In this ultimate guide to meditation mantras for beginners, you’ll learn the science of mantras, their benefits, and how to do mantra meditation (Japa) properly. Plus, a big list of the best meditation mantras for beginners.
You might also like to read my list of the best mantra books.
With this guide, I’m aiming to produce the absolute number one online resource on meditation mantras for beginners.
You might have noticed that there are lots of articles that discuss mantras, but none of them covers mantra meditation technique in depth. There are lots of articles like:
- The best mantras for meditation
- Why mantras work
- The benefits of mantra meditation
- Science of mantras
- Mantra meditation scripts
- And the science
But there are no articles that bring all of this together. A shame, because research shows that there are many benefits of mantra meditation for beginners to look forward to [Royal College of Physicians via ResearchGate].
Let’s take a look.
What Is Mantra Meditation Technique?
Mantra meditation technique is a method in which we focus on the sound of a mantra. The word “Mantra” is a Sanskrit term in which “Man” means mind and “Tra” means release.
Therefore “mantra” means to release the mind.
Mantras are sacred sounds with spiritual properties.
For instance, there are:
A mantra is a sacred word or sound, usually in Sanskrit, that is believed to produce spiritual, psychological, or physical benefits to the person who chants it. In this way, they are comparable to spells, incantations, and prayer formulas, though there are significant differences.
History of Meditation Mantras
Meditation mantras have existed for more than three thousand years
We can find the origins of mantras in Hinduism. Hindus meditate on Sanskrit words. They call this type of meditation “Japa”.
The first mantras appeared during the Vedic period when writers and gurus became fascinated by poetry, which they saw as divine and inspiring. This poetry formed the foundation of mantras. This passion for poetry and sound led to a 500-year period in which meditation mantras were written and recorded.
The meditation mantras were diversified during the period of the Hindu Epics when they were adopted by Hindu schools. Meditation mantras then evolved through the Tantric school. This school taught that each mantra represented a deity, which is how many still think of them today.
In the Vedic tradition, meditation mantras were not just recited. They were used together with ritual acts. For instance, when practising Bagalamukhi mantra, which is used for protection, the ritual is to wear yellow clothes and a yellow rosary and to offer flowers to the deity Bagalamukhi.
Over the years, we have seen the growth of Hindu, Buddhist, Jainist, and yoga mantras. You can find concepts similar to mantras in Japanese Shingon, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, tantra and Taoism. Plus, today there are also self-improvement affirmations, which work in similar ways.
Meditation mantras evolved further through Buddhism and Jainism.
Buddhism and Jainism stemmed off from Hinduism, and the split caused major changes in the evolution of mantras.
Hindus began to use mantras to ask the gods to help them, for instance, to save them from illness. And later, Hindus used them to transcend past the perpetual cycle of life and death. This led to different types of mantras, including anirukta (not enunciated) upamsu (inaudible) and manasa (not spoken but recited in mind) as well as chants and spoken mantras.
In the Tantric belief, the universe is comprised of sound, and the supreme (para) creates the universe through the word, Shabda. The universe is comprised of different frequencies and levels of sound.
In Tantra, mantras are essential and there are different types. These types are marked by their length and structure. For instance, mala mantras contain an exceptionally long chain of syllables, where bija mantras are only one single syllable that ends with a nasal sound that is called anusvara.
These sounds relate to different gods, with “dum” being Durga, “gam” being Ganesha, and so on. The bija are used in different combinations, which leads to the creation of longer mantras.
In the tantric tradition, it is believed that meditation mantras give a person supernatural strength. For instance, ones like the Kleem mantra for attraction , can be used for love, while others offer protection from Evil Eye and other benefits.
And today, we have mantra affirmations, although these technically should not be considered the same as mantras, for reasons I will explain shortly.
How To Do Mantra Meditation (Beginners Script)
So now we know what mantras are, let’s look at how to do mantra meditation. Beginners can use the script below for a simple mantra meditation practice.
- Sit comfortably in a peaceful area where you will not be distracted. Sit with good posture, placing your feet shoulder-width apart. Let your spine be long but relaxed. Gently close your eyes.
- Begin to breathe mindfully. Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Watch as your breath moves through your body entering through the nose, moving down into the diaphragm, and then out through the nose and mouth.
- Begin to recite your mantra. For this meditation, we will use the primordial sound “Om”, which is pronounced “Aum”. Let your body be relaxed as you recite this mantra. Time the mantra so it works with your breath (so you are chanting the mantra without altering your breathing pattern).
