Article: Holy symbols

Contributed by Jasmine Kelly

Mantras

Dating back to the 18th century, this yantra has the mantras of auṃ and hrīṃ in its centre. A yantra is an aid to meditation, which is one of the six mental austerities that detaches karma from the soul.

Hrīṃ yantra
Image by Anishshah19 © PD-Art

A mantra is a sound, word or phrase that is accorded great spiritual power when recited correctly. Chanting it either silently or out loud, people usually repeat it many times, drawing out and increasing its spiritual influence. A mantra is believed to bring good fortune and keep the chanter safe.

Mantras are often an aid in meditation because chanting a holy formula helps to focus the mind of the meditator and lessen distractions.

The most common sacred formula in the Jain faith is the Namaskāra-mantra. Recited at any time, the Namaskāra-mantra is performed by all Jain sects, although some sects have slightly different versions.

Another widespread mantra is Oṃ – more properly Auṃ – which is also popular in Hinduism and Buddhism. In Jainism the letters of the word refer to significant concepts in the faith, namely:

  • 'A' – Arhats, siddhas and ācāryas
  • 'U' – teachers
  • 'M' – mendicants.

Reciting the mantra properly involves enunciating all the letters in a single sound held for a long time.

There are many other holy syllables such as hrīṃ, klīṃ, klauṃ, which are used along with sacred diagrams or yantras. Yantras often contain mantras.

Mantras are found very frequently on clothing, temples and other buildings, signs, manuscripts and publications and all kinds of objects. Using a mantra as decoration is more than a visual design choice. The spiritual power believed to reside in these holy formulas is thought to be transferred to the item that the mantra decorates. Therefore adding a mantra to a garment is believed to protect the wearer and bring him or her good luck.

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