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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: mantra


Mantra: The term “mantra” has entered modern vocabulary and is popularly used to mean “a repeated phrase.” People with a bit more study recognize that its source is from Sanskrit and is used in many Hindu, Buddhist, and other traditions. Some who have done more study understand that many of the words used in mantras embody different aspects of divinity and are magically and spiritually powerful. The true meanings of the term go even deeper.

The word “mantra” comes from two Sanskrit words. “Manas,” Sanskrit for “mind,” gives us the first syllable. “Trai,” which means “to make free from” or “to protect” gives us the second. So the real meaning of the term is “To free from the mind.” Thus, the use of a mantra can result the experience of Samadhi, enlightenment, which is usually acquired through meditation. They can also be used for healing, spiritual, and magical purposes.

All words have content and power. Most words have little power and a lot of content. For example, the word “peach” generally has content or meaning (a fruit) but not much power. Other words, due to the vibratory nature and order of their consonants and vowels, can have almost unbelievable power. Real mantras may or may not have an obvious meaning. Some have a disguised meaning. But if they are real, the power of their sound can change the universe totally independent of their meaning.Donald Michael Kraig

Mantra: A common literal translation of the Sanskrit word mantra is “the liberating thought.” Another definition is: “instrument or vehicle of thought.” Although similar to it, a mantra cannot be totally equated with the Western concept of prayer. A prayer is usually a supplication, a request made by the supplicant. The mantra is regarded at once an invocation, a benediction, an affirmation and a promise.

A mantra can be changed out loud or sung silently within the mind. The main object of mantric intonation is to carry the consciousness into an elevated state beyond the mere material. Some Indian yogis even produce the desired effect by simply writing out certain mantras repetitively, like a schoolchild writing out lines. This is known as Likhita Japa and aids in the development of a wonderful concentration. Although many people think that “mantra” means the repetition of a word or phrase, that is incorrect. Mantra is the name of the word or phrase while Japa is the name for the repetition of any mantra or Name of God.
source: Words of Power, Brian & Esther Crowley, (Llewellyn Publications)

Mantra: Instrument of thought. Series of sacred sounds or syllables which, through the repetition and reflection of them, can bring powerful spiritual insights.
source: Sacred Path of Reiki, by Katalin Koda


A word or phrase, usually in Sanskrit, Hebrew or Latin, [that may be] repeated or chanted repeatedly as a way to still the mind in meditation, and/or to instill a particular feeling or to invoke a special state of consciousness. Mantras are usually associated with particular images which may be visualized during meditation and chanting for increased effect. Some mantras are "God Names" and the associated images are of the deities. 

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke


Mind tool, from manas (mind) and trayati (tool). Mantras are words or sounds that serve to focus the mind or direct energy. Mantras can also function as incantations. They range from single syllable Bija or seed mantras to being quite complex and multisyllabic. Mantras can be repeated mentally, under the breath or as chants. Each method has its own unique impact on the mind of the practitioner and the physical environment. In his younger days, Dr. Mumford was renowned for his ability to induce trance and imperviousness to pain in others by chanting a mantra, a technique he calls "Mantra Anesthesia."

source: Great Sex Made Simple, Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson (Llewellyn Publications) - Mark A. Michaels and Patricia Johnson


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