I originally started this blog just to talk about construction of our little home. However, it seems I have a desire to discuss a lot of things. My husband says it’s because I’m very opinionated. He’s probably right, but I feel like I’m just sharing things on my mind since I don’t have construction updates to share.
Anyway, I wanted to write a little about mantras. For instance, if I’m not Hindu and claim paganism as my religious label, then why on earth would I use mantras?
For me the answer is simple. It’s a good calming way to focus my mind, removing distractions, and praise the divine at the same time. That being said, I’m a lot less than perfect at maintaining the practice. I have gone long stretches over the years where I sing mantras frequently. I have also gone long stretches over the years where like a tantruming brat, I refuse to do anything that acknowledges the divine. When I get mad, I get mad. It affects everything.
Now when I’m up, it very much helps keep me up. When I’m down, I often have to make myself sing them at first, but it definitely helps me climb out of the emotional hole. Then singing them is encouraging and I keep singing them.
So what are mantras?
Essentially they are praising the divine through a phrase that’s repeated. Many of them are short and easy to remember. However, some are more complex like Sada Siva or Chidananda. I’ll use a short one I like a lot as an example.
Om Gum Ganapataye Namaha
Essentially what’s being said here is “All that is, especially powerful Ganesh the obstacle breaker, I bow down to you.”
Om or AUM is the word/symbol for the energy of all that is. It literally relates back to Brahaman, Atman, and Mahadeva (Shiva) in a complexity I have yet to fully understand.
Gum Ganapataye is reference to Ganesh’s power followed by one of the common names for Ganesh that means obstacle breaker.
Namaha is a complex thought that roughly means to bow down or to praise that which is beyond self.
So you’re literally praising the aspect/archetype of all that is, which helps break obstacles.
Mantras are supposed to be repeated 108 times per session. The best explanation of this I remember related it to being 12×9=108 and had to do with cycles and the golden ratio. I don’t remember where I found that explanation, but I do know by the time you say a mantra 108 times, it definitely carries a soothing energy.
You’ll also find disclaimers about proper pronunciation being vital. I believe that ultimately that’s a simple reason. Mantras are in an ancient language called Sanskrit. Like any language, there can be words that sound very similar that mean drastically different things. I’ll give an example in French from: http://www.france-pub.com/forum/2010/06/17/three-words-in-french/
Now for myself, I believe that just like talking to a person when learning their language, you can apologize premptively to the divine. I essentially say in my language (English) at the beginning of the mantra “Please forgive me if I say something incorrectly, I’m still learning, and these mantras are intended to honor your divine aspects.” Then I’ve already asked forgiveness just in case I mess up. I personally believe that intent is much more important than technicalities, especially when energy is involved, because the divine knows the energy of what you are attempting.
One last note, I find it interesting that Catholics use a rosary with 108 beads to recite Our Fathers and Hail Mary’s, just like mala chains for Buddhists and Hindus for reciting mantras.
Happy & blessed mantra singing everyone.