I was inspired to write this post based on a Reiki share I hosted recently. Before we started the share the idea was to discuss the spiritual practice of using mantras and practice chanting some Buddhist mantras.
Mantra by definition means a sacred utterance, sound, syllable, word or group of words believed to have psychological and/or spiritual power. The power of the mantra comes from us saying it out loud or in our mind, reading it, or just having it present in our thoughts throughout the day. Mantras are most often in Sanskrit but can be in other languages or may even be in our native tongues in the form of an affirmation we repeat.
Purpose of Mantra Recitation
Adding mantra recitation to your daily spiritual practices is a lovely way to connect to spirit and feel that calmness and support that comes from letting go of the mind and just being. Repeating a mantra allows you to enter that state where it is your sole focus and you can see what comes for you on a sensory level. You can repeat a mantra in silence but I personally prefer listening to recorded mantras. I liken this to an doing a spiritual exercise video, it allows you to just follow and go with the flow and you don’t have to pay attention to the number of times you repeat the mantra, or develop flow, you just repeat with the person or people reciting the mantra in the recording and be really present in the moment.
There is great power in repeating a mantra. I personally find great power in repeating it aloud as opposed to saying it in your mind (but we aren’t always in the setting that allows us to do this). There is some sacred power of letting these sacred words roll of your tongue when reciting a Sanskrit mantra. Letting these ancient sounds come out of your throat and activating your throat chakra. I recommend trying to get to the point where the mantra feels like it is coming out of your heart chakra rather than your mouth. You can try moving it so it is coming out of your throat and then further through your heart chakra.
Now the first time you listen to some mantras you may be astonished at how quickly the mantras are recited and feel like you will not be able to repeat them as quickly. The third recording I provide below is an example (Nam Myoho Renge Ko). You have to do a bit of practice to master these mantras. First, you would write down the mantra and practice repeating it very slowly. Then you would try and listen to the recording and get your tongue used to saying it quickly, not judging your performance; if you lose your pace, start over the next time the mantra starts. Over time you will be able to say the mantra more quickly and experience the magic of getting lost in a mantra. You will come to appreciate how these faster or more complicated mantras that take time to memorize or master really take you out of your mind and bring you to the present.
Having mantras playing in your space is also very relaxing and healing. I often have mantras playing in my treatment room when giving Reiki treatments. It can be especially powerful if you repeat the mantra silently while working on your clients.
In Buddhist and Hindu traditions dating to 10th C mala beads are used to empower repetition of mantras as a physical way to make a connection with the mantra. On a practical level the mala beads allow you to count your mantra repetitions. Malas aren’t necessary for mantra recitation but it may add to your practice if you use them. A traditional mala bead necklace, which is comparable to a rosary or other prayer beads, has 108 beads plus one extra bead often comprised of different material or being unique in some way. This unique bead is known as the Guru bead. The mala bead necklaces are made with 108 beads because spiritual this is a sacred number. For Reiki practitioners it represents the number of energy centers in the body, but there are many other representations of the significance of this number in spiritual wisdom traditions. So you start at top of mala and with each bead you touch and turn the mantra is repeated until you reach the last bead, known as a guru bead, which represents your connection to the divine. Ram Dass has the following to say about using malas (https://www.ramdass.org/use-mala/):
“Doing a mantra doesn’t require using a mala; the mala is just there to add another dimension to the practice. Besides speaking the mantra, and hearing the mantra as you speak it, the process becomes tactile as well. If you want a psychological analysis of the use of a mala, you could say that it is a “kinesthetic cue device.” Without it, you could be doing the mantra and get lost in doing it mechanically. But if you suddenly feel the bead between your fingers, it wakes you up again. Bead by bead – it’s like the steps of a ladder, walking you straight into the Brahman.”
Mantras to Try
Now what type of mantra is right for you? If you belong to a particular religion or are drawn to a particular religion or deity that is a great place to start. I highly recommend the 21-day Mantra Meditation Journey put together by Deva Premal and Miten on the Mentors Channel. They did two series like this and each day for 21 days you would listen to a new mantra. At the beginning of the recording, you learn something about the mantra. Perhaps you learn about the meaning of the words used or the use of the mantra itself or a story behind Deva’s and Miten’s experience singing the mantra in a sacred place. It exposes you to different styles of mantras and educates you on some of the sacred words and use of mantras. I loved this series and hope they repeat it (when it was originally run it was free). It is currently available for sale on their website (http://store.devapremalmiten.com/) ($43 USD) or on Mentor’s channel site (http://www.mentorschannel.com/DevaPremal/21-DayMantraMeditationJourneyII/Online/) (if you choose the live streaming option it’s 28 USD!).
Below I have provided some of the Buddhist meditations I like which are available for free on YouTube.
Compassion: Om Mani Padme Hum by Deva Premal and the Gyuto Monks (from Deva Premal and Gyoto Monks recording Tibetan Mantras for Turbulent Times )
One of the most popular or well known Buddhist mantras
- Om – a sacred syllable described as the “sound of the Universe”. There is something transformational about a full prolonged humming of this syllable and letting it reverberate through your body.
- Mani – jewel
- Padme – lotus flower (a sacred flower in Buddhism as the lotus flower)
- Hum – the spirit of enlightenment (pronounced hung)
The Sankrit symbols Om and Hum are actually used in Unified Reiki attunements. It is track 2 on this recording.
Nam Myoho Renge Kyo
The purpose of chanting this Nichiren Buddhist mantra is to attain perfect and complete awakening. I have pasted in a 6 minute version below. You can look for videos as long or short in duration as you like. See my notes above on getting the hang of repeating a quick mantra like this one.
- Nam (or Namu) – devotion to
- Myoho = supreme law of Buddha
- Ren = lotus
- Ge = flower
- Kyo = sutra
Healing: Teyata Om Bekanze Bekanze Mahabekanze Bekanze Radza Samutgate Soha
Invokes the Medicine Buddha. You can picture the Medicine Buddha in the room with you and connect with him. I picked up a card with the Medicine Buddha at a Buddhist meditation class ten years ago. At that point I was still practicing as a scientist. Little did I know then how big a part of my life healing would be and what an impact chanting this mantra would have. I found when doing the Deva and Miten meditation series a couple of years ago that when I was midway through chanting this mantra I channeled a monk and my voice transformed to that like the monks on this recording. It is track 8 on the YouTube recording provided above. Very powerful healing chant.
Some of my other personal favorites are posted below. Happy Chanting!
Krishna mantra (another one of my favorite Deva and Miten recordings):