Mantra Meditation

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Another popular approach to meditation is the use of a mantra. In mantra meditation, the meditator brings awareness to bear upon a special, sacred sound. The word mantra is derived from a Sanskrit word meaning "mind." Mantra meditation uses the power of sound to still the mind.

A mantra is a unique sound that invokes a special response. There are virtually countless mantras. Most mantras are Sanskrit words that have been passed down over the centuries by practitioners of yoga. These mantras are sounds that were determined by advanced practitioners of yoga to have special, vibratory qualities. Mystics, visionaries, and seers of ancient times discovered many of them in ecstatic states. A number of the sounds that are used as mantras refer to Hindu gods and goddesses. By repeating the sound, either out loud or mentally, the practitioner of mantra meditation experiences the quality of the divine essence with which the sound resonates. The most sacred sound of all is considered to be Om (Aum), which represents the absolute. It is the most universally used mantra.

According to yogic tradition, the entire universe was created from sound. Om is the primordial sound vibration that gave rise to all of creation. Other sacred sounds include the mantra Soham, which in Sanskrit literally means "I am that," and so refers to one's deepest self.

Traditionally, mantras are transmitted from teacher to student by means of a rite of initiation. If you would like to try experimenting with mantra meditation, though, you could begin by using Om or Soham, as they are universally used mantras. Alternatively, you can also meditate on a word of your own choosing that has special inspirational meaning to you such as "peace" or "calm." Sometimes mantras are chanted out loud, individually or in a group. According to some yogic traditions, however, silent repetition of a mantra is even more powerful than audible repetition. Coordinating the breath with silent repetition of the mantra can make the practice of mantra recitation especially effective. For instance, a meditator could recite the sound Om silently on each inhalation and again on each exhalation of the breath. With the mantra Soham, a practitioner could silently recite the syllable "So" on each inhalation of the breath, and "ham" (pronounced "hum") on each exhalation of the breath.

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