The word Mantra in Sanskrit is defined as, “Mananaat Trayate Iti Mantraha”; Manan (constant thinking or reflection) by which one is released from the bond of births and deaths. Constant attachment to negative thoughts keeps one agitated and worried which is defined as Chinta or worry. Similarly pursuit positive thoughts have the potential to make one relaxed and energetic, known as Manan. The difference between Chinta and Manan can be felt within, and can make one feel disturbed and lacking in objectivity and the other makes one calm, serene and objective.
Constant attachment with negative thoughts or emotions drains one of essential energy to do positive work leading to repeated failures and frustrations. This vicious cycle of negative thoughts wreaks havoc on the mental, physical and emotional health, draining one of all energy.
Chanting of mantras snaps this negative thought pattern by shifting our focus to positive thoughts thereby bringing about a profound change which helps one experience peace and serenity within. A Mantra synchronizes and aligns the gross and subtle energy levels of the mind, body and the soul.
There are two types of Mantras depending upon the number of syllables, they are monosyllabic and the multisyllabic. The Mantra in which one syllable is used is known as a Beeja Mantra. When multiple syllables are used in a Mantra it is known as Channd Mantras for e.g. the Gayatri Mantra.
On the basis of their meanings, Mantras are divided into Sagun Mantras - that signify a specific God or Goddess, the Mantra is the deity itself, and Nirgun Mantras - that are formless and represent the entire universe. On the basis of quality, they are categorized as Sattvic, Rajasic and the Tamasic Mantras.
Further, there are common Mantras which can be chanted by everyone for a specific purpose like the Gayatri Mantra, the Shivapanchaakshari Mantra etc. The other Mantras are the Guru Mantras which are disciple specific. Before imparting a Mantra the Guru checks a disciple’s level of intellect, the strength to bear the energy of the Mantra and as to what the disciple wants to achieve in life. It is an extremely personalized method of Sadhana and the disciple is forbidden to reveal the Mantra to anyone else. The sound vibrations of these Guru Mantras are very potent as their energy potential has been enhanced and then invoked by the Guru before imparting it to a disciple.
OM or the Pranava is the supreme Mantra and considered as the basic sound of the universe which encompasses all other sounds within it. A Mantra energizes the innermost being of a person with vibrations of the highest and the subtlest frequencies. Today, modern science sees the whole of existence as the expansion of sound and energy. In the Vedic and the Yogic texts the sound of Om is termed as the Anahata Nada - the unstruck sound.
The endocrine system is a network of glands in one’s body that produce hormones which helps cells to communicate with each other. Regular chanting of Mantras revitalizes the endocrine system by regulating hormone levels to achieve peak performance and helps in keeping one healthy both physically and mentally.
The resonance of a Mantra has been known to restructure the elements in a cell and reconfigure them to function at an optimum level. The Mantras have a specific resonance therefore each Mantra has a different effect on the body and the cells.
Everything that a human being seeks is within. When one feels that one is not experiencing joy, it is only because one is not tuned to the subtle resonance of joy within. When one is resonating at a certain frequency one is said to be tuned into it. To give an example when one is in a cheerful mood one sees joy all around oneself and attracts other people of similar disposition.
With repeated recitation of Mantras one gets attuned to the sound of the Mantra thereby becoming one with the Mantra itself. The devotee loses his identity to the Mantra thereby becoming Mantramaya. This is the state where the Mantra, the resonance of the Mantra, the deity of the Mantra and chanter of the Mantra have no separate identities but have merged into one.
For that matter, not only the Mantra or its sound has an impact but our speech, action and thoughts also generate vibrations. The positive thoughts or actions have a good impact on the psyche while the negative ones have a detrimental effect on the mind and the body. One’s negative thoughts block the energy flow to the gross physical body, the subtle body and the Chakras. Then they do not resonate at an optimum frequency or resonate at a lower frequency because the energy channels to them are blocked. Over a period of time this becomes a pattern and we react to these patterns in a negative way. Mantra chanting is the best possible way that one can perform to break these negative patterns.
Mantras are the primal seed sound that illustrate the working of the universe and holds within itself the potential image of the physical universe. From the Anahata Nada they emerge as Aksharas (alphabets) and from them emerge the audible sound which shapes reality of the physical world. This has been amply proved by the science of Cymatics (the study of wave phenomena, especially sound, and their visual representations). By chanting Mantras we can tune into that source of infinite power and enhance the energy that is latent within all of us.
Chanting a Mantra is therefore a divine action undertaken by the seeker and not merely a routine exercise of uttering a word. It is veritably diving within one to the ultimate source of power which enables one to enunciate the Mantra.
It is absolutely important that the mind of the seeker is still and pure. Mantra Sadhana should be for the purpose of pleasure of the God within and not for mundane material needs and gains. Instead of expecting God to bestow material gains, the seeker should be blissful of being in the company of God.
A disciplined and systematic approach is essential in the practice of Mantra Sadhana. Chanting of Mantras shall be at a clean and airy place; Chanting of the Mantra should stick to a fixed routine as far as possible Chanting of the mantra should be in rhythm with each syllable pronounced with clarity. While chanting one should sit with his back upright without any unnecessary movements. Chanting should be done in a fixed posture to allow the complete absorption of the sound energy.
Chanting the Mantra audibly in a rhythm is called Bahya Japa or the external mode. It is considered to a beginner’s stage of Mantra Sadhana. Not chanting aloud but it in a low voice or simply recalling the Mantra with lip movement. This is called Upamshu Japa. This is the intermediate stage of Mantra Sadhana. Chanting the Mantra mentally without making any sound, lip movement or movement of tongue is known as Antarjapa or the Mansik Japa. This is the state that is considered to be the best and the highest state of Mantra Sadhana.
Mantra Sadhana is the easiest and the most powerful way of communicating with Param Brahman. The chanting of Sanskrit Mantras provides us with the power to attain our goals and lift ourselves from the ordinary day to day living to the higher level of consciousness. Lord Shri Krishna extols the virtues of Mantra Sadhana saying that Yajñānāḿ Japa Yajño’smi (Bhagwat Gita 10, 25) meaning, “Of the sacrifices I am the chanting of the holy names (Japa)”.