Sounds of mantra Part 1: Agnipurāṇa

Introduction

In the beginning, was the Word, and the Word was with God and God was the Word – John 1:1

The world of established religions be they Abrahamic (Judaism, Christianity and Islam), Vedic (Hinduism, Jainism) or Buddhist in their origins, believed in the power of sound, and that the creation began with sound. Herein, the Vedic literature elaborates the various sounds and their influence, and gives us a means to see connections between sound, nature and God.

In this write-up, this scribe ventures to translate the 347th chapter of Agni Purāṇa, wherein each sound or akṣara of Sanskrit is elaborated upon, and their meaning.
Relying on the English translation of Agni Purāṇa by M.N.Dutt, and with edits, where necessary, by this scribe, the given chapter is presented in two articles. The first article presents the sounds and their meaning, as the second elaborates examples of their use and the means to use the same. Where necessary, cross-references to Tantric texts, where the same topic is elaborated upon, have been drawn upon.

Astrologers would derive special use of the below to derive the results and remedies for various planetary placements, based on a) the planet ruling the group of sounds, and b) the placement of that same planet.

The foundation of this scribe’s knowledge, as presented in this article, has arisen from the teachings of Pt. Sanjay Rath on various occasions. I humbly present this, in hope that it accurately presents the views of the Purāṇa and auxiliary literature, as well as presenting the views of the Vedic tradition.

एकाक्षराभिधानं
ekākṣarābhidhānaṁ

Translation: Lexicon of monosyllabic sounds.

अग्निर् उवाच
एकाक्षराभिधनञ्च मातृकान्तं वदामि ते ।००१अब्
agnir uvāca
ekākṣarābhidhanañca mātṛkāntaṁ vadāmi te|001ab

Translation: Agni speaks. Now I shall deal with the lexicon of monosyllabic words.

 Svāra (vowels)

अ विष्णुः प्रतिषेधः स्यादा पितामहवाक्ययोः ।००१च्द्
सीमायामथाव्ययं आ भवेत्संक्रोधपीडयोः ।००२अब्
a viṣṇuḥ pratiṣedhaḥ syādā pitāmahavākyayoḥ |001cd
sīmāyāmathāvyayaṁ ā bhavetsaṁkrodhapīḍayoḥ |002ab

Translation: Viṣṇu is ‘a’ and causes prevention [of evils]. The Pitṛs (ancestors) and speech are indicated by ‘ā’ (long a). The same ‘ā’ represents boundaries and when used as an interjection ‘ā’ causes anger, disgust and pain.

इः कामे रतिलक्ष्म्योरी उः शिवे रक्षकाद्य ऊः१ ।००२च्द्
iḥ kāme ratilakṣmyorī uḥ śive rakṣakādya ūḥ(1) |002cd

Translation: Kāmadeva (God of desire) arises from ‘i’ as ‘ī’ represents Ratī and Lakṣmī. Śiva is represented by ‘u’ as ‘ū’ protects one.

Commentary:
The sound ‘ū’ acts as a guard or protector. It is highly suppressive and can be a violent sound when used with other sounds. It protects us from the Rakṣasa who are a class of beings, typically depicted as violent, whom one would require protection from.

Broadly eight classes of beings are depicted in the ancient texts: Deva, Asura, Ṛṣi, Rakṣasa, Gandharva, Piśacha, Manuṣya and Pitṛ. Each of these are further divided into different classes, e.g. Kinnara and Vidyadhara fall under the class of Gandharva.

ऋ शब्दे चादितौ ऋस्यात् ऌ ॡ ते वै दितौ गुहे आ३४७।००३अब्
ṛ śabde cāditau ṛsyāt ḷ ḹ te vai ditau guhe |003ab

Translation: Sound itself is ‘ṛ’ as ‘ṝ’ is Aditi, the mother of the 12 Āditya. Ditī is ‘ḷ’ as Guhā is ‘ḹ’.

ए देवी ऐ योगिनी स्यादो ब्रह्मा औ महेश्वरः आ३४७।००३च्द्
e devī ai yoginī syādo brahmā au maheśvaraḥ |003cd

Translation: Devi is ‘e’ as Yoginī is ‘ai’. Brahma is ‘o’ as Maheśvara is ‘au’.

अङ्कामः अः प्रशस्तः स्यात्२ को ब्रह्मादौ कु कुत्सिते आ३४७।००४अब्
aṅkāmaḥ aḥ praśastaḥ syāt(2) ko brahmādau ku kutsite |004ab

Translation: Kāmadeva is ‘aṁ’ as ‘aḥ’ is all that is praiseworthy. Creators of the universe are ‘ko’ as ‘ku’ is all that is despised.

