sutra, sloka, mantra, stotra, stuti – does these words all mean the same?
is there a difference between a sloka and mantra?
are they are all same or different? hmm.. let us together try to understand this. first - what’s the dictionary telling us about these words?
- sloka – verse
- stotra – praise
- stuti – praise
- sutra – thread
- mantra – spell
this itself would have give you the basic clarity. right? however, let’s go a little deeper
sloka is the most simple form. it’s more like poems with certain rules of meter. sloka is any type of rhythmic verse. it can be from a story, song or prayer song for deities, nature, animals, etc., slokas are constructed in a particular meter. a simple set of vakyams i.e sentences can become shloka if constructed with rhythm
the most popular shlokam is ganapati sloka - vakra thunda maha kaya
stotra & stuti means praise. now, stotras & stuthis can be created with shlokas that sing praise or describing anything or anyone. and the number of shloka paragraphs that it has in the stotras are further named as panchakam – 5 slokas, shatakam – 6 shlokas, ashtakam – 8 shlokas or dasakam – 10 shlokas.
the most popular stotram that’s also a shatakam is nirvana shatakam
the most popular stuti - devi stuti, shiva stuti
next, sutra – meaning thread. it’s the message that’s conveyed. any message / lesson / knowledge that’s structured to be conveyed are sutra.
examples – yoga sutra, kama sutra
now, the very important word – mantra. mantras – are phrases that have been constructed for specific results. most of the mantras have deep spiritual significance but may sometimes not have straight direct understandable meanings. they are created in such a way that if repeated again & again – will give specific intended results. it doesn’t matter what it means. okay who decides that result ? – the guru. the guru structures a mantra with a specific intended result & is shared with disciples.
mantras are to be experienced & are to chanted for specific results. the popular mantra example is om namah shivaya – panchakshari mantra which means mantra made with 5 akshara. usually mantras are given to us by gurus.
now, why are these words used in many similar situations or work of literature? here is my understanding
we knew sutra is a message and that message can be constructed in a meter. so, if a sutra is created in specific rhythm, it is a sloka too. though shloka & sutra are not same, if there’s lesson or message in the shloka, then that shloka is a sutra. now you know know all astronomy, physics and chemistry subjects are called sutras or shastras. shastra is technique or set or rules and methods
stotra and stuti are made of shlokas. so, every shloka in the stotra & stuti can be independent shloka which can also be potentially a sutra. hold on.. there’s the next level you need to know about our jagadguru shankaracharya’s work – soundarya lahari ( which is also our special ingredient while making jal kesar )
soundarya lahari is generally read as stotra or stuti for sri tripurasundari. but each shloka in it, is a carefully crafted mantra that’s structured for specific results.
so, a simple shloka if given to you by a guru, can work as a strong mantra that gives specific results. a heavily loaded mantra can become a simple shloka if looked at it as a simple poem or stotra or stuti.
samskrith is language of vibration and science. just the letter om is powerful than anything else in the world if chanted intently.
one of my teacher is against chanting just the om mantra for the people in the start of the spiritual journey. he always recommends to chant panchakshari or shatakshari mantras like om namah shivaya or om namoh narayanaya. that is to add other letters with om chanting. why? he equates ‘om’ to the seeds of the apple which can become like cyanide. and hence, he says more of the seed is too powerful and hence it has to be softened & wrapped with the fruitiness of protection of other letters for the right consumption.
that was a heavy subject to contemplate – right? i shall leave you with a lighter information when i learnt spoken samskrith, in a day, the entire 6 hours, we need to try conversing only in samskrith & after few days, we students realized we are consuming more quantity food than usual. we casually mentioned this to our teacher & she explained enthusiastically how all our chakras, our body and breath is used while speaking in samskrith & she clarified that eating more is natural since speaking samskrith helps in faster digestion.
let's revive our skill of samsrith language. samskrith is in our dna. we just have to remember it by investing some time & effort. by learning samskrith we have a huge opportunity to understand & know a lot of knowledge directly from the scriptures