Almost every tradition and culture in the world includes chanting practices for psychological and spiritual growth. It is said that mantras have been chanted since the human ability to vocalize! In India, the chanting of Sanskrit mantras from sacred ancient texts is the oldest tradition in existence that is still practiced today. Meanwhile, in Ancient Egypt, they would chant to ensure the flooding of the Nile and success of the next crop. Jewish chanting is used for synagogue worship all around the world and Catholic churches have promoted Gregorian chanting for centuries. The Navaho, the second largest Native American tribe, traditionally chant as a celebration of life, to heal the sick, prevent illness and to protect their community. Finally, Shamanic practices include mantra in order to connect with nature and strengthen community bonds.
Mantra has also been used in popular Western music where it is integrated into the music and often the audience is encouraged to chant along, intensifying their experience of the music. George Harrison from The Beatles included mantra in his songs. One example is “My Sweet Lord” where he sings “Hare Krishna, Hare Ram” and “Allelujiah.” Although not traditional mantra chanting, we can still witness a type of mantra chanting that has developed in the west. That is, when people get together at sports games or political rallies they chant. It becomes obvious that when individuals come together they can feel power in chanting as a group and as though they can make their team win or have their ideas heard simply by chanting together as a group. The military even uses a form of mantra chanting to promote teamwork and feelings of social cohesion. Although they are not chanting sacred ancient mantras, it still fits the definition of a mantra which is the repetition of a sound or phrase.
So, mantra repetition is used in many traditions and cultures all around the world and is still used today. It is practiced as a way of deepening spiritual awareness, promoting cognitive abilities, worship and connecting with others. Recently, it is used for team bonding and even to create significant change in the world by rallying or protesting. Despite the power of mantra to transform our own lives and create change in the world, this ancient practice as a meditation has been largely overlooked by Western society. We would do well to embrace this powerful meditation practice as there is extensive scientific evidence showing that the chanting of mantras can reduce stress, depressive symptoms, improve attention, increase altruism, alter neurology and even alter states of consciousness. So why wouldn’t we adopt the psychological, emotional and social benefits of this ancient tradition?