What is a Mantra?

Mantra Yoga Event

What is a Mantra?

A mantra is a word or term of power. Every mantra has a specific and exact potency. The word “mantra” is derived from two Sanskrit words. “Man” is from “manas” or mind. “Tra” is from “trai” meaning to protect or free from. Ultimately, the idea is that a mantra will free the seeker from the limitations of the mind.

Mantra Topics
This article covers several aspects of mantras including how to use a mantra, the Hindu pantheon, the music of India, the value of kirtan, breathing practices, energy conduction, consciousness, building a mantra, and the use of Sanskrit. For additional coverage of related topics, see the book Vocal Medicine: Transformation through Sound.

Table of Contents

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Sanskrit Mantras

Sanskrit is known as the Mother tongue because it is the root of so many other languages. Each letter of the Sanskrit alphabet carries a vibration that unites the mind with pure sound. Thus, mantras act like a bridge between the finite and the infinite or between the visible and the invisible.

Mantras and Spells
In English, the words “chant,” “enchanted” and “incantation” are closely related. Using a formula of words to change matter through a “spell” has often been depicted in the realm of magic. This has recently been brought to mainstream consciousness courtesy of J.K. Rolling’s Harry Potter series.

Negative Uses of Language
This principle holds true for both constructive and potentially harmful uses of language. There are curses or spells on the potentially negative side. Then there are constructive uses of language including prayer and mantras on the positive side.

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Are Mantras a Form of Yoga?

Mantras are types of worded formulas or sound tools with distinct impacts on emotional, mental and spiritual states. The term “mantra yoga” is simply a name for using mantras as a spiritual practice, much like meditation or hatha yoga poses.

Mantra Practice
Mantra practice has powerful effects on the body, mind and consciousness. Scientists are studying these effects on individual well-being on many levels. Mantras can help to remove deep-seated emotional patterns and karmic blockages from the mind and heart. This process may result in psychological, emotional, and physical healing.

Bhakti Yoga
The Eastern form of devotional singing is known as mantra yoga or bhakti yoga. This is a branch of yoga that focuses on devotional practices. The power of the voice for transformation is evident. This may be one of the reasons why devotional singing exists in virtually all cultures and religious traditions.

Universal Mantras
Every language and word expresses a particular vibration as well as conscious meaning. An example of a mantra in English is “Gloria in Excelsis Deo” meaning “Glory to God in the Highest.” Another example is the Hebrew phrase “Shalom Aleichem” meaning “Peace be with you.” Learn more about the Hindu or Ayurvedic healing tradition in Healing Mantras. Or discover the power of One Word Mantras.

Mantras & the Science of Sound

Mantras and the Power of Sound

“Nada” is the Sanskrit word for sound or tone. The entire universe consists of sound and vibration. The flow of sound that changes matter. “Yoga” means to unite, connect or integrate. Yoga is the union of polarities: mind and body; spirit and matter; masculine and feminine.

Nada Yoga and Bhakti Yoga
Nada yoga or the yoga of sound is a central part of Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion or the path of the heart. Much of this path is focused on singing the praises of God in one form or another. Chanting is a form of singing which utilizes sound, voice, rhythm, and melody to express love.

The Legend of Golem
There are legends in many cultures about the miraculous power of spoken commands. For example, a “golem” is a creature in Jewish legends that is created from mud or clay. The creature is then animated by inscribing a holy word on its forehead or by singing passages from scripture. Through extended periods of chanting, the clay creature could be given life.

The Language of Mantras
Mantras are part of the technology of generating mystical experiences. Sacred toning and chanting generate large amounts of energy that can be qualified or concentrated for a particular purpose. As a general principle, chanting can be done is any language.

Sacred Languages
However, a few of the languages viewed as particularly appropriate for sacred mantras are Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, Egyptian, Tibetan, Gurumukhi, and some Native American languages. Some mystics also consider English to be closely aligned with angelic tongues.

