Sometimes in class do you find yourself not knowing the words to chants? Or your teacher picks out some beautiful Sanskrit, that you would just love to know what the words mean!? We have all been there…
Many of the sacred mantras chanted in yoga studios today are thousands of years old, dating back to Vedic times, and were created by sages and practitioners of early Hinduism and Buddhism. Sanskrit mantras are said to be particularly sacred because of the sounds and syllables that make up this ancient language. A mantra is a “verbal vehicle” on the path to enlightenment. In the spiritual tradition, there are two main categories of mantras: the so-called long mantras (Dharani) and the short mantras or the seed sounds. In esoteric terms, only those from the second category are proper mantras. This second category, of sounds or symbol is of great importance in meditation techniques and healing the chakras or connecting with mantras is such a great tool.
When I first joined Buddhist temple, Shinnyo-en in Hong Kong at the start of my journey, I would find the words so different and remote sounding to my English mother tongue that I would bumble along with the chants, either knowing their meaning but really not understanding how to say the words or really not understanding either! After spending some time to learn each chant and really deeply understand what they were intended for and what they meant, slowly with my prayer beads, it became a joy to practice and use them! Cultivating a sonic presence can be liberating in a way, as you experience the numinous nature of the sound. It is said that each chakra has a particular energy vibration and certain mantras can harmonize that energy, I believe this to be true.
So here’s your chance to learn the words to some classic Sanskrit and Gurmukhi mantras you'll likely encounter again and again in yoga, meditation and beyond! Gurmukhi, a sacred script used in Kundalini Yoga, is more straight forward than Sanskrit but can also sound like a mouthful, at first. The good news: you don’t have to memorize a sonnet-length mantra to achieve positive results. Even single-word mantras—like Om — can be very powerful.
While reciting a mantra before or after you step on the mat can enhance your practice, you don’t have to be in yoga mode to chant. The basic principle of mantra recitation is this: to use sound to cut through mental clutter, facilitate meditation practice, and create a deeper state of awareness. Mantras are a yoga tool you can use to calm your mind anywhere and at anytime… before a test that’s causing you anxiety, before a big stressful presentation or before you get angry at a situation.
Pick a word, phrase, or invocation and chant it in a way that works for you: loudly, softly, or even internally. To reap the most benefits, shorter mantras should be chanted 108 times (mala beads can help with that) and longer mantras can be repeated up to three times. Focus your attention on the sound. We would recommend to learn these with a teacher, but if that is not possible, you tube has so many inspiring practitioners to help you master the sounds.
So lets start right there - at the simplest - the most divine…
Om pronounced: ‘A-U-M’
It is said to be the first sound heard at the creation of the universe. When each syllable is pronounced fully, you should feel the energy of the sound lifting from your pelvic floor all the way up through the crown of your head. The droning sound of the Om is said to unblock the throat chakra, which can lead to more attuned communication with others. OM is the Primordial Sound of the Universe. Its the sound that reverberates in the entire cosmos and in every cell of our body, it is used in meditation, spiritual practice and all yoga practices.
Om is the sound of infinity and immortality. It contains supreme wisdom. This we can use easily and should add a further element to your practice. If only a small one, taking you further into the alignment of body and soul and is a great place to start your use of mantras.
Om pronounced: ‘A-U-M’
A beautiful sounding mantra. This Hindu and Buddhist chant, which arises out of the Vedas, has been translated most commonly as:
“MAY ALL BEINGS EVERYWHERE BE HAPPY AND FREE, AND MAY THE THOUGHTS, WORDS, AND ACTIONS OF MY OWN LIFE CONTRIBUTE IN SOME WAY TO THAT HAPPINESS AND TO THAT FREEDOM FOR ALL.”
This is such a key mantra in today’s world and of our times. As the modern yogi navigates the world of the ‘self’ie, self obsession, selfish and extreme greed demonstrated in one way or another. You can rise, rise, rise above it, cultivate a community of your own making and as we chant for our own personal transformation, not because we personally desire enlightenment, but rather so that we may contribute to the global transformation that will alleviate suffering and herald equality. Much of the Dalai Lama’s messaging is within this. It just is so beautiful to sing with real love and understanding. I am currently re-reading A New Earth by Ekhart Toile and much of it’s early words reflect very much this message.
