Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita, Pt. 7


Bija Salagram
Early Bengal School, c. 1890

Mar 07, 2012 — CANADA (SUN) — A serial presentation the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita.

Contents of the Ahirbudhnya Samhita (Continued)

Chapters 16 to 19. In addition to the forms described, the Sudarshana or Kriya Shakti manifests itself also in the form of Mantras, that is, sounds (and their graphic symbols) and the holy utterances composed of these. The description of this so-called Mantramayi Kriyasakti (16. 9-10) or "Sound-body of Laksmi" (16.44) is the object of the next adhyayas.

Chapter 16 begins by asking who is entitled to benefit by this form of the Shakti. The answer is that it is the prerogative of the Brahmana who acts in agreement with his king. The latter is praised in exalted terms as the tout ensemble of the gods, etc., and a forcible description is given (sl. 20-27) of the interdependence of the two higher castes which are like Agni and Soma, and neither of which can prosper without the other. The higher a sovereign, the more is he entitled to the use of the Mantra Shakti: most of all the cakracartin, then the mundalesvara, further the cisayesvara, and finally also the chief minister (mahamatra], supposing he belongs to the twice-born.

(Sl. 36 fll.) Speech begins with the Nada resembling the sound of a deep bell and perceptible to perfect Yogins only; the Nada develops into the Bindu (Anusvara) which is twofold, as the sabha-brahman or "Sound Brahman" and the Bhuti (related to each other as the name and the bearer of the name); and then from the Bindu proceed the two kinds of sounds, to wit the vowels (svara) and the consonants (vyanjana). The vowels appear in the following order: first the a called anuttara ("chief" sound), then the i, then the u, from which spring the corresponding long vowels and, on the other hand, by mutual union, the diphthongs: a+i=e, a+e=ai, etc., and further, by amalgamation with a consonantal element (r, l), the r and l sounds.

Lotus Mandala

In accordance with the theory of the four states of sound (Para, Pasyanti, Madhyama, and Vaikhari) it is then shown how these fourteen vowels (or rather the a as their common root, sl. 45) gradually emerge from their latent condition by proceeding, with the Kundalini Shakti, from the Muladhara (perineum) to the navel, the heart, and finally the throat where the first uttered sound arising is the aspirate, for which reason the Visarga is interpreted literally as "creation" (srsti], its counterpart, the Anusvara or Bindu being in an analogous way declared to represent the "withdrawal" (samhara) of speech. The Anusvara is also called "sun" (surya], and the Visarga "moon (soma), and the sounds a, i, u, r, l, e, o, and a, i, u, r, l, ai, au, are respectively "sun-beams" and "moon-beams" and as such connected with day and night and with the Nadis called Pingala and Ida.

The vowels a, i, u, and r are said to be each eighteen-fold (how, is not stated), the l twelve-fold, etc. From the first consonant, the h sound, which represents Vasudeva, originate successively (each from the preceding one) the s, s, s' sounds which, together with the h, are the Fourfold Brahman (caturbrahman), and, with h and ks, the Fivefold Brahman (panca-brahman). From the s springs the r, from the r the l, from the l the r, and from the r the y; then, from the y the m which represents the totality (samasti) of the souls, that is, the Kutastha Purusa.

Then there appear the bh sound or world of experience (bhogya), namely Prakrti; b, ph, p=Mahat, Ahamkara, and Manas ; the five dentals and five cerebrals representing respectively the five "knowledge senses" and the five "action senses"; the five palatals and the five gutturals corresponding to the Tanmatras and Bhutas ; and (finally?) from the ordinary l the cerebral (Vedic) l which, however, is not counted as a separate letter.

Chapter 17 shows how each letter of the alphabet has (1) three "Vaisnava" forms, namely a "gross", "subtle", and "highest" one, expressed by certain names of Visnu; (2) one "Raudra" form called after one of the Rudras (that is, by one of the names of Shiva) ; and (3) one "Shakta" form being the name of one of the limbs, organs, or ornaments of the Shakti of Visnu.

For instance, the k sound is expressed in the Vaisnava alphabet by the three names Kamala (Lotus), Karala (Lofty), and Para Prakrti (Highest Nature), and in the Raudra alphabet by the name Krodhisa (Angry Lord, or Lord of the angry), while in the Shakta alphabet it is identified with the thumb of the right hand of the Goddess. For Mantras connected with Visnu, Shiva, or Shakti the respective alphabets should always be employed. These alphabets seem to serve a double purpose: enabling the initiate to quote the Mantras without endangering their secrecy, and providing him with a handle for their mystic interpretation. These lists, then, are an indispensable key to the Mantras. There are, however, more such symbolic words in use, as can be gathered, for instance from the second of the opening stanzas of our Samhita, where the word indu (moon) means the letter l (?); from the mystic alphabet employed in Rarnapurvatapaniya Upanisad (sl. 74-80); etc. etc.

Chapter 18 takes up the uddhara or quotation (which is, in reality, a sort of developing) of the Shakti Mantra and Saudarshana Mahamantra (both of which contain as their chief constituent the word sahasrara "thousand-spoked" expressed respectively through the Shakta and the Vaisnava alphabet), of the Bijas ("germs") hum, and phat and of the Anga (auxiliary) Mantra cakraya svaha; and chapter 19 continues the subject by describing the well-known five Anga Mantras referring to heart, head, hair-lock, armour, and weapon; further an Upanga Mantra, the Cakra Gayatri, and a number of Mantras referring to the Conch, etc., and other "weapons" of Visnu.


Introduction to the Pancaratra and the Ahirbudhnya Samhita by F. Otto Schrader, Madras, 1916


The Sun News Editorials Features Sun Blogs Classifieds Events Recipes PodCasts

About Submit an Article Contact Us Advertise

Copyright 2005, 2012, All rights reserved.