Mantras and the Power of Sound

“Nada” is the Sanskrit word for sound or tone. The entire universe consists of sound and vibration. The flow of sound that changes matter. “Yoga” means to unite, connect or integrate. Yoga is the union of polarities: mind and body; spirit and matter; masculine and feminine.

Nada Yoga
Nada yoga or the yoga of sound is a central part of Bhakti Yoga. Bhakti yoga is the path of devotion or the path of the heart. Much of this path is focused on singing the praises of God in one form or another. Chanting is a form of singing which utilizes sound, voice, rhythm, and melody to express love.

Jewish Tradition of the Golem
There are legends in many cultures about the miraculous power of spoken commands. For example, a “golem” is a creature in Jewish legends that is created from mud or clay. The creature is then animated by inscribing a holy word on its forehead or by singing passages from scripture. Through extended periods of chanting, the clay creature could be given life.

Technology of Mystical Experiences
Mantras are part of the technology of generating mystical experiences. Sacred toning and chanting generate large amounts of energy that can be qualified or concentrated for a particular purpose. As a general principle, chanting can be done is any language.

Mystical Languages
However, a few of the languages viewed as particularly appropriate for sacred mantras are Sanskrit, Hebrew, Greek, Egyptian, Tibetan, Gurumukhi, and some Native American languages. Some mystics also consider English to be closely aligned with angelic tongues.

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How to Use a Mantra

A mantra is like a tagline for your life as a whole or for an aspect of your life. A mantra was once something given by a spiritual teacher to a disciple. Although you may still decide to find or be given a mantra in that tradition, you can also choose your own mantra or multiple mantras that are beneficial for your life.

The Energy of Mantras
A mantra is a word or phrase with a specific and exact energy. In the colloquial sense, we are surrounded by mantras all the time. The taglines of businesses serve as mantras for their success. Common examples are “Just do it” (Nike), “A diamond is forever” (DeBeers) and “You’re in good hands” (Allstate Insurance).

Frequency of Mantras
A well-chosen mantra is an affirmation that keeps you on course in whatever is the highest direction or highest aspiration for your life. Every mantra carries a vibration or frequency, giving them a certain amount of power in and of themselves. However, the energy of the mantra is also directly related to the intention and focus of the one who is chanting.

Reciting a Mantra
Mantras can be recited mentally, spoken aloud or sung. If you are looking for changes in your inner and outer circumstances, mantra yoga is a very powerful tool! If you want to change your financial condition, consider focusing on a
Wealth Mantra. For healing on all levels, explore the Medicine Buddha Mantra.

Mantra-Related Shorts

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Mantra Yoga and the Hindu Deities

Mantras focused on the names of the gods and goddesses in the Hindu pantheon appear to be coded compilations of sound designed to create elevated states and to stimulate health and longevity. The entire universe consists of sound or vibration. The rishis of India (Hindu sages) experimented for thousands of years with the effects of mantra yoga.

Deities of Hinduism
The gods and goddesses of Hinduism can be viewed as parables, mythology or as legends based on the lives of ancient historical persons. Perhaps the most significant aspect of the process of relating to a god or goddess is the sense of a personal relationship. They do exist at some level whether that be psychological, spiritual or factual.

Deity Meaning and Mantras

Heroes and Heroines
Every tradition has heroes and heroines that are examples which others can emulate. In some cases, their stories are cautionary tales of pitfalls to avoid. They are like us in many ways. They are often grouped in families. They have consorts and relationships with other divine beings.

Memorable Stories
In addition, their stories are often fantastical, making them highly memorable. Mantras are keys to connecting and embodying the aspect of God’s consciousness exemplified by a particular deity. They also appear to be very practical forms of yoga for youthfulness and health.

Chakra Gods & Goddesses
There are also Hindu deities that are associated with each of the seven major chakras or energy systems in the body. A brief outline of these deities and possible mantras are given below.  For more information, please read the extended article Chakras and Deities.

