M A N T R A means "the creative projection of the mind through sound" - from Sanskrit: man- "to think" and -tra "tool" - literally means "instrument of thought."
Mantras are formulas that alter the patterns of the mind and the chemistry of the brain, according to physical and metaphysical laws.
The power of a mantra is in its sound vibration.
Chanting mantras either silently or out loud is a conscious method of controlling and directing the mind.
When we chant a mantra we are choosing to invoke the positive power contained in it. While chanting, there are three elements that are important to pay attention to, to make it more effective:
1) Rhythm: maintain a precise rhythm
2) Consciousness: remain aware while chanting
3) Correct pronunciation
Mantras have 2 key components: Meaning and Sound. For the mantra to be effective, great emphasis is put on both correct pronunciation and the level of concentration of the mind on the meaning of the word or words that are recited.
This emphasis on correct pronunciation resulted in an early development of a science of phonetics in India. It was recognized that words do have a mysterious power to affect human beings.
The most important of all Hindu mantras became AUM which is called the pranava mantra (the source of all mantras). Aum is considered to be the most fundamental and powerful mantra, and thus is prefixed and suffixed to all Hindu prayers. It represents the underlying unity of reality, called Brahman, the godhead, as well as the whole of creation. Merely pronouncing this syllable is said to allow one to experience the divine in a very direct way.
One of the main forms of worship in Hinduism is repetition of mantras or Mantra japna, which is said to lead to liberation. Essentially, Mantra Japa means repetition of mantra, it involves repetition of a mantra over and over again, usually in cycles of auspicious numbers (in multiples of three) the most popular being 108. For this reason, Hindu malas (Hindu praying rosary) contain 108 beads.
There are various purposes of mantras depending on the religious school involved and the intention of the practitioner. It is often said that the purpose of mantras is to free the mind from illusion and material inclinations and to bring focus. It is claimed that a mantra can change one's state of consciousness.
An example of a very simple mantra, SOHUM सो ऽहम् - which meaning is "i am that." So-hum.
Sooo is the sound of inhalation, and is mentally vibrated along with that inhalation
Humm is the sound of exhalation, and is mentally vibrated along with that exhalation
In meditation "Sohum" acts as a natural mantra to control one's breathing pattern, to help achieve deep breath, and to gain concentration. It's deeply relaxing.
Many times listeners constantly request 'mantra concerts' (when I come to their city, etc.) and I say... "OK to go for an entertainment, but mainly, try to play this kind of sensitive music in meditation, in silence, in your intimate practice ...and there you will connect in a total different way and more earnestly than searching for concerts. If the practice is earnest, if you are really interested in rising consciousness through meditation, this is a good practice. Gatherings are nice and fun, but the real practice is every day and mostly individual: 'going in, not going out.'
Peace is not achieved through 'peace concerts or events' - many times those are mainly commercial 'labels' - Peace is achieved through individual inner peace, starting by oneself each day.
MANTRAS ARE NOT SIMPLY RANDOM SOUNDS THAT WE CAN PICK UP BY CASUAL READING AND EXPECT WONDERS FROM. THE SOUND FORM OF THE MANTRA ONLY HAS VALUE IF APPLIED IN THE RIGHT MANNER, JUST AS A TOOL WILL ONLY WORK IF USED BY ONE TRAINED IN HOW TO HANDLE IT.