A mantra is a sound, and can be a syllable or a set of syllables - with or without allotted meanings.
The Sanskrit word yana means vehicle, vessel, journey among other things.
Repeating an individually suitable mantra is called (mantra) japa. Japa may be performed while sitting in deepening meditation, and that is a main part of whats "embarking" on the vessel is, and in such a way journey homewards - little by little, very fast or otherwise. It depends in part on the practitioner.
It is rather easy to mentally repeat a mantra (a sound, syllable, or set of syllables). Mantra-repetition (japa) helps to focus the mind. Mantras (sounds) go along with many ends. Deft use of mantras forms part of Sanatan Dharma (Hinduism) and Buddhism.
Those who want to study mantras in detail should refer to texts . . . of the Buddha or of Padmasambhava. . . . Briefly, mantras bestow great purification as well as deep accumulation of merit and wisdom. (Kalu Rinpoche 1995:116)
A Helpful Mantra, a Benefactor
Mantras are produced by combining alphabet sounds. The ancient Vedic Sanskrit alphabet contains over twice as many letters as English does. They are well enough described in the International Phonetic Alphabet. (Wikipedia, "International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration")
To meditative ends, many syllable-sounds are left out, as some sound sets (mantras) tend to cause confusion, others bring agitation and even havoc. But proper mantras can bring tall benefits. (Pandit 1972, 62)
The art of mantras has it that if you chant-intone sounds full well in your mind, nobody hears it but yourself. The Manu Samhita 2:85 advocates mental japa, maybe a bit poetically.
Here is what the editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica write: A mantra is an utterance (syllable, word, or verse). "Various mantras are either spoken aloud or merely sounded internally in one's [mind]". Further, "they are thought to have a profound underlying significance" and are distilled, spiritual wisdom. Thus, repeating a particular mantra in meditation can lead to a higher level. (EB, "Mantra: Buddhism and Hinduism")
Sound and form intertwine, so different mantras evoke different forms too. Try to find a mantra and its corresponding, very correctly depicted form to make the most of your presumably best, inherent potentials; it is an age-old teaching, and the basis of descriptions of goddesses too (Brooks 1992; Woodroffe 1971, 49-53, passim; xviii; xix).
Seed sounds, bijas
There is Buddhist and Hindu tantra. According to tantra, some sound are called seed sounds, bijas. The sound - when pronounced well - is the form (sva-rupa) of the force that is symbolically shown as a female through representative art and with many symbolic items attached. The handed-over teaching is that different powers are accessed through specificed mantras, and that repeating a handed-over mantra brings attunement with that shakti, energy (cf. Frawley, 2010)
The mantra may be represented by diagrams (yantras) as well as a humanoid picture - often with extra sets of arms and hands (Woodroffe 1972, passim; EB, "tantra")
Attunement grows by steady repetition of the mantra in carefully geared ways.
Mantrayana is fit for householders and housewives too. As suggested above, there is an art to the matching of mantra and mantra-users too. [Guru Dev's teachings]
Mentally intoning and repeating a mantra can be easily practised. What matters is doing a fit, profitable method well. (Shankaranarayan 1975:32-42)
During the practice, " Do not imagine . . . do not analyse . . . do not reflect," says the Indian master Tilopa from centuries ago. One can reach up to that. Otherwise, there are many ways to handle disturbances. (EB, "Buddhism")
Phallos, poses, gems and living
The phallos (lingam) may be seen as symbolic too. Sages (munis) may interpret it for you. There is a vast literature to get into right there.
Nine gems are enumerated as valuable and fit for much more than superficial adornment. They are cat's eye, sapphire, topaz, coral, pearl, emerald, diamond, and ruby (Woodroffe 1971, 31). Other stones may or many not work well.
Poses can help awakening. A great part of yoga asanas (poses).
The ancient Vedic teachings of Shabda-Brahman, which may be translated as "sound-God". Shabda is akin to the manifesting Word, OM, and the basis of the sounds we meditate on. Vital parts of tantra constitute Vajrayana, or Tibetan Buddhism. (Woodroffe 1974, 37-38)
Tantra teaches, as Buddha, that man can be awakened to the Truth (Pandit 1969, 34).
If we regulate our living so that we incorporate fairly reasonable suggestions that fit you, and keep being fit for everyday living, it is part of the general way of life that Buddha endorses. (EB, "Buddhism"; Somdet Phra Buddhaghosacariya, comp. Uposatha Sila. 2nd ed. 1993)
You could keep your mind intact and natural, and heed its symbols too. That is a very significant part of Tilopa's teachings. (Evans-Wentz 1967:150, 200)
The Buddha of the Western quarter is Amitabha. The name means "The Unmeasured Splendour". The mantra is Hriih.
A female Buddha is Tara, The name means about "Carrying across, Protector; Shining Star". The mantra is Taang.
Alper, Harvey P., ed. Mantra. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1989.
Brooks, Douglas: Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Srividya Sakta Tantrism in South India. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1992.
Buddhaghosacariya, Somdet Phra, comp. Uposatha Sila: The Eight-Precept Observance. Tr. Bhikkhu Kantasilo, 1996. (At Access to Insight).
Evans-Wentz, Walter Yeeling, ed. Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines. 2nd ed. London: Oxford University Press, 1967.
Frawley, David. Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound: Secrets of Seed (Bija) Mantras. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press, 2010.
Pandit, M. Gems from the Tantras. Madras: Ganesh, 1969.
Pandit, M. Kundalini Yoga. 5th ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1972.
Rinpoche, Kalu. Secret Buddhism: Vajrayana Practices. San Francisco: ClearPoint Press, 1995. ⍽▢⍽ 'Secret' looks like a misnomer for the all right published practices.
Rinpoche, Ringu Tulku. Chenrezig: The Practice of Compassion. A Commentary. Southhampton, UK: Ringul Trust Publications, 2011.
Shankaranarayan, S. The Ten Great Cosmic Powers. 2nd ed. Pondicherri: Dipti, 1975.
Woodroffe, Sir John. Garland of Letters. 6th ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1974 (?).
Woodroffe, Sir John, tr. Tantra of the Great Liberation (Mahanirvana Tantra). New York: Dover, 1972.
Woodroffe, Sir John. Tantraraja Tantra. 3rd ed. Madras: Ganesh, 1971.
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