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Sanskrit Mantras and the Brain

Sanskrit is called the Mother tongue because it is the root of many other languages. The sounds of Sanskrit are said to mimic the natural world. This is particularly true of the seed or bija syllables. These are single syllables that are purported to connect to fundamental forces in nature such as electricity, magnetism, etc. Learn more about the bija syllables in the article One Word Mantras.

Vibration of Sanskrit Letters
Each letter of the Sanskrit language carries a specific vibration. This is true of other languages as well, but has been thoroughly documented in the case of Sanskrit in ancient writings and the oral tradition. The sound of each vowel and consonant creates a bridge between the energetic and physical worlds. The following are some examples of sounds and their meanings in English.

Power of Sound
Sound stimulates the brain to regulate sleep patterns, decrease anxiety, and increase feel-good hormones. The use of mantras has many beneficial impacts on the brain. Some studies have specifically looked at the use of Sanskrit, the main language used in Eastern mantras. The positive impact on the brain for those learning mantras or reciting Sanskrit sacred texts is being referred to as the “Sanskrit effect.”

Why the Brain Loves to Sing
Scientists have determined five main reasons why your brain loves to sing:

  • Sound stimulates the pituitary master endocrine gland
  • Oxytocin is released to create positive social bonding
  • Group singing releases dopamine, increasing feelings of well-being
  • Singing vibrates the pineal gland, regulator of sleep patterns
  • Group singing reduces stress chemicals including cortisol

Research and Neuroscience
James Hartzell, Ph.D., a neuroscientist researching the topic, has looked at the physical changes in the brain that happen during the memorization and recitation of Sanskrit texts. He discovered that Sanskrit pandits have over ten percent more grey matter across both cerebral hemispheres, a measurement consistent with higher cognitive functioning.

Expanding the Hippocampus
The right hippocampus, connected to long-term and short-term memory, is also sensitive to auditory and visual patterns. The hippocampus in the brains of Hartzell’s subjects was shown to have more grey matter across nearly seventy-five percent of its structure.

Brain and Solar Plexus Chakra

Vowels Sounds (Feminine Energy)
A (AA): spiritual opening, passion, anger, liver and gallbladder 
E (EE): discernment, joy, disappointment, heart and small intestines
I (EYE): energy, concentration, will, brooding, spleen and pancreas
O (OH): mental activity, confidence, fear, kidneys and bladder
U (EW): potentiality, physicality, grief, lungs and large intestines

Consonants (Masculine Energy)
H: opening, totality of space
K: big bang, initiatory energy
L: soft parameters, restriction to a chosen location
M: appreciation, material world, Mother energy
N: closing, strong or sudden stop
S (V, Z): gathering energy all around
T (D,B): explosion of energy
Y: affirmative, desire, continuation, assent

(Vowel and consonant notes from a presentation by Bonnie Johnstone of Harmonic Embodiment at the Global Sound and Consciousness Institute Conference)

Mantras and Multiple Languages

All languages have their own identity and characteristics. The emphasis on certain sounds creates a unique overall impact that can be recognized historically and energetically. Thus, French is considered to be a language of diplomacy and Italian has been viewed as the language of love. German has a grounding aspect and Spanish is a highly relational language.

English and Angelic Tongues
Some consider English to be a language descended from angelic tongues. Other liturgical languages like Latin, Hebrew, Greek and Gurmukhi have their own mystical and spiritual qualities. Sanskrit is the most prominent language used in mantras, however, every language has beneficial characteristics and effects.

Concrete Benefits of Mantras
Science is demonstrating that the ancient practice of mantra yoga has concrete benefits. In this way, the recitation of mantras is both a spiritual practice and a practical art. The effect of mantras are not restricted to the spiritual realm, but also impact the brain and body in multiple positive ways.

Mantras & the Meridians

Mantra yoga stimulates the channels of energy in the body known as meridians. There are eighty-four meridians that end in the mouth. There are two meridians each for the thirty-two adult teeth in the hard palate and twenty additional meridians in the soft palate in the roof of the mouth.

