Sir John Woodroffe
Chapter Twenty-four | Shakti and Shakta
Shakti as Mantra (Mantramayi Shakti)Shakti and Shakta
This is in every way both a most important, as well as a most difficult, subject in the Tantra Shastra; so difficult that it is not understood, and on this account has been ridiculed.
Challenging the Misconceptions: Mantras as “Meaningless Jabber”
Mantra, in the words of a distinguished Indian, has been called “meaningless jabber”. When we find Indians thus talking of their Shastra, it is not surprising that Europeans should take it to be of no account. They naturally, though erroneously, suppose that the Indian always understands his own beliefs, and if he says they are absurd it is taken that they are so. Even, however, amongst Indians, who have lost themselves through an English Education, the Science of Mantra is largely unknown.
There are not many students of the Mimamsa now-a-days. The English-educated have in this, as in other matters, generally taken the cue from their Western Gurus, and passed upon Mantravidya a borrowed condemnation. There are those among them (particularly in this part of India), those who have in the past thought little of their old culture, and have been only too willing to sell their old lamps for new ones. Because they are new they will not always be found to give better light. Let us hope this will change, as indeed it will. Before the Indian condemns his cultural inheritance let him at least first study and understand it. It is true that Mantra is meaningless — to those who do not know its meaning; but to those who do, it is not “Jabber”; though of course like everything else it may become, and indeed has become, the subject of ignorance and superstitious use.Sexual Healing The Tantra Way
A telegram written in code in a merchant’s office will seem the merest gibberish to those who do not know that code. Those who do may spell thereout a transaction bringing lakhs of “real” Rupees for those who have sent it. Mantravidya, whether it be true or not, is a profoundly conceived science, and, as interpreted by the Shakta Agama, is a practical application of Vedantic doctrine.
The Rich Textual Sources of Mantras: Vedas, Puranas, and Tantras
The textual source of Mantras is to be found in the Vedas (see in particular the Mantra portion of the Atharvaveda so associated with the Tantra Shastra), the Puranas and Tantras. The latter Scripture is essentially the Mantra-Shastra. In fact it is so called generally by Sadhakas and not Tantra Shastra. And so it is said of all the Shastras, symbolized as a body, that Tantra Shastra which consists of Mantra is the Paramatma, the Vedas are the Jivatma, Darshanas or systems of philosophy are the senses, Puranas are the body and the Smritis are the limbs. Tantra Shastra is thus the Shakti of Consciousness consisting of Mantra. For, as the Vishvasara Tantra (Ch. 2) says, the Parabrahman in Its form as the Sound Brahman (Shabda-Brahman or Saguna-Brahman), whose substance is all Mantra, exists in the body of the Jivatma.. Kundalini Shakti is a form of the Shabda-Brahman in individual bodies (Sharada-Tilaka, Ch. 1). It is from this Shabda-Brahman that the whole universe proceeds in the form of sound (Shabda) and the objects (Artha) which sounds or words denote. And this is the meaning of the statement that the Devi and the Universe are composed of letters, that is, the signs for the sounds which denote all that is.
At any point in the flow of phenomena, we can enter the stream, and realize therein the changeless Real. The latter is everywhere and is in all things, and hidden in, and manifested by, sound as by all else. Any form (and all which is not the Formless is that) can be pierced by the mind, and union may be had therein with the Devata who is at its core. It matters not what that form may be.
And why? What I have said concerning Shakti gives the answer.
Understanding Mantramayi Shakti: Manifestation of Consciousness
All is Shakti.
All is Consciousness.Sexual Healing The Tantra Way
We desire to think and speak. This is Iccha Shakti. We make an effort towards realization. This is Kriya Shakti. We think and know. This is Jñana Shakti. Through Pranavayu, another form of Shakti, we speak; and the word we utter is Shakti Mantramayi. For what is a letter (Varna) which is made into syllables (Pada) and sentences (Vakya) ‘? It may be heard in speech, thus affecting the sense of hearing. It may be seen as a form in writing. It may be tactually sensed by the blind through the perforated dots of Braille type. The same thing thus affecting the various senses.
But what is the thing which does so? The senses are Shakti, and so is the objective form which evokes the sensation. Both are in themselves Shakti as chit Shakti and Maya Shakti, and the Svarupa of these is chit or Feeling-Consciousness.
The Role of Shabda-Brahman and Kundalini Shakti in Mantra Realization
When, therefore, a Mantra is realized, when there is what is called in the Shastra Mantra-Caitanya, what happens is the union of the consciousness of the Sadhaka with that Consciousness which manifests in the form of the Mantra. It is this union which makes the Mantra “work”.
The subject is of such importance in the Tantras that their other name is Mantra Shastra.
But what is a Mantra? Commonly Orientalists and others describe Mantra as “Prayer,” “Formulae of worship,” “Mystic syllables” and so forth. These are but the superficialities of those who do not know their subject.
Exploring the Symbolism of Yantras and Mudras in Tantric Rituals
Wherever we find the word “Mystic,” we may be on our guard; for it is a word which covers much ignorance. Thus Mantra is said to be a “mystic” word, Yantra a “mystic” diagram, and Mudra a “mystic” gesture. But have these definitions taught us anything? No, nothing. Those who framed these definitions knew nothing of their subject. And yet, whilst I am aware of no work in any European language which shows a knowledge of what Mantra is or of its science (Mantra-vidya), there is nevertheless perhaps no subject which has been so ridiculed: a not unusual attitude of ignorance.
There is a widely diffused lower mind which says, “what I do not understand is absurd”. But this science, whether well-founded or not, is not that. Those who so think might expect Mantras which are prayers and the meaning of which they understand; for with prayer the whole world is familiar. But such appreciation itself displays a lack of understanding. For there is nothing necessarily holy or prayerful alone in Mantras as some think. Some combinations of letters constitute prayers and are called Mantras, as for instance the most celebrated Gayatri Mantra.Manifesting with Alignment
The Journey of Sound: From Para to Vaikhari in Mantra Manifestation
A Mantra is not the same thing as prayer or self-dedication (Atma-nivedana). Prayer is conveyed in the words the Sadhaka chooses. Any set of words or letters is not a Mantra. Only that Mantra in which the Devata has revealed His or Her particular aspects can reveal that aspect, and is therefore the Mantra of that one of His or Her particular aspects.
The relations of the letters (Varna), whether vowel or consonant, Nada and Bindu, in a Mantra indicate the appearance of Devata in different forms. Certain Vibhuti or aspects of the Devata are inherent in certain Varna, but perfect Shakti does not appear in any but a whole Mantra.
All letters are forms of the Shabda-Brahman, but only particular combinations of letters are a particular form, just as the name of a particular being is made up of certain letters and not of any indiscriminately.
Kundalini Shakti: The Dynamic Force in the Muladhara Chakra
The whole universe is Shakti and is pervaded by Shakti. Nada, Bindu, Varna are all forms of Shakti and combinations of these, and these combinations only are the Shabda corresponding to the Artha or forms of any particular Devata. The gross lettered sound is, as explained later, the manifestation of sound in a more subtle form, and this again is the production of causal “sound” in its supreme (Para) form.
Mantras are manifestations of Kulakundalini (see Chapter on the same) which is a name for the Shabda-Brahman or Saguna-Brahman in individual bodies. Produced Shabda is an aspect of the Jiva’s vital Shakti.
Kundalini is the Shakti who gives life to the Jiva. It is she who in the Muladhara Chakra (or basal bodily center) is the cause of the sweet, indistinct and murmuring Dhvani which is compared to the humming of a black bee.
