Shakti Bija Mantras
from Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound by David Frawley 2010
The term mantra is commonly used today in the media for key phrases, terms or words of power and influence. Each group has its particular mantras that represent its special view, orientation or goal, whether it is a corporation, a political party or religious organization. We are coming to value clear and concise statements or summary views over longer explanations and discussion. Our communication through computers, power point and text messaging is getting progressively condensed or, we could say, mantric in nature.
Mantra in the Yoga tradition consists of the use of sacred sounds and intentions to transform the energy of the mind in a positive direction. Mantra is probably the most powerful and commonly used of all yogic meditation methods. All the main paths of Yoga – whether of knowledge, devotion or action, or whether Hatha, Raja or Kundalini Yoga – have their key mantras.
Mantras can also be performed to help us with concentration, with our work, dealing with emotions, for health, prosperity or overall well-being. Mantras are of many types. Some are longer prayers and intentions, like the famous Vedic Gayatri mantra to the solar Godhead. Others consist of the repetition of Divine names like the well-known mantra Om Nama Shivaya for Lord Shiva.
Yet probably the most important and simplest of all mantras are the single syllable mantras called “bija” or seed mantras starting with Om. They can be used for meditation, worship of deities, energizing prana or for healing purposes – for all aspects of mantra practice. These main bija mantras are also called “Shakti mantras,” as they are commonly used in the worship of the Goddess, who Herself, is the power of sound and mantra. Shakti bija mantras carry the great forces of Nature such as the energies of the Sun and Moon, electricity and magnetism, not simply as outer factors but as inner potentials of Divine light, love and wisdom. Shakti mantras hold, resonate, and propel the Kundalini force, the higher evolutionary power of consciousness, to flow within us. In this article, we will focus on the eight prime Shakti bija mantras, their energies and usage for Yoga, for health, and for improving our karmas in life.
Prime Shakti Mantras
Pranic energy Om
Solar energy Hrim
Electric energy Krim
Power of fire Hum
Power to stabilize Strim
Energy of sound Aim
Lunar energy Shrim
Magnetic energy Klim
Power to stop Hlim
Power to transcend Trim
Solar energy Hrim
Electric energy Krim
Power of fire Hum
Power to stabilize Strim
Energy of sound Aim
Lunar energy Shrim
Magnetic energy Klim
Power to stop Hlim
Power to transcend Trim
Shakti mantras relate to the primary forms of the Goddess or Divine Mother. There are special Shakti mantras for each of the great Goddesses, through which we can commune with them and gain their grace. Shakti mantras are the primary mantras used in Tantric Yoga, in which they are combined in various ways to bring about different results. They have a great capacity for transformation that can extend to the deepest layers of our consciousness and prana. They should be approached with reverence and respect as the very life blood of the Goddess. Most Shakti mantras contain the vowel–Ã, the vibratory ee-sound, which is the main primal sound of Shakti. Most contain the consonant-R, which is the seed of fire, heaven, light, order and dharma and has a stimulating and energizing effect. Some contain the consonant-L, which is the seed of earth, water, joy and bliss and has a calming and stabilizing effect. Many begin with either the letter-H, which indicates prana, light and the Sun, or the letters S or Sh, which indicate the Moon, the mind and water. Some like Aum or Aim consist of vowels only.