Placement of the Tongue
The effect of mantras on meridians is related to the placement of the tongue in various positions to form words during speaking or chanting. This connects these meridians to the brain, increasing the energy flow to the pituitary, thalamus, hypothalamus and pineal glands.

Role of the Endocrine System
Each of these glands are important parts of the endocrine system. Moreover, they are purported in metaphysical and occult literature to have significant roles in the development of spiritual faculties.

Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland produces hormones that help to regulate the functions of other endocrine glands. The pituitary gland rests in a bony hollow in the brain directly behind and a little below the bridge of the nose. The pituitary is often called the master gland because of its control of the thyroid and adrenals as well as the ovaries and testicles.

Thalamus Gland
The thalamus gland relays sensory information in the form of hormones from receptors in various parts of the body to the cerebral cortex. The hypothalamus affects temperature regulation, food intake, water intake, sleep and waking patterns, emotions and memory.

The Use of Mantras in Kirtan

Our brains are wired for what some scientists call “regular irregularity.” The human eye and ear are designed to notice and pick up small variations in the environment like leaves rustling in the breeze.

Engaging the Brain in Mantras
One of the wonderful things about kirtan music is the ever-changing nature of singing a mantra or chant. The same simple chant is never exactly the same. There are always slight differences with each repetition that occur naturally. Those small variations keep the brain engaged.

Variations in Mantras
The pitch of one or more of the voices may be slightly different. The rhythm may vary a little bit. This creates variation within given parameters that allows for ongoing interest while maintaining comfort and stability participating in kirtan music.

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Mantras and the Pineal Gland

The pineal gland is known to produce melatonin, which helps to regulate sleep patterns. Scientifically speaking, the other functions of the pineal gland are not fully understood. From a mystical standpoint, entire books have been written about the pineal gland, which is said to be intimately connected to the third eye or Ajna chakra, an energy center in the forehead between the eyes.

Pineal Gland and Psychic Vision
The pineal gland is reputed to be the source of psychic vision or the “eye of God.” The pineal gland is discussed extensively in Manly P. Hall’s classic book Man: The Grand Symbol of the Mysteries. This gland “is regarded as a link between the objective and subjective states of consciousness; or, in exoteric terminology, the visible and invisible worlds of nature.”

Pineal Gland and Higher Consciousness
The importance of the pineal gland in the development of higher consciousness is emphasized in many traditions. Some view the pineal gland as a receptor for spiritual vibrations, sort of a radio station between the physical and the spiritual worlds. René Descartes, the French scientist and philosopher, believed that the pineal gland was the “seat of the human soul.”

Vocal Medicine Group Singing

How Does Group Singing Affect the Brain?

Group singing brings the individual into harmony with the group as well as the sound itself. There are physiological processes at the root of the sense of connectedness and social flow that happens in group singing and kirtan music. Oxytocin and dopamine (feel good chemicals) are both released, and cortisol (a stress chemical) is reduced.

Power of Oxytocin
Oxcytocin means “quick birth,” a reference to the first bonding experience in life between a mother and her infant. Oxytocin also has a broader role in mediating social and emotional behaviors. Professional musical performance can actually have a negative impact on the body chemistry of the performers. The stress of performing can increase levels of cortisol, a chemical associated with anxiety.

Reducing Cortisol Levels
In contrast with this, feel-good chemicals are released in kirtan music and other forms of group singing. This positive impact is present for both the leader and kirtan music participants. Singing in a group generally reduces levels of cortisol.

Releasing Endorphins
In addition, the sense of elation in group singing may come from the release of endorphins. Endorphins are associated with feelings of pleasure. For this reason, group singing has been studied as a successful antidote for depression.

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Do Mantras Have to be in Sanskrit?

The rishis of India (Hindu sages) experimented for thousands of years with the effects of chanting and sound. Mantras are believed to be coded compilations of sound designed to stimulate health and longevity as well as to create elevated mental and spiritual states. For example, the sound “uhm” is purported to energize and purify the blood. The sound “aha” is stimulating for the hormonal system.