Commentary:
According to Bhuta Damara Tantra, the ‘aṁ’ sound in a mantra represents the removal of sorrow (dukhahāra), which is therefore desirable, or achieves the desires of a person. This thus differentiates the ‘i’ sound from the ‘aṁ’ sound where both are given the same deity, e.g. Kāmadeva.

The sixteen vowels have not been completed. In Jyotiṣa they all preside under the guise of the Sun. Ten of these vowel sounds have an tattva/element ascribed to it, whereas four are termed Rṣi or sagely sounds which can lift the sounds between the worlds. Finally two sounds are responsible for deciding material benefit (bhoga) or spiritual benefit (mokṣa). These sounds are tabulated hereunder.

Vāyu Agni Pṛthvī Jala Ākāśa Rṣi Bhoga Mokṣa
a/ā i/ī u/ū e/ai o/au ṛ ṝ ḷ ḹ aṁ aḥ

After having described the sixteen vowel sounds (svāra), the consonants (vyanjana) are being exposed. Herein, the consonants are being differentiated by different vowel endings. In this context ‘ko’ and ‘ku’ are being differentiated. To make sense of this the vowel itself needs explanation: ‘k’ itself represents the physical creation and is termed the brahmākṣara. Appropriately, being the first consonant, it is the first to represent a sound with a solid body. Either of the five main vowels, in their long or short forms, following the consonant decides the action performed upon the solid body, e.g. ‘a’ is creative, ‘i’ sustains, ‘u’ is suppressive, ‘e’ informs and ‘o’ digests/understands. When ‘k’ and ‘u’ join, they suppress (u) the created body (k) thus making it deformed or ugly, and this is thus despised or reviled according to the Purāṇa.

Vyanjana (Consonants)

खं शून्येन्द्रियंउखङ्गो गन्धर्वे च विनायके आ३४७।००४च्द्
khaṁ śūnyendriyaṁukhaṅgo gandharve ca vināyake |004cd

Translation: The sound ‘kha’ represents heaven, the senses, swords, the Gandharva and Vināyaka.

गङ्गीते गो गायने स्यद् घो घण्टा किङ्किणीमुखे आ३४७।००५अब्
gaṅgīte go gāyane syad gho ghaṇṭā kiṅkiṇīmukhe |005ab

Translation: The sound ‘ga’ represents songs as ‘go’ indicates singing. Bells and the face of small bells are indicated by ‘gho’.

Commentary:
Bells and bells sounds are worshipped in ghaṇṭapūja for their capacity to clean the ākāśa or ether element. This ensures good sounds or communication in one’s surroundings and is said to purify the sound-waves in one’s vicinity. This ensures good relationships between people occupying the same area/location.

ताडने ङश् च विषये स्पृहायाञ्चैव भैरवे आ३४७।००५च्द्
tāḍane ṅaś ca viṣaye spṛhāyāñcaiva bhairave |005cd

Translation:
The guttural sound ‘ṅa’ is chastising, enforces dominion and longing, as well as representing the God Bhairava.

Commentary:
The sound ‘ṅa’ has the power to carve out territory for oneself and enforce ownership of the same. It tends to separate states and boundaries due to various desires. It represents the blessing of Guru-Mañgala yoga (Jupiter & Mars) in the chart.

The guttural-portion or ka-varga of consonants have been completed which all preside under the graha Mars. Their elements follow the same order as that given by the vowel sounds and are tabulated hereunder.

Vāyu Agni Pṛthvī Jala Ākāśa
ka kha ga gha ṅa
चो दुर्जने निर्मले छश्छेदे जिर्जयने तथा आ३४७।००६अब्
co durjane nirmale chaśchede jirjayane tathā |006ab

Translation: The sound ‘co’ can represent wickedness and purity both. The sound ‘cha’ causes deprivation or cessation, as ‘ji’ causes victory.

Commentary:
The sound ‘ca’ causes heightened passions as ‘co’ attempts to digest these passions. In this process of digesting, one can cause heartbreak to those attached to one, thus suggesting wicked or inconsiderate behaviour, however leading to dispassion, detachment and purityin the process. Hence, both wickedness and purity are indicated herein. This is represented by the union of Venus with Saturn, which when with Ketu as well leads to great penance and disapassion, whilst without Ketu can lead to wicked and inconsiderate behaviour in intimate partnerships caused by oneself or others.

जं गीते झः प्रशस्ते स्याद्बले३ ञो गायने च टः आ३४७।००६च्द्
jaṁ gīte jhaḥ praśaste syādbale(3) ño gāyane ca ṭaḥ |006cd

Translation: The sound ‘ja’ refers to a song as ‘jha’ is anything commendable. The sound ‘ña’ gives strength as ‘ṭa’ is a song.

