There are a few misconceptions in our western culture about the effects of chanting mantras. To clear this up, first we need to know there is a difference between worldly mantras and Buddhist mantras.
Certain psychological tantras have told us that mantras will just induce a self-hypnosis. One one level, this may be true. It depends on the individual. On the other hand, we are taught that there is a greater spiritual significance when we chant the mantras of Tara or Avalokiteshvara for instance. The difference is like night and day.
When a fully enlightened being empowers his mantra it comes from his heart-essence with a good and noble intention. This type of mantra will benefit your body, speech and mind in countless ways. Having such a wonderful, skillful method at our disposal will lead to the vast purification of our negative karma. It will definitely erase negative karmic patterns physically, mentally and vocally.
Unfortunately, if you are not well informed and have chosen a worldly mantra from a deity who is not fully enlightened it cannot be much help. In fact, it could even harm you if the offended spirit, under the sway of negative afflictive emotions, takes action against you. You could have obstacles for many years or even a lifetime if you are not aware of this.
We want to choose a mantra to purify our karma, increase our positive spiritual vibration, develop wisdom and generate the compassionate mind to benefit all sentient beings as far as endless space.
The Buddha explains in the Shurangama sutra what I have said more succinctly and quite powerfully here:
The Buddha told Ananda, “All Buddhas, Tathagatas, speak words which are not false. There might be another person who had personally committed the four major offenses and the ten parajikas so that, in an instant he would have to pass through the Avichi Hells in this world and other worlds, until he had passed through all the Relentless Hells in the ten directions without exception.
And yet if he could explain this dharma-door for just the space of a thought to those in the Dharma-ending Age who have not yet studied it, his obstacles from offenses would be eradicated in response to that thought, and all the hells where he was to undergo suffering would become lands of peace and bliss.
The blessings he would obtain would surpass those of the person previously mentioned by hundreds of thousands of millions of billions of times, indeed by so many times that no calculations or analogies could express it.
Ananda, if living beings are able to recite this sutra and uphold this mantra, I could not describe in endless eons how great the benefits will be. Rely on the teaching I have spoken. Cultivate in accord with it, and you will directly realize Bodhi without encountering demonic karma.”
The Shurangama dharani is wonderful to recite and very powerful. However, it is quite long to memorize. Fortunately, there are many mantras available such as those of Chenrezi and Tara that are much shorter and quite powerful too.
Benefits of the Mani mantra:
The Late Venerable Geshe Ngawang Dhargyey gave a talk about what the benefits are of the Chenrezi mantra in relation to developing the six perfections:
The mantra OM MANI PADME HUM is easy to say yet quite powerful, because it contains the essence of the entire teaching.
- When you say the first syllable OM it is blessed to help you achieve perfection in the practice of generosity,
- MA helps perfect the practice of pure ethics, and
- NI helps achieve perfection in the practice of tolerance and patience.
- PAD, the fourth syllable, helps to achieve perfection of perseverance,
- ME helps achieve perfection in the practice of concentration,
- and the final sixth syllable HUM helps achieve perfection in the practice of wisdom.
Obstacles in life:
Many years ago, I had many obstacles in my life to such a degree that even my sadhana practice became almost nonexistent. I got myself into quite a mess. One day, I felt that I just had enough and made a strong determination to accumulate mantra every day.
I wanted to practice in post-meditation everywhere I went – whether I was eating, working or sitting on the couch watching television. Since I was a rather quiet person who never wanted to draw attention to himself, I didn’t want to carry my mala around for the public to see. So, I went online to purchase a digital tally counter that I could keep it in the palm of my hand. I found a nice one that kept my accumulations private and hidden.
After five months of diligent practice I had an auspicious sign. That whole year, I went through so much hardship and suffering that it was quite unimaginable to consider all that had happened to me. The difficulties were to such a degree, that I would never wish this on my worst enemy. At any rate, after breaking through so much of my own ingrained negative karma I was happy to see a double rainbow outside my backyard.
Now five years later, technology has come even further and these neat counters are even smaller. It is sometimes called a finger-counter because the built-in strap wraps around your finger. One reviewer wrote:
This must be the smallest tally counter you can buy. It is perfect to keep a tally in an unobtrusive way. You can wear it like a ring, with the counter facing your palm and you just touch the counter with your thumb.
Some people have the misunderstanding that this product erases its count every once in a while. Since it does have an auto shut-off function, whenever you leave it untouched for ten or fifteen minutes it will go blank. The count is stored in its memory, so when you touch the button again it switches back on and it re-appears. It is a good function for saving the life of the battery.
Make sure you get the right model: E-6 Electronic Tally Counter with Backlight
The other one you may find out there does not have a light function. With that model, for some strange reason when I put it in my pocket (six times out of ten) when I pulled it out, the counter would erase. I verified this since the other one I have does the same exact thing. And I know I didn’t hit the reset button by mistake because it is recessed and not easy to press. Once, I actually saw it reset in front of my own eyes when I quickly pulled it out of my pocket. So there must be a malfunction with the electronic part inside. I hope they realize this and fix it someday because that model is also nice and a much needed tool.
I write this with the intention to hopefully inspire someone. I love practicing with a mala and that has many benefits as well. But when we get right down to it, we need to take advantage of our post-meditation practice. If you can practice anywhere you go, it is easy to accumulate 100,000 mantras in a month and over time you could have over a million recitations done in a year.