Mantra; 17 Definition(s)

Introduction

Mantra means something in Buddhism, Pali, Hinduism, Sanskrit, Marathi. If you want to know the exact meaning, history, etymology or English translation of this term then check out the descriptions on this page. Add your comment or reference to a book if you want to contribute to this summary article.

In Hinduism

Dharmaśāstra (religious law)

Mantra (मन्त्र) is a Sanskrit technical term, used in warfare, referring to “counsel”. It forms part of the three characteristics of the srtength (śakti) of the King. The word is used throughout Dharmaśāstra literature such as the Manusmṛti. (See the Nītiprakāśikā 8.86)

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-śāstra
Dharmaśāstra book cover
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Dharmaśāstra (धर्मशास्त्र, dharma-shastra) is a category of Hindu literature containing important instructions regarding religious law, ethics, economics, jurisprudence and more. It is categorised as smṛti, an important and authorative selection of books dealing with the Hindu lifestyle.

Purāṇa

Mantra (मन्त्र) refers to a “mystical formula” regarding some deity. It is used throughout vedic and purāṇic literature.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Purāṇas

1a) Mantra (मन्त्र).—(also Mantrasthānam, Council Chamber) consultation to be held with many and individually and with people in whom the king has confidence; at least one expert must be consulted; generally with people learned in the three Vedas, elders who have the ability to correct the erring king;1 kingdom rests on mantra;2 king not to decide alone nor to consult too many;3 Bhaṇḍa's War Council.4

  • 1) Matsya-purāṇa 215. 48-52.
  • 2) Ib. 220. 33.
  • 3) Ib. 220. 37.
  • 4) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa IV. 21. 21; 25. 3

1b) A portion of the Pūrva samhitā.*

  • * Vāyu-purāṇa 61. 65.

1c) Take the food offered in sacrifices to the Pitṛs as the calf finds out its mother among the lost cows;1 came out of discontent, fear, difficulties, happiness and misery of ṛṣis; later put into form and order by sages; differences in mantras as many as twenty-four;2 the two major divisions —grāmya and āraṇyaka;3 Veda mantras, Viṣṇu mantra, Durgā mantra, Gāṇapata mantra, etc.;4 ety of.5

  • 1) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 28. 91; Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 61.
  • 2) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 32. 68; 33. 42; Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 35-61; Matsya-purāṇa 145. 62-3.
  • 3) Brahmāṇḍa-purāṇa II. 35. 73, 85; IV. 8. 51-3, 57.
  • 4) Ib. IV. 38. 4.
  • 5) Vāyu-purāṇa 59. 141.
(Source): Cologne Digital Sanskrit Dictionaries: The Purana Index
Purāṇa book cover
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The Purāṇas (पुराण, purana) refers to Sanskrit literature preserving ancient India’s vast cultural history, including historical legends, religious ceremonies, various arts and sciences. The eighteen mahāpurāṇas total over 400,000 ślokas (metrical couplets) and date to at least several centuries BCE.

Mīmāṃsā (school of philosophy)

Mantra (मन्त्र, “ritual formula”) is one of the five divisions of subject-matter of the Vedic, Puranic and Tantric literature according to Mīmāṃsā philosophy.—These usually take the form of prayers or hymns of praise to various deities. Some of them, in Tantra, are sonic formulae with no grammatical meaning but generate a certain spiritual vibration in the consciousness.

Mantras convey a distinct meaning indicative in most cases of the deity connected with the sacrifice enjoined elsewhere and therefore in themselves have no authority whatsoever.

(Source): Srimatham: Mīmāṃsa: The Study of Hindu Exegesis
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Mīmāṃsā (मीमांसा, mimamsa) refers to one of the six orthodox Hindu schools of philosophy, emphasizing the nature of dharma and the philosophy of language. The literature in this school is also known for its in-depth study of ritual actions and social duties.

Śāktism (Śākta philosophy)

Mantra (मन्त्र) or Mantrādhvā refers to one of the six adhvans being purified during the Kriyāvatī-dīkṣā: an important Śākta ritual described Śāradātilaka-tantra, chapters III-V.—“... Looking with the divine eye he transfers the caitanya of his disciple into himself and unites it with that of his own, thereby effecting a purification of the six adhvans namely: kalā, tattva, bhavana, varṇa, pada, and mantra”.

The word adhvā means ‘path’, and when the above six adhvans (viz. mantra) are purified they lead to Brahman-experience. Dīkṣā is one of the most important rituals of the Śāktas and so called because it imparts divine knowledge and destroys evil.

By mantrādhvā all the mantras are meant.

(Source): JSTOR: Tāntric Dīkṣā by Surya Kanta
Śāktism book cover
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Śākta (शाक्त, shakta) or Śāktism (shaktism) represents a tradition of Hinduism where the Goddess (Devī) is revered and worshipped. Śākta literature includes a range of scriptures, including various tantras, although its roots may be traced back to the Vedas.

General definition (in Hinduism)

The sonic form of a deity is a mantra. Empirically, a mantra is a formulaic utterance. It is the sonic form of the god which is primary, since the designating epistemologically and ontically precedes the designated. The power (bala) of the deity inheres in the first instance in the mantra form and attaches itself to the other two forms (devatā and yantra) by derivation

(Source): Google Books: Understanding Mantras

Mantra (मंत्र): An incantation with words of power. A religious syllable or poem, typically from the Sanskrit language. They are primarily used as spiritual conduits, words and vibrations that instill one-pointed concentration in the devotee. Other purposes have included religious ceremonies to accumulate wealth, avoid danger, or eliminate enemies. Mantras are performed through chanting.

(Source): WikiPedia: Hinduism

The Vedas mention three types of mantras: vedic, tantric, puranic. Each of these can be further divided into sattvic, rajasic, and tamasic mantras.

1) Sattvic (mode of goodness) mantras are chanted for light, wisdom, divine love, compassion, and God realization. They destroy all karma, bring peace, and lead to perfection after death.

2) Rajasic (mode of passion) mantras are chanted for progeny and material prosperity. Unlike sattvic mantras, which remove karma, rajasic mantras force men to takd rebirth to reap the fruits of their karma.

3) Tamasic mantras (mode of ignorance), popularly called "black magic," are sinful. They are generally used to propitiate spirits, harm others, and perform vicious deeds.

The original spiritual letters are endowed with specific powers, and in particular combinations they assume more power in relation to certain Deities. These combinations of letters are called bijas or seeds, and they combine to form words. When these words are connected in a particular order, they have special powers to represent a Deity in full. These combinations are called mantras. The power then manifested in the whole mantra is greater than that of any of its constituent sounds. The mantras, which are non-different from the Deity, are an eternal manifestation of the Deity and are spiritual by nature. By repetition of the mantra, the worshiper invokes the mercy of the Deity whose mantra he repeats.

There are six basic types of mantras used in Deity worship: i

  1. Dhyana Mantras—meditation mantras used to mentally invoke the Lord's transcendental form, abode, and pastimes.
  2. Bija Mantras—seed mantras for meditation and purification of articles used inpuja.
  3. Mula Mantras—root mantras, being the essence of the Deity, are recited along with each article of worship as a means of addressing the Lord.
  4. Stutis & Stotras—prayers chanted before, during, or after worship to glorify the name, form, qualities, and pastimes of the Lord.
  5. Pranama Mantas—prayers for offering obeisances to the Lord at the end of worship.
  6. Gayatri Mantras—Vedic or Pancaratrika mantras used to worship the Lord, invoking the three principles of sambandha, abhidheya, prayojana.
(Source): Krishna Science: Gayatri Mahima Madhuri

1) One of the three parts of the agamas. Mantra is a divine word which is chanted repeatedly as part of worship.

2) Mantra is said to be the sound-form of Devata (god-form). One realizes Devata through the chanting of mantra in mantra yoga. Mantra yoga concentrates on nada (sound) to strike rhythm between individual and cosmic vibration, to activate the right nādis, to expose one into the cidākāsa or daharākāsa (causal space).

(Source): Hindupedia: The Hindu Encyclopedia

A mantra – a specific structure of sound patterns coded in syllables and vowels – may be articulate or inarticulate; it may or may not convey a meaning. But, its relevance is in its inherent shakthi. Its subtle sounds or the abstract language attempts to visualize the un-differentiated divine principle. The accent, intonation and articulation too play a role in the efficacy of a mantra.  A prayer, prarthana, is a submission; and it has a meaning and a philosophical significance. Prarthana has an intellectual appeal. Mantra is beyond intellect.

(Source): sreenivasarao’s blogs: Sri Gayatri – Part one

In Buddhism

Pali

manta : (nt.) a charm; spell; incantation.

(Source): BuddhaSasana: Concise Pali-English Dictionary
Pali book cover
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Pali is the language of the Tipiṭaka, which is the sacred canon of Theravāda Buddhism and contains much of the Buddha’s speech. Closeley related to Sanskrit, both languages are used interchangeably between religions.

General definition (in Buddhism)

Mantra (मन्त्र) or Mantradhāraṇī refers to “the rentention of a spell” and represents the “four retentions” (dhāraṇī) as defined in the Dharma-saṃgraha (section 52). The Dharma-samgraha (Dharmasangraha) is an extensive glossary of Buddhist technical terms in Sanskrit (eg., mantra). The work is attributed to Nagarguna who lived around the 2nd century A.D.

(Source): Wisdom Library: Dharma-samgraha

The Mantra is the root concept of both Hindu and Buddhist Tantra. It is the life force of tantra Sādhanā. Mantra is an esoteric formula that is to be practiced according to a stricht Tāntric discipline. Each and every letter from ‘अ’ (a) to ‘क्ष’ (kṣa) of Mātṛkā Varṇa is living energy. They are acoustic roots of the different waves and the vibrations of the cosmos. These letters are the representative sonoric manifestation of the universe. According to Tantra Śabda is an expression of vibrational creative energy. When these letters are arranged after the Tāntric precepts a creative energy is generated which creates para-psychological wonders.

The Sanskrit alphabets are of Tāntric origin. They represent the different acoustic vibrations of the cosmos. The fifty letters are the fifty basic vibrations, which consitute the entire universe. They are the Bījākṣara of Tāntric esotericism. The word ‘Mantra’ has been made from man + trai (dhātu) + i (suffix) = mantra, and means the incantation of which brings liberation from the trifarious bondage—physical, mental and spritual. It creates an acoustic virbration in the psychic body of the Sādhaka, which awakens the Kuṇḍalinī Śakti. All mantra are words, but all words are not mantras. All words habe originated from Parā, but only few words which have been originated from Parā are mantras.

Mantra is most potent weapon to cut asunder te trammels of nescience. The incantation of mantra is called Praṇidhāna. The incantation of the Mantra creates an acoustic vibration which awakens the dormant divinity (Kuṇḍalinī or Herukā). According to Tantra, Mantra are endowed with great mystic power. Sādhanamālā says if the mantras are incanted according to strict esoteric technique it could perform wonders and impossible tasks. Sādhanamālā further says that through constant incantation of Mantra could generate so much power that the whole world could remain wonder struck. Mantras are powerful when they are applied strictly according to esoteric rules and formulations. The consciousness is the sole repository of the Mantra. Without the force of consciousness mantra is dead and useless.

(Source): Google Books: Buddhist Tantra: A Philosophical Reflection and Religious InvestigationSanskrit words signifying a sacred word, verse or syllable which embodies in sound of some specific deity or supernatural power. It is one of the three mystics in Tantric Buddhism.(Source): Buddhist Door: Glossary

Mantra also mantram, Skt.; a power-laden syllable or series of syllables that manifests cer­tain cosmic forces and aspects of the buddhas, sometimes also the name of a buddha. Continu­ous repetition of mantras is practiced as a form of meditation in many Buddhist schools; it also plays a considerable role in the Vajrayāna. Here mantra is defined as a means of protecting the mind. In the trans­formation of “body, speech, and mind” that is brought about by spiritual practice, mantra is associated with speech, and its task is the subli­mation of the vibrations developed in the act of speaking. Recitation of mantras is always done in connection with detailed visualizations and certain bodily postures (mudrā) .

(Source): Shambala Publications: General

Languages of India and abroad

Marathi-English dictionary

mantra (मंत्र).—m (S) An incantation or a mystical verse; a charm or spell. v ghāla, māra, ṭāka, phuṅka. The mantra is for māraṇa, mōhana, vaśīkaraṇa, stambhana, uccāṭana, ākarṣaṇa (Killing, obtaining the affection of, subjecting to obedience, fixing fast in incapacity of action or speech, removing or causing to depart, summoning or calling.) 2 A formula sacred to a deity. 3 Secret consultation; private advice or counsel. v sāṅga, dē. 4 A division of the Vedas. mantra bōdhāsa-guṇāsa-pratyayāsa-pratītīsa-kaḷūṃ-yēṇēṃ To be felt; to take effect; to tell--a mantra.

(Source): DDSA: The Molesworth Marathi and English Dictionary

mantra (मंत्र).—m A charm, an incantation. Private advice.

(Source): DDSA: The Aryabhusan school dictionary, Marathi-English
context information

Marathi is an Indo-European language having over 70 million native speakers people in (predominantly) Maharashtra India. Marathi, like many other Indo-Aryan languages, evolved from early forms of Prakrit, which itself is a subset of Sanskrit, one of the most ancient languages of the world.

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