Sacred syllable, word, or set of words that have spiritual potency. From its etymology, there are two main ways of translating the word mantra, a “mind instrument” and a form of mental activity that brings salvation.
- The Sanskrit word mantra comes from man (“mind” or “to think”) and the suffix tra, which is used to make words denoting instruments or objects. Thus, a mantra is an instrument of thought, or a mind instrument.
A mantra is a tool to transport the mind from a state of activity to one of stillness and silence. Therefore, thinking activity associated with a mantra is no ordinary thinking: it is not vikalpa (the conceptual, discursive form of thought that accompanies empirical language). It is a more intense, more effective thinking activity, a cogitation that is also one-pointed, since it is connected with a concentrated form of speech and endowed with special potency and efficacy.
- Another etymological interpretation of the word mantra relates the suffix tra to the Sanskrit root trai (“to save”). In this way, mantra is seen as a special form of “mental activity that brings salvation.”