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What They Are
“Mantra” means a sacred utterance, numinous sound, or a syllable, word, phonemes, or group of words believed by some to have psychological and spiritual power in Sanskrit . A mantra may or may not have syntactic structure or literal meaning; however, the spiritual value of a mantra comes when it is audible, visible, or present in thought.
How To Do Them
Repeating a mantra is a form of yoga in itself and is the primary practise in Mantra Yoga. Vibration affects matter. Even a musical instrument which is made of living material such as wood, will absorb the vibrations resonating through it.
If the instrument is kept in tune and played regularly, the instrument’s tone deepens, becomes more beautiful and able to carry the musician’s song fully and accurately. The human body, in the case of mantra repetition, is the instrument, which plays the song of the Divine.
The earliest mantras were composed in Vedic times by Hindus in India, and those are at least 3000 years old. Mantras are now found in various schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Similar hymns, chants, compositions and concepts are found in Zoroastrianism, Taoism, Christianity and elsewhere.
When To Use Them
The use, structure, function, importance and types of mantras vary, according to the school and philosophy of Hinduism and of Buddhism. Mantras serve a central role in the tantric school of Hinduism. In this school, mantras are considered equivalent to deities, a sacred formula and deeply personal ritual, and considered to be effective only after initiation. However, in other schools of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism or Sikhism, this is not so.
Mantras come in many forms, including ṛc (verses from Rigveda for example) andsāman (musical chants from the Sāmaveda for example). They are typically melodic, mathematically structured meters thought to be resonant with numinous qualities.
At its simplest, the word ॐ (Aum, Om) serves as a mantra. In more sophisticated forms, they are melodic phrases with spiritual interpretations such as human longing for truth, reality, light, immortality, peace, love, knowledge and action. Yet other mantras are literally meaningless, yet musically uplifting and spiritually!