- Focus your mind on the sound of the mantra. Imagine that you are placing your mind inside the mantra. Aim for oneness with the mantra.
- Observe how at times your mind gets pulled away from the mantra. Essentially, you become distracted. When this happens, gently return your focus to the mantra and continue to meditate on the sound.
- Continue for 108 breaths.
- Note that for some meditation mantras, and especially Kundalini Yoga mantras, you will also need to follow the musical notes for the mantra.
How does mantra meditation work?
You may very well be wondering, “How does mantra meditation work?” In some ways it is similar to regular meditation in that it focuses the mind, stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, and creates relaxation. But there is more to it than that.
Mantras are based on sound. Sound is, without doubt, one of the most essential parts of meditation mantras.
The auditory faculty of human beings has evolved to include certain constants that create the foundations of our auditory composition (source: Gabriel Axel, U.S. News).
Those tiny little bits of sound (syllables, grunts, etc.) have been with us for millions of years. And they have helped us to make sense of the world.
Just like birds sing to tell each other about the weather, we have used utterances to communicate with one another and to become informed about the world around us.
Sound works through echoes. A ball hits the wall of your house; soundwaves pass around the environment bouncing off objects until we interpret them. That’s how sound works.
Mantra meditation technique works on the core concepts of sound.
Speech is based on the basic echoes that our ancestors heard in the world.
In his book Harnessed: How Language and Music Mimicked Nature and Transformed Ape to Man, neuroscientist Mark Changizi posits that the major phenomes of speech have evolved to resemble the sounds of nature.
You can hear this when you speak. Think about specific words, like “crash”, “honk, and “giggle”, and you can hear the sound of the event itself in the word. In other words, they are onomatopoetic.
Some languages are more onomatopoetic than others.
Sanskrit is a very onomatopoetic language. Most classic mantras come from Sanskrit, so they too are very onomatopoetic. That means the words of the language resemble their sound in nature. And this is how mantra meditation technique works.
Mantras recreate the sounds of nature. We use Sanskrit mantras to produce natural sounds that we then meditate on. This focuses the mind on some of the purest sounds in nature.
Here we have answered another question. Why are mantras in Sanskrit? The answer is that the Sanskrit language is essentially more primitive. And because it is more primitive, it takes us back to that time when words were much closer to nature.
Modern language has lost its proximity to nature. Where Sanskrit carries us back to nature, modern language leaves us in the realms of logic and reasoning. And that is why mantras are in Sanskrit.
However, since we are discussing how mantra meditation works, we need to consider more than just sound.
Are Mantras Magical?
Some masters state that meditation mantras are thoughts that have magical or spiritual powers.
For instance, in An Outline Of The Religious Literature In India, J. Farguhur states that meditation mantras are religious thoughts or prayers that have supernatural powers.
And in Heinrich Robert Zimmer’s Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, meditation mantras are defined as verbal instruments that produce certain traits in the mind.
One of the most hotly debated questions about mantras is this: do they meaning anything, or are the words meaningless? When we use meditation mantras, are we saying anything specific?
Do mantras mean anything?
Some masters will tell you that the precise sounds do not mean anything and that a mantra’s function is musical in nature, that the power of the sacred sounds comes from resonance, rhythm, and metre.
Other masters say that meditation mantras are precise mental instruments with precise meanings.
The exact meaning and definition of a mantra varies by culture and spirituality.
Sometimes meditation mantras have literal meanings. For instance, the Buddhist mantra Om Mani Padme Hum specifically means, “The Jewel is in the Lotus.” And some mantras have rhythm and pitches, such as the Kundalini Yoga mantra, “Ra Ma Sa Da Sa Sa Say So Hung.”
Some are also sacred, such as tantric manrts. And some are just sound.
As well as meaning, meditation mantras have a meter, rhythm and melody that is essential to their purpose. In other words, you cannot just repeat a meditation mantra over and over. You have to use them musically.
Mantras mean nothing?
Another view says that meditation mantras mean absolutely nothing. This view holds that sounds are like the utterances in folk music. We make sounds to evoke feelings but the sounds have no linguistic definition. This is the explanation offered by Frits Staal in Rituals And Mantras: Rules Without Meaning.
