A mantra is a collection of letters which assists in the acquisition of the favourable and the vanquishing of obstacles. ‘Man’ refers to the mind and contemplation. ‘Tra’ pertains to vital energy and protection.
At a later level, it means contemplation from which knowledge about the oneness of the entire Universe is bestowed upon a person. Here At this stage contemplation stops and there is dissolution of the mind and cessation of the mantra. The person at this stage acquires liberation from the cycle of birth and death.
The benefit of chanting a mantra includes benefits such as spiritual progress, destruction of the enemy, acquisition of supernatural powers, nullification of sins and purification of speech.
Chanting a mantra is not the same as chanting the Name of God. There are many rules and regulations regarding chanting of a mantra which is not the case when one is chanting the Name of God. For example chanting of a mantra has to be done in a sāttvik place whereas chanting the name of God can be done anywhere and anytime.
Spiritual energy generated from a mantra can be used for bad and good purposes. It is just like earning money; how money is used is up to the person earning it.