What is a Mantra?
Mantra is a Sanskrit word that is derived from two root words: "man" referring to mind, and "tra" referring to an instrument. Therefore a mantra is a mind-instrument that uses sound vibrations to channel the mind. To find out more about Mantras, read this first: Mantra Meditation - What, Why, How
The following are five important Hindu mantras, their meanings, and their benefits.
The Universal Mantra
Om, or Aum, is a deeply divine sound, an all-embracing sound of the universe. A single syllable that is the sound of harmony itself, and when we chant it, we invite that harmony within us.
The sound of Om is considered the first sound of the universe, the life-breath of the Creator. So chanting Om as we breathe in and breathe out fills us with Creation’s energy.
Wherever you are right now, adjust your posture to sit up straight, and close your eyes. Take a deep breath and let it go. With your next deep exhale, let an Aaaaaa slip out low and rumbly from your belly. Keep it going as it rolls itself into a Uuuu sound. When you’re half-way through your breath, slowly bring your lips together into an Mmmmmmmmm. And then taper off into silence. That’s one Om!
Chant Om 3 times to feel yourself in tune with your inner being.
Chant for World Harmony
Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu
Translation: May all beings in the entire universe be happy and free.
This is a popular mantra for peace, not just for one's own self or family, but for the world, and the universe (literally, all the worlds in the entire universe). It encourages one to go beyond his own identity and his small world, to identify with the entire creation and all its beings, since the Being is the same in all creatures.
A Mantra for Seeking Truth
Asato Ma Sat Gamaya
Tamaso Ma Jyotir Gamaya
Mrityor Ma Amritam Gamaya
Translation: from unreal lead me to real, from darkness lead me to light, from death lead me to transcend it.
This is a deeply meaningful mantra, of a seeker searching for truth and light beyond death. And not just any truth, but the Eternal Truth, that is not limited by body, mind and intellect.
A Mantra for Healing
The Mrityunjaya (mrit-yoon-jaya) Mantra is a secret mantra that was only passed along verbally for generations. It is widely known now, as a healing mantra to ward off illness, improve health (mental and physical), and even untimely death.
Om Trayambakam Yajamahe Sugandhim Pushti Vardhanam
Urvarukam Iva Bandhanan Mrityor Mukshiya Mamritat
Simple Translation: I implore you, the Source of the cycle of birth, life and death, to free me from its bondage, make me fearless, and lead me to the absolute truth and bliss.
Soham for Self Realization
Soham (pronounced so-hum) in Sanskrit means, "I am That."
When someone asks you, “Who are you?”, would you say you’re 43 years old, a female, a wife and a mother? Or would you say you are a writer, and work at the local bank? Or that you like helping people, and run several charities? All of those may be true - for this human experience. And yet – do those descriptions define you?
Are you not something deeper? Strip off those outer body layers – I’m not just a female, not just a wife, not just a writer, not just this body. Go deeper – I’m not just a happy person, a depressed person, an angry person – strip off the inner emotional layer. Go even deeper – I’m not my thoughts, I’m not what I think, or say – strip off the interior mental layer where your thoughts arise from and see that that’s not you. And then what remains? Just your spirit. your pure soul. your essence. your awareness. There are no words for that pure essence of awareness, and therefore you're left with "I am That."
Chant the Soham mantra similar to the Om, with a deep exhale, "sooooohummmm", and then taper off into silence. Chant it 21 times everyday to make self inquiry your meditation practice for life.