Mantra overviewThe mantras I use are Sanskrit phrases which, when spoken, activate Divine forces which affect the person uttering them and can also effect external changes as well.
While I hear that there do exist mantras which employ lower spiritual forces to do their work, all the mantras discussed here engage only the very highest Divine forces. (And this applies to all mantras taught by Thomas Ashley-Farrand too.) So you can rest assured that when you use them that you are only inviting the most sublime and beneficial influences into your life.
Mantras, to people who have worked with them, are quite a mysterious force. It seems so impossible to the western mind that any spoken formula in an unknown language can effect changes, but in my experience these mantras can work in very powerful and surprising ways. You can never quite tell when they will take effect or exactly what the effect will be, but I have strongly felt the effects and I have no doubts whatsoever that they do work. In fact, looking back over the time I have been working with mantras, the changes in my life have really been quite amazing.
My first serious introduction to mantras was listening to Thomas Ashley-Farrand's CD pack "Mantra - Sacred Words of Power". I was so taken with it that I lay there listening to it for four hours straight that night, and some of the Sanskrit he spoke has the weirdest effect on me - I even burst into tears at one point. (This was pretty weird I can tell you!) The next day I went wandering through the local forest reserve saying some of the mantras to myself and before long, a large native parrot flew up the path towards me, landed on a nearby branch and them jumped onto my head! While I was flabbergasted, it remained standing on my head for a whole minute or so, occasionally shifting his weight, before he flew off - leaving me stunned and amused, wondering what on earth was going on here. I've had some signs in the past, but that one took the cake!
What you can get out of working with mantrasLuckily for us, there are many many mantras out there - thousands in fact. And the purposes are so diverse, including such things as...
Are the effects of mantra work all just imaginary?This is a fair question. For example, if you regularly chant a mantra for attracting love and then you find love, is it perhaps not so much a result of the mantra, but of the fact that you were focusing on love so much?
I can give a clear example of working with a mantra where I gained the results without knowing them beforehand. When I was starting out, I wanted to do the most powerful mantra available as I was impatient for spiritual progress. I chose the long Kali mantra from the book Shakti Mantras which was said to be extremely powerful and suitable "for those impatient for spiritual progress", though the results were not described. So I read the section on Kali and got a general feeling for how she worked. Then I did 108 repetitions twice a day for 40 days and even gave offerings and did some Kali yantra-gazing too - combined with as much respect and devotion as I could muster. What I noticed was that every now and again during this time, I would lie down to go to sleep after doing my mantras and find that from nowhere a mysterious energy would start surging at the bottom half of my spine and rise to a level which would really worry me because it was so intense! The first time I honestly feared for my life (this is no exaggeration) as I somehow realised that if the energy kept growing, that the current reality I knew would very soon disappear. After much thought, I decided that it was ridiculous to think that Kali would let serious harm come to me for working with her with such devotion and pure intentions. I then learned to relax and even looked forward to these powerful energy experiences. I wasn't really sure what it was as it didn't match anything I'd heard about, but it certainly kept life interesting. Then months later, I read in my teaching material that this mantra specifically awakens kundalini in the spine - firstly to the hrit padma (in the middle of the spine) and then later up to the crown. Which surprised me with its exact correlation to my unexpected "half-way-up" kundalini experiences. I hadn't even recognised it as kundalini, because it didn't seem to creep slowly up the spine from the base as I'd imagined - it seemed more like the way a bar heater operates where the whole section of the spine gradually took on a blazing intensity.
With other more subtle mantras, I am happy to take the experts' word on their effects and I use them as prescribed. These have stood the test of time, and I understand that Thomas Ashley-Farrand only puts mantras in his material which he has tested himself. Also the anecdotal stories from his books are so valuable when you want to know how a mantra might work in the real world.
So if you want to try something new, check out his material at Amazon.com or at his website www.sanskritmantra.com
Where to startI would seriously recommend getting a CD course first - especially "Mantra: Sacred Words of Power" by Thomas Ashley-Farrand, which is where I started. This contains 9-hours of mantras, examples of how they have worked on people, and the correct pronunciation from the CDs - plus you get a printed guide as well. I highly recommend that particular course and I think it's worth every penny for the 6 CDs you get.
From there, I would then recommend Thomas Ashley-Farrand's book "Shakti Mantras: Tapping into the Great Goddess Energy Within". It's very well written and has lots of interesting mantras for all kinds of purposes - many which aren't in the CD course above. The mantras are split across a wide variety of female deities including Lakshmi, Saraswati, Parvati, Tara, Chamundi, Durga and Kali. Best of all, there is a good pronunciation guide to help you know how to chant each mantra effectively - quite essential when doing it from a book. I took my long Kali mantra straight from this book and it really worked a treat. (Note that I put the stress in the wrong places, but that didn't matter - intent and devotion is what counts with mantra work.) Also about his books - when you read the sections about the deities, you can actually feel energy being generated within and around yourself as you connect to the stories. Reading stories about any of the deities is in itself a spiritual practice.
