Explaining Mantras explores the intersection of poetry and magic in the mantras or verbal formulas of Hindu Tantra. The author reveals how mantras work in light of both the esoteric tradition of Tantra and a general semiotic theory of ritual. Mantras mimic the act of sexual reproduction and the cosmic cycle of creation and destruction. A mantra that imitates creation is believed to be more creative and effective in producing a real-world result. Drawing from linguistics, semiotics, anthropology, and philosophy, as well as the history of religions, the author argues that mantras and other ritual discourses use rhetorical devices, including imitation, to construct the persuasive illusion of a natural language, one with a direct and immediate connection to reality. This vital relation between poetry and ritual has been neglected in many current theories of religion. Explaining Mantras combines the study of ancient Tantric rituals with the latest theories in the human sciences, and will be of interest to a broad range of readers.
About the Author:
Robert A. Yelle has a Ph.D. in the History of Religions from the University of Chicago. He spent a year as a Fulbright-Hays Fellow researching Tantric ritual in Calcutta, India, and has published articles in Numen, Religion, and the Journal of the American Academy ofReligion.