Commentary:

The sounds ‘ja’ and ‘ga’ are both indicating songs in this work. Where ‘ga’ carries the energy of Mars into the earth element where it decides the boundaries of any text, and also prints or publishes the songs for reading, the sound ‘ja’ carries the energy of Venus into the same earth-element to bring out prosody, songwriting and poetry as well. The latter planet placed in trines to the Navāṁśa Lagna gives an interest in poetry and songs, and memory of verses in songs as well.

The sound ‘ṭa’ has also been ascribed to singing as was the sound ‘go’. Herein ‘ṭa’ carries the energy of Mercury whom is a speaker of various types and can mimic sounds, unlike the soung ‘go’ which sings in a set rythme and tone, usually decided by instruments.

The palatal-portion  or ca-varga of consonants have been completed which all preside under the graha Venus. Their elements follow the same order as that given by the vowel sounds and are tabulated hereunder.

Vāyu Agni Pṛthvī Jala Ākāśa
ca cha ja jha ña
ठश् चन्द्रमण्डले शून्ये शिवे चोद्बन्धने मतः आ३४७।००७अब्
ṭhaś candramaṇḍale śūnye śive codbandhane mataḥ |007ab

Translation: The sound ‘ṭha’ is the Maṇḍala (orbit or territory) of the Moon, heaven, Lord Śiva and the act of causing bondage.

Commentary
The Moon rest on the forehead of Lord Śiva, and thus wherever the Moon is placed in the chart, that is the head of Śiva as well. This is in converse to the planets Sun and Jupiter whom are pacified by the worship of Śiva, but do not necessarily indicate the direct influence of the Lord in the chart. This same Moon is also responsible for the mind or manas which is among the binds of the soul in the body. The sounds ‘ṭha’, ‘u’ and ‘au’ have all been designated the domain of Lord Śiva and Maheśvara. Herein the two vowel sounds are ethereal forms and represent the power of Śiva to suppress evils (u) and separate the soul from the mind (au), whereas the consonant (ṭha) is the power of Śiva to protect and cool the body from heat and poisons (viṣahara).

डश् च रुद्रे ध्वनौ त्रासे ढक्वायां ढो ध्वनौ मतः आ३४७।००७च्द्
ḍaś ca rudre dhvanau trāse ḍhakvāyāṁ ḍho dhvanau mataḥ |007cd

Translation: The sound ‘ḍa’ is Rudra and indicates a noise or echo. The sound ‘ḍha’ also indicates a sound or a drum.

Commentary
The former sound ‘ḍa’ refers to any sound man-made or otherwise and can also refer to a noise or a roar of an animal, whereas the latter sound ‘ḍha’ refers to soothing sounds which are not disturbing.

णो निष्कर्षे निश् चये च तश् चौरे क्रोडपुच्चके आ३४७।००८अब्
ṇo niṣkarṣe niś caye ca taś caure kroḍapuccake |008ab

Translation: The sound ‘ṇo’ means night, shadow and to extract. The sound ‘ta’ indicates theft, the bosom or hindparts.

Commentary

The cerebral-portion or a-varga of consonants have been completed which all preside under the graha Mercury. Their elements follow the same order as that given by the vowel sounds and are tabulated hereunder.

Vāyu Agni Pṛthvī Jala Ākāśa
ṭa ṭha ḍa ḍha ṇa
भक्षणे थश्चेदने दो धारणे शोभने मतः आ३४७।००८च्द्
bhakṣaṇe thaścedane do dhāraṇe śobhane mataḥ |008cd

Translation: Eating and destroying/removing is indicated by the sound ‘tha’ as ‘do’ gives fixity of mind or objects and is beautiful.

Commentary

The sound ‘tha’ can also cause a removal or displacement, or a forced situation, but may still give positive results after a forced event.

धो धातरि चधूस्तूरे नो वृन्दे सुगते तथा  ।००९अब्
dho dhātari cadhūstūre no vṛnde sugate tathā  |009ab

Translation: The sound ‘dho’ gives support and is the Datura flower (thorn-apple). ‘No’ indicates a cluster and good path/direction.

Commentary

The dental-portion or ta-varga of consonants have been completed which all preside under the graha Jupiter. Their elements follow the same order as that given by the vowel sounds and are tabulated hereunder.

Vāyu Agni Pṛthvī Jala Ākāśa
ta tha da dha na
प उपवने विख्यातः फश् च झञ्झानिले मतः  ।००९च्द्
pa upavane vikhyātaḥ phaś ca jhañjhānile mataḥ  |009cd

Translation: Fame and a garden is indicated by ‘pa’, as ‘pha’ is a hurrican and Anila (God of wind).

फुः फुत्कारे निष्फले च विः पक्षी भञ्च तारके  ।०१०अब्
phuḥ phutkāre niṣphale ca viḥ pakṣī bhañca tārake  |010ab

Translation: The sound ‘phu’ is blowing or hissing and is impotent. The sound ‘bi’ is a bird as ‘bha’ is a star.

