Just ask any die-hard yogi what their personal "mantra" is (if you happen to know one!) and chances are they'll have an answer. There is an equally strong chance that you will have no idea what their little phrase means. When the yogi responds with, "Om" or "Ham-Sah" will you know what they are referring to?
Don't feel bad about your Hindu ignorance. Without Bing I too would have been stumped on the meaning of these mantras. Thanks to the internet I can now inform you that "Om" means "It is" and "Ham-Sah" means "I am THAT." Whatever THAT means I'm still not sure. Further Binging is required to get to the bottom of that query.
There are some not so obscure mantras that you and I are probably much more familiar with. Popular among my generation is, "Be the change you wish to see in the world." Ghandi's quote is so beloved that it is written on posters, cell phones cases, T-shirts and bumper stickers.
Mantras have become quite a fad in America. We love our little sayings that motivate and inspire. This idea might have been born in the ancient Hindus but it is being taken to a whole new commercialized level in the United States of America.
Further investigation into mantras led me to the purpose of repeating certain phrases over and over. According to the Hindu belief, mantras are sacred, bringing new life into the body. Mantras cast off evil and negative energies and invite spirit and transformation into the body. These little repetitions aren't just words to the Hindus, they are mystical and magical. Some religions chant them, others sing them. No matter how they are communicated, mantras play an integral role in Hindu religious practices.
And now they play an important role in yoga sessions across this nation. It is hard to escape the world of yoga. Everywhere you turn there is another reminder that yoga is the exercise "du jour." In fact, it is more than just "du jour," it is "du" decade or "du" century (depending on how long this fad lasts). Even just sitting at a restaurant the craze is hard to escape. Just today I overheard a couple of ladies discussing their lack of yoga abilities. One was lamenting the fact that she wasn't flexible enough to do downward facing dog. Another was talking about how she has been attending yoga sessions three times a week and is seeing great improvement in her form. Neither woman discussed her personal mantra. Maybe that is too private and personal to be discussed in such a public setting. I don't know. I'm not up enough on mantra etiquette.
All of this yoga, mantra, "Om" talk started turning the wheels in my little head. Do I have a "mantra" of sorts? Is there some go-to phrase that I repeat to get me motivated or encouraged when I'm down? Do I have a phrase that I live by, like so many of my age group who embrace the words of Ghandi as their life philosophy?
Nope. I'm without a mantra. I read all about mantras, popular mantras, "Top 10 Mantras", celebrities favorite mantras, athletes favorite mantras and I concluded that I don't have a personal mantra. There is no single phrase that bolsters my confidence and gives me the strength to hold warrior pose for twenty more seconds (not that I ever do warrior pose to begin with, but you get the point). I don't have a word that I hum when I need encouragement or spiritual guidance.
What I do have is faith in God. I have Colossians 2:6-7, "So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness." It is my faith, rooted in Jesus Christ that is my encouragement and motivation. By looking to Him I find my spiritual guidance and compass.
The American culture loves the utterances of the Hindu religion and the chants of one syllable mantras. But God loves a heart that is rooted in Christ. There is strength and life that can only be found in Jesus Christ. There is no other road that leads to eternal life. The death of Christ on the cross is the only path to Heaven. It is by receiving Him and turning our lives over to Him that we are saved.
Mantras are deceiving. They give a false sense of security. The truth is, there is no security in the word "Om" or any other favorite meditative word. Security, motivation, encouragement, and true life are found in Jesus Christ alone. That is why I am casting off the whole idea of needing a mantra. Instead, I am going to live by the words of Colossians. I am living my life rooted in Jesus Christ and the eternal life I have by receiving His gift of salvation that comes through the work He did for me on the cross. That "philosophy" might not be popular in this culture. I may not overhear women talking about this truth at a restaurant or coffee shop. But this is the life giving truth, better than any mantra. And I will forever make it the song of my heart and the words on my lips.