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Studies in the Mantra Sastra

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Item Code: NAO617
Author: Sir John George Woodroffe
Publisher: CBH Publications
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9789383811564
Pages: 299
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 8.5 inch X 5.5 inch
Weight 300 gm
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Book Description
Back of the Book

This book is an attempt made for the first time to explain the intricacies of Mantra Sastra. The Mantra sastra is worthy of a close study which when undertaken, will disclose elements of value to minds free from superstition of metaphysical bent and subtle seeing – sookshma darsana. A profound doctrine, ingeniously though guardedly set forth, is contained in the Tantras of the Upanishads which proclaimed that all was Chit (consciousness). The author explains and stresses that Mantra Sastra is not mere senseless rubbish as it has been supposed to be.

This Book is a collection of Essays upon particular subjects in the Mantra, a term which is commonly applied to the Tantra Sastra.

The Book is practically composed of two parts. The chapter one deals with the Word, chapters 2-9 treat the Principles of general doctrine of Sabda. Chapters 10-21 are elucidations of some subject in Tantra sastra which adopts the Mimasa doctrine of Shabda and some modification to meet its doctrine of Shakti. Chapters, 22, 28, 29 deal with the Mantras OM and Gayatri. The other chapters brings an understanding of the such terms are Shakti, Sabada, Bindu the causal shaktis of the Pranava, Bija antras and so forth. These are essential to the understanding of the Mantra sastra.

The introduction gives the fuller account of the Tantras and Tantrik rituals given in the chapters of Gayatri and Mantra sadhana elucidates the intricacies.

An essential book to understand the basic principles of Mantra and as applied to Tantra enumerated by one of the foremost World exponent to Tantra through his books. He is also known as Arthur Avalon through his extensive works on Tantra.



THIS book is an attempt, now made for the first time, to explain to an English-knowing reader an undoubtedly difficult subject. I am therefore forcibly reminded of the saying, “Veda fears the man of little knowledge, since injury may be received from him” (Bibhety alpashrutad Vedomam ayam praharishyate). It is natural, given this difficulty and the mystery which surrounds the subject, that strangers to India should have failed to understand Mantra. They need not, however, have then (as some have done) jumped to the conclusion that it was “meaningless superstition.” This is the familiar argument of the lower mind which says “what I cannot understand can have no sense at all.” Mantra is, it is true, meaningless to those who do not know its ‘meaning. But there are others who do, and to them it is not “superstition.” It is because some English educated Indians are as uninstructed in the matter as that rather common type of Western to whose mental outlook and opinions they mould their own, that it was possible to find a distinguished member of this class describing Mantra as “meaningless jabber. “Indian doctrines and practice have been so long and so greatly misunderstood and misrepresented by foreigners, that it has always seemed to me a pity that those who are of this Punyabhumi should, through misapprehension, malign without reason anything which is their own. This does not mean that they must accept what is in fact without worth because it is Indian, but they should at least first understand what they condemn as worthless.

When I first entered on a study of this Shastra I did so in the belief that Indian did not contains more fools than exist amongst other peoples, but had on the contrary produced intelligences which (to say the least) were the equal of any elsewhere found. Behind the unintelligent practice, which doubtless to some extent exists amongst the multitude of every faith, I felt sure there must be a rational principle. Since men on the whole do not continue throughout the ages to do that which is in itself meaningless and is therefore without result. I was not disappointed. The Mantra Shastra, so far from being rightly described as “meaningless superstition” or “jabber,” is worthy of a close study which when undertaken, will disclose elements of value to minds free from superstition, of metaphysical bent and subtle-seeing (Sukshmadarshin.). A profound doctrine, ingeniously though guardedly set forth, is contained in the Tantras of the Mantra Shastra or Agama. This is an auspicious time in which to open out the secrets of this Ahdyatmika science. For here in this country there has been a turn in the tide. The class of Indian who was wont to unite with the European critic of his Motherland in misunderstanding and misrepresenting Her thoughts and institutions, is, to Her good fortune, gradually disappearing. Those who are recovering from the dazzle produced on its first entrance by an alien civilization are able to judge aright both its merits and defects as also to perceive the truth of the saying of Schiller, “Hold to your dear and precious native land; there are the strong roots of your strength (Ans Vaterlaud ans leure schliess dich an. Da sind die starken Wurzclu deiner Kraft). Again in the West there is a movement away from the Materialism which regarded that alone as “real” which is gross sensible matter; and towards that standpoint whence it is seen that thought itself is a thing which is every whit as real as any external object. Each is but an aspect of the one conscious Self whence both Mind and Matter proceed. This Self or Chit is the Soul of the Universe, and the universe is Chit which has become its own objects. Every being therein is Consciousness, that is, Chit manifesting as the multiple forms of Mind and Matter which constitute the universe. This Western movement is called by its adherents “New Thought,” but its basal principles are as old as the Upanishads which proclaimed that all was Feeling-Consciousness (Chit), and therefore what a man thought, that he became. In fact thought counts for more than any material means whatever. I am not however here entering upon a general defense of so immense a subject, for this cannot be compassed in a work such as this. In any case-and this is what I am concerned to show- the Mantra Shastra is not the mere senseless rubbish it has been supposed to be.

