What is a Mantra? The Science Behind This Sacred Practice

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You may have been invited to chant the sound of OM at the beginning or end of your yoga class. This is one of the most famous spells. It is a divine sound said to be the sound of the cosmic seed – the vibration of the entire universe.

Recite the mantra frequently during meditation to help focus and calm the mind.

But mantras are more than just reciting words. Ancient Vedic and Yoga philosophies teach that mantras are audible manifestations of energy that connect everything in the visible and invisible universe. So when you repeat a mantra, you can fully resonate with that specific energy.

history of spells

history of spells

Mantras are part of Vedic, Hindu, Buddhist and Jain traditions and sacred practices. They can be repeated verbally, mentally, and even drawn or sculpted on various surfaces.

Even scholars debate the origin and meaning of the spell. Some say they are sounds carefully constructed according to precise mathematical formulas, while others say they are just gibberish inventions that aid in focused meditation, prayer, and ritual acts.

Fritz Stahl, author of Rituals and Mantras, Rules Without Meaning, describes mantras as both – he says many mantras have a literal meaning with sacred and religious meaning, especially in Hinduism, but Many spells do not have literal translations either.

In a 1985 article published in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, Starr compared mantras to birdsong. He postulates that mantras predate language, even Sanskrit, and that, like the sound of birds, mantras have power beyond verbal communication, even though they have no literal meaning.

Sadhguru (Jaggi Vasudev) also teaches that mantras have meaning because of their sound, not because of their meaning. Meaning, he explained in a 2017 lecture at MIT, is an invention of the mind—it exists only at the psychological and social level. But sound is reality. In fact, even matter is made of sound.

Mantra is thus the key sound that forges new paths in this world of complex fusions of sounds. According to Sadhguru, we have to know which key (mantra) to put in which hole and how to turn it to open the door.

Many of the mantras recited in Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain temples are the same mantras that were recorded in the Vedas thousands of years ago. But they were passed down orally for generations before they were written down.

What Science Says About Mantras

What Science Says About Mantras

Modern researchers support the historical claim that mantras benefit quality of life, but not for those who meditate and practice yoga regularly, but for anyone who recites them.

In “Seven Secrets of Sound Healing,” author Jonathan Goldman says that chanting a mantra over and over can synchronize the left and right hemispheres. This has the benefit of allowing the brain to communicate more effectively and even creating new neural pathways for overall brain function.

Studies have shown that long-term Buddhist meditation practitioners are able to produce high-amplitude autoinduced gamma-band oscillations and general neural synchrony. These contribute to mental processes such as attention span, working memory, learning and conscious perception.

Even those who do not have a spiritual background or know the meaning behind the mantra they are chanting or meditating can reap the benefits of mantra meditation.

As published in the 2014 Annual Review of Nursing Research, mantra repetition has been recommended as a simple, portable, and personal complementary practice that can be used with other therapies for people with PTSD.

Mantras can be traditional Sanskrit from the Vedas, they can be taught by a guru or teacher, or they can even be words or phrases in the language you speak. In the 1970s, a researcher named Herbert Benson found that whether his subjects recited mantras like OM or the English word “one”: “Relax and cope better the ability to experience unexpected stressors in your life,” the results were the same.

10 Popular Mantras and Their Meanings

10 Popular Mantras and Their Meanings

Orm / Orm

OM is the cosmic seed sound of the universe. One voice is believed to encompass everything that has ever existed and everything that will exist in the future.

The mantra is actually composed of three voices. The first sound “A” is said to evoke Brahma, the Creator; “U” calls to Vishnu the Sustainer;


OM, the treasure of the lotus flower.

This mantra is often recited by Tibetan Buddhists because they believe it will help them become Buddhas. In Tibetan areas in the world where exiled Tibetans live together, this mantra is written everywhere, and almost all Tibetans recite this mantra.


OM, I bow down to Shiva.

Shiva is pure consciousness. It is our inner self – our true reality. The essence of this mantra is to invoke your higher self, Shiva.

This is one of the most important Shiva mantras and it reminds those who meditate with this mantra that you are not only Lord Shiva but that Lord Shiva is made of all the elements:

NA – Earth

MA – water

SHI – fire

VA – air

YA – ether (space)


This mantra is often chanted in Kundalini Yoga. In Sikh, Sat means “truth” and Nam means “name”. So the mantra means “I am the truth”.

The mantra is usually recited at the end of a kundalini yoga class

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