Though the story of Māheśwara Sūtras as received by Pāṇini are well known, most of us know little else beyond it. Few know of the systematic structuring of the sūtras and even fewer know the obscure philosophical and mystical dimensions of the Shiva Sūtras. The sūtras as received are thus:
अ इ उ ण्। 2. ऋ ऌ क्। 3. ए ओ ङ्। 4. ऐ औ च्। 5. ह य व र ट्। 6. लँ ण्। 7. ञ म ङ ण न म्। 8. झ भ ञ्। 9. घ ढ ध ष्। 10. ज ब ग ड द श्। 11. ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व्। 12. क प य्। 13. श ष स र्। 14. ह ल्।
The oft-quoted verse regarding the origins of the sūtras pertains to playing of the hand drums (ḍhakkā) by Naṭarāja at the end of his cosmic dance.
नृत्तावसाने नटराजराजो ननाद ढक्कां नवपंचवारम्।
उद्धर्तुकामः सनकादिसिद्धानेतद्विमर्शे शिवसूत्रजालम्॥
The verse appears in the Nandikeśwara Kāśikā and it is here that the hidden meanings of the sūtras are explained by Nandi, the first amongst the Gaṇas, for the benefit Siddhas like Sanaka. That the grammarians like Nāgeśa Bhaṭṭa quote this in his treatise Laghuśabdenduśekhara, lends the text a great deal of authenticity. The kāśikā, as we shall see, relies heavily on the Shaiva philosophical systems to explain the obscure aspects of the Māheśwara Sūtras. Therefore, the article intends to explore the twenty-seven verses of the commentaries of Nandi.
नृत्तावसाने नटराजराजो ननाद ढक्कां नवपंचवारम्।At the end of his dance, Lord Naṭarāja, sounded his hand-drum fourteen times. Nandi commences thus, the explanation of the net of aphorism for the benefit of Santakumāra, Sanka, Sanandana, Sanātana et al.
उद्धर्तुकामः सनकादिसिद्धानेतद्विमर्शे शिवसूत्रजालम्॥1॥
He is Naṭarājarāja, the master at manifesting the manifold nature of his cosmic form. Naṭarāja, under the pretext of sounding his ḍamarū fourteen times, reminded Sanaka and others of the Supreme Nature of his Ātaman which is viśayātīta.
अत्र सर्वत्र सूत्रेषु ह्यन्त्यम् वर्णं चतुर्दशम्।Here, in all the fourteen aphorisms, the final letters are for the sake of root (dhātu) for gaining proficiency in Pāṇini (Pāṇinian grammar).
धात्वर्थं समुपादिष्टं पाणिन्यादीष्ट्सिद्धये॥2 ॥
Dhātvarthaṃ means gaining proficiency in the science of words which is based on roots. This, in turn, based on the maxim that ‘sound is caused by the collection of end letters.
अ इ उ ण्
Through the first aphorism, signifying the inner principles of causation, Nandikeśwara says,
अकारो ब्रह्मरूपः स्यान्निर्गुणः सर्ववस्तुषु।The letter अ is the Brahman which is attributeless and present in all objects. In union with इ the consciousness (citkalā), it forms the sound ‘u’ which is of the form of Ishvara, manifest as this world.
चित्कलामिं समाश्रित्य जगद्रूप उणीश्वरः॥ 3॥
The attributeless Puruṣa, अ unites with māyā, इ, created all-pervasive god with attributes, saguṇa brahman. Citkalā, इ, is to be understood as a dīrgha. For example, ī in the Gayatrī or the ī in tāṃ padminīṃ īṃ .
Śhruti pramāṇa: असद्वा इदमग्र आसीत्। ततो वै सदजायत॥ Brahman was verily in the form of akṣara, non-perishable, अ before idaṃ, this universe. From that the saguṇa sat, the attributable existence was born.
Gita: Kriśna in the chapter proclaims: अक्षराणामकारोऽस्मि, amongst the non-perishable letters, I am अ. Nandi further elaborates:
अकारः सर्ववर्णाग्र्यः प्रकाशः परमेश्वरः।
आद्यमन्त्येन संयोगादहमित्येव जायते॥ 4॥
The syllable अ, the first amongst all the varṇas, is the effulgent Supreme Being. From the conjunction, the first and the last letters, अहम् , I, itself is born.
The implication is that all the non-perishable letters-from अ to ह- are born out of the Supreme Being.
सर्वं परात्मकं पूर्वं ज्ञप्तिमात्रमिदं जगत्।
ज्ञप्तेर्बभूव पश्यन्ती मध्यमा वाक ततः स्मृता॥ 5॥
वक्त्रे विशुद्धचक्राख्ये वैखरी सा मता ततः।
सृष्ट्याविर्भावमासाद्य मध्यमा वाक समा मता॥ 6॥
In the beginning, everything was in the form of jñaptimātra, only conscious, Parā universe. From it was born Paśyantī and the vāk that originated from the latter was Madhyamā. From madhyamā, this sound manifested into Vaikharī which corresponds to the Viśuddhi Cakra . It is similar in its origin and manifestation to the sound of madhyamā.