Sample MantrasI've added this section for basic mantras I keep recommending to friends. Spend ten minutes or so chanting any of the following mantras. You can chant them out loud or in your head - both ways can be just as effective. I try to pronounced the "R" Indian-style, but western style is just fine. Remember, the more you chant the mantra the better, so a great time to do this is while walking or commuting or taking a shower, etc. And the more you focus on the power of the mantra, the more effective it can be too. With a real goal, I might chant flat-out until the goal is reached, or a 40-day discipline of at least half an hour's chanting a day can be performed for the dedicated person. (I often seem to be doing one 40-day discipline or another at any given time these days!)
Now if you have trouble pronouncing the mantra, you can just download the MP3 file, turn on the repeat setting in Windows Media Player and chant along with me (even in your head) until you are comfortable with it.
Also note that if you ever feel tears coming for whatever reason when chanting, always let them out if you can - this is an emotional release and is very beneficial for you. Sometimes you may find that these emotions have been trapped inside you for lifetimes.
Om Gam Shrim Maha Lakshmiyei Namaha (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Eim Hrim Klim Chamundayei Vicche Namaha (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Eim Sawaswatyai Swaha (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Gam Ganapatayei Namaha (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Kshipra Prasadaya Namaha (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Apadamapa Hartaram Dataram Sarva Samapadam Loka Bhi Ramam, Shri Ramam Bhuyo Bhuyo Namamyaham (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Vakratundaaya Hum (Click to hear the mantra)
Ha Sa Ka La E I La Hrim Ha Sa Ka La E I La Hrim (Click to hear the mantra)
Om Shanti Om (Click to hear the mantra)
There are more sample mantras at Thomas Ashley-Farrand's website, click here.
For more Ganesha mantras from Sadguru Sant Keshavadas, check out chapter 10 of the online version of "Loving Ganesha" at the Himalayan Academy. Highly recommended.
How to chant most effectivelyIn the end, this is something you will need to discover for yourself. Just go with whatever feels best. As I said before, you can chant mantras out loud or in your head - both ways can be just as effective. Chanting in your head you can do all day and it works really well. Repetitions do count, but focus and intensity also matter too. But don't worry about these things too much - every repetition does have an effect.
But for the most effective chanting, I try to be somewhere where I won't be disturbed. First, I try to making a loving connection to the deity, then while chanting I try to focus on intensifying that connection even more - and feel the energy from the deity filling my body more and more with each repetition. Preferably having nothing else in my mind of course. And if you have a good connection, that's enough to keep the mind occupied usually, with the tingles and other effects in the body. Then I say "thanks very much" at the end. Daydreaming is a problem and I think it's best to keep some focus on the body, as energy flows to where your focus is, so best not to put your focus elsewhere unless chanting for other people.
With chanting for someone else, I do the same thing, but while chanting I focus on them receiving all the divine energy and blessings. (Best to get permission before chanting for someone else too.)
Note that Sadguru Sant Keshavadas recommends having either a candle burning or an image of the deity with you while you're chanting to aid the effectiveness. For even more potency you can have a statue of the deity, offer it burning candles, a flower and incense and then start your chanting. (This is what I did for my 40-day Kali discipline.)
Forms of the deitiesOne thing about the deities is that they come in many forms. I was asking a local tantric teacher about the different forms of Kali - how there is the beautiful form of Kali and also the somewhat terrifying Smashana-Kali (cremation ground Kali) - who I wasn't in any great hurry to meet. He told me that there are literally hundreds of forms of Kali out there, which I guess makes sense in a way. As far as I know, the extreme forms of the deities like Smashana-Kali only tend to be invoked by Tantrics going the very fast but ultra-challenging route (challenging ones fears that is). None of my Kali work has ever had a negative or scary vibe, and I feel she's treated me in a very kind and caring way. She just seems to wants you to make positive changes as fast as possible, with no messing around.
Similarly Ganesha has surprisingly many forms too - many listed in Sadguru Sant Keshavadas's book "Lord Ganesha". I'm sure this is the same for the other great deities too.
So I just connect to a form in my mind that I would prefer to contact - usually a loving but still very powerful form.
Ego-purging mantrasI've found that chanting either Kali or Chamundi mantras for longer periods can start powerfully "detoxing" negativity from within a person - whether you intended this or not! It's just one of the fundamental ways these deities work. As their legends indicate, they combat the metaphorical "demonic forces" - whether these are found externally or actually within yourself. I imagine that Durga mantras work the same way too, though haven't chanted enough with her mantras as yet to be able to tell.
When internal negative energy is being purged, it often seeks some final expression as it is leaving - so don't be surprised if you find yourself in a mild fit of anger, jealousy, or whatever might be coming out. Know that it's actually a good sign, but do be prepared and if possible try not to give it expression. I find being warned does help! So if this does happen, you might want to ease up on the mantra until it's working at a level you are comfortable with.
I've only really noticed this purging effect in a really obvious way when chanting a Chamundi mantra all day (or doing a 40-day Kali discipline), but people's experiences will vary. I can't help feeling that taking a quiet day every now and then to chant one of these mantras all day would be hugely beneficial in the long term. The results are definitely noticeable and you will be much the happier for the change. For me, self-purification seems to be one of the great routes to perfection and enlightenment.
ConclusionMantras have changed my life without a shadow of a doubt and I'm sure they can change yours too.
If you take up chanting, I wish you all the best. May you receive many wonderful blessings and may you also shine as a light to inspire others.
This page was updated by Richard Holmes in May 2008. To get in contact, click here.