By Promod Puri
One of the most ingrained and perhaps efficacious features of Hinduism is the mantra.
A mantra inherently is the delivery of sacred word(s) or a sound with literal meaning or without meaning, but capable of inducing an environment of divinity.
Despite their antiquated origin during Vedic period of Hindu history, mantras in verses offer contemporary interpretations of intellectual spirituality, mystic expressions, scriptural usage, and ritualistic incantations.
Besides its literate depths, mantra’s pervasiveness and absorption in the conscious mind are the essentials of its numinous integrity.
Melodic and metrical compositions draw out coherent and thematic features of mantras in verse.
Mantra is a combination of two words, man-tra. Man, pronounced as mon like in Monday, means mind or it can also mean a thought. Tra means a dedicated tool or instrument. ‘Tra’ as an instrument producing a sound or vibration, in tandem with ‘man,’ makes the word mantra meaning voice of mind or thought.
From this simple structure, mantra has attained the status of devotional expression and as a meditative tool. Recitation of mantra, termed japa, is the key to invoke its spiritual presence. The latter comes when it is constantly being heard in our minds and cohering with our cognitive faculties. It is in this frame a mantra resonates in human consciousness with its numinous nature.
In its simplest presentation, a mantra can be just one single word like ‘Om.’ Or it could be several words long in verse carrying philosophical and meaningful themes of universal values.
Even the recitation of His name, Parmatma, can be a mantra in itself. It makes the duality of the word ‘parm’ meaning supreme, and ‘Atma’ meaning an individual soul, into a single sound of His realization. The japa of this mantra is perhaps the simplest and most informal connection between the self and Him for the ultimate feel of One.
Mantra as a meditative tool has attained significant importance in contemporary society worldwide. And for that reason, it has adapted itself to change. No longer, Sanskrit is the base in its composition. It can be in any language.
Meditation practitioners are discovering mantras in their own language instead of the classic versions. A recitation of a mantra, after all, is a repetitive, prolonged verbal utterance.
The most popular “modern mantra,” perhaps introduced by a Buddhist monk, is in English. The repetitive wordings are: Right now, it’s like this”. The phrase just resonates acknowledging the present, and the contemplation leads into the situation of calmness.
Mantra, as said earlier does not have to carry any significance meaning, and it could be in any language. In a recent study, the word “echad” meaning one in Hebrew was selected for repetitive utterance as a mantra. The result showed that the one-word non-Sanskrit mantra had the same calming effect in a meditative stage.