The word “mantra” is derived from two combined Sanskrit words, manas (mind) and tra (tool), and indeed the name describes its function. Mantras are sounds, words, or even short phrases used to focus the mind during meditation.
By repeating a mantra out loud, the practitioner allows the word or phrase to fill their consciousness, warding off distractions and honing attention. Over time, the words themselves lose their meaning (as any word does if repeated enough) and the vibrations of the sounds sink into the unconscious mind, imbuing the meditator with a quiet strength that allows them to tap into deeper states of awareness.
The practice of engaging a mantra during quiet contemplation dates back thousands of years. Traditionally, mantras were chanted in Sanskrit, one of the oldest languages in the world, but more recently they have gained popularity in other languages as well. Here, we’ve compiled a list of 10 common mantras — 7 in traditional Sanskrit and 3 in other languages — to add focus and depth to your next meditation.
Considered the most important mantra of all, Om (sometimes spelled Aum) is revered as containing every vibration that has ever or will ever exist. It is the sound of ultimate truth, the sound of creation itself. Despite its association with Hinduism, Om is completely non-denominational and non-religious. It can be chanted independent of any other sounds, but is also often included as the base sound of other mantras, such as the ones below.
Om Mani Padme Hum
This mantra is intended to empty the mind of everything except an awareness of the body in the present moment and as such, is a favorite of yogis everywhere. Yoga scholar Meredith DeCosta breaks down the components of this powerful mantra as follows:
Om: the vibration or sound of the universe; represents divine energy and generosity and purifies the ego
Ma: represents ethics and purifies jealousy
Ni: represents patience and purifies want or desire
Pad: represents diligence and purifies ignorance and judgment
Me: represents concentration and purifies attachment
Hum: the unity of all; represents wisdom and purifies hatred
Om Vasudhare Svaha
In the Buddhist tradition, Vasudhare is the embodiment of the divine female, an earth goddess also known as the Bearer of Treasure. Svaha is a concluding phrase meaning, roughly, “well said.” Many practitioners believe that anyone who chants Om Vasudhare Svaha 108 times between sunrise and sunset will be blessed with prosperity.
This mantra (pronounced aah-ham-pree-mah) translates to “I am divine love” and is intended to foster compassion. Through repetition, the mantra helps to connect the meditator to the love they hold in their hearts and to let it radiate through them to others.
Also written as Sat, Chit, Ananda or Sacchidānanda, this is a compound mantra comprised of three Sanskrit words: sat (truth), chit (consciousness), and ananda (bliss). Whether presented as three words or one, it describes the experience of realizing the unity and wholeness of all existence.
Traditionally this mantra is said with one full cycle of the breath, utilizing the inhale for the sound ham (pronounced hum), and exhaling with sah. Considered an articulation of the breath, it reminds us to breathe deeply, calming both our bodies and our minds.
The first half of this mantra, Namo, is translated from Sanskrit as “refuge.” The second half, Amitabha, means “infinite light,” but is often used to refer to the Buddha. Together the words form a mantra intended to lead the practitioner to nirvana and release them from the cycle of continuous rebirth and earthly suffering.
This simple mantra has evolved from one of the central prayers of Judaism. In its entirety in Hebrew it reads: Shema Yisrael Adonai Eloheinu Adonai Echad (Listen God-wrestlers, only then will you know the Oneness). Focusing simply on the final word, “oneness,” brings concentration to the recitation.
Pronounced ho-oh-pono-pono, this is an ancient Hawaiian mantra meaning “I love you; I’m sorry; please forgive me; thank you.” Traditionally, the phrase was part of a reconciliation practice for divided families, and it remains today as a forgiveness meditation.
Lumen de Lumine
A Latin phrase, lumen de lumine translates to light of light. When used as a mantra, it is intended to evoke a sense of our own personal brightness and to offer energy to those around us. This energy, in turn, fills us with confidence and allows us to open to the world.
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