- The Adi Mantra -
“I BOW TO DIVINE CREATIVE CONSCIOUSNESS,
I BOW TO THE DIVINE TEACHER (GURU) WITHIN.”
The Adi Mantra is chanted (mentally or aloud) at least 3 times at the beginning of each practice of Kundalini Yoga and every once in a single breath. This mantra connects us to the golden chain of teachers; all those that came before us and held these teachings and as we chant, we become another chain in holding these traditions and teachings alive. To bring us closer to our soul and acknowledge that we are all but pieces of the universe walking around in human form. In the chanting of these mantras, we honour ourselves, we honour our ancestors and the divine consciousness, we tune into our higher selves. It is a beautifully calming mantra to use before meditation and practice to open your mind and has also been found that chanting will cause the right and left hemispheres of the brain to be in perfect balance. It is a healing mantra of openness to harmonize yourself. It protects and connects you with your own guru within.
SAT NAM - TRUTH IS MY NAME
WAHE GURU - ECSTASY OF AWAKENING WITH THE ONE WHO TAKES US FROM DARKNESS TO THE LIGHT.
‘I am in ecstasy when I dwell in undescribable wisdom (when I dwell in god, when I dwell in universal consciousness) ‘ Such an empowering yet simple mantra and easy to learn. What this mantra expresses is the ecstasy that is awakening - that is consciousness - the movement from ignorance to understanding. Our gift, our birth right is to awaken to consciousness, what a gift it is. This mantra can really help tune into that path, connect to source and feel the ecstasy of the soul in doing so.
Sat Nam can be a way to find your intuition and both parts can be chanted on their own. Sat can be 8 times longer than Nam, or even longer to feel the radiation in your body. This is a seed (Bij) mantra, and within this seed is contained all the knowledge of the fully grown tree. The seed is the identity of truth embodied in a dense form- the truth of your soul. Chanting this mantra balances the five elements (tattvas), awakens the soul and brings your destiny present. Try this at home with your practice or meditation and you can talk to your Kundalini teacher about your experience and guidance. It is normally chanted in a long fashion with the hands in prayer pose at the heart center after taking a deep inhale at the end of a Kundalini Yoga class. Truth is our identity. We are vibrating our existence.
The ultimate healing mantra.
SA TA NA MA: THE FIVE PRIMAL SOUNDS REPRESENTING THE COMPLETE CYCLE OF LIFE
SA: IMPERSONAL INFINITY
SA SAY: TOTALITY OF INFINITY
SO: PERSONAL SENSE OF MERGER AND INFINITY
HUNG: INFINITY VIBRATING AND REAL (SO HUNG: I AM THOU)
This combination of seed sounds make it mantra which is used in many Kundalini Yoga Meditations. This Mantra will increase positive and healing vibrations around the place. For powerful healing effect it calls upon the energy of Divine, Sun, Moon and earth. In Kundalini Yoga this is the ultimate Healing Tool for self and others. Its vibrations also take away all negative karma’s and elevate the consciousness and one can achieve absolute bliss. Used as a restorative meditation to send healing energy to ourselves and others. In Kundalini Yoga, the pose for this meditation is as important as the sound. Sit comfortably with elbows bent and tucked in firmly alongside the rib cage, extended forearms out perpendicularly with palms facing up.
Mantras are not, as it is sometimes believed, magic formulas whose force allows the defiance of natural laws and when pronounced aloud, they can always create miracles. They are sacred formulas – that are directly or indirectly connected with the control of Prana, thus acting as a stimulating factor of the human being’s latent force. The human being – the mirror of the Universe.
We will not achieve any significant effects using a mechanical repetition of mantras, without being initiated or knowing its meaning. A mantra’s meaning lies not in the grammatical sense, in its verbal content, but in its relationship with the spiritual world, in which all emotional, spiritual and cultural aspects have a role.
The effect of a Sanskrit mantra is more powerful than a simple evocation of an actual image or symbol, the systematic use of mantras helps us become a perfect reflection of the Universe’s harmony. Mantras offer the possibility for us to achieve harmony between the inner world and the outer world, the harmony between body and spirit. So I hope these mantra’s give you some insight and you could try to use some for guidance, I have enjoyed writing about them so much, I might do some more! And just remember to Breathe fully and naturally, cultivate some mindfulness, enjoy the journey and smile.