Tantra, Mantra & Rajaneeti: The Unmistakable Connection

Mantra and Tantra were regarded by Kautilya as two crucial elements in the art and science of Vedic approach to politics – Rajaneeti. Without a plan and a strategy to execute it Shakti (read Power) is of no use. In Arthashastra, he declares “Power by itself is useless” and that “Person who seeks power without sound Mantra (objective) and Tantra (strategy) are verily consumed by it.”

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Vedic Sanskrit is a language of profound knowledge and deep wisdom. Although very ancient, many original ideas medicine, mathematics, science, and technology is written in this language for thousands of years. Unfortunately, many of these words, particularly in older texts, are mistranslated, which causes every sort of misinterpretation. It’s important to note here that Vedic Sanskrit is much different than the Sanskrit that is being taught by most revivalist schools. We know this for sure when we find that those who claim to speak in Sanskrit fluently, today, fail to translate or understand various Sanskrit texts efficiently.

Among the most mistranslated and abused terms in Sanskrit are Tantra and Mantra. The word Tantra is often mistranslated as “occult” or as referring to sensational practise, and Mantra often misunderstood magical sounds that grant mystical or magical powers. Mantra is also misunderstood as a ‘secret formula’.

Around 300 BC a nonagenarian Brahman named Vishnu Sharma wrote a web of stories to explain dynamics of human relationships and entitled it as Panchatantra. The title consists of two words, namely Pancha and Tantra. While Pancha denotes “five” – the Tantra is about Strategies and not occult.

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3 responses on "Tantra, Mantra & Rajaneeti: The Unmistakable Connection"

  1. I want to know the answers to the following.question.

    When was the existence of Arthashastra revived in India? I understand it was in obscurity for almost two thousand years and only in early nineteenth century, a manuscript was discovered by a farmer in present day Karnataka.

  2. When was the existence of Arthashastra revived in India? Is it true that it was lost in obscruity for nearly two thousand years?

  3. Arthashastra as text we have today we discovered by a person named R Shamashastry of Mysore in early 1900s. However, I don’t think it would be correct to assume that it was lost for 2,000 years. The Arthashastra has mention in various texts including Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, Soma deva’s Kathasaritsagara, Annambhatta’s Tarkashastra and, of course, the legendary Sanskrit play – Mudrarakshasa. Vidyaranya the mentor of Hakka and Bukka – founders of Vijayanagara Kingdom – is believed to have followed it. So Arthashastra wasn’t completely lost per se as it is believed by many.

    It’s important to know that Arthashastra was not authored by Kautilya but edited with commentaries in the form that is available to us today. Kautilya himself mentions various other editors including Bharadwaja (Rajaguru of King Bharata), Parashara, Pishuna, Vamadeva and many others. So Arthashastra has inspired a great many kings and dynasties for thousands of years before Kautilya and continue to be one of the oldest and credible texts on leadership although the full potential of the text is yet to be uncovered.

    Hope this helps.

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