Vedic Meditation Mantras 101: A Complete Guide
A mantra is a sound, word, or phrase that is usually repeated with intention or purpose. Brands have taglines that act like mantras, or they can be personal values or reminders. Some religions repeat certain phrases with significant meaning to the group. Affirmations and mantras are referenced interchangeably in some circles, all with the purpose of remembering a feeling or idea that is meaningful.
Vedic Meditation mantras are completely different than how mantras are commonly used in the modern day. Specifically, Vedic Meditators use a Bija mantra, which is a unique category of mantras and serves a unique purpose in settling the mind.
In this article, we’ll discuss what Vedic Meditation mantras are and why they’re different from other kinds.
WHAT IS A VEDIC MEDITATION MANTRA?
The mantras used in Vedic Meditation come from the Shankaracharya tradition, which is the undisputed Supreme source of the Vedic worldview. They are called Bija mantras. Bija means ‘seed’ in Sanskrit, and mantra means ‘mind vehicle.’ So the Bija mantra is a subtle sound vibration that seeds and initiates the process of relaxation and transports the mind from higher states of activity to a less stressed state, de-excited state of awareness.
Here are the unique properties of a Bija mantra:
- It has no intended meaning
- It is not spoken or written
- It is not chanted out loud (it is repeated silently inside meditation)
- Each meditator receives one mantra
- Bija mantras are assigned to new meditators by a formally trained instructor of Vedic Meditation
- Bija mantras can only be received in person
- Bija mantras do not hypnotize the mind
- There are groups of Bija mantras: many, but not thousands or millions
These properties will be explored further in the discussion here, but the most important thing to note is that the Bija mantra is a sound vibration with no intended meaning in any language. Each mantra has a melodious and enchanting quality to it that, when repeated in the mind, can settle the mind even if other thoughts are present.
HOW DOES THE VEDIC MEDITATION MANTRA WORK?
Since a Bija mantra has no intention or meaning, its effectiveness works on the basis on vibrational sound quality. When a Vedic Meditator begins to repeat the mantra, the sound enters the mind without the mind bringing up any associations or other thoughts to the mind of the meditator. In this way, the mantra starts to make its way through the active layers of the mind, down to the quieter layers, easily and without effort.
Also, because each mantra is personalized to the meditator using it, when the meditator naturally feels an affinity towards the sound. As a meditator thinks the mantra in their meditation (alongside their other thoughts), they find themselves easily letting go of other thoughts in the mind. The alluring sound vibration of the mantra ‘charms’ the mind to draw its attention away from frenetic thoughts and towards the mantra effortlessly.
As the Vedic Meditator silently repeats the mantra – without force or effort, simply allowing the sound to arise naturally alongside their thoughts – the mantra will become quieter and fainter. And as the mantra becomes fainter, the mind is even more drawn to that subtle sound, all along settling into quieter and quieter states of the mind. At a certain point inside a Vedic Meditation session, the Bija mantra disappears from a Vedic Meditator’s awareness completely, and the mind follows the subtle sound vibration to a place of inner quietude and stillness. It’s what we call the transcendental state of Being.
In these moments beyond thought, the mind experiences complete satisfaction. No thought, not even the mantra, can compete with the bliss that the mind is experiencing in that supremely quiet, inner silence. This effortless Vedic mantra Meditation allows meditators with busy minds and those who can focus alike to experience the deep rest of meditation easily.
WHAT ARE THE VEDIC MEDITATION MANTRAS?
Unlike other forms of meditation involving mantras, you won’t find a Vedic Meditation mantra list or Vedic Meditation mantra examples. They are not written down but passed orally and in person from qualified instructors to students in a beginner Vedic Meditation Course. The meditator doesn’t share their mantra, as it’s been selected uniquely for them.
Instructors who have completed extensive training with Thom Knoles are experts in the knowledge of Vedic Meditation mantras, and how to appropriately assign them. Just as in Ayurveda there are several psychophysiological types, a Vedic Meditation teacher selects a mantra that best suits their students. You won’t find YouTube Channels, blog posts, or virtual meetings to help with choosing a mantra for Vedic Meditation.
HOW YOU GET A VEDIC MEDITATION MANTRA IS AS IMPORTANT AS THE MANTRA ITSELF
One thing to keep in mind is that while being assigned a Vedic Meditation mantra is essential in meditating effortlessly and easily, the way in which you practice with the mantra is equally as important.
Similar to learning to drive, it’s not enough to be given the keys to the car; it’s equally as important to learn how to drive the car, too. This is why instruction on how to use the mantra is critical in setting up a successful Vedic Meditation practice, and why we only teach it in an in-person course format.
ARE BIJA MANTRAS RELIGIOUS?
Though Bija mantras originated in ancient Vedic times, they are not associated with a religion. The mantras are primordial sounds and predate religion and even Sanskrit. Because Vedic Meditation mantras work on the level of vibration, and not on the level of meaning, you won’t be suggesting a belief to your mind or practicing a suggestive ritual. The mantra is only meant to bring the mind to a quiet and still place and allow the body to deeply rest.
The Vedic worldview sees stress accumulation as the main roadblock in accessing your true inner nature of bliss. With Vedic Meditation, you rest the body so deeply that decades old, accumulated stresses unwind with each sitting, which allows each meditator to live each day with more happiness and grace, and less stress in the mind and body.
With regular practice of Vedic Meditation, all of the practices and passions you enjoy in life (including prayer) will feel even more enjoyable. Those habits that may no longer feel relevant for you begin to naturally fall by the wayside. With less stress and more baseline happiness, aligning with your true nature and authenticity becomes an effortless process.
