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Sharing the insights I discover as I explore and experience the mystery that is our reality. Join me in my journey and share yours.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Easwaran Revisited: The Power of the Mantram

It's the Sunday before Christmas and I'm up at dawn trying to steal a few minutes of solitude before the first of my two kids saunter sleepily down the staircase, rubbing weary eyes and asking for something warm to eat for breakfast on this chill winter's morning. The next twelve hours or so are going to be busy ones as my husband and I intend to start and finish all of our Christmas shopping.

I breathe deep, letting the air expand my lungs, a glorious feeling, and then exhale feeling my muscles relax. I woke up to my mantram this morning. "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner.", resonating from the depths of my subconscious and rising upward, ushering me into a new day with peace.  This short prayer has been used by the Eastern Orthodox church for ages to center oneself in the presence of God and is one of the mantrams that Eknath Eswaran suggests to practice for those who follow his teachings.

It's been a couple of weeks since I've published my review of Eknath Easwaran's book, Original Goodness, and I've been meaning to write more about how his teachings have had a profound impact on my daily living.  There is much I'd like to write, but I'll first start with sharing Easwaran's idea of repeating a mantram, since I woke up to mine this morning and will be thrusting it foreward in a line of defense against the stresses and distractions of the day that often have a way of stealing peace. This simple practice is easy to incorporate into anyone's spiritual disciplines regardless of their particular religion or belief system.  In fact, it is found in all of them.

I will let Easwaran describe his definition of what a mantram is as an introduction. You can read his book, Passage Meditation, on his website for free. (www.easwaran.org) In one part of it, he writes:
A mantram is a spiritual formula of enormous power that has been transmitted from age to age in a religious tradition. The users, wishing to draw upon this power that calms and heals, silently repeat the words  as often as possible during the day, each repetition adding to their physical and spiritual well-being....The mantram, repeated regularly for a long time, enables us to cross the sea of the mind.

In that same section, Easwaran quotes Gandhi's thoughts on mantrams:

The mantram becomes one’s staff of life and carries one through every ordeal. It is not repeated for the sake of repetition, but for the sake of purification, as an aid to effort. It is no empty repetition. For each repetition has a new meaning, carrying you nearer and nearer to God.

 A mantram is not just empty words repeated without reflection, but while repeating the sacred words one allows them, as Easwaran  has often described, to "drop like pearls into the depths of one's subconscious". It anchors us to the present moment while allowing the spiritual beauty of our mantram's sentiment to blossom within the depths of our consciousness sewing seeds that bear fruit for moments yet to come.

In his book, Original Goodness, Easwaran has described this ancient practice as a spiritual investement that helps us store our energy. Most often our energy is wasted in the futility of wandering thoughts that take the form of brooding about perceived wrongs and injustices inflicted on us as well as anxiety and other negative emotions that steal our sense of peace and empathy towards others, clouding our clarity towards situations. 

When we are immersed in our mantram in the present moment, our energy is not spent playing our ego's senseless  games of merry-go-round that flip flop our emotions and toss our thoughts to and fro. Instead, our energy is focused and more apt to respond in love towards others and not with the hurtful words that so often are elicited in moments of unbridled frustration and anger.  Opportunities for reconcilation flourish as the reptition of the mantram creates space for edifying moments of loving kindness to arise. Instead of burning bridges between ourselves and others, we begin to build them, gracefully gilding them with the gleam of understanding framed with  the strong foundation of love.

I have seen the tangible fruits of this practice take form right before me as I've applied it in my daily living. My children have chosen a mantram of their own and I have seen, as I've helped them learn to apply it, moments of frustration and anger, like raging waves of emotion threatening to rise up in a perfect storm,  be transformed to moments that calmly ripple with a gentle peace and quiet joy. My children's chosen mantram is "Om mani padme hum", and is one of the Buddhist mantrams that Easwaran recommends. It truly amazes me how this mantram has worked wonders in wedging itself into the the fulcrum of moments, between stimulus and response, and has birthed spontaneous peace.

Right now I am recalling just a couple of days ago when  my children were angrily lashing out at each other in a dispute where the concept of sharing was being questioned. I was ready to just lose my temper entirely when I remembered the mantram and the opportunity that I was being presented with in that moment. I drew both my children close to me and took a deep breath, telling them to calm down and just breathe. It took a few moments, but we all ended up just being close to one another, just breathing.  I then reminded them of their mantram and they began to repeat it with one another. Tears dried as anger turned to empathy and unprompted apologies were exchanged. Smiles formed on their faces and it was as if the entire dispute dissipated as they cheerfully broke free and returned to their desired activity, this time sharing without any further discussion or conflict, the toy that caused the chaos in the first place.