This book is, as the sub-title states, a Collection of Studies in, or Essays upon, particular subjects in the Mantra Shastra, a term which is commonly applied to the Tantra Shastra. It is practically composed of two parts. After Chapter 2-9 treat of the Principles of the general doctrine of Shabda. I am much indebted in the preparation of these Chapters to my friend, Professor Pramathanatha Mukhopadhyaya. Chapters 10-21 are elucidations of some subjects in the Tantra Shastra which adopts the Mimangsa doctrine of Shabda with some modifications to meet its doctrine of Shakti. Chapters 22,28 and 29 deal with the Mantras “Om” and the Gayatri. An understanding of such terms as Shakti, Nada, Bindu, the Causal Shaktis of the Pranava, Bija-mantras and so forth, is essential for those who would understand the Shastra in which they appear. Hiitherto knowledge of these maters has been confined (where it exists at all) to the Gurus and Sadhakas. This does not mean that my information has been gathered from oral sources only. On the contrary, the substance of it may be found in the Tantras. These are however generally unknown. The definitions must be sought for in many Shastras. When found they must be explained by the aid of general Shastric knowledge and of Upasakas who possess the tradition. As regards technical terms I refer my readers to other books which I have published, advertised at the end of this volume, in particular to “Shakti and Shakta,” “Serpent Power and the volumes of the series called “the World as Power describing the chief concepts of Indian Philosophy and Religion.

Chapter 10-21 and 24 are reprinted from the Journal the Vedanta Kesari. Chapter 22-23 on “Om,” and the “Necklace of Kali “appeared in East and West, and Chapters28-29 on Mantrasadhana and the “Gdyatri” in the Introduction to my edition of the Mahanirvana Tantra, which is now superseded, as regards the Introduction, by the fuller account of the Tantras and Tantrik ritual given in my volume, “Shakti and Shakta”, and as regards the Text, by another and more correct edition which I have in preparation. Chapter 30 on the “Gayatri as an Exercise of Reasoning” is a reprint of a paper read by me before the Indian Rationalistic Society at Calcutta, and has been previously published in its Bulletin. Ten of the papers dealing with general principles were delivered by me in 1919 as Extension Lectures at the instance of the National Council of Education, Bengal.

As I write the concluding lines of this Foreword heard heard by the ancient and desolate Temple to the SunLord at Konaraka in Northern Orissa, a continuous rolling sound like that of the Mahamantra is borne to me from afar. I heard the same sound many years ago at the Pemiongchi monastery when some hundred Buddhist monks rolled out from the depth of their bodies the imantra Om. Their chant then suggested the sea, as the sea now suggests the Mantra. Here where the sound is heard are green woods, bushes of jasmine, cactus in bloom and yellow of the Karavira and Kalika flower. Travelling however whence it comes some two miles seaward, the eye surveys a wide wild waste of land, with here and there sparse clumps of Ketaki, stretching from the world-famous Temple of the “Lord of the Universe” in the south to the Golra jungle on the North. On the Eastern edge the surf of the Bengal Ocean in great waves, marbled with foam with creaming crests. Whipped into filmy vapour by the wind, ceaselessly beats upon a lonely shore. The waves as well else are Mantra, for Mantra in its most basal sense is the world viewed as-and in its aspect of-sound. But as I have explained in the Text we must distinguish between Natural Name in its pure sense as the sound of the constituent forces of a thing and the sounds made by the things when so produced. All sounds and therefore movements form the “Garland of Letters,” which is worn by the Divine Mother, from whose aspect as Om or the General Sound (Samanya spanda) of the first creative movement all particular sounds and things come. For all things may be rendered in terms of sound. The Universe is movement. The Letters are the sound of particular movements. These are audible as the gross letters which Kali, the Source of all movement, wears as a garland round her neck. I record this note on a scene which I have known and enjoyed for many years, since I may now be seening it for the last time. If (as I hope not) this be so, then I bid farewell to my old friend the Sadhu Jagannatha Dasa and to this place set in an air of magic of which the Kapil Samhita(Ch.VI.) says:- Maitreyakhye vane punye rathyatramahotsav Ye pashyanti nara bhaktya te pashyanti tanu raveh.




1 Vak or the Word 1
2 Artha, Pratyaya and Shabda 12
3 Shabda and Parashabda 21
4 Parashabda, Causal Shabda 31
5 Shakti as Stress …. 40
6 Eternality of Shabda 48
7 Shabda as language 56
8 Natural Name 66
9 Vaidika Shabda 77
10 The Tattvas 89
11 Shakti, Potency to Create 99
12 Nida, the First Produced Movement 108
13 Bindu or Shakti Ready to Create 122
14 Maya Tattva 135
15 The Kanchukas …. 146
16 Hangsa 155
17 Kama-kala 165
18 The Gross Tattvas and their Lords 175
19 Causal Shaktis of the Pranava 185
20 The Kalas 193
21 The Garland of Letters or Vanamala 201
22 "Om" 214
23 The Necklace of Kali 219
24 Dhvani 226
25 Sun, Moon and FIRE 235
26 Bija Mantra 239
27 Shad-Adh vas 248
28 Man tra-sadhana 255
29 Gayatrl Mantra ….. 262
30 The Gayatd Mantra as an exercise of Reasoming 265
31 Atma-Sadhana 288


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