The Mantram

Learn the practice and experience the benefits

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The mantram is a practical, effective way to steady your mind throughout the day or night. You can learn here what a mantram is, how it works, and how you can get started so you can see the benefits in your own life. 

The Mantram – What It Is and How It Works

“The mantram is a short, powerful spiritual formula for the highest power that we can conceive of – whether we call it God, or the ultimate reality, or the Self within. Whatever name we use, with the mantram we are calling up what is best and deepest in ourselves.”
– Eknath Easwaran

The mantram, also known as mantra, holy name, or prayer word, is a spiritual formula in the form of a word or short phrase. The practice of repeating a mantram has been used by people all over the world, from different wisdom traditions, and for thousands of years. Examples of mantrams are: Rama, used by Gandhi; My God and My All, used by St. Francis of Assisi; and the Buddhist Om mani padme hum.

The mantram can sound a bit mysterious, but once you start using it, you’ll realize it’s an effective and practical tool to steady your mind.

The way that it works is simple. When you start dwelling on negative thoughts which make you feel worried, stressed, or angry, you can choose to repeat your mantram silently instead, over and over. This process takes the energy that you would have spent on negative thinking, and redirects it to your mantram. Over time, repeating your mantram will help you feel calm, steady, patient, and secure in any situation.

“The Brain, the Mind, and the Mantram” by Daniel H. Lowenstein, MD

A physician and neurologist describes how the mantram works

How to Choose a Mantram

“In many of the Indian traditions, the mantram is a secret between the teacher and the student. You are not supposed to tell anyone what your mantram is. Some people respond to that, and I have no quarrel with it whatever. But I belong to another tradition, which I call the tradition of the open hand: I say, ‘These are the great mantrams; you choose.’ ”
– Eknath Easwaran

Easwaran selected over 20 mantrams from the world’s traditions for us to choose from. These particular mantrams have all been used by saints and sages, and honored by many people over time, so we recommend that you choose one from this list.

You can choose a mantram from your own spiritual tradition, or from a different one. If you don’t have a spiritual tradition, or you’re atheist or agnostic, you could try Rama, which comes from the Sanskrit root “to rejoice”. Or you might choose Om mani padme hum, which means “the jewel in the lotus of the heart”.

Of course there are many other mantrams, and you may prefer to use one not listed here if you’ve already been using one from your tradition. However, it’s important to choose a mantram hallowed by long use, rather than making up your own, because it has spiritual meaning and power.

Mantrams to Choose From

Inspiration From Easwaran

Easwaran gives instructions on the mantram and brings it to life with stories and examples: 

Easwaran’s book, The Mantram Handbook, gives stories and examples of how the mantram can be a great support in everyday life, during illness, and at the time of death.


Inspiration & Tips From the BMCM Community

Passage meditators tell stories from their own lives about using a mantram:

  • Chris shares how the mantram helped her with a challenging co-worker.
  • Myron shares how the mantram created harmony in his family.
  • Susan shares how the mantram helped her during her mother’s illness and death.


Frequently Asked Questions

You can repeat the mantram at almost any time. It’s a practical and effective way to find peace of mind in any stressful situation or crisis. The mantram will come to your mind more easily if you practice it in daily life, so it’s helpful to find routine times to use it too. Repeating the mantram in routine times can also make those occasions feel less boring and more productive and meaningful.

Here are some examples of times you could use it – simply repeating it silently in your mind, over and over:

  • Going to sleep
  • Washing the dishes
  • Waiting in line
  • Between emails
  • Traveling on the bus, train, or plane
  • Walking
  • Before a meal
  • At the dentist or doctor
  • Before an exam or speech
  • When angry, upset, or worried
  • Before and after a difficult conversation
  • To hold off unhealthy cravings.

There are a few times when we don't recommended using the mantram. At these times, we recommend using one-pointed attention instead, for safety, for instance, or to put someone else first:

  • When driving
  • When using sharp or dangerous tools, such as a knife in the kitchen
  • When in conversation.

Yes, the mantram is a wonderful way to fall asleep, helping you to get better quality sleep. It’s also very helpful to use if you wake up in the middle of the night. If you wake up and can’t get back to sleep, try lying down with eyes closed, silently repeating your mantram. The next morning you may still feel rested and ready for your day to start.

