Is it OK to mix mantras? Do we risk cultural appropriation or misuse of mantra?

For chant leaders and mantra recording artists, the question of mixing mantras for chanting is one that has intrigued many, prompting inquiries about the permissibility of blending deities and languages in spiritual practice. For some, the idea of combining "oṁ namaḥ śivāya" with "wahe guru" in a single chant may feel intuitively right, but is it ethically sound? Let's delve into this complex topic, which I also cover in depth in my sound and mantra teacher training course.

Q. (From a graduate of our 500hr Sound & Mantra Training course who teaches mantra workshops and leads kirtan in Europe)
I have been asked numerous times if it is okay to mix mantras for chanting, and if yes, what is ok and what not? Is mixing deities ok or even mixing languages? To someone it feels intuitively right to sing oṁ namaḥ śivāya and wahe guru in one chant. What do you say?

I think anything is fine for one’s personal devotions & practice, but I would not record or sing anything publicly that so freely mixed different mantras without first checking with native representatives from both traditions and languages.

For that one,
It could look very disrespectful from some viewpoints.

I think that taking creative license with blending different types of music, or a different traditions, requires a pretty high level of knowledge of both to be done with integrity.

Often times when it is not our culture (and especially when it’s a historically oppressed one, which is also usually an exotic one) we feel free to mix and match because we don’t really understand the cultural implications of what is OK/ not OK to do.

For example (since the questioner is a member of the German yoga and kirtan chant community), I’m sure there are dozens of historical rifts between areas within what is now unified Germany… and a foreigner, coming in to make music that grabbed a traditional phrase from one area, and a traditional phrase from another area, without knowing the cultural context of either of them, would seem very strange at best, and offensive at worst.

In essence, while personal devotion allows for a certain degree of flexibility in blending spiritual elements, public dissemination of such amalgamations warrants careful consideration. It's crucial to approach the fusion of diverse cultural and religious practices with respect and awareness of the historical and cultural implications involved. Let's strive to honor the integrity of each tradition as we navigate the intricate landscape of spiritual expression.

It's great that you asked! Having sensitivity around cultural appropriation is extremely important, and asking the question, "Is it OK to mix mantras?" is the first step towards being aware, reverent, and respectful.

In this video, Anandra guides us through a gentle vocal warm up and attunement, leading into the sacred Sanskrit Mantra: Auṁ Namaḥ Śivāya (Our reverent salutation to the auspiciousness and peace of our true infinite nature). 


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