A mantra is a sacred Sanskrit sound or syllable from a word that has a particular vibration. Japa is the repetition of the mantra. Each mantra has a certain quality to it and has been chosen by a teacher or sage especially for the individual. Many people use mantras to meditate; however, not everyone has a specific mantra or has ever practiced Transcendental Meditation, which requires a mantra.
You don’t need a teacher to give you a mantra; there are universal mantras that people use. There is no market on mantras. The most widely practiced mantra is “Om” or “Soham” Om is considered a universal vibration or sound that most anyone can use. Om is used in many yoga classes as is Soham, which means “I am that.” When you chant these mantras, the sound should start deep in your throat, moving the vibration up through your head.
If you want to hear what a mantra can actually sound like, the musician Paul Horn recorded this sound in an album titled Paul Horn Inside the Taj Mahal.
Another way of using a mantra is to chant it.
“Not chanting,” you may protest, “it’s bizarre, too weird to even contemplate. Besides, why chant when you don’t know what you are chanting?”
This is a pretty common reaction when chanting comes up. The idea of chanting often turns many people off on meditation completely. People feel inhibited about chanting and are surprised by the effect chanting has on calming the mind and body once they
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