Application of Shakti Mantras
Shakti mantras can be used to create, sustain or dissolve the various forms, patterns and forces within us. They have particular affinities with certain locations in the body and with specific chakras – like Hrim and the heart – but also have a broader effect to promote certain types of forces, like Hrim as solar energy that can be used on many different levels. The application of Shakti mantras, like that of other mantras, depends upon the goals of life that we are using them to achieve (dharma, artha, kama, and moksha or career, wealth, enjoyment, or liberation), which gunas we are energizing them with (sattva, rajas, tamas, or the qualities of clarity, action or inertia), or their application through Yoga, Ayurveda, Vedic astrology or other disciplines. In this regard, the same Shakti mantra can be used in many different ways. Yet at the deepest level, Shakti mantras are meant to arouse and support the Yoga Shakti or inner power of Yoga within us. For example, the mantra Srim at an outer level connects us to the abundance of our dharma and artha, our career and financial gains, and the fulfillment of our kama or desires. For Yoga practice, it grants devotion to the guru and the deity. In Ayurveda, it promotes healing, growth, and nourishment. In Vedic astrology, it is the mantra of the Moon and can be used for strengthening benefic Venus and Jupiter as well. In Vaastu, it promotes well-being, prosperity and happiness in the dwelling. Used with a sattvic intention, Srim has a nourishing and harmonizing force; with a rajasic intention, it has a power to promote outer development and achievement; and with a tamasic intention, it can gain a destructive or crushing capacity. At an outer Lakshmi (Goddess of Prosperity) level, Srim can grant us the abundance of the material world; while at an inner Lakshmi level, it can grant us the abundance of the spiritual life, which is devotion, bliss and the beauty of perception.
How to use the mantras
Please use these mantras with respect and a sense of their sacred power, along with your meditation, honoring the deity within. Generally, seed mantras are repeated numerous times in a series of continuous meditation sittings to reach the number of 100,000, which is the amount usually required to awaken their energy and draw it deep into our psyche. Then they can be repeated regularly as needed, even off and on during the day, to help us maintain calm and focus of the mind, or to direct us towards the particular goal that we are seeking through repeating the mantra. Many people use seed mantras as their main mantra for meditation (TM mantras are usually based upon Shakti mantras, for example), also referred to as “primal sound” or “mantra meditation.” They repeat their special mantra before meditation to take the mind more quickly into the meditative state. Shakti mantras have a powerful effect by their sound alone, which is pranic in nature and helps decondition the mind, even if one does not understand their meaning. They are easy to pronounce as they consist of one syllable only! You can choose one of these mantras as your meditation mantra, repeating it silently for at least fifteen minutes or around a thousand times before meditation. Another method is to let the mantra reverberate along with the breath. You can draw in the Shakti of the mantra on inhalation like Hrim as the solar energy or pure light of awareness, and spread its energy throughout your being or into your environment upon exhalation. When mantra and prana become one, both are brought to a higher level of power and function. One can direct the mantra along with the breath to whatever part of the body one wishes to be healed or strengthened, or send it as a healing force for the benefit of others. Bija mantras can be used along with Divine names, like Om Hrim Suryaya Namah! for honoring the solar deity Surya. They can be used in combinations for different deities or aspects of the Divine, like Krãæ Hïæ Hrim for Ma Kali. There are many such mantric formulas in Sanskrit literature and Hindu devotional worship. However, deeper applications and complex combinations of Shakti mantras may require direct instruction from a teacher who knows how to adapt these mantras on an individual basis. This is the same as for any other Yoga practice.
Om serves to open and clear the mind for meditation. It brings about an ascension and expansion of our energy.
Om is the prime mantra of the Purusha, the Cosmic Being, the Atman or higher Self. As such, it attunes us with our true nature and higher reality. Om is the sound of Ishvara, the cosmic lord, the creator, preserver and destroyer of the universe, who is also the inner guru and prime teacher of Yoga. It reflects both the manifest and the unmanifest Brahman, sustaining the vibration of being, life and consciousness in all worlds and all creatures. Generally, Om is divided threefold as A, U and M, with A referring to creation, the waking state and Brahma, the creator; U as sustenance, the dream state and Vishnu the preserver; and M as dissolution, the deep sleep state and Shiva the transformer.
More specifically, Om relates to Shiva, the cosmic masculine force. Om serves to open and clear the mind for meditation. It brings about an ascension and expansion of our energy. It promotes the higher prana and inner light and takes us into the formless realm. It draws the sound current up the spine, through the chakras and out from the top of the head. Om also means “yes” and is said to be the sound of assent. It allows us to harmonize with the forces of the universe externally and with our own nature internally. It attunes us to the cosmic reality and the sacred vibratory patterns that arise from it.
