Mantra Meditation


Manage episode 281840706 series 2852337
By Carl McColman. Discovered by Player FM and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Player FM, and audio is streamed directly from their servers. Hit the Subscribe button to track updates in Player FM, or paste the feed URL into other podcast apps.
For the beginner in meditation, the human mind can be compared to a stray dog, noisy and frenetic. If this untrained feral dog runs loose in a village, it can wreak considerable havoc. Likewise, the mind, left to its own distractible devices, can cause considerable damage to our quest for inner peace and serenity.

But if the dog is invited into a relationship with a human, it can be transformed into a being filled with playful love. Yet the first step toward taming this companion would be to leash it. At first, the feral dog might fight against the leash, frightened and angry. But if the human companion can win over the trust of the dog, then there is hope that a relationship can be formed that would allow both dog and human to flourish and find joy in each other.

If the human mind, noisy and easily distracted, is like a feral dog, then a mantra functions like the leash that makes training the mind possible.

The meaning of the word mantra is uncertain, but its Sanskrit origin seems to be simply “secret speech” or “sacred word.” It has a long history in the east as a word or sound that is repeated for the purpose of stabilizing our mental awareness during meditation. A mantra can be a sound without any inherent meaning, or a word with particular spiritual quality, or a name of a god or goddess. Different schools of meditation advocate for different types of mantras, with the basic purpose always the same: to entrain the consciousness so that it can allow awareness to rest first on the word itself, then ultimately on the silence between the words.

Mantra does not have an equivalent word in languages such as English, but this is not to say that western religions do not have their own tradition of sacred repetition in order to facilitate meditation. We see in Christianity, for example, a long tradition of repeating the name Jesus in prayer, that goes back to at least the 3rd century. More than once in the New Testament we find the phrase, “Everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” This was the inspiration of what came to be known as the “Jesus Prayer.” In Islam, the practice of Zikr, which means remembrance, includes the repetition of one or more of the names of Allah, again in a manner conducive to meditative consciousness.
Note that some forms of meditation, like the Christian practice of Centering Prayer, are similar to mantra meditation in that they utilize a sacred word as a point of attention. But different meditation practices can have subtle differences. Centering Prayer, for example, instructs the practitioner to allow the sacred word to fall away in silence, and to return to the sacred word only when distracting thoughts arise. Mantra meditation, by contrast, entails reciting the mantra through the meditation period, even when distractions cease.
For an interspiritual introduction to meditation with a mantra, read The Mantram Handbook by Eknath Easwaran.

9 episodes