A Mantra is divinity encased within a sound-structure. It is divine power manifesting in a sound-body. The Mantra is itself Devta(deity). The sacred Mantra or the Divine Name is a vital symbol of the Supreme Divinity directly revealed to the seers in the state of deep meditation and trace. These symbols are in the nature of unfailing keys to gain access into the transcendental realms of absolute experience. By the practice of mantra japa, the aspirant’s conscious will is awakened and through the willpower everything is accomplished. Different mantras have different benefits. All those who practice japa of Gayatri mantra will find it very beneficial for the health and intellect. For skin diseases or iron deficiency, anushthana of the Surya or Sun mantras is beneficial if practiced properly.
Mantra occupies a prominent place in Vedic religion and Indian Culture. Since time immemorial saints, seers, sages and Yogis have been practicing Mantra Yoga for spiritual enlightenment. Vedas, the core of Indian culture consist of various mantras for the accomplishment of various purposes. Mantras are used as sacred sounds or utterances. Since they are taken from the sacred texts, they are considered auspicious and God in word form. They are used in ritual and spiritual practices and various sacrificial ceremonies. We have the description of 16 types of sanskars or ceremonies in Vedic scriptures. Each ceremony is performed with a different mantra. Our every festival is celebrated by chanting different mantras. We can’t imagine of the celebration of any festivals and ceremonies without the chanting of mantras in Vedic religion.
Mantras are used both for the attainment of physical, material and spiritual goals and purposes. There are various types of mantras like Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya, Om Namah Shivaya, the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, the Gayatri mantra etc. These are common mantras or universal mantras, which anybody can use for a specific purpose [1,2]. The Maha Mrityunjaya Mantra (for increasing health of body and mind) and the Gayatri Mantra (for increasing creative energy and pranic energy) are examples of this. Anyone may choose to adopt and chant these mantras.
OM is considered the source (basis) of all the mantras. It is the highest and the purest and Brahman himself in word form (Sabda Brahma). It is also known as mantra Purusha (God as
mantra). It has the potency to divinize and purify all other verbal expressions and word forms. Hence, it is often used as a prefix to all other mantras to infuse them divine power and purity. Therefore, Mantras constitute the core of Vedic religion and the divine culture of India.
A mantra is a revealed word, a divine sound that has been received or experienced by Vedic seers in the state of deep meditation and trance. It is a condensed form of spiritual divine energy. Mantra is a sacred formula, it is a subtle form of a deity, sound/vibration. Mantra refers to a “mystical formula” regarding some deity.’Mananat-trayate iti Mantrah’-By the Manana (constant thinking or recollection) of which one is protected or is released from the round of births and deaths, is Mantra. That is called Mantra by the meditation (Manana) on which the Jiva or the individual soul attains freedom from sin, enjoyment in heaven and final liberation, and by the aid of which it attains in full the fourfold fruit (Purushartha chatustya), i.e., Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksha. A Mantra is so called because it is achieved by the mental process. The root ‘Man’ in the word Mantra comes from the first syllable of that word, meaning ‘to think’, and ‘Tra’ from ‘Trai’ meaning ‘to protect’ or ‘free’ from the bondage of Samsara or the phenomenal world. By the combination of ‘Man’ and ‘Tra’ comes Mantra.
a) Lord krishna says: Among words I am the sacred syllable OM. Among offerings, I am the offering of Japa (chanting of mantra or sacred formulas .
b) Maharshi patanjali says: OM is the word denoting
God. Pranav (OM) is the crown of all mantras. We should
contemplate it again and again as it is a great power .
c) Swami Vivekananda very brilliantly argues: What
are Mantras? The whole of this universe has, according to
Indian philosophy, both name and form (Nâma-Rupa) as
its conditions of manifestation. In the human microcosm,
there cannot be a single wave in the mind-stuff (Chittavritti)
unconditioned by name and form. If it be true that nature is
built throughout on the same plan, this kind of conditioning
by name and form must also be the plan of the building of
the whole of the cosmos. «As one lump of clay being known,
all things of clay are known», so the knowledge of the
microcosm must lead to the knowledge of the macrocosm
Now form is the outer crust, of which the name or the idea
is the inner essence or kernel. The body is the form, and the
mind or the Antahkarana is the name, and sound-symbols are
universally associated with Nâma (name) in all beings having
the power of speech. In the individual man the thought-waves
rising in the limited Mahat or Chitta (mind-stuff), must manifest
themselves, first as words, and then as the more concrete forms.
