Buddhism: Details about 'Dharani'

Index / Buddhism / List Of Buddhist Topics / Dharani /
Click here for our Buddha-Shop


One level up
Index of contents

Useful Links

Buddhism Portal
Culture History List of topics People By region By country
Schools Temples Concepts Texts Timeline

A dharani is a type of ritual speech similar to a mantra. The terms dharani and mantra may even be seen as synonyms, although they normally used in distinct contexts.

The Japanse Buddhist philosopher Kūkai drew a distinction between dharani (dhāra.nī) and mantra and used this as the basis of his theory of language. Mantra is restricted to esoteric Buddhist practice whereas dharani is found in both esoteric and exoteric ritual. Dharanis for instance are found in the Pali Canon see below. Kūkai coined the term "shingon" (lit "true word") as a Japanese translation of mantra.

The word dharani derives from a Sanskrit root dh.r which means to hold, or maintain. Ryuichi Abe suggests that it is generally understood as a mnemonic device which encapsulates the meaning of a section or chapter of a sutra. This is perhaps related to the use of verse summaries at the end of texts as in

the Udana which is generally acknowledged as being in the oldest strata of the Pali Canon. Dharanis are also considered to protect the one who chants them from malign influences and calamities.

The distinction between dharani and mantra is a difficult one to make. We can say that all mantras are dharanis but that not necessarily all dharanis are mantras. Mantras are generally shorter. Both tend to contain a number of unintelligible phonic fragments such as Om, or Hu.m which is perhaps why some people consider them to be essentially meaningless. Kukai made mantra a special class of dharani and argued that every syllable of a dharani was a manifestation of the true nature of reality—in Buddhist terms that all sound is a manifestation of shunyata or emptiness of self-nature. Thus rather than being devoid of meaning, Kukai suggests that dharanis are in fact saturated with meaning—every syllable is symbolic on multiple levels. Dharani

Visitors who viewed this also viewed:

Buddhism: Buddhism In North Korea
Buddhism: Buddhist Art
Buddhism: Shunkoin Temple
New Age: Oaths
Christianity: Book Of Mosiah


Click here for our Buddha-Shop

Buddhism-guide is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Dharani". A list of the wikipedia authors can be found here.