AskDefine | Define mantra

Dictionary Definition



1 a commonly repeated word or phrase; "she repeated `So pleased with how its going' at intervals like a mantra"
2 (Sanskrit) literally a `sacred utterance' in Vedism; one of a collection of orally transmitted poetic hymns

User Contributed Dictionary

see Mantra



From etyl sa sc=Deva. In the sense of "hymn portion of the Vedas" in English since 1808; in the sense of "word or phrase used in meditation" since 1956.


  1. (Hinduism.) The hymn portions of the Vedas; any passage of these used as a prayer.
  2. A phrase repeated to assist concentration during meditation, originally in Hinduism.
  3. (General.) A slogan or phrase often repeated.


the hymn portions of the Vedas
a phrase repeated to assist concentration during meditation
a slogan or phrase often repeated

See also



  1. gen., a slogan or phrase often repeated

Extensive Definition

A mantra (Devanāgarī मन्त्र) (or mantram) is a religious or mystical syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. Their use varies according to the school and philosophy associated with the mantra. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words or vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras originated in the Vedic religion of India, later becoming an essential part of the Hindu tradition and a customary practice within Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. The use of mantras is now widespread throughout various spiritual movements which are based on, or off-shoots of, the practices in the earlier Eastern religions.
Mantras are interpreted to be effective as sound (vibration), to the effect that great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation (resulting in an early development of a science of phonetics in India). They are intended to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations. Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra.


In the context of the Vedas, the term mantra refers to the entire portion which contains the texts called Rig, Yajus or Saman, that is, the metrical part as opposed to the prose Brahmana commentary. With the transition from ritualistic Vedic religion to mystical and egalitarian Hindu schools of Yoga, Vedanta, Tantra and Bhakti, the orthodox attitude of the elite nature of mantra knowledge gave way to spiritual interpretations of mantras as a translation of the human will or desire into a form of action, with some features in common with spells in general. For the authors of the Hindu scriptures of the Upanishads, the syllable Aum, itself constituting a mantra, represents Brahman, the godhead, as well as the whole of creation. Kūkai suggests that all sounds are the voice of the Dharmakaya Buddha — i.e. as in Hindu Upanishadic and Yogic thought, these sounds are manifestations of ultimate reality, in the sense of sound symbolism postulating that the vocal sounds of the mantra have inherent meaning independent of the understanding of the person uttering them. Nevertheless, such understanding of what a mantra may symbolise or how it may function differs throughout the various traditions and also depends on the context in which it is written or sounded. In some instances there are multiple layers of symbolism associated with each sound, many of which are specific to particular schools of thought. For an example of such see the syllable: Aum which is central to both Hindu and Buddhist traditions.
While Hindu tantra eventually came to see the letters as well as the sounds as representatives of the divine, it was when Buddhism travelled to China that a major shift in emphasis towards writing came about. China lacked a unifying, ecclesiastic language like Sanskrit, and achieved its cultural unity by having a written language that was flexible in pronunciation but more precise in terms of the concepts that each character represented. The Chinese prized written language much more highly than did the Indian Buddhist missionaries, and the writing of mantras became a spiritual practice in its own right. So that whereas Brahmins had been very strict on correct pronunciation, the Chinese, and indeed other Far-Eastern Buddhists were less concerned with this than correctly writing something down. The practice of writing mantras, and copying texts as a spiritual practice, became very refined in Japan, and the writing in the Siddham script in which the Sanskrit of many Buddhist Sutras were written is only really seen in Japan nowadays. However, written mantra-repetition in Hindu practices, with Sanskrit in any number of scripts, is well-known to many sects in India as well.


The Sanskrit word (m. मन्त्रः, also n. मन्त्रं) consists of the root man- "to think" (also in manas "mind") and the suffix -tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be "instrument of thought".
Another explanation is that the suffix -tra means "protection".
The Chinese translation is zhenyan 眞言, 真言, literally "true words", the Japanese on'yomi reading of the Chinese being shingon.

