Mantra practice is a great category I practice, because of the potential for emotional engagement with the mantra, and the inherently energetic nature of saying a mantra. Verbal action has a specific charge in the mind that is not accessible through other practices. It is an endlessly refinable method, and the basic aspects of using a mantra and the goals depend on the type of mantra being used, and the intention for the practice.
Accumulation concentration is a concept in Tibetan Buddhism that is basically misunderstood by modern pragmatic dharma practitioners, and it’s a shame because the potential of this type of practice has been largely neglected, and there is simple ignorance about the practice and how it can be used to develop the factors of awakening.
Mantra practice can be done with the intention to accumulate karma in a specific intention, and the concept itself can help contextualize why we should practice a mantra.
For Category I concentration using a mantra, a person may be in a variety of different situations when engaging with this mantra. They may be driving, walking, working, or otherwise in a place where they can chant the mantra. I teach mantra for use in low-concentration states to develop higher states of concentration and to calm and gladden the mind.
Begin by settling, then focus on the words of the mantra while you’re saying them. Repeat the mantra, keeping a wide awareness of the body and mind, and especially paying attention to any subtle sensations of vibration throughout your being.
The Chenrezig Mantra Om Mani Padme Hum is my favorite mantra for a variety of reasons, but there are a variety of mantras employed in Tibetan practice. This mantra basically says that within each of us there is the potential for awakening. It is literally translated as “the jewel is in the lotus”. This mantra is especially powerful for overcoming the hindrance of doubt, as it can be engaged with as a prayer, with an emotional engagement. As I say the mantra, I focus on each syllable and the sound it makes and the vibration of my being with each syllable. I connect with the emotional experience and the meaning of the words, and there are musical themes that can go along with the mantra. I especially like singing this mantra while I’m driving.
The accumulation of karma depends on repetition and mental engagement. More repetitions of a mantra are more karma generated in that intention. In the beginning, the mind has no power, we introduce an intention, and the mind doesn’t do what we intend. Over time, the mind learns to take a specific action based on that intention, and the effect of that intention becomes stronger and stronger, and more powerful in the moment. But accumulating the intention is an easy way of training and doesn’t depend on the level of concentration.
Tibetan Buddhist Mantras
- Om wangishwari hum This is the mantra of the Mahabodhisattva Manjusri, Tibetan: Jampelyang (Wylie “‘jam dpal dbyangs”).. The Buddha in his wisdom aspect.
- Om mani padme hum The mantra of Chenrezig, Mahabodhisattva, the Buddha in his compassion aspect.
- Om vajrapani hum The mantra of the Buddha as Protector of the Secret Teachings. ie: as the Mahabodhisattva Channa Dorje (Vajrapani).
- om vajrasattva hum The short mantra for Vajrasattva, there is also a full 100-syllable mantra for Vajrasattva.
- Om ah hum vajra guru pema siddhi hum The mantra of the Vajraguru Guru Padma Sambhava who established Mahayana Buddhism and Tantra in Tibet.
- Om tare tuttare ture swaha The mantra of Jetsun Dolma or Tara, the Mother of the Buddhas.
- Om tare tuttare ture mama ayurjnana punye pushting svaha The mantra of Dölkar or White Tara, the emanation of Tara representing long life and health.
- Om amarani jiwantiye swaha The mantra of the Buddha of limitless life: the Buddha Amitayus (Tibetan Tsépagmed) in celestial form.
- Om dhrum swaha The purificatory mantra of the mother Namgyalma.
- Om ami dhewa hri The mantra of the Buddha Amitabha (Hopagmed) of the Western Buddhafield, his skin the colour of the setting sun.
- Om ah ra pa tsa na dhih The mantra of the “sweet-voiced one”, Jampelyang (Wylie “‘jam dpal dbyangs”) or Manjusri, the Buddha in his wisdom aspect.
- Hung vajra phat The mantra of the Mahabodhisattva Vajrapani in his angry (Dragpo) form.
- Om muni muni maha muniye sakyamuni swaha The mantra of Buddha Sakyamuni, the historical Buddha
- Om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi swaha The mantra of the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra