Better Living Through Mantra: How Sound Can Save the World


Mantra is a Sanskrit word that is derived from man, which means mind, and trang, which means wave or projection. Mantra is thus a conscious, structured projection of psycho-spiritual will. Its use has powerful, predictable effects upon our bodies, minds, and lives.

Above: A painting by Casey Greenling depicting the vibratory essence of our identity.

Optional Reading Music:

We are all made of sound.

In the beginning was the Word—vibrational frequency that has exquisitely layered itself into coherent, physical form.

Yogis call this sonic undergirding of Reality the Naad current. It is the ever-present presence of the Divine that interpenetrates all things…and we can connect to it whenever we want through mantra.

Mantra is a Sanskrit word that is derived from man, which means mind, and trang, which means wave or projection. Mantra is thus a conscious, structured projection of psycho-spiritual will. Its use has powerful, predictable effects upon our bodies, minds, and lives.

Every sound is a tool

There is a vast, ancient Science of Sound that teaches the meticulous applicability of different sounds and mantras. The mantras associated with these lineages have been perfected over thousands of years—they have been sculpted into precision tools for healing the body, awakening the mind, improving mood, processing emotional material, and expanding consciousness (you can read more about the science of esoteric nervous system control here).

South American shamans use sound to weave multi-dimensional tapestries of visual phonemes called icaros. Each song has a specifically codified healing or transformative power, and a shaman’s songs are judged not by what they sound like, but by the visions and sensations that they produce.

There’s even evidence that ancient civilizations used sound as an advanced technology for manipulating physical reality. Archeologists still can’t figure out how the Aztecs constructed many of their temples. Many are comprised of enormous, irregular stones, and yet they fit together so perfectly that a razor blade can’t even be passed through the space left between them.

The fragmented writings of the Aztec priests provide a cryptic but evocative answer: they would sing the stones into place.

Slowly but surely, we’re rediscovering these ancient methodologies. Here’s an article about a team of researchers who have figured out how to levitate objects with sound.

Structure + love = awakening

The structured, pragmatic use of sound discussed above is related to the yogic principle of shakti—power, discipline, intentionality, structured form.

But yogic doctrine stresses the primary importance of balancing shakti with bhakti, which is the principle of love and transpersonal surrender. When our lives allow for the graceful dance between these two ways of being, true awakening occurs.

And mantra is just as much a bhakti catalyst as it is a shakti-driven tool. This is what the tradition of kirtan—call and answer chanting—is all about.

Krishna Das, one of the most popular kirtan musicians in the West, stresses that many of the popular Vedic chants don’t have to mean anything. He teaches that kirtan is a practice of connecting with the Names of God. These sacred sounds are ultimately unknowable, but by singing them, we slowly but inevitably uncover the presence of the Divine within ourselves.

Through chanting, we are dissolved in the bliss of transpersonal knowing. We are allowed to lose ourselves in love.

If you’ve never tried kirtan, you might want to…you’ll be amazed how much happier, lighter, and in love with the world you become after some simple singing. If you’re not sure where to start, check out Krishna Das (I’ve included an album of his as the reading music for this article).

Find the sounds that (literally) resonate with you

Here’s an important point to remember: you don’t have to chant in an exotic language in order for it be transformative. Find words and phrases that empower and inspire you, and use them.

While popular Vedic and Gurmukhi mantras have powerful morphogenetic fields behind them (simply because people have been using them for so long), it’s most important that you pick chants that ignite your inner fire—even if they happen to be in English (a comparatively new language).

I once attended a ceremony where we all took turns chanting each other’s names as a chorus, followed by “we love you.” It was a transcendently beautiful and heart-opening experience, and it had nothing to do with fancy, Sanskrit slokas. Never forget how much power your own name holds, especially when activated in an intentional and sacred context.

Try chanting “Om” a few times each morning.

Pay close attention to how sound in general affects your consciousness.

And if called to do so, learn some popular mantras, and see if you can gauge what parts of your physical, mental, and emotional bodies they tend to target.

Our ability to leverage sound in an intentional manner is a profound gift. I pray that we all put it to good use, so that we may live healthier, happier, more masterful lives.

Do you have any favorite mantras or sound practices that you’d like to share with the community? Please do so in the comments section below!


Ryan Greendyk

Ryan Greendyk is a conscious internet entrepreneur, writer, kundalini yoga teacher, psychonaut, and sacred space creator. He's pretty fond of tea ceremonies, entheogens, bass-beat wizardry and techno-shamanism, superfoods, gifting, fire spinning, alternative healing modalities, spontaneous outbursts of love, and spending quality time with God and friends. In a nutshell, he's dedicated to delivering others to their highest selves through the creation and promotion of communities, cultures, products, and programs built upon creativity, intentional play, and spiritual self-mastery. He is the Founder of Lightlab and the Producer of Lightlab Events.

  • Aaron Johnston

    Would love to hear your thoughts on the following anthropomorphic insights into the sound of Om.

    Om or (Aom) as the sound of the universe having three movements:

    From ‘A’lpha (beginning/creation) to ‘Om’ega (sustained existence and cessation/completion)

    The first movement of “A” expressed subtly in the sound Om/Aom as containing limitless creative potential. Consider the sound “Ah” through the spectrum of potential human experiences: blissful/orgasmic states, moments of realization, relaxation, or resignation, expressions of anger/rage, cries of extreme suffering, and everything in between.
    “In the beginning there was the word,” and it was a creative force that contained all potentiality. Whether it was Aom, Amen, or Allah…it began with the ‘A’lpha.

    The second movement of “O”: sustained physical potentiality from limitless creative potential. The hard vowel sound of “O” happens to be the longest sustainable sound by the human body because it allows the diaphragm and vocal chords to open and allow air through at a median melodic resonance.

    The third movement of “M”: as satisfaction, satiation, or cessation. Creation and sustained existence of sound ending as the mouth closes. Also, satiation of hunger, satisfaction of craving “yuM,” and train of though “hmmmm.” All physicality in body and mind ending within the spectrum of karmic potentiality.

    Three movements in a single sound…

    How did this lead to anthropomorphic recognitions of the creative potential in others? The most obvious example could be in our greetings:

    Hallo (root of hello)

    All movements of a similar audible recognition. Food for thought i guess..

    • http://www.lightlabcreations.com/ Ryan Greendyk

      Wow, thanks so much, Aaron. I could talk about this stuff forever! A few more interesting points to ponder…

      - The “H” sound physiologically activates the 4th chakra and heart-complex (you can even feel that your breath is centered in your chest when forming that sound), so it’s perfectly fitting that it’s a key phoneme in many greetings (since the 4th chakra is the center of empathy and connection, and thus the bridge between self and other).

      - In Raj Yoga, a distinction is made between Om/Aom and Ong. The former is defined in a manner very similar to your gorgeous description above, with an emphasis on Unmanifest, Infinite Potentiality. On the other hand, forming the sound Ong reguires vibratory contact with the soft palate (and thus stimulation of the hypothalamus and frontal cortex). This physically mediated vibratory force is seen as the embodiment of Manifested Actuality. Obviously, an entire book could be written on this subject, but I find even this ostensible comparison pretty fascinating.

      - I’m really interested in your use of the word “anthropomorphic.” Whether or not you intended it, I was led to the thought that coherent sound is the “grammar” that allows for emergent, conscious identity. So, sound currents with strong morphogenetic fields (like “Aom”) can (and perhaps should) literally be viewed as anthropomorphic identities endowed with their own awareness and ability to interact with the noumenal world. When we give a vessel to this being through our voices, we in turn allow it to interact with the phenomenal world, as well.

      • Aaron Johnston

        Exactly! One could argue that the cultural and physical qualities of different peoples around the world has just as much, if not more to do with language than environmental factors.

        Consider Dr. Masaru Emoto’s experiments on water, consciousness, and intent in this anthropomorphic context…

        If our thoughts can change the physical structure of water and thus the physical structure of our bodies, how have different cultures historically “created” themselves through language, either in thought or spoken word?

        Think of the qualities of different African, Asian, European, and Polynesian words, not only in pronunciation but also in thought translation, that have no literal, implied, or even conceptual translation in English. Do these culturally unique language qualities continue to create a culturally unique people mentally, emotionally, physically, and spiritually? What, beyond words, is lost when a culture is assimilated?

        This goes back to your suggestion of finding the sounds that literally resonate with you, whether they be Vedic, Sanskrit, African, or English. If you’re a good multi-tasker, you can also chant in an ancient language while meditating on the translation. For example, chanting the Tibetan mantra Om Mani Padme Hum while meditating on the six virtues of its translation: generosity, pure ethics, tolerance, perseverance, concentration, and wisdom.

        From the perspective of considering Aom, mantra, and the creative potential of language… how have we as cultural peoples literally created ourselves through language, and how can we use our understanding of the power of sound to bridge cultural gaps and conflicts?

        How verbal language as an anthropomorphic force will coevolve with technology over the next century is a very interesting concept to pay attention to…looking to the power of sound to culturally strengthen the neural network of the emerging global consciousness.

        • http://www.lightlabcreations.com/ Ryan Greendyk

          Brilliant. As Terence McKenna believed, “the world is made of language.” Your comment offers some wonderful lenses for understanding how this is literally (and not just metaphorically) true.

          I’m fascinated by the ways in which the evolution of language will take us into non-verbal realms, as well (I’m not even convinced that mantra should be considered only verbal). To quote McKenna one more time, “language is unfinished in us.” Though icaros and other instances of high-order sound perception give us a glimpse of “nonordinary” or “higher” language, I think we still can scarcely imagine what this anthropomorphic force will one day become, or how it will interface with our three-dimensional consciousness. I’m pretty excited to help facilitate and accelerate the process, though ;)

          Because I believe that it’s this kind of “higher-dimensional grammar” that we need to tap in order to linguistically strengthen our global neural network in a conscious way. We’re certainly doing so all the time simply by acting as conscious individuals, but if each of us could learn to recognize and directly influence higher-order identity gestalts, we could take our process of planetary culture creation to a whole new level.

          The trick is to view systems as self-contained wholes…to experience viscerally that a group of people has its own mind that is a separate, emergent entity (and that likewise, the complex of all life in the Earth’s biosphere exists as its own higher-order Gaian Mind). It’s a chicken-and-egg situation, though: must we cognize identity gestalts in order to learn higher-dimensional grammar, or must we learn higher-dimensional grammar in order to cognize identity gestalts?

          • Agent Coop

            This concept (reality) is so incredibly fascinating to me. I have long been aware of the power of language/words/sound vibrations and their potential affect on the material world, but I never considered this from an anthropomorphic perspective. Truly amazing stuff.

            In the Vedas it is said that mantras were even used as weapons, having the power and destructive force equal to nuclear weapons – in battles such as the Mahabarat. Recently, scientists have discovered evidence of nuclear explosions dating back to, and in the region of India where the aforementioned battle took place.

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