Mantra in Hinduism

Mantras were originally conceived in the great Hindu scriptures known as the Vedas. Within practically all Hindu scriptures, the writing is formed in painstakingly crafted two line "shlokas" and most mantras follow this pattern, although mantras are often found in single line or even single word form.
The most basic mantra is Aum, which in Hinduism is known as the "pranava mantra," the source of all mantras. The philosophy behind this is the Hindu idea of nama-rupa (name-form), which supposes that all things, ideas or entities in existence, within the phenomenological cosmos, have name and form of some sort. The most basic name and form is the primordial vibration of Aum, as it is the first manifested nama-rupa of Brahman, the unmanifest reality/unreality. Essentially, before existence and beyond existence is only One reality, Brahman, and the first manifestation of Brahman in existence is Aum. For this reason, Aum is considered to be the most fundamental and powerful mantra, and thus is prefixed and suffixed to all Hindu prayers. While some mantras may invoke individual Gods or principles, the most fundamental mantras, like 'Aum,' the 'Shanti Mantra,' the 'Gayatri Mantra' and others all ultimately focus on the One reality.
In the Hindu tantra the universe is sound. The supreme (para) brings forth existence through the Word (Shabda). Creation consists of vibrations at various frequencies and amplitudes giving rise to the phenomena of the world. The purest vibrations are the, the imperishable letters which are revealed to us, imperfectly as the audible sounds and visible forms.
Var.nas are the atoms of sound. A complex symbolic association was built up between letters and the elements, gods, signs of the zodiac, parts of the body -- letters became rich in these associations. For example in the Aitrareya-aranya-Upanishad we find:
"The mute consonants represent the earth, the sibilants the sky, the vowels heaven. The mute consonants represent fire, the sibilants air, the vowels the sun? The mute consonants represent the eye, the sibilants the ear, the vowels the mind"
In effect each letter became a mantra and the language of the Vedas, Sanskrit, corresponds profoundly to the nature of things. Thus the Vedas come to represent reality itself. The seed syllable Aum represents the underlying unity of reality, which is Brahman.

Mantra japa

Mantra japa was a concept of the Vedic sages that incorporates mantras as one of the main forms of puja, or worship, whose ultimate end is seen as moksha/liberation. Essentially, Mantra Japa means repetition of mantra, and it has become an established practice of all Hindu streams, from the various Yoga to Tantra. It involves repetition of a mantra over and over again, usually in cycles of auspicious numbers (in multiples of three), the most popular being 108. For this reason, Hindu malas (bead necklaces) developed, containing 108 beads and a head bead (sometimes referred to as the 'meru', or 'guru' bead). The devotee performing japa using his/her fingers counts each bead as he/she repeats the chosen mantra. Having reached 108 repetitions, if he/she wishes to continue another cycle of mantras, the devotee must turn the mala around without crossing the head bead and repeat.
It is said that through japa the devotee attains one-pointedness, or extreme focus, on the chosen deity or principal idea of the mantra. The vibrations and sounds of the mantra are considered extremely important, and thus reverberations of the sound are supposed to awaken the Kundalini or spiritual life force and even stimulate chakras according to many Hindu schools of thought.
Any shloka from holy Hindu texts like the Vedas, Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Sutra, even the Mahabharata , Ramayana, Durga saptashati or Chandi are considered powerful enough to be repeated to great effect, and have therefore the status of a mantra.
Some very common mantras are formed by taking a deity's name, called Nama japa, and saluting it in such a manner: Aum Namah ------ or Aum Jai (Hail!) ------ or several such permutations. Examples are:
  • Aum Namah Shivaya (Aum and salutations to Lord Shiva)
  • Aum Namo Narayanaya or Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevãya (Aum and salutations to the Universal God Vishnu)
  • Aum Shri Ganeshaya Namah (Aum and salutations to Shri Ganesha)
  • Aum Kalikayai Namah (Aum and salutations to Kali)
  • Aum Hrim Chandikãyai Namah (Aum and salutations to Chandika)
  • Aum Sri Maha Kalikayai Namah (the basic Kali mantra given above is strengthened with the words Sri [an expression of great respect] and Maha [great]. It has been said that this mantra is rarely given to anyone because it is so intense.)
  • Aum Radha Krishnaya Namaha (a mantra to Radha, said to promote love in a relationship)
Repeating an entire mantric text, such as the Durga Saptashati, in its entirety is called patha.
The use of Mantras is described in various texts which constitute Mantra Shastra (shastra, sastra: law-book, rule or treatise).