Relative to Ayurvedic medicine, Om helps harmonize the body, prana, mind, and senses with the higher Self, Atman or Divine presence within. It connects us with the cosmic healing prana. It brings a deep healing energy into the subconscious mind to remove negative emotions, addictions and compulsions. Relative to Vedic astrology, Om is the sound of the Sun and of the higher light behind all the stars and planets. In Vaastu, Om can clear the energy in the home or dwelling and bring in Divine light, grace, and knowledge. Relative to other mantras, Om is often used to begin them. It clears the mind for other mantras to work, opens us up to the higher consciousness, and brings a deeper prana into the mantra. Without first chanting Om, it is said that other mantras may not be effective. Whole Upanishads and entire books have been written about it.
Aim is also the mantra of the guru and helps us access all higher knowledge.
After Om, Aim (pronounced “aym”) is the next most common bija mantra. Aim is the feminine counterpart of Om and often follows Om in various chants. Om and Aim are the two main compound vowel mantras, A plus U making Om (and Aum) and A plus I making Aim. As such, together they comprehend all sounds. As Om is the unmanifest or expansive aspect of primal sound, Aim is the manifest or directed form. As Om serves to clear the mental field, Aim helps us focus the mind and heart in a particular manner. As Om is the word that is heard, Aim is the word that is seen. As Om is the supreme Purusha or cosmic masculine force, Aim is Adya Shakti, the supreme Shakti or cosmic feminine force. That is why we find the mantra Aim in so many different mantras to the Goddess or Divine Mother.
More specifically, Aim is the seed mantra of Sarasvati, the Goddess of knowledge and speech, the consort of Lord Brahma, the Creator in the Hindu trinity of great Gods. As such, Aim aids us in learning, art, expression and communication and is good for promoting learning and education generally. Aim is also the mantra of the guru and helps us access all higher knowledge.
It can be used to call or to invoke wisdom and understanding. It indicates motivation, direction and will-power. It can orient us toward whatever we are seeking. It increases concentration of mind and awakens our higher intelligence (Buddhi). Relative to other mantras, Aim is often used to direct our awareness or intention to the deity, to function as our call to draw in the higher knowledge so the mantra can work. In terms of Ayurveda, Aim strengthens the voice and the vocal chords. It helps open the lungs and clear the senses. Astrologically, Aim connects to the planet Mercury and to some extent the Moon, both planets that govern speech and expression. For Vaastu, Aim will bring creativity and learning into the dwelling, particularly for studies, libraries and classrooms.
After Om and Aim, Hrim (pronounced ‘hreem’) is probably the most commonly used bija mantra. It is composed of the sound-Ha, which indicates prana, space and light, with the sound-Ra, which indicates fire, light and dharma, and the sound-Ã, which indicates energy, focus and motivation.
Hrim is the prime mantra of the Goddess in all of her three main powers of creation, preservation and destruction, and so is the main Shakti mantra, with a more specific application than Aim. It is said to be the Shakti bija and to be equivalent to Om for the Goddess. More specifically, it relates to Parvati or Shakti, the consort of Shiva, who is the destroyer/transformer among the great trinity of deities.
Hrim is a mantra of magical force, captivation and empowerment. It can be used relative to any deity or object whose presence we wish to access at the level of the heart. It brings about joy, ecstasy and bliss. Hrim both purifies and exalts us in our inner quest, humbling us before the Divine power so that it can enter into our hearts.
Hrim is a specific mantra for the heart (hridaya in Sanskrit) on all levels, whether the spiritual heart, the heart chakra, the emotional heart or the heart as a physical organ. It energizes the heart, provides warmth, and allows for both deep feeling and deep thought.
