I have come a long way when it comes to mantras. At first puzzled by what they were and how they were used, I became curious and starting researching them. As I read and heard about some interesting experiences both strangers and friends had had using mantras as part of their personal spiritual development, the inevitable happened: I started trying them out, albeit a little skeptically at first. Then, as their usefulness in my own spiritual development was demonstrated again and again, I slowly came to respect this tool.
While there is still a lot more for me to understand regarding the use of mantras, I regularly have insights into yet another way they can help my spiritual development. For example, if life is a constant struggle to become better, we cannot embark on a life-long, eighty-something year long semi violent struggle with our insistent self, whacking it down like a mole. To have the strength to carry on for long periods of time with a joyful attitude, as, for example, the Greatest Holy Leaf did, one needs to develop an attitude that combines both striving and contentment. Somehow, we have to learn to both accept who we are and strive to change ourselves for the better. It is not accepting that who we are today is who we will remain forever, but being ok with being that person – for now.
I realized that in many ways it is a relatively simple process difficult mostly in its meticulousness, as it is based on the constant repetition of simple things. This is why mantras can be so useful. For example, if you always scream when you are upset, a mantra can help you, at first, delay the point at which you start screaming by a couple of seconds to a couple of minutes to a couple of hours, etc – until the day, perhaps years later, when you realize that you do not have anymore the desire to scream, this is how mantra can become that lifeline on which you can pull, one centimeter at a time, even in the middle of a terrible storm.