Mahamrityunjaya Mantra – Door into Eternal Life

Swami Vibhooti Saraswati

The healing power of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra was invoked in Ganga Darshan, Munger, by Swami Satyananda in 1986, and in Rikhia in 2000. It is currently being chanted in the Satyananda ashrams and yoga centres throughout India and the world at the same time every week. People who are facing illness, obstacles, tragedy or crisis in their lives, and who cannot be physically present during the chanting, can give their names for inclusion in the chanting by phone or letter. Many people have been helped through difficult times in this way, even though they are not physically present, the power of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra is so great.

The chanting takes place on Saturday evenings, around six o’clock (with a slight time change according to the time of year). It can also be chanted by the family and friends at home, or in any other place where you wish to create a positive, protective and high energy. This mantra is also chanted during auspicious occasions such as initiation ceremonies and havans. You are welcome to join us wherever you may be in the world. If you chant at the same time as the mantra is being chanted in the ashrams and centres, you can ‘tune in’ with us and become part of the collective force created.

The meaning of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra

The Sanskrit word maha means ‘great’, mrityu means ‘death’ and jaya means ‘victory’. Mantra is a word of great power that can give protection against negative forces and, according to Swami Satyananda, can even change one’s destiny. The Mahamrityunjaya mantra consists of 34 akshara (literally ‘imperishable’) or eternal sounds, and is as follows:

Om tryambakam yajaamahe
sugandhim pushthivardhanam;
Urvaarukamiva bandhanaan
Mrityormuksheeya maamritaat.

The literal meaning of the mantra is as follows: “We worship the three-eyed one (Lord Shiva) who is fragrant (in a state of supreme bliss), and who sustains all living beings. May he liberate us from (the eternal cycle of birth and) death. May he lead us to immortality, just as the cucumber is released from its bondage (the vine to which it is attached).”

Benefits of chanting the Mahamrityunjaya mantra

The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is a potent combination of sounds that, if repeated with faith, dedication and perseverance over a period of time, leads, not only to victory over the fear of death, but eventually to victory over death itself or moksha (liberation). It is therefore known as a ‘moksha mantra’. It is stimulating and heating (unlike the Gayatri mantra, which is soothing and cooling). It bestows longevity, and is designed to cure illness. It wards off evil or negative forces by creating a protective psychic shield around the practitioner. It is said to destroy sorrow and poverty, and to fulfil all of one’s desires. Anyone who wishes to remove obstacles in life and overcome difficult situations or illness should repeat this mantra regularly. If chanted a minimum of eleven times, last thing at night, it will ensure a better sleep and more positive dreams.

Background to Mahamrityunjaya mantra

The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is from the Krishna Yajur Veda. Mrityunjaya is another name for Lord Shiva, the great yogi who is actually said to have existed and to have conquered death. Shiva is also the prateek or symbol of consciousness, and has three aspects: shanta roopa or ‘peaceful form’, Raudra roopa or ‘fierce form’, and dhyaanastha roopa or ‘form engrossed in meditation’. The devata of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra is Rudra or Raudra, who represents Lord Shiva in his fierce and destructive aspect.

This mantra was revealed to the great Rishi Vashishtha (who is said to have been born from a pitcher) while he was in a state of deep meditation. It is to be found in Shree Rudra Prashnaha (Rudra’s Question), from the fifth chapter of the Taittiriya Upanishad, which belongs to the Yajur Veda. It is mentioned in many places in the Rig, Yajur and Sama Vedas. The mantra itself is actually comprised from mantras which are found in the three Vedas: The Rig Veda (7th mandal, 59th chapter, 12th mantra), the Yajur Veda (3rd chapter, 60th mantra), and the Atharva Veda (14th mandal, 1st chapter, 17th mantra).

The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is also to be found in the ayurvedic scriptures. In the Prakriti Khanda of the Brahma Vaivarta Purana, it has been said that Lord Shri Krishna gave the knowledge of Mrityunjaya to the wife of Sage Angira. In the Sati Khand of the Shiva Purana, Shukracharya (guru of the demons) himself has called it Mrita Sanjeevani Vidya (the knowledge which leads to eternal life). Shukracharya expounded it to Sage Dadhichi.

How to chant the Mahamrityunjaya mantra

The mantra can be chanted alone, individually. It can also be chanted in small groups sitting in a circle. However, it is most powerful when chanted in large groups sitting in even, orderly rows. It is most beneficial when performed on an empty, or at least half-empty stomach. A mala (rosary) of 108 beads can be held in the right hand, just level with the heart, in the centre of the chest (the kshetram or trigger point for anahata chakra, the heart centre). It is best to use your japa mala, but any other mala of your choice can also be used. The mantra is chanted 108 times in a constant fixed rhythm.