The Sanskrit Effect
These sounds are particularly prominent in Sanskrit, the most common language used in kirtan music. The positive impact on the brain of learning mantras is being referred to by neuroscientists as the “Sanskrit effect”. Science is showing that the ancient practice of chanting is akin to yoga and meditation and possess an equivalent or possibly even greater healing power for the body, mind and spirit. 

Kirtan Music
Kirtan music repertoires may be specific to unique traditions, such as the chants associated the Vedic mantra tradition or kundalini yoga. Those chants would typically be in Sanskrit or Gurmukhi (a Sikh language). Kirtan music may also include chants from a wide variety of traditions and in a wide variety of languages.

The Language of Kirtan
Typically, kirtan music in the West is focused on Hindu or Buddhist traditions in Sanskrit. However, Christian chants in English as well as chants in Hebrew or any other language are possible. In fact, including chants in the native language of participants can be a great comfort.

Plasticity of the Brain
This is similar to what has been revealed through neuroscience: an injured brain creates new connections and pathways to restore full functioning. This process actually increases the plasticity of the brain. The connections in the heart are like the new neurons in the brain, or like the seams of welded steel that mend a sword, but they are flexible and soften the heart rather than making it more rigid.

The Music of India

In India, music is a divine art. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva-the Hindu trinity-were the first musicians. Brahma (the Creator or Father) plays the cymbals to keep the time for the process of creation. Vishnu (the Preserver or Son) plays the drum or mrindanga.

Music and the Gods
Krisha is an incarnation of Vishnu who plays a song on the flute that calls wandering souls to their true Home. Shiva (the Destroyer or Holy Spirit) is the third person of the trinity known as the Cosmic Dancer. In addition, Saraswati, the goddess of wisdom, performs on the vina, the mother of all stringed instruments.

Beginnings of Musical Science

Although you do not have to know any of the details of Indian music to benefit from mantra yoga, a brief overview shows the intricacy of this ancient science. The Sama Veda is the world’s earliest known collection of writings on musical science. This Indian text fixes the traditional melodic scales and six basic ragas, from which an additional 126 derivative ragas are created.

Patterns of Ragas
A raga is a mode or pattern that includes a scale with a given set of notes as well as characteristic melodies. Each of the six basic ragas corresponds with a certain hour of the day, season of the year and a presiding deity. Each raga has a minimum of five notes:

Vadi (King): the leading note
Sama Vadi (Prime Minister): the secondary note
Anuvadi (Attendants): two helping notes
Vivadi (Enemy): a dissonant note

Eastern and Western Music

The octaves in Indian music are divided into 22 srutis or demi semitones. These are microtonal intervals that permit fine shades of musical expression unattainable in a western chromatic scale of 12 semitones. Western music has three basic scales: major, harmonic minor, melodic minor. Indian music has 72 scales (thetas). Indian musicians do not read set notes but improvise constantly on a set theme.

Eastern Music Characteristics
Indian music is mostly confined to the three octaves most comfortable for the human voice. Melody (succession of notes) is emphasized over harmony (simultaneous notes). Harmony, a Western trait,  emphasizes cooperation with other musicians or singers. Indian music is traditionally aimed at spiritual awakening and is a subjective and individualistic art. The Sanskrit word for musician is bhagavathar or “he who sings the praises of God”.

Key Signatures and Time Signatures
There are seven common time signatures in the West. In the East, there are 120 time signatures. Time signatures are based on human rhythms such as walking and breathing. An example of this is the triple time involved in respiration when sleeping. During sleep,. The inhalation is typically twice the length of the exhalation.

The Role of Nature in Music

The desire to depict nature in music is embedded in various cultural traditions around the world. In traditional Indian culture, nature is viewed as an objectification of the primal sound or vibratory word OM or AUM. Thus, man can attain control over all manifestations of nature using mantras.

Miracle of the Raga
For example, Miyan Tan Sen, a 16th century court musician for Akbar the Great, was commanded to sing a night raga while the sun was overhead. Tan Sen intoned a mantra which instantly enveloped the palace precincts in darkness.

