Mantra means “mind protection”. Tantric practice “protects” or isolates the mind from ordinary appearances through substitution of exalted experience (e.g. visualize self as a perfected being or deity). It is a syllable or poem, typically from Sanskrit, used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration. Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra.
Mantras can also be used anytime as “mind protectors” while walking, doing the dishes, or even in sitting meditation. Often, people will count the mantras they are chanting by using beads on a “mala.” The physical action of counting round the mala helps to keep the mind focused. A mala usually has 108 beads, this number having a mystical significance in ancient India. Use of a mala is not essential.
“Om Mani Peme Hum” is the the mantra of Compassion.
Meaning: “Behold! The jewel in the lotus!” (spirit in the heart center)
It is an empowered phrase that connects us with Higher Being.
Pronounced: Ohm mah nee peh may hum
To use mantras in formal meditation chanted out loud or internally:
- Make yourself comfortable and upright, and spend a few minutes following your breathing and letting your mind settle. You may want to slow your breathing, directing it into the belly, and deepen it. This will help to still your mind, although you don’t need to have an absolutely quiet mind before you start the mantra.
- If you’re saying the mantra out loud, then let the sound resonate in your chest. It will help if you take a deep breath into your belly before starting the mantra. Don’t actively think about the meaning of the mantra. If you know what some of the words mean, then they will have associations for you. These associations will have an effect on your mind, and will deepen in significance over time as you explore them outside of meditation. Let go of any concerns that may arise about whether you are doing the mantra properly. It doesn’t matter if your pronunciation is a little off — it’s the spirit that counts.
- Say it in a constant circular pattern (not stopping between each time). After the first 3 times, let the mantra go faster (mumble/hum). Eventually the energetic flow of the mantra will pull you faster than you can say the words verbally. Key elements are to slur (don’t try to enunciate strongly – the real recitation is in the mind), hum (constant), deep tone (resonance), circular (not break rhythm), speed (less thought, more inner). The last 3 times are slower also to end the session. At a minimum, say it 21 times. Traditionally, mantras are said 108 times.
- To bring the mantra to a close, gradually let your chanting decrease in volume until it fades away as an external sound and can only be heard internally. Then let the internal sound fade away into silence.
- At the conclusion of the practice, sit in the resonant silence, letting the vibrant quietness have a refreshing effect on your mind and emotions.