Mantra meditation

This post was written by DoctorJay on June 24, 2009
Posted Under: meditation

Earlier I wrote about meditation .  Yesterday I wrote about meditating on te breath. Today it’s the turn of mantra meditation. Here the object of the meditation is a word, phrase or sound.

Mantra (or mantram) is a Sanskrit word composed of two parts. The first part (man) means mind and the second (tra) means training. So mantra is a word (phrase, sound) which is repeated over and over again to train the mind.

You concentrate on the mantra by repeating and you do not try to do anything and sooner or later your mind will wonder from the mantra and you simply return you mind back to mantra.

Mantra meditation has existed in all types of wisdom traditions all over the word. Saying hail mary, our father, or the rosary are Christian ways of doing it. In Islam (Sufism) there is Zekr. In Hinduism you may study for years under a guru and eventually he/she may give you your own mantra specifically for you.

In the sixties Maharishi Mahesh Yogi brought mantra meditation to the West and called his commercialized version Transcendental Meditation and made many claims for it. I’ll write about those in a different place.

The good thing about TM is that it disseminated the idea of meditation and specially mantra meditation to the West. This made many (both adherents of the Maharishi and neutral paties) to scientifically examine the beneficial effects of mediation.

One of the scientists who did much research on meditation is Herbert Benson M.D. who discovered that mantra meditation works with any sounds, words as the mantra. He originally "one"  as the suggested mantra and later added words as "love" and "peace." He called the physiological and psychological effects of  mantra meditation "The Relaxation Response ."

This is how you do mantra meditation:

It is important to keep your spine straight when doing any meditation. Sit on a cushion in a lotus position or a semi lotus position. You can also do it while sitting in a chair.  Typically you should not do active meditations (as opposed to guided meditation where you are led by a voice on an audio) while lying down. This is because you will gt relaxed and can easily go to sleep instead of meditating.

Once you are comfortably situated repeat your selected mantra. When you notice you have stoped repeating the mantra gently bring back your mind to the mantra by repeating it. Continue for your desired time.

It is important to keep practicing any desired meditation for at least thirty days to aloow it to work. Then you can decide which meditation is right for you.

How to select your mantra:

You could pay a huge amount (I don’t know how much it is today but I believe the "suggested" donation is $1200 to a TM instructor and get your own "secret" mantra (in fact there used to be only two depending on your gender and today there are six depending on your age and gender).

There are many books which have mantras from different sources. One recommended book byThom Ashley-Farrand is Healing Mantras: Using Sound Affirmations for Personal Power, Creativity, and Healing.

A question is whether you should select a Hindu mantra or one from your own tradition. I think it depends on you. For most people selecting a mantra from your own tradition is preferable. If you have studied Hinduism or Buddhism then an Eastern mantra may work great for you.

On the other hand some people believe that selecting a mantra which does not have any meaning to you may be best as you are not fixated by the maenings of what you are repeating.

My suggestion is that you amy try both ways and see which works best for you. However, once you have a mantra which works well for you keep it (at least for a few years).

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