Some of the mantras I’ve ‘done’ have been Tibetan Bhuddist, some Hindu.
I don’t speak either of these languages, so it’s been a matter of faith. As a former teacher of English to speakers of other languages I’ve been thinking my way around words and grammar for quite a while and it’s been interesting trying to work out what the words mean.
Ultimately though, it doesn’t really matter. What counts is the effect; the proof of the mantra is in the chanting.
There are, however, words and phrases that have cropped up over several mantras:
- Om – which is a kind of hail or greeting, often at the start of a mantra
- Gate – pronounced gattay, meaning ‘gone’
- Namaha – often at the end of a Hindu mantra
- Maha – which I think means ‘much/many’ or ‘a lot’
- Soha or Svaha – often at the end of a Hindu or Tibetan mantra, I think a kind of ‘amen’ or ‘so be it’ or ‘so it is’
There is also the matter of pronunciation and syllabic stress. There’s a wealth of information on the internet and while the most important element of any chanting practice is the motivation behind one’s actions, it is probably best to find a serious rendition and copy it. Respect is due to these ancient formulae.
Each mantra has its own rhythm and shape and it is this that makes it what it is. Each sequence of sounds vibrates in a certain way in the chest, larynx, mouth and head and it is this, I believe, that gives each mantra its own unique effect.
Maybe one could sit and chant ‘eggs and bacon for breakfast, eggs and bacon for breakfast, eggs and bacon for breakfast’ and get some benefit from it. Personally, with thousands of mantras available for a huge range of ‘requests’ or ‘purposes’, I personally can’t be bothered to experiment with that!