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Mantras and Bhakti Yoga

Mantra Yoga is also known as Bhakti Yoga, a form of yoga that emphasizes devotion. This is the path of the heart and spiritual fire. Bhakti yoga can include any one of many different physical yoga practices or none at all. Bhakti yoga is often focused on a personal aspect of God such as the Divine Mother or a particular deity.

Sound and the Universe
The effect of Mantra or Bhakti Yoga can be explained through the yoga of sound known as Naad or Nada Yoga. This includes both chanting and instrumental music. “Naad” is the Sanskrit word for “sound or tone.” The entire universe consists of sound or vibration. Naad can be interpreted as the flow of sound. Naad Yoga is the use of sound to unite polarities on one or more levels. 

Meaning of Yoga
“Yoga” means “to unite, connect or integrate.” Yoga is the union of polarities or differentiated aspects of life: mind and body; spirit and matter; masculine and feminine. Mantra Yoga unites the practitioner with the intended good whether that is healing, abundance, forgiveness, protection or any other need.

One Word Mantras
Sacred Sound Healing

Breathing Practices and Mantra Yoga

The repetition of a mantra is closely aligned with breathing practices. This does not even have to be a conscious effort in order to experience the effects of mantras. The rhythmic nature of a repeated mantra naturally creates a cyclical pattern of breathing.

Synchronizing through Sounds
When people are singing or chanting together, studies have shown that their heart rates and breathing tend to synchronize. This helps to create a sense of connection and community on multiple levels. In addition, many spiritual traditions view the breath as the bridge between the inner world and the outer world.

The Breath and Reality
Controlling the breath or expanding the breath can change our perception of reality. Observing and adjusting the breath joins our minds and spirits to our bodies. The core of mantra yoga as well as other yoga practices is a direct experience of God. This creates a form of somatic spirituality or embodied spirituality versus an intellectual study or understanding of God.

Mantras and the Lungs

Air Quality in indoor Environments
On the physical level, something else to consider is the air quality in your indoor environment. Many of us in the modern world deal with toxins in the air. Diffusing essential oils is one way to help create a healthier environment for spiritual practices. Learn more about essential oils and the seven major chakras on this website at Chakras and Essential Oils.

Benefits of Essential Oils
Learn more about the benefits of essential oil diffusion on the Essential Drops of Joy website. Buy essential oils at discounted rates (24% off) with Kathleen Karlsen as your mentor (Brand Partner #1043288) at Young Living Essential Oils

Chakras and Organs
Chakras and Vowel Sounds
Chakras and Essential Oils

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Mantras as Powerful Energy Conductors

My personal experience of mantra yoga is a very physical sensation of connecting with a source of energy. This creates a buzzing feeling like a vibrational humming throughout my entire body. Sometimes this is accompanied by a sensation of burning in my heart or the sensation of energy filling my chest. It is a euphoria a bit like a runner’s high, only more pervasive. Sort of like being intoxicated in every cell.

Sensation of Chanting
This may happen quickly or slowly. I find the sensation builds the most when I am chanting the same mantra continuously for a period of time rather than moving from mantra to mantra. However, when and if this happens and how long it takes varies widely.

Developing Energy Flow
Sometimes it only takes ten minutes. Sometimes the feeling is completely elusive even in the course of an hour or two of chanting. Other times the energy flow starts without any chanting at all when I am merely thinking about chanting.

Connecting to an Energy Source
The sense of buzzing energy can build to the point where I am sure that I must be physically shaking, yet if I open my eyes and look at my arms and legs, they are motionless. Another way to explain this would be feeling like I have been connected to a powerful energy source. I feel the current flowing although there are no visible signs that anything has changed.

One Word Mantras
Sacred Sound Healing

Healing Painting Back Illustration

Mantra Yoga and the Body

There is also scientific evidence that using mantra yoga revitalizes the physical body. The relaxation response (lowered heart rate, lower blood pressure, slower breathing rate) is triggered by various forms of meditation and spiritual practices including mantra repetition.

