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Om mani padme hum , the mantra of Avalokiteshvara , next to it in red Om Vajrasattva Hum , the mantra of Vajrasattva
Tibetan Buddhists often carve mantras into stones as a form of meditation.

Mantra ( Sanskrit : मन्त्र, mantra m. 'Spruch, Lied, Hymne') denotes a sacred syllable, a sacred word or a sacred verse. These are "sound bodies" of a spiritual force that is supposed to manifest itself through mostly repetitive recitation in this world . These repetitions of the mantra or the name of a deity are sometimes called japa or nama-japa . Mantras can be either speaking, whispering, singing or reciting in your mind. They can also be written down ( Likhita-Japa ) and even eaten in this form. In Hinduism , Buddhism and yoga, it is common to recite mantras during meditation and in prayer. Above all in the spirituality of Eastern Christianity , belief in names ( onomatodoxy ) in connection with mantric forms of prayer (such as Jesus or rest prayer ) plays an important role.


The Sanskrit word mantra (also mantram ) is mostly used as a masculine , less often as a neuter . In German usage, mantra is mostly neuter, the masculine is used less often.

The Sanskrit word mantram united in the etymological sense of the two word roots manas (mind) and tram (protection, protect or instrument) , so that the literal meaning mental protection or protection of the mind , but also an instrument of the mind / thinking can be. Mantras as a means of meditation, such as in Vajrayana Buddhism (keyword mantrayana ), consequently serve the meaning of the word to protect the mind or the mind - from harmful ideas and concepts. The ideal is that while the mantra is being recited, the mind attaches itself to the positive contents of the words of the mantra and thus not with others, i.e. H. can deal with negative thoughts.

Mantra is derived from the Indo-European root * men- 'think, senses', which was expanded with the instrumental suffix * -tro- . The word is already Indo-Iranian, as avestisch mąθra 'word, saying' shows. This is often used in the formula spənta mąθra 'holy saying, holy word' and is circumscribed in Yašt 13.81 as ' Ahura Mazda 's white radiant soul '.


The recitation of a mantra should serve to release mental and spiritual energies , often as a prayer. Every syllable and every word during a puja , a Hindu worship service , is considered a mantra. The priest's external activities receive their meaning and effectiveness only through the recitation of the prescribed words. The Vedic sacrificial formulas and prayers are among the oldest mantras .

Two very well-known mantras, the words of which come from the Vedas, are the Gayatri mantra and the Mahamrityunjaya mantra .

Certain combinations of mantras are also used as incantations against snakes, demons or other negative forces. As in the Vedic rite, where the correctly intoned formula fulfilled an important function as an effective force, in Hinduism, too, one attaches religious value and effectiveness to sound and song.

Hindu disciples usually receive a personal mantra from the guru after initiation into the rite . This formula must be kept secret and is said to be the believer's treasure.

There are three types of mantras:

  • Saguna , literally 'with form', are directed to a specific deity or to a specific aspect of a god.
  • Nirguna , literally 'without form', address the formless divine.
  • Bija or bija-akshara are monosyllabic seed mantras that are specially used in meditation or in ceremonies, and according to Tantric teachings also on the respective energy center, the chakra can act ( ham - ether, yam - air, ram - fire, vam - water, lam - earth).

The best-known Bija mantra is Om , the most important mantra for Hindus, which contains all others (Pranava). Other Bija mantras such as Haum, Gum, Krim, Shrim and Aim represent certain spiritual forces, which in Hinduism also correspond to certain deities who are invoked meditatively with longer mantras .


In Buddhism , sacred sentences or syllables are used as mantras. In Vajrayana Buddhism (Tibetan tradition and Japanese Shingon ), mantras (Tib. Ngag , Orth. Sngags ) are so important that this tradition is also called Mantrayana ('mantra vehicle', Tib. Sngags kyi theg pa ).

Mantras in Tibet are usually transmitted in Sanskrit , whereby the transliteration (in Tibetan script) is clear, the pronunciation is sometimes changed. As in Hinduism, mantras are given to students by qualified teachers during an initiation ( dbang bskur ). But there are also mantras (partly) in Tibetan language, for example to refer to famous Tibetan saints (e.g. Milarepa ).

Each Buddha is invoked and visualized via its own mantra.

Practice and Importance


Essentially, mantras are key statements (or memos ) that are traditionally left in their original language, mostly Sanskrit. In the context of a sadhana recitation it is therefore possible that, regardless of the language used, a mantric sentence is spoken in Sanskrit when one becomes aware of voidness (e.g. Om sobhawa shuddha sarwa dharma sobhawa shuddho ham ) or when making offerings to the Buddhas are made (e.g. I dam gu ru ratna mandalakam niryatayami ), or more concretely names the individual offerings (e.g. Om shabda ah hum ); finally, one dwells in meditation by at least initially reciting the mantra of yidam (i.e., the Buddha on whom one is meditating). Thereby the mind is held on to the meditation object by imagining (visualizing) and speaking the mantra. The long-term recitation of a mantra should serve as a support to linger meditatively in the desired thinking. The mantra recitation eventually turns into a quiet dwelling in the experience of the meditation object (i.e., without support).


