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Do Mantras Really Work?

Foram Mehta
Mantras are words chanted in order to attain concentration and meditation. Everything that a human thinks; his thoughts, ideas, action and speech, all of them affect his being. Mantras, if recited in the right way, can have many positive effects on a person.
"No one can fully explain the mystery of Mantras. Their magical sounds help heal physical imbalances, relax the mind, quiet the emotions and open the heart. They stimulate, activate, motivate and rejuvenate. They help you dance or sleep, laugh or cry, make love or meditate. They help you forget someone or find someone". - Henry Marshall


The word Mantra means something that 'protects the mind'. Mantras originated from Hinduism and Buddhism. In the mainstream Buddhist and Hindu practices, mantras were and are still considered as the most essential practice in attaining spiritual advancement and enlightenment.
Till date, every ritual practiced in the Hindu or the Buddhist culture is based on mantras, as they are believed to bring positivity, strength, spirituality and wealth too. It is also believed that, during the Vedic period, mantras were used by the humans to influence gods, to get their wishes granted.

Mantras have Meaning

Every word in a mantra has a meaning. For example, a commonly used word in most of the mantras, "Om" addresses the creator of the world, the God. In fact, the word "Om" is used in Islam as "Amin", in Hinduism as "Om" and in Christianity as "Amen". Ex: "Om Shanti Shanti Shanti". This is a mantra for peace.
Even if one doesn't know the meaning of a Mantra, merely chanting the mantra also benefits an individual. Mantras are formed such that when you chant them, your lips, tongue and vocal cords, work together in a way that every word creates a peculiar vibration.
And every mantra creates several positive vibrations. Few mantras are associated with particular Gods or religious heads. Though, there are many mantras which also have spiritual messages, requesting spiritual enlightenment and are addressed to the common God.
It's important how you breathe and what your body posture is. If you breathe in the right way when you recite a mantra along with the right body posture, you'll definitely feel the positive vibrations that we have been talking about. The breathing technique that is normally used is, first breathe in and then breathe out simultaneously as chanting the mantra.
The body posture that can be maintained is, simply folding your legs and sitting with a straight back (without any support). As, you start chanting the mantras, you need to prevent your mind from thinking anything else and focusing on the chanting only. This takes time, but once you do it, you'll be able to control your mind the way you want to.

How do Mantras Benefit?

Mantras are sounds that can create vibrations and can evoke the subconscious mind and spiritual forces. Mantras are commonly used in the form of a short prayer or for meditation by repeating a mantra several times. Mantras are recited either in a melodious tune or in a heavy tone holding a particular rhythm and pitch.
So, the effect of the mantra lies in the placement of words and giving right-stress on different syllables in the words used in a mantra. Mantras are ideally to be chanted 108 times as per the Hindu specifications.
This is because by the time you recite the mantra 108 times you reach a stage where your mind goes beyond all the worldly matters and that's when you can attain spiritual knowledge.
It is also associated with the calculation that there are 12 months in a year with 12 different zodiac signs and there are 9 planets ruling them. Therefore, 9*12=108 and hence a mantra is chanted 108 times. Many priests chant mantras even 1000 times while performing their pastoral duties.
Every word we say, produces a vibration and affects our physical and mental well-being. These vibrations are also sent out to the universe. Thus, the belief that temples/churches have a positive energy is based on the fact that, these places have positive vibrations as a lot of prayers and mantras have been and are still recited there by thousands of people.
Mantras create vibrations that are helpful for spiritual healing and increasing energy. Every mantra has a different purpose and a different positive effect on an individual. There are mantras for protection against the evil, for prosperity, for knowledge and also for gaining love.
Mantras have the following effects on any one who chants them.
  • Chanting mantras sends out positive vibrations.
  • It also creates positive energy and strengthens the mind.
  • Chanting mantras evokes the subconscious mind and thus helps you in taking decisions and also brings realizations.
  • Chanting mantras can heal the mind and the body. It can help you overcome the effects of past harsh events.
  • It can help curtail feelings like depression, anger and jealousy.
How mantras can help you, can be understood by observing how listening to different music styles affects a person's well-being.
Say for example, Beethoven's and Mozart's music is said to increase concentration, positivity and improve performance at work or in education. On the other hand, when we listen to Death metal music, it makes you hyper, restless and wild. It certainly does not calm you down or relax you or even put you at peace. Though death metal has its own beauty.
This comparison is done to look at the broader view, to understand and experience how different vibrations can affect one's mental state. It is rare that a person who loves heavy metal also loves classical music. Therefore, you can then see the influence of the music one listens to, in the way they dress and talk.

A Small Exercise You can Try

"Om" is a universally used term. Perform an experiment using the word 'Om' whenever you get some spare time and you are free of chaos. Shut your ears and with both your thumbs press the tragus and chant the word "Om" in the following way, "Ooooo..uuuuuu..mmm".
You may find this funny, but just do it and you will feel the vibrations of the chant, vividly. It's going to be a good experience. This exercise is similar to the technique used in Soham Meditation, where you focus and feel your breathing.
Mantras do work on those who try it genuinely. But how it works is something that you need to try yourself. It's only when you do it you will know it's effects. At first, it may appear funny or absurd but do it 3-4 times and you will like it.
Here is a Hindu mantra and it's meaning. It's called the 'Gayatri Mantra' and it is the most widely used mantra universally. This mantra should be chanted 108 times, before the sun sets. This mantra is used to improve the memory and to strengthen the mind.
Om, Bhūr Bhuva Svaha
(Om) Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhīmahi
Dhiyo Yo Nahah Prachodayāt, (Om).

The meaning of this mantra has been beautifully explained by Ralph T.H. Griffith as "May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the God: So may he stimulate our prayers".