BUDDHASTATUES.ORG

Mantra, Mantras, Mantra Meditaion, History of Mantra Mediation, Work and Use of Mantra Meditation, protect the mind, Buddhist meditation, sound symbol, many mantras.

Exclusive Online Collection Of ::: Buddha Statues :: Bodhisattva Statues :: Buddha Thangkas :: Buddha Ritual Objects
Buddha Spritual Books

MANTRA MEDITATION

USE OF MANTRA MEDITAION
Buddha Statue

MEANING OF MANTRA

The word mantra is said to come from a root meaning "that which protects the mind".

In Buddhist meditation, many things can be used as objects of concentration -- as "mind protectors". The breath is used in anapanasati (mindfulness of breathing), the sensations of walking are used in walking meditation, the emotions are used as a focus in metta bhavana (development of lovingkindness), and visual images are used in visualization. Mantras are sounds -- words or phrases --that are used as an object of concentration.

The sounds may be chanted out loud, or may be heard internally. Mantras can be associated with particular historical or archetypal figures, or may have no such associations. For example, there are mantras associated with the historical Buddha (Om muni muni maha muni Shakyamuni svaha), and the mythical figure Avalokiteshvara (Om mani padme hum). The Prajnaparamita mantra (Gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi svaha) is associated not with an enlightened figure, but with a body of texts known as the Perfection of Wisdom (Prajnaparamita) sutras. The mantra Om shanti shanti shanti (Om peace peace peace) is not, as far as I'm aware, associated with any figure, and the Pali phrase Sabbe Satta Sukhi Hontu (May All Beings Be Happy) is chanted as a mantra, again without being associated with any particular figure.

TOP

INTRODUCTION AND HISTORY OF MANTRA MEDITATION

Mantras are rather mysterious. They are said to be "sound symbols" - sounds that in some way correspond to and evoke the spiritual forces that can be represented in visual form as Tara, Avalokiteshvara, etc. We can easily see how an image of a particular figure can have symbolic value, but quite how a sound does this it is not possible to explain rationally. Perhaps it's best to think of mantras as being a cross between poetry and magical incantations.

Many mantras don't make any real, rational, sense, even in Sanskrit, and so they can't really be translated in the same way that a normal sentence can. The mantra of Tara, for example - Om tare tuttare ture svaha - is a play on her name, which means "savioress" or "star" or "she who ferries across." But it doesn't make any kind of statement about Tara, beyond giving us some rather evocative sounds.

Mantras often contain syllables like Om, Ah, and Hum (approximately pronounced hoong), which have no literal meaning whatsoever. There are various "understandings" or interpretations of what these might mean, and the three syllables have been correlated with (respectively) body, speech, and mind; or (again respectively) the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. They are also correlated with the Buddhas of the mandala, with Om being the seed syllable of Vairochana, the central Buddha, Ah with Amoghasiddhi, the northern Buddha, and Hum with Akshobya, the Buddha of the east. These kinds of associations can become important as we become familiar with Buddhism.

Some words in mantras give rise to more definite associations. The "mani" in the Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om mani padme hum) means "jewel," while "padme" means "lotus". The mantra is sometimes taken to mean "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus" although the grammar is rather obscure. I see the mantra as being more poetic and symbolic. The jewel is symbolic of the clarity of wisdom, while the lotus is a symbol both of purity and compassion. So the Avalokitesvara mantra brings together wisdom and compassion. In reciting the mantra, one is calling those qualities to mind.

But trying to understand mantras intellectually is probably a bit like deconstructing a joke - you can do it, but by the time you have finished the task you've completely lost the point of the joke in the first place. Some people hold that mantras have an inherent "spiritual meaning" - that is that someone chanting the mantra of Avalokiteshvara will develop a connection with the compassion of Avalokiteshvara, even without knowing anything of the meaning (inasmuch as there is one) of the mantra, and without knowing anything about the bodhisattva himself. Others hold that the one develops associations with the mantra as one chants it and begins to learn more about the bodhisattva. Certainly, it is possible to benefit from a mantra while knowing nothing about it.

As an object of concentration - like any other -- a mantra can help to still the mind. While you are reciting a mantra out loud or internally, there tends to be less mental chatter. Even if there is a parallel stream of internal discourse going on at the same time as the mantra, the chanting creates more of a sense of continuity, which will grow with practice. The word Mantra is said to mean "that which protects the mind."

TOP

HOW DOES MANTRA MEDITATION WORK?

Mantras are rather mysterious. They are said to be "sound symbols" - sounds that in some way correspond to and evoke the spiritual forces that can be represented in visual form as Tara, Avalokiteshvara, etc. We can easily see how an image of a particular figure can have symbolic value, but quite how a sound does this it is not possible to explain rationally. Perhaps it's best to think of mantras as being a cross between poetry and magical incantations.

