-by Bhikshu Heng K'ung

      THE MANTRA PROTECTING ghosts and spirits will come to our aid in times of difficulty if we are sincere in our cultivation. This simply means that we must keep our end of the bargain by protecting the mantra. We protect the mantra, and the mantra protects us. 

      Even more wonderful however, is the fact that we don't necessarily need to be reciting the mantra to be protected by it. It may be that we are actively engaged in our affairs, when danger or unfavorable circumstances arise,
and we intuitively become aware of a danger prevailing, or something against our will that is about to happen, and are able to take precautions or act with special care. Often we receive protection from situations which never reach our conscious awareness, or if they do, only after the fact. Also many times we will feel a premonition that we should act in a certain way that will bring about something good. So by holding a mantra, not only can we be protected from evil, but we can also be inspired to right action.

      How does one protect a mantra? First we must select a mantra, or ask a master to give us one. A master can, by observing our nature, select a mantra that is suitable to  our natural spiritual inc1inations, and which will be most efficient in developing our spiritual potentialities. But often a master, with real wisdom is not available. If this is the case, we must not just pick any mantra for our use, but select one from the Sutras spoken by the Buddha, such as the Pure Land Mantra, the Great Compassion Mantra, the Shurangama Mantra, and so forth. We must firmly resolve to practice the same mantra until we penetrate it, even if it takes several years. Also, it is essential that we recite and maintain the mantra with regularity, at the same time every day and for the same amount of time during each recitation period.

      Just as our bodies stay healthy through daily exercise and eating, a mantra is nourished by regular practice. This causes it to become strong, and its hidden influences to become a dominating factor in our lives, protecting us from harm, bringing forth auspiciousness, and nourishing the seed of Bodhi.