In the universe, Brahmâ or Hiranyagarbha or the cosmic Mahat
first manifested himself as name, and then as form, i.e. as this
universe. All this expressed he form, behind which stands the
eternal inexpressible Sphota, the manifester as Logos or Word.
This eternal Sphota, the essential eternal material of all ideas or
names is the power through which the Lord creates the universe,
nay, the Lord first becomes conditioned as the Sphota, and then
evolves Himself out as the yet more concrete sensible universe.
This Sphota has one word as its only possible symbol, and this is
the ओं (Om)., it is out of this holiest of all holy words, the mother
of all names and forms, the eternal Om, that the whole universe
may be supposed to have been created.
a) Sri raman maharshi observes: Mantras (repeating
sacred syllables) or formula as a means to realize the Self.
The mind is a channel, a swift current of thoughts. A mantra
is a bund or dam put up in the way of this current to divert
the water where it is needed.
b) Sri aurobindo remarks: The theory of the Mantra is that
it is a word of power born out of the secret depths of our being
where it has been brooded upon by a deeper consciousness
than the mental, framed in the heart and not constructed by
the intellect, held in the mind, again concentrated on by the
waking mental consciousness and then thrown out silently
or vocally — the silent word is perhaps held to be more
potent than the spoken — precisely for the work of creation.
c) The Mantra can not only create new subjective states
in ourselves, alter our psychical being, reveal knowledge and
faculties we did not before possess, can not only produce
similar results in other minds than that of the user, but
can produce vibrations in the mental and vital atmosphere
which result in effects, in actions and even in the production
of material forms on the physical plane. Mantra is creation
by Word. The word is a sound expressive of the idea. In the
supra-physical plane when an idea has to be realized, one can
by repeating the word-expression of it, produce vibrations
which prepare the mind for the realization of the idea. That is
the principle of the Mantra and of japa. One repeats the name
of the Divine and the vibrations created in the consciousness
prepare the realization of the Divine. It is the same idea that
is expressed in the Bible, “God said, let there be Light, and
there was Light.” It is creation by the Word.
d) Swami Vishnu-devananda says: “A mantra is a mystical
energy encased in a sound structure . . . It steadies the mind
and leads to the stillness of meditation.’ (Meditation and
e) As stated by swami satyananda saraswati: Mantras are
“purpose-specific”, that is, each mantra, whether Bija or a more
elaborate construction of separate mantra, is used to realize
specific results. Health, prosperity, spiritual realization and social
stability are examples of such objectives. As a result, individuals
choose to recite or chant different mantras according to their
needs. It is important to note however, that one must never alter
the mantra. If done, it is no longer a mantra and its power is lost.
It becomes just sounds. Also, Mantra Japs must be done mindfully
and with respect. The practice should be regular and exist for the
practitioner with the same observances as is given to other daily
practices. For example, we typically follow a specific schedule
concerning our diet [7-14]. This is done to ensure proper and
constant nutrition to our bodies. We should treat mantras the
same way. It should be done regularly at prescribed times and
for a specific length of time. In this way, we can expect to gain
realization through the mantras transformative inner power.
As the rishis sat in meditation and reached higher levels, they
received the sounds known as mantra. Mantras, therefore, are
not a creation of the human mind. They were perceived from
higher sources. In Islam it is said that the Koran was revealed by
God, which means that whoever received the Koran had attained
a very high yogic state. In the same way, Christians speak of the
Bible as a revealed scripture. Sanatana dharma, the eternal vedic
religion, too is understood as having been revealed. The Vedas
were not written by man. This, however, does not mean that the
pen that wrote them was held in God’s hand; it only means that
they were revealed to rishis in the transcendental state. The
same is said about the Ramacharitamanas. (Saraswati,Swami
There are five elements of a Mantra. They are: Rishi (Seer),
Chhanda (meter), Devta (deity), Bija (seed), and Tattva (element).
