Exploring Rahasya of DevatA Emergence

Sri GaNeshA MokshadAyakA, ChinmayA VrindAvan, Carnbury, New Jersey

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.

[i] https://sanskritdocuments.org/doc_ganesha/atharva.pdf

[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.

Exploring Mystery,Rahasya, of the MUrti

Image Source: Wikimedia

By Jayant Kalawar, January 17, 2023

In this post I am extending my thoughts from  my last post on role of VyAkaraNA in our cognitive process . I want to explore how our ancestors embedded their insights into mUrtis and the role that plays in our upAsanA (the sitting in contemplation next to the Divya Shaktis). The mUrtis embed a subtle language to provide a reflection (pratibimba) of the self. What I offer here is my mimAmsA (interpretation) through a few examples.

As I have been chanting the Sri LalitA SahasranAma almost daily over more than a decade, I have noticed that some of the names spring up spontaneously as I go about on my long daily walk or during mundane chores like washing dishes or doing the laundry. Not only do the nAmAs arise as sound, they emerge as a visualization of the imagery being described. There is a contemplation, a soft churning in the mind, that seems to happen. And sometimes a small insight may emerge. Let me give you an example.

Consider the 17th nAmA of Sri LalitA: ashTami chandra vibhrAja daLika sthala shobhitA. Most of the thousand names, indeed thousand mantrAs, seem tongue twisting to start with. Chanting them with the rhythm of the anushThuba chandA helps us perform ucchAraNa to bring out the sounds – and the flower of the seed mantra begins to blossom. As I do SravaNa of the mantrA, manana follows. ashTami reminds me of the tithi on which we celebrate rising of Sri DurgA Devi during NavarAtri. I imagine looking up in the night sky on ashtami and visualizing a clear bright chandra, slightly greater than half. The mantrA helps me visualize that part of the sky as the Devi’s forehead. With just a slight cognitive shift, I visualize the mantrA’s message that space (the brilliantly lit forehead in the sky) and time (ashTami tithi) is one aspect of the Devi’s myriad spandanA. As that visualization arises, I stop breathing for a few moments. Stopping of the prANic connection, even momentarily, has the potential, when spurred by the mantra, of dissolving one into the ephemeral, beyond space-time.

This one mantra, describing the forehead of the Devi’s Murti, has the power to raise one to ephemeral heights!

The Four Hands, Chatur Bahu, of the Devi’s MUrti

Now let’s consider a more sanguine set of mantrAs, which describe another aspect of Sri LalitA Devi’s Murti: nAmAs 7 to 11.

The 7th nAma describes Sri LalitAmbA’s mUrti as one having four arms, chatur bAhu samanvitA. And then 8th to 11th go on to describe what each of the four arms hold.

In the lower left arm, the Devi Murti holds the noose. In the lower right arm, the goad. The upper right arm holds five long stemmed flowers described as arrows and the upper left arm holds a sugarcane stalk. Next time you contemplate Sri LalitAmbA’s MUrti notice the four arms and what they are holding. Our ancestors designed MUrtis meticulously embedding them with compressed insights.

It is an entire epic manifesting before you. Sri LalitA SahasranAma holds the keys to the treasure of knowledge embedded in the mUrti of Sri LalitAmbA.

The 8th nAmA, rAga-swarupa-pAshADyA, describes the noose in the lower left hand. The shape (swarupa) of the noose (pAshADyA) stands for hungry desire (rAgA) to consume. The hungry desire to consume material objects. Such desire becomes a noose around our neck. It is as if we are on a leash and the hungry desire leads us to consume mindlessly. Sri LalitAmbA’s mUrti is designed to enable introspection, as a reflection of ourselves (pratibimbA).

The 9th nAmA, krodha-AkArA-kushojjvalA, describes the elephant goad in the lower right hand. As a pratibimba of ourselves, the goad (kushojjvalA)  is the drive that is made of AkArA (knowledge arising in forms, shapes in space-time) and passion (krodha). Thus, the desire (rAga, a form of IcchA shakti, the kAraNA) transforms into AkArA in space-time (a sukshma manifestation) and results in action in the sthula, through the channel of passion (krodha). As we know, each word in Sanskrit can be and has been interpreted differently (the MimamsA-TarkA process). Here I am using the pratibimba paradigm (a reflection of ourselves), while at the same time staying true to the Shruti: the Devi is IcchA shakti – JnAna shakti – KriyA shakti  swaroopiNi (658th nAmA in the Sri LalitA SahasranAma).

The 10th nAmA, mano-rupekshu-kodandA, describes the sugarcane stalk in the upper right hand. The kodanda (bow, sugarcane stalk) indicates the potential to manifest the shapes, forms (rupa) in the mind (mana). The shapes, forms in space-time which are referred to as AkArA  are acquired by this potential of kodanda to become rupa in the mind. The cognitive process of acquiring the object and transforming into nAma-rupa is represented by the upper right hand of the mUrti.

The 11th nAmA, panch-tan-mAtra-sAyakA, described the 5 arrows of flowers in the upper left hand. The five arrows represent the five senses, which are deployed to go out and acquire the AkArA, the object, to the manas, to transform it into rupa with an associated nAma. Through such nAma-rupa association, meanings begin to be created.

Thus, the four hands of the Devi’s mUrti are designed to reflect back to the upAsakA (the one who sits at the mUrti’s feet in contemplation), the upAsakA’s own nature. The Lalita SahasranAm is a guide to the upAsakA as she / he visualizes Sri Lalita’S mUrti within themselves and begins to become aware how the Devi’s shakti is manifesting within them.

