By Jayant Kalawar, February 8th 2023, Sankashti Chaturthi
When I shared my previous post on rahasya of mUrtis, a friend asked how different DevatAs emerge, which then manifest – to us – as mUrtis, as well? What is the foundation of such process of emergence? I do not claim to have definitive answer to the question. I am offering my explorations on this topic.
Here I describe my explorations through example of one particular DevatA, Sri GaNeshA. I chant AtharvashirshA[i] daily, and numerous times on SankashTi Chaturthi (Chatur, the fourth, tithi, period during which the Moon is seen to travel 12 degrees away from the Sun, after PurNimA, the full Moon). That has given me some glimmer of an insight on the emergence of Sri GaNeshA through profound insights of the Rishi of AtharvashirshA.
First, let me share with you my understanding, limited as it is, of the foundation of the process of emergence of DevatAs in Humans. Movement, expression, vAk, is considered an integral aspect of ShivA. ShivA’s nature is Chit, the potential to be aware, and Anand, the capacity to be without action, and with unlimited potential for action. That potential, when expressed, is vAk. ShivA as vAk is often given the name Devi. Devi is ShivA. ShivA is Devi. AchAryAs in the past have used the metaphor of the Ocean and the waves in the Ocean cannot be separated, they are congruent. ShivA and Devi cannot be separated. Devi’s nature is expression, movement, ucchAraNA through icchA – jnAna – kriyA. And, to repeat, ShivA’s nature is Chit-Ananda. The integral nature of ShivA and Devi is chit-Ananda-icchA-jnAna-kriyA.
The root of the word Devi (देवी)is considered to be div (दिव्). The interpretations of the noun Devi from the root div gives us the following ways to make sense (make it meaningful) and useful for us in our manifest world[ii]: to sport with the creative delight in Her capacity to manifest and be aware of Her myriad manifestations; the desire to overcome and surpass the stillness; to carry on the activities of life through knowledge, doubts, ascertainment (jnAnA); shining; the one who is adored; one who has access to all aspects across space and time. In summary, the VyAkaraNa based mimAmsA (interpretation) of Devi is: ‘sport, the desire to overcome or surpass all, all acts in day to day life, shining, adoration and movement’.
Notice that we, as humans, experience all these attributes in ourselves, even though to limited extent. The limitation is in our capacity to be self-aware. Especially, our capacity to become aware of our own reflection is constrained. When we do cognize our reflection, we are in a state of vismarA (forgetfulness). The human manifestation forgets that what we notice as ‘outside’ of us is a reflection of ourselves. And the we erroneously consider that reflection, space-time apparently populated with dynamic objects, as fundamental reality. The error of considering space-time as fundamental reality then leads us to being materialists, which constrains our ability to understand our own nature.
Humans manifest in the Devi’s space-time spandanA. Given our limitations, how can we cognize the Devi’s presence? One way to do so is through the MatrikAs, the 50 discrete spandanA, experienced as sounds, that the human sthula sharira is able to cognize[iii]. These specific discrete sounds are represented (there is more than one tradition on how many letters there are in the Sanskrit alphabet, this particular set of 50 letters is based on my learnings so far) in the 50 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, with 16 avyaya (vowels) and 34 vyanjana (consonants).
The vyanjana are specific to location in the sthula sharira. The vyanjana ka, example, corresponds to the mooldhAra[iv]. The vyanjana ga also corresponds to the mooldhAra. The avayAs connect the vyanjans. This will suffice for now to go back to the purpose of this note, which is to begin to speak of the emergence of the devatA, Sri GaNapati (Sri being an indicator of the Devi; what follows Sri is recognized as being Her aumsha).
Emergence of Sri GaNapati: An interpretation of AtharvashirshA
Atharvashirsha has a total of 10 verses (and an additional 4 verses of phala shruti). The first verse is the Upanishat verse, which affirms that Sri GaNapati is integral to and one and the same as Brahman. The next 5 verses describe Sri GaNapati’s tatva Swaroopa, both in the sthula and sukshma form. The 7th verse describes the Swaroopa, the form, of the Sri GaNapati MantrA. The 8th verse is the Sri GaNapati Gayatri, which provides the meditative chant to begin manifesting the MUrti roopa. In the 8th verse describes the result of the Rishis’s prolonged tapasyA on Sri GaNapati Gayatri: the key features of the MUrti of Sri GaNapati.
The Atharvashirsha is a powerful step by step guide to pratyksha pramANa, the sAkshAtkAra, of Sri GaNapati. It is not amenable to dry discourse of logical deconstruction of text.
The Rishi of Atharvashirsha focused on the MAtrikA Ga ( ग ), one of the 34 vyanjanAs.