One person should lead the chanting by repeating the mantra once (or even twice to set the speed and swara), then the others may join in for the remaining 107 (or six) japas. In this way the group will be able to chant together in chorus as one voice, and the effect and build-up of energy will thus be greater. The person guiding the chanting should make sure the speed is kept constant.

Pronunciation: The pronunciation should be correct for the mantra to be really effective. Many people chant ‘bandhanaat’ instead of ‘bandhanaan’. This is not incorrect, but ‘bandhanaan’ is the more perfect pronunciation.

Breath: The Mahamrityunjaya mantra is usually chanted in two parts, with a breath in between for ease of chanting and beauty of flow. This breath is taken at the end of the first line, after ‘pushthivardhanam’. Of course, there is nothing to prevent the practitioner chanting it in one breath if he so wishes, but this will not be possible for everyone. The mantra can also be divided into four and used during the practice of simple nadi shodhana pranayama (psychic network purification). The process is as follows. Breathing in through the left nostril, repeat mentally, “Om tryambakam yajaamahe”; breathing out through the left nostril repeat mentally, “sugandhim pushthivardhanam”; breathing in through the right nostril repeat mentally, “urvaarukamiva bandhanaan”; breathing out through the left nostril repeat mentally “mrityormuksheeya maamritaat”.

Speed and sound: When chanted dynamically, at a fast speed, the Mahamrityunjaya mantra generates a very powerful energy, and is at its most effective potency. One remains alert, stimulated and energized. It can also be chanted slowly in a relaxed way, but the energy tends to drop and drag if it is done too slowly. Also, people tend to become too introverted and even sleep or lose interest. The body also begins to complain because it has to sit for too long. A medium speed is most comfortable for the majority of people, and provides a nice balance (the middle path being the yogic way). However, whichever speed you decide to adopt, remember that it should be constant from beginning to end, creating a synchronized and melodious sound, to uplift the mind and spirit.

All those taking part in the chanting should blend their voices together, so the overall effect is like the gentle and soothing hum of bees. No voice should predominate, except of course the voice of the person who is guiding the chanting. Everyone should try to remain aware throughout the chanting of the speed and the swara (notes), and harmonize their chanting with the voices of those around them. There is a tendency, as the chanting progresses, for people to become introverted (or tired) and for the chanting to slow down. Just one person in a large group, who has a loud or discordant voice, can bring down the energy level of the whole group and disturb the harmony. The leader is there to see that this does not happen. So, a very important element in the chanting is awareness! The secret is that one should be neither too introverted nor too extroverted but poised somewhere in between on the threshold that divides the two states.

Tune: The most common and simple way of chanting the Mahamrityunjaya mantra is with just three notes. In Rikhia four notes are used to add to the beauty of the sound. However, there are many styles and beautiful ways of chanting, from classical vedic chanting to the modern classical singer, Pandit Jasraj and others who have set the mantra to ragas. Many tapes are readily available. You can choose the one which suits you best, or even create your own!

Preparing to chant

Imagine that you are in the Himalayas, sitting alone beside the crystal clear, dark blue Manasarovar lake. Before you, in the distance, is the snow-capped peak of Mount Kailash, the presence of which is overpowering. (Pause) Surrender to it and feel that you are in the home of the gods, the abode of Lord Shiva. (Pause) There is no sound, no vibration. All around you is the open blue sky, the vast space of pure consciousness. You have nothing to do there but sit down quiet and still, like one of the gods, peaceful within and without, and close your eyes. (Pause) Become aware of the presence of Lord Shiva (supreme consciousness) all around you and penetrating you, as you sit in your chosen asana, ready to chant the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. (Pause)

Your head and spine are upright and straight and your hands are resting on the knees in chin or jnana mudra. You are watching the breath coming and going in the nostrils as the mind becomes more and more calm and steady and relaxed. (Pause) In your right hand you are holding a mala with which to count the 108 Shiva mantras, and your awareness is fixed at bhrumadhya (the eyebrow centre) where it will remain throughout the chanting. (Pause) Before commencing, you will chant the mantra Om, long and deeply, three times. Then you will start chanting the Mahamrityunjaya mantra, visualizing Lord Shiva (or your ishta devata/symbol) throughout, at the eyebrow centre.

Ending the chanting

When you have finished chanting, sit for a few minutes in the profound stillness and silence of the Himalayas, which lies within your own self. (Pause) Now become aware of the protective psychic energy field which you have created around yourself with the chanting of the Mahamrityunjaya mantra. (Pause) Know that you will carry that protection with you wherever you go until you chant again next week. Think of anyone whom you would like to include within this field, someone sick or in need of help. Project the energy out to them. (Pause) Feel that Lord Shiva or the power of pure consciousness is sitting in your heart, radiating his blessings and energy out to you, and to them also. (Pause) Mentally, bow to him and feel the power of his mantra pervading your entire being. (Pause) May the Mahamrityunjaya mantra uplift your life and help you (and others) overcome all the difficulties that may lay before you.