what is a mantra?

what is a mantra?

We’re all aware of the notion of ‘mantra’ and although it originated in the East, the word has become a part of everyday lingo in the West today. However, this usage is only a superficial one. Many people are still not aware of what a mantra truly is and how it works.

A mantra, also known as mantram, holy name, or a brief prayer, is a spiritual statement. It can either be a single word or a short phrase that is repeated again and again. Eknath Easwaran explains, “The mantram is a short, powerful spiritual formula for the highest power that we can conceive of – whether we call it God, or the ultimate reality, or the Self within. Whatever name we use, with the mantram we are calling up what is best and deepest in ourselves.”

The practice of repeating or chanting a mantra has been used by people all over the world for thousands of years, regardless of their religious, spiritual or wisdom traditions. A few examples of mantras are: 

  • Hindu: Haré Krishna, Haré Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Haré Haré, Haré Rama, Haré Rama, Rama Rama, Haré Haré
  • Buddhist: Om mani padme hum
  • Christian: My God and My All
  • Muslim: Allahu akbar
  • Jewish: Barukh attah Adonai

For some, the word mantra may sound impractical and mystical, even otherworldly and woo-woo, for some, it may conjure up images of meditation or prayer rooms filled with incense and other exotic items. However, there’s nothing magical or occult about it. In fact, it’s the exact opposite — a mantra is as real and practical as it gets. People both in the East and the West have used mantras (although called by different names) for centuries now.

The way that a mantra works is simple and straightforward. In our everyday lives, it’s easy for us to get stuck on negative thoughts and dwell on them against our better judgment. This further makes us stressed, anxious, frustrated or angry. However, when we choose to repeat a particular mantra silently instead, over and over, we redirect the energy that we would have spent on ruminating on negative aspects to repeating our mantra. Over time as we continue with this discipline, repeating our mantra gives us a solid, stable grounding and helps us feel calm, patient and secure no matter what situation or circumstances we encounter.