Mudrashram Institute of Spiritual Studies
Differences between Types of Mantras
© 2002 by George A. Boyd
Mantra is used widely as a technique to focus the attention, to awaken the vehicles of consciousness, and to activate the inner forces of transformation. It is important to differentiate between these forms so the aspirant can rightly use these powerful techniques.
Writing a mantra impresses the vibratory quality of the mantra on the Subconscious mind. It can act like an affirmation, processing the content of the subconscious and replacing it with a new impression, or samskara.
Chanting means to repeat a mantra aloud, to speak it or to sing it. Singing the mantra is called bhajan, puja or sankirtan. Its effect is to awaken awareness into the inner vehicles; sometimes it absorbs the attention in these altered states of awareness.
Whispering a mantra heightens the effect on awareness, allowing you to recognize more subtle changes in your awareness.
Breathing a mantra associates the mantra with the currents of life force, and the deep pranic vibrations of the inner vehicles. Breathing a mantra is used to awaken the Kundalini Shakti and in Kriya Yoga practices.
Thinking a mantra moves the attention inward and absorbs it in the resonant vibrations of the mantra on each Plane. If the attention becomes fixed at an inner gate, the awareness continues to awaken. In this form, this practice is called remembrance, zhikir, or simran. When the attention is carried along with the mantra, and becomes deeply absorbed on the inner Planes, it is called laya or samadhi.
Three specialized forms of thinking a mantra can be characterized:
Following a mantra with the attention, also called the thought bubble technique, heightens absorption and brings about profound states of relaxation.
Repeating a mantra with intention empowers the mantra with the force of Spirit and Divine Light. This method for repeating a mantra is used to activate a transformational or bija mantra.
Spontaneous mantra chanting may also occur when the Kundalini rises up or when one is filled with the Holy Spirit or Shakti. Here this ecstatic utterance arises from the unconscious, without conscious attempts to repeat or remember the mantra. This spontaneous chanting may take the form of Divine Identity Affirmations, such as Anal Haq (I am one with Immortal Truth). Aham Brahmasmi (I am one with the Supreme), or the Father and I are One. Alternately, it may give rise to sustained vowel sounds (intoning), babbling in an unknown tongue (glossolalia), or affirmations of inner truths.
As you continue to practice meditation and experiment with the varied techniques of different spiritual and religious groups, you will encounter each of these mantramic forms. It is important to identify the effects of each mantramic method on your consciousness, and to select those particular mantras that are most effective for you.
With time, you will come to recognize subtle vibratory differences between words that have similar sounds. For example, you will find that
So Hum So Ham So Hung
Hong Sau Ham Sa
Brahm Ram Rama Brahma Brahman
Are examples of mantras that have very similar sounds, but in fact, have different effects on your awareness.
Moreover, the way that a mantra is intoned or sung may change the way a mantra effects your awareness. The same mantra sung to a different melody may take your attention and awareness to a very different inner space. You can experience this by listening to a chant sung by meditators that come from different lineages.
Ultimately it is important to identify the mantras that work for you to center, awaken and unfold the potentials of your consciousness. Finding the correct mantras keyed to your cutting edge of spirituality and stage on the Path can produce genuine breakthroughs in your meditation practice. Learning to intone mantras correctly geared to your state of spiritual development can promote harmony and calmness. Knowing when to use each type of mantra and how to use it correctly will give you powerful tools to amplify your meditation practice.
Study these methods and master them.