Author: A. Padoux
Tantrism has influenced almost all of Hinduism, leaving its imprint on religion, ritual, theology and metaphysics, iconography and architecture of temples, and even the structure of the state. The tantric worldview, albeit entrusted to often secret and obscure writings and exegetical works, transpires everywhere in Hinduism. Essential in order to understand the Tantric phenomenon is the study of mantras, linguistic formulas already present in Vedic and post-Vedic Hinduism but destined to assume a leading role in Tantrism, where they appear in any type of religious or ritual action. As aspects of vac, the Word, the primordial cosmic power that governs the world, mantras are the sound manifestation of divinity or some specific aspects of it, and are themselves conceived as divine powers, words of power that can be ritually or meditatively used for various magical or ritual purposes. Characteristic of Hindu tantric mantras is the preponderant use of non-linguistic elements: syllables or groups of syllables without meaning, but believed to be pervaded by supernatural power and efficacy. André Padoux, one of the leading living experts of Tantrism, illustrates in these pages the nature of mantras and every aspect of their use in the ritual.