[Advaita-l] Mantras and Brahmanas

S Jayanarayanan sjayana at yahoo.com
Sun Jul 30 21:23:10 CDT 2006

The most common means of classification of Vedic statements is into
mantras and brAhmaNas. Their definitions are given below.


vidhAyakam.h vAkyam.h brAhmaNam.h .
tachchheshho.arthavAdaH .
"Statements containing injunctions are brAhmaNas. The remaining
[brAhmaNa statements] are eulogies."


mananAt.h trAyate iti mantraH .
prayogam.h samaveta artha anushhThAnam.h smArakAH mantrAH .
"That which protects by meditation on it, is called a mantra.
Reminders associated with a procedure are (also) called mantras."

The above definitions of mantra and brAhmaNa are from the pUrva
mImAmsA standpoint, and hence do not include VedAnta statements
(mostly considered to be arthavAdas in mImAmsA) that are also

The usage of mantras and brAhmaNas are as follows:

anushhThAnam.h and prayogam.h - only mantras are recited, brAhmaNas
are not recited.

pArAyaNam.h and adhyApanam.h - both mantras and brAhmaNas are

The BrAhmaNas are explanations - either directives on how to perform
a ritual, or elucidatations on the significance of a ritual. They are
not meant for recitation during a ritual [1]. Mantras on the other
hand are either prayers or reminders, and hence are meant for
recitation during a ritual.

It is interesting to ask: what if anushhThAnam.h = pArAyaNam.h?
I.e., the ritual is but recitation itself! This unique ritual, where
anushhThAnam.h and pArAyaNam.h coincide is called the brahma
yaGYam.h, and it is classified along with pArAyaNam.h only. Hence the
recitation of both mantras and brAhmaNas is permitted for the
pArAyaNam.h that is the brahma yaGYam.h.

It would not be inappropriate to mention here that the sUrya
namaskAra practised in South India, accompanied by the recitation of
the aruNa prashna in the KR^ishhNa yajurveda, violates the mImAmsA
rule of not reciting vidhis during a kriyA, and this is one of the
reasons the practice is not accepted as genuine by many Vedic


[1] The non-recitation of vidhis (primary BrAhmaNa statements) is
definitely the case in all vaidIka kriyAs, but arthavAdas (secondary
BrAhmaNa statements) MAY be recited during a kriyA. The brahma
yaGYam.h of course includes the recitation of vidhis as it is a pArAyaNam.h.

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