Living Mantra

Mantra, Deity, and Visionary Experience Today

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Mani Rao
Contemporary Anthropology of Religion
  • London, England: 
    Palgrave Macmillan
    , October
     215 pages.
     For other formats: Link to Publisher's Website.
Review coming soon!

Review by Borayin Larios forthcoming.


Living Mantra is an anthropology of mantra-experience among Hindu-tantric practitioners. In ancient Indian doctrine and legends, mantras perceived by rishis (seers) invoke deities and have transformative powers. Adopting a methodology that combines scholarship and practice, Mani Rao discovers a continuing tradition of visionaries (rishis/seers) and revelations in south India’s Andhra-Telangana. Both deeply researched and replete with fascinating narratives, the book  reformulates the poetics of mantra-practice as it probes practical questions. Can one know if a vision is real or imagined? Is vision visual? Are deity-visions mediated by culture? If mantras are effective, what is the role of devotion? Are mantras language? Living Mantra interrogates not only theoretical questions, but also those a practitioner would ask: how does one choose a deity, for example, or what might bind one to a guru? Rao breaks fresh ground in redirecting attention to the moments that precede systematization and canon-formation, showing how authoritative sources are formed.

About the Author(s)/Editor(s)/Translator(s): 

Mani Rao is a poet and independent scholar. She has nine poetry books and two books in translation from Sanskrit including The Bhagavad Gita and Kalidasa for the 21st Century Reader. See for links and updates


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