The Heart of the Practice: Spiritual and Health Benefits of Mantra Recitations June 24, 2023 17:05
If you prefer to listen to this month's blog article, click HERE for the audio link.
Did you know that reciting mantras can be good for your heart?
I love it when I can find science-based articles that support concrete benefits to a regular meditation practice, and I found an article that addressed the benefits of mantra recitations, specifically.
I recently read an interesting article from an online medical journal (National Library of Medicine). It concluded that reciting mantras can have a positive effect on heart health and respiration.
This article, by Luciano Bernardi, an associate professor of medicine, along with several other researchers, physicians, and professors, conducted an experiment that analyzed the heart rates and breathing patterns of twenty-three healthy adults during periods of free talking compared to sessions of reciting the Ave Maria prayer in Latin and the Om Mani Padme Hum mantra.
The title of this article is “Effect of Rosary Prayer and Mantras on Autonomic Cardiovascular Rhythms.” Feel free to read the details of this study, if you like.
Ultimately, what these researchers found is that reciting the prayer and mantra slowed the respiration rate to six breaths per minute. Recitations also enhanced heart rate variability and baroreflex sensitivity.
Apparently, a slow respiratory rate has favorable effects on cardiovascular and respiratory function. It increases the oxygenation of blood in the body, it increases a sense of calm and wellbeing, and it improves irregular breathing patterns.
This study also concluded that reciting the rosary or a mantra is not only an important spiritual practice; it is also a beneficial health practice.
Additionally, Bernardi, et al, happened to mention in this article an important historical connection between the prayer and the mantra.
According to the article, the rosary was introduced to “Europe by the crusaders, who took it from the Arabs, who in turn took it from Tibetan monks and the yoga masters of India. This supports the hypothesis that the similar characteristics and effects of these mantras and of the rosary may not be a simple coincidence.”
This detail points to another relevant benefit of a daily recitation practice—one that fosters a sense of interconnection and community with others.
I attend weekly Dharma teachings at TMBCC in Bloomington. Typically, before the Dharma talk begins, we chant prayers together, and after the talk, we chant dedication prayers. It’s the only time during the week where I have the opportunity to chant with others. The rest of the time, I’m on my own with my personal practice.
Even though these prayers are relatively brief and take just a few minutes to recite, having an opportunity to share a collective mantra/prayer practice with others fosters a sense of interconnection and community with other sangha members.
It’s a soothing, calming, shared experience, and it’s a beautiful way to frame Geshe Kunga’s teachings.
Compared to the monasteries that we visited in India, our temple is very small. Our voices may not echo and reverberate in vast temples with high ceilings and polished marble floors, but we are joining together in a communal, shared practice—reciting, reading, and breathing together in a shared, sacred space.
Some of us are very familiar with this weekly practice, and some may be first-time visitors, but all are welcome as we recite these prayers together.
I’m grateful to be able to travel to Bloomington for these weekly teachings. I’m also grateful to have been able to travel to India a few months ago where we visited beautiful monasteries with high ceilings and polished marble floors (Drepung Gomang Monastery in South India, and Namgyal Monastery in North India).
Listening to hundreds of monks chanting together, filling these beautiful spaces with cadences and rhythms of sacred sound in Tibetan and Sanskrit was an amazing, meaningful opportunity. Their voices lulled us into a peaceful, tranquil state and fostered a strong sense of connection, interconnection, and community.
If you don't have a daily mantra practice yet, I highly recommend it. A daily recitation practice will not only benefit your physical health, but it will also benefit your spiritual and emotional wellbeing. Om Mani Padme Hum is a wonderful mantra to recite on the daily, and if you need a mala, I have several to choose from in the current Middle Moon Malas collection.
I hope you are enjoying this beautiful summer season, and I hope this month's article was beneficial in some way. I look forward to sharing another article with you next month.