The second term of 2017 we explored 10 significant yoga mantras. We listened to them, we chanted them, we meditated with them and we may have felt some energy/benefit from them. Chanting mantras may be quite confronting or weird when you first ‘have a go’, but I noticed that for some of you it was like a door opening up to a wonderful new experience. In my own experience I found that the more I chanted, even though initially I felt weirded out by it, the more it grew on me. Now I enjoy the simple, mostly mesmerizing tunes that are repeated in a kirtan practice. I, like a lot of of people, don’t consider myself to be a good singer, but the beauty is that you don’t have to be in order to chant. Chanting will give us the same health benefits of singing, but without the challenge of having to hit the perfect notes all the time. Personally, I find it appealing that we don’t know the meaning of the words, as you are less likely to get caught up in tangents and prejudices. Mantras can be in any language: the English: thank you, I forgive you, I love you, bless you etc or Latin: Ave Maria or Kyrie Eleison and Jewish: Shalom, Yah, Elohim.
For me the magic lies in the sounds and the general value the words represent. Through chanting we can make a smooth transition from the material world with concrete meanings and logical explanations to a more esoteric realm, where intuition, subtle energies and inherent beauty contribute to enchantment and liberation.
‘Our eyes might be the windows to our soul, but our voices are the door to our hearts’ is a quote one of my teachers of Nada yoga mentioned to us some time ago. This really struck a chord with me. We always express our emotions with our voice. We can simply hear how people feel when they talk to us: Our voice is loud when we are angry, ‘wobbly’ when we are overcome by sadness and/or insecurity or energetic when we are motivated and full of life. Through chanting (or singing) we can let go of all the emotions that are locked into our bodies. Chanting gets rid of the ‘issues that are in our tissues’. Chanting is a type of release work.
The word mantra itself is often translated as a ‘tool for the mind’. Man means to think and manas means mind trai means protect or set free. Mantra is for the mind what asana is for the body. Below I will list the mantras we practiced lats term and they are in my view the most prominent mantras in the yoga world.
1. OM or AUM
This is the most used mantra in yoga and it also considered a root mantra as it is often combined with many other mantras. Aum represents the sound of the Universe. The meaning of Om is related to the Christian Amen, the Islamic Ameen and the Buddhist Om.
Chanting or repeating Aum is like a form of pranayama or breathing exercise. When we say the mantra aum long and slow, we extend our exhalation breath, which in turn will stimulate the relaxation response in the body. This is the physical effect of creating long slow sounds with our voice.
2. SO HUM
The meaning of this mantra is: ‘And that I am’ or ‘I am that’. These two syllable match our breath perfectly, therefore it is often used in mindfulness practice or the practice of being in the moment. Not surprisingly this mantra’s meaning is also expressed as: Right here, right now, in this moment, I exist.
Quote: “When you begin to realize that the past does not necessarily dictate the outcome of your future, then you can release the hurt. It is impossible to inhale new air (ideas) until you exhale the old.” (T.D Jakes)
3. OM SHANTI OM
This is known as the Peace Mantra or Peace Invocation. Peace is the most sought after emotion on earth. John Lennon famously translated this mantra in “Give peace a chance”. He even used the vedic kirtan tune to record his song.
Conflict is about highlighting the differences between people and things and is the opposite of peace. Peace is about compromise, conciliation and adjustment, which allows for unification and connection, one of the prerequisites of a happy, fulfilling and harmonious life.
My favourite quote on World Peace is by Jimmy Hendrix:
“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”
4. SAT NAM
This mantra is often immediately associated with Kundalini Yoga practice. Sat Nam is classified as a seed, or bij mantra; compact but containing a lot of information. SAT stands for ‘Truth’ or ‘being truthful’, while NAM stands for ‘naming’ or ‘giving identity’. NAM in Sanskrit texts can also be meaning ‘to bow’, as a sign of respect. Therefore SAT NAM contains a lot of meanings that can be intertwined together, as with so many Sanskrit words. Just to name a few: Truth is my Name, I bow to the Truth, Truth is my Identity, I am/respect the Truth. When SAT NAM is used as a form of greeting its meaning becomes something like: I recognize the truth (essence) in both of us; We are from the same eternal truth. SAT NAM is in that regard similar to NAMASTE I bow to the divine that I see in you and me.
The truth referred to in this mantra, is the universal, ethereal or divine truth, rather than the generally perceived truth which is based in our cultural perception of life.
The 2 syllables in this mantra makes it also suitable for using with the breath, while extending the vowel: SAAAAAAT – NAAAAM. The vibration of SAT is said to reach the crown chakra invoking the truth and the NAM vibration connects this truth to the physical realm. When SAT and NAM is used together they are said to become the sound of our infinite being.
Chanting this mantra awakens the soul and gives you your destiny. This mantra is said to balance the five elements (tattvas).
In many SAT NAM meditation tapes you often hear Satanam, where an extra A appears to glue SAT and NAM together. This is just to suit the rhythm and the music, however the meaning and essence remains the same.
5. OM NAMAH SHIVAYA
This is a very well-known and much-used mantra in all types of yoga. It is very well translated as ‘I honour the divinity within myself.’ NAM implies bowing or respecting and SHIVA is the patron god of yoga. As a god, he is the known as the transformer, the creator and the protector of the universe. Symbolically Shiva represents our inner self.
Often you read about Shiva as The Destroyer, but this is meant in a positive way. In order to transform the world or yourself you need to destroy or get rid of the old and the useless, like: bad habits, impurities, illness, bad karma, attachment.
