Understanding Mantras explores the origin, nature, function, and significance of mantras within the bounds of the hindu tradition. It analyses the use of mantras in the Vedic age in the great theistic movements of Saivism and Vaisnavism, and in Tantra. A brief introduction by Alper outlines the major controversies in Western scholarship concerning the nature of mantras and gives an insightful and suggestive paradigm for resolving the issues. The essays provide enlightenment into the Indian mantric tradition, and into Western attempts to understand that tradition. They also discuss the issues surrounding the debate over whether mantras should count as instances of language.
Of immeasurable worth is the comprehensive bibliographical and methodological essay and list contributed by Professor Alper. This essay covers more than 1600 items and situates mantra contextually in Indian history, society, and culture. It approaches a bibliography on all of Hinduism and will serve as an invaluable tool for future research.