The important take-away from this is: Meditation mantras work on a combination of phonics and musical qualities to create certain states of mind. You must use the musical nature of mantras because the meaning of a mantra is usually not as important as the sound and feeling that they evoke.
Are there benefits of mantra meditation?
The potential benefits of mantra meditation include:
- Heightened self-awareness
- Reduced stress
- Positive outlook
- Reduced anxiety
- Less fatigue
- You can also use mantras like affirmations to reinforce goals
- Improved brain health. One small study shows that 8 weeks of the Kundalini mantra meditation “Kriya Kirtan” increased cerebral blood flow and cognitive function.
However, there has generally been a lack of research into thenefits of mantra meditation. Instead, we must look to wisdom from spiritual texts and experts.
Yoga teacher Amarjit Singh said the following on DoYouYoga: “The vibrations from mantras have the power to rearrange your molecular structure. Each sound has a distinct vibration, and as a result, each one has a different effect. All sound affects your molecular structure.”
Difference between mantras and affirmations
Mantras are different from affirmations. Affirmations are based on modern language. For instance, one affirmation might be, “I feel loved”. And when we think about these words, we do just that: think.
Affirmations are based on precise meanings and thoughts. They are about definitions. “I feel loved” means what it says.
The idea of affirmations is that when you repeat these words, you feel what the words promise. “I feel loved” makes you feel loved. Do affirmations work? That is a subject for another article.
The way how meditation mantras work is completely different to the way affirmations work. With an affirmation, you are creating a literal meaning and then focusing on that meaning.
Mantras are about precise sounds that are echoes of the natural world. Affirmations are about the meaning of the words.
Vedantic philosophy describes the mantras according to the Koshas:
Literal meaning: this is the primary level. At this level, we understand the meaning of the sound as though it were any other word.
Feeling: This is a more subtle level at which we feel the meaning.
Inner awareness: This is the level at which we experience the sound inwardly.
Soundless sound: This is the deepest and most profound level of a mantra.
When you perform Japa, you aim to pass from the primary level to the deepest level, to take the mantra from its literal meaning and to journey with it to soundless sound, the deepest level.
The Science Of Primordial Sounds
There is a science to meditation mantras. These primordial sounds create echoes of nature in the body.
Sounds reverberate in the mind and body. When you speak you create physical events inside yourself.
By recreating the sounds of nature through mantra meditation, we reproduce the physical events (echoes) of nature in the mind and body. Meditating on mantras then puts our consciousness inside the sound. It puts consciousness inside the echo of nature.
The 108 Primordial Sounds
Here are the 108 primordial sounds from Sanskrit
aa = a as in father ee = ee as in sheep
oo = oo as in shoot e = cave
o = home
1. cūṁ – (choom)
2. ceṁ – (chaym)
3. coṁ – (chom)
4. lāṁ – (laam)
5. līṁ – (leem)
6. lūṁ – (loom)
7. leṁ – (laym)
8. loṁ – (lom)
9. āṁ – (aam)
10. īṁ – (eem)
11. ūṁ – (oom)
12. eṁ – (aym)
13. oṁ – (om)
14. vāṁ – (vaam)
15. vīṁ – (veem)
16. vūṁ – (voom)
17. veṁ – (vaym)
18. voṁ – (vom)
19. kāṁ – (kaam)
20. kīṁ – (keem)
21. kūṁ – (koom)
22. khāṁ – (khaam)
kh as in blockhead
23. ṅāṁ – (ngaam)
ng as in sing
24. chāṁ – (tchaam)
ch as in itch
25. keṁ – (kaym)
26. koṁ – (kom)
27. hāṁ – (haam)
28. hīṁ – (heem)
29. hūṁ – (hoom)
30. heṁ – (haym)
31. hoṁ – (hom)
32. ḍāṁ – (daam)
33. ḍīṁ – (deem)