a. Rishi (Seer): There were ancient seers and sages, who
had the actual realization of mantra. In meditation, when the
rishis were able to transcend the material consciousness, rising to a very high level, those sounds heard by them in that highest
state were called mantra. Every Mantra has a Rishi. Rishi means
the seer who got that mantra through divine vision (darshana)
for the first time and got sidhi or perfection in that mantra. Some
rishis also discover mantras, and then they become the rishi of
that mantra. The seer is a spiritual scientist who firstly makes
experiments with mantra in the laboratory of his own body,
mind and spirit and there after he helps others in making such
experiments. (SRSAV-14, P.3.22).
b. Chanda: Meter, which is technically very specific
for each mantra. It is actual pronunciation of that mantra and
its meter or the science behind the meter. That is “how” the
pronunciation of the sound (mantra) while doing japa. It is how
to say the mantra in a particular rhythm so the deity is pleased.
It is the rhythm to be followed to chant a mantra. All mantras are
named traditionally with a Chandas. (SRSAV-14,P.3.22).
c. Devta: The deity of the mantra or governing deity of
a mantra. Every mantra has a devta. The devta is invoked by
the mantra to come into the heart. There are so many streams
of supreme consciousness in this vast universe. The aspirant
attracts the stream of consciousness of that particular deity of
that mantra as rays of the light.
d. Bija: The seed syllable that created the mantra and
contains the mantra within itself, like the seed that creates
the tree. Every mantra has a bija (seed syllable) from which it
sprouts or originates, which creates the mantra. Bija mantras
are used to awaken the different energy centres located in
the human body. Namah Sivaya comes form the bija ‘Haum’.
Hare Krshna mahamantra comes from “Kleem’. Hrim, shrim,
klim, Aiam, Hoom, Yum, Bum, Rum, Lum etc are some of the
bijamantras which can be called subtle injections used to inject
some additional power in a mantra. As per the need such bija
mantras are added to mantras. We call them potential mantras,
because they contain dormant, potential energy of different
forces. Each of the powers or forces in the world has its own bija
mantra. Those bija mantras are just like little bombs, the type of
time bomb which explodes just at the right moment. Just as you
plant a seed in the earth and from that a giant tree grows up,
giving thousands of fruits, such is the power of the bija mantra.
With the practice of anushthana, prolonged mantra repetition
for a fixed period of time and number of malas, and regular
sadhana, the power of the mantra is awakened. When that power
is awakened, the consciousness takes the form of the mantra and
then the real work of the mantra begins.
e. Tattva: Element is a character of a mantra. It can also be
called the key to the mantra. It is the destination to be reached
by firm resolution of the aspirant. Every mantra possesses the
nature of a particular element (such as Earth, Water, Fire, Air
and the sky) and a particular guna (such as Sat, raj and tam).
Even elements are worshiped as per the nature of the mantra.
Thus each mantra has a seer (rishi) who composed it, a rhythm
or meter (Chhanda) which determines its sound, and a deity
(devata) who presides over it and manifests when the mantra
is correctly pronounced. It also contains a seed syllable (bija)
which imparts to it manifesting power (Shakti) and a support
(tatva) which makes it strong or stable until it delivers the
There are 16 limbs of Mantra yoga which ensure the aspirant’
success on the path of mantra yoga. They are as follows:
Bhakti (devotion)- Faith and devotion to the mantra and the
deity is the most important condition to succeed in mantra yoga.
Shudhi (purification) refers to self-purification. It stands for
the purification of the body, mind and spirit. It also stands for the
purification of the place and direction.
i. Asana: Refers to that thing on which the aspirant sits.
Asanas made of woolen, kusha, resham, Mriga-charma,
baghambar, blanket etc. are considered good. Asana also
stands for some particular, steady, comfortable postures in
which the aspirant sits while chanting Mantra.
ii. Panchang Sevan: Gita, Sahasranam, Stavan, Kavach
and Hridaya nyas are collectively known as panchang sevan.
Gita—that which is sung. Sahasranam means experiencing
the vastness of the Supreme Being. Stuti is experiencing
the vastness and associating it with the heart. Kavach is
having protection from the obstacles arising from sadhana.