The Supreme Brahman, existing, from the start, with the updādhi of jīva, being prompted into action due to karma, underwent phenomenological changes. He became parā in the navel region, paśyantī in the heart region, madhyamā in the viśuddhi cakra and later, vaikharī in the mouth. And thus, took the form of the four Vedas.
At the time of origination, अ इ उ ऋ ऌ are said to be the source of creation for all the forty-nine syllables; for the bhūtapañcakas ; and the vargapañcaka . (More on this later.)
Śhruti pramāṇa :
• वागेव विश्वा भुवनानि जज्ञे वाच इत्सर्वममृतं यच्च मर्त्यम्। It is the speech that created the worlds. It is verily the subtlest form of speech that manifests as the world.
• वाचैव विश्वं बहुरूपं निबद्धं तदेतदेकं प्रविभज्योपभुङ्कते- The world with its multiple forms is created by the speech only; and having divided, one part is being experienced.
• यामाहुर्वाचं कवयो विराजम्। – the creator of this universe is the virāt vāk
• वाग्वै विश्वकर्मषि: वाचा हीदं सर्व कृतम्। – vāk is Ṛśi Viśwakarmā, it indeed created everything.
The Vedic metre personified as Goddess.
Śri Sukta: चंद्रां प्रभासां यशसा ज्वलंतीं श्रियं लोके देवजुष्टां उदारां।तां पद्मिनीं ईं शरणं प्रपद्ये अलक्ष्मी: मे नश्यतां तां वृणे॥
अक्षराणामकारोऽस्मि द्वन्द्वः सामासिकस्य च। अहमेवाक्षयः कालो धाताऽहं विश्वतोमुखः।। 10.33।।
The अ of the अ इ उ ण् and the ह of the हल् are combined.
Parā, Paśyantī, Madhyamā and Vaikharī are the four levels of articulations of sound.
The kundnalini chakra in the throat region.
The five elements-earth, water, fire, air, space
The five sound groups-gutterals, palatals, cerebrals, dentals and labials
Śruti texts are littered with examples where speech is being extolled.
Atharva Veda 7.2.7
Bartṛhari’s Vākyapadīdīya gives us a similar idea about the divine origins and the profound impacts of vāk.
The independence of इ is further explained in terms of अ and the desire to create this world.
अकारं सन्निधीकृत्य जगतां कारणत्वतः।
इकारः सर्ववर्णानां शक्तित्वात् कारणं गतम्॥ 7॥
जगत् स्रष्टुमभूदिच्छा यदा ह्यासीत्तदाऽभवत्।
कामबीजमिति प्राहुर्मुनयो वेदपारगाः॥ 8॥
अकारो ज्ञप्तिमात्रं स्यादिकारश्चित्कला मता।
उकारो विष्णुरित्याहुर्व्यापकत्वान्महेश्वरः॥ 9॥
Due to its proximity to अ, the syllable इ is the cause of the world. And because of its potent nature (śaktitvāt), it is the cause of all the syllables. When there was a desire to create the world, then the world became. The seers, expert in the scriptures (Vedapāragaḥ), called it kāmabīja, the seed of desire. अ is the consciousness; इ is the citkalā, the creative force, उ is Viṣṇu and by omnipresence (sarvavyākatvāt) it is Maheśwara.
It is said thus, “स्वप्रकाशपरमात्मवस्तुनो दृश्यमानजगतः सिसृक्षया। कामतः परशिवप्रवेशनं कामबीजमजमेव निश्चितम्॥”-the entry at the will of the self-effulgent Supreme into the transcendent Śiva to create this visible world is the seed of desire. Also, “बीजं बिन्दुद्वयारूढं साध्वयोनिस्वरूपकम्। महाकामकलारूपमात्मानं चिन्तयेत्प्रिये॥”- Priye, dear, one should contemplate on the Self as the Kāmakalā, that is established in bija and the bindu; and that which is the sādhya, the goal.
