During my stay at the Atma Darshan Yogashram, a Branch of the Bihar School of Yoga, I realized that they focus a lot on mantra chanting. Everyday at 5.30 am they would gather to recite the "Mahamrityunjaya Mantra" 11 times, the "Gayatri Mantra" 11 times and the "32 Names of Durga" 3 times. Additionally at the beginning and at the end of every class we would recite another mantra during the Shanti Path and sometimes again the same "Mahamrityunjaya Mantra". And every Saturday there would be an event called the Havan (fire ceremony) where they recite the "Mahamrityunjaya Mantra" 100 times. So yeah, there is a loooot of chanting going on here.
This is a short video that I recorded during the Havan at the ashram
So what are this mantras and why chant them?
According to the yogis a mantra is not a sacred word but actually a sound, a vibration. It is not a sound that has been created by any particular person but actually a sound that has been heard by the yogis in deep meditative states. Each of this sounds has a positive effect on the body and on the mind due to the resonance that they produce. This is the same principle that causes a cristal glass to break when somebody is singing at a very high pitch. If the frequency of the sound produced by chanting a mantra matches the natural frequency of the body then due to resonance the vibrations are felt all through the body, or in specific parts of the body. This is certainly the case for the OM mantra. Repeating it out loud has a very calming effect on the body and mind and by repeating each individual letter of the Om (which are actually A, U, and M) you can notice that they have an effect in different parts of the body. But this is just a gross effect of the mantras. There is a lot more to know about this sounds.
The Mahamrityunjaya Mantra
"Om Trayambakam Yajaamahe Sugandhim Pushtivardhanam
Urvaarukamiva Bandhanaat Mrityormuksheeya Maamritaat"
At the ashram they explained me that it is scientifically proved that the repetition of this mantra has a positive effect on the person who is chanting and even on the person for whom the chanting has been dedicated (before the Havan you can give them your name or somebody else name to whom the chanting will be dedicated and for which purpose). They didn't tell me exactly what scientific proofs they know about but it is said that it can bestow health, wealth, peace, happiness or that it can protect you from diseases, accidents, misfortunes, etc or that it can even cure incurable diseases. So it can actually give you a full protection without any restriction.
On my second week I was invited to participate in the Havan. That was a great experience. On my first week, when I was just an spectator, I was just thinking "wow.... this is veeeery looooong", but when I was participating in the fire ceremony I didn't want it to stop at all. I could have stayed there for hours and hours. Repeating this mantra which has 9 words again and again and doing the fire ceremony at the same time, where you through some herbs into the fire every time you finish reciting the mantra, creates a sort of "trance" feeling. It's like going into a meditative state. And I guess it also helps that all the people around is so involved and has absolute faith on the practice. The smell of the herbs certainly creates a nice feeling and at least the smoke made by the fire get rids off the mosquitoes. No scientific proof needed for that :-)
You can find more information about this mantra in:Mahamrityunjaya Mantra – Door into Eternal Life