Mantras and the Relaxation Response
The effect of mantras and the relaxation response has been well-documented by Herbert Benson, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Benson recommends the use of a mental device (such as word, phrase or repeated activity) to keep the mind focused. This results in activating the parasympathetic nervous system for relaxation.

Mantras and the Tomatis Method

There is also a dramatic example of the use of chanting to replace many hours of sleep each night: In the late 60s, Alfred Tomatis, a French Physician and specialist in the function of the human ear, conducted an experiment with a Benedictine monastery where the monks were suffering from fatigue and depression.

Chanting Among the Monks
Tomatis discovered that a new decree had halted the usual six to eight hours of chanting the monks had previously observed and, within a short time, the monks were unable to perform their duties. When Tomatis suggested re-instituting their daily chanting, the monks recovered quickly and were able to resume their demanding schedule of work and prayers.

Chanting and the Bones
Tomatis concluded that chanting actually affects the bones of a human being, stimulated at about 2000 Hz. The sounds of chanting are produced literally from the bones, not the mouth.

Mantras and the Science of Cymatics

The work of Hans Jenny and others involved in the science of Cymatics demonstrate that forms are created by various tones and sounds. Cymatics is the process of recording the patterns formed on plates or drums covered with sand or crystals. Ancient symbols and geometric symbols emerge when sound passes through the chosen medium. Others are photographic the forms created when sound passes through water.

Creating Forms through Sounds
Sound is a direct conduit between the world of spirit and the world of matter. When we speak and especially when we sing (due to the added emotional energy), we are creating forms. These forms are harmonious or dissonant based on the sounds we are making. This is a divine science and a lifetime study. The use of a mantra can focus the sound repeatedly on a positive pattern.

Mantras and the Celestial Body

In addition, there is a concept in Christianity as well as other traditions that our practices while in a physical body are also creating an eternal body. In the Bible, this is called the “body glorious” or the “body celestial.” The practice of mantras and other spiritual practices may be creating an energy field that goes beyond the physical body into other dimensions.

The Aura and Human Energy Field
For example, the aura is an energy field extending beyond the physical body. The physical body exists within this field and is affected by the aura. Mantras, sound, meditation and so forth can create a protective shield around the physical body. This energy field may be directly affected by repeated chants as well as visualization.

Chakra Vowel Sounds

Building a Mantra

The impact of vowels and consonants on the body and the mind is an amazing science. There appears to be a coded formula in many sacred languages that directly stimulates various systems and organs in the body. There are also mudras (hand positions) and body movements that correspond to each note of the scale.

Energy of Vowels and Consonants
At a fundamental level, vowels are feminine energy: consonants are masculine energy. Vowels are generic and formless. Consonants set parameters around the feminine energy to create form from formlessness. In other words, consonants create a container.

Vowels and the Five Elements
The vowels can also be correlated with the five elements system utilized in feng shui and acupuncture as outlined below:

A (AA): spiritual opening, passion, anger, wood element, liver and gallbladder
E (EE): absolute discernment, joy, disappointment, fire element, heart and small intestines
I (EYE): totality of energy, concentration, will, brooding, earth element, spleen and pancreas
O (OH): mental or intellectual activity, confidence, fear, water element, kidneys and bladder
U (EW): potentiality, physicality, compassion, grief, metal element, lungs and large intestines

Sanskrit Vowels and Mantra Yoga

Every sound literally vibrates the cells, bones, organs, and fluids in the body. The sonic power of vowels is recognized in many languages and systems. In the eastern tradition, Sanskrit vowels correspond with various bodily systems:

AH (A): assists with the health and strength of the lungs, energizes the mind
EE (E): positive effect on the throat and the brain, alleviates depression
AI (I): supports the health of the kidneys and urinary tract
OW (O): strengthens the functioning of the reproductive system
UH (U): supports a healthy heart and pumping of the blood throughout the body

