Mantra Meditation derives from a time when words and names were used to call to the gods of pre-Buddha Vedic traditions. It was though that words and names had a strong power to change and influence the outside world. With the rise of the spiritual practice of Tantra, these words became integrated into meditation. Tantra used mantras to continue communicating with the gods and to maintain focus during meditation.
And it is true. Words still have enormous power. Every word we speak, whether it is to a friend, to a roomful of people, or to ourselves, has a cause and subsequently an effect. What words do you fill your mind and your mouth with? Are they words of thanks or words of complaint? Are they words of love or words of hate?
When I sit to meditate (or not even sit, sometimes I close my eyes while I am walking and start murmuring to myself if I think no one is around), I often repeat to myself “Om Namah Shivaya.” This mantra pays homage to Shiva who is the god of the inner self. So in essence, this mantra asks you to recognize the honor in yourself.
Here are some other mantras and their meanings.
- “Aum” – The “Om” is the sacred sound of Hinduism and is said to mean, variously: It Is, Will Be or To Become. “Aum” or “Om” is simply the sound of the universe.
- “Om Mani Padme Hum” – this one’s from Tibet and it means, roughly, “Hail the Jewel in the Lotus.” The jewel in this case is the Buddha of Compassion.
- Ham-Sah” – The Hindu variant, meaning I am THAT.
- Or, just make up your own! Find a few words that reflect the state of your body, heart, or mind and sit with them in breath.
Maybe you want to take just one minute, right now, close your eyes and take five breaths in and out. Just listen to the sound of your breath. When you feel centered, attentive, and relaxed, start your mantra–repeating it once on your breath in and once on your breath out, again and again until you are ready to open those eyes again.
For me, repeating a mantra during meditation keeps thoughts out of my mind because I am focusing on the soft sound of my own voice. It especially helps me to repeat a mantra in Sanskrit or a language that I do not understand because then I do not constantly attach meanings and associations to the words. Rather, I can be present with the sounds and vibrations, not thought.
Peace Love Babiezzz!