Some Hindu mantras

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The Gayatri mantra is considered one of the most universal of all Hindu mantras, invoking the universal Brahman as the principle of knowledge and the illumination of the primordial Sun.
ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: |
तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् |
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि |
धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
Aum Bhūr Bhuva Svaha
(Aum) Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayāt, (Aum)

Lead me from ignorance to truth

असतोमा सद्गमय। तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमया।
मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय॥
( I.iii.28)
From ignorance, lead me to truth;
From darkness, lead me to light;
From death, lead me to immortality

Hare Krishna Mahamantra

A mantra consisting of the names Hare, Krishna and Rama. It appears originally in the (Kali Santarana Upanisad):
In the 16th century, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, along with his followers, spread this mantra across India through public congregational chanting (sankirtan). Chaitanya and his followers traveled from town to town singing this mantra, claiming that it would awaken love of Krishna (bhakti) in whoever happened to hear it. It is often referred to as the 'Maha Mantra' by practitioners.
In 1966, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada established ISKCON (the International Society for Krishna Consciousness), a branch of the Brahma-Madhva-Gaudiya Vaishnava sampradaya, and introduced the Hare Krishna mantra to the West, describing it as: "an easy yet sublime way of liberation in the Age of Kali (demon)."

Shanti mantras

Aum sahanaavavatu
Sahanau bhunaktu
Saha viiryan karavaavahai
Tejasvi naavadhiitamastu
Maa vidvishhaavahai
May we be protected together.
May we be nourished together.
May we work together with great vigor.
May our study be enlightening
May no obstacle arise between us.
ॐ शान्तिः शान्तिः शान्तिः
Aum shaantih shaantih shaantih
Aum peace, peace, peace.
-- Black[krishna] Yajurveda Taittiriya Upanishad 2.2.2

Kali Mantras

Aum Hrim Shreem Klim Adya Kalika Param Eshwari Swaha
A mantra directed at Goddess Kali for the purpose of spiritual progress. Kali is known as one of the fiercest aspects of Divinity; she destroys all negativity to make way for the positive. This mantra is said to be extremely powerful and is known as the Great Fifteen-Syllable Mantra.
Aum Klim Kalika-yei Namaha
This mantra is said to bring relief or escape from difficult situations, but sometimes in drastic fashion.

Durga Mantras

Aum Dum Durgayei Namaha
Durga is sometimes regarded as the great Mother-goddess, representing the maternal and protective elements of the female principal. This mantra is said to bring protection in generally difficult situations.
Aum Eim Hrim Klim Chamundayei Vicche Namaha
This mantra is used when protection is required in exceptionally difficult or negative circumstances. It is said that it can also bestow good fortune and creativity.

Universal Prayer

सर्वेषां स्वस्ति भवतु । सर्वेषां शान्तिर्भवतु ।
सर्वेषां पूर्नं भवतु । सर्वेषां मड्गलं भवतु ॥
Sarveśām Svastir Bhavatu
Sarveśām Sāntir Bhavatu
Sarveśām Pūrnam Bhavatu
Sarveśām Mangalam Bhavatu
May good befall all,
May there be peace for all
May all be fit for perfection,
May all experience that which is auspicious.
सर्वे भवन्तु सुखिनः। सर्वे सन्तु निरामयाः।
सर्वे भद्राणि पश्यन्तु। मा कश्चित् दुःख भाग्भवेत्॥
| ||
Om, May all be happy. May all be healthy.
May we all experience what is good and let no one suffer.

Additional Hindu mantras

Mantra in Zoroastrianism

Indo-Iranian *mantra is preserved in Avestan manthra, effectively meaning "word" but with far-reaching implications: Manthras are inherently "true" (aša), and the proper recitation of them brings about (realizes) what is inherently true in them. It may then be said that manthras are both an expression of being and "right working" and the recitation of them is crucial to the maintenance of order and being. (See also: Avestan aša- and Vedic )
Indo-Iranian *sātyas mantras (Yasna 31.6: haiθīm mathrem) thus "does not simply mean 'true Word' but formulated thought which is in conformity with the reality' or 'poetic (religious) formula with inherent fulfillment (realization).'"

Mantra in Buddhism

While similar to practices of Vedic society, some traditions of Buddhism have developed their own distinctive understandings and practices of mantra. For example, the use of mantra in Tibetan Buddhism has evolved in dialogue with Bön and other Himalayan shamanic practice.

