What is a mantra?
“A mantra is a mass of radiant energy. It transforms the mental substance by producing a particular thought movement. The rhythmical vibrations produced by repeating the mantra regulate the unsteady vibrations of the five sheaths. It checks the natural tendencies of objective thoughts of the mind. It helps the spiritual power and reinforces it.” – Swami Sivananda
What is a mantra and how do I choose one?
A mantra is a word or group of words that carry a particular sound vibration that, when repeated, starts to calm the mind so we can connect into our higher spirit. I will get more into the specifics of how this works below.
I’ve divided the mantras into Sanskrit and non-Sanskrit categories. I encourage you to love your intention bracelet and use it for your greatest and highest good that best serves your personal transformation. Whatever positive energy you are looking to attract or send out, read through the list to see what resonates with you. I offer some non-Sanskrit ones at the end, and encourage you to come up with your own.
I will, however, start with an outline of the traditional Sanskrit mantras because these are primary root vibrations that have come through enlightened sages a thousand or more years ago. The vibrations are strung together in a scientific way to achieve the correct resonance and harmony of those energies we seek to cultivate. So they are not haphazard! Additionally, these are mantras that I have practiced with for many years and have seen them unfold with profound effects for myself on my spiritual path. While our analytical mind will want to understand fully the what, why and how these mantras operate, I approach these with a sense of abiding faith and it has never let me down. So I invite you to do the same. Try reciting each one and you may find one that just feels right because it resonates with you. Try it out for the 40 day period suggested in the meditation and see how it works. The key is constancy, so give your mantra a chance. It is ok to work with a couple of mantras, but if you are starting out in this practice its best to stick to one to see its full benefits. Alternatively, if you are working with our Intention Bracelets as a mala you can assign a different mantra to multiple bracelets. I’ve been working with my Lakshmi mantra for 12 years, and it is very personal to me. Don’t doubt what quietly calls to you.
Sanskrit is an ancient language, about 5000 years old, that is the ancestor of many of the Indo-European languages. Many words in English have roots in Sanskrit. It is used mainly as the language of the Vedas, the religious and philosophical texts of Hinduism, and in some major texts of Buddhism and Jainism. It has 50 seed vibrations, root energies, or sounds known as varnas. From these 50 sounds many other languages have formed, and on a deeper level are the root energies behind all forms that we see in our world. It is sound vibration that creates form.
The word ‘mantra’ is a Sanskrit word that breaks down into 2 parts:
‘man’ = to think (‘manas’ = mind, root of our English word ‘man’ or a thinking being)
‘tra’ = to protect or to cross (transpose, travel, transcend, etc.)
A ‘mantra’ therefore is something to protect our mind and allow it to cross into a different realm.
A mantra has the power to release us from the grip of the mental and physical worlds that we often think of as being “reality”. You can think of a mantra as a ladder to take you beyond the mind, beyond this causal plane to a higher state of consciousness. It lifts you out of the realm of day to day survival to an elevated state of awareness. Thought precedes form – we first have to think of something before we can create it – and sound vibration is the root energy behind all forms we see in our world. In fact in vedic philosophy there is no distinction between thought, sound and form.
This is a beautifully simple yet powerful mantra to start with. It is easy and resonates through the whole body to bring harmony and calm to the system. It unifies our mind, body and spirit. In vedic philosophy it is said that om was the first sound that created the universe – the sound of the big-bang that set everything into motion – and from this sound came the 50 root energies that make up many languages today.
Om represents the threefold experience of man:
A – represents the physical plane of existence, or the waking state
U – represents the mental and astral plane, or the sleep state
M – represent the deep sleep state and everything beyond reach of the intellect.
In this way it represents the process of creation, sustenance, and dissolution. This process exists within everything around and within us, on the macro and micro scales. The pronunciation of it also represents this process: ‘A’ starts deep within the chest, ‘U’ rises to the back of the throat as the sound rounds out in the mouth, and ends with ‘M’ with the lips pressed together. There is also a fourth part which is a pause at the end of it, which is the acknowledgement of the silence and provides the space within which the process can begin again.
Why is it spelled ‘OM’ and pronounced ‘AUM’? In English we tend to read the letter ‘A’ as a short sound with a higher pitch as in ‘apple’, but the A here is a deeper more rounded A like the sound ‘AH’. So it ‘sounds’ more correct when we write it as ‘om’. Again these are primordial vibrations that we are trying to get into letter form!
‘I am that’
So = ‘that’
Aham = ‘I am’
This is another abstract mantra that states your identification with that consciousness that is greater than us. It can be translated as ‘I am everything there is, and be at one with the entire cosmos. I am without form or quality, without past, present or future. I am the pure light of action-less awareness’. This mantra also gets inverted to Ham – sa and the repetition of Soham, Hamsa becomes a cyclical rhythm of ‘I am that I am’. It is a statement that goes beyond the material and mental realms to fully identify with the divine, or what is known in vedic philosophy as the supreme consciousness. This concept also exists in Christianity (Jesus said ‘I am is the kingdom of heaven’), Judaism (think Moses at the burning bush), and Islam (‘there is no god but god’), except what is referred to here as consciousness may be called ‘god’, ‘spirit’, ‘lord’ or other names.
