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What is Mantra?

Here's an excerpt on Mantra from my 30 page booklet titled Bhakti & Beyond

In Kirtan, we chant Sanskrit phrases of praise to the Divine called mantras. Mantra is a Sanskrit term with multiple meanings. Author Stephen Rosen translates mantra as ‘mind release’ (Rosen, p. 422). Kirtan artist Vaiysaki Das says, "Man means 'the mind,' and tra means 'to deliver,' so because it is a pure spiritual sound vibration, the mantra delivers the mind from material consciousness to spiritual consciousness" (Rosen, p. 455). 

Kirtan recording artist Bhagavan Das (of Be Here Now fame) states, “Man means ‘the mind,’ tra means ‘to protect.’ A mantra is a force that protects the mind… The mantra is the power that dissolves the mind so that one can then find the truth of the heart which is pure devotion” (Jacobus and Johnsen, p. 49). Kirtan artist Dave Stringer defines mantra as mind-protection, in the sense of protecting the mind against the injuries of desire and projection and attachment.” (Stringer, p. 1) 

According to Kirtan artist Sri Pralahad, “Mantra is a Sanskrit word consisting of two syllables: Man (‘mind’) and tra (‘to free’). These brief definitions point to the way mantra meditation frees the mind of negative emotions - such as fear, anxiety, hatred, envy and greed - and awakens awareness of our spiritual nature, allowing spiritual love within the heart to truly blossom. Mantra connects the chanter with the supreme soul, God, and in this sense, it’s the perfection of Yoga – since Yoga is ultimately about ‘re-aligning’ with the Supreme.” (Rosen, p. 366)

From the Dattatreya lineage of Swami Kaleshwar, a mantra is seen as “a highly charged word or words, which have a spiritual force behind them” (Laytonville lecture, September 2008).  Or, a “sacred word, verse or formula” (Kaleshwar, p. 260).

Mind-release. Mind-protection. Mind-dissolver. Mind-deliverer. Mind-freedom. Clearly a mantra is a skillful way to manage and move beyond mental chatter. 

Through mantra repetition participants often reach a state where the mind slows down or even drops away. This reorients the mind from material to spiritual consciousness, allowing blissful states to arise. Profound experiences are achieved through a method (chanting mantras) that is simple, joyful and fun. As Kirtan artist Dave Stringer states, “Mantras are intended as a tool with which the spirit can release itself from the prison that the mind has created… perhaps the true meaning of the mantras can be found in the sense of unity, well-being and timelessness they elicit” (Stringer, p. 1). Rather than serving as additional content within the mind, Mantras help our minds settle. This is a prerequisite for authentic spiritual experience.  


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