The Basics of Mantra Meditation
Lets get the technicalities out of the way first. To begin, the mantra meditation definition is based on the English translation of the Sanskrit word mantras which is literally “tools of the mind”.
Over the centuries, Buddhist mantras have been used as important tools to induce concentration during mantra meditation. Additionally, Buddhist mantra chanting is becoming increasingly appreciated by modern medicine as a form of physical and mental healing.
Origins of Mantra Meditation
However, it is important to note that mantra meditation techniques are really just another form of Samatha meditation (a.k.a. tranquility meditation). Samatha meditation takes a single point of concentration in contrast with the multi point focus of Vipassana meditation.
Traditionally, the single concentration point used in Samatha meditation is one of the four foundations of mindfulness such as the body, feelings, mental states/consciousness or mind objects. In comparison with traditional methods, mantra meditation techniques focus on the harmony and precise rhythm of repeating the Buddhist mantra over and over.
The focus points used for concentration are vast and range from breathing to bodily sensations such as pain or pleasure. However, the focus points also can be much more subtle such as thoughts, emotions or even empty space. Indeed, meditation masters encourage practitioners to be flexible and not always use the same focus point.
Certainly, some points of concentration are easier to use than others and the rhythmic harmony of natural breathing is most effective. Therefore, for both beginners and advanced meditation practitioners a focus point which produces a rhythmic harmony (Buddhist mantras) is a very useful meditation tool which can rapidly induce concentration.
Why is Mantra Meditation Beneficial?
The same rhythmic harmony of the breath is also evident in Buddhist mantras. Indeed, the rhythmic harmony of Buddhist mantras produce melodic vibrations which are ideal for inducing the most sublime forms of consciousness known as the jhanas.
The jhanas block out the hindrances to spiritual realization which the Buddha identified as sensual desire, ill will, sloth/torpor, restlessness/worry and doubt. Inducement of jhana concentration can be considered a temporary state of Nirvana.
Furthermore, using Buddhist mantras as mantra meditation techniques can produce benefits beyond concentration. Indeed, mantra meditation benefits include curing disease, eternal youth, developing wisdom and they can even absolve sin. This is a fascinating subject with a history that spans thousands of years.
3 Easy to Learn Buddhist Mantras
Although certain Buddhist mantras can have as many as 100 syllables, there are also many short mantras to choose from. Most certainly, short and easy to learn Tibetan Buddhist mantras can be most effective for mantra meditation. Additionally, these mantras are associated with Buddhas and high level Bodhisattvas.
The affiliation of the mantra with a patron deity is very important. As a result, devotees can induce concentration in addition to accessing the compassion and good nature of the Buddhist deities which the mantra is affiliated with.
Here are three of the most popular, easy to learn mantra meditation examples using the three most effective Buddhist mantras.
Om Mani Padme Hum
One of the most powerful Buddhist mantras belongs to a most venerable and high level Bodhisattva known as – Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara). Chenrezig is known as the “Bodhisattva of Compassion” who is believed to embody the compassion of all the Buddhas. Additionally, Chenrezig has vowed to indefinitely forgo enlightenment until the suffering of all sentient life ceases.
Therefore, his powerful mantra was developed as a special tool to fulfill this vast objective. Each syllable is designed to help sentient beings purify their body, speech and mind in order to become Buddhas (the end suffering).
His holiness the 14th Dalai Lama, emphasizes the teachings of the future Buddha – Maitreya – “All beings naturally have the Buddha nature in their own continuum” and the mantra of Chenrezig is developed to help them realize it.
Om Amitabha Hrih
Absolutely, the most powerful Buddhist mantra was developed by Amitabha Buddha. Amitabha Buddha is the central figure of Pure Land Buddhism. Additionally, he is highly venerated in both Mahayana and Tibetan Buddhist beliefs.
Amitabha was also once a high level Bodhisattva known as Dharmakara who vowed to forgo Buddhahood until he had obtained his own pure land. After countless lifetimes as a Bodhisattva, Dharmakara accumulated an infinite amount of merit. As a result, he obtained his pure land and he has become known as the “Buddha of Infinite Light”.
Amitabha Buddha’s pure land is called “Sukhavati” and the key to this pure land is the recitation of Amitabha’s Buddhist mantra. Entrance to Amitabha’s pure land of visual and sonorous bliss only requires devotees to properly recite his mantra 10 times.
Once admitted to Sukhavati devotees will be nurtured and protected until they are able to become Buddhas. Additionally, they will never fear falling back into the vicissitudes of samsara.
Om A Ra Pa Tsa Na Dhih
This is the Buddhist mantra associated with Manjushri. Manjushri is a highly venerated Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism believed to hold all of the Buddha’s wisdom. As such, the focus of the Manjushri mantra is meant to help devotees acquire wisdom. Indeed, each syllable of the mantra is specially formulated to help us understand the true nature of phenomenon and the laws of conditionality (karma).
Although it should be assumed that the mantra targets insight wisdom, devotees believe that mundane wisdom can also be obtained by proper recitation of Manjushri’s Buddhist mantra. As a result, worldly minded devotees consider Manjushri’s mantra to be the best Buddhist mantra for success.
As such, his mantra is commonly used by students and intellectuals who wish to enhance memory, speech and writing skills. Additionally, acquiring wisdom can preserve youthful looks which is why he is also known as “Prince Manjushri”.
Ultimately, developing our minds will enable us to interject wisdom into our daily actions. If so, we will be better equipped to assist other sentient life at the right place and time.
Manjushri is one of the few Bodhisattvas who has an earthly abode known as a bodhimanda. As such, he is believed to reside in NE China on top of a high mountain range known as Wutai Shan.
The Bodhisattva also has his own pure land known as Vimala which is expected to rival Amitabha’s Sukhavati after he obtains Buddhahood.
How do you Practice Mantra Meditation?
There are several very flexible Buddhist mantra meditation techniques. Additionally, Buddhist mantra meditation techniques are very easy to learn, especially if you are already familiar with traditional meditation practice. However, I can tell beginners everything they need to know in a few brief sentences.
The most ideal location for mantra meditation practice is a quiet secluded room in your own home. Or if you are a more socially minded meditator, you can certainly visit your local meditation center.
When your are ready to begin, simply sit cross legged on the ground with your back straight. The next step is to close your eyes with your hands in your lap, right hand on top of the left with thumb tips lightly touching. Then, simply begin reciting the Buddhist mantra repeatedly until you have accomplished your goal. You can certainly use mala beads if you are so inclined but it is definitely not a prerequisite.
There is no such thing as saying it too many times or too few times. Repeat the mantra fast or slow according to your own rhythm. Additionally, correct pronunciation of the Sanskrit words is preferred but not absolutely necessary. What is important is that you accomplish your goal of inducing and sustaining deep concentration for as long as possible. If so, you will experience the world of enlightened beings.
Please note that it is not necessary to say the mantras out loud and silent mantra meditation can be just as effective. As a result, you can practice mantra meditation anywhere.
Mantra meditation can also be combined with traditional meditation practice. For example, using mantra meditation for the first portion of practice then switching over to traditional practice is very effective.