Special Topics

The Methods of Reciting Mantras

When beginning to learn how to chant mantras, it's not hard at all learn to recite them provided we start by learning their structure, rules, and some keywords.

Mantras, also known as sacred utterances, secret incantations, true words, or Dharanis, are referred to as secret words with special indescribable supernatural powers. Why are mantras also called Dharanis? It is because the form of Dharanis is similar to that of mantras. Hence, the later generations have mixed Dharanis and mantras together, with the result that mantras are now collectively known as Dharanis. In general, long mantras are called Dharanis, such as Maha Karuna Dharani, whose short name is "The Great Compassion Mantra". In addition, there are short mantras with few words, such as Ksitigarbha Dharmakaya Mudra Mantra. Finally, there are mantras with one or two words that are considered as seed syllables, such as "hrih", the common seed syllable of Buddha Amitabha, Bodhisattva Cintamanicakra, Bodhisattva Vajradharma and other Great Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

When starting to learn mantra recitation, we may find some frequently appearing words in the dharanis--- for instance, namo, om, tadyata, svaha, and so on. In fact, although some mantras are short, like a beautiful prayer of blessing with connotations, they are also structured with an introduction, elucidation of the theme, transition to another viewpoint and finally, a summing up. Tony K. Lin, visiting professor of the School of Chinese Classics of Renmin University of China and author of many books dedicated to the studies on mantras, has explained in his book "Get to Know Dharanis" the structures and rules of the mantras. Understanding these rules will make it easier for us to chant or memorize the mantras.

Extended Reading:

Dharani Recitation Practice: Learning the Spiritual Codes of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas

Understanding the Structure of Dharanis

How to Choose Which Mantra to Recite?

The Methods of Reciting Mantras

Q&A about Mantra Recitation: Q1: What is the difference between chanting the Buddha's name and reciting the mantra?

Q&A about Mantra Recitation: Q2: Will mispronunciation of the mantras impact its meritorious effect?

Q&A about Mantra Recitation: Q3: Is the chanting of a mantra effective only when we know its meaning?

Q&A about Mantra Recitation: Q4: How can reciting mantras eliminate karmic obstacles and prevent disasters?

Q&A about Mantra Recitation: Q5: Can a wish be fulfilled by reciting a mantra?

Resource: Issue 356 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Photos: Issue 356 of Life Magazine, Dharma Drum Publishing Corporation
Pin-an Chen (陳品安) 
Editing: YKL, Keith Brown