Mantra Meanings and History
A mantra is a sacred Vedic practice of chanting a spiritual thought or word, or series of words, to materialise those thoughts and to expand one’s consciousness. The Sanskrit term mantra means the thought behind one’s speech or action. When repeated with concentration, a mantra has a calming effect on body and mind, and produces a deepening awareness of the sacredness within each one of us. Following are the meanings of the mantras chanted in Sapta: The Seven Ways.
When chanting proper pronunciation is imperative to receive the benefits of the mantra, and thus complimentary to the practise of yoga. It is a deep and enlivening practise, and much fun to learn. For lessons please use the contact form.
Ashtanga Yoga Mantra (Opening Chant)
Ashtanga Yoga Mantra is dedicated to the ancient Indian sage Patanjali, who formally systemized yoga centuries ago. Traditionally chanted at the beginning of a yogi’s practice of Ashtanga Yoga, this mantra translates to:
“(I) worship at the feet of the gurus, who show us good knowledge, who are the jungle physicians, and who enlighten us to the poison of Samsara, conditioned existence. I bow down to Patanjali, who is in the shape of a man up to his shoulders, holding a conch, a discus of light, a sword and with a thousand white heads.”
Om Namo Bhagavate
Om Namo Bhagavate Vasudevay is a moksha or mukti (liberation) mantra that is recited as a way to achieve spiritual freedom from samsara or reincarnation, the recurring cycles of life and death. Considered a maha mantra, or great mantra, the chant translates to “Om and salutations to the Divine One who dwells in all.” It is used to specifically invoke that aspect of the Divine known as Vishnu in Vedic scripture, the peace-loving aspect of God, the sustainer of all life. It can also be chanted as an invocation to Lord Krishna, one of the incarnations of Vishnu.
The Gayatri mantra is one of the oldest and most powerful of Sanskrit mantras. It is believed that by chanting the Gayatri mantra with concentration and devotion, and also embracing right action, your life will be filled with happiness.
The word Gayatri itself explains the reason for the existence of this mantra. It has its origin in the Sanskrit phrase Gayantam Triyate iti, and refers to that mantra which rescues the chanter from all adverse situations that may lead to mortality.
The Gayatri mantra is composed of a metre consisting of 24 syllables - generally arranged in a triplet of eight syllables each. Therefore, this particular meter (tripadhi) is also known as the Gayatri Meter or Gayatri Chhanda.
Buddham Sharanam Gacchami
This mantra is in the language of Pali, the sacred language of Theravāda Buddhism. Its
message is that the only way to free yourself from the complexities of life is to take refuge in the arms of the Divinity (expressed as Buddha, Dhamma, and Sangha – the Three Jewels of Buddhism) that resides within each one of us. In so doing, we are led to a life of peace and fulfilment and a state of supreme bliss. The mantra translates to:
I take refuge in the Buddha (source of Enlightenment), wishing for all sentient beings to understand the great light of spirituality.
I take refuge in the Dharma (Knowledge), wishing for all sentient beings to deeply delve into an ocean of knowledge.
I take refuge in the Sangha (Community), wishing all sentient beings to lead the congregation in friendship and harmony, entirely without obstruction.
Guru Brahma – (Guru Mantra)
In Sanskrit, the word “Guru” is made up of two root words Gu and Ru. Gu means darkness, and Ru means remover. Thus, guru stands for the teacher who brings the disciple from darkness to light, or, to enlightenment. This prayer is taken from the Guru Gita and translates as follows:
Gurur Brahma : Guru is like Brahma (The Creator)
Gurur Vishnu : Guru is like Vishnu (The Preserver)
Gurur devo : Guru is like Lord Maheshwara (The Destroyer)
Guruh Sakshaat : The true Guru (truly), before the very eyes
Para Brahma: Highest Brahma
Tasmai: To that alone
Gurave Namah : To that true Guru alone, I bow
In whole, this chant is an invocation to all the teachers and masters who help us transcend the darkness in our lives and discover our divinity within.
Om Namah Shivaya
This popular mantra is an invocation to Lord Shiva as the Supreme Being. It literally translates to: “I bow to Lord Shiva,” the life force that sustains all life and destroys all imperfections. It is this most powerful force which embodies all of creation. The syllables of the mantra represent the elements of nature: “Na” – earth, “Ma” – water, “Si” – fire, “Va” – prana or life force energy, “Ya” – sky or ether. Together, these sounds affirm the universal consciousness as one. The chant begins with the sacred sound of Aum, and practiced over and over purifies the soul or Atman and brings spiritual insight to the mind and joy to the heart.
The Maṅgala Mantra, chanted at close of any Ashtanga/Vinyasa Yoga practice, spreads light, love and peace in the world. It is an ancient mantra thought to be from the Rig Veda, although the only written attribution of the mantra "lokah samastah sukhino bhavantu" seems to be stone inscriptions from the Rulers of the Sangama Dynasty (1336 A.D.-1485 A.D.). It means:
May it be well with the protector of the progeny on earth
And let them lead with intelligence for a peaceful earth
May it be well with the connection between us and permanence
May it be well with all beings everywhere
Translation by Greg Tebb
The mantra is also translated as: “In all births let there be happiness, may auspiciousness be everywhere, let good fortune be everywhere, let there be peace everywhere. Om, Peace, Peace, Peace.” (Translation by Greg Tebb)