ABC’s of meditation, ch3, part 3: Pranayama, Mantras, Japa (chanting)


(please see previous article, ABC’s of meditation, ch3, part 2.)


If you feel that the breathing techniques have worked for you, you can try this more specialized technique involving a little more concentration and discipline. ‘Pranayama; is a Sanskrit word which means ‘control of the breath’. According to Sri Chinmoy: “Although we all breathe, most of us do not know how to breathe properly. Yet if we can breathe correctly we can free ourselves from disease and ultimately we can even defy death.” Sri Chinmoy, The body, humanity’s fortress, Agni Press, 1974

There are three steps in this curative reinvigorating form of breathing: inhalation, retention and exhalation. It is most effective if you breathe in the name of the Divine One in whom you have most faith. I call this Divine Being ‘Supreme’. I will use this term while explaining the exercise. You may substitute  ‘Jesus’ or ‘Buddha’ or ‘God’ or ‘Jehovah’ – you get the idea. You are basically calling on Divine Power to act in and through you by means of the breath or Prana, which is divine energy.

Begin by breathing in ‘Supreme’ to the count of ONE. Hold your breath for four counts repeating ‘Supreme’ four times. Then breathe out for two counts repeating ‘Supreme’ twice. Your breathing pattern will be like this: IN: Supreme, HOLD: Supreme, Supreme, Supreme, Supreme. OUT: Supreme, Supreme.

Do this exercise only as long as you are comfortable. Stop any time you feel you are forcing it. Breathe normally and resume when you feel ready. This exercise has been known to conquer fear or nervousness and give immediate energy and courage. I have often used it before approaching a class full of new students. And in my other persona as a ventriloquist. I use it to conquer stage fright before performing in front of a large group of puppet–eating children.


Mantras involve another way to meditate, and  it is one that is used around the world. I’m sure you’ve heard the word ‘Aum’. It’s a Sanskrit word which means ‘seed sound’. There are certain words which can invoke the deeper part of your being and help it to come forward into your conscious being just by repeating the words. Mantras have to be repeated within the framework of your meditation to be most effective.

Very often we have the inspiration and the need to meditate, but we just can’t calm our minds down. The next set of exercises I’m going to explain are specifically for this. They involve both concentrating on a specific word or phrase that will bring you deeper into yourself, and the repetition of syllables or words that will accomplish the same purpose. These are  mantras.

In using mantras, you should invoke or call upon a spiritual quality such as love, light, peace or delight. As I have said before, these qualities already exist within youand they are just waiting to be called forward to play an active role in your life. They are desperately waiting to replace your old negative emotions and qualities.

Always try to remember that anything negative is not really you. You are your highest self and the more you call upon it by meditating and repeating these good qualities, the sooner the old negative ways will disappear. Your life will be filled with much more peace, light and joy. It’s basically up to you how much you want the higher to overcome the lower. The very fact of wanting it has already indicated that you are on the way to having it.


There are various effective mantras, but the most powerful and easiest to remember is AUM. It sounds like OM with a long O. It is very powerful way to begin your meditation, as it both calms your mind and energizes your entire being. It has been said that AUM is the sound that created the Universe Sri Chinmoy commented, Aum is the actual sound of the creation; it is the Originator, the Mother, the Breath of Creation. From the sound AUM, Creation came into being.  Earth’s cry meets Heaven’s smile, part 3

So when you repeat it, either out loud or silently, you are creating your own powerful universe.

AUM should be chanted correctly to have the most effectiveness. The ‘M’ sound should last three times as long as the ‘AU’(OH) sound.

It is also most effective if it is repeated out loud. Sri Chinmoy says: “When one chants AUM out loud, one touches and calls forth the cosmic vibration of the supreme Sound.
It is best to chant Aum out loud, so its sound can vibrate even in your physical ears and permeate your entire body. This will convince your outer mind and give you a greater sense of joy and achievement.”


Repeat AUM out loud seven times. Feel the ‘A’ sound in your heart centre, the ‘U’ sound in the centre of  your throat and the ‘M’ sound in the ‘third eye’ area. This is in between and a little above your eyebrows. Repeat it seven times or as long as you feel comfortable. After you have chanted it a certain number of times out loud ,try chanting it silently. You will do your silent chanting within your spiritual heart centre located

in the centre of your chest. Allow the experience to take you where it will. Feel that with each repetition of AUM, your heart is expanding with peace, which eventually will permeate your entire being.

Here is a variation on that exercise as explained by Sri Chinmoy: “When you chant AUM please feel that life-energy, divine energy, is entering into you through your crown centre.

The breath that you breathe in through your nose is very limited: but if you can imagine that there is a big hole in the top of your head and that life energy, cosmic energy, is entering into your body through that big hole, then naturally you will be able to accelerate your purification and increase your aspiration and hunger for God, Truth, Light and Bliss.”  Sri Chinmoy speaks, part 5


When you repeat a mantra over and over it is called ‘Japa’. This repetition of a spiritual quality or Divine name can be very effective in keeping the mind occupied on something positive. It  can eventually lead you into meditation where the mind stops and allows the quality you have been repeating, to come forward in your being. When you repeat the quality, try to feel it reverberating inside your spiritual heart.


Choose a quality that you feel you really need to bring forward at this moment. It could be love, peace (shanti), light or joy, etc. Sri Chinmoy suggests,

‘If you care more for the concept of peace, divine peace, then please chant the word “peace” inwardly or repeat it to yourself. Try to hear the sound, the cosmic sound that embodies that word. The word “peace” will be a seed-sound reverberating in the very depth of your heart. If you want light, then please repeat the word “light, light, light.” While uttering the word, chanting or soulfully repeating, please feel that you have become that word, or divine quality. Feel that your very existence, from the sole of your foot to the crown of your head, has become love, or the quality you are repeating. All your nerves, your subtle body, your physical body, everything, everything is flooded with love. The quality has that magic power. Love. Peace. Light. Delight. You choose the divine quality which you wish to embody and become.’ AUM — Vol.II-3, No.10, October 27, 1976

Another way to use Japa is when you are very frightened or need protection in times of crisis. If you can repeat the name of the Supreme over and over very quickly, your fears will disappear, and you will feel the protection of the Divine Force, which will inspire you to act appropriately. When you do this, you are effectively allowing the higher part of yourself to take over, and the Supreme will work through you to ensure that the correct thing is done to ward off the situation.

I know many people who have done this and used this ‘formula’ to get rid of would-be attackers and thieves. They repeated ‘Supreme’ over and over again out loud ,and the attackers took off. Never underestimate the power of your own soul, which is the instrument of a higher force of Divine Protection. Meditation teaches us this.

In the next chapter we will explore the power of faith. 

(please see Next article, ABC’s of meditation, ch4, part 1: Faith)