In terms of Ayurveda, Hrim can be used to counter heart disease of all types, aiding in longevity and rejuvenation. More specifically, it helps promote the pranic and functional aspect of the heart and with it the power of circulation of the blood, the lungs and the nervous system. It has generally Pitta (fiery) energy but some Vata (air) energy as well, stimulating the higher pranas and emotions. In terms of Vedic astrology, Hrim relates to the Sun, the planet of the heart, and helps promotes solar energy, expression and charisma.
Hrim is usually a soft mantra but can also be harsh. As a soft mantra, it increases the finer energies of the heart. As a harsh mantra, it can be used to hypnotize or captivate, to dissolve or carry away.
Shrim (pronounced ‘shreem’) is one of the most commonly used mantras because it is probably the most benefic of all sounds, drawing to us all that is good, helpful and promoting of positive growth and development. More specifically, Shrim is the seed mantra of Lakshmi, the Goddess of prosperity and abundance, and the consort of Lord Vishnu, the preserver in the Hindu trinity of great Gods, and brings Lakshmi’s many blessings. Shrim is also called ‘Rama bija’ and is used in the worship of Lord Rama, the avatar of dharma.
Shrim is the mantra of faith, devotion, refuge and surrender. It can be used to take refuge in or express devotion to any deity, helping us to gain its favor and grace. Shrim relates to the heart in its feeling aspect, whereas Hrim relates to the pranic or functional aspect of the heart.
Shri means splendor in Sanskrit, like the beautiful light of the Moon. Shrim is often used along withHrim . As Hrim is solar, Shrim is lunar. Shrim relates to the Moon in Vedic astrology and promotes a kind of lunar energy, Soma and beauty overall. Yet it is also used for other benefic planets like Venus and Jupiter, promoting their positive energies.
Relative to Ayurveda, Shrim is mainly a Kapha (watery and earthy) mantra for improving health, happiness, fertility, love and calmness of mind. Yet it does have some secondary Pitta (fire) qualities and improves our glow, luster and light. It is particularly important for women’s health and brings proper function and circulation to the female reproductive system. Shrim has a soothing effect on the mind and emotions, allowing us to surrender to Divine grace and take refuge in the higher powers.
Krim (pronounced ‘kreem’) is the first and most important of the consonant mantras, the mantras that begin with a hard consonant rather than a vowel or sibilant. Krim begins with Ka, the first of the Sanskrit consonants that indicates manifest prana and the initial phase of energy. To this it adds the Ra-sound or seed of fire, the Ã-sound or focusing power as in the other Shakti mantras. It creates light and intention like Hrim and Shrim but of a more specific, stimulating, and manifesting nature.
Krim relates to Vidyut Shakti or the basic electrical energy behind all things in the universe – the Kriya Shakti or power of action on all levels. Krim rules over all manifestation including time, space and action (causation). Through it, we can gain control of our karmas and also move beyond them.
Krim is the seed mantra of Kali, the Goddess of time and transformation, the consort of Lord Shiva, the Destroyer/Transformer in the Hindu trinity of great deities. Through it, we set Kali’s power in motion within us. It serves to energize things to the highest level, which is to raise their level of vibration to the point where we can return to the source.
Krim is a mantra of work, yoga and transformative energy, and is said to be Yoga bija or the ‘seed syllable of Yoga practice’. Its inner application is to awaken the Kundalini Shakti to merge our outer nature back into the higher Self. Krãæ stimulates higher perception and higher prana, promoting the yogic process of pratyahara (internalization of mind) and giving greater power to concentration, meditation and Samadhi. The mantra can connect us with the inner power of any deity we wish to connect to.
In terms of Ayurveda, Krim combines Vata (wind, electrical) energy mantra with Pitta (fire) for an adrenaline type effect. It has a powerful electrical force and stimulates all the pranas and Agnis (biological fires), the circulatory and nervous systems, particularly the heart and the liver. In Vedic astrology, Krim relates primarily to the planet Mars, which is the planet of work and effort. Krim is generally a harsh or strong mantra, particularly as used with Hum, and so should be recited with care.