Many mantras don't make any real, rational, sense, even in Sanskrit, and so they can't really be translated in the same way that a normal sentence can. The mantra of Tara, for example - Om tare tuttare ture svaha - is a play on her name, which means "savioress" or "star" or "she who ferries across." But it doesn't make any kind of statement about Tara, beyond giving us some rather evocative sounds.

Mantras often contain syllables like Om, Ah, and Hum (approximately pronounced hoong), which have no literal meaning whatsoever. There are various "understandings" or interpretations of what these might mean, and the three syllables have been correlated with (respectively) body, speech, and mind; or (again respectively) the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Nirmanakaya. They are also correlated with the Buddhas of the mandala, with Om being the seed syllable of Vairochana, the central Buddha, Ah with Amoghasiddhi, the northern Buddha, and Hum with Akshobya, the Buddha of the east. These kinds of associations can become important as we become familiar with Buddhism.

Some words in mantras give rise to more definite associations. The "mani" in the Avalokiteshvara mantra (Om mani padme hum) means "jewel," while "padme" means "lotus". The mantra is sometimes taken to mean "Hail to the Jewel in the Lotus" although the grammar is rather obscure. I see the mantra as being more poetic and symbolic. The jewel is symbolic of the clarity of wisdom, while the lotus is a symbol both of purity and compassion. So the Avalokitesvara mantra brings together wisdom and compassion. In reciting the mantra, one is calling those qualities to mind.

But trying to understand mantras intellectually is probably a bit like deconstructing a joke - you can do it, but by the time you have finished the task you've completely lost the point of the joke in the first place. Some people hold that mantras have an inherent "spiritual meaning" - that is that someone chanting the mantra of Avalokiteshvara will develop a connection with the compassion of Avalokiteshvara, even without knowing anything of the meaning (inasmuch as there is one) of the mantra, and without knowing anything about the bodhisattva himself. Others hold that the one develops associations with the mantra as one chants it and begins to learn more about the bodhisattva. Certainly, it is possible to benefit from a mantra while knowing nothing about it.

TOP

HOW IS MANTRA MEDITATION USED?

Mantras may be used on their own or as part of a visualization practice. In a typical visualization practice there is a communication from the "deity" to the practitioner (in the form of blessings, or rays of light, or even speech), and there is a communication from the practitioner to the deity, in the form of mantra.

Mantras can also be used as "mind protectors" while walking, doing the dishes, or even in sitting meditation. I always chant a mantra (internally) while I'm in an airplane taking off or landing. Often, Buddhists will count the mantras they are chanting by telling beads on a "mala." The physical action of counting round the mala helps to keep the mind focused. A mala usually has 108 beads, this number having a mystical significance in ancient India. The mala can be worn round the neck so that it can be accessed when needed. Some malas have 21 beads and are worn round the wrist. But the use of a mala is not essential.

To use mantras in formal meditation, chanted out loud or internally, first of all make yourself comfortable and upright, and spend a few minutes following your breathing and letting your mind settle. You may want to slow your breathing, directing it into the belly, and deepen it. This will help to still your mind, although you don't need to have an absolutely quiet mind before you start the mantra.

If you're saying the mantra out loud, then let the sound resonate in your chest.

It will help if you take a deep breath into your belly before each mantra. Generally, mantras sound better if you can do each mantra with a single exhalation. But if you can't manage that, then that's okay.

Let the last note of each mantra linger before starting the next mantra. You'll find that the mantra naturally falls into rhythm with your breathing. Make sure that the mantra follows your breathing and not the other way round, otherwise you may become breathless.

Don't actively think about the meaning of the mantra (if it even has one!). If you know what some of the words mean, then they will have associations for you. These associations will have an effect on your mind, and will deepen in significance over time as you explore them outside of meditation.

Let go of any concerns that may arise about whether you are doing the mantra properly. It doesn't matter if your pronunciation is a little off -- it's the spirit that counts.

To bring the mantra to a close, gradually let your chanting decrease in volume until it fades away as an external sound and can only be heard internally. Then let the internal sound fade away into silence.

At the conclusion of the practice, sit in the resonant silence, letting the vibrant quietness have a refreshing effect on your mind and emotions.

TOP

If you are aware of books, movies, databases, web sites or other information sources about Buddha or related subjects, or if you would like to comment please send us email at ::: buddhastatue@gmail.com
Buddhist Educational Resource Center
   
     
 
Home | FAQ | FeedBack | Contact Us
BuddhaStatues.Org, All Rights Reserved. Terms and Conditions. Privacy Policy