Mantra in Shingon Buddhism

Kūkai (774-835), a noted Buddhist monk, advanced a general theory of language based on his analysis of two forms of Buddhist ritual language: dharani (dhāra.nī) and mantra. Mantra is restricted to esoteric Buddhist practice whereas dharani is found in both esoteric and exoteric ritual. Dharanis for instance are found in the Heart Sutra. The term "shingon" (lit true word) is the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese term for mantra, chen yen.
The word dharani derives from a Sanskrit root dh.r which means to hold, or maintain. Ryuichi Abe suggests that it is generally understood as a mnemonic device which encapsulates the meaning of a section or chapter of a sutra. Dharanis are also considered to protect the one who chants them from malign influences and calamities.
The term mantra is traditionally said to be derived from two roots: "man", to think; and the action oriented (k.rt) suffix "tra". Thus a mantra can be considered to be a linguistic device for deepening ones thought, or in the Buddhist context for developing the enlightened mind. However it is also true that mantras have been used as magic spells for very mundane purposes such as attaining wealth and long life, and eliminating enemies.
The distinction between dharani and mantra is a difficult one to make. We can say that all mantras are dharanis but that not all dharanis are mantras. Mantras do tend to be shorter. Both tend to contain a number of unintelligible phonic fragments such as Om, or Hu.m which is perhaps why some people consider them to be essentially meaningless. Kūkai made mantra a special class of dharani which showed that every syllable of a dharani was a manifestation of the true nature of reality -- in Buddhist terms that all sound is a manifestation of shunyata or emptiness of self-nature. Thus rather than being devoid of meaning, Kūkai suggests that dharanis are in fact saturated with meaning -- every syllable is symbolic on multiple levels.
One of Kūkai's distinctive contributions was to take this symbolic association even further by saying that there is no essential difference between the syllables of mantras and sacred texts, and those of ordinary language. If one understood the workings of mantra, then any sounds could be a representative of ultimate reality. This emphasis on sounds was one of the drivers for Kūkai's championing of the phonetic writing system, the kana, which was adopted in Japan around the time of Kūkai. He is generally credited with the invention of the kana, but there is apparently some doubt about this story amongst scholars.
This mantra-based theory of language had a powerful effect on Japanese thought and society which up until Kūkai's time had been dominated by imported Chinese culture of thought, particularly in the form of the Classical Chinese language which was used in the court and amongst the literati, and Confucianism which was the dominant political ideology. In particular Kūkai was able to use this new theory of language to create links between indigenous Japanese culture and Buddhism. For instance, he made a link between the Buddha Mahavairocana and the Shinto sun Goddess Amaterasu. Since the emperors were thought to be descended form Amaterasu, Kūkai had found a powerful connection here that linked the emperors with the Buddha, and also in finding a way to integrate Shinto with Buddhism, something that had not happened with Confucianism. Buddhism then became essentially an indigenous religion in a way that Confucianism had not. And it was through language, and mantra that this connection was made. Kūkai helped to elucidate what mantra is in a way that had not been done before: he addresses the fundamental questions of what a text is, how signs function, and above all, what language is. In this he covers some of the same ground as modern day Structuralists and others scholars of language, although he comes to very different conclusions.
In this system of thought all sounds are said to originate from "a" -- which is the short a sound in father. For esoteric Buddhism "a" has a special function because it is associated with Shunyata or the idea that no thing exists in its own right, but is contingent upon causes and conditions. (See Dependent origination) In Sanskrit "a" is a prefix which changes the meaning of a word into its opposite, so "vidya" is understanding, and "avidya" is ignorance (the same arrangement is also found in many Greek words, like e.g. "atheism" vs. "theism" and "apathy" vs. "pathos"). The letter a is both visualised in the Siddham script, and pronounced in rituals and meditation practices. In the Mahavairocana Sutra which is central to Shingon Buddhism it says: Thanks to the original vows of the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, a miraculous force resides in the mantras, so that by pronouncing them one acquires merit without limits". [in Conze, p.183]

