The word mantra has two parts: “man,” which is the root of the Sanskrit word for “mind” and “tra,” which is the root of the word “instrument.” A mantra is therefore an instrument of the mind, a powerful sound or vibration that you may use to enter a deep state of meditation.

According to the Vedic tradition, ancient sages were able to hear the subtle vibrations produced by everything in nature, including the sounds of the wind, thunder, butterflies, rushing rivers and all other things in nature. The sages recognized that these sounds are the manifestation of spirit into matter. They identified “Om” (or aum) as the most elemental sound of all, representing the infinite universal consciousness. For thousands of years, people have used this mantra to expand their awareness of the divine.

The ancient seers also identified all the primordial vibrations or mantras that make up the universe and these were eventually recorded in the Vedic literature―the four texts that form the basis for the Hindu religion. You can actually hear all the mantras yourself if you sit quietly. You’ll notice a background hum in the air, and as you practice focusing on that hum, you will ultimately hear every mantra the sages recorded long ago.

Silently repeating a mantra as you meditate is a powerful way to enter the silence of the mind. As you repeat the mantra, it creates a mental vibration that allows the mind to experience deeper levels of awareness. As you meditate, the mantra becomes increasingly abstract and indistinct, until you are finally led into the field of pure consciousness from which the vibration arose.

Repetition of the mantra helps you disconnect from the thoughts filling your mind so that perhaps you may slowly rest in the space between all of the thoughts. The mantra is a tool to support your meditation practice. Mantras can be viewed as ancient power words with subtle intentions that help us connect to spirit, the source of everything in the universe. As you experience deeper meditative states, all thoughts and worries fall away and you experience the quiet that always exists beneath the noisy internal dialogue of the mind. In this stillness you may feel oneness with all life and a sense of profound peace.