Esoteric meanings aside, on a physical level Soham is a terrific mantra to connect with and regulate the breath. As you inhale you mentally repeat ‘Sooooo’ for the length of a slow and steady inhale, and then as you exhale repeat ‘haammm’ for the length of the exhale. Take your time and repeat this comfortably without any strain. The effects are immediately calming. That alone is reason enough to adopt this mantra!
Om Mani Padme Hum
Appeal to the jewel of the lotus heart (the Buddha) to provide compassion and love to all sentient beings.
‘mani’ = jewel or gem
‘padme’ = lotus
‘hum’ = a divine vibration similar to om used to cultivate inner wisdom
This is a Sanskrit mantra that is used in many Buddhist traditions and Chinese Taosim, and carries many layers of meaning. It recognizes that the bodhisattva, or the power to become enlightened, resides within our heart. We too are like the Buddha. The lotus is a flower symbolizing purity because of its ability to grow through murky mud and blossom with radiant beauty. It emerges unstained by this world and reaches its enlightenment. We can flourish just as the lotus flourishes. The word ‘mani’ is broken down into 2 parts: ‘ma’ the sound to release our lower nature attachments to this world, and ‘ni’ sound which cultivates compassion and patience. This mantra grants us access to our inner wisdom, to the idea that we will always have the teachers, tools and practices that help us attain joy and enlightenment. It is an affirmation that everything we could possibly need to achieve enlightenment is already within us.
This next group of mantras are called Saguna mantras which are deity mantras that are form producing. That means that through repetition the particular god or goddess starts to make the qualities they represent take form. The image of the deity also begins to take form in the mind. People are often drawn to one deity or another, depending on your inherent personality traits or where you are in your spiritual journey or what you need help with in your life, you may feel a natural alignment with particular energies the different gods represent. Keep in mind that the qualities described of the god or goddess are symbolic and play much bigger roles within the philosophical understanding of the nature of our existence through the Hindu and Vedic viewpoint. Their meanings go very deep. But did an elephant-headed god actually exist? That is not the point that I’m after here. Its about the symbolic energy they represent. I also approach my practice from a place of devotion, so I am not a vedic scholar.
Om gam Ganapatayae namaha
‘Salutations and prostrations to lord Ganesh’
‘gam’ = the unique root mantra for Ganesh
‘Ganapatayae’ = another name of Ganesh, the energy of breaking through obstacles
‘namaha’ = salutations and prostrations
This is a mantra used at the beginning of many events and prayer ceremonies to invoke the graces of lord Ganesh, the elephant headed Hindu god who is known as the remover of obstacles. He often guards the entrances to temples and we invoke him to banish our minds of negativity and fear and instill confidence and courage in our journey through life. He helps usher in new beginnings with good luck, success, clarity, hope and steadiness, so if you are on a new endeavor like a job or relationship this is a good mantra to help assuage any fears of the unknown. This mantra is associated with the root chakra, which is where our foundational strengths like our stability, ability to feed ourselves, and our sense of groundedness to the earth lie. Repeating this Ganesh mantra is an act of faith in the wisdom of our inner consciousness as well as the greater consciousness of the universe.
Om namah Sivaya
‘Salutations to lord Siva’
‘namah’ = salutations and prostrations
‘sivaya’ = lord Siva, the energy of dissolution and the god within us
Lord Siva is the ultimate yogi! He is known as the sublime destroyer within the Hindu trinity of the universe, the others being Brahma the creator and Vishnu the preserver. The process of creation is a continuing cycle of birth, sustenance and death that is followed by renewal. Siva is the renewal energy, the power of dissolution and destruction that allows for the new to come again so that creation continues. His is the energy that transforms our negative energies so that our positivity can flourish. He bestows inner strength, fearlessness, detachment and pure consciousness. Invoking him clears out our lower nature tendencies that keep the ego alive, things like bad habits or emotions like anger, hatred and jealousy. Through him you gain the resolve to let your higher nature flourish. His is the masculine energy of the universe that is steady, strong and relentless in the pursuit of the higher self. This energy is the counterpart to the Shakti or feminine energy of the universe, which you can read more about here. So if you are on a mission to attain a higher level of being in this world, a way that serves your true nature and those around you with humility and grace (and no bs in the process!) then this is a mantra for you.
Om namo Narayanaya
‘Prostrations to Narayan’, the energy of peace and harmony
‘namo’ = a version of namaha, salutations and prostrations
‘Narayanaya’ = lord Narayan, another name for Vishnu the sustaining energy of the universe
This is literally translated as the ‘abode of all beings’.