Mantra in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

Mantrayana (Sanskrit), that may be rendered as "way of mantra", was the original self-identifying name of those that have come to be determined 'Nyingmapa'. The Nyingmapa which may be rendered as "those of the ancient way", a name constructed due to the genesis of the Sarma "fresh", "new" traditions. Mantrayana has developed into a synonym of Vajrayana.
Noted translator of Buddhist texts Edward Conze (1904 - 1979) distinguishes three periods in the Buddhist use of mantra.
Initially, according to Conze, like their fellow Indians, Buddhists used mantra as protective spells to ward off malign influences. Despite a Vinaya rule which forbids monks engaging in the Brahminical practice of chanting mantras for material gain, there are a number of protective for a group of ascetic monks. However, even at this early stage, there is perhaps something more than animistic magic at work. Particularly in the case of the Ratana Sutta the efficacy of the verses seems to be related to the concept of "truth". Each verse of the sutta ends with "by the virtue of this truth may there be happiness".
Conze notes that later mantras were used more to guard the spiritual life of the chanter, and sections on mantras began to be included in some Mahayana sutras such as the White Lotus Sutra, and the Lankavatara Sutra. The scope of protection also changed in this time. In the Sutra of Golden Light the Four Great Kings promise to exercise sovereignty over the different classes of demigods, to protect the whole of Jambudvipa (the India sub continent), to protect monks who proclaim the sutra, and to protect kings who patronise the monks who proclaim the sutra. The apotheosis of this type of approach is the Nichiren school of Buddhism that was founded in 13th century Japan, and which distilled many previously complex Buddhist practices down to the veneration of the Lotus Sutra through recitation of the daimoku: "Nam myoho renge kyo" which translates as "Homage to the Lotus Sutra".
The third period began, according to Conze, in about the 7th century, to take centre stage and become a vehicle for salvation in their own right. Tantra started to gain momentum in the 6th and 7th century, with specifically Buddhist forms appearing as early as 300CE. Mantrayana was an early name for the what is now more commonly known as Vajrayana, which gives us a hint as to the place of mantra in Indo-Tibetan Buddhism. The aim of Vajrayana practice is to give the practitioner a direct experience of reality, of things as they really are. Mantras function as symbols of that reality, and different mantras are different aspects of that reality -- for example wisdom or compassion. Mantras are often associated with a particular deity, one famous exception being the Prajnaparamita mantra associated with the Heart Sutra. One of the key Vajrayana strategies for bringing about a direct experience of reality is to engage the entire psycho-physical organism in the practices. In one Buddhist analysis the person consists of body, speech and mind. So a typical sadhana or meditation practice might include mudras, or symbolic hand gestures; the recitations of mantras; as well as the visualisation of celestial beings and visualising the letters of the mantra which is being recited. Clearly here mantra is associated with speech. The meditator may visualise the letters in front of themselves, or within their body. They may be pronounced out loud, or internally in the mind only.

Om mani padme hum

Probably the most famous mantra of Buddhism is Om mani padme hum (Chn. 唵嘛呢叭咪吽, pinyin Ǎn Má Ní Bā Mī Hōng), the six syllable mantra of the Bodhisattva of compassion Avalokiteshvara (Tibetan: Chenrezig, Chinese: Guanyin). This mantra is particularly associated with the four-armed Shadakshari form of Avalokiteshvara. The Dalai Lama is said to be an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, and so the mantra is especially revered by his devotees.
The book Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism by Lama Anagarika Govinda, is a classic example of how a mantra like om mani padme hum can contain many levels of symbolic meaning.
Donald Lopez gives a good discussion of this mantra and its various interpretations in his book Prisoners of Shangri-LA: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. Lopez is an authoritative writer and challenges the stereotypical analysis of the mantra as meaning "The Jewel in the Lotus", an interpretation that is not supported by either a linguistic analysis, nor by Tibetan tradition, and is symptomatic of the Western Orientalist approach to the 'exotic' East. He suggests that Manipadma is actually the name of a bodhisattva, a form of Avalokiteshvara who has many other names in any case including Padmapani or lotus flower in hand. The Brahminical insistence on absolutely correct pronunciation of Sanskrit broke down as Buddhism was exported to other countries where the inhabitants found it impossible to reproduce the sounds. So in Tibet, for instance, where this mantra is on the lips of many Tibetans all their waking hours, the mantra is pronounced Om mani peme hung.

