Why use mantras?

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Why use mantras?

Postby Su DongPo » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:28 am

The Heart Sutra concludes,

故知般若波羅蜜多 是大神咒 是大明咒 是無上咒 是無等等咒 能除一切苦 真實不虛 故說般若波羅蜜多咒‧即說咒曰‧揭諦‧揭諦‧波羅揭諦‧波羅僧揭諦‧菩提薩婆訶

"Thus, the Prajna Paramita is the great mantra, the supreme mantra, the unequaled mantra, able to overthrow all strife and suffering; it is the unerring Truth, -- Therefore let it be uttered: Om Gate Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha".


My question is two-fold: 1) what is the purpose of this mantra? I don't use them or don't know how, so my question is really basic. I think I can read the sutra okay up to this point, and don't know what purpose the invocation of mantras serves. 2) for what purposes does one use mantras, and how do they help?
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby CSEe » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:38 am

Su DongPo wrote:The Heart Sutra concludes,

故知般若波羅蜜多 是大神咒 是大明咒 是無上咒 是無等等咒 能除一切苦 真實不虛 故說般若波羅蜜多咒‧即說咒曰‧揭諦‧揭諦‧波羅揭諦‧波羅僧揭諦‧菩提薩婆訶

"Thus, the Prajna Paramita is the great mantra, the supreme mantra, the unequaled mantra, able to overthrow all strife and suffering; it is the unerring Truth, -- Therefore let it be uttered: Om Gate Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate Bodhi Svaha".


My question is two-fold: 1) what is the purpose of this mantra? I don't use them or don't know how, so my question is really basic. I think I can read the sutra okay up to this point, and don't know what purpose the invocation of mantras serves. 2) for what purposes does one use mantras, and how do they help?


Sir , if I may share my views .
I am not / wish not to understand what is mantra , but I am of the opinion In Buddha is pure emptiness , nothing is there .
So I cant wish for anything from this energy so chantting , asking for aything is not associated with Buddha .
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Su DongPo » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:43 am

CSEe wrote:
Su DongPo wrote:I am not / wish not to understand what is mantra...


Ah, well, you see that is where we differ. I actually do want to know what a mantra is in this case.

Best wishes,
Su Dongpo
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby CSEe » Mon Feb 07, 2011 10:58 am

Su DongPo wrote:
CSEe wrote:
Su DongPo wrote:I am not / wish not to understand what is mantra...


Ah, well, you see that is where we differ. I actually do want to know what a mantra is in this case.

Best wishes,
Su Dongpo



Yes , we have different views , is good and healthy . If we hear what we wish to hear , see what we wish to see that is our limitation to learn Buddha .

For me I belief nothing could associated to Buddha not even Siddharta as he is the introducer of this energy to me but is up to me to find my own Buddha .

Thks
Ee
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Tara » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:09 am

Su DongPo wrote:
Ah, well, you see that is where we differ. I actually do want to know what a mantra is in this case.

Best wishes,
Su Dongpo



CSEe wrote:Yes , we have different views , is good and healthy . If we hear what we wish to hear , see what we wish to see that is our limitation to learn Buddha .

For me I belief nothing could associated to Buddha not even Siddharta as he is the introducer of this energy to me but is up to me to find my own Buddha .

Thks
Ee

:offtopic: Please keep to the topic in question, thanks.
Regards,
rt


:focus:
Last edited by Tara on Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
Reason: Rearranged quotes
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:31 am

Well, Yidam (meditational deity) practices are intended to produce in the practitioner a change in the mind linked to the quality represented by that deity, such as Compassion for Avalokiteshvara.

In this case the practice is that leading to far-reaching discriminating awareness, and the deity Prajnaparamita.

A mantra for me is a condensed representation of the practice used for that deity, so as such it is a practice involving the same process. There is visualisation and repetition in a highly concentrated form, to which the mind responds.

It is not necessary to chant, IMHO. Silent mantras are just as effective. I find being in a group of people chanting is a powerful expoerience, and may be distracting as much as it is useful.

