What is a Mantra?

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  • Written By: Susan Grindstaff
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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A mantra is a phrase or word that is chanted or spoken repeatedly to produce a sound believed to help with meditation or prayer. Ideally, the phrase or words should produce a pleasant, soothing sound. In some instances, the chanting of a mantra will produce a humming noise, not really sounding like words at all. Mantras are intended to help empty the mind so a communication with a higher power will be possible. Mantras are believed to have originated in ancient India, but are also sometimes used in Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism.

The word mantra is believed to come from the Sanskrit words “man,” which means mind, and “tra,” which means instrument. Some religions have the belief that while chanting a mantra, a man or woman can possibly become an instrument that a higher power may channel. They believe that a mantra is a type of tool that allows thought to reach a higher power or a higher level of enlightenment.

Some cultures believe mantras have magical properties, and may serve to protect the chanter from harm, bring them closer to a higher being, and even aid in gaining wealth or good fortune. Another important aspect of chanting mantras is that they are purported to help promote relaxation and peace of mind. In addition, mantras are believed to help with problem solving, by helping the brain focus on one particular idea or problem, while emptying the mind of everything else.


People who use mantras for meditation believe that sound can influence physical matter. That belief, to a certain extent, seems to be founded in real science. Many opera sopranos can hit notes so high that the vibration can cause glass to shatter, and sounds from a jet engine can cause windows to rattle. Chanting a mantra is believed to help the body and mind achieve a level of relaxation that could not otherwise be achieved.

Sometimes mantras are used with prayer beads or other religious tools, which may help the chanting be successful. Certain bodily positions are also believed to make the mantra more powerful. One of the more common positions for chanting is the lotus position that is also frequently used in yoga. In the lotus position, while sitting on the floor, the legs are crossed with the feet resting on top of the thighs. The back should be held straight, with hands resting gently on the knees, or in the lap.


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