The repetition of the mantram does not come very naturally to most at first and does require a sense of dedication in pursuing.  It's an effort to even remember to practice it at times when you first begin the practice! I often start the morning practicing it when I take my dogs out for their first walk of the day, trying to lay a foundation for continuing on with it during the rest of the day.

Easwaran reflects his experience of initially practicing the repetition of the mantram and his eventual success in assimilating it as a permanent fixture in his present moments.

" This does require determination, I admit. I used to hunt through my days for opportunities to repeat the Holy Name (mantram), scavengig leisure moments like those curious characters who dowse for buried treasures at the beach, scanning every inch of sand with a metal detector at the end of a long wand. It calls for a great deal of patience, but the effort pays off. Today, because of all that effort, I no longer have to make myself repeat the Holy Name. It repeats itself, warding off every negative state of mind."

  ~ Original Goodness, 53-54

I would highly recommend  anybody that wants to enter into a deeper awareness of God and experience more peace and clarity to consider adding the repetition of the mantram to his/her spiritual disciplines. To view all of the suggested mantrams that Easwaran recommends check out his page of suggested mantrams: http://www.easwaran.org/mantrams-recommended-by-easwaran.html

Easwaran does instruct the practitioner to end up choosing one mantram and not to use more than one in his practices, so be sure to find which one suits you best.  His site also includes all the free information anyone could possibly want in becoming familiar with and beginning to practice his teachings. I hope you have fun exploring it!

Thoughts? I'd love to hear them! Please leave them in the comments section. Thank you!

Since writing this article my mantram has changed to Om Namah Shivaya. I was pretty early on in the practice and I don't think it's uncommon to play with mantrams a bit to see what fits best. Anyways, do you have a mantram? If so, please share what it is!


  1. Thanks for your post Jessica. I love the Orthodox saying "Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner" and it is a useful reminder of the central truth of the Gospel. I guess the immediate question then is who is this Jesus who we ask for mercy. If He is God then all other faith systems including the Buddhist one which provided your children's mantram have something seriously wrong in not recognising that most important truth. Having spoken to people of different faiths I know they are not offended by stating Christian truths and respect the honesty. I guess the question for you is, is Christ unique, is it His teaching which will see you through life or are you unsatisfied with His teaching and therefore will you continue to look else where? Christ longs for you to be His and to give you the water which quenches all thirst, however He won't share you, He wants you to Himself! In love and with Christmas blessings, Mike

  2. Thanks a lot for sharing something so interesting and powerful Jessica...Yes I do have my own mantra..and it does help me to calm down,think and relax.

  3. We have grown up with mantrams and this practice really helps us to find calm. Thank you for sharing this Jessica.


  4. I chant OM whenever I am upset. It soothes my mind and heart, it is also my dad's name so its doubly special. Enjoyed reading your post, thanks for sharing.

  5. Sharing the story of how the mantrams work for your children made the biggest impression on me. Learning to be able to calm down, breath deeply and steadily, and recite words that bring us closer into the presence of God is such a gift.
    I love "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy upon me, a sinner". As Mike mentioned, it is the very focus of the gospel and hence, should be the focus of our Christian lives.
    Hope you got all your shopping done! :)
    Blessings always!

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  7. enjoyed reading your post...I practice my own 'mantram'~the serenity prayer. What a wonderful idea to suggest that my children find their own mantram!

    thanks for sharing

  8. I meant to say...Great post Jessica...

  9. Hello.
    We each have our own ways of asking for strength & courage to approach difficult & trying situations. Reading what you said about how it helped to calm your kids down sounds like a wonderful idea.
    Thoroughly enjoyed reading your post.
    Thanks for sharing. I appreciate the visit too.

    For ref: An Inscription Of Love

  10. That's a great story about your kids and the mantram, thanks for sharing:-)
    Any idea why it is sometimes spelled "mantram" and sometimes "mantra"?

  11. Oh how creative sis. I am glad that God led you to mantrams as a way to find peace...I found my way to repeat some lines of the Psalms whenever appropriate. I use Gesu' abbi pieta...or Il Signore e' il mio Pastore non mi manca di nulla (The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want)...

    Whatever leads you to God and to love others more in your serenity and calm...in whatever manner...is important :)

    Thanks for sharing your experiences with the kids...:)

  12. Mike...I always love when you stop by. Thank you. You always give me something to reflect on and I appreciate your honest reflections and questions...

    "If He is God then all other faith systems including the Buddhist one which provided your children's mantram have something seriously wrong in not recognising that most important truth. "

    I believe that God has woven His presence and truths in all religions...He is creative when it comes to reaching out to people and touching their hearts with His love and peace. I don't really see the conflict in unearthing the treasures that He buries within different religions...one can still accept Jesus as Divine and follow his teachings and have a deep appreciation of other religions...