The above is obviously predicated on receiving transmission of that practice and mantra in order to undertsand the process and be accurate. However, some say that some mantras may be performed by anyone and that they will derive benefit and blessings. ;)

My favourite site for mantras is: http://www.visiblemantra.org/
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Su DongPo » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:43 am

Yeshe wrote:Well, Yidam (meditational deity) practices are intended to produce in the practitioner a change in the mind linked to the quality represented by that deity, such as Compassion for Avalokiteshvara.

A mantra for me is a condensed representation of the practice used for that deity, so as such it is a practice involving the same process. There is visualisation and repetition in a highly concentrated form, to which the mind responds.


That's about what I supposed. This would place it in league with poetry then -- do you agree? Or some kinds of poetry, perhaps?

It is not necessary to chant, IMHO. Silent mantras are just as effective.


That's a relief! :smile: I feel self-conscious about chanting. What I do already notice is that this sutra (or maybe many or all sutras?) is rhythmically structured in Chinese. Parallel sets of characters & concepts probably lend themselves perfectly to chanting. Yet another similarity to poetry. But I prefer to read.

I find being in a group of people chanting is a powerful expoerience, and may be distracting as much as it is useful.


I have noticed this too. Maybe I am best at chanting in groups.

The above is obviously predicated on receiving transmission of that practice and mantra in order to undertsand the process and be accurate. However, some say that some mantras may be performed by anyone and that they will derive benefit and blessings. ;)

My favourite site for mantras is: http://www.visiblemantra.org/


Thanks for the link. I have it open in another window. :reading:
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Astus » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:52 am

As little I know, mantras have two uses: as mnemonic devices and as magical words. But the Heart Sutra itself is a short reminder of the prajnaparamita teachings. Thus the dharanis and mantras in a sutra are said to be equivalent of reciting the whole text, just like in the Nichiren school they say that Namu Myoho Renge Kyo is same as reciting the complete Lotus Sutra.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:53 am

I have to say that I find it a cumbersome matra, but maybe it was not originally recorded as Sanskrit scripture?
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Su DongPo » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:16 pm

Astus wrote: But the Heart Sutra itself is a short reminder of the prajnaparamita teachings.


That is my understanding of the closing of the sutra: it expresses the idea that the Prajna Paramitas / The Perfect Wisdom -- and by implication the Heart Sutra itself -- is a kind of mantra, but I could be wrong.

For reference, here is Ven. Huifeng's translation and notes in a linked pdf --
http://wisdom.buddhistdoor.com/huifeng/ ... y-word.pdf
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Su DongPo » Mon Feb 07, 2011 3:27 pm

Yeshe wrote:I have to say that I find it a cumbersome matra, but maybe it was not originally recorded as Sanskrit scripture?


There may be good reason for this. Read this post by Ven. Huifeng in the Heart Sutra thread --

viewtopic.php?f=39&t=2672#p19739

So it seems that the sutra may have originally been composed in Chinese, with the mantra then dropped in from Sanskritized (word! :shock: ) Chinese, or perhaps translated back into Sanskrit from Chinese. It seems likely that this a the kind of textual question that will never be fully convincing to everyone. I only yesterday saw a Chinese commentary in that asserted the text was brought from India, and translated from Sanskrit into Chinese.

Probably best to give up take the sutra on its own, quite wonderful, merits.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Feb 07, 2011 4:10 pm

Su DongPo wrote:
Yeshe wrote:I have to say that I find it a cumbersome matra, but maybe it was not originally recorded as Sanskrit scripture?


There may be good reason for this. Read this post by Ven. Huifeng in the Heart Sutra thread --

viewtopic.php?f=39&t=2672#p19739

So it seems that the sutra may have originally been composed in Chinese, with the mantra then dropped in from Sanskritized (word! :shock: ) Chinese, or perhaps translated back into Sanskrit from Chinese. It seems likely that this a the kind of textual question that will never be fully convincing to everyone. I only yesterday saw a Chinese commentary in that asserted the text was brought from India, and translated from Sanskrit into Chinese.

Probably best to give up take the sutra on its own, quite wonderful, merits.


Ven. Huifeng's contribution stands up well.

