Why do we use the word "mantram" instead of "mantra?"
Below is a brief explanation of the rationale behind the difference in usage.
1) All research on “mantram” repetition originates from the work of Eknath Easwaran who founded the Blue Mountain Center of Meditation in Tomales, CA. The guidelines for how to use a mantram in the West were first introduced by Easwaran in the 1960’s. He was raised in south India in Kerala and learned mantram repetition from his grandmother.
2) Easwaran explains that the word “mantra” and “mantram” are the same in Sanskrit. However, “mantram” is the neuter form as taught in India for thousands of years. “Mantra” is the masculine form used in modern linguistics. Today, the term “mantra” is commonly used to repeat anything — a slogan, motto, affirmation, or self-talk — so we use the word “mantram” to embrace the spiritual roots of the word.
3) When Sanskrit words are spoken without being embedded in a Sanskrit sentence, they are often left in their “stem” form; that is, they are not declined and they end in “a”, as in “yoga”, “deva”, “mantra,” etc. When speaking in Sanskrit, an unembedded word is often declined in either nominative (mantra) or accusative (mantram). Thus, “mantram” is the accusative case of the masculine word “mantra,” and declining it in this way is one way of using the word outside of a sentence when in a formal Sanskrit context.
What is the Mantram Repetition Program?
The Mantram Repetition Program (MRP) consists of three skills that can be practiced daily: (1) mantram repetition; (2) slowing down, and (3) one-pointed attention. “Mantram repetition” is the practice of repeating a short, self-selected sacred word or phrase representing the highest power we can conceive, whether we call it God, the ultimate reality, or the Self within. The concept comes from the Sanskrit term “mantra” (which is commonly used mistakenly in the West to mean anything that’s repeated). Repeating words or prayers can be found in nearly every culture and tradition. As a mantram is repeated silently in the mind at any time or any place, over and over throughout the day or night, it serves to train attention for slowing down thoughts and improving concentration. Slowing down and one-pointed attention support the practice of mantram repetition and together, all three tools assist in raising one’s awareness of being in a hurry and multi-tasking. All three tools work together synergistically to bring us into the present moment.
How do I choose a mantram?
Choose a mantram word or phrase with care. You can find a recommended list on this site or at www.easwaran.org. Don’t make up your own mantram. Take into account your personal religious interests (or lack of them), your personal reactions to the words, and the practical significance of the words. Choose a mantram that comes from a traditional source. Such words carry a kind of transforming “charge” from having been repeated by millions of people over the centuries. The meaning can help transform your thinking as it helps to refocus it. Its “charge” can help bring stability even in the face of difficult times. Don’t make up your own.
Choose a mantram and try it for a few days or weeks. Then decide whether it is a tool that speaks to your own condition. When repeating a mantram, it isn’t necessary to think of the meaning. In fact, sometimes thinking about the meaning can lead you away from focusing on the words and become a distraction. By concentrating on the words, they will eventually penetrate into your subconscious and transform your thinking. You may have heard of the saying, “We are what we think.” Well, that’s the point of filling your mind with something inspirational, comforting, and positive. We will be able to calm ourselves and find a peaceful mental space with mantram repetition.
When do I use Mantram Repetition
At first, repeat a mantram during non-stressful moments so your mantram will calm you in stressful times.
Silently repeat a mantram as often as possible throughout the day.
Always repeat a mantram while falling to sleep every night.
Use while waiting or when dealing with “annoying things”:
Use for daily tasks (while doing mechanical tasks that don’t require one’s full attention):
For people who are late
Standing in lines
While “on hold” on telephone
When getting cut off in traffic on freeway
During arguments or disagreements with others
Waiting for the elevator
Prior to a job interview or public speaking
Before answering the phone
Before entering a patient’s room
When sick and dealing with pain, illness, or surgery
Before meals, to eat slowly
For little compulsions or addictions
For going to sleep or dealing with insomnia
To deal with likes and dislikes to overcome rigidity
In the presence of a dying patient or loved one when you want to “do” something and don’t know what to do
Use to manage unwanted emotions, such as:
Washing dishes, sweeping, vacuuming, dusting
Raking, gardening, watering plants
Brushing teeth, combing hair, bathing or showering
While exercising such as walking, jogging, swimming, bike riding, or any repeated exercise where no special equipment is needed.