Some other mantras in Tibetan Buddhism

The following list of mantras is from Kailash - Journal of Himalayan Studies, Volume 1, Number 2, 1973. (pp. 168-169) (augmented by other contributors). It also includes renderings of Om mani padme hum.
Please note that the word swaha is sometimes shown as svaha, and is usually pronounced as 'so-ha' by Tibetans. Spellings tend to vary in the transliterations to English, for example, hum and hung are generally the same word. The mantras used in Tibetan Buddhist practice are in Sanskrit, to preserve the original mantras. Visualizations and other practices are usually done in the Tibetan language.
  • Om wagishwari hum This is the mantra of the Mahabodhisattva Manjusri, Tibetan: Jampelyang (Wylie "'jam dpal dbyangs")... The Buddha in his wisdom aspect.
  • Om mani padme hum The mantra of Avalokitesvara, Mahabodhisattva, the Buddha in his compassion aspect.
  • Om vajrapani hum The mantra of the Buddha as Protector of the Secret Teachings. ie: as the Mahabodhisattva Channa Dorje (Vajrapani).
  • om vajrasattva hum The short mantra for Vajrasattva, there is also a full 100-syllable mantra for Vajrasattva.
  • Om ah hum vajra guru padma siddhi hum The mantra of the Vajraguru Guru Padma Sambhava who established Mahayana Buddhism and Tantra in Tibet.
  • Om tare tuttare ture svaha The mantra of Jetsun Dolma or Tara, the Mother of the Buddhas.
  • Om tare tuttare ture mama ayurjnana punye pushting svaha The mantra of Dölkar or White Tara, the emanation of Tara representing long life and health.
  • Om amarani jiwantiye svaha The mantra of the Buddha of limitless life: the Buddha Amitayus (Tibetan Tsépagmed) in celestial form.
  • Om dhrum svaha The purificatory mantra of the mother Namgyalma.
  • Om ami dhewa hri The mantra of the Buddha Amitabha (Hopagmed) of the Western Pureland, his skin the colour of the setting sun.
  • Om ah ra pa tsa na dhih The mantra of the "sweet-voiced one", Jampelyang (Wylie "'jam dpal dbyangs") or Manjusri, the Bodhisattva of wisdom.
  • Hung vajra phat The mantra of the Mahabodhisattva Vajrapani in his angry (Dragpo) form.
  • Om muni muni maha muniye sakyamuni swaha The mantra of Buddha Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha
  • Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha The mantra of the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra (Heart Sutra)
  • Om maitri maitreya maha karuna ye The Maitri mantra, bija mantra of MahaBodhisattva Maitreya.
  • Namo bhagavate Bhaishajya-guru vaidurya-praba-rajaya tathagataya arthate samyak-sambuddhaya tadyata OM bhaishajye bhaishajye bhaishajya-samudgate svaha The mantra of the 'Medicine Buddha', from Chinese translations of the Master of Healing Sutra.
  • Om ami dewa hri The mantra of Amitabha (Ompagme in Tibetan).

Mantra in Sikhism

In the Sikh religion, a mantar or mantra is a Shabad (Word or hymn) from Gurbani to concentrate the mind on God and the message of the Ten Gurus.
Mantras have two components of primary importance - Meaning and Sound. First is the actual meaning of the word or words and the second is the effective sound (vibration). For the mantra to be effective, great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation and the level of concentration of the mind on the meaning of the word or words that are recited.
Due to this emphasis, some care has to be taken regarding the place and surrounding in which the mantras are recited; the way in which these are delivered - ie, a loud; quietly; in a group; with music; without music; etc. The purpose of mantras is to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations and to bring concentration and focus to the mind.
  • Chanting is the process of the continuous repeating a mantra.
The main mantras of Sikhism are:

Mantra in other traditions or contexts

Transcendental Meditation, also known simply as 'TM', uses what the group refers to as 'simple mantras' - as a meditative focus. TM was founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. According to the TM website the practice can result in a number of material benefits such as relaxation, reduced stress, better health, better self image; and it can also benefit the world by reducing violence and crime, and generally improve quality of life.
Mantra practice has also been enthusiastically taken up by various New Age groups and individuals, although this is typically out of context, and from the point of view of a genuine Hindu or Buddhist practitioner lacks depth. The mere repetition of syllables can have a calming effect on the mind, but the traditionalist would argue that mantra can be an effective way of changing the level of one's consciousness when approached in traditional way.
The spiritual exercises of Surat Shabda Yoga include simran (repetition, particularly silent repetition of a mantra given at initiation), dhyan (concentration, viewing, or contemplation, particularly on the Inner Master), and bhajan (listening to the inner sounds of the Shabda or the Shabda Master).
In the Islamic Sufi tradition, chants of the 99 Names of Allah are popular invocations of attributes as are the names of the Prophet, see Dhikr.
In Neo-Pagan ritual, deities may be invoked by a recitation of their many names or aspects.
A form of Christian meditation was taught by Dom John Main that involves the silent repetition of a mantra.
The mantram OM, the hinduistic pranava, has a secret meaning in spiritual Alchemy as "Opus Magnum" (Magnum opus) or the Samadhi after decades of intensive meditation.