Commentary

The Sanskrit reads ‘vi’ instead of ‘bi’ which always follows ‘pa’ and ‘pha’ in this context. Notably in svāra śastra the ‘va’ and ‘ba’ sounds are interchangeable.

मा श्रीर्मानञ्च माता स्याद्याग यो यातृवीरणे  ।०१०च्द्
mā śrīrmānañca mātā syādyāga yo yātṛvīraṇe  |010cd

Translation: The sound ‘ma’ is the Goddess Śrī ( Śrī Lakṣmī) as ‘ya’ refers to a Yagya (religious offering) and pilgrimage.

Commentary

The labial-portion or pa-varga of consonants have been completed which all preside under the graha Saturn. Their elements follow the same order as that given by the vowel sounds and are tabulated hereunder.

Vāyu Agni Pṛthvī Jala Ākāśa
pa pha ba bha ma
रो बह्नौ च लः शक्रे च लो विधातरि ईरितः  ।०११अब्
ro bahnau ca laḥ śakre ca lo vidhātari īritaḥ  |011ab

Translation: Vahni (Agni/God of fire) is ‘ra’ as ‘la’ is Indra (King of heaven). Vidhāta is ‘lo’.

Commentary

Vidhāta is said to be Brahma, the creator, but is also a name of both Viṣṇu and Śiva as well as a son of Brahma. It implies a creator of the universe and a controller of fate.

विश्लेषणे वो वरुणे शयने शश् च शं सुखे  ।०११च्द्
viśleṣaṇe vo varuṇe śayane śaś ca śaṁ sukhe  |011cd

Translation: Analysis and Varuṇa (God of oceans) is from ‘va’, as ‘śa’ is lying down, fortune and happiness.

षः श्रेष्ठे सः परोक्षे च सालक्ष्मीः सं कचे मतः  ।०१२अब्
ṣaḥ śreṣṭhe saḥ parokṣe ca sālakṣmīḥ saṁ kace mataḥ  |012ab

Translation: The sound ‘ṣa’ is the best, highest or most beautiful as ‘sa’ is imperceptible, indicates Goddess Lakṣmi and hair.

Commentary

The sounds ‘ma’ and ‘sa’ both have similar attributes in being associated with the Goddess Lakṣmī. Herein, ‘ma’ refers to Śrī which implies well being and fortune, whereas the sound ‘sa’ is Lakṣmī and particularly implies abundance.

धारणे हस् तथा रुद्रे क्षः क्षत्त्रे चाक्षरे मतः  ।०१२च्द्
dhāraṇe has tathā rudre kṣaḥ kṣattre cākṣare mataḥ  |012cd

Translation: Rudra and the fixity of mind or objects is ‘ha’, as ‘kṣa’ implies the sounds or akṣara themselves and is a distributor of portions or one who is an attendant of the same.

Commentary

Lord Śiva was the first to distribute all the sounds from the torn limbs of Śrī Satī, and with the sound ‘kṣa’ the entire alphabet was divided and distributed.

क्षो नृसिंहे हरौ तद्वत् क्षेत्रपालकयोरपि  ।०१३अब्
kṣo nṛsiṁhe harau tadvat kṣetrapālakayorapi  |013ab

Translation: The sound ‘kṣo’ is Śrī Nṛsiṁha (man-lion incarnation of Lord Viṣṇu), Lord Hari and the Kṣetrapālaka (protectors of earth) as well.

मन्त्र एकाक्षरो देवो भुक्तिमुक्तिप्रदायकः  ।०१३च्द्
mantra ekākṣaro devo bhuktimuktipradāyakaḥ  |013cd

Translation: These single-syllable mantras are for the Devas and bless with fortune and liberation.

Commentary
These seed syllables can be used for jāpa and dhyāna. Herein the dhyāna/meditation can be solely on the syllable added to either aṁ or aḥ, e.g. the sound ‘kṣo’ becomes ‘kṣoṁ’ or kṣoḥ’. For mantra jāpa the praṇava ‘om̐’ can be added before and the ending can be ‘namaḥ’,’svāhā’, ‘vaṣaṭ’, etc. depending on the purpose. These sounds can also precede the name of the devatā as exemplified in the next śloka.

क्षौं हैहयशिरसे नमः सर्वविद्याप्रदो मनुः  ।०१४अब्
kṣauṁ haihayaśirase namaḥ sarvavidyāprado manuḥ  |014ab

Translation: Oh intelligent one, the mantra: ‘kṣauṁ haiyaśirase namaḥ’ blesses with all knowledge.

Commentary
The given mantra has the Hari bīja ‘kṣauṁ’ added before the name of Hayagriva namely, ‘haiyaśirase’ and succeeded with ‘namaḥ’. Similarly, other Viṣṇu mantra can be formed by preceding the name of Hari with ‘kṣauṁ’ and succeeding with ‘namaḥ’.