It has been quite a while since my last post In The Buddha’s Words and I have no valid excuse for not being more prolific with my writing. This post will provide a justification if you will for using mantras when meditating. I like many of you suffer from a monkey mind that cannot seem to turn itself off while sitting on the cushion. All the thoughts of things you need to do, issues in your life, and a general inability to let it all go are preventing you from just focusing on your breathing. One method of blocking out the monkey mind is to use a mantra during your meditation practice.
Definition of a Mantra
- Hinduism. a word or formula, as from the Veda, chanted or sung as an incantation or prayer.
- an often repeated word, formula, or phrase, often a truism: If I hear the “less is more” mantra one more
This definition is somewhat incomplete as mantras are used in Buddhism during mediation and have many other uses. A mantra can more generally be described as repeating a word or phrase as a way of programming your mind as those who believe in the law of attraction, but in our case, the mantras I’m interested in will be used during meditation and not used to manifest anything.
If you are at the point in your meditation practice where you don’t need a mantra or two to block out the monkey mind, then more power to you, but for me, it’s a useful practice. The mantra I am using currently using goes something like this:
There is no pain, there is no suffering, there is only peace and contentment
I am saying these phrases to myself, not audibly, but thinking them. On the first breath “there is no pain”, on the second breath “there is no suffering”, on the third breath “there is only peace”, and finally on the fourth breath “and contentment”. By taking the time to think about each of these sub phrases individually during each breath you increase the emphasis on the meaning. The mantra can totally block out all other thoughts as it is repeated over and over again. For me, the act of meditation is about leaving any state of pain, suffering, and creating a state of peace and contentment.
Note I’m not trying to manifest a new car or more money. I’m also not trying to bolster my ego by telling myself how great I am, nor am I trying to practice some bullshit self-improvement technique. For me, meditation is not some tool I use to create a better version of myself or God forbid correct all my faults. As the Buddha taught pain and suffering exists all around us as an innate result of experiencing life. I prefer even if it is only during my meditation session to create a state of no pain, no suffering, only peace, and contentment. You might view this as an escape from life, but I contend it is more than that. I’ve come recently to experience my meditation practice as more of a revelation of what is truly authentic. Maybe another way to put it is that through meditation I am experiencing my most authentic self. I’m not saying meditation is the only way to be more like who you really are, but it is certainly one of the best ways. Most other activities in life have you playing a role, trying to gain something, achieve a goal, satisfying some desire, or are generally concerned with improving some aspect of your life by doing stuff. You know, the way we spend the vast majority of your days.
Most human beings are very goal oriented always seeking to improve themselves, gaining some satisfaction from checking off one goal after another on the list, but strangely enough still largely unsatisfied with their existence. This strong attraction to acquiring things and the subsequent brainwashing that has occurred over the many hundreds or years has done nothing to nurture our true nature or foster even a modicome of self awareness. If someone deviates from path (norm) they are either lazy or insane by the standards of society. Meditation and the use of mantras can help you undo some of this conditioning. The Buddha provided the Noble Eightfold Path as a means of escaping all this self induced suffering. Regarding meditation and the discovery of your true self the focus should be on right mindfulness and right concentration.
Other mantras I’ve used in addition the afore mentioned one includes:
Zazen is life
I am here, I am present
I am happy to be alive today
I give thanks for the Buddha, I give thanks for the Dhamma, and I give thanks for the Sangha
If I have any advice it would be to not make your mantra too complex. Shorter phrases fit better within the span of a breath and can be more impactful. You can also intersperse periods of just observing your breathing and when the monkey mind begins to take over, go back to your mantras.