One of the most popular misconception about “OM” is that it is religious. On the contrary, it is the most universal syllable because it neither refers to any particular religion nor God. There have been several theories behind the OM mantra with the most popular explanation being that it was the cosmic sound which initiated the creation of universe (big bang theory). But that alone would not have been sufficient to turn it into a regular practice in Indian culture.
As with most of the traditional practices followed in India, this also has a scientific and practical explanation (based on the physics of sound, vibrations & resonance) with some long term benefit and we shall find out what it really is.
What is mantra?
In its most rudimentary form, a mantra is made of syllables which exert their influence by means of sound (vibrations). As one would have personally experienced, different syllables have different vibration patterns which affect different parts of the body. Each syllable resonates with certain organ or part of the body.
For example, by chanting “aaaaaaa”, one can feel the sensation and hence resonance of nervous system in the stomach and chest region. Chanting “ooooo” creates sensations in throat & chest region and resonates with them. Similarly, chanting/humming “mmmm” resonates with the nasal cavity as well as skull/brain region.
What happens when we concatenate (join together) the above syllables into one mantra? We get the AUM mantra which when chanted sequentially activates the stomach, spinal cord, throat, nasal and brain regions. The energy moves from the abdomen all the way up to the brain, thereby channelizing energy and activating the spinal cord & brain.
Following is an excerpt from a research paper which shows the waveform of A-U-M mantra made up of 3 syllables.
One of the most popular claims made by Yogis is that chanting Om mantra improves our concentration, gives peace and steadiness to our mind, reduces mental stress and clears all worldly thoughts. Although those who practice it regularly would have experienced it first hand and affirm the same, scientists were curious to find out more about it and verify such claims with the help of science & technology.
Few years ago, scientists conducted an experiment in which participants who had never chanted Om mantra were asked to chant it for few minutes and each of their chants were recorded. The time frequency analysis of it showed irregular waveforms which indicated unsteadiness in the mind. They were asked to chant the mantra on a regular basis and after few days, the experiment was repeated. The time-frequency analysis this time had some startling revelations. The waveforms were improved with regular spacing, had almost perfect symmetry and harmony. Not only had these participants witnessed dramatic improvements in focus, concentration & steadiness, but found themselves to be in peace, witnessed reduction in mental stress & could remain calm all the time.
In another such instance, scientists conducted experiments to study the effect of Om mantra on nervous system through repeated practice. Using sophisticated software tools, mathematical transforms were applied to raw samples of the chantings and similar results (improvements in focus concentration, steadiness, peace, reduction in stress etc) were observed. Research paper: http://paper.ijcsns.org/07_book/200901/20090151.pdf
In another experiment, scientists analyzed functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging scans (f-MRI scans) before & after Om mantra chanting and concluded that regular chanting of Om mantra can treat depression & epilepsy as well.
Hence, based on scientific experiments & research studies, we can now confirm the age old claims made by Yogis that chanting Om mantra reduces mental stress, cures depression, improves focus & concentration, calms the mind and leads to better well-being, peace & happiness.
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Amrithaa, Scientists who have researched on the OM mantra have conveyed that mantras like Gayatri mantra also have positive impact on the mind. However, I am not aware of in-depth study done by scientists.
Most of the efforts are currently in the study of "Om" which has been heartily embraced in western world as well (due to its simplicity).
I remember reading about an institute in Europe doing some study on other Sanskrit mantras. But their efforts mainly seem to be towards finding out if Sanskrit can be used as a computer programming language.
I will let you know (and update here as well) if I get any leads on research on other mantras. Thanks.
An article i read-
Gayatri mantra has been bestowed the greatest importance in Vedic dharma. This mantra has also been termed as Savitri and Veda-Mata, the mother of the Vedas. The literal meaning of the mantra is:
God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty.
You are all Light. You are all Knowledge and Bliss.
You are Destroyer of fear; You are Creator of this Universe,
You are the Greatest of all. We bow and meditate upon your light.
You guide our intellect in the right direction.
The mantra, however, has a great scientific import too, which somehow got lost in the literary tradition. The modern astrophysics and astronomy tell us that our Galaxy called Milky Way or Akash-Ganga contains approximately 100,000 million of stars. Each star is like our sun having its own planet system. We know that the moon moves round the e...See More
Is it only for OM ? What if some one chant some other word and practice daily ? does mind concentration improves or not ? I am just curious about this , if u hv any reference please do share. because mind will change if you train it , so if I chant some other word daily then also I may get same effect as in OM chanting ? Human mind is incredible every one knew abt it
Sadanand, There is a popular form of meditation called "Transcendental Meditation" pioneered by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. He was one of the first sages who took eastern philosophies like meditation to the western world and his disciples included The Beatles, Madonna and several International celebrities who had benefited from his meditation techniques.
In his form of meditation, one can choose any mantra, phrase or word and it becomes your "Bija mantra".
You have to chant (either loudly or just within your mind itself) it for 15-20 mins everyday and within few days, you will witness its positive effects.
There have been lots of research studies by American scientists on this form of meditation (Transcendental meditation) technique and all of them acknowledge its claims (peace, reduction in stress, more focus etc).
Coming to your question. Yes, chanting some other word daily (which becomes the Bija Mantra) can also have positive effect. However, OM being the most basic form resonates directly with the organs along spinal cord and hence is the most efficient mantra.
Science is only now touching the tip of the iceberg. Maybe you could include this statement in your article.
Seeing that you're included an image by Harish Johari you must be aware of the extremely close connection between mantra, chakra and association with deities of each chakra.
Since the article claims to only talk about the scientific side (I.e. quantifiable data on qualitative change of mental state) one can understand the stress on such data.
But what is unverified today but ancient knowledge in our system deserves more than a passing reference.
Direct experience of these states and higher ones by Rishis is what led to Om and other mantras coming into use in the first place.
The reason I mentioned the origins is that there is a tendency among Hindus to avoid talking about anything "unscientific" or "superstitio...See More