The Vedic worldview shares that it’s up to each of us to find what feels natural and authentic to us; there is no dogma or school of thought associated with your Vedic Meditation mantra and practice; it’s a sound that opens up that channel for us to find our true self through meditation and stress release.
VEDIC MANTRAS VS OTHER MANTRA TYPES
Many forms of mantras act like reminders or values in one’s awareness. They often have a slogan-like quality to them, reminding us to feel positive, grateful, happy, or empathetic.
While these mantras are nice thoughts to keep in our awareness, within the context of a meditation setting, mantras that are bound up in a meaning for us keeps our mind quite active.
For example, if we are thinking the thought, “May all beings be happy and free,” (which is a great thought to have), we may naturally begin to ruminate on the concept of that mantra while we’re meditating. We may start thinking about which beings we specifically want to be happy and free, we question the meaning of freedom, and what is really “means” to be happy. Our meditation then becomes a tangled web of more and more thinking, and this process will predictably keep the mind in that shallow, thought-filled layer of thinking and grips the mind in dynamic mental activity.
With a Bija mantra, due to the non-intentionality of the sound, the mind drifts from high focus and task-oriented intention into subtle, quiet layers of thinking. As we loosely hold the mantra in our awareness, and have no agenda behind the meaning behind it, we settle even deeper into meditation and into an even more settled mind. Eventually, we step over the threshold of thinking altogether and enjoy a calm, completely still and blissful state of awareness. The place of no thought, no mantra is where our body receives maximum rest and rejuvenation.
This experience of the still, silent, rested mind cannot be attained through intention-lade mantras, affirmations, or any other type of mantra that are not classified as bija mantras.
THE BIJA MANTRA AND STRESS
As the mind enjoys that still, silent restfulness, our body also enjoys a time of restoration and rejuvenation. The mind and body release stress and build resiliency and adaptability. As a result of this holistic reset inside Vedic Meditation, a Vedic Meditator responds to potential stressors in their daily life with great fortitude.
Instead of having to remember their affirmation to behave a certain way and mentally choosing how to behave, they will naturally respond with interactivity instead of reactivity, have milder stress reactions, and interact with changes of expectation in the face of challenging situations.
A few other benefits of meditating with a Bija mantra are:
- Ease, naturalness, and enjoyment inside meditation
- No fighting thoughts inside meditation
- A sense of restoration and vitality after meditation – that lasts for hours
- Greater acceptance of thoughts in meditation
- Less anxiety
- Deeper, more restful sleep
- Less reactivity
- More enjoyment and presence in life over time
- A return to balance in mind, body, and spirit
- Positive physiological effects as the body has to manage less accumulated stress
Most people experience a sense of calm and better sleep almost immediately when they start practicing Vedic Meditation with a Bija mantra. Month over month, for the first 6 months, the noticeable improvements will increase.
Many meditators have said that twice-daily Vedic Meditations have changed their life for the better, as they more quickly recognize which people, situations, and roles suit them in life and which may no longer serve their greatest evolution. Many say that they feel their emotions are balanced and easy, and they feel less triggered by stresses that would have normally taken them out of their normal pacing of life.
HOW DO I START A VEDIC MEDITATION?
Vedic Meditation mantras can be received by a qualified instructor in a beginner Vedic Meditation Course. In order to take the course, you can begin with a virtual or in-person introductory talk to learn about what Vedic Meditation is and how the course works. You can also ask your questions in this talk.
To take the course, you will meet your instructor for about two hours a day over four consecutive days, either with a group or on your own. Your instructor will assign you a mantra and show you how to use it correctly. You’ll learn how to effortlessly allow the mantra to arise in your meditations, and how to integrate two twenty-minute meditations into your daily schedule.
THE BIJA MANTRA FOR BUSY MINDS
If you are someone who has struggled to stay consistent in your meditation practice, or you have trouble ‘getting rid of your thoughts in meditation,’ Vedic Meditation with a Bija mantra will be a good fit for you. You will not be required to ‘stop thinking’ and will get the chance each day to release stress and deeply rest. The two twenty-minute sessions can integrate into your schedule more easily than many other forms of meditation which require 30-minute to 1-hour sessions, too.
THE BIJA MANTRA FOR ANXIETY AND DEMANDING SCHEDULES
If you’ve dealt with anxiety or have a demanding career or responsibilities, Vedic Meditation with a Bija mantra is a helpful way to stay resilient to stress and avoid burnout. Vedic Meditation rests the body more deeply than sleep, allowing you to have staying power and to feel more energetic in the afternoon and evenings (usually the times when we feel our daily crash come on).
Vedic Meditation also freshens the mind and allows us to feel increasingly adaptable and creative in our problem-solving. We begin to live in a world of solutions that are readily available to us whenever the demands of life appear.
WHAT IF I MEDITATE ALREADY?
If you have an existing mindfulness or meditation practice, you can continue it alongside a Vedic Meditation practice– but I don’t recommend you practice them at the same time. Since the Bija mantra uniquely works to effortlessly bring the mind to a de-excited state, if you’re listening to a guided meditation track or thinking of another technique during meditation, Vedic Meditation mantras won’t work to bring the body into deep rest and stress release.
As you continue on with your Vedic Meditation practice, you may find that your other practices become more optional and are enjoyed when you have more time. Many Vedic Meditators report that other forms of relaxation and meditation naturally are less unnecessary to help them feel the relaxed state that Vedic Meditation gives them on a twice-daily basis.
Learning how to meditate with a Bija mantra from a qualified meditation instructor is the best way to introduce a mantra into your meditation. If you’re looking to deepen your meditation practice or seeking a technique that will release stress from your mind and body effortlessly, then the Learn to Meditate course can help you create a steady practice.