Thence Shabda originates and, being first Para, gradually manifests upwards as Pashyanti, Madhyama, Vaikhari (see post). Just as in outer space, waves of sound are produced by movements of air (Vayu), so in the space within the Jiva’s body, waves of sound are said to be produced according to the movements of the vital air (Pranavayu) and the process of in and out breathing.
As the Svarupa of Kundali, in whom are all sounds, is Paramatma, so the substance of all Mantra, Her manifestation, is Consciousness (chit) manifesting as letters and words.
In fact, the letters of the Alphabet which are called Akshara are nothing but the Yantra of the Akshara or Imperishable Brahman.
This is however only realized by the Sadhaka, when his Shakti generated by Sadhana is united with Mantra-Shakti. kundalini, who is extremely subtle, manifests in gross (Sthula) form in differing aspects as different Devatas. It is this gross form which is the Presiding Deity (Adishthatri Devata) of a Mantra, though it is the subtle (Sukshma) form at which all Sadhakas aim. Mantra and Devata are thus one and particular forms of Brahman as Shiva-Shakti. Therefore the Shastra says that they go to Hell who think that the Image (or “Idol” as it is commonly called) is but a stone and the Mantra merely letters of the alphabet. It is therefore also ignorance of Shastric principle which supposes that Mantra is merely the name for the words in which one expresses what one has to say to the Divinity. If it were, the Sadhaka might choose his own language without recourse to the eternal and determined sounds of Shastra. (See generally as to the above the Chapter on Mantra-tattva in Principles of Tantra, Ed. A. Avalon.)
Sir John Woodroffe, who wrote under the pseudonym of Arthur Avalon, was a Western scholar in the best traditions who brought important Hindu texts and teachings to the West, including the classic work on Kundalini yoga, The Serpent Power. His books were published to the public domain.
In Shakti and Shakta, Arthur Avalon explores the teachings of the “Bharata Dharma,” the common thread of tradition that links Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, as they relate to the divine feminine, expressed as “Shakti” or power in contrast to “Shiva” or unchanging consciousness.
Mantra and Devata: The Union of Consciousness and Divine Energy
The particular Mantra of a Devata is that Devata. A Mantra, on the contrary, consists of certain letters arranged in definite sequence of sounds of which the letters are the representative signs. To produce the designed effect, the Mantra must be intoned in the proper way, according to both sound (Varna) and rhythm (Svara). For these reasons, a Mantra when translated ceases to be such, and becomes a mere word or sentence.
By Mantra, the sought-for (Sadhya) Devata appears, and by Siddhi therein is had vision of the three worlds. As the Mantra is in fact Devata, by practice thereof this is known. Not merely do the rhythmical vibrations of its sounds regulate the unsteady vibrations of the sheaths of the worshiper, but therefrom the image of the Devata appears.
As the Brihad-Gandharva Tantra says (Ch. V):
Shrinu devi pravakshyami bijanam deva-rupatam
Mantrochcharanamatrena deva-rupam prajayate.
Mantrasiddhi is the ability to make a Mantra efficacious and to gather its fruit in which case the Sadhaka is Mantra-siddha. As the Pranatoshini (619) says, “Whatever the Sadhaka desires that he surely obtains.” Whilst therefore prayer may end in merely physical sound, Mantra is ever, when rightly said, a potent compelling force, a word of power effective both to produce material gain and accomplish worldly desires, as also to promote the fourth aim of sentient being (Chaturvarga), Advaitic knowledge, and liberation. And thus it is said that Siddhi (success) is the certain result of Japa or recitation of Mantra.
Dispelling Misconceptions: Mantras Beyond Prayer and Worship
Some Mantras constitute also what the European would call “prayers,” as for instance the celebrated Gayatri. But neither this nor any other Mantra is simply a prayer.The Hidden Power of Gayatri Mantra
The Gayatri runs Om (The thought is directed to the three-fold Energy of the One as represented by the three letters of which Om is composed, namely, A or Brahma, the Shakti which creates; U or Vishnu, the Shakti which maintains; and M or Rudra, the Shakti which “destroys,” that is, withdraws the world): Nada and Bindu, Earth, Middle region, Heaven (of which as the transmigrating worlds of Samsara, God, as Om, as also in the form of the Sun, is the Creator).
Let us contemplate upon the Adorable Spirit of the Divine Creator who is in the form of the Sun (Aditya-Devata). He directs our minds, towards attainment of the four-fold aims (Dharma, Artha, Kama, Moksha) of all sentient beings. Om.
This great Mantra bears a meaning on its face, though the Commentaries explain and amplify it.
The Self of all which exists in the three regions appears in the form of the Sun-god with His body of fire. The Brahman is the cause of all, and as the visible Devata is the Eye of the World and the Maker of the day who vivifies, ripens and reveals all beings and things. The Sun-god is to the sun what the Spirit (Atma) is to the body. He is the Supreme in the form of the great Luminary. His body is the Light of the world, and He Himself is the Light of the lives of all beings. He is everywhere. He is in the outer ether as the sun, and in the inner ethereal region of the heart. He is the Wondrous Light which is the smokeless Fire. He it is, who is in constant play with creation (Srishti), maintenance (Sthiti) and “destruction” (Pralaya); and by His radiance pleases both eye and mind. Let us adore Him that we may escape the misery of birth and death. May He ever direct our minds (Buddhivritti) upon the path of the world (Trivarga) and liberation (Moksha). Only the twice-born castes and men may utter this Gayatri.
To the Shudra, whether man or woman, and to women of all castes, it is forbidden.
Embracing the Sacredness: Mantras as Living Expressions of Consciousness
But the Tantra Shastra has not the exclusiveness of the Vaidik system. Thus the Mahanirvana provides (IV. 109-111) a Brahma-gayatri for all:
“May we know the Supreme Lord. Let us contemplate the Supreme Essence. And may the Brahman direct us.”
All will readily understand such Mantras as the Gayatri, though some comment, which is thought amusing, has been made on the “meaningless” Om.
I have already stated what it means, namely, (shortly speaking) the Energy (Nada) in Sadakhya Tattva which, springing from Shiva-Shakti Tattva, “solidifies” itself (Ghani-bhuta) as the creative Power of the Lord (Bindu or Ishvara Tattva) manifesting in the Trinity or Creative Energies. For further details see my Garland of Letters. “Om” then stands for the most general aspect of That as the Source of all. As it is recited, the idea arises in the mind corresponding with the sound which has been said to be the expression on the gross plane of that subtle “sound” which accompanied the first creative vibration. When rightly uttered this great syllable has an awe-inspiring effect.
As I heard this Mantra chanted by some hundred Buddhist monks (one after the other) in a northern monastery it seemed to be the distant murmuring roll of some vast cosmic ocean.
“Om” is the most prominent example of a “meaningless” Mantra, that is, one which does not bear its meaning on its face, and of what is called a seed or Bija Mantra, because they are the very quintessence of Mantra, and the seed (Bija) of the fruit which is Siddhi (spiritual achievement). These are properly monosyllabic. Om is a Vedic Bija, but it is the source of all the other tantric Bijas which represent particular Devata aspects of that which is presented as a whole in 0m.
As a Mantra-Shastra, the Tantras have greatly elaborated the Bijas, and thus incurred the charge of “gibberish,” for such the Bijas sound to those who do not know what they mean. Though a Mantra such as a Bija-mantra may not convey its meaning on its face, the initiate knows that its meaning is the own form (Svarupa) of the particular Devata whose Mantra it is, and that the essence of the Bija is that which makes letters sound, and exists in all which we say or hear.