ऋ ऌ क्
The aforementioned discussion could raise a doubt against the non-dualistic nature of reality. Such apprehensions are laid to rest by ऋऌक्
ऋऌक् सर्वेश्वरो मायां मनोवृत्तिमदर्शयत्।
तामेव वृत्तिमाश्रित्य जगद्रूपमजीजनत्॥ 10॥
वृत्तिवृत्तिमतोरत्र भेदलेशो न विद्यते।
चन्द्रचन्द्रिकयोर्यद्वद् यथा वागर्थयोरपि॥ ११॥
स्वेच्छया स्वस्य चिच्छक्तौ विश्वमुन्मीलयत्यसौ।
वर्णानां मध्यमं क्लीबमृऌवर्णद्वयं विदुः॥ 12॥
The Supreme Lord is denoted by ऋ, Māyā is denoted by ऌ and Manōvṛitti, the mental tendency, is denoted by क्. Depending on those tendencies, He created the universe (Conversely, the Supreme Lord ऋऌक् showed Māyā in the form of mental tendency and by resorting to the same form, he gave birth to the form of the universe ). The difference between these two sounds is as little as if they were the moon and the aspects of the moon, the practice and the practitioner, and sound and its meaning. Through his desire and the power of will, he makes this entire creation awaken. Yet He remains neutral(klība) as the wise understand the middle vowels, ṛ and ḷ to be.
The Supreme created the carācara jagat, the animate and inanimate world, based on his mental tendencies. The śrutis back the claims of the two verse:
• ऋतं सत्यं परं ब्रह्म पुरुषं नरकेसरिविग्रहं कृष्णपिङ्गलम्। (ṛta is the Supreme Brahman, which is real)- is a testimony that ऋ denoted that Supreme.
• Taittirīyōpanishat states-सोऽकामयत बहु स्यां प्रजायेय and thus, ṛ and ḷ are not distinct.
Śrī Tantra makes this explicit-मम चाभून्मनोरूपम् लृकारः परमेश्वरः(the great lord denoted by ḷ was my mind form). The syllables ṛ and ḷ become identical .
ए ओ ङ्
एओङ् मायेश्वरात्मैक्यविज्ञानं सर्ववस्तुषु।
साक्षित्वात् सर्वभूतानां स एक इति निश्चितम्॥13॥
The above symbolises the knowledge of the union between Īśwara and Māyā. Since he is the witness of all the being, He is One, it is sure.
Saying that He created gives rise to a creator-created duality (janyajanaka bhāva). Taittirīyōpanishat answers this question- तत् सृष्ट्वा तदेवानुप्राविशत्। तदनुप्रविश्य। (Now when He had brought it forth, He entered into that He had created, He entering in became the Is here and the May Be there). एओङ्, therefore, symbolises the non-differentiation of Īśwara and Māyā. This aphorism brings out the relationship between the first and the second syllable (अ and इ) and the first and the third syllable. अ in Him represents the imperishable consciousness, इ shows that He is Māyāyukta, उ shows in omniscient self. (Now connect this with verse 6 and see how अ इ उ ऋ ऌ create everything else).
ऐ औ च्
In the case of doubt as to how can the indwelling Supreme be the cause of universe it is said, ऐ औ च्.
ऐऔच् ब्रह्मस्वरूपः सन् जगत्स्वान्तर्गतं ततः।
इच्छया विस्तरं कर्त्तुमाविरासीन्महामुनिः॥ 14॥
The embodiment of great silence-mahāmuni, out of his desire, made the process of creation which was happening within himself, expand outwards with the sound ऐ औ च्.
Oft repeated is the idea, ‘what was Himself, created Himself”. The syllable ऐ is formed with the conjunction of आ and ई (and is therefore, endorsed with the primal Śakti ) and औ formed with the conjunction of आ and ऊ is the samprajñāna parameśwara, the omniscient lord. Sarvavimarśinī also says, “उकारज्ञानसंयोगात् सर्वसंभूतिरिष्यते”.
The subsequent verses describe the creation of elements.
ह य व र ट्
व्योमवाय्वम्बुवह्न्याख्यभूतान्यासीत् स एव हि॥ 15॥
हकाराद् व्योमसंज्ञं च यकाराद्वायुरुच्यते।
रकाराद्वह्निस्तोयं तु वकारादिति शैवराट्॥ १६॥
From these five sounds, ह य व र ट् , that originated from maheśvara, came the five promordial elements of Space, Wind, Water, Fire and Earth. According to Saiva traditions, Ether is symbolised by ह, Air through य, Fire by syllable र and water through व.
Earth is missing in the previous two verses but is explicitly detailed in the next verse starting with the term ādhāra, the base.
Vārttika says ऋऌवर्णयोर्मिथः सावर्ण्यम् वाच्यम् and the Kāśikāvritti 1.1.9 states ऋकारऌकारयोः सवर्णसंज्ञा वक्तव्या
Śakti is not energy. It is far beyond that.
TU 2.1.1- तस्माद्वा एतस्मादात्मन आकाशः संभूतः। आकाशाद्वायुः।वायोरग्निः। अग्नेरापः। अद्भ्यः पृथिवी।
आधारभूतं भूतानामन्नादीनां च कारणम्।
अन्नाद्रेतस्ततो जीवः कारणत्वाल्लणीरितम्॥ 17॥
The sound लण् is the basis of support for all living creatures. It is this sound which offers support to all elements, thereby resulting in the creation of food, nourishment, virility and life.