"One of the most important times to use the mantram is at night, when you are going to sleep. This is the time when all our problems come home to roost – all the turmoil of the day, all the anxieties of the following morning. This is why we have bad dreams, why we don’t sleep very well and get up wishing we could sleep four hours more. So instead of falling asleep in your problems, put your book away, turn out the light, close your eyes, and begin repeating Rama, Rama or Jesus, Jesus, Jesus until you fall asleep in it. It takes some time and some effort to master this, but once you are able to fall asleep in the mantram, it will go on working its healing effect in your consciousness throughout the night." 
– Eknath Easwaran

Some people feel at home with their mantram right away, and others need more time. That’s all quite normal. If none of the recommended mantrams appeal to you, it might be because they’re unfamiliar words which don’t yet hold any meaning for you, or because they’re from a spiritual tradition you don’t feel comfortable with. It might help to know more about the background of these recommended mantrams and then to try an experiment.

The Theory and Background

The reason these mantrams were chosen is that they carry the power of many centuries of use, by people who have repeated them in the exact form you see them listed here. As Easwaran said, “They come to us already surcharged with energy.”

Experiment: Try It Out for Yourself

Try choosing one from the list, perhaps one that jumps out at you, or intrigues you, even if it isn’t appealing.

Then, over the next week, repeat it silently during routine times such as walking or waiting, and also when you’re feeling agitated. You could also write it in a notebook too. Try to repeat it for at least 10 minutes every day.

At the end of the week, reflect on how the mantram has helped you, perhaps calming you down when you felt impatient or stressed, or giving you courage in a challenging situation. When you associate the mantram with these benefits, it becomes more meaningful to you, and therefore more appealing.

If your chosen mantram doesn’t feel right after a week, you could choose another on the list and repeat the experiment. However, it is a good idea to settle on one after a couple of experiments.

“Initially, the mantram you have chosen may not sound natural to your ears. But I assure you this will soon pass. After a little while the mantram will ‘take’, and you will see for yourself the difference it makes in your life. These matters go beyond the diversity of languages, and your higher Self, your true Self, will not care whether you speak to it in English, Arabic, Latin, or Sanskrit.” 
– Eknath Easwaran

 

We don’t recommend making up your own mantram. The mantram you choose could be with you for the rest of your life, carrying you through day-to-day joys and challenges, and even through serious illness and at the time of death. An authentic mantram which has been repeated by thousands or millions of people before you – including saints and sages – has deep roots. This may sound mysterious, so your own experience is the best way to judge its effectiveness. Try it out for yourself!

“Quite a number of people ask me this. They say, ‘I have made up this mantram; what do you think of it? “I love God, I love God, I love God.” ‘ Well, pretty good statement, but not quite a mantram. I usually say, ‘Are you an illumined person?’ that is the first qualification. Second, ‘How many millions of devotees have used your mantram?’ And third, ‘Is there anyone who has verified this mantram in the depths of consciousness?’ These are the important criteria in the choice of the mantram, which is why I recommend mantrams that are stamped with the spiritual awareness of the world’s great teachers.”
– Eknath Easwaran

Yes, there are other authentic mantrams in the world’s spiritual traditions. The list of recommended mantrams contains that Easwaran chose very carefully because they have the depth and time-honored tradition that make them authentic and powerful. He also repeated each mantram on the list himself as a way of imprinting his own spiritual awareness on them. If you’ve already been immersed in an ancient mantram from your own spiritual tradition which isn’t on the list, you could continue using it, or you could choose one from the list instead:

“In the Hindu tradition, there are magnificent hymns called The Thousand Names of the Lord and The Thousand Names of the Divine Mother which give us a vast selection of beautiful holy names. But many mantrams, especially in Hinduism or Buddhism, come out of a complex tradition whose references may be too elusive for us. Such mantrams are not likely to evoke a deep response in those who were not brought up in these traditions. So I stress those mantrams which are short, simple, and powerful, and which come out of a long, established tradition and have carried men and women across the tempestuous sea of life.” 
– Eknath Easwaran

We don’t usually recommend changing your mantram, unless you’re starting out or have been using a phrase previously which you may now think isn’t an authentic mantram.

Starting Out

While you’re in the process of choosing a mantram, it’s fine to try out a different one after a few days or a week. Then after about a week, it’s important to keep the same one.

The reason is that every repetition of the same mantram takes it deeper into your consciousness, and eventually it will become a habit and easier to remember in stressful situations. Then the mantram is no longer simply a word or phrase – it has become a powerful tool to give you calm and wisdom, which will benefit you and everyone around you.