Every Mantra is thus a particular sound form (Rupa) of the Brahman. There are a very large number of these short unetymological vocables or Bijas such as Hrim, Shrim, Krim, Hum, Hum, Phat called by various names. Thus the first is called the Maya Bija, the second Lakshmi Bija, the third Kali Bija, the fourth Kurca Bija, the fifth Varma Bija, the sixth Astra Bija. Ram is Agni Bija, Em is Yoni Bija, Klim is Kama Bija, Shrim is Badhu Bija, Aim Sarasvati Bija and so forth.
Each Devata has His or Her Bija. Thus Hrim is the Maya Bija, Krim the Kali Bija. The Bija is used in the worship of the Devata whose Mantra it is.
All these Bijas mentioned are in common use. There are a large number of others, some of which are formed with the first letters of the name of the Devata for whom they stand, such as Gam for Ganesha, Dum for Durga.
Let us then shortly see by examples what the meaning of such a Bija is. (For a fuller account see my Garland of Letters.) In the first place, the reader will observe the common ending “m” which represents the Sanskrit breathings known as Nada and Bindu or Candrabindu. These have the same meaning in all. They are the Shaktis of that name appearing in the table of the 36 Tattvas given ante. They are states of Divine Power immediately preceding the manifestation of the objective universe. The other letters denote subsequent developments of Shakti, and various aspects of the manifested Devata mentioned below.
There are sometimes variant interpretations given. Take the great Bhuvaneshvari or Maya Bija, Hrim. I have given one interpretation in my Studies above cited. From the tantric compendium, the Pranatoshini, quoting the Barada Tantra we get the following:
Hrim = H + R + I + M.
H = Shiva.
R = Shakti Prakriti.
I = Mahamaya.
“M” is as above explained, but is here stated in the form that Nada is the Progenitrix of the Universe, and Bindu which is Brahman as Ishvara and Ishvari (Ishvaratattva) is described for the Sadhaka as the “Dispeller of Sorrow”.
The meaning therefore of this Bija Mantra which is used in the worship of Mahamaya or Bhuvaneshvari is, that that Devi in Her Turiya or transcendent state is Nada and Bindu, and is the causal body manifesting as Shiva-Shakti in the form of the manifested universe.
The same idea is expressed in varying form but with the same substance by the Devigita (Ch. IV) which says that
H = gross body,
R = subtle body,
I = causal body
and M = the Turiya or transcendent fourth state.
In other words, the Sadhaka worshiping the Devi with Hrim, by that Bija calls to mind the transcendent Shakti who is the causal body of the subtle and gross bodies of all existing things.
Shrim, (see Barada Tantra) is used in the worship of Lakshmi Devi.
Sh = Alahalaksmi,
R = Wealth (Dhanartham) which as well as
I = (satisfaction or Tushtyartham)
Krim is used in the worship of Kali.
K = Kali (Shakti worshiped for relief from the world and its sorrows).
R = Brahma (Shiva with whom She is ever associated).
I = Mahamaya (Her aspect in which She overcomes for the Sadhaka the Maya in which as Creatrix She has involved him).
“Aim” is used in the worship of Sarasvati and is Vagbhava Bija.
Dum is used in the worship of Durga.
D = Durga.
U = protection.
Nada = Her aspect as Mother of the Universe, and Bindu is its Lord. The Sadhaka asks Durga as Mother-Lord to protect him, and looks on Her in her protecting aspect as upholder of the universe (Jagaddhatri).
S = saving from difficulty.
T = deliverer.
R = (here) liberation (Muktyartho repha ukto’tra).
I = Mahamaya.
Bindu = Dispeller of grief.
Nada = Mother of the Universe. She as the Lord is the dispeller of Maya and the sorrows it produces, the Savior and deliverer from all difficulties by grant of liberation.
I have dealt elsewhere (Serpent Power) with Hum and Hum the former of which is called Varma (armor) Bija and the latter Kurca, H denoting Shiva and “u”, His Bhairava or formidable aspect (see generally Vol. I, tantric Texts. Tantrabhidhana). He is an armor to the Sadhaka by His destruction of evil.
Phat is the weapon or guarding Mantra used with Hum, just as Svaha (the Shakti of Fire), is used with Vashat, in making offerings. The primary Mantra of a Devata is called Mula-Mantra.
Mantras are solar (Saura) and masculine, and lunar (Saumya) and feminine, as also neuter.
If it be asked why things of mind are given sex, the answer is for the sake of the requirements of the worshiper. The masculine and neuter forms are called specifically Mantra and the feminine Vidya, though the first term may be used for both. Neuter Mantras end with Namah. Hum, Phat are masculine terminations, and “Tham” or Svaha, feminine (see Sharadatilaka II. Narada-pañcaratra VII, Prayogasara, Pranatoshini 70).
The Nitya Tantra gives various names to Mantra according to the number of the syllables such as Pinda, Kartari, Bija, Mantra, Mala. Commonly however the term Bija is applied to monosyllabic Mantras.
The word “Mantra” comes from the root “man” to think.
“Man” is the first syllable of manana or thinking. It is also the root of the word “Man” who alone of all creation is properly a Thinker.
“Tra” comes from the root “tra,” for the effect of a Mantra when used with that end, is to save him who utters and realizes it. Tra is the first syllable of Trana or liberation from the Samsara.
By combination of man and tra, that is called Mantra which, from the religious stand-point, calls forth (Amantrana) the four aims (Chaturvarga) of sentient being as happiness in the world and eternal bliss in Liberation. Mantra is thus Thought-movement vehicled by, and expressed in, speech. Its Svarupa is, like all else, consciousness (chit) which is the Shabda-Brahman. A Mantra is not merely sound or letters. This is a form in which Shakti manifests Herself. The mere utterance of a Mantra without knowing its meaning, without realization of the consciousness which Mantra manifests is a mere movement of the lips and nothing else. We are then in the outer husk of consciousness; just as we are when we identify ourselves with any other form of gross matter which is, as it were, the “crust” (as a friend of mine has aptly called it) of those subtler forces which emerge from the Yoni or Cause of all, who is, in Herself Consciousness (Chidrupini). When the Sadhaka knows the meaning of the Mantra he makes an advance. But this is not enough. He must, through his consciousness, realize that Consciousness which appears in the form of the Mantra, and thus attain Mantra-Caitanya. At this point, thought is vitalized by contact with the center of all thinking. At this point again thought becomes truly vital and creative. Then an effect is created by the realization thus induced.
The creative power of thought is now receiving increasing acceptance in the West, which is in some cases taking over, and in others, discovering anew, for itself, what was thought by the ancients in India. Because they have discovered it anew, they call it “New Thought”; but its fundamental principle is as old as the Upanishads which said, “what you think that you become”. All recognize this principle in the limited form that a man who thinks good becomes good, and he who is ever harboring bad thought becomes bad. But the Indian and “New Thought” doctrine is more profound than this. In Vedantic India, thought has been ever held creative.
The world is a creation of the thought (chit Shakti associated with Maya Shakti) of the Lord (Ishvara and Ishvari). Her and His thought is the aggregate, with almighty powers of all thought. But each man is Shiva and can attain His powers to the degree of his ability to consciously realize himself as such. Thought now works in man’s small magic just as it first worked in the grand magical display of the World-Creator.
Each man is in various degrees a creator.
Thought is as real as any form of gross matter. Indeed it is more real in the sense that the world is itself a projection of the World-thought, which again is nothing but the aggregate in the form of the Samskaras or impressions of past experience, which give rise to the world.
