Question: What exactly is a mantra?1

Sri Chinmoy: A mantra is an incantation. The repetition of a mantra is a process for going deep within or accelerating one’s spiritual progress. It can be a syllable, a word, a few words or a sentence. By repeating a mantra we can either invoke the presence of a particular god or bring to the fore our own inner divinity.

What benefit does the seeker get from repeating a mantra? The first benefit he gets is purity. Without purity, there can be no certainty in one’s spiritual life. Today you may make progress and tomorrow you may drop back to where you started. But when you repeat a mantra that has been given by a spiritual Master — and not by anybody else — you are bound to get purity. From purity you will get pure energy, plus the feeling of universal oneness. And in your oneness with God’s universe, you attain oneness with God Himself.

The best way to use a mantra to attain purity quickly is to ascend by steps. Today repeat the mantra 500 times; tomorrow, 600; the day after tomorrow, 700; and so on, until you reach 1,200 in one week’s time. Then begin descending each day until you reach 500 again. In this way you can climb up the tree and climb down the tree. When you climb down, please feel that you are trying to distribute its purity-fruit through your heart to the aspiring people around you.

When a mantra is repeated many times, it is called japa. There are two ways to do japa. One is audible, the other is inaudible. If you repeat the mantra out loud, you will get physical purity. If you repeat the mantra in silence, you will get purity in your inner existence. Without inner purity, you will make no spiritual progress. If your mind is thinking of undivine, impure things, your inner progress will come to a halt. So it is better to practise japa in silence. When you do, try to feel that there is somebody inside you, your inner being, who is repeating the word on your behalf. Just by repeating your mantra devotedly and soulfully you can have purity in your heart and in your mind, and from purity you can get everything — the Highest, the Supreme.

  1. MUN 244. 6 April 1973.