Mantras have immense value for spiritual development. It seems as though every religion and spiritual tradition has their own, supportive of the core “inner movements” of their values and transformations, and besides that there are the meaningless/indecipherable mantras that some adopt as nothing more than a focal point of the mind in meditation.
Yet all mantras drive deeper and deeper into our minds, and there uncover their truths. All mantras have truths in them, but those can’t be wholly expressed in other words.
Although mantras evolve in practice from the spoken word to the immense throbbing of the sacred heart, even when they’ve become a part of us there’s a thrill of recognition and shudder of spirit when we chant them. Restarting a beloved mantra is like returning to an old friend. Any mantra, repeated often enough with full focus, will become a stalwart companion in times of need. Any mantra can become an affirmation of love and compassion.
So I sing to myself and to it, Om Mani Padme Hum, may all beings find enlightenment, as I cup the drowning bee out of the pool. But I seem silent to others.
Holy mantras evoke and establish channels of communication between the temporal self and divinity; repetition of holy mantras reveals their million-fold meanings and messages far exceed their formulaic structure. Form is parlor-trick illusion, while meaning is the blossoming of flowers and radiance of the sun.
So I whisper in your ear as you struggle against the changing seasons, Namu Amida Butsu, may Lord Buddha help us both be freed of attachment. But you thought I just laid a hand on your shoulder.
Mantras trickle in our chests, murmuring streams that water our inward gardens and feed the creatures there. When you repeat a mantra enough times, it separates and becomes self-sustaining. And this is holy when you have chosen your mantra in holiness, for an eternal stream of inward prayer is a form of life.
When the Spirit takes its dwelling place in a man he does not cease to pray, because the Spirit will constantly pray in him. Then, neither when he sleeps, will be prayer be cut off from his soul; but when he eats and drinks, when he lies down, and when he does any work, even when he is immersed in sleep, the perfumes of prayer will breathe in his heart spontaneously.
Isaac the Syrian, as quoted by Andrew Harvey in Son of Man: The Mystical Path to Christ
The murmuring streams are a defense when suffering arises. But not in the way of a shield or barrier – no, rather they are a defense because they sing in counterpoint to whatever fiction and story that the suffering comes guised as. Having become innate and effortless, they can outlast temptation and nights – and indeed, they can even bring joy into suffering in an inexpressible fusion of divinity and flesh.
And so, as the day rises and we set out again, together, let us smile to each other “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me.”
In their fluid meaning and static form, mantras undermine the falseness of this world. Here we are easily fooled by unchanging nothingness and illusion, where the same falsehood ever shows itself as diversity and duality. Yet, through mantras we nestle within the stillness of God’s heart and discover that the essential love in all worlds is ever-expanding, ever-increasing. We discover that the stillness moves, we find our spirits swelling with the infinite outpouring.
Our Father which art in heaven,
Hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done in earth,
as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those
who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil:
For thine is the kingdom,
and the power, and the glory,
forever and ever.
Amen, again and again.
May you find the waters that nourish your garden.