The Next Step: Choose a Mantra
The next step is to choose a mantra (or if you already have one you love, then of course, use that). You’ll find a selection of five mantras below, each accompanied by a brief description.
So, how do you choose a mantra? As you go through the mantras below, you may feel immediately drawn to a particular one — something about it just resonates with you, If so, you should definitely go with that one.
If in doubt , follow your heart. The heart is absolutely amazing – it’s like an internet connection to a higher source, a personal guidance system connected to the benevolent intelligence of the universe.
To do this, you put your attention on your heart — or rather, the region of the heart — then bring a mantra to mind. As you do so, notice how your heart feels.
You’ll very likely notice that your heart feels a little different with each mantra – it may be subtle, but distinct. You want to find those which make your heart feel expansive, open, peaceful, at ease, happy, excited or otherwise good. If it feels good, then that mantra is for you. And if more than one feels good? Chose the one that feels best.
This mantra is associated with an absolutely beautiful deity, Lord Vishnu, the preserver and protector of creation — when good and evil go out of balance, Lord Vishnu incarnates in this realm to set the balance right. Rama is one of his earthly names.
This was, in fact, Gandhi’s meditation mantra. Legend has it that as a child Gandhi was afraid of the dark, so a servant instructed him to repeat the name Rama whenever he was afraid. It became his meditation mantra for the next 60 years.
There are two variations you can use if you like.
Ram Ram Ram This was Maharaji’s meditation mantra, Ram Dass’ guru of Be Here Now fame.
Sri Ram Jai Ram Jai Jai Ram This slightly more elaborate version is widely used in India today.
Om Mani Padme Hum
This mantra comes to us from Tibetan Buddhism, the Dalai Lama’s tradition. It’s associated with a bodhisattva of compassion, named Avalokiteśvara, and the mantra is thought to carry these qualities of compassion.
A bodhisattva is a highly realized being, almost like an angel, who has chosen to dedicate themselves to helping those of us who are less evolved here on Earth. In fact, the Dalai Lama is thought to be an incarnation of this particular bodhisattva.
Traditionally in Tibet, people draw this mantra on prayer flags — a form of meditation practice in itself — and the thinking is that as the flags flutter in the wind, the blessings of the mantra are blown into the surrounding space, sanctifying the air.
Om mani padme hum is an ancient mantra and there are myriad interpretations of its meaning. Perhaps the best authority on the subject is the Dalai Lama himself. Below is a summary of what this wonderful man has to say about it.
But first, a word about Om. In general, Om is thought to be the sound of the universe, of the whole of creation, the vibration of the Supreme, the ultimate cosmic seed mantra.
The Dalai Lama tells us that in the context of this mantra, Om represents our impure body, speech, and mind and the pure body, speech, and mind of a Buddha (with the understanding that we all have the potential to become like a Buddha ourselves).
Mani means jewel and represents our intentions for compassion, love, and enlightenment.
Padme means lotus and symbolizes wisdom. The lotus is a water flower whose roots are anchored in the pond bottom. The idea is that from the mud and darkness below the water’s surface arises this beautiful, exquisite flower, unsullied by it’s surroundings.
Hum is a seed mantra that represents the unity of the jewel and the lotus, both affected by the other, both part of one form.
You’ll sometimes see Om spelled Aum because it’s typically pronounced as three syllables — a, u, and m.
Om/Aum – Rhymes with home
Mani – As in Ma Knee
Padme – As in pod may
Hum – As in hummingbird
This mantra is associated with the deity Shakti. Shakti is the divine feminine, the creative force that permeates all existence and all living things, including us.
Shak – Rhymes with talk
Ti – Rhymes with me
Om Namah Shivaya
This is an empowered mantra from the Siddha tradition, a beautiful lineage with presence in the West. You may have heard of Sri Gurumayi (referred to obliquely in Eat, Pray, Love) or her predecessor, Sri Muktananda (he wrote a pretty famous autobiography).
The mantra is associated with Lord Shiva, who represents Divine consciousness and transformation (among other things). It is in this sense that the mantra is understood to mean, I honor (or I bow to) the Divine Consciousness within.
Om – Rhymes with home
Namah – Rhymes with Rama
Shi – As in she
Vaya – Rhymes with maya
Hari Om Tat Sat Jai Gurudatt
This mantra is associated with Lord Dattatreya, who represents the aspect of the Divine that is beyond form.
Hari – Rhymes with starry
Om – Rhymes with home
Tat – Rhymes with hot Sat Rhymes with hot
Jai – Rhymes with fly
Gurudatt – Rhymes with hot
From the Christian faith we have the meditative tradition of Centering Prayer, also called Contemplative Prayer In this tradition, meditation mantras are not called mantras but are referred to as sacred words. As with Sanskrit mantras, sacred words refer to the Divine. You can use any name of the Divine — God, Jesus, Our Lord, Holy Spirit, Ave Maria — or a word with higher-order meaning — peace, love, holy. The word can be repeated, as you would in classic mantra practice, or simply held in awareness, as is customary in the Centering Prayer tradition. More than the choice of sacred word, in this tradition the important thing is the intent, which is to surrender to the Divine, to open yourself to God.
Christian Meditation Mantras
From the Christian faith we have the meditative tradition of Centering Prayer, also called Contemplative Prayer
In this tradition, meditation mantras are not called mantras but are referred to as sacred words. As with Sanskrit mantras, sacred words refer to the Divine. You can use any name of the Divine — God, Jesus, Our Lord, Holy Spirit, Ave Maria — or a word with higher-order meaning — peace, love, holy.
The word can be repeated, as you would in classic mantra practice, or simply held in awareness, as is customary in the Centering Prayer tradition. More than the choice of sacred word, in this tradition the important thing is the intent, which is to surrender to the Divine, to open yourself to God.
Next Step – Meditate!
Now that you’re oriented – you have a bit of background about mantra meditation (from the previous page) and you have a mantra – you’re ready to meditate.
The next page has step-by-step guidance to walk you through the meditation from beginning to end. You’ll also find a guided meditation audio track – one of seven that accompany my book, Meditation – Deep and Blissful – which you can use if you prefer.
Whichever one you choose, you’ll probably only need it the first few times. It’s a little like cooking: it’s nice to have a recipe to follow, but after you’ve done it yourself a few times, its easy and you won’t really need the guidance anymore. You’ll have internalized the technique.
So, on to the next page!
Copyright Sharon Rose Summers 2013. This tutorial on mantras is part of a three-part series about mantra meditation and how to meditate for beginners. This particular module, Meditation Mantras, is drawn from the meditation book, Meditation – Deep and Blissful, part of a chapter on mantra meditation and meditation mantras entitled The Empowered Mantras. No part may be copied in whole or in part without prior written permission.