The sound Ga is actuated by the mAnav sthula sharira by the middle of the tongue pressing on the back portion of the upper palate, resulting in a tug to the bottom of the spinal cord. The Rishi points out that Ga is always in the MUlAdhAra ( tvam mUlAdhArsya SthitOsinityam) of our sukshma sharira, which to our lay minds is at the bottom of the spinal cord of our sthula sharira.
The mantra, Ga-Na-pa-ta-yayI na-ma-hA, is composed to enable, when chanted with visualization of movement, to move prANA from the mUldhAra up to the sahasrAra. Ga initiates the prANA movement in the mUldhAra. Na-pa-ta begins the movement towards maNipurA. The avayaya yayI gives power filled boost for movement all the way to shasrAra. The Na engages with sahasrAra. The ma-ha immerses and sublimates in the sahsrAra, initiating the blissful downward flow of blessings of Shiva-Shakti from the sahasrAra bathing the entire sukshma and sthula sharira with a sense of peace and contentment. The cycle begins anew.
An Outline of a Cognitive Framework for DevatA emergence
Above I have illustrated the DevatA emergence process through an example. Here I offer a brief high level outline of a cognitive framework that supports the process. This may help as a starting point helps us explore the rahasya a little more.
The outline of the cognitive framework: parA-pashyanti-madhyamA-vaikhari.
Most of us function in the madhyamA (analytic mind producing models of the world based on data delivered by sense functions) – vaikhari (expressions and capture of dynamic objects in the Devi’s space-time spandanA). Most of us are in amnesia that the apparent externality of vaikhari is a reflection of our self as ShivA.
The Rishi has been able to move out of the madhyamA-vaikhari loop, into pashyanti (a mode which enables partial glimpses of Devi’s expressions) of parA, the expression of the Devi. Partial glimpses, because in the human manifestation, even those in the pashyanti mode can cognize and make sense only within the constraints of madhyamA-vaikhari. To cognize something, is remembering. And remembering implies prior experience. The Rishi has previously experienced Ga sound and has been able to reproduce it using indriyas in the sukshma (corresponding to madhyamA)-sthula (corresponding to vaikhari) sharira. It is this remembering that leads to re-cognition of the Ga received in the pashyanti mode. Articulation of this re-cognition in pashyanti to the madhyamA-vaikari level results in Atharvashirsha. That capacity to articulate, connect from the pashyanti to the madhyamA-vaikhari, to generate Atharvashirsha, comes about due Devi’s AnugrahA, inexplicable to most humans.
In the current desh-kAl-paristhiti, with internet being an integral dimension of human space-time (with Artificial Intelligence software currently (in early 2023) rapidly emerging as a major content producer and shaper of narratives for human societies – playing a potentially dominant role in the madhyamA-vaikhari loop), it is important to note that none of what has been said in this post should be used as guideline for personal practice, sAdhanA. The purpose of this article is to encourage readers to dive deeper into the rahasya of DevatA emergence. It is neccessary that guidelines for sadhanA be acquired individually from a seasoned UpAsakA. Each individual is differently configured and in different stages of life cycle requires guidance in different types of sAdhanA. There are no cookie-cutter solutions, to use a much used phrase.
[ii] Pp 10-11 Abhinavgupta, ParA-TrIshikA-VivaraNA, English translation with running notes by Jaideva Singh, Sanskrit text corrected, notes on technical points and charts dictated by Swami LaksmaNjee, Edited by Bettina Baumer, 2011, Motilal Banarasidass Publishers Private Limited.
[iii] What I describe here is based on my shravaNa (listening and reading highly accomplished upAsakAs, who are immersed in the Devi e.g. Sri RAmakrishNa Paramhamsa) and manana, followed by nidhidhyAsa (daily contemplative immersion). For those interested in more academic treatment of this topic, this reference may be a starting point: Judit Törzsök, hThe alphabet goddess Mātṛkā in some early śaiva
Tantras, accessed at (on February 1st 2023) https://hal.science/hal-00710939/document
[iv] There are different sounds associated with chakrAs corresponding to each of the shariras and connections between them. For example, the sounds associated with chakrAs at the Sthula sharira level are: LaṀ for mUldhArA, VaṀ for svAdhithAna, RaṀ for MaNipurA, YaṀ for AnAhatA, HaṀ for Vishuddhi, AuṀ for AjnA. Chanting and meditation with these sounds focused on the chakrA locations are to enable shuddhi of the sthula sharira, which then enables the sAdhakA to focus on sukshma sharira. The kA and Ga as bijA for MUldhAra enable connection from the kAraNa sharira to the sukshma sharira.