In that sense LalitAmbA’s mUrti is a yantra, an artifact, embedded with language designed to help us contemplate and understand our cognitive processes as spandanA and how the mAnav spandanA is one of the myriad spandanA of the Devi. As I have shown here through a few examples, guides to open up the mystery, the rahasyA, of each mUrti, are accessible through sravaNa and manana of the corresponding sahasranAmAs[i].

[i] Those, among readers of this article, who wish to research more I would suggest LalitA-SahasranAmA with BhAskararAyA’s Commentary, English Translation (Translated by R. AnanthkrishNa Sastry), The Adyar Library and Research Center, Chennai, 600020, India, 2010. While it is titled as Commentary, it may be more appropriately described as a meticulous compilation of multiple interpretations of each nAmA by many mimamsakAs over millennia. It is a treasure trove of contemplation for upAsakAs.

Musings on VyAkaraNa

With the Devi’s Blessings. Cover art by Jayant Kalawar 2018.

By Jayant Kalawar, January 4, 2023

The last few weeks (of 2022) has seen a great deal being written about VyAkaraNa in international media, including social media. VyakaraNa, the systematized knowledge of the grammar has been used to structure Samskrit bhAshA in at least the last 2500 years or so. That VyAkaraNa became  a topic of popular conversation tells us more about how materialist vision of the world (“Employing this interpretation, he found the Panini’s “language machine” produced grammatically correct words with almost no exceptions”[i]), rooted in the so-called European Enlightenment of about 500 years ago, continues its movement to assimilate “pre-modern” knowledge produced by humans for millennia[ii]. Indian Samskrit academics raised objections that the research work by Mr Rishi Rajpopat, a graduate student at Cambridge Univeristy, UK, had not yet been peer reviewed[iii], but did not contest the description of PaNini’s “language machine” – a reductive materialist description of VyAkaraNa. It seems to me that the lens being used, in the current conversation on all sides, to describe MahArishi PaNini’s systematized knowledge (ShAstra), is a materialist one.

So how to notice VyAkaraNa with an integrated lens of the VedA, rather than the narrower materialist lens? The version of VyAkaraNa as described in MahArishi Panini’s AshthAdhAyi may be seen as an articulation of the bridge that humans use in their cognitive process, of perceiving the world, understanding it and responding to it. There were many versions of VyAkaraNa. The AshthAdhyAyi got traction and became standard usage.

Where does VyAkaraNa fit into the human cognitive process as the VedA teaches us, the process by which humans make sense of the world? At its root, human awareness capacity (Chaitanya) has a disinterested observer component (Sakshi). The Sakshi becomes AhamkArA, an interested player, one with skin in the worldly game, through a process of forgetting (vismarA), its true nature. The AhamkArA plays the role of the cognizer in the game, a pramAthA. PramAthA acquires data on the many objects in the world through IndriyAs (sense functions of seeing, hearing etc). To make sense of object data it has gathered it applies pramANa, structured ways of making meaning (one may call them algorithms in this particular desh-kAl-paristhiti in 2023). The manas is the platform used to process the acquired data. The challenge then is to be able to make meaning out of the processed data and communicate it out to fellow humans so that it makes sense to them as well. Sharing of the meaning produced in manas. That requires standardization. That is where the role of VyAkaraNa comes into play. It helps classify meanings of words produced in the manas in the form of structured sounds (shabda). Such shared classifications help us share common understandings of the world. And therefore act together in it.

Our ancestors developed many different interpretations (MimamsA) of each word of the VedA. They constructed different models, darshanAs, to explain the world, based on these many different interpretations. And they argued and synthesized and differed (tarkA). But one thing they all accepted was to use the standard VyAkaraNa so that they could have some chance of understanding each other.

So one such interpretation of the human cognitive process articulated, especially in Kashmir Shaivism, is ParA-Pashyanti-MadhyamA-Vaikhari. Where Vaikhari is the spoken word, uccharaNa. It is also where data on the objects is acquired by IndriyAs. MadhyamA is where the data is processed and meaningful images are generated. VyAkaraNa plays the role of bridging between MadhyamA and VyAkaraNa.

Another parallel interpretation is Sharira Traya: Sthula-Sukshma-KAraNa. VedAntins favor this interpretation (even as the Advaita VedAntins rush in to remind us that Sharira Traya is unAtma, asat!). One can map prameya (and vaikhari) to sthula, pramANa (and madhyamA) to sukshma and pramAtha-SAkshi (and ParA-Pashyanti) to KAraNa.

I will drop this one as I end my musings on VyAkaraNa: the beej AksharAs enable connection directly from Vaikhari (Sthula) to Pashyanti (Sakshi, KAraNa), by-passing madhyamA (manas). Mantras are designed using beej AksharAs for this purpose. That thought opens up the contemplation of Sthula Sharira in terms of chakrAs which emanate particular spandanA corresponding to beej AksharAs. Hence some AcharyAs may say that when it comes to mantrAs, do not look for meanings. Meanings are produced in the madhyAmA, which the mantrAs help us to avoid, while connecting directly to pashyanti (this by-passing helps to get us towards nir-vikalpa, madhyamA being the node which produces vikalpa).

I will leave this short note here for contemplation and conversation.

[i] https://www.bbc.com/news/articles/cg3gw9v7jnvo

[ii] https://www.guardian-series.co.uk/news/national/23192289.student-solves-sanskrit-grammatical-problem-puzzled-scholars-centuries/

[iii] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zyw21VpHXto