Saying a mantra has energy inside can't be true as every word has energy within it. Then what's the criteria of Mantra? On what basis a word should be called Mantra?
According to Tantra, the Varnas(alphabets) are nothing but Matrikas(Deities related to Mother Goddess).
One meaning of Matrika is "one who creates".So, Matrika is nothing but Brahmarupini Shakti.And the Varnas are the Matrikas.And the reason for that is that Nada or sound is nothing but another form of Shakti.And,thus,we have,from अ(a) to क्ष(kṣa) , the 50 Matrikas.
But,having said that, any such combinations of varnas or of words can not be technically called a Mantra as well.Because, all Mantras have to have the three limbs(Angas) viz-Devata,Rishi and Chandah.
Devata-The Deity who is being praised by the Mantra.
Rishi-The Seer to whom the Mantra was first revealed.From him only we all get to know the Mantra.
Chandah-The metre (like Gayatri,Nichruth Gayatri,Ushnik,Anshthupa etc) in which the Mantra is composed.
For example, for the Gayatri Mantra,the most famous among all Veda Mantras,the Rishi is Vishvamitra Gathinah , Devata is Savitr,Chandah is Nichruth Gayatri.
This is found in the 62nd Sukta of the 3rd Mandala of Rig Veda(RV 3.62.10). In Yajur Veda (Vajasaneyi Samhita 36.3 etc) the same Mantra is found with only difference being in the Chandah part, which is now Ushnik(comprised of 27 syllables ).
Next,take this rather popular Puranic Mantra "Apavitrah Pavitrova.." ,which is found in more than one Puranas:
ॐ अपवित्रः पवित्रो वा सर्वावस्थां गतोऽपि वा । यः स्मरेत्पुण्डरीकाक्षं स बाह्याभ्यन्तरः शुचिः ॥
Om Apavitrah Pavitro Vaa Sarva-Avasthaam Gato-[A]pi Vaa | Yah Smaret-Punnddariikaakssam Sa Baahya-Abhyantarah Shucih ||
This is a Mantra and not just a Sloka and the three limbs of it are as given below:
For this mantra,Vamdeva is the Rishi,Vishnu is the Devata,Gayatri is the Chandah and internal purification(Hrudi Pavitrakarana) is the purpose for which it is chanted.
Similarly,for Tantrik Mantras(those found in the Agamas) there are additional limbs.They have six limbs(some even say seven but six is usually agreed upon ) viz-Rishi,Chandah,Devata,Beejam,Shakti and Keelakam.
As a typical example i can cite:
For Kalimantra Rishi is Bhairava,Chandaha is Ushnik,Devata is Kalika,Beejam is Hrim ,Shakti is Hum and Keelakam is Krim(also called the Adya Beejam).
So,in a nutshell,all Mantras have to have at least the 3 aforementioned limbs to be technically called a Mantra.
Even,the Ekakshara Pranava(OM) has the following limbs:
For Omkara Brahma is the Rishi,Gayatri is the Chandah,Agni Paramatma is the Devata,Suklo Varna,and it is to be invoked at the beginning of all Karmas(Rituals).
A nirukta of Mantra(why it is so called) is found in the 17th chapter of the Kularnava Tantram and is as follows:
MananAttatvasvarupasya DevvasyAmitatejasaha| TrAyate sarvabhayatasmanmantra Ittiritaha ||
By meditation, (Manana), on the luminous Deity who is the form of Truth ,it saves, (trayate), from all fear; therefore it is called mantra.
Kularnava Tantram, Chapter 17,Verse 54
The first sutra is the explanation of mantra:
- cittam mantrah // (Shiva sutra 2.1)
Mind is mantra.
In this sutra, there are two understandings of the mind and both are divine. The first understanding is that the mind is the thought of a sacred word. The second understanding is that
mind is the thought of a sacred aspirant who is treading on the sacred path.
The author now explains this sutra in these two ways. The word "mind" does not mean what we ordinarily understand by the word "mind." Here, the word mind means "that by which you become aware of supreme consciousness." So this mind issaid to be that by which your self is exposed in its fullness. It is vimarsa- I consciousness - thought in two ways: in prasada mantra and in pranava mantra. Prasada mantra is "the mantra of external flow."Pranava mantrais "the mantra of external and internal flow." It is the internal flow in the external world and the external flow in the internal world.
So in both ways, this is the state of citta (thought). It is said to be mantra because it is secret (guptam). It is not written, it lives in a secret world. When you recite this mantra, you are not reciting it with lips, but with consciousness. When you re-cite and you are aware of the mantra,"of its occurrence in your own self, you will understand that this whole universe is the expansion of yourself. This is the kind of rise that occurs when you travel from the internal world to the external world.
So, it is said that this pranava mantrais truly a mantra, for the word "mantra"is made up from manandtra. Man from the word manana means "causes you to reside in your own God consciousness."Tra from the word trana means "protects you from all the evils of the world."So when you focus your mind towards God con-sciousness, you are protected from all the horrors of the world.Here, this is the meaning of the word "mantra."