  • Abe, R. The weaving of mantra : Kukai and the construction of esoteric Buddhist discourse. (New York : Columbia University Press, 1999.)
  • Beyer, S. Magic and ritual in Tibet : the cult of Tara. (Delhi: Motilal Banarsisdass, 1996).
  • Conze, E. Buddhism : its essence and development. (London : Faber, c1951).
  • Eknath Easwaran Mantram Handbook Nilgiri Press (ISBN 9780915132980)
  • Gelongma Karma Khechong Palmo. Mantras On The Prayer Flag. Kailash - Journal of Himalayan Studies, Volume 1, Number 2, 1973. (pp. 168-169).
  • Gombrich, R. F. Theravaada Buddhism : a social history from ancient Benares to modern Colombo. (London, Routledge, 1988)
  • Govinda (Lama Anagarika). Foundations of Tibetan Mysticism. (London : Rider, 1959).
  • Khanna, Madhu. Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity. (Inner Traditions, 2003). ISBN 089 2811 323 & ISBN 089 2811 328
  • Lopez, D. Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West. (Chicago : University of Chicago Press, 1998)
  • Mullin, G.H. The Dalai Lamas on Tantra, (Ithaca : Snow Lion, 2006).
  • The Rider Encyclopedia of Eastern Philosophy and religion. (London : Rider, 1986).
  • Skilton, A. A concise history of Buddhism. (Birmingham : Windhorse Publications, 1994).
  • Sangharakshita. Transforming Self and World : themes from the Sutra of Golden Light. (Birmingham : Windhorse Publications, 1994).
  • Walsh, M. The Long discourses of the Buddha : a translation of the Digha Nikaya. (Boston : Wisdom Publications, 1987)
  • Durgananda, Swami. Meditation Revolution. (Agama Press, 1997). ISBN 0 9654096 0 0
  • Vishnu-Devananda, Swami. Meditation and Mantras. (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1981). ISBN 81 208 1615 3
  • Ashley-Farrand, Thomas. Shakti Mantras. (Ballantine Books 2003). ISBN 0 345 44304 7
  • Stutley, Margaret and James. A Dictionary of Hinduism. (Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2002). ISBN 81 215 1074 0

External links

Buddhist mantra

Buddhist mantra calligraphy

mantra in Tosk Albanian: Mantra
mantra in Bulgarian: Мантра
mantra in Czech: Mantra
mantra in Danish: Mantra
mantra in German: Mantra
mantra in Estonian: Mantra
mantra in Spanish: Mantra
mantra in Esperanto: Mantro
mantra in French: Mantra
mantra in Hindi: मन्त्र
mantra in Italian: Mantra
mantra in Hebrew: מנטרה
mantra in Georgian: მანტრა
mantra in Lithuanian: Mantra
mantra in Hungarian: Mantra
mantra in Dutch: Mantra
mantra in Japanese: マントラ
mantra in Norwegian: Mantra
mantra in Polish: Mantra
mantra in Portuguese: Mantra
mantra in Russian: Мантра
mantra in Sanskrit: मन्त्र
mantra in Simple English: Mantra
mantra in Slovak: Mantra
mantra in Slovenian: Mantra
mantra in Serbian: Мантра
mantra in Finnish: Mantra
mantra in Swedish: Mantra
mantra in Vietnamese: Chân ngôn
mantra in Turkish: Mantra
mantra in Ukrainian: Мантра

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Agnus Dei, Benedicite, Gloria, Gloria Patri, Gloria in Excelsis, Introit, Magnificat, Miserere, Nunc Dimittis, Te Deum, Trisagion, Vedic hymn, alleluia, answer, anthem, antiphon, antiphony, canticle, chant, chorale, doxology, hallelujah, hosanna, hymn, hymn of praise, hymnody, hymnography, hymnology, laud, motet, offertory, offertory sentence, paean, psalm, psalmody, report, response, responsory, versicle
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