Mantras are sound forms of the Divine. The sound forms are the subtlest and, therefore, the most powerful way to invoke the sacred radiance within yourself. Chanting mantras is one of our favorite ways to practice meditation. We love the way they have an almost instantly calming effect on the body and mind. What’s more, they serve as powerful tools to get into a profound state of relaxation.
All mantras have different meanings and hold the power to invoke different Hindu gods and goddesses. The world of yogic mantras is so vast you could spend a lifetime (or several) learning them and chanting the ones that resonate with you. It’s an unending practice. That said, let’s take a look at four of our favorite mantras and see if any of them have meaning for you.
Om Namah Shivayah
This mantra is one of the most popular chants in the yoga tradition. Devotees in India have been chanting Om Namah Shivayah for thousands of years. Its origin is in the Shaivism sect of Hinduism, an ancient sect that’s been around for more than 2,500 years. According to Shaivism, Shiva is the ultimate god and, as such, is revered more than any other Hindu god. One way to invoke Shiva is to chant the mantra, Om Namah Shivayah. This is the mantra of Shiva.
Shiva takes his form in Brahma (the creator), Vishnu (the preserver) and Shiva (the destroyer). Basically, Shiva’s the head honcho here and has the power to create, preserve and destroy life. Chanting Om Namah Shivayah is a particularly powerful practice and is said to give the yogi who chants it profound spiritual gifts.
(Further details on this mantra can be found in Om Namah Shivaya Mantra.)
Ma Durga is a mantra used to invoke the feminine deity, Durga. Durga is one of the most important yoga goddesses because of her amazingly vast array of powers. She’s often referred to as the supreme deity, as she’s the goddess who stands for moral order while fighting against every evil that rears its ugly head. She’s also the protector against the forces of evil.
Like Shiva, Durga is considered to be the supreme one — the mother of the universe — and also takes on the forms of many other goddesses such as Kali, Parvati and Ambika. Durga is the fierce and compassionate mother. Chanting to her is quite a powerful practice and can be especially helpful if you’re working to slay your own demons, or evil vices. If you’re feeling full of greed, anger, jealousy, hatred, selfishness, pride or any other sense of strong negativity, you’ll want to chant Ma Durga as often as feels necessary.
(Learn more about Invoking Durga Within You.)
As you might imagine, the mantra, Hare Krishna, is a chant dedicated to the Hindu god, Krishna. Krishna, also referred to as Govinda, is actually the narrator of the beloved ancient Indian text, the Bhagavad Gita. Krishna is the loving and compassionate “blue god,” with skin the color of baby blue and a face full of delicate features.
(More on Krishna's character in Four Facets of Hinduism's Lovable Lord Krishna to Keep in Mind.)
You’ll want to chant the mantra, Hare Krishna, often as it is said to bestow upon the yogi many, many spiritual boons and experiences. For starters, if you’d like to call in more material wealth, you’ll want to pray to Lord Krishna. If you want more beauty in your life, chant to him also. He’s also the god of luxury and happiness, so invoking Krishna is thought to bring all these gifts to his devotees.
Chanting Hare Krishna is also said to offer protection by the Hindu lord himself, helping us to end our struggles in life. Chant his mantra at least 108 times each morning and evening, and relish in the relaxation and blissful feelings this mantra invokes.
Om Aim Hreem Shreem
This particular mantra calls in three aspects of the goddess. It's been our experience that this mantra feels very natural to chant. With this mantra, we call in Saraswati, the goddess of eloquence, creativity and the arts. We also invoke Lalita, the goddess of love, erotic union and the divine love affair. Last, we call in the goddess, Lakshmi, as the power of auspiciousness, goodness, beauty and harmony.
(For more description on these and other Hindu goddesses, try A Guide to Hinduism's Leading Goddesses.)
As we chant this mantra, we allow the subtle sounds to gift our own consciousness with the divine powers of wisdom, adoration, beauty, goodness and love: all the qualities of these three deities. They’re also the qualities of the great creative essence, which is our true nature.
These mantras are framed by the sound, Om, which is the original universal sound and the beginning of creation. Together, these sounds make up an incredibly powerful mantra — one that you’ll want to chant whenever it’s time to call in these three aspects of the divine feminine.
(Continue reading for the 5 Benefits of Chanting OM.)