    "is Christ unique, is it His teaching which will see you through life or are you unsatisfied with His teaching and therefore will you continue to look else where"

    It's not that I'm unsatisfied with Christ's teachings. I love Jesus and he is a definite light on my path, lighting the way before me so I don't stumble..at least that much ;) There are other lights though..perhaps dimmer, but intriguing and that cast warm welcoming glows as well. I like to explore those as well...I don't want to limit myself in my journey towards truth and towards discovering God more...I feel that God transcends all categories....

    Hope that kind of answers some of your questions...

    Have a very Merry Christmas as well! ~blessings

  13. Alpana..thank you for stopping by...I think that's great that you use a mantra, thank you for sharing! :)

    Sulekkha, That's beautiful...chanting "Om" has drawn me deeper into God's presence, ushering peace into my heart more than once. The Gita tells us that the God is the syllable Om , and chanting it brings one great peace :) Thanks for sharing!

  14. Rimly, thank you for sharing! I only discovered mantras recently. I'm sure learning it as a child and cultivating that practice can help one along the path of life, with all it's challenges, to remain calm and be better able to practice more patience and experience more peace. That's my hope, by introducing this practice to my children :) Thanks for stopping by. ~blessings

    Martha, glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for stopping by :)

  15. Amy, thanks for sharing your mantra with us :)

    Jan, I'm so glad you enjoyed the post. Thank you for stopping by :)

  16. Andy, thank you for stopping by :) I'm glad you enjoyed reading the post...I'm enjoying becoming familiar with your blog! ~blessings

    Pax, Thank you so much for stopping by...I just got done checking out your blog and loved your book review! The terms mantra and mantram , I believe, can be used interchangeably. Eknath Easwaran refers to it as "mantram" so, in the spirit of his teachings, that's how I referred to it in this post. Though I usually use the word mantra myself, rather than mantram.


  17. Melissa, thank you for stopping by..I loved hearing the verses that you use to reach a sense of calm and peace. I always love hearing your reflections sis :) ~blessings

  18. well hello there Jessica, I hope the season of Jesus' Birth has been well Spent? :)
    I see a few people have liked the Mantra you use, "Jesus, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner," I unfortunately or fortunately see this particular affirmation as somewhat as a put down for your subconscious as reaffirming to yourself that you are not good only leads to you being always unworthy, lower than others and well, a Sinner!
    I much prefer your children's Mantra or even one that goes like,
    "I am me, I am happy with me and thereby will be happy with others whether I agree or disagree"

    You are not a sinner and I believe that Jesus held everyone the same. We are all deserving and welcome in Gods Kingdom... whoa now I must return to my Agnostic state.

    Cheers A
    Merry Christmas to you and yours :)

  19. A...I think you just made up a great mantra :) When I think of Jesus having mercy on me, a sinner...I think of all of my ego that still has to be unraveled, in order to discover my true Self...and I certainly could use some help with that! When I focus on Jesus and his teachings, it helps me to see the superficial nature of the material and gravitate more to the Divine.

    Scripture does tell us that we are sinners, that we all fall short...so for a Christian or someone coming from that background, I guess we all take for granted those words and just accept them. You give a lot for one to reflect on...I can see the point that you bring up...

    I hope you and Amelie have a wonderful Christmas as well!

    ~Love and light

  20. Jessica, what is the difference between ‘mantra’ and ‘mantram’? Mine is the Jesus prayer too. Though it comes straight from Scripture, I learned more about practicing this particular mantra from The Way of a Pilgrim, by an anonymous author believed to be a Russian peasant. A wonderful classic that depicts one sojourner’s absolute dependence on God and reflects his most humble walk: one of utter reliance on God’s mercy.
    The Jesus prayer is simple, but the intent is to discipline one's mind toward a constant awareness of God's presence as manifested through Christ's mercy. The prayer reinforces one's absolute dependence on God's grace and sensitizes one's soul to the Holy Spirit's leadings.
    Peace and Joy!!

  21. Debra...I don't think there's any difference between "mantra" and "mantram". I think it all just depends on one's preference. I usually use mantra, but, since this post had to do with Easwaran's teachings and he uses "mantram", that's the term I used for this post.

    That's one book I've always wanted to read "The Way of a Pilgrim"...It's mentioned in many of the books, including Easwaran's, that I've read. Neat, that we both share the same one! :)

    Thanks for stopping by... I always enjoy hearing your reflections towards my posts.


  22. This girl I grew up with always repeated, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." It has stuck with me. :-)

  23. Rachel..that is a great mantram. :) Thanks for sharing.