This is a supreme mantra of peace. Narayana represents balance, equanimity, peace of mind, harmony and tranquility. Use this powerful mantra to send good wishes of peace, love, happiness and health to those around you and ultimately to yourself. This mantra has the ability to change our world as a collective whole, as you are recognizing and honoring the divinity in others. If you have a loved one who you want to keep in your heart while chanting this the energy will go to them. This is an effortless mantra that simply purifies the mind, gives us an open heart and a balanced sense of peace.
The next 3 mantras are for the Divine Mother, the feminine Shakti energies of the universe, which is a huge topic in itself! Read more about it here.
Om shrim maha Lakshmiyae namaha
‘Salutations to the goddess Lakshmi’
‘shrim’ = the unique root mantra for the energy of abundance
‘maha’ = great, denoting greatness of quality and quantity
‘Lakshmiyai’ = goddess Lakshmi, the energy of abundance
‘namaha’ = salutations and prostrations
Lakshmi is the goddess of abundance. She is the divinely feminine energy that embodies good fortune, prosperous relationships, generosity, wealth, health and beauty. Reciting her mantra will help shift your vibrational energies surrounding your ability to receive, which for many of us can be a deeply rooted blockage due to past karmic ties or energies beyond our intellect. We may have difficulty receiving from others, whether it is receiving love, help, praise or money. These notions are directly tied to our sense of self worth and this mantra is a great one for realizing our power within these energies and that we have the ability to clear them out to make way for what is destined for us. This world is bountiful and each of us has the ability to access this wealth of resources when we wish and as we wish. After some time of repeating this mantra you will start to see things trickle into your life on many levels. They may come in slowly or they may flood in. The key is to be open and clear and free of any self limiting beliefs.
Om dum Durgayae namaha
‘Salutations to the divine Mother’
‘dum’ = seed mantra unique to Durga
‘Durgayae’ = Durga, the energy of the divine Mother
‘namaha’ = salutations and prostrations
Durga is the beloved divine Mother who bestows compassion, fearlessness and patience. She loves and protects us at all costs and is invincible – the literal meaning of the word Durga is ‘the fort’. She is the divine embodiment of that fierce feminine energy that provides nurturing love while slaying any demons, external or internal, that may keep us from that love. She is the combined divine energies of the goddesses Lakshmi, Saraswati and Parvati. Her energy is the endurance that we need in our spiritual growth, so all endeavors like introspection, contemplation, meditation, yoga, asanas and self observation all require endurance to get through the ups and downs. This is the energy that will get you through the negative self-doubt and the inertia that sometimes gets us stuck. Use this mantra if you are seeking divine protection, fortitude and strength of will to help you get to a purer state of mind. Her energy is also that of service to humanity, which is a powerful means of getting ourselves out of our minds and into active giving.
Om aim Saraswatyae namaha
‘Salutations to goddess Saraswati’
‘aim’ = seed mantra unique to Saraswati
‘Saraswatyae’ = goddess Saraswati, or the energy of wisdom, intelligence and artistic expression
‘namaha’ = salutations and prostrations
Saraswati is the aspect of the divine mother that embodies purity, knowledge, wisdom and artistic expression. Her power is the awakening of consciousness. When self-inquiry begins through questions like 'who am I?' or 'does this serve my higher nature?' it is the energy of Saraswati that is the guiding force. Her energy is more about the head area; through logic and reasoning and discrimination we begin to distinguish between who we truly are and all the stuff that is of the mind. Saraswati is the deity of learning, the arts, music, poetry and writing. She is the antithesis of darkness, and holds the qualities of light, order and truthfulness.
Other mantras (non-Sanskrit)
'God whose name is true and everlasting'
sat = true/ everlasting
nam = name
This comes from the kundalini yoga traditions and is in the language of Gurmukhi. It is an acknowledgement that the divinity within ourselves is the same as the divinity within others, and that divinity is the greater consciousness that is truth. This is a powerful little mantra that opens the doorway to realizing the unity of everything. It is cleansing, purifying and soothing because it opens the energy of all the chakras.
‘I’m sorry, forgive me, thank you, I love you.’
This is an old Hawaiian prayer that is widely used. Its short and simple and has an inherent aspect of humility and gratitude. Use this in meditation with a particular person in mind that you want to forgive. It could also be yourself, as self forgiveness is something we tend to overlook. The act of forgiveness is a powerful mechanism to release what does not serve us. This mantra helps to zero out any uncomfortable emotions or thoughts that may arise around a particular person. The repetition of this has a very soothing effect on the mind and body, and I find that it instantly puts me in a better place when the dark clouds have over my mind.
The ones below are affirmations that you can use, or you can create your own. Don’t get too hung up on the words. Formulate it as a clear intention from your heart and in the silence of your meditation and repetition you may find adjustments arising that are more in tune with your needs. Trust that your divine inner wisdom is guiding you.
Health is my essence
Lord watch over me
Lord release me
Strength is within me
I have all the power I need
I am loving kindness
I am worthy
I am bountiful