I wonder if it was initially written in Sanskrit or was instead still in the form of oral tradition and first written in Chinese, then transcribed back into Sanskrit. The mantra seems unlike others to me, but it is hard to pinpoint other than in the elaboration of the message. Other mantras repeat words but not in that way.

Within a phrase, such increasing elaboration is something I noticed in a Japanese phrase and knowing nothing of these linguistic roots wondered if it was more typical of that form, as seen in this case as an increasing level of formality and emphasis.:

'Domo, Domo Arigato, Domo Arigato Gozaimashite.'

On a more topic-related point, I see mantras being recited for specific purposes, as Astus wrote, but rather than anything magical I see them as expression of a desire, as a prayer in that context. For example, I may see an animal dying and wish it a fortunate rebirth through the compassionate recitation of the 'Om Mani Padme Hum' mantra. I may have a strong belief that this will help secure that fortunate rebirth, but as a request to Avalokiteshvara rather than an expression of my own magical power.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Feb 07, 2011 4:19 pm

Su DongPo wrote:2) for what purposes does one use mantras, and how do they help?


Practicing Dzogchen does not mean just remaining in silence, but also involves moving, integrating with clarity, and integrating with the movement of energy. Thus you can easily understand why, in Tantric practice, there is so much chanting, singing, moving about, and so on, because that involves integration with energy in movement.

Dzogchen Teachings, Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, p.65.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Astus » Mon Feb 07, 2011 5:35 pm

"but as a request to Avalokiteshvara rather than an expression of my own magical power."

Magical use of mantras is quite apparent in Buddhism just as well as throughout India. And using an external being to affect things is still within the realm of magic, although it can be very well within the boundaries of religion (in many cases it's hard to make a distiction).
"There is no such thing as the real mind. Ridding yourself of delusion: that's the real mind."
(Sheng-yen: Getting the Buddha Mind, p 73)

“Don’t rashly seek the true Buddha;
True Buddha can’t be found.
Does marvelous nature and spirit
Need tempering or refinement?
Mind is this mind carefree;
This face, the face at birth."

(Nanyue Mingzan: Enjoying the Way, tr. Jeff Shore; T51n2076, p461b24-26)
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby ground » Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:10 pm

Sorry but I think the term "magical" is completely inappropriate.

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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:22 pm

Astus wrote:"but as a request to Avalokiteshvara rather than an expression of my own magical power."

Magical use of mantras is quite apparent in Buddhism just as well as throughout India. And using an external being to affect things is still within the realm of magic, although it can be very well within the boundaries of religion (in many cases it's hard to make a distiction).


I know of no Buddhists who claim to use mantras for magical purposes. This is not to say that there are no beings with powers we cannot see, and are therefore occult in that they are beyond our experience and/or understanding, i.e. hidden.

I have seen witchcraft in India, even in urban areas of Mumbai, but this does not translate into an association with religions from India other than primitive superstition related,for example, to feuds. I'm not saying that someone who claims to be a Buddhist may not try to use mantras for magic, any more than they may try shouting 'abracadabra', but I've personally no knowledge of it.

Do you have examples of use of mantras for magical purposes amongst Buddhists?
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby conebeckham » Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:42 pm

Mantra is associated with speech, speech is associated with "wind," wind is associated with mind. This is a condensed summary, as one way to answer the question, "Why use mantras?"

The PrajnaparamitahridayaSutra is said to have an even shorter version....

Ah.

Mantras are also said to be the condensed meaning of tantras...in this case, the mantra is in a sutra. (This, to me, is an interesting question--how does a well-known sutra have a mantra associated with it? But that's a tangent....)
I think the meaning of this mantra does condense the sutra--it can be translated. It can be a mnemonic device, and a tool for contemplation of the meaning of the sutra.