Consonants in Mantra Yoga

The power of the vowels can be harnessed by controlling and directing them with the energy of the masculine consonants. A few examples of the role of consonants in words include:

L: focuses energy in a chosen direction
M: appreciation, continues spiritual action
N: power, closing, very strong stopping point
S: all directions, gathering (also SH, V, Z)
T: explosion of energy (also D and B)
Y: desire, agreement

It is interesting to note that the consonant “n” is used in many languages to indicate disagreement or an attempt to stop someone else: No! (English), Nee! (Afrikans), Niet! (Russian), Nein! (German), Nahi! (Hindi), Non! (French), Nei! (Norwegian). And the consonant “y” is often used to indicate union or an understanding: Yes. Yah. Yay. Yoga. Ye.

One Word Mantras
Sacred Sound Healing

Medicine Buddha Mantra Illustration

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Mantra Yoga as Prayer

Singing a melody rather than speaking a prayer integrates the emotional body in the practice of creating sound. According to many religious historians, prayers were always sung in traditional practices and rituals. This includes the Latin Mass in Catholicism, Jewish services of all types, and Hindu and Buddhist festivals, as well as indigenous and tribal rituals.

Reaching God through Mantras
St. Augustine is said to have claimed, “He who sings prays twice.” To engage the heart and the emotions in song may be twice as powerful as a spoken prayer! In addition, Jewish mystics believe that songs reach the realm of the angels and the throne of God.

Concentrating the Mind
Singing and chanting help to concentrate the mind, eventually allowing the singer to go beyond the mind. This transcendence is aided by the repetitive nature of the words. The fact that many mantras are in non-familiar languages can be a benefit rather than a hindrance. Less time is spent focusing on the meaning of the lyrics and more time is available for experiencing the impact of the sound.

Mantras and Prayer Formulas
A mantra is a formula, a type of concentrated prayer for blessing or healing or abundance or for pure devotion. Mantra yoga is a spiritual science that cross all religious boundaries. Many Eastern chants utilize only three of four tones. The emphasis on more complex melodies may be one of the contributions of the West to the practice of devotional singing and chanting.

Ganesha Meaning and Mantras
Astrology Mantras

Mantra Yoga and Consciousness

Repeated mantras can induce altered states of consciousness. Normal consciousness is defined in scientific circles as the state in which we are monitoring our environments and choosing how to respond. In an altered state of consciousness, our ability to monitor and control our responses is distorted.1

Creating Altered States through Sound
We may become selectively aware of our environments or completely unaware of our surroundings. Repeating a mantra also helps to calm an area of the brain known as the default mode network.2 Calming or deactivating this area of the brain can help to relieve depression, anxiety, and even suicidal tendencies. In these fundamental ways, mantras may help to gain freedom from a limited state of mind.

1National Research Council, Learning, Remembering, Believing: Enhancing Human Performance. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 1994.

2Susan Moran, “Mantras 101: The Science Behind Finding Your Mantra and How to Practice It,” Yoga Journal, March 20, 2018.

Levels or Types of Mantras

In yogic philosophy, there are three levels of mantras depending on the practitioner’s intention:

Liberation Mantras (Sattvic): The intention is for the fulfillment of the soul’s desires, spiritual liberation, service to all, and provision for basic needs (shelter, food, security).

Achievement Mantras (Rajasic): The intention is to accomplish outer goals in life such as wealth, career, power, relationships and prestige as if they were the highest needs.

Controlling Mantras (Tamasic): The intention is to control, harm or hypnotize others in a destructive or ignorant manner (voodoo, black magic, witchcraft).

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Author Kathleen Karlsen

Kathleen Karlsen is a musician, artist, writer and speaker. She is the author of two books (Flower Symbols and Vocal Medicine) and over 200 articles. Kathleen, her husband Andrew, and their five children live in Bozeman, Montana. More about Kathleen Karlsen.


This article on Sanskrit mantras includes how mantras affects the brain, the impact of different languages when singing and the power of group singing. Includes videos related to Sanskrit mantras.

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