Klim (pronounced ‘kleem’) is the softer, watery or more feminine aspect of Krim. As Krim is electrical or projective, Klim has a magnetic quality that draws things to us. It can also be used to hold or fix things in place.
Klim carries the Akarshana Shakti or the ‘power of attraction’. It relates to Krishna, who grants bliss (Ananda) as a deity, and to Sundari, the Goddess of love and beauty. Klim is the seed mantra of desire (Kama Bija) and helps us to achieve our true wishes in life. Klim can be used relative to any deity we would like to access to fulfill our wishes. Klim is the mantra of love and devotion, increasing the love energy within our hearts. For this reason, it is one of the most benefic mantras, and one of the safest and most widely used.
Relative to Ayurveda, Klim is mainly a Kapha (water)-promoting mantra and is particularly good for the reproductive system and for the plasma and skin. It promotes Kledaka Kapha (the digestive fluids of the stomach), increasing our capacity for nourishment. Most importantly, it is specific for Tarpaka Kapha, the Soma of the brain that promotes well-being, soothing the nerves and calming the heart. It strengthens the immune system and brings contentment to the entire being. Klim is not specifically an astrological mantra, but is sometimes used for Venus or the Moon. For Vastu, it can bring the energy of Divine love and beauty into the dwelling.
Klim can have a harsh side as well. It can be used to fix, to stop or to nail down, or to hold things under the power of wishes, though such usage is not as common as its benefic application.
Strim and Trim
Strim (pronounced ‘streem’) contains the Sa-sound of stability, the Ta-sound which gives extension, and the Ã-vowel that provides energy, direction and motivation. It is connected to root meanings such as to stand, to spread, to take a step, to rise or traverse from one level to another. It brings about an expansion and spreading of energy that can follow a horizontal expansion, a vertical ascent, or a spiral movement.
Strim is said to be Shanti bija or the ‘seed syllable of peace’ and carries the Shakti of Sat or Pure being. Strã in Sanskrit also means a woman. The mantra Strim provides the power of the Divine feminine (Stri-Shakti) to give birth, to nourish, to protect and to guide. It is similar to Shrim in sound qualities but stronger and more stabilizing in its effects. It can be used to increase Shakti or feminine energy in oneself or in one’s outer activity.
Strim is another general mantra of the Goddess, particularly in her higher knowledge form. Strim can be used relative to any deity whose energy we wish to expand or project in a creative manner. It grants poetic and artistic powers, as well as powers of argument, debate and law.
Strim is the seed mantra of the Hindu Goddess Tara (not the Buddhist Tara, who is a different deity approached with different mantras). Hindu Tara is connected to Durga, who is often called Durga-Tara, as a protective and fiery form of the Goddess. She is the high priestess and represents the inner knowledge and the insight of the guru, particularly the power of the Word. Tara controls the weapons of the Gods, particularly the Trishula or trident of Lord Shiva. Tara also relates to the mantra Om, and Strim is the means through which Om takes us across all difficulties.
Tara in astrological symbolism is the wife or feminine form of Brihaspati, the planet Jupiter. She is the great star Goddess associated with the star Aldeberan (the Vedic star Rohini), the bright red star of the constellation Taurus. As Brihaspati/Jupiter is the high priest or guru of the Gods, Tara is the high priestess of the heavens. Strm as the mantra of the Star Goddess attunes us to the benefic powers of the stars and Nakshatras and gives us astrological knowledge.
In terms of Ayurveda, Strim is important as a healing and empowering mantra for women, and can aid in childbirth and can promote women’s health generally, strengthening the heart, reproductive system, circulatory system and bones.
Trim (pronounced ‘treem’) is another version of the Tara mantra, but more specifically a mantra of Tejas or fire. Without the Sa-sound, it has more an energy of crossing over and ascending. Tri relates to the number three in Sanskrit and to the bridging of dualities. Trim is also the seed mantra of the Trishula, the trident of Lord Shiva, which is his most powerful weapon.
