Mantra and metaphor in Nepali & Indian Himalayan communities

Krista Rodin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Vedas speak of four levels of speech/communication, with human speech being the farthest from that of divine communication, Para. Mantras used by peoples in the Himalayan region consist of seed sounds, Sanskrit and Tibetan words that are combined in special ways to elicit particular vibratory patterns. They are considered a prerequisite to personally experiencing the divine. Many mantras also use metaphor to create meaning. The specific vibrations and meanings behind particular mantras and seed sounds are intended to attune the body and mind to higher spheres and to connect with waves, much the way our electronic communication devices pick up sound signals. This presentation will discuss how the use of two types of metaphor, epiphor and diaphor, creates meaning in Mantras beyond Vaikhari, normal human speech patterns, and how this aids in elevating the mantra to Madhyama, the next level of Vedic communication, to possibly Pashyanti, which is solely for spiritual use. Metaphors can be found in the three basic kinds of mantra used in the Himalayan region: those that are considered universal, such as the Gayatri and So-Hum/Hamsa, those which are specifically aligned with a particular faith, such as the Om Mani Padme Hum of the Tibetan Buddhists and those specific to Hindu deities, and those that are chanted by both Hindus and Buddhists, but are only communicated by the guru or lama to the practitioner. The differences among the three basic types will be discussed in relation to their use of epiphor and diaphor.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-10
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of the Humanities
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2010


  • Buddhism
  • Hinduism
  • Mantra
  • Metaphor
  • Vedas

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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