Before starting the subject at hand, a bit of my personal history: I have been working with mantras for over fifty-five years now, with my initial training through my grandmother, Rowena Wescott. She was in one of Paramahansa Yogananda's first group of students back in the early fifties in Los Angeles and Encinitas. As an art instructor at UCLA at the time, she also painted one of his first portraits. My personal experiences with Kriya Yoga and the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) began at my age fourteen (I still have the two-year week-by-week program in binders). There were a good many techniques outside of the SRF that I explored, including the path of Siddha Yoga with Muktananda and Transcendental Meditation (TM) with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi to name two.
Early on I did not like the idea of giving devotion to gurus, or their gurus' guru. I respected their attainments and their generosities, and I felt that giving glorious praises to long-dead teachers was just not in keeping with my inner self. My thought on this was, the mantras that have been brought forward along a certain linage, while powerful, do not support personal sovereignty. That said, these two linage mantras have given me great assistance along my unfolding path:
The Siddha Yoga mantra, "Om Namah Shivaya," which means, "Oh, salutations to the auspicious one!" is very powerful, giving a lasting sense of centered awareness and mental/emotional clarity. And, yet, it is a devotion to Shiva. Not that there is anything wrong with devotion to long ago gods/goddesses who have walked ahead of us on the path to attainment. Time spent in this mantra is well worth the daily practice.
The mantra, "Om Mani Padmeh Hum," is commonly associated with Quan Yin (Chinese Goddess of Mercy). This mantra is being voiced 24/7 around the world. In Tibetan culture, it is believed that all the teachings of Buddha are contained in this mantra and that to know this recitation is to know enlightenment. Interestingly, each of the six syllables has certain Sanskrit meanings that are important, in that, these soundings release certain inner conflicts. This is more of a direct understanding of the mantra syllables:
Om (ohm)- Om is the sound or “vibration” of the universe. This sound is the most important of all; but in the context of chanting and mantras, it is helpful in releasing the inner conflicts associated with the need to be right. The deep inner feelings of generosity are a natural outcome of this single sound.
Ma (mah) - Releases the attachment to jealousy and establishes ethics.
Ni (nee) - Releases the attachment to desire and establishes patience.
Pad (pahd) - Releases the attachment to prejudice and establishesperseverance.
Me (meh) - Releases the attachment to possessiveness and establishes concentration.
Hum (hum) - Releases the attachment to hatred and establishes wisdom.
“So in this way recitation of the mantra helps achieve perfection in the six practices from generosity to wisdom. The path of these six perfections is the path walked by all the Buddhas of the three times. What could then be more meaningful than to say the mantra and accomplish the six perfections?” —Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, from "Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones."
Physical and Metaphysical Effects
Within three minutes, the use of your voice in a balanced patter begins to stabilize your emotional body, the emotional body being the field of energy that envelopes the etheric bodies of the soul and spirit, thus allowing their collaboration through the physical body. As your inhalation and exhalations balance, the heart muscles become more efficient causing the circulation of the blood to stabilize.
Within seven minutes, your looping thought patterns release allowing the patterns of brain activity to even out across shared sensory-driven areas. Using mantras for this length of time immediately causes the electromagnetic field surrounding the body to expand and increase in strength.
Within eleven minutes, the endocrine system and corresponding chakras begin to freely exchange chi, or prana, energy. This allows blocked energy held within the physical body to release.