The mantra Trim is good for taking us across difficulties and overcoming inimical forces. It has a strong Pitta (fire) energy and also allows us to ascend in awareness. It is said to be the sound of Tejas, or the subtle essence of Pitta, which relates to valor, courage, daring and fearlessness. Otherwise, its indications are similar to that of Strim .
Hum (pronounced ‘hoom’) is one of the most important Sanskrit mantras along with Om, Aim and Hrim. It is said to be the Pranava or primal sound of Lord Shiva, the transformative aspect of the Divine Trinity.
Hum (short vowel as in put) is the main Agni or fire mantra and can help enkindle fire in all of its forms from the digestive fire to the Pranic fire to the fire of the consciousness. It refers to a gaseous type of fire and so can be connected with lightning and to the power of prana and the breath. Hum is also a weapon and protection mantra and can be used to destroy negativity with its lightning fire. It can used to direct a fiery explosive energy with other mantras. It is also called Krodha bija or the ‘seed sound of wrath’. It is the mantra that Lord Shiva uses to project the fire from his third eye that destroys all negativity and burns up all desires.
Hum with a long vowel sound has a similar meaning but a more feminine and Shakti quality. It relates to fierce forms of the Goddess like Kali, Chandi and Chhinnamasta. It has the power to cut off and indicates the sword. However, Hum has a soft potential as well. It is said to be the Dhenu bija, the ‘seed sound of the Mother cow’, calling its calf back to it. It calls out and invokes, while at the same time challenging and warding off. Both the long and short versions of this mantra Hum is used for raising the Kundalini, particularly combining the mantra with the breath, and the fixing of the gaze at the navel, the seat of the digestive fire.
Relative to Ayurveda, Hum increasse Prana, Tejas and Pitta, setting all our fiery energies in motion from the digestive fire to the fire of the mind. Both strengthen the immune system particularly against any active pathogenic attacks, but as harsh mantras require some care in application.
Astrologically, Hum relates to fiery planets like the Sun, Mars or Ketu and increase their fiery properties. They are particularly good for bringing in the higher perceptive power of Ketu, which is a great aid in astrological research, spiritual healing and Yoga. Relative to Vastu, they can be used to create a protective energy shield around one’s dwelling.
The Language of Shakti Mantras
A single Shakti mantra can be used as a meditation mantra in order to draw the mind into deep awareness. One repeats the mantra prior to meditation to bring the mind into a meditative state. Then one keeps the mantra going in the back of the mind as long as the meditation proceeds, to help sustain the process. Several Shakti bija mantras can also be used together as meditation mantras, often in groups of three to seven bijas. Shakti mantras can function as names of deities to invoke them, like Om and Shiva, or Aim and Sarasvati. But they are more commonly used in conjunction with Divine names, like Om Aim Sarasvatyai Namah! Shakti mantras reflect various types of invocation. For example, Om Aim Hrim Srim, means Om; I invoke (Aim); open my heart to (Hrim); and take refuge in (Srim). Or Om Krim Hum Hrim means Om; I energize (Krim); enkindle (Hum); and open my heart (Hrim). In conclusion, Shakti mantras allow us to energize our thoughts and feelings at a deeper level with the force of higher awareness.
Dr. David Frawley (Pandit Vamadeva Shastri) is the author of more than thirty books including key texts on Ayurvedic medicine, Vedic astrology, deeper Yoga practices and the Vedas themselves. He is the director of the American Institute of Vedic Studies in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His recent book Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound: Secrets of Bija (Seed) Mantras (Lotus Press 2010) is one of the most profound and practical studies of mantra, unlocking the secrets of how these sacred sounds work and how they affect our energy field for both body and mind. www.vedanet.com Adapted from Mantra Yoga and Primal Sound (Lotus Press, 2010).