Repeating the mantra om namah shivaya builds self respect, self confidence and self compassion.
‘Transformation is often more about unlearning than learning.’
‘Allow the fire of transformation to burn away all that doesn’t serve you.’
6. OM MANI PADME OM
OM MANI PADME HUM is the mantra that is associated with Tibetan Buddhism. This mantra is used to invoke Chenrezig or the concept of Compassion. Directly translated form Sanskrit the mantra means: The jewel in the lotus. This cryptic sentence actually refers to the notion that wisdom and compassion cannot be separated. Om mani padme om is also used as a healing mantra as compassion is the best complementary medicine for every ailment.
Syllable for syllable this mantra’s power is as follows:
om – Through generosity we purify pride
ma – Through ethics we purify jealousy
ni- Through patience we purify passion and desire
pad – Through diligence we purify ignorance and prejudice
me – Through renunciation we purify possessiveness
hum – Through wisdom we purify hatred.
Repeating this mantra aids healing, transformation and the gaining of wisdom and compassion.
7. OM GAM GANAPATAYE NAMAHA
is the mantra associated with the Hindu elephant deity Ganesh or Ganesha. By repeating this mantra we are not honouring a pagan god, but we are focusing the mind on reassuring ourselves that everything will be ok. We appeal to Ganesha as the Destroyer of obstacles, but these obstacles are from our own making. We feel we cannot do certain things, because fear of failure stands in our way, we have lost faith in our own ability or we are simply in a state of self-sabotaging.
All these obstacles are figments of our imagination, our mind’s doings. When we appeal to Ganesha, we appeal to that aspect of our mind that embodies resilience, self belief, fearlessness and compassion.
No wonder Ganesha is such a well-loved deity. Naturally, when all our own mental qualities of strength and self belief are aligned and engaged, we are then able to remove the obstacles we put there in the first place.
With the help of Ganesha we are able lift ourselves out of the rut of bad habits and develop a new path or a new direction. This is why Ganesha or Ganesh is not only regarded as the deity who removes obstacles but he also enables prosperity and new beginnings. Ganesh is also associated with the root chakra, which governs our foundational energy.
The literal meaning of the mantra is: Om = universal sound and energy connection, Gam = abbreviation of Ganesha, Ganapataye = another name for Lord Ganesh (which is wisdom and compassion from within), Namaha= salutation or honouring.
8. LOKAH SAMASTAH SUKHINO BHAVANTU
This mantra that is often used at the end of meditation. So far we have seen mantras being used as invocations, but this particular mantra is a perfect example of a blessing. It’s meaning is “May all being be happy and free from suffering.”
Lokah = all over the world
Samastah = All living beings and also: united and in harmony
Sukhino = root word is sukha=happiness
Bhavantu = develop, grow towards
This mantra is often associated with the female Hindu Spiritual leader Amma (translated = the mother), who is world famous for spreading love and peace around the world (Devi Bhava). She is also known as the hugging Saint.
9. MAHA MRITYUNJAYA MANTRA
This is regarded as the most powerful healing mantra in Yoga texts. It is also referred to as the Rudra mantra. Along with the Gayatri mantra (below) it holds the highest place among the many mantras used for contemplation and meditation. Repeating this mantra can help you tune into the healing force that is always at work within you, supporting your growth, lifting you up in times of trouble, and reminding you of the higher aim of life. It is said to restore health and happiness.
OM. TRYAMBAKAM YAJAMAHE
MRITYOR MUKSHIYA MAMRITAT
It’s translation is probably not quite as straightforward as expected, but this does not diminish its inherent purpose and power as a healing mantra:
1: Om, We Worship the Three-Eyed One (Lord Shiva),
2: Who is Fragrant (Spiritual Essence) and Who Nourishes all beings.
3: May He severe our Bondage of Samsara (Worldly Life), like a Cucumber (severed from the bondage of its Creeper), …
4: … and thus Liberate us from the Fear of Death, by making us realize that we are never separated from our Immortal Nature.
10. GYATRI MANTRA
This is the most revered mantra in all yoga traditions. This oldest and most valued mantra is regarded as the mother of the vedas (yogic texts).
AUM BHOOR BHUWAH SWAHA,
TAT SAVITUR VARENYAM
BHARGO DEVASAYA DHEEMAHI
DHIYO YO NAHA PRACHODAYAT.
Its meaning is that “May Pure Consciousness illuminate our intellect to lead us along the righteous path”. The mantra is also a prayer to the “giver of light and life” – the sun (savitur).
Oh Pure Consciousness! From whom we received Life,
Remover of pain and sorrow,
The Bestower of happiness,
Oh! Creator of the Universe,
May we receive the supreme sin-destroying light,
May you guide our intellect in the right direction.
Gayatri is protrayed as the 5-faced Goddess, Savriti, representing our five senses, through which we perceive the world.
Chanting of Gayatri Mantra removes all obstacles in our path to increased wisdom and spiritual growth and development.
The syllables of the mantra are said to positively affect all the chakras or energy centres in the human body – hence, proper pronunciation and enunciation are very important. Sathya Sai Baba teaches that the Gayatri Mantra “will protect you from harm wherever you are, make your intellect shine, improve your power of speech, and dispel the darkness of ignorance.
The most powerful way of using this mantra is by repeating it 108 times at dawn or at dusk, the most auspicious time of the day when the earth’s energies are most available to tap into for meditations, invocations and blessings.