The universe exists for each Jiva because he consciously or unconsciously wills it. It exists for the totality of beings because of the totality of Samskaras which are held in the Great Womb of the manifesting chit Itself. There is theoretically nothing that man cannot accomplish, for he is at base the Accomplisher of all. But, in practice, he can only accomplish to the degree that he identifies himself with the Supreme Consciousness and Its forces, which underlie, are at work in, and manifest as, the universe.
This is the basal doctrine of all magic, of all powers (Siddhi) including the greatest Siddhi which is Liberation itself.
He who knows Brahman, becomes Brahman to the extent of his “knowing”. Thought-reading, thought-transference, hypnotic suggestion, magical projections (Mokshana) and shields (Grahana) are becoming known and practiced in the West, not always with good results.
For this reason some doctrines and practices are kept concealed. Projection (Mokshana) the occultist will understand. But Grahana, I may here explain, is not so much a “fence” in the Western sense, to which use a Kavaca is put, but the knowledge of how to “catch” a Mantra thus projected. A stone thrown at one may be warded off or caught and, if the person so wishes, thrown back at him who threw it.
So may a Mantra. It is not necessary, however, to do so. Those who are sheltered by their own pure strength, automatically throw back all evil influences, which, coming back to the ill-wisher, harm or destroy him. Those familiar with the Western presentment of similar matters will more readily understand than others who, like the Orientalist and Missionary, as a rule know nothing of occultism and regard it as superstition.
For this reason their presentment of Indian teaching is so often ignorant and absurd. The occultist, however, will understand the Indian doctrine which regards thought like mind, of which it is the operation, as a Power or Shakti; something therefore, very real and creative by which man can accomplish things for himself and others. Kind thoughts, without a word, will do good to all who surround us, and may travel round the world to distant friends.
So we may suffer from the ill-wishes of those who surround us, even if such wishes do not materialize into deeds.
Telepathy is the transference of thought from a distance without the use of the ordinary sense organs. So, in initiation, the thought of a true Guru may pass to his disciple all his powers. Mantra is thus a Shakti (Mantra Shakti) which lends itself impartially to any use. Man can identify himself with any of nature’s forces and for any end. Thus, to deal with the physical effects of Mantra, it may be used to injure, kill or do good; by Mantra again a kind of union with the physical Shakti is, by some, said to be effected.
So the Vishnu-Purana speaks of generation by will power, as some Westerners believe will be the case when man passes beyond the domination of his gross sheath and its physical instruments. Children will then again be “mind-born”. By Mantra, the Homa fire may, it is said, be lit. By Mantra, again, in the tantric initiation called Vedha-diksha there is, it is said, such a transference of power from the Guru to his disciple that the latter swoons under the impulse of the thought-power which pierces him. But Mantra is also that by which man identifies himself with That which is the Ground of all. In short, Mantra is a power (Shakti) in the form of idea clothed with sound. What, however, is not yet understood in the West is the particular Thought-science which is Mantravidya, or its basis. Much of the “New Thought” lacks this philosophical basis which is supplied by Mantravidya, resting itself on the Vedantik doctrine. Mantravidya is thus that form of Sadhana by which union is had with the Mother Shakti in the Mantra form (Mantramayi), in Her Sthula and Sukshma aspects respectively. The Sadhaka passes from the first to the second. This Sadhana works through the letters, as other forms of Sadhana work through form in the shape of the Yantra, Ghata or Pratima. All such Sadhana belongs to Shaktopaya Yoga as distinguished from the introspective meditative processes of Shambhavopaya which seeks more directly the realization of Shakti, which is the end common to both. The tantric doctrine as regards Shabda is that of the Mimamsa with this exception that it is modified to meet its main doctrine of Shakti,
In order to understand what a Mantra is, we must know its cosmic history. The mouth speaks a word. What is it and whence has it come’. As regards the evolution of consciousness as the world, I refer my reader to the Chapters on “chit-Shakti and Maya-Shakti” dealing with the 36 Tattvas. Ultimately, there is Consciousness which in its aspect as the great “I” sees the object as part of itself, and then as other than itself, and thus has experience of the universe. This is achieved through Shakti who, in the words of the Kamakalavilasa, is the pure mirror in which Shiva experiences Himself (Shivarupa-vimarshanirmala-darshah). Neither Shiva nor Shakti alone suffices for creation. Shivarupa here = Svarupa. Aham ityevamakaram, that is, the form (or experience) which consists in the notion of “I”. Shakti is the pure mirror for the manifestation of Shiva’s experience as “I” (Aham). Aham ityevam rupam jñanam tasya praka-shane nirmaladarshah; as the commentator Natanananda (V-2) says. The notion is, of course, similar to that of the reflection of Purusha on Prakriti as Sattvamayi Buddhi and of Brahman on Maya. From the Mantra aspect starting from Shakti (Shakti-Tattva) associated with Shiva (Shiva-Tattva), there was produced Nada, and from Nada, came Bindu which, to distinguish it from other Bindus, is known as the causal, supreme or Great Bindu (Karana, Para, Mahabindu). This is very clearly set forth in the Sharada Tilaka, a tantric work by an author of the Kashmirian School which was formerly of great authority among the Bengal Shaktas. I have dealt with this subject in detail in my Garland of Letters. Here I only summarize conclusions.
Shabda literally means and is usually translated “sound,” the word coming from the root Shabd “to sound”. It must not, however, be wholly identified with sound in the sense of that which is heard by the ear, or sound as effect of cosmic stress. Sound in this sense is the effect produced through excitation of the ear and brain, by vibrations of the atmosphere between certain limits. Sound so understood exists only with the sense organs of hearing. And even then it may be perceived by some and not by others, due to keenness or otherwise of natural hearing.
Further the best ears will miss what the microphone gives. Considering Shabda from its primary or causal aspect, independent of the effect which it may or may not produce on the sense organs, it is vibration (Spandana) of any kind or motion, which is not merely physical motion, which may become sound for human ears, given the existence of ear and brain and the fulfillment of other physical conditions. Thus, Shabda is the possibility of sound, and may not be actual sound for this individual or that. There is thus Shabda wherever there is motion or vibration of any kind. It is now said, that the electrons revolve in a sphere of positive electrification at an enormous rate of motion. If the arrangement be stable, we have an atom of matter. If some of the electrons are pitched off from the atomic system, what is called radio-activity is observed. Both these rotating and shooting electrons are forms of vibration as Shabda, though it is no sound for mortal ears.
To a Divine Ear all such movements would constitute the “music of the spheres”. Were the human ear subtle enough, a living tree would present itself to it in the form of a particular sound which is the natural word for that tree. It is said of ether (Akasha) that its Guna or quality is sound (Shabda); that is, ether is the possibility of Spandana or vibration of any kind. It is that state of the primordial “material” substance (Prakriti) which makes motion or vibration of any kind possible (Shabdaguna akashah). The Brahman Svarupa or chit is motionless. It is also known as Cidakasha. But this Akasha is not created. Chidakasha is the Brahman in which stress of any kind manifests itself, a condition from which the whole creation proceeds. This Chidakasha is known as the Shabda-Brahman through its Maya-shakti, which is the cause of all vibrations manifesting themselves as sound to the ear, as touch to the tactile sense, as color and form to the eye, as taste to the tongue and as odor to the nose. All mental functioning again is a form of vibration (Spandana). Thought is a vibration of mental substance just as the expression of thought in the form of the spoken word is a vibration affecting the ear. All Spandana presupposes heterogeneity (Vaishamya). Movement of any kind implies inequality of tensions. Electric current flows between two points because there is a difference of potential between them. Fluid flows from one point to another because there is difference of pressure. Heat travels because there is difference of temperature. In creation (Srishti) this condition of heterogeneity appears and renders motion possible. Akasha is the possibility of Spandana of any kind. Hence its precedence in the order of creation. Akasha means Brahman with Maya, which Mayashakti or (to use the words of Professor P. N. Mukhyopadhyaya) Stress is rendered actual, from a previous state of possibility of stress which is the Sakti’s natural condition of equilibrium (Prakriti = Samyavastha). In dissolution, the Maya-Shakti of Brahman (according to the periodic law which is a fundamental postulate of Indian cosmogony) returns to homogeneity when in consequence Akasha disappears. This disappearance means that Shakti is equilibrated, and that therefore there is no further possibility of motion of any kind. As the Tantras say, the Divine Mother becomes one with Paramashiva.