Hridayanyasa- is entering the mysteris of Mantra through
iii. Achara (conduct): Aspirant should bear a good moral
iv. Dharana (concentration): Concentration is binding the
mind to one place.
v. Divyadesh Sevan (self-identification)
vi. Prana Kriya (Pranayama or breath regulation): Prana
means breath, ayam is lengthening or widening through
control. When breathing is controlled so as to retain the
breath, it is pranayama.
vii. Mudra (hand locks): Mudra can be described as psychic,
emotional, devotional and aesthetic gestures or attitueds
viii. Tarpana (libations): Offering different objects/
materials to the deity.
ix. Havan: Is offering oblations to the burning fire of Yagya.
Mantra chanting bears no fruit without havan.
x. Bali: Sacrificing evils like pride, lust, anger and any
other evil habits and practices is bali.
xi. Yaag: (contemplation and inner worship) Worshiping
the deity is called Yaag.
xii. Japa: (chanting) refers to mantra chanting. Japa means
the repetition of a mantra so it encompasses all uses of mantras.
However, Japa is most commonly associated with a fixed number
of repetitions of a mantra. Usually a string of beads, known as a
Mala, with a set number of beads would be used to keep count—
one repetition per bead [19-25]. Traditionally, most Malas have
108 “counter” beads. and a “guru” bead used to indicate where
to begin and end. Sometimes shorter malas with 54 or 27 beads
can be used with longer mantras. The mala used during mantra
practice acts as an anchor for the mind. If a bird is flying over
the ocean in search of land, it may use a piece of driftwood to
rest upon until it finds land. The mala serves the same purpose
for the mind as the piece of wood for the bird. It is an anchor.
Just as whispered, vocalized and mental repetitions are used to
stay with the practice, the mala too is used to stay focused. The
movement of the mala keeps track of time and the numbers of
The movement also holds your mind and does not allow it to
slip. So, a mala should always be used during mantra sadhana.
There are five different kinds of malas accepted in the yogic
tradition – tulsi, rudraksha, rakta-chandan (red sandalwood),
shweta chandan (white sandalwood), and crystal. Traditionally,
it is believed that Vaishnavas use tulsi, Shaivas use rudraksha
and Shaktas use crystal. But this is a religious belief; a spiritual
aspirant can use any kind of mala to attain different states. Japa
is of three kinds. Japa done aloud is the lowest; Japa done in low
tones is the middle; Japa done mentally is the best. (Kularnava
a. Dhyana (meditation): when concentration becomes
deeper it is called meditation. Uninterrupted stream of the
content of consciousness is meditation [26-33].
b. Samadhi (absorption): Is the state of self-realization.
It is the complete absorption of the individual self with the
supreme self. In this state the awareness of the external
world is absent. There is the experience of the eternal self,
akhanda swaroop. This is the level of consciousness called
samadhi, trance or turiya. That state becomes Samadhi when
there is only the object appearing without the consciousness
of one’s own self. It may sound a lot but for the sincere
practitioner, who continues to practice step-by-step, it all
comes together naturally.
Mantra Yoga is the union of the individual soul with the
supreme soul by the chanting of the manta. It is said that one
can achieve the ultimate salvation or union with supreme
consciousness by chanting the mantras, which is the aim of
mantra yoga. The manta itself is Devta (deity), manifesting
in a sound body. Constant repetition of the mantra with faith,
devotion and purity bestows on the aspirant illumination, peace,
eternal bliss and salvation. By constant repetition of the manta
the aspirant imbibes the virtues and powers of the deity that
presides over the mantra. Mantras are in the form of praise and
appeal to the deities, craving for help and mercy.
For example, the chanting of Gayatri Mantra bestows on
the aspirant’s discrimination and salvation. Recitation of Surya
Mantra bestows health, long life, vigour, brilliance. Recitation of
Aditya-hriday strotam in the early morning is highly beneficial.
Lord Rama conquered Ravana through the recitation of this
strotam imparted by Agastya Rishi. Rhythmical vibrations of
sound give rise to forms. Recitation of the mantras gives rise to
the formation of the particular figure of the deity.