“As one of the Desert Fathers, writing on the Prayer of Jesus, warns us with a homely image, a tree that is too often transplanted will not take root. Sri Ramakrishna tells us the same thing when he compares a person who keeps changing mantrams to a farmer who digs in ten different places looking for water.”
– Eknath Easwaran

Preference for Another Mantram on the List

You might have chosen a mantram on the list and started using it on a regular basis, and after a while feel that another mantram is a better fit. In this case, we recommend that you don’t change it, and instead put more effort into your mantram repetition. After all, the purpose of the mantram is to steady the mind, and the mind may protest your efforts! This is a good opportunity to look at your day and see where you can increase your mantram use. Could you add a short walk repeating your mantram during the day? Could you write it a few times before you go to sleep at night? Ultimately, the more effort you put into your mantram, the more it will help you, and the more it will appeal.

Previous Experience of a Different Mantram

If you’ve been using a mantram which is not on the list, and you’re sure your mantram meets Easwaran’s criteria for authenticity (see the previous question on authentic mantrams) then of course it’s fine to continue using it.

If you’re not sure your previous mantram meets those criteria, or if you’d simply prefer to choose a mantram which has been recommended by Easwaran, you could choose one on this list. Rest assured that the dedication you put into your previous mantram will carry over into your new one. Easwaran sometimes referred to this as a “rollover account”.

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Meditation on a passage and repetition of the mantram are two distinct practices, which complement each other very well.

In meditation, you concentrate on the words of an inspirational text or passage from one of the great wisdom traditions. You silently go through the words of the memorized passage in your mind for 30 minutes every morning. There are two main benefits to meditation on a passage. First, it’s an effective way to improve your concentration. Second, the positive, uplifting words in the passage influence your thoughts and actions during the day.

The mantram is different. It’s a powerful spiritual formula in the form of a word or phrase, which can be repeated day and night, outside of meditation. The practice is simple – you choose a mantram, and then silently repeat it in your mind, over and over. You can repeat the mantram at almost any time. The benefits are that it will steady your mind when you’re feeling angry, stressed, or agitated, and it will give you calm and patience throughout the day.

“Both these disciplines help each other. The more you repeat your mantram, the deeper will be your meditation. The deeper your meditation, the better will be your repetition of the mantram. That is why, in my presentation, meditation and the mantram go together.

“In addition, when you are meditating in the morning and again in the evening, repetition of the mantram helps as a kind of connecting thread, using the odd moments of the day.” 
– Eknath Easwaran

The mantram is a wonderful gift to share with your children. Here are some tips and ideas to try out for different ages.

Ages 0–5

Before your baby is born, and with babies and young children, you can repeat your own mantram aloud and silently – virtually at any time! When you’re walking, cuddling, feeding, singing, putting them to bed, you can often say your own mantram with them.

When they’re scared, sad, or upset, say the mantram aloud with them. And when you’re feeling impatient or tired, your own repetition of the mantram will help everyone because you’ll be creating an atmosphere of peace and calm.

Ages 5–12

If your children are old enough to choose their own mantram, you could go through the list of recommended mantrams together and let them choose their own one. Some families share the same one to increase family unity.

There are lots of good opportunities for repeating the mantram together at this age – either aloud, silently, or by writing it. Good mantam times in daily life are before meals, at bedtime, while walking, and when at the doctor’s or dentist’s. You could also suggest they experiment with repeating the mantram when they’re feeling worried, sad, or angry. Try to do fun activities with the mantram too, such as singing the mantram,  repeating it while watering plants, feeding pets, and enjoying nature.

When you’re telling stories, you could create examples of how the hero repeats their mantram to give them extra courage and strength. You can also write the mantram together, perhaps for a few minutes in the evening at bedtime.

Ages 12–18

You could share with your teenager how the mantram has helped you in practical ways, and share when you use it on a daily basis. You could then offer the list of recommended mantrams so they could choose one. It’s helpful for teenagers to have creativity and a feeling of experimentation with the mantram so that they can discover the power of the mantram for themselves. You could remind them to repeat the mantram when they’re going through challenging times, such as when they’re feeling anxious before an exam, either by silent repetition or writing it.

Your own repetition of the mantram will create a spiritual atmosphere at home which they’ll absorb and benefit from for years to come.

“Whenever your child is afraid or angry, just teach him or her to repeat the mantram. And the very best way to teach a child anything is for the father and mother to practice it themselves. The mantram may take a while to catch on, but it will give your children armor that the forces of life cannot break.”
– Eknath Easwaran