The Sharada says — From the Sakala Parameshvara who is Sacchidananda issued Shakti; from Shakti came Nada; and from Nada issued Bindu.
Sacchidanandavibhavat sakalat parameshvarat
Asicchhaktistato nado nadad bindusamudbhavah.
Here the Sakala Parameshvara is Shiva Tattva. Shakti is Shakti Tattva wherein are Samani, Vyapini, and Anjani Shaktis. Nada is the first produced source of Mantra, and the subtlest form of Shabda of which Mantra is a manifestation. Nada is threefold, as Mahanada or Nadanta and Nirodhini representing the first moving forth of the Shabda-Brahman as Nada, the filling up of the whole universe with Nadanta and the specific tendency towards the next state of unmanifested Shabda respectively. Nada in its three forms is in the Sadakhya Tattva. Nada becoming slightly operative towards the “speakable” (Vacya), (the former operation being in regard to the thinkable (Mantavya) ) is called Arddhacandra which develops into Bindu. Both of these are in Ishvara Tattva.
This Mahabindu is threefold as the Kamakala. The undifferentiated Shabda-Brahman or Brahman as the immediate cause of the manifested Shabda and Artha is a unity of consciousness (Caitanya) which then expresses itself in three-fold function as the three Shaktis, Iccha, Jñana, Kriya; the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas, Tamas; the three Bindus (Karyya) which are Sun, Moon and Fire; the three Devatas, Rudra, Vishnu, Brahma and so forth. These are the product of the union of Prakasha and Vimarsha Shakti.
This Triangle of Divine Desire is the Kamakala, or Creative Will and its first subtle manifestation, the Cause of the Universe which is personified as the Great Devi Tripurasundari, the Kameshvara and Kameshvari, the object of worship in the Agamas. Kamakalavilasa, as explained in the work of that name, is the manifestation of the union of Shiva and Shakti, the great “I” (Aham) which develops through the inherent power of its thought-activity (Vimarsha-Shakti) into the universe, unknowing as Jiva its true nature and the secret of its growth through Avidya Shakti.
Here then there appears the duality of subject and object; of mind and matter, of the word (Shabda) and its meaning (Artha). The one is not the cause of the other, but each is inseparable from, and concomitant with, the other as a bifurcation of the undifferentiated unity of Shabda-Brahman whence they proceed.
The one cosmic movement produces at the same time the mind and the object which it cognizes; names (Nama) and language (Shabda) on the one hand; and forms (Rupa) or object (Artha) on the other. These are all parts of one coordinated contemporaneous movement, and, therefore, each aspect of the process is related the one to the other. The genesis of Shabda is only one aspect of the creative process, namely, that in which the Brahman is regarded as the Author of Shabda and Artha into which the undifferentiated Shabda-Brahman divides Itself. Shakti is Shabda-Brahman ready to create both Shabda and Artha on the differentiation of the Parabindu into the Kamakala, which is the root (Mula) of all Mantras. Shabda-Brahman is Supreme “Speech” (Para-Vak) or Supreme Shabda (Para-Shabda). From this fourth state of Shabda, there are three others — Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari, which are the Shabda aspect of the stages whereby the seed of formless consciousness explicates into the multitudinous concrete ideas (expressed in language of the mental world) the counterpart of the objective universe. But for the last three states of sound the body is required and, therefore, they only exist in the Jiva. In the latter, the Shabda-Brahman is in the form of Kundalini Shakti in the Muladhara Chakra.
In Kundalini is Parashabda. This develops into the “Matrikas” or “Little Mothers” which are the subtle forms of the gross manifested letters (Varna). The letters make up syllables (Pada) and syllables make sentences (Vakya), of which elements the Mantra is composed. Para Shabda in the body develops in Pashyanti Shabda or Shakti of general movements (Samanya Spanda) located in the tract from the Muladhara to the Manipura associated with Manas. It then in the tract upwards to the Anahata becomes Madhyama or Hiranyagarbha sound with particularized movement (Vishesha Spanda) associated with Buddhi-Tattva. Vayu proceeding upwards to the throat expresses itself in spoken speech which is Vaikhari or Virat Shabda. Now it is that the Mantra issues from the mouth and is heard by the ear. Because the one cosmic movement produces the ideating mind and its accompanying Shabda and the objects cognized or Artha, the creative force of the universe is identified with the Matrikas and Varnas, and Devi is said to be in the forms of the letters from A to Ha, which are the gross expressions of the forces called Matrika; which again are not different from, but are the same forces that evolve into the universe of mind and matter. These Varnas are, for the same reason, associated with certain vital and physiological centers which are produced by the same power that gives birth to the letters. It is by virtue of these centers and their controlled area in the body that all the phenomena of human psychosis run on, and keep man in bondage. The creative force is the union of Shiva and Shakti, and each of the letters (Varna) produced therefrom and thereby are part and parcel of that Force, and are, therefore, Shiva and Shakti in those particular forms. For this reason, the Tantra Shastra says that Devata and Mantra composed of letters, are one. In short, Mantras are made of letters (Varna). Letters are Matrika. Matrika is Shakti and Shakti is Shiva. Through Shakti (one with Shiva) Nada-Shakti, Bindu-Shakti, the Shabda-Brahman or Para Shabda, arise the Matrika, Varna, Pada, Vakya of the lettered Mantra or manifested Shabda.
But what is Shabda or “Sound”? Here the Shakta Tantra Shastra follows the Mimamsa doctrine of Shabda, with such modifications as are necessary to adapt it to its doctrine of Shakti. Sound (Shabda) which is quality (Guna) of ether (Akasha) and is sensed by hearing is twofold, namely, lettered (Varnatmaka Shabda) and unlettered or Dhvani (Dhvanyatmaka Shabda). The latter is caused by the striking of two things together, and is apparently meaningless. Shabda, on the contrary, which is Anahata (a term applied to the Heart-Lotus) is that Brahman sound which is not caused by the striking of two things together.
Lettered sound is composed of sentences (Vakya), words (Pada) and letters (Varna). Such sound has a meaning. Shabda manifesting as speech is said to be eternal. This the Naiyayikas deny saying that it is transitory. A word is uttered and it is gone. This opinion the Mlmamsa denies saying that the perception of lettered sound must be distinguished from lettered sound itself. Perception is due to Dhvani caused by the striking of the air in contact with the vocal organs, namely, the throat, palate and tongue and so forth. Before there is Dhvani there must be the striking of one thing against another. It is not the mere striking which is the lettered Shabda. This manifests it. The lettered sound is produced by the formation of the vocal organs in contact with air; which formation is in response to the mental movement or idea which by the will thus seeks outward expression in audible sound. It is this perception which is transitory, for the Dhvani which manifests ideas in language is such. But lettered sound as it is in itself, that is, as the Consciousness manifesting Idea expressed in speech is eternal. It was not produced at the moment it was perceived. It was only manifested by the Dhvani. It existed before, as it exists after, such manifestation, just as a jar in a dark room which is revealed by a flash of lightning is not then produced, nor does it cease to exist on its ceasing to be perceived through the disappearance of its manifester, the lightning. The air in contact with the voice organs reveals sound in the form of the letters of the alphabet, and their combinations in words and sentences. The letters are produced for hearing by the person desiring to speak, and become audible to the ear of others through the operation of unlettered sound or Dhvani. The latter being a manifester only, lettered Shabda is something other than its manifester.
Before describing the nature of Shabda in its different form of development, it is necessary to understand the Indian psychology of perception. At each moment, the Jiva is subject to innumerable influences which from all quarters of the Universe pour upon him. Only those reach his Consciousness which attract his attention and are thus selected by his Manas. The latter attends to one or other of these sense-impressions and conveys it to the Buddhi. When an object (Artha) is presented to the mind, and perceived, the latter is formed into the shape of the object perceived. This is called a mental Vritti (modification) which it is the object of Yoga to suppress. The mind as a Vritti is thus a representation of the outer subject. But, in so far as it is such representation, the mind is as much an object as the outer one. The latter, that is, the physical object, is called the gross object (Sthula artha), and the former or mental impression is called the subtle object (Sukshma artha). But, besides the object, there is the mind which perceives it. It follows that the mind has two aspects, in one of which it is the perceiver, and in the other the perceived in the form of the mental formation (Vritti), which in creation precedes its outer projection, and after the creation follows as the impression produced in the mind by the sensing of a gross physical object.
The mental impression and the physical object exactly correspond, for the physical object is in fact but a projection of the cosmic imagination, though it has the same reality as the mind has; no more and no less. The mind is thus both cognizer (Grahaka) and cognized Grahya), revealer (Prakashaka) and revealed (Prakashaya), denoter (Vacaka) and denoted (Vacya). When the mind perceives an object, it is transformed into the shape of that object. So the mind which thinks of the Divinity which it worships (Ishtadevata) is, at length, through continued devotion, transformed into the likeness of that Devata. By allowing the Devata thus to occupy the mind for long, it becomes as pure as the Devata. This is a fundamental principle of tantric Sadhana or religious practice. The object perceived is called Artha, a term which comes from the root “Ri,” which means to get, to know, to enjoy. Artha is that which is known and which, therefore, is an object of enjoyment. The mind as Artha, that is in the form of the mental impression, is an exact reflection of the outer object or gross Artha. As the outer object is Artha, so is the interior subtle mental form which corresponds to it. That aspect of the mind which cognizes is called Shabda or Nama (name), and that aspect in which it is its own object or cognized is called Artha or Rupa (form). The outer physical object, of which the latter is in the individual an impression, is also Artha or Rupa, and spoken speech is the outer Shabda.
The mind is thus, from the Mantra aspect, Shabda and Artha, terms corresponding to the Vedantic Nama and Rupa or concepts and concepts objectified. The Mayavada Vedanta says that the whole creation is Nama and Rupa. Mind as Shabda is the Power (Shakti) the function of which is to distinguish and identify (Bhedasamsargavritti-Shakti).
Just as the body is causal, subtle and gross, so is Shabda, of which there are four states (Bhava) called Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari. Para sound is that which exists on the differentiation of the Mahabindu before actual manifestation. This is a motionless, causal Shabda in Kundalini, in the Muladhara center of the body. That aspect of it in which it commences to move with a general, that is, non-particularized, motion (Samanya Spanda) is Pashyanti whose place is from the Muladhara to the Manipura Chakra, the next center. It is here associated with Manas. These represent the motionless and first moving Ishvara aspect of Shabda. Madhyama Shabda is associated with Buddhi. It is Hiranyagarbha sound (Hiranyagarbharupa) extending from Pashyanti to the heart.
Both Madhyama sound which is the inner “naming” by the cognitive aspect of mental movement, as also its Artha or subtle (Sukshma) object (Artha) belong to the mental or subtle body (Sukshma or Linga Sharira).
Perception is dependent on distinguishing and identification. In the perception of an object that part of the mind which identifies and distinguishes and thus “names” or the cognizing part is, from the Shabda aspect, subtle Shabda: and that part of it which takes the shape of, and thus constitutes, the object (a shape which corresponds with the outer thing) is subtle Artha. The perception of an object is thus consequent on the simultaneous functioning of the mind in its two-fold aspect as Shabda and Artha, which are in indissoluble relation with one another as cognizer (Grahaka) and cognized Grahya).
Both belong to the subtle body. In creation Madhyama sound first appeared. At that movement there was no outer Artha. Then the Cosmic Mind projected this inner Madhyama Artha into the world of sensual experience and named it in spoken speech (Vaikhari Shabda).
The last or Vaikhari Shabda is uttered speech, developed in the throat, issuing from the mouth. This is Virat Shabda. Vaikhari Shabda is therefore language or gross lettered sound. Its corresponding Artha is the physical or gross object which language denotes. This belongs to the gross body (Sthula Sharira). Madhyama Shabda is mental movement or ideation in its cognitive aspect and Madhyama Artha is the mental impression of the gross object. The inner thought-movement in its aspect as (Vacaka) and denoted (Vacya).
When the mind perceives an object, it is transformed into the shape of that object. So the mind which thinks of the Divinity which it worships (Ishtadevata) is, at length, through continued devotion, transformed into the likeness of that Devata. By allowing the Devata thus to occupy the mind for long, it becomes as pure as the Devata.
This is a fundamental principle of tantric Sadhana or religious practice. The object perceived is called Artha, a term which comes from the root “Ri,” which means to get, to know, to enjoy. Artha is that which is known and which, therefore, is an object of enjoyment. The mind as Artha, that is in the form of the mental impression, is an exact reflection of the outer object or gross Artha. As the outer object is Artha, so is the interior’s subtle mental form which corresponds to it. That aspect of the mind which cognizes is called Shabda or Nama (name), and that aspect in which it is its own object or cognized is called Artha or Rupa (form).
The outer physical object, of which the latter is in the individual, an impression, is also Artha or Rupa, and spoken speech is the outer Shabda. The mind is thus, from the Mantra aspect, Shabda and Artha, terms corresponding to the Vedantic Nama and Rupa or concepts and concepts objectified. The Mayavada Vedanta says that the whole creation is Nama and Rupa. Mind as Shabda is the Power (Shakti) the function of which is to distinguish and identify (Bhedasamsargavritti-Shakti).
Just as the body is causal, subtle and gross, so is Shabda, of which there are four states (Bhava) called Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari. Para sound is that which exists on the differentiation of the Mahabindu before actual manifestation. This is motionless, causal Shabda in Kundalini, in the Muladhara center of the body. That aspect of it in which it commences to move with a general, that is, non-particularized, motion (Samanya Spanda) is Pashyanti whose place is from the Muladhara to the Manipura Chakra, the next center. It is here associated with Manas. These represent the motionless and first moving Ishvara aspect of Shabda. Madhyama Shabda is associated with Buddhi. It is Hiranyagarbha sound (Hiranyagarbharupa) extending from Pashyanti to the heart. Both Madhyama sound which is the inner “naming” by the cognitive aspect of mental movement, as also its Artha or subtle (Sukshma) object (Artha) belong to the mental or subtle body (Sukshma or Linga Sharira). Perception is dependent on distinguishing and identification. In the perception of an object that part of the mind which identifies and distinguishes and thus “names” or the cognizing part is, from the Shabda aspect, subtle Shabda: and that part of it which takes the shape of, and thus constitutes, the object (a shape which corresponds with the outer thing) is subtle Artha.
The perception of an object is thus consequent on the simultaneous functioning of the mind in its two-fold aspect as Shabda and Artha, which are in indissoluble relation with one another as cognizer (Grahaka) and cognized Grahya). Both belong to the subtle body. In creation Madhyama sound first appeared. At that movement there was no outer Artha. Then the Cosmic Mind projected this inner Madhyama Artha into the world of sensual experience and named it in spoken speech (Vaikhari Shabda). The last or Vaikhari Shabda is uttered speech, developed in the throat, issuing from the mouth. This is Virat Shabda. Vaikhari Shabda is therefore language or gross lettered sound. Its corresponding Artha is the physical or gross object which language denotes. This belongs to the gross body (Sthula Sharira). Madhyama Shabda is mental movement or ideation in its cognitive aspect and Madhyama Artha is the mental impression of the gross object. The inner thought-movement in its aspect as Shabdartha, and considered both in its knowing aspect (Shabda) and as the subtle known object (Artha) belongs to the subtle body (Sukshma Sharira). The cause of these two is the first general movement towards particular ideation (Pashyanti) from the motionless cause Para Shabda or Supreme Speech. Two forms of inner or hidden speech, causal, subtle, accompanying mind movement thus precede and lead up to spoken language. The inner forms of ideating movement constitute the subtle, and the uttered sound the gross aspect of Mantra which is the manifested Shabda-Brahman.
The gross Shabda called Vaikhari or uttered speech, and the gross Artha or the physical object denoted by that speech are the projection of the subtle Shabda and Artha, through the initial activity of the Shabda-Brahman into the world of gross sensual perception. Therefore, in the gross physical world, Shabda means language, that is, sentences, words and letters which are the expression of ideas and are Mantra. In the subtle or mental world, Madhyama sound is the Shabda aspect of the mind which “names” in its aspect as cognizer, and Artha, is the same mind in its aspect as the mental object of its cognition. It is defined to be the outer in the form of the mind. It is thus similar to the state of dreams (Svapna), as Parashabda is the causal dreamless (Sushupti), and Vaikhari the waking (Jagrat) state. Mental Artha is a Samsara, an impression left on the subtle body by previous experience, which is recalled when the Jiva reawakes to world experience, and recollects the experience temporarily lost in the cosmic dreamless state (Sushupti) which is destruction (Pralaya). What is it which arouses this Samskara? As an effect (Kriya) it must have a cause (Karana). This Karana is the Shabda or Name (Nama) subtle or gross corresponding to that particular Artha. When the word “Ghata” is uttered, this evokes in the mind the image of an object, namely, a jar; just as the presentation of that object does. In the Hiranyagarbha state, Shabda as Samskara worked to evoke mental images. The whole world is thus Shabda and Artha, that is Name and Form (Nama, Rupa). These two are inseparably associated. There is no Shabda without Artha or Artha without Shabda. The Greek word “Logos” also means thought and word combined.
There is thus a double line of creation, Shabda and Artha; ideas and language together with objects. Speech as that which is heard, or the outer manifestation of Shabda, stands for the Shabda creation. The Artha creation are the inner and outer objects seen by the mental or physical vision. From the cosmic creative standpoint, the mind comes first, and from it, is evolved the physical world according to the ripened Samskaras which led to the existence of the particular existing universe. Therefore, the mental Artha precedes the physical Artha which is an evolution in gross matter of the former. This mental state corresponds to that of dreams (Svapna), when man lives in the mental world only. After creation which is the waking ( Jagrat) state, there is for the individual an already existing parallelism of names and objects.
Uttered speech is a manifestation of the inner naming or thought. This thought-movement is similar in men of all races. When an Englishman or an Indian thinks of an object, the image is to both the same, whether evoked by the object itself or by the utterance of its name. For this reason possibly if thought-reading be accepted, a thought-reader whose cerebral center is en rapport with that of another, may read the hidden “speech,” that is thought, of one whose spoken speech he cannot understand. Thus, whilst the thought-movement is similar in all men, the expression of it as Vaikhari Shabda differs. According to tradition there was once a universal language. According to the Biblical account, this was so, before the confusion of tongues at the Tower of Babel.
Similarly there is, (a friend tells me though he has forgotten to send me the reference), in the Rigveda, a mysterious passage which speaks of the “Three Fathers and three Mothers,” by whose action like that of the Elohim “all-comprehending speech” was made into that which was not so. Nor is this unlikely, when we consider that difference in gross speech is due to difference of races evolved in the course of time. If the instruments by which, and conditions under which thought is revealed in speech, were the same for all men then there would be but one language. But now this is not so. Racial characteristics and physical conditions, such as the nature of the vocal organs, climate, inherited impressions and so forth differ. So also does language. But for each particular man speaking any particular language, the uttered name of any object is the gross expression of his inner thought-movement. It evokes the idea and the idea is consciousness as mental operation. That operation can be so intensified as to be itself creative. This is Mantra-Caitanya.
It is said in the Tantra Shastras that the fifty letters of the alphabet are in the six bodily Chakras called Muladhara, Svadhisthana, Manipura, Anahata, Vishuddha and Ajña. These 50 letters multiplied by 20 are in the thousand-pealed Lotus or Sahasrara.
From the above account, it will be understood that, when it is said that the “Letters” are in the six bodily Chakras, it is not to be supposed that it is intended to absurdly affirm that the letters as written shapes, or as the uttered sounds which are heard by the ear are there. The letters in this sense, that is, as gross things, are manifested only in speech and writing. This much is clear. But the precise significance of this statement is a matter of some difficulty. There is in fact no subject which presents more difficulties than Mantravidya, whether considered generally or in relation to the particular matters in hand. I do not pretend to have elucidated all its difficulties.
What proceeds from the body is in it in subtle or causal form. Why, however, it may be asked are particular letters assigned to particular Chakras. I have heard several explanations given which do not, in my opinion, bear the test of examination.
If the arrangement be not artificial for the purpose of Sadhana, the simplest explanation is that which follows: From the Brahman are produced the five Bhutas, Ether, Air, Fire, Water, Earth, in the order stated; and from them issued the six Chakras from Ajña to Muladhara. The letters are (with the exception next stated) placed in the Chakras in their alphabetical order; that is, vowels as being the first letters or Shaktis of the consonants (which cannot be pronounced without them) are placed in Vishuddha Chakra: the first consonants Ka to Tha in Anahata and so forth until the Muladhara wherein are set the last four letters from Va to Sa. Thus in Ajña there are Ha and Ksha as being Brahmabijas. In the next or Vishuddha Chakra are the 16 vowels which originated first. Therefore, they are placed in Vishuddha the ethereal Cakra; ether also having originated first.
The same principle applies to the other letters in the Chakras. Namely;
Ka, to Tha (12 letters and petals) in Anahata;
Da to Pha (10) in Manipura;
Ba to La (6) in Svadhisthana;
and Va to Sa (4) in Muladhara.
The connection between particular letters and the Chakras in which they are placed is further said to be due to the fact that in uttering any particular letter, the Cakra in which it is placed and its surroundings are brought into play.
The sounds of the Sanskrit alphabet are classified according to the organs used in their articulation, and are guttural (Kantha), palatals (Talu), cerebrals (Murddha), dentals (Danta) and labials (Oshtha). When so articulated, each letter, it is said, “touches” the Chakra in which it is, and in which on this account it has been placed. In uttering them certain Chakras are affected; that is, brought into play. This, it is alleged, will be found to be so, if the letter is carefully pronounced and attention is paid to the accompanying bodily movement. Thus, in uttering Ha, the head (Ajña) is touched, and in uttering the deep-seated Va, the basal Cakra or Muladhara. In making the first sound the forehead is felt to be affected, and in making the last the lower part of the body around the root-lotus. This is the theory put forth as accounting for the position of the letters in the Chakras.
A Mantra is, like everything else, Shakti. But the mere utterance of a Mantra without more is a mere movement of the lips. The Mantra must be awakened (Prabuddha) just like any other Shakti if effect is to be had therefrom.
This is the union of sound and idea through a knowledge of the Mantra and its meaning.
Manifest LOVE | Creating The inner LOVER
The recitation of a Mantra without knowing its meaning is practically fruitless. I say “practically” because devotion, even though it be ignorant, is never wholly void of fruit.Essence and Sanskrit Grammar Mantra Chanting Sound Vibrations
But a knowledge of the meaning is not enough; for it is possible by reading a book or receiving oral instructions to get to know the meaning of a Mantra, without anything further following.
Sir John Woodroffe, who wrote under the pseudonym of Arthur Avalon, was a Western scholar in the best traditions who brought important Hindu texts and teachings to the West, including the classic work on Kundalini yoga, The Serpent Power. His books were published to the public domain.
In Shakti and Shakta, Arthur Avalon explores the teachings of the “Bharata Dharma,” the common thread of tradition that links Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, as they relate to the divine feminine, expressed as “Shakti” or power in contrast to “Shiva” or unchanging consciousness.
Each Mantra is the embodiment of a particular form of Consciousness or Shakti. This is the Mantra-Shakti. Consciousness or Shakti also exists in the form of the Sadhaka. The object then is to unite these two, when thought is not only in the outer husk, but is vitalized by will, knowledge, and action through its conscious center in union with that of the Mantra. The latter is Devata or a particular manifestation of Shakti: and the Sadhaka who identifies himself therewith, identifies himself with that Shakti. According to Yoga when the mind is concentrated on any object it is unified with it. When man is so identified with a Varna or Tattva, then the power of objects to bind ceases, and he becomes the controller. Thus, in Kundalini-Yoga, the static bodily Shakti pierces the Chakras, to meet Shiva-Shakti in the Sahasrara. As the Sadhaka is, through the power of the rising Shakti, identified with each of the Centers, Tattvas and Matrika Shaktis they cease to bind, until passing through all he attains Samadhi. As the Varnas are Shiva-Shakti, concentration on them draws the mind towards, and then unifies it with, the Devata which is one with the Mantra. The Devata of the Mantra is only the creative Shakti assuming that particular form. As already stated, Devata may be realized in any object, not merely in Mantras, Yantras, Ghatas, Pratimas or other ritual objects of worship.
The same power which manifests to the ear in the Mantra is represented in the lines and curves of the Yantra which, the Kaulavali Tantra says, is the body of the Devata:
Yantram mantramayam proktam mantratma devataiva hi
Dehatmanor yatha bhedo yantra-devata yoshtatha.
The Yantra is thus the graphic symbol of the Shakti, indicated by the Mantra with which identification takes place. The Pratima or image is a grosser visual form of the Devata. But the Mantras are particular forms of Divine Shakti, the realization of which is efficacious to produce particular results. As in Kundalini– Yoga, so also here the identification of the Sadhaka with different Mantras gives rise to various Vibhutis or powers: for each grouping of the letters represents a new combination of the Matrika Shaktis. It is the eternal Shakti who is the life of the Mantra. Therefore, Siddhi in Mantra Sadhana is the union of the Sadhaka’s
Shakti with the Mantra Shakti; the identification of the Sadhaka with the Mantra is the identification of the knower (Vedaka), knowing (Vidya) and known (Vedya) or the Sadhaka, Mantra and Devata. Then the Mantra works. The mind must feed, and is always feeding, something. It seizes the Mantra and works its way to its heart. When there, it is the chitta or mind of the Sadhaka unified with the Shakti of the Mantra which works.
Then subject and object, in its Mantra form, meet as one. By meditation the Sadhaka gains unity with the Devata behind, as it were, the Mantra and Whose form the Mantra is. The union of the Sadhaka of the Mantra and the Devata of the Mantra is the result of the effort to realize permanently the incipient desire for such union. The will towards Divinity is a dynamic force which pierces everything and finds there Divinity itself.
It is because Westerners and some Westernized Hindus do not understand the principles of Mantra; principles which lie at the center of Indian religious theory and practice, that they see nothing in it where they do not regard it as gross superstition. It must be admitted that Mantra Sadhana is often done ignorantly.
Faith is placed in externals and the inner meaning is often lost. But even such ignorant worship is better than none at all. “It is better to bow to Narayana with one’s shoes on than never to bow at all.” Much also is said of “vain repetitions”. What Christ condemned was not repetition but “vain” repetition.
That man is a poor psychologist who does not know the effect of repetition, when done with faith and devotion. It is a fact that the inner kingdom yields to violence and can be taken by assault.
Indeed, it yields to nothing but the strong will of the Sadhaka, for it is that will in its purest and fullest strength. By practice with the Mantra, the Devata is invoked. This means that the mind itself is Devata when unified with Devata. This is attained through repetition of the Mantra (Japa).
Japa is compared to the action of a man shaking a sleeper to wake him up. The Sadhaka’s own consciousness is awakened. The two lips are Shiva and Shakti. The movement in utterance is the “coition” (Maithuna) of the two. Shabda which issues therefrom is in the nature of Bindu. The Devata then appearing is, as it were, the son of the Sadhaka. It is not the supreme Devata who appears (for It is actionless), but in all cases an emanation produced by the Sadhaka’s worship for his benefit only. In the case of worshipers of the Shiva-Mantra, a Boy-Shiva (Bala-Shiva) appears who is then made strong by the nurture which the Sadhaka gives him. The occultist will understand all such symbolism to mean that the Devata is a form of the Consciousness which becomes the Boy-Shiva, and which, when strengthened is the full-grown Divine Power Itself. All Mantras are forms of consciousness (Vijñanarupa), and when the Mantra is fully practiced it enlivens the Samskara, and the Artha appears to the mind. Mantras used in worship are thus a form of the Samskaras of Jivas; the Artha of which manifests to the consciousness which is pure. The essence of all this is — concentrate and vitalize thought and will power, that is Shakti.
The Mantra method is Shaktopaya Yoga working with concepts and form, whilst Shambhavopaya Yoga has been well said to be a more direct attempt at intuition of Shakti, apart from all passing concepts, which, as they cannot show the Reality, only serve to hide it the more from one’s view and thus maintain bondage. These Yoga methods are but examples of the universal principle of Sadhana, that the Sadhaka should first work with and through form, and then, so far as may be, by a meditation which dispenses with it.
It has been pointed out to me by Professor Surendra Nath Das Gupta that this Varna-Sadhana, so important a content of the Tantra Shastra, is not altogether its creation, but, as I have often in other matters observed, a development of ancient Vaidik teaching. For it was, he says, first attempted in the Aranyaka Epoch upon the Pradkopasana on which the tantric Sadhana is, he suggests, based; though, of course, that Shastra has elaborated the notion into a highly complicated system which is so peculiar a feature of its religious discipline. There is thus a synthesis of this Pratikopasana with Yoga method, resting as all else upon a Vedantic basis.