Question : Can anyone get any benefit by repeating sacred syllables [mantras] picked up casually? Ramana Maharshi: No. He must be competent and initiated in such mantras. This is illustrated by the story of the king and his minister. A king visited his premier in his residence. There he was told that the premier was engaged in repetition of sacred syllables. The king waited for him, and on meeting him, asked what the mantra was. The premier said that it was the holiest of all, gayatri. The king desired to be initiated by the premier but the premier confessed his inability to initiate him. Therefore the king learned it from someone else, and, meeting the minister later, he repeated the gayatri and wanted to know if it was right. The minister said that the mantra was correct, but it was not proper for him to say it. When pressed for an explanation, the minister called to a page close by and ordered him to take hold of the king. The order was not obeyed. The order was often repeated, and still not obeyed. The king flew into a rage and ordered the same man to hold the minister, and it was immediately done. The minister laughed and said that the incident was the explanation required by the king. `How?' asked the king. The minister replied, `The order was the same and the executor also, but the authority was different. When I ordered, the effect was nil, whereas, when you ordered, there was immediate effect. Similarly with mantras. Question : I am taught that mantra japa is very potent in practice. Ramana Maharshi : The Self is the greatest of all mantras - it goes on automatically and eternally. If you are not aware of this internal mantra, you should take to it consciously as japa, which is attended with effort, to ward off all other thoughts. By constant attention to it, you will eventually become aware of the internal mantra which is the state of realization and is effortless. Firmness in this awareness will keep you continually and effortlessly in the current, however much you may be engaged in other activities. By repetition of mantras, the mind gets controlled. Then the mantra becomes one with the mind and also with the prana [the energy that sustains the body]. When the syllables of the mantra become one with the prana, it is termed dhyana, and when dhyana becomes deep and firm it leads to sahaja sthiti [the natural state]. Question : I have received a mantra. People frighten me by saying that it may have unforeseen results if repeated. It is only pranava (om). So I seek advice. May I repeat it? I have considerable faith in it. Ramana Maharshi : Certainly, it should be repeated with faith. Question : Will it do by itself, or can you kindly give me any further instructions? Ramana Maharshi : The object of mantra japa is to realize that the same japa is already going on in oneself even without effort. The oral japa becomes mental and the mental japa finally reveals itself as being eternal. That mantra is the person's real nature. That is also the state of realization. Question : Can the bliss of samadhi be gained thus? Ramana Maharshi : The japa becomes mental and finally reveals itself as the Self. That is samadhi. Source: from David Godman Excellent Book "Be As You are"