How to Use a Mantra in Yoga Practice

The theory of the power of mantra repetition holds that by repeating the syllables with accuracy, and by means of tuning to the wavelength of the mantra, we are led from the gross plane of articulate sound back to the primal undifferentiated energy of cosmic consciousness. As divine power made manifest in sound, the vibrations produced by the tones of a mantra are very important and pronunciation must be precise. If translated, a mantra ceases to be a mantra because the new sound vibrations created by the translation are no longer the vibrations or the body of this supreme consciousness and therefore cannot evoke it.

To understand this process we need to know how sound relates to thought. Yoga teaches that sound, thought and form are different manifestations or wavelengths of the same energy. Sound (and thought and form) exist in four fundamental states:

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• Vaikhari or dense, audible sound; sound in its maximum differentiation. This is the word that we hear when we speak. It is language clouded with preconceptions, emotions, rules and cultural conditioning. It is a gross tool for expression which does not have the power to express higher truths clearly.

• Madhyama or an inner, subtle, more ethereal state or frequency at which the sound is inaudible to the physical ear. The word is not yet articulate although it has formulated a thought pattern. It can be considered as a non-verbal thinking process in which the power of thought is concentrated and manifests as an intuitive flash.

• Pasyanti, the power that is the process of seeing is a still higher, inner, even more ethereal state which can be said to be telepathic. There is no audible sound, nor is there a silent use of mental language. The form is perceived without language and without sound. This thought (form and soundless sound) can be transmitted and received on a telepathic level by those tuned to the same wavelength. Husbands and wives, parents and children often will say they know what the other is thinking. Psychics and those who experience ESP operate at this level.

• Para is the transcendental and the unchanging foundation of all sound, the source and sound of the universe, the unity from which diversity springs.

By repeating the mantra and consciously tuning in gradually to the sound as it vibrates within you, the mantra acts as a vehicle, by which the mind is led from gross articulate sound (vaikhari) to the sound of the cosmos or the supreme essence (para). The ancient sages were well aware of the inherent power contained in sound, and they knew that by tuning to these sounds they would be led to higher levels of consciousness. Repeated verbally or mentally, a mantra lifts one to a state where one does not just experience bliss, but one becomes bliss itself. This is the true experience of meditation.

“Try to pronounce it distinctly and without mistakes. Repetition must be neither too fast nor too slow and thought must be given to its meaning.”


The practice of mantra repetition is known as japa. There are various practical aids to progress in japa that have been used for thousands of years and are based on sound psychological and natural principles. The rolling of rosary beads is the form of japa most familiar to the West. A japa mala, similar to a rosary, is often used in mantra repetition. It fosters alertness, acts as a focus for the physical energy and is an aid to rhythmic, continuous recitation. It consists of 108 beads of the same size and an additional bead, the meru, slightly larger than the others. The meru bead signals that with one mantra recited for each bead, japa has been done 108 times and the mala has been completed. The fingers should not cross the meru. When you reach the meru, you reverse the beads in the hand; continuing to recite the mantra, moving the mala in the opposite direction.

It is helpful to recite an appropriate prayer before beginning meditation as it induces purity of feeling. Then with the eyes closed and concentrating either between the eyebrows on the ajna chakra or on the anahata chakra of the heart, you can start repeating the mantra. Try to pronounce it distinctly and without mistakes. Repetition must be neither too fast nor too slow and thought must be given to its meaning. The best is to synchronise the repetition with your breath. Speed should be increased only when the mind begins to wander. As the mind will naturally tend to drift away after a time, or become tired, it may be necessary to introduce variety and so the mantra can be repeated loud for a while, then whispered and then recited mentally.

In the beginning you may at first find it difficult to sustain the practice for more than five or ten-minutes. The mantra may sound meaningless, mere syllables and nothing more. But by persevering without interruption for at least 30-minutes, the mantra works itself into your consciousness and you will start to feel the benefits within a few days. When you have finished the practice, try not to immerse yourself immediately into everyday activity. If possible, sit quietly for about 10-minutes, allowing the vibrations to settle. As you get back into your routine, the spiritual vibrations will remain intact. Try and maintain this current at all times, no matter what you are doing. You can repeat your mantra at work, while doing tasks at home, or when caught in traffic. You can use mental japa to take your mind away from negative thoughts or from fruitlessly living in the past or future. Once you succeed in repeating the mantra throughout the day, a deep sense of peace will begin to permeate your consciousness.

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