effective method of concentration. A mantra is not just a word. It’s a sound vibration, mystic in nature, which more or less aligns the whole system and harmonizes it. The entire universe is nothing but sound vibrations. God’s body is a sound body, a body of vibration, a mantra body. Most every scripture says something similar—that God is sound or the Word.
Sages in deep meditation heard these sounds, or mantras, representing particular aspects of the divine vibration, OM. Through generations of spiritual masters they have handed down these mantras as guides to aspirants. Mantras are sounds which may or may not have meaning. By constantly repeating them you are able to produce certain vibrations within you and through all of your physical, emotional, and intellectual self. Prayers and chanting may be soothing to the mind, and for a time bring you into a peaceful state. But mantras have a special value. They are not words coined by people who created languages. They are different vibrations of the same energy functioning in different ways. The one cosmic sound, represented as OM, has different aspects. These different facets of OM are called mantras.
By constant repetition of the mantra you develop that vibration because all the vibrations are within you. Each individual by himself is another microcosm. What you see in the macrocosm you see in the microcosm; you are a universe by your self. Not only you, but each and every one of your cells is a universe. How many solar systems do you have in you, how many atoms? Countless.
Therefore, when you are given a mantra, and constantly repeat it, you develop that aspect of the vibration that is already in you but hidden. You bring it to the surface, make use of it, and get its benefit. As you repeat it, you get the vibration. It kindles the dormant and subtle vibrations in you. It’s not even physically felt. Sound vibrations are more powerful than any physical instrument.
Mantra means anything that makes the mind steady. Whatever vibration makes the mind one-pointed and creates a sort of receptivity is a mantra. Repeat your mantra feeling its purpose. It should harmonize you, and tune you in to receive similar cosmic vibrations. It more or less aligns your whole system. It’s a master key to open all the locks and eliminate all obstacles to enlightenment.
There are many different kinds of mantras. For some to have effect you must know their meaning, or the aspect of God that is being received. But in Yoga the mantras don’t have any particular personal meaning. They are good for anyone and won’t disturb anyone’s personal faith. They are useful even without knowing their meaning. They have a seed letter in them. Just by repeating it, you get the tuning. With a prayer you have to know its meaning and believe in that before you get the effect. But with certain mantras you get the vibration whether you know the seed letter or not. If you want to get your heart and feelings involved, you must know the meaning of the words. But the purpose of the mantra is to steady the mind—all you have to do is repeat it faithfully.
By repeating your mantra you keep it well charged and spread it through your system until its vibration pervades your body and mind. Your entire personality vibrates on that beautiful wavelength and automatically attracts similar vibrations. You become in tune with those who have similar waves, and ultimately in tune with the cosmic wave.
This is the comprehensive explanation of Mantra Yoga. Until such time as you receive an initiation from a qualified person, there’s nothing wrong with repeating a mantra. There are some general mantras that all can use. Some simple and very efficacious ones are Hari OM or just OM or OM Shanthi. Don’t try long mantras. The smaller the stuff, the greater the power.
Hari OM is a beautiful mantra which can evoke the sound vibration within you. Ha is pronounced as in “hot”; ri as in “repeat.” The ha comes from the solar plexus area. When you say “ri,” the sound comes up. “O” vibrates your entire skull. The minute you say “mmmm,” the vibration goes up further. As the sound goes higher and higher you rise above body and mind.
Understand that this is not connected with any particular religion. You are just working with some sounds. Of course, not everybody will be satisfied with mantras as a focus for concentration. Everyone has a different capacity and different taste. There’s no one thing especially suited to everybody except the process of concentration itself.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti