Mantra: Hearing the Divine in India and America

Mantra: Hearing the Divine in India and America

Mantra: Hearing the Divine in India and America

Mantra: Hearing the Divine in India and America

Synopsis

The experience of the divine in India has three components, sight, performance, and sound. One in a trilogy of books that include Diana Eck's Darsan: Seeing the Divine in India, and Susan L. Schwartz's Rasa: Performing the Divine in India, Mantra presents an introduction to the use of sound -- mantra -- in the practice of Indian religion.

Mantra -- in the form of prayers, rituals, and chants -- permeate the practice of Indian religion in both temple and home settings. This book investigates the power of mantra to transform consciousness. It examines the use and theory of mantra under various religious schools, such as the Patanjali sutras and tantra, and includes references to Hindu, Sikh, Sufi, Islam, and Buddhist traditions. This edition adds new sections on the use of sacred sound in Hindu and Sikh North American diaspora communities and on the North American non-Indian practice of yoga and mantra.

Excerpt

The original edition of this book was prompted by Diana L. Eck’s Darshan: Seeing the Divine in India. That has proved to be a most effective book for introducing students to India and the way in which the divine is seen in Hindu religion. But darshan or seeing the being seen by the divine is only one-half of the Indian experience. the other half is hearing, and it is this dimension of the Hindu genius that has found its way into a number of other religions in India. Anyone who has traveled to India will recall the prominence of sound, from the din of car horns in the city to the loud chanting by devotees on the banks of the Ganges. Indeed, India is an experience of seeing and hearing. From the perspective of Indian religion, both senses provide powerful channels for the divine. As a complement to Diana Eck’s Darshan, this book studies mantra as the hearing of the divine in India as it flowered in Hindu tradition, took root in Buddhism, Islam, and the Sikh tradition, and played a part in the restoration of contemplative prayer in Western Christianity.

Just as Westerners are often put off by the many strange shapes encountered in Indian religious images, so also they sometimes find the prayers, rituals, and chants that are constantly muttered to be a mystery. This study opens and tunes our modern Western ears so that we too can hear something of what the traditional Indian hears, can hear mantras and gain the beginning of an understanding of their nature and function.

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