Sabda, or sound, which is of the Brahman, and as such the cause of the Brahmanda, is the manifestation of the Cit-sakti itself. The Visva-sara-Tantra says (1) that the Para-brahman, as Sabda-brahman, whose substance is all mantra, exists in the body of the jivatma. It is either unlettered (dhvani) or lettered (varna). The former, which produces the latter, is the subtle aspect of the jiva’s vital sakti.
As the Prapanca-sara states, the brahmanda is pervaded by sakti, consisting of dhvani also called nada, prana, and the like. The manifestation of the gross form (sthula) of sabda is not possible unless sabda exists in a subtle (suksma) form. Mantras are all aspects of the Brahman and manifestations of Kulakundalini. Philosophically, sabda is the guna of akasa, or ethereal space. It is not, however, produced by akasa, but manifests in it. Sabda is itself the Brahman. In the same way, however, 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 produced according to the movements of the vital air (pranavayu) and the process of inhalation and exhalation. Sabda first appears at the muladhara and that which is known to us as such is, in fact, the sakti which gives life to the jiva. She it is who, in the muladhara, is the cause of the sweet indistinct and murmuring dhvani, which sounds like the humming of a black bee.
The extremely subtle aspect of sound which first appears in the Muladhara is called para; less subtle when it has reached the heart, it is known as pasyanti, When connected with buddhi it becomes more gross, and is called madhyama. Lastly, in its fully gross form, it issues from the mouth as vaikhari. As Kulakundalini, whose substance is all varna and dhvani, is but the manifestation of, and Herself the Paramatma, so the substance of all mantra is cit, notwithstanding their external manifestation as sound, letters, or words; in fact, the letters of the alphabet, which are known as aksara, are nothing but the yantra of the aksara, or imperishable Brahman. This, however, is only realized by the sadhaka when his sakti, generated by sadhana, is united with the mantrasakti.
It is the sthula or gross form of Kulakundalini, appearing in different aspects as different Devatas, which is the presiding Devata (adhisthatri) of all mantra, though it is the subtle or suksma form at which all sadhakas aim. When the mantrasakti is awakened by the sadhana the presiding Devata appears, and when perfect mantra-siddhi is acquired, the Devata, who is saccidananda, is revealed. The relations of varna, nada, bindu, vowel and consonant in a mantra, indicate the appearance of Devata in different forms. Certain vibhutis, or aspects, of the Devata are inherent in certain varnas, but perfect Sakti does not appear in any but a whole mantra. Any word or letter of the mantra cannot be a mantra. Only that mantra in which the playful Devata has revealed any of Her particular aspects can reveal that aspect, and is therefore called the individual mantra of that one of Her particular aspects. The form of a particular Devata, therefore, appears out of the particular mantra of which that Devata, is the adhisthatri-Devata.
A mantra is composed of certain letters arranged in definite sequence of sounds of which the letters are the representative signs. To produce the designed effect mantra must be intoned in the proper way, according to svara (rhythm), and varna (sound).(2) Their textual source is to be found in Veda, Purana, and Tantra. The latter is essentially the mantra-sastra, and so it is said of the embodied sastra, that Tantra, which consists of mantra, is the paramatma, the Vedas are the jivatma, Darsana (systems of philosophy) are the senses, Puranas are the body, and Smrtis are the limbs. Tantra is thus the sakti of consciousness, consisting of mantra. A mantra is not the same thing as prayer or self-dedication (atma-nivedana). Prayer is conveyed in what words the worshipper chooses, and bears its meaning on its face. It is only ignorance of sastrik principles 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 Sastra.
A mantra may, or may not, convey on its face its meaning. Bija (seed) mantra, such as Aim, Klim, Hrim, have no meaning, according to the ordinary use of language. The initiate, however, knows that their meaning is the own form (sva-rupa) of the particular Devata, whose mantra they are, and that they are the dhvani which makes all letters sound and which exists in all which we say or hear. Every mantra is, then, a form (rupa) of the Brahman. Though, therefore, manifesting in the form and sound of the letters of the alphabet, Sastra says that they go to Hell who think that ‘the Guru is but a stone, and the mantra but letters of the alphabet.
From manana, or thinking, arises the real understanding of the monistic truth, that the substance of the Brahman and the brahmanda are one and the same. Man- of mantra comes from the first syllable of manana, and -tra from trana, or liberation from the bondage of the samsara or phenomenal world. By the combination of man- and -tra, that is called mantra which calls forth (amantrana), the catur-varga, or four aims of sentient being.(3)Whilst, therefore, mere prayer often ends in nothing but physical sound, mantra is a potent compelling force, a word of power (the fruit of which is mantra-siddhi), and is thus effective’ to produce caturvarga, advaitic perception, and mukti. Thus it is said that siddhi is the certain result of japa (q. v.).
1. Chapter II.
2. For those reasons a mantra, when translated, ceases to be such, and becomes a mere sentence.
3. See “The Garland of Letters” and chapter on Mantra-tattva in . “The Principles of Tantra”.