Now this exposition of mantra is explained in another way.Because the mind of this yogi is always purified and never think sabsurd thoughts, thinking only divine thoughts and being focused towards God consciousness, it is mantra. Whatever comes into the mind of this yogi is divine. So, all of his thoughts are divine and hence, his thought is also mantra.
om padmni om
om nama sivaya
svacchanda bhairavaya namah
These sentences are collections of sacred words. Collections of sacred words are not mantras, but just a waste of time for the aspirant. In a real sense, these two - the aspirant's mind and a sacred word experienced as prasada mantra and/or pranav amantra - are mantras.
The Sarvajnanottara also explains this in the same way.
Those mantras which are recited with the lips and with the mindare not really mantras.Devatas and Gandharvas,all these great- souls, have deluded themselves in thinking that these are actually mantras. And additionally, they are filled with tremendous pride thinking that they are verbally reciting the name of God.(Sarvajnanottara16-17)
Those so-called mantras are not actually mantras. Mantra is divinity in the mind of the yogi or the flow of subjective God consciousness towards objective God consciousness or the simultaneous flow of subjective God consciousness towards objective God consciousness, and the flow of objective God consciousness towards subjective God consciousness.
In the Tantra Sadbhava,
this same thing is also explained:The life of all mantras is solely the energy of God consciousness.When that energy is absent, all those collections of words are useless just like a mass of clouds in the rain less autumn sky.(Tantra Sadbhava)
In the Srikanthi samhita Sastra,
it is also said:
The one who recites mantra for the sake of realizing God will never attain the reality of God consciousness. There is only one thing that a yogi must maintain and that is awareness, awareness of the union of objective God consciousness with subjective God consciousness and, in one driving push, the flow of objective and subjective God consciousness.
This is narrated in Spanda
in this verse:Because these words are digested along with the mind of theaspirant, they are said to be, along with the divinity of the yogi,one with divine God consciousness.(Spanda Karika2.2)
This is why Bhagavan Bhairava, Lord Śiva, has explained in Mālinīvijaya tantra that when meditation, or any practice, is done without the development of pramiti bhāva1, it becomes useless. So meditation should be done with the attachment of pramiti bhāva, there must be pramiti bhāva.
For instance there is mantra, “oṁ namaḥ śivāya,” it is to be repeated in continuity but not through your tongue, not through your words, it is to be repeated in awareness, in pramiti bhāva . . . what you are speaking. You must know what you are speaking. When you speak and you don’t know what you are speaking it is useless, that japa becomes useless.
But that first glow of that thought is subsided a little, a little, by and by, by and by, by and by. That should not take place. It must be just as fresh as it was at the first moment of practice. So you should do practice in such a way that the continuity of this production of sparks of the same thought should be as fresh as it was at the beginning point. You should not get stale.
So, the way of meditation is, just to meditate and hold the first freshness. And this first freshness must live in the cycle of these sparks, in the cycle of these sparks of this thought of meditation. The first fresh thought must pervade throughout, then your meditation is successful. Otherwise it is useless.
That is what he says, in Mālinīvijaya Tantra Lord Śiva has said; tena guptena tena, when it is locked, when it is subsided, when it is covered by other thoughts, other subsided thoughts, tena guptā, that pramiti bhāva is subsided, it subsides by and by; śeṣā varṇā then afterwards there are only letters and words and sentences.
Any thought will take you to the state of God consciousness; but there must be one thought and this first fresh thought, like that, in all the cycles of thought.
Speciality, that does not count, special thoughts only we produce in the beginning in disciples. Afterwards, when they have developed this strength of awareness of pramiti bhāva then it does not matter. You can give rise to any thought, any disgusted thought.
Thought becomes mantra. Because in each and every word there is the residence of God consciousness. God consciousness is residing in each and every action, each and every word; so it does not matter. In the beginning we produce mantras just to create faith in the devotee that, “I am reciting mantra of God!”
This is also mantra of God: “this is specs (spectacles, glasses), this is specs, this is specs.” When you say, “this is specs, this is specs,” just from the very [first} fresh point, [have] attentive awareness; it will carry you to God consciousness. And just embrace your girlfriend; while embracing your girlfriend it will carry you to God consciousness if you develop that awareness of pramiti bhāva there. It does not matter; mantras are not only mantras.
It is said in the same Mālinīvijaya tantra:
śloka ghatādi yatkiṁcit . . . /
You can do [it with] any topic, just discuss some points of your business, but there, if you maintain awareness and pramiti bhāva you will rise to God consciousness. You will not rise, you have not to rise; you’ll get establishment in that.
Establishment, you have not to get establishment also; it is there! It will appear. It will appear to you.
NB: When there is objective state also attached to subjective state that is not pramiti bhāva, that is pramātṛi bhāva. And when that objective state is connected with cognitive state also that is pramāṇa bhāva. When that objective state is completely pure objective state that is prameya bhāva. And pramiti bhāva is complete subjective consciousness without the slightest touch and traces of this object. Pramiti bhāva is the life of all the four.