34. ḍūṁ – (doom)
35. ḍeṁ – (daym)
36. ḍoṁ – (dom)
37. māṁ – (maam)
38. mīṁ – (meem)
39. mūṁ – (moom)
40. meṁ – (maym)
41. moṁ – (mom)
42. ṭāṁ – (taam)
43. ṭīṁ – (teem)
44. ṭūṁ – (toom)
45. ṭeṁ – (taym)
46. ṭoṁ – (tom)
47. pāṁ – (paam)
48. pīṁ – (peem)
49. pūṁ – (poom)
50. ṣāṁ – (shaam)
51. ṇāṁ – (naam)
n as in niche
52. tḥāṁ – (thaam)
th as in arthouse
53. peṁ – (paym)
54. poṁ – (pom)
55. rāṁ – (raam)
56. rīṁ – (reem)
57. rūṁ – (room)
58. reṁ – (raym)
59. roṁ – (rom)
60. tāṁ – (taam)
61. tīṁ – (teem)
62. tūṁ – (toom)
63. teṁ – (taym)
64. toṁ – (tom)
65. nāṁ – (naam)
66. nīṁ – (neem)
67. nūṁ – (noom)
68. neṁ – (naym)
69. noṁ – (nom)
70. yāṁ – (yaam)
71. yīṁ – (yeem)
72. yūṁ – (yoom)
73. yeṁ – (yaym)
74. yoṁ – (yom)
75. bāṁ – (baam)
76. bīṁ – (beem)
77. būṁ – (boom)
78. dhāṁ – (dhaam)
dh as in adhoc
79. bhāṁ – (bhaam)
bh as in clubhouse
80. dḥāṁ – (dhaam)
dh as in hardhat
81. beṁ – (baym)
82. boṁ – (bom)
83. jāṁ – (jaam)
84. jīṁ – (jeem)
85. jūṁ – (joom)
86. jeṁ – (jaym)
87. joṁ – (jom)
88. ghāṁ – (ghaam)
gh as in doghouse
89. gāṁ – (gaam)
90. gīṁ – (geem)
91. gūṁ – (goom)
92. geṁ – (gaym)
93. goṁ – (gom)
94. sāṁ – (saam)
95. sīṁ – (seem)
96. sūṁ – (soom)
97. seṁ – (saym)
98. soṁ – (som)
99. dāṁ – (daam)
100. dīṁ – (deem)
101. dūṁ – (doom)
102. śāṁ – (shaam)
103. ñāṁ – (nyaam)
104. thāṁ – (thaam)
th as in hothouse
105. deṁ – (daym)
106. doṁ – (dom)
107. cāṁ – (chaam)
108. cīṁ – (cheem)
Best meditation mantras for beginners
I have created additional guides for the following:
- For a Child
- Good luck mantra
- Sahaj Samadhi Meditation
- Hari Om Meditation
- Vashikaran Mantra For Friendship
- How To Teach Kids Mantras
The absolute best meditation mantra for beginners is “Om”, which is pronounced “Aum”. This entire sound is a sonorant, and it does not feature plosives or fricative—it is an entirely “open” sound. Make the sound now, and you will see what I mean.
Because Om is entirely sonorant, it is entirely “open”.
Now, let’s return to our discussion above. Vocal sounds resemble nature. “Crash” resembles a crash. “Honk” resembles a honk. What does “Om” resemble? Formlessness. There are no sonorants and no fricatives, so the sound is empty.
When we recite “Om”, we create an echo of formlessness in the body. We then place our consciousness inside it by meditating. And the result is to return us to the point of formless existence.
The reason why this is the best meditation mantra for beginners is that when we meditate on Om, we clear the mind and return to our purest form.
You may have noticed that suddenly the definition of mantras as something that is spoken seems inadequate. It is much more accurate to say that a mantra is something we become and that the vocal aspect is simply the gateway to becoming.
Visualising Om Ah Hung
“Om ah hung” is a Buddhist mantra for mental health.
One of the most important mantra techniques in Buddhism is a technique in which we recite OM, AH, and HUNG while visualising those syllables at the head, throat and heart. At the same time, we visualise receiving a guru’s Body, Speech and Mind. In this technique, the three syllables are different colours.
Om Mani Padme Hum
Om Mani Padme Hum is a mantra that is used to invoke the blessings of Chenrezig, the embodiment of compassion. You can read much more about the meaning of this Buddhist mantra via the link above.
You might enjoy this video of Ani Choying teaching the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra.
Oṃ muni muni mahāmuni śākyamuni svāhā Om muni muni mahamuni shakyamuni svaha
Om muni muni mahamuni shakyamuniye svaha
Gautama Siddhartha is also called the Shakyamuni Buddha, who is the sage of the Shakya clan and the first person to achieve enlightenment. The meaning of this Buddhist meditation mantra is “Om wise one, wise one, greatly wise one, wise one of the Shakyans, Hail!”