Use your mantram to focus, quiet oneself, and bring attention into the present moment.
Depression, impatience, ruminating thoughts
Fear, frustration, intrusive thoughts
Anger or rage, guilt
Worry or embarrassment
Anxiety, envy or jealousy
What are the benefits of mantram repetition?
Personal experiences illustrating the benefits of mantram repetition.
Veterans with with Post-traumatic Stress Disorder:
“I’m glad I learned the mantram. I don’t stay mad. I’m not angry. I’m not all stressed out. So I try and use the mantram the best I can to relieve the pressure, you know, cause we’re like . . . steam, you know, once you turn the fire up . . . you got to get rid of it, you know, and the mantram really works well.”
“. . . if I find myself getting into a bad mood or depressed…how can I say it…when I have no patience with myself and I find myself going back and beat myself up over issues or whatever, I have to…I do my mantram at that point in time….I get more relaxed where I can start thinking other thoughts.”
Family caregivers of patients with dementia:
“I used to do everything with either a radio or T.V. on. Now, I don’t even need any radio or T.V. when doing tasks. Thus, it’s easy to say my mantram.”
“Using my mantram has helped me to ward off any possible stressful situations, but when I do get stressed out over something, I concentrate on repeating my mantram numerous times. I also make sure to get up in the morning 20 minutes earlier so I can say my mantram. At night before dinner, I say it another 20 minutes. I am immediately relaxed when I do that.”
“I try to leave home earlier, so I can arrive at appointments a little early. For that reason I don’t have to rush or drive fast anymore. This allows me to be more relaxed when I arrive at my destination.”
One veteran came to class in a wheelchair and when it was time to choose his mantram he said right away:
“I know what my mantram is going to be.” And I said, “Well, how do you know?” He took out his billfold and showed me: He carries the Prayer of St. Francis with him. So his mantram was ‘My God and My All.’ He used it every day and at Christmas he wrote me a card, “Because of the mantram, I have reduced the amount of pain medication that I need, I have reduced the amount of sleeping medication that I need, and it really works!”
Participants living with HIV/AIDS:
“When I was trying to sleep, I couldn’t go to sleep, so I would just keep repeating it (mantram), and the next thing you know, it is the next morning.”
“When I get up in the middle of the night, I repeat my mantram instead of thinking about past events that bother me.”
“Sometimes when I would get stressed out or other things, like if I was having a really, really bad day. I learned how to deal with the anxiety and stress by using the mantram.”
“When I am really frustrated or in a line or something, I don’t let that bother me. I just say my mantram, and before you know it, I am right up at the front of the line. It has really worked for me. I liked it. I really, really liked it.”
“The times I think of it (repeating mantram) most often is when I find things personally annoying—a particular person that I want to ring his neck. Then I step back, repeat it.”
“I have had a very serious situation with a disturbed teenager who is mentally ill. My own mind tends to obsessive thoughts and I use the mantram to interrupt those thoughts. It happens hundreds and hundreds of times. I often use it in the middle of night to help me get back to sleep. Sometimes I stay with the mantram, sometimes I return to the obsessive thoughts, and sometimes I get distracted with other things afterwards.”
“Well, right off the top of my head, just saying my word or phrase is helpful, refreshing, innovative. It also pulled us together in the class as a mini-community . . . getting others together to help us realize our personal growth.”
“Oh, yeah, I use it (mantram repetition) when my daughter makes me angry. I walk away and use it before I say something that I don’t want to say.”