So you want to get into mantra chanting. You’re in luck—you can’t get it wrong. Mantra chanting isn’t the same thing as singing. You don’t have to be perfect, you just have to desire to open your heart in meditative peace and let your spirit pour out.
There are a few things to know about chanting as you begin. There are two languages for chants sung in the Indian tradition: Sanskrit and Gurmukhi. Sanskrit is the language of Hindu chanting and is used by most yogic traditions except Kundalini Yoga, which is derived from the Sikh tradition and has chanting sung in the Gurmukhi language.
Chanting typically involves repeating a mantra or a prayer. “Man” means mind and “tra” means across, so a mantra is something that is repeatedly crossing your mind to control your thoughts for meditation. You are giving your hyperactive mind something holy to play with so that it calms down. You can also interpret the word to mean a phrase which allows you to cross over your mind to get to your heart. The words of a mantra are a boat that takes you across the ocean of your mind to arrive at the shores of the divine.
Repeating these words out loud has a specific effect on the body. As you say the mantra, your tongue is hitting meridian points on the top of the upper palate of the mouth, which affects the energies going to different glands such as the hypothalamus, the pineal, and the pituitary. By stimulating these meridian points, you are physically producing the effect of relaxation and an altered state of consciousness.
When you first start, don’t worry about your pronunciation and don’t worry about hitting the right notes. All of this will come with time. Chanting involves so much repeating, that you pick things up eventually. It can be useful to look up the words of the mantra, because sometimes the sounds are so foreign to the average westerner that your mind gets a bit confused. Spirit Voyage has a portion of its website called Mantrapedia which allows you to do just that. But do not become caught up in perfection as you are beginning…all sounds made to the divine are good sounds.
The most important thing in chanting is your heart. Open it wide. Ride the sound current like a wave. Feel the infinite divine right here, right now, inside of you.
Here are ten suggestions to get you started with chanting:
1) Ong Namo by Snatam Kaur on Grace – This Gurmukhi chant opens every Kundalini yoga practice, and this lovely recording has its place opening any chanting practice. The words connect you to the divine teacher that lies at the center of your own heart. Snatam’s higher self sings directly to yours.
2) Radhe Shyam by Krishna Das on Heart Full of Soul – Traditional call and response chanting by the velvet-voiced star of bhakti kirtan.
3) Aad Guray Nameh by Deva Premal on Dakshina – One of the most ethereal voices singing today, Deva Premal’s rendition of this beautiful chant of protection and haunting Indian instrumentals will transport you to another realm.
4) Om Namah Shivaya by Wah! on Hidden in the Name – Exchange a life lived from your ego to a life lived from your heart with the help of this powerful Sanskrit mantra. Let the strength of Wah!’s voice help you on your spiritual path.
5) Sa Ta Na Ma by Mirabai Ceiba on A Hundred Blessings – This gorgeous new version of a powerful Kundalini mantra comes from an angelic team. Connect with the forces of timelessness and feel the true vibration of the universe with this mantra.
6) Baba Hanuman by Benjy and Heather Wertheimer Shantala on Sri – A stunning ode to the Hindu god of strength and service. The love recorded by this husband and wife leaps out of the mantra and into your heart.
7) Mool Mantra by Nirinjan Kaur Khalsa on Aquarian Sadhana – The Mool Mantra is the prayer that begins the holy Sikh book. It is a bold proclamation of oneness with the eternal divine. Nirinjan Kaur’s unforgettable, soaring vocals bring this mantra alive in your heart.
8) Moola Prayer by Sudha on Shanaram — This Sanskrit mantra connecting you to eternal truth and bliss is behind an international movement for oneness. Sudha’s cosmic vocals will lull you into deep meditation.
9) Hey Maha Lakshmi by David Newman (Durga Das) on Love Peace Chant – A sweet, soulful devotional chant full of bliss by this western fusion singer-songwriter.
10) Ra Ma Da Sa by Sada Sat Kaur on Angel’s Waltz – This mantra for healing is a standard for any Kundalini yoga practice. Sada Sat Kaur’s powerful vocals keep the healing energy moving through your body as you sing.