Furthermore, a distinction is made between seed syllables ( om, ah, hum, hrih ), to which certain functions in the energy system are assigned, and other components, such as core statements (e.g. "everything becomes emptiness", "jewel in the lotus", "fragrances") ) or names of Buddhas (e.g. Amidewa = Amitabha ) or gurus. A mantra often begins and ends with a seed syllable, with a statement in between (e.g. Om A mi de wa hrih = Om Amitabha hrih ). Furthermore, many mantras begin with teyatha (see Tathagata ) (orth. Ta dya tha ) and end with hum or soha (orth. Svah Hah from Sanskrit svaha "sacrifice").


The mantra is a certain vibration and thus an aspect of the original vibration, which in Hinduism is called Shabda or Nada. A multiple concentration and visualization with color and meaning intensifies and changes the effect. The effect depends on the strength of the meditator and on the duration of the effect of the vibration.

The mantra serves to transform the meditator in meditation. Because a mantra is assigned to a certain mental attitude, a deity or a Buddha, its recitation is used to produce this mental attitude, and the naming (e.g. by means of the seed syllables) attracts attention e.g. B. directed to certain energy positions in the body.


From the Hindu tradition

The most important mantras in Hinduism are the mystical syllable Om and the Gayatri , which is considered the "mother of the Vedas". With the Shivaites the Panchaksharamantra Om namah Shivaya is the most important mantra, with the Vishnuits it is the Ashtaksharamantra Om namo Narayanaya and the Dvadashaksharamantra Om namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya . The Hare Krishna mantra popular in the West is also a Vishnuitic mantra.

In tantric mantras, seed syllables are preferred, e.g. E.g. in the mantra Om aim hrim klim Chamundayai vicche namaha , where the Bija mantras symbolize the goddesses Sarasvati ( aim ), Lakshmi ( hrim ) and Durga ( dum ), with the request for wisdom ( Sarasvati ), possession ( Lakshmi ) and protection ( Durga ).

From the Buddhist tradition

See also


  • Harvey P. Alper (Ed.): Mantra. State University of New York Press, Albany NY 1989, ISBN 0-88706-599-6 , ( SUNY series in religious studies ).
  • Pattan E. Burchett: The "magical" language of mantra. In: Journal of the American Academy of Religion. 76, 2008, ISSN  0002-7189 , pp. 807-843.
  • A. Charlene / S. McDermott: Towards a pragmatics of mantra recitation. In: Journal of Indian Philosophy. 3, 1975, ISSN  0022-1791 , pp. 283-298.
  • Jan Gonda : The Indian Mantra. In: Oriens. 16, 1963, ISSN  0078-6527 , pp. 244-297.
  • K. Harikai: The Hermeneutics of Classical India. The Study of Arthavada and Mantra of the Mimamsa School. Kyoto 1990.
  • André Padoux (ed.): Mantras et diagrams rituels dans l'Hindouisme. Table ronde, Paris, June 21-22, 1984. Editions du Center national de la Recherche Scientifique - Diffusion Presses du Center National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris 1986, ISBN 2-222-03849-9 .
  • André Padoux: Vāc. The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras. State University of New York Press, Albany NY 1990, ISBN 0-7914-0257-6 , ( SUNY series in the Shaiva traditions of Kashmir ).
  • Alexander Studholme: The origins of Oṃ maṇipadme hūṃ. A study of Kāraṇḍavyūha sūtra. State University of New York Press, Albany NY 2002, ISBN 0-7914-5389-8 .

Web links

Commons : Mantra  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Mantra  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Search results for "mantra". In: . Retrieved April 28, 2020 .
  2. ^ Jan Gonda: The Indian Mantra in Selected Studies Vol. IV. E. J. Brill, Leiden 1975. ISBN 90-04-04228-8 . (p. 269)
  3. Arthur A. Macdonell. (1927). A Sanskrit Grammar for Students. (3rd edition) . London: Oxford University Press, p. 162.
  5. Jan Gonda. (1963). The Indian mantra . In Oriens. 16 . ISSN  0078-6527 . P. 248.
  6. Jan Gonda. (1963). The Indian mantra . In Oriens. 16 . ISSN  0078-6527 . P. 250.
  7. ^ Jan Gonda: The Indian Mantra in Selected Studies Vol. IV. EJ Brill, Leiden 1975. ISBN 90-04-04228-8 . (p. 253f, 258)
  8. ^ Jan Gonda: The Indian Mantra in Selected Studies Vol. IV. EJ Brill, Leiden 1975. ISBN 90-04-04228-8 . (p. 283)