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Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Mantra and the Zoroastrian tradition

 

The word mantra has several meanings. Most commonly it is understood to be a sound, or a phrase uttered within oneself as part of almost all religious traditions. The root word is man which in Sanskrit means “to think”. One definition says that mantra is one which protects an individual when uttered as part of a spiritual or religious observance. (manannat trayate iti,mantrah), which means that which protects when meditated on.

Use of mantra in religious services goes back millennia. In the Zoroastrian tradition, chanting mantra is referred to as part of Yasna. Yasna is akin to pujas and rituals in Hinduism. In Yasna 31:6  this is mentioned. The word used is different though. In the version I read, it is spelled mathra.

Going further into yasna, I read that it is meant to “maintain cosmic integrity” and was originally associated with preparation of a sacred drink called “haoma”. Knowing that the “ha” sound of Zoroastrian is akin to “sa” sound of Sanskrit, this sounds very much like the preparation of soma in the Vedic sacrifices.

In an article on this subject in Zoroastrian.org.uk, I read that Ahur Mazda, the supreme benevolent master, conceived the universe in his mind (vohu mana, in Vedas it is manas), fashioned it in His consciousness (daena, in the Vedas this is dhyana or dhi) and manifested it through His creativity (spenta mainyo, this is similar to the maya of vedic texts). He then set it in motion in accordance with his eternal law.

This eternal law in Zoroastrian is called asha, which is variously translated as truth, righteousness, God’s will and Laws of nature. In this, the corresponding words in the Vedas will be rta and dharma.

There are many more examples like this for some scholars to suggest that Hinduism has its roots in Zoroastrian tradition.

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