Speaking of Mantras...
- Speaking of Mantras...
What is a Mantra?Simply put, a mantra is a string of sonic and written syllables used as a chanting tool for spiritual practice, for invoking within one's mind positive qualities such as generosity, compassion, fearlessness, humility and wisdom. In this way, defilements, such as attachment, aversion, fear, pride and delusions are kept at bay or vanquished in the moment, if not gradually. Chanting also helps to train the mind's power of concentration and its ability to attain calmness. With such, penetrating insights into the reality of phenomena can be realised. In this sense, chanting when practised well can be a form of meditation.
Language of Mantras?
Traditionally, in Buddhism, mantras are chanted mainly in Sanskrit, which is one of the world's most ancient languages. Some believe it might be the first language in the world, it being passed down from the devas (heavenly beings) to the earliest humans. As such, Sanskrit is said to be the "mother tongue" of the devas and celestial Bodhisattvas. Due to this unique sacred significance of Sanskrit, and for retaining their spiritual potency, mantras are often left untranslated when it comes to using them for practice. However, later in history, short mantra-like chants also became available in various languages.
Meaning of Mantras?
Mantras might seem foreign and unintelligible to the uninitiated. This reaction is perfectly normal! In a way, mantras are mystical in nature because they are supposed to be the most succinct representation of the teachings of the Buddha in the form and energy of sound. In other words, they are super-compressed summaries of the essence of perfect spiritual qualities. As such, the real way to uncover their meanings in full is to actualise the qualities they represent. Chanting the respective mantra aids this, as we use our synergised body, speech and mind to "tune in" to the quality the mantra is capable of unleashing and increasing.Most Famous Mantra?
Perhaps the world's most famous mantra is "Om Mani Padme Hum" - the heart mantra of Avalokiteshvara (Guanyin) Bodhisattva, who archetypically personifies the collective perfect compassion of all Buddhas. While there are many levels of explanations as to what each of the six syllables means individually and collectively, it is in short the embodiment of the perfect energy of enlightened compassion in sound.
The Best Mantra?As Stonepeace once said,
"Any words spoken with compassion and wisdom,
which destroy the three poisons (greed, hatred and delusion),
form the best mantra in the moment."
This is true indeed. We need to remember not to be attached to certain mantras - to the extent of forgetting the importance of conventional communication in normal languages with those around us! The practice of Buddhism includes doing the appropriate at the right time. Om Mani Padme Hum!
- Shen Shi'an