Also, although I become a bit "uncomfortable" with the idea of "magic" and mantras, I have to admit that it's an easy association to make, especially if one actually reads the tantras and takes them at face value--ChakrasamvaraTantra and HevajraTantra, just as two examples, do include instructions for rituals utilizing mantra for various purposes, and, taken literally, they are similar to "magical rituals" as we might understand them in the West. In particular, the rituals regarding the "Four Activities"--pacifying, magnetizing, enriching, and destroying--could be seen this way.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Feb 07, 2011 6:58 pm

conebeckham wrote:Mantra is associated with speech, speech is associated with "wind," wind is associated with mind. This is a condensed summary, as one way to answer the question, "Why use mantras?"

The PrajnaparamitahridayaSutra is said to have an even shorter version....

Ah.

Mantras are also said to be the condensed meaning of tantras...in this case, the mantra is in a sutra. (This, to me, is an interesting question--how does a well-known sutra have a mantra associated with it? But that's a tangent....)
I think the meaning of this mantra does condense the sutra--it can be translated. It can be a mnemonic device, and a tool for contemplation of the meaning of the sutra.

Also, although I become a bit "uncomfortable" with the idea of "magic" and mantras, I have to admit that it's an easy association to make, especially if one actually reads the tantras and takes them at face value--ChakrasamvaraTantra and HevajraTantra, just as two examples, do include instructions for rituals utilizing mantra for various purposes, and, taken literally, they are similar to "magical rituals" as we might understand them in the West. In particular, the rituals regarding the "Four Activities"--pacifying, magnetizing, enriching, and destroying--could be seen this way.


There are probably much better examples, but I am reminded of the use of the Medicine Buddha Sutra and dharani:
http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/medbudsutra.pdf


Guess that's why Tantra needs to be conveyed by a qualified teacher in order to ensure people do not take practices and texts at face value, develop a wrong view, and draw the conclusion that chanting a mantra or a prayer is the same as me chanting a shamanic spell to harm beings I see as my enemies. As with all, intention is the key. One would hope that nobody goes anywhere near HYT texts and practices until they are properly prepared, and it is not possible to see them as 'magic' - the mantras involve much more than an observer would be aware of.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Jikan » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:00 pm

Yeshe wrote:Do you have examples of use of mantras for magical purposes amongst Buddhists?


One example might be the use of daimoku to achieve a material end among some members of Soka Gakkai Int'l (if one defines daimoku as a mantra), e.g., chanting until one gets a car or a boat which serves as proof of the effectiveness of practice.

Of course this rationale for practice begs the question of whether this is Buddhist practice or the application of a method derived from a Buddhist tradition toward a non-Buddhist end. I'll not go there and just leave the question open.

Generally speaking, my understanding is that if one is using Vajrayana methods without Mahayana understanding or intention, one is nothing other than a magician and a source for a lot of trouble.
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Re: Why use mantras?

Postby Blue Garuda » Mon Feb 07, 2011 7:46 pm

Jikan wrote:
Yeshe wrote:Do you have examples of use of mantras for magical purposes amongst Buddhists?


One example might be the use of daimoku to achieve a material end among some members of Soka Gakkai Int'l (if one defines daimoku as a mantra), e.g., chanting until one gets a car or a boat which serves as proof of the effectiveness of practice.

Of course this rationale for practice begs the question of whether this is Buddhist practice or the application of a method derived from a Buddhist tradition toward a non-Buddhist end. I'll not go there and just leave the question open.

Generally speaking, my understanding is that if one is using Vajrayana methods without Mahayana understanding or intention, one is nothing other than a magician and a source for a lot of trouble.


Chanting to achieve material wealth for one's own satisfaction lacks a Buddhist motivation, unless of course that wealth was to be used for the benefit of others? That practice within SGI may be seen as controversial so I'll not offer a specific comment in case I breach ToS. ;)

May that practice of chanting, perhaps to a 'wealth deity' have some Shinto derivation as well?

Another example may be the sale of protective amulets which again may owe more to the expectations of a particular culture being exploited by Buddhists, rather than a Buddhist act per se. Written mantras may be a part of this, but it is very different in intention than 'Liberation Through Wearing' or Liberation Through Hearing'.

Nobody could use Vajrayana methods properly and be the source of a lot of trouble, IMHO, but people could for example teach inappropriate sexual practices and slap the Vajrayana or Tantra label on them, as any Google search for Tantra shows.
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