Oṃ Amideva Hrīḥ
This is the mantra of the celestial Buddha, Amitabha. It is the best meditation mantra for protection from dangers and for overcoming obstacles. It also boosts loving-kindness and compassion.
Oṃ Tāre Tuttāre Ture Mama Ayuḥ Punya Jñānā Puṣtiṃ Kuru Svāhā
White Tara is associated with longevity. This mantra is usually chanted with a specific person in mind. It is the best meditation mantra for breaking through limitations.
OM TARE TUTTARE TURE SOHA
The Green Tara is the best meditation mantra to use to overcome emotional, mental, and physical blockages. It is also a mantra for good relationships.
Tayata Om Bekanze Bekanze Maha BeKanze Radza Samudgate Soha
The Medicine Buddha mantra is recited for success. It is also the best meditation mantra to use to stop unhappiness and suffering.
Om A Ra Pa Ca Na Dhih
This is a wisdom mantra and the best meditation mantra for memory, writing, debating and similar tasks.
Om Vajrapani Hum
This is the best meditation mantra to stop hatred.
As you can see from the meanings of Buddhist meditation mantras, in the Buddhist tradition mantras are used mostly to develop positive mental traits and to connect with Buddha.
Gayatri Mantra: Used for invoking the universal Braham.
ॐ भूर्भुवस्व: | तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यम् | भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि | धियो यो न: प्रचोदयात्
Oṁ Bhūrbhuvaswaha Tatsaviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥa prachodayāt
“Let us meditate on that excellent glory of the divine Light (Vivifier, Sun). May he stimulate our understandings (knowledge, intellectual illumination).”
असतोमा सद्गमय । तमसोमा ज्योतिर् गमय । मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय ॥ asato mā sad gamaya, tamaso mā jyotir gamaya, mṛtyor māmṛtaṃ gamaya.
“From the unreal lead me to the real, from the dark lead me to the light, from death lead me to immortality.
Oṁ Sahanā vavatu
Oṁ Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ, Shāntiḥ.
“Om! Let the Studies that we together undertake be effulgent;
Let there be no Animosity amongst us;
Om! Peace, Peace, Peace.”
Note on Buddhist mantras:
Because they are rarely mentioned in the sutras, the common belief is that Buddha Shakyamuni’s dharma system did not include mantras.
However, the system does include the Heart Sutra mantra “OM, Gate, gate, paragate, parasumgate, bodhi, Swaha”. And historians state that the Buddha taught protective dharanis or charms to hermits in the forest who lived in isolated places. This was the beginning of Buddhist meditation mantras. They were used as protection for the mind.
In Buddhism, meditation mantras are believed to be divine, and it is important to have reverence for Buddhist mantras if they are to work.
Because Buddhist meditation mantras have to be believed to work, many modern scientists determine that they work as placebos, that their magic is the magic of the mind and that because the mind believes it is being healed it will indeed be healed.
In Buddhism mantras are comprised of one or more syllables. Most Buddhist meditation mantras relate to one specific deity and are used to express devotion to that deity. The essence of both the deity and of the mantra is contained in the seed syllable, also called the “bijas”. Sanskrit “A”, for instance, contains the essence of the Heart Sutra.
Buddhist meditation mantras usually work by emptying the mind, then visualising the seed syllable, then letting the visualisation grow into the form of the deity related to that seed.
List of Jainist mantras:
- Jain Yantra Mantra for Business Success [see more mantras for money]
- Jain Mantra for Stopping enemies
- Jain Future Knowing Mantra
- Mantra to make people Favorable
- Jain Mohini Mantra to Enchant Women
In this article, we have looked at the science of mantras, their historical and cultural background, the best meditation mantras, and a guide to how to do mantra meditation for beginners. And we have discussed the differences between Hindu, Buddhist and Jainist ones.
As you can see, this is a very deep subject spanning thousands of years and multiple faiths. And there are many ways in which you can use mantras for meditation.
You can use them to heal your health, to contact deities, to increase your compassion… there are thousands of mantras for all different uses.
I truly hope you have enjoyed this look at mantra meditation technique.
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Thanks for reading.
Next, why not read my mudras list [with pictures]?
An Outline Of The Religious Literature In India, J. Farguhur.
Myths and Symbols in Indian Art and Civilization, Heinrich Robert Zimmer.
Rituals And Mantras: Rules Without Meaning, Frits .Staal.
Other sources have been stated, with links, in the article.
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