Mantras are energy-based sounds that vibrate throughout the body when spoken aloud. Embedded within these ancient sounds are thousands of years of energy accumulated from millions of devoted chanters.
Sound travels five times more efficiently through water than through air, and as the human body is comprised of more than 70% water, it is therefore an excellent conductor for both sound and vibration.
Benefits of reciting mantras
In simplest terms, by reciting specific mantras out loud, one must regulate their breathing patterns and heart-rate. Prana is another name for the life-force. Pranayama is an advanced Yogic technique where breath is consciously controlled. Chanting mantras constantly out loud regulates the breath and generates prana naturally. This makes mantra recitation an easy entry point for spiritual beginners.
- Mental Benefits: repetition of mantras flows concentrated positive energy into the Mind. This weakens the mind’s six enemies: lust, anger, greed, pride, delusion and jealousy. Recitation sends sound vibrations out through the body and into the world from the divine source.
- Spiritual Benefits: chanting mantras with sincerity places (knowingly or unknowingly) focus on the God (or the Divine). By focusing on the Divine, focus on the material world begins to melt. This leads to detachment.
When a person by unshakable concentration can visualize any image or object with closed eyes, he can learn to do the same with open eyes. Then by further development of concentration, he can connect with God’s all-powerful consciousness and can materialize his thought into an object, perceived not only by himself but by others also. – Paramhansa Yogananda
Mantras for all races and religions
Mantras are used across many cultures and religions. While the Hindus coined the mantra term and defined the process, other cultures use similar techniques:
- Catholic: the Prayer of St. Francis is one of our favorites. Daily repetition enforces the idea that you are the power of your universe, and by giving ye shall receive
- Buddhist: Auṃ maṇi padme hūṃ is a Sanskrit mantra believed to contain the condensed form of all Buddhist teachings. This mantra is a key component of both Tibetan Buddhism and Chinese Taoism
- Christian: repetitive prayer using beads includes well-known mantras like the Jesus Prayer and Hail Mary Prayer
Mantra Starter Pack
Repetition of a mantra is a powerful way of keeping in the present and stilling one’s “monkey mind”. Different mantras work better with different body types. Typically, a mantra is selected by a guru, or else chosen yourself depending on an intuitive sense of what ‘feels right’.
Below are some of Planet Asia’s favorite mantras:
Om Bhur Bhuvaḥ Swaḥ
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yonaḥ Prachodayāt
The Gayatri Mantra is an appeal to the Supreme Being for enlightenment. It can be applied across all religions and beliefs. According to ancient Hindu scriptures, the sage Vishwamitra was given the Gayatri mantra by the Supreme Being, and tasked with gifting it to humanity.
- Benefit: this spirals a prayer through the entire universe from the heart of the chanter: an appeal for divine wisdom to be shared with all of existence.
- English translation: “May the divine light of the Supreme Being illuminate our intellect and lead us along a path of righteousness”.
Vajra Guru Mantra
Om Ah Hum Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum. – Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava)
Padmasambhava was an enlightened badass. By day, he taught gentle lessons about Buddhism. By night, he decimated the demons of Tibet, which allowed Buddhism to take root there. He is widely worshiped as a ”second Buddha” across Bhutan, Tibet, Nepal, and the Indian Himalayas. The Vajra Guru Mantra represents the essence of Padmasambhava.
- Benefits: it is believed that energy vibrated by chanting the 12 syllables of the mantra carry the full essence of Gautama Buddha’s 84000 Dharmas. Chanting the mantra once is therefore the equivalent to reciting the entire teachings of the Buddha. 100 recitations (without interruption) per day is said to make you more attractive to others; food, wealth, and pleasures will appear.
- English translation: “I invoke you, Vajra Guru, Padmasambhava, by your blessing may you grant us supreme and ordinary realization.”
Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna,
Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare
Hare Rama, Hare Rama,
Rama Rama, Hare Hare
Ancient Hindu texts predict current times as the Kali Yuga, an age of cruelty and delusion. Kali is a Goddess of destruction, an energizer of sin, ignorance and decay. According to Hindu scriptures, the means to overcome Kali’s negative temptations is to chant the names of Krishna.
- Benefit: the payoff is to free oneself from material bondage and enjoy a fat promotion to the transcendental kingdom. The vibration of the repeated sounds is believed to activate spiritual energy. The payoff is to free oneself from material bondage and enjoy a fat promotion into a higher state of being.
- English translation: Only three names are repeated: Lords Krishna, Rama and Hare (a combination of Vishnu and Shakti energies)
How to choose a mantra
According to Hindu tradition, you can’t choose a mantra – one is supposed to be given to you after you reach certain level of spiritual study. However, this is not practical in modern times, since the struggle for survival leaves little time or energy to devote to spiritual study. Fortunately, there are DIY workarounds, as evidenced in the following anecdote.
A DIY mantra workaround for modern times
In 1998, Planet Asia was wandering around mystical places in India. We ended up in Varanasi, seeking inspiration from the holy Ganges. There, we met a Malaysian monk who has come to Varanasi to renounce all worldly possessions and sink deep into meditation. He claimed to have gotten ‘addicted’ to the cosmic power he received while meditating – nothing else in life seemed worthwhile.
Essentially, his problem was that he had gotten too deep into spirituality and had lost control of his free will. Our problem was that we were not getting deep enough. He explained that I needed a mantra. But where to get one?
“A mantra needs to be given by a guru. If you don’t have a guru, you need to get a guru first.”
I explained that I had neither a guru nor the time to find one. He wouldn’t budge. For the next several days I kept running into him, and kept pestering him to give me a mantra.
After a few days he finally cracked and agreed to give me one, based on my character and energies. It was an instant connection that took me much deeper into meditative practices. Details below:
Panchakshari Shiva Mantra
In ancient Hindu texts, Shiva is one of the gods of the Trimurti (Hindu Trinity).
Brahmá creates the universe and Vishnu preserves it. When Vishnu’s work falls apart, Shiva swoops in to usher in destruction and rebirth. This is why Shiva is often referred to as the “destroyer of evil”.
Since ‘given’ by the Varanasi monk, this has been my core mantra for almost twenty years:
Om Namah Shivaya
- Benefits: this calls your deepest power reserves from within. It boosts inner potential and strength while filling life with positive energy. This mantra can be used by any person, at any time, in any format. Recite once, or recite 1000 times – go with the flow and use as needed.
- English translation: “I bow to Shiva.”
Shiva Gayatri Mantra
After many years using the Panchakshari Shiva Mantra, we still did not find a guru. However, when we came across the Shiva Gayatri Mantra it made an instant connection, so we added it to the mix:
Tanno Rudrah Prachodayat
- Benefits: the Gayatri Mantra is one of the most powerful Hindu mantras. The Shiva Gayatri Mantra taps into that power to ease tension, control fear, generate material benefits and maintain health.
- English translation: “I pray to the mightiest of the Gods, the ideal Purusha, Mahadev. Bless me with the intellect and enlighten me with knowledge.”