Experiencing the Benefit of Mantras
Mantra in Sanskrit literally means “mind protection.”
To gain the most benefit for oneself and others from reciting mantras the high lamas emphasize that it is very important to: set a strong positive motivation at the start, dedicate at the end, as well as to understand as much as you can about the benefits, meaning of the mantra, visualisation for that mantra, etc.
To help make the experience more rewarding, we have gathered together resources to help you get started.
On this page you will find:
- links to specific mantras – each mantra’s page includes short teachings from high lamas on the mantra’s:
- how to pronounce or chant the mantra
- and how to visualise while reciting
- how to set the motivation – with a brief and an extensive example
- advice on how to take the practice of mantra recitation deeper
May all of the merit that we collectively create be dedicated for:
- the temporal and ultimate well-being of ALL sentient beings
- for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and all of our Guru’s long lives, excellent health and the fulfillment of all of their holy wishes
It is very, very important before reciting mantras to set a powerful, virtuous motivation and then to dedicate at the end. The content of the motivation and dedication can be essentially the same. Dedication is just made once the merit has been created – you dedicate that merit.
There are brief and extensive ways of setting one’s motivation. Here are some examples given by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche.
“You should recite this [mantra] with the aim for each and every sentient being to be free from all the oceans of samsaric sufferings and to bring them to full enlightenment. Each mantra you recite, think you are reciting it for other sentient beings’ happiness, for them to achieve enlightenment through the power of [the particular mantra you are reciting] so that all beings can have success, achieve liberation, and enlightenment.”
Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche suggests the following way of extensively setting one’s motivation, think:
“I am going to do the recitation, every single recitation of mantra for the Buddha of Compassion, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to have stable life and all the holy wishes to be succeed immediately, as well as all the virtuous friends and all other holy beings, who are doing work for the sentient beings and teaching of Buddha, to have stable life, all their holy wishes to benefit others to be succeed immediately.
“And I am going to recite every single mantra to free numberless hell beings from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment as quick as possible.
“And then I am going to recite every single mantra the numberless hungry ghosts, maybe put it this way, who is most precious, most kind one in my life, free them from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment quickly.
“I am going to recite every single mantra for every single, the numberless animals, every single insects, large like mountains, so smallest that can see only through microscope. So every single, who is the most precious, most kind one in my life, to free them from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment as quick as possible.
“Then numberless, I am going to recite every single mantra for every single human being, the numberless human beings, so for every one, who are most precious, most kind one in my life, must free them, to free them from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment as quick as possible.
“And then as well, I am going to recite every single mantra for every sura beings, every single sura beings, who is most precious, most kind one in my life, to free them from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment as quick as possible.
“Then I am going to recite every single mantra for the asura, every single asuras, who is most precious, most kind one in my life, free them from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment as quick as possible.
“Then I am going to recite every single mantra for every intermediate state beings, who is most precious, most kind one in my life, to free them from all the suffering and causes and bring them to enlightenment as quick as possible.
“Then also going to recite every single mantra for the world peace. To stop all the wars that’s happening as well as all the terrorists attacking, famines, disease, all those in Afghanistan who are having problems, poverty, there is famine, disease and those economical problems, many hundred thousands, thousands don’t have job, lost their job or losing jobs, lost jobs, so many poverty and disease, poverty, sicknesses and fire, water, air, earth, earthquakes and all that. And then never, and then what’s happening to be stopped and for them to, the sentient beings for them to never ever experience again, so like that, same thing for all sentient beings.
“And that, and all the FPMT projects and including [the projects at your local centre, Dorje Chang Institute]… and then all the rest of the centers’ projects and Maitreya, five-hundred feet Maitreya Buddha statue to be completed as quick as possible by receiving all the needs. So all these, [pause] going to recite the mantra for.
“Then you can think in your mind, you can think either of particular purpose, particular person that you want to pray for, died or sick or whatever you have, then can think, can be dedicated for that.”
[Excerpted from Teachings from the Medicine Buddha Retreat, by Kyabje Lama Zopa Rinpoche]
Taking it Deeper
Lama Yeshe meditating at Lawudo Retreat Center, Nepal, 1972. Photo by Robbie Solick.
Lama Thubten Yeshe explains,
“It is a common misconception that reciting mantras is an external and unnatural mental exercise, rather than an internal and spontaneous occurrence. Reciting a mantra, however, does not mean the mere vocal repetition of speech syllables. Many meditators know from experience that the act of reciting mantras transcends external sounds and words. It is more like listening to a subtle inner sound that has always inhabited our nervous system.
“When we receive the transmission of a mantra from a qualified teacher, the integration of that mantra’s wisdom into our consciousness is greatly facilitated. Through the wisdom-power of mantra we can easily communicate with our own true inner wisdom, while remaining free of external distractions. The normal world-oriented state of mind prevents us from letting go of emotional problems as they arise. These distractions invade our mind and constantly impede our concentration.
When we recite a mantra this mental agitation spontaneously subsides, leaving our mind at peace. Mantra brings a stronger, more integrated, single-pointed concentration. It quickly rids us of interruptions caused by our habitual sensory response to external stimuli.
“When trying to develop penetrative insight into emptiness, it would be absurd if we had plenty of time for eating and sleeping but no time for reciting mantras. Normally, we have plenty of time for listening to meaningless gossip but no time to develop our wisdom by listening to our inner sound. In actual truth, our inner sound can be the means of attaining perfect samadhi, perfect absorption into reality.
“The existence of inner sound cannot be denied. Our nervous system has its own specific inner sound. This is not something that Mahayanists have invented; it is an objective reality that exists within us. For example, the sound ‘ah’ exists within us from the moment of birth. All speech sounds are derived from ‘ah.’ Without ‘ah’ there could be no other sound.
“Mantra becomes more powerful when imparted by a qualified teacher who has deep inner experience of the mantra. He has acquired the mantra’s power from his own teacher, and has gained further experience while in retreat. Furthermore, a good teacher creates a situation that heightens our receptivity to the wisdom transmitted by the mantra.
“The mantra functions in many ways. The reciting of a mantra a given number of times, combined with concentration, opens our mind instinctively to super-normal powers and insights. Mantras can also be used as therapy for the sick, and can bring peace to the mentally disturbed. This has been the experience of many meditators.
“Mantra is energy. It is always pure, and cannot be contaminated by negative thought processes. As mantra is not gross energy, it cannot be corrupted the way sensory phenomena are corrupted by our own minds. One can easily discover the power of mantra for oneself by embarking upon a meditational retreat.
“Those endowed with skillful wisdom will naturally attain realizations through the power of mantra. Practitioners of mantra yoga will discover that their inner sound becomes completely one with the mantra itself. Then even their normal speech becomes mantra.”
[Excerpted from “Mantra” – a short teaching given at Kopan Monastery in Nepal in 1975 by Lama Yeshe in response to a question from a student.]