(This is an excerpt from a University Of Metaphysical Sciences course at www.umsonline.org ) Sogyal Rinpoche, as quoted by Sainte Croix, explained the significance of mantras by saying, “Each syllable is impregnated with spiritual power. Each condenses a spiritual truth and vibrates with a blessing. When you chant a mantra, you are charging your breath and energy with the energy of that mantra Sainte Croix provides a few simple exercises for chanting mantras. The first exercise consists of chanting “Om Mani Padme Hum (pronounced ‘om mah nee pahd may hum’).” It is a Buddhist mantra used to enhance a person’s compassion. So as Sainte Croix instructs: Sit in a comfortable position. Close your eyes. Center and focus your attention by breathing slowly. Inhale and exhale from your nostrils several times. Begin repeating the mantra, Om Mani Padme Hum. Use the lowest register of your voice. Continue repeating this mantra for five minutes. Sit in silence. Notice the calming effects of the chanting. (Sainte Croix, 2002:17) Transcendental Meditation, a very famous technique taught by the Ramana Maharishi University in India, and made well-known during the 60’s at many centers around the USA, revolves around the practice of using mantras to still the mind. In this system, the mantra must be “given” to the user. “According to Ramana Maharishi, repetition of mantras (japa), with attention directed to the source of the sound, completely engages the mind. This is Tapas (penance). The source is not in the vocal chords alone, but also the idea of sound is in the mind, whose source is self. Thus the practice of mantra repetition is more than a suggestion, a bit of advice or an idea. It is a means of getting in touch with our self. (http://www.sanatansociety.org/indian_music_and_mantras/sounds_of_tantra_mantras.htm) According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mantra, a mantra is a “religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language… They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words and vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras originated in India with Vedic Hinduism and were later adopted by Buddhists and Jains, now popular in various modern forms of spiritual practice which are loosely based on practices of these Eastern religions. “The word mantra is a Sanskrit word consisting of the root man "manas or mind" and the suffix tra meaning, tool, hence a literal translation would be "mind tool". Mantras are interpreted to be effective as sound (vibration), to the effect that great emphasis is put on correct pronunciation (resulting in an early development of a science of phonetics in India). They are intended to deliver the mind from illusion and material inclinations. Chanting is the process of repeating a mantra.” Some believe that a mantra that is not handed down from a guru or yogi is not useful in any way, and that a mantra must be given to a person for it to have any true power. This of course is strict and rather unavailable to those who would like to try using a mantra, so I personally don’t subscribe to this belief. However, perhaps there is power in mantras that have been used for millennia just because they have been used for so long and are ingrained in the mass consciousness mind of humanity from the sheer amount of use. Joseph Chilton Pearce says in his book Spiritual Initiation And The Breakthrough Of Consciousness (2003), “A true mantra is "charged," alive, because it has been handed down for centuries, and it has been handed down because it *is* alive. A certain archetypal energy might result from ages of use: the passion, intensity, and will of millennia of Yogis might in itself create a subtle energy connected with the mantra. Perhaps all that subtle power gets enfolded in the name and unfolds for us in our practice. At any rate, true mantras are of consciousness, not of surface thought and semantic fabrications.” Mantras affect both the person reciting them and the person hearing them, thus when chanting mantras in a group one gets a “double whammy.” Primarily, it is faith that creates the effect of the mantra being used. Melody, intonation, pronunciation, intention, belief, all of these are important in the effects of mantras. A fast recitation increases the speed of the mind, the heartbeat and the respiration. A fast speed can create a high vibration. In groups, fast recitation is especially powerful. A fast recitation gives the mind no room to reflect or fantasize about the mantra either. It exhausts the mind and relaxation can be deep once the recitation is over. In turn, slowing down the mantra recitation slows down the speed of the mind, the heart and the respiration. It can produce a trancelike, hypnagogic state (the state right before sleep when images begin to appear in the mind) A medium speed can be quite useful as the heart and the breathing are not disturbed and the mind remains awake and alert, and doesn’t go too deep so as to “fall asleep.” The place from where the mantra emanates is important as well. Deep tones, based in the abdominal region, are mesmerizing. Middletones from the chest, heart and through regions create balance in the emotions. High toned in conjunction with the head and top of the head are useful in moving blockages in the body and spirit. Classical Eastern Indian music used all three regions in order to cover all possibilities. The practice of the transcendental meditation technique utilizes mantra meditation. Mantra, literally translated “mind tool,” is a spiritually charged phrase that makes the mind still. There are various mantras from various traditions such as Ganesh mantra, om mani padme hum, and many others. Saint Croix and Ramana Maharishi are experts in the practice of chanting mantra.