The term mantra should be familiar to most readers. It is usually associated with sounds or words that when spoken or sung, evoke a particular magical power or energy. Two of the best-known mantras are AUM or Om, The term mantra is derived from the sanskrit root “man”, which means, ‘to think’. Thus the uttered sound is merely an aid to the focusing and direction of thought, and initiates of Tantrika regard the different types of mantra as vehicles for articulating spiritual energy as sound.
For example, there are ‘seed’ mantras such as Hrim, Krim and Srim. which represents the quintessence of the power of particular deities; there are also mantras which are based on texts, and have symbolic, rather than literal meanings, and, as in most cultures, spells and mnemonic formula.
In tantrik ritual, or Puja, the seed mantras are pronounced from the diaphragm, the throat, rolled around the tongue and finally closed off with the nasal sound “m”. Mantras may be uttered ‘in silence’, as it were, and be none the less effective.
Similarly, Cherokee shaman songs may be sung or thought, and remain effective. According to one medicine man, the same song could be used for ‘every purpose there is’, adding that it is ‘the intention of the heart, and the knowledge, that really count.’
In techniques such as japas (recitation), the practitioner repeats a sound or phrase repeatedly, moving eventually from spoken speech to ‘silent’ speech. The original words may degenerate into a meaningless mush, but again, it is the rhythm which whirls the practitioner’s brain towards ecstasy – recognisable by the perception that it is no longer you who chants, but that the chant chants itself through you.
Again, don’t take my word for it, have a go yourself. You don’t have to use a phrase which necessarily has any ‘mystical’ significance – it’s the rhythm and momentum that’s important – try it with ‘My Mum’s Monkey Makes Many Mistakes’ for about half an hour a day for a few weeks, and see where it takes you.