Earth is the basis, the ādhāra, and primal cause of all kinds of creatures (andaja, swedaja, udbijja and jarayuja). अन्नाद्रेत here means that the semen is from the food. लण् denotes them all individually.
After the causation of pacamahābhūta, the sequence of origination of pancatanmātrā is discussed.
शब्दस्पर्शौ रूपरसगन्धाश्च ञमङणनम्।
व्योमादीनां गुणा ह्येते जानीयात् सर्ववस्तुषु॥ 18॥
Sound, Touch, Form, Taste, and Smell are the sounds ञ म ङ ण नम respectively. It is to be realized that these are the attributes of the five primordial elements.
The aphorism explains that the nasal syllables of the five groups or pañcavargas are the qualities of ह य व र ल, which in turn are the five subtle elements.
झ भ ञ्। घ ढ ध ष्।
After the fifth the fifth syllable, the fourth element of every varga is explained.
वाक्पाणी च झभञासीद्विराड्रूपचिदात्मनः।
सर्वजन्तुषु विज्ञेयं स्थावरादौ न विद्यते॥
वर्गाणां तुर्यवर्णा ये कर्मेन्द्रियमया हि ते॥ 19॥
घढधष् सर्वभूतानां पादपायू उपस्थकः।
कर्मेन्द्रियगणा ह्येते जाता हि परमार्थतः॥ 20॥
झ भ ञ् is the speech and hands of that virāt form which is cidātamanaḥ, of the nature of consciousness. It is known to exist in all being excepts plants etc. घ ढ ध are the feet, anus and generative organs of all beings. Those syllables which are fourth in the vargas are verily the karmendriyas.
ज ब ग ड द श्
After the origination of karmendriya, creation of jñānendriyas is explained.
सर्वेषामपि जन्तूनामीरितं जबगडदश्॥ 21॥
The syllables ‘ज ब ग ड द श् are the five sense-organs which are the Ears, Skin, Eyes, Nose, and Tongue – among all creatures.
ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त व्
प्राणादिपंचकं चैव मनो बुद्धिरहंकृतिः।
बभूव कारणत्वेन खफछठथचटतव्॥ 22॥
वर्गद्वितीयवर्णोत्थाः प्राणाद्याः पंच वायवः।
मध्यवर्गत्रयाज्जाता अन्तःकरणवृत्तयः॥ 23॥
ख फ छ ठ थ च ट त became instrumental in the evolution of prāṇapacaka , mind, intellect and the ego.
TU 2.1.1- अद्भ्यः पृथिवी।पृथिव्या ओषधयः। ओषधीभ्योऽन्नम्। अन्नात्पुरुषः।
Texts like Tantrājñā go a little further and explain how thirty-six letters from अ to क्ष represent thirty-six principles of reality (tattva) in Śaivism
प्राण, अपान, उदान, व्यान and समान / Prāṇa, Apāna, Udāna, Vyāna and Samāna
The five airs, beginning with prāṇa, arise of the second syllable in each group and the antaḥkaraṇavṛtti-modes of the inner-self-through first letters of the three middle vargas.
क प य्
प्रकृतिं पुरुषंचैव सर्वेषामेव सम्मतम्।
सम्भूतमिति विज्ञेयं कपय् स्यादिति निश्चितम्॥ 24॥
It is to be known that the view asserting that Prakṛti and Puruṣa being born out of क and प is accepted by all.
By adopting the first letters of first and the last varga, the togetherness of Prakṛti and Puruṣa, which is the cause of all beings, is revealed.
श ष स र्
सत्त्वं रजस्तम इति गुणानां त्रितयं पुरा।
समाश्रित्य महादेवः शषसर् क्रीडति प्रभुः॥ 25॥
सकारात्सत्त्वसम्भूतिरिति त्रिगुणसम्भवः॥26 ॥
Having resorted long ago, purā, before creation to the guṇas, qualities of Sattva, Rajas, Tamas born out of श ष स र्, Paramśiva continues his play in all beings. The three qualities evolved thus: Rajas from श, Tamas from ष and Sattva from स.
To emphasise the fact that He is the originator of all the tattvas (principles) and yet beyond them, Śiva said हल्.
तत्त्वातीतः परं साक्षी सर्वानुग्रहविग्रहः।
अहमात्मा परो हल् स्यामिति शम्भुस्तिरोदधे ॥ 27॥
Shambhu, having stated he was tattvātīta, transcendent of the principles, the Supreme Witness, the embodiment of Grace, the Supreme Ātmā हल्, disappeared.
Next, you are learning the Māheśwara Sūtras in your grammar class, also remember the story of the Supreme Being and the story of our creation.
॥ॐ नमः शिवाय॥