CONTINUED FROM PART TWO – the “Guru Mantra Commentary” by Ganapati Muni (see previous post.)
Mantric language is cyclic, rhythmic, primordial. Whether we know any Sanskrit or not, the vibration grows through a commitment of the syllables to archetypal visual images. This passage develops the ASTRAGNI or weapon within the mantra. In my understanding, only a pure intention may access the metaphysical power of the Word: otherwise it rebounds.
In Part Two, we bowed to Guru in the heart’s cave. Here in Part Three, the repeated sounding of vacadhbu, agni, sara, sastra encircle and warm up my path of awe. I do not know. Unconfined to the mind, the resonance is received afresh; I begin again to ascend the mountain at dawn.
Second Chapter: The Enunciation of the Second Mantra
The Muni continues:
In this second chapter, we shall comment on another Tantric mantra of Bhagavan. Here is its verse of enunciation: (No English translation available)
“Sukham krsanuh kilalam
Nidra vari ca vikhyato
Namo mantro vadadbhuvah.”
The letter sa, Sukham happiness; the letter ra krsanuh, fire; the letter na kilalam, water; the letter va murdhanyah anunasikah; the letter na nidra, cerebral nasal; the letter bha vari, sleep; the letter va, water.(**)
1. Happiness sa
2. Fire ra
3. Water va
4. Cerebral nasal na
5. Sleep bha
6. Water va
When these six letters are read together they become sa ra va na bha wa. – “One who is born from the forest of sara”. As there are six letters in this Mantra also, like before, we understand by this the six faces of Skanda. (*)
FOOTNOTES - **- Sri Sankaranarayanan’s translation of this paragraph was ambiguous, and K.Natesan apparently overlooked my query about it. I have arranged it as best I can, and would welcome the advice of an educated Sanskrit reader. J.A.
*- The child Skanda (Kumara)- seed of Agni in the wives of Seven Rishis who warmed themselves by the fire - could not be carried by wives (goddesses of Krttika the Pleiades constellation) or Himalaya mountain or Ganga river, so it fell in a bed of reeds (grass). Six parts of the seed joined in this birthplace as one six headed child; Siva's wife Parvati filled with milk and the universe rejoiced - for this child of Siva (through the inter- mediary of Agni) was destined to defeat the demon of the reactive mind, Taraka. Skanda's older brother was Ganapati.
Note from Wendy O’Flaherty: ‘Siva the Erotic Ascetic’
THE MEANING OF THE SECOND MANTRA: Saravanabhawa
“One who is born from the forest of sara, a kind of grass”. ASTRAGNI : (astra, missile or weapon invoked with a mantra, agni, sacred fire) – this means “fire of guided missile”. Here, a physical fire born from igniting grass, is not what is meant. If it were, it would not be vacadbhu – born out of the sound vibration (energy).
The story that the effulgent seed of Rudra placed in the stalk of grass became Kumara, has some deep truth behind it: Rudra is full of sound. His effulgent seed is the fire born by focussing the perfected astra mantra of a great yogi accomplished in the lore of the astras. It acquires the form of sara, grows, and slays its enemies.
“Vidma sarasya pitaram parjanyam – “We know the father of the SARA,
bhuridhayasam – Parjanya, liberal nourisher,
Vidmo svasya mataram – we know his mother Prithvi,
prthivim bhurivarpasam. – earth with her manifold designs.
Jyake pari nona masmanam tonvan krdhi – O, Bowstring, bend thyself around us,
Virur variyo ratirapa dvesarasya krdhi.” – make my body stone.
Firm in thy strength, drive far away malignities and hateful things.”
Aghawa Samkita II. 1. 2.
Sara described in the above two Mantras is a special kind of grass, not an arrow made of bamboo or metal. This is indicated by saying that its mother and father are the earth and the rain God. If we say that bamboo also, being a tree, can deserve to be the son of the earth and the rain God, the fourth Mantra in that same chapter, removes any doubt :
Yatha dyam ca prthivim cantas tiethati tejanam
evarogam casravam cantas tisthatu munja it.
Just as the sharp point stands
between earth and heaven,
let the munja grass stand between wellbeing and illness.
Here by the word munja he deduces the aforesaid sara. Munja is a type of grass and not bamboo. How could fragile grass be capable of killing enemies without relating to astra, the fire warming the word which an accomplished Mantra fills ? (15)
“Isikam jaratim stva
tilpinjam dandanam nadam
krtva yamasyagvim niradadhan
He sought the grass, Isika
tilpinja, nada and dandana.
He enriched Indra’s fuel
and the fire of Yama.
Athawa Samhita XII.2.54.
Isika, Tilpivja, nada are types of grass. Dandanum might be of bamboo. Amongst them isika is a synonym for the sara grass. Here by the word Indra, the Jiva is meant. As the Veda says: “Rupam Rupam pratirupo babhuva.”16. He, the perfected Person knows the astra. He bound the isika grass into faggots, and nourished the sages around the fire of Yama, Kala, Time. This means he expanded and increased that which stood in the sky as the fire of Time.
Time is not different from sound. The sound resonates subtly in the sky and cultures everything.
FOOTNOTES 15- ASTRA from the root AS - to throw; a missile, usually of grass or any fragile material backed up by a powerful Mantra, though astra is loosely translated as an arrow. Sastra(scriptures) is an arrow, while astra is a weapon backed up by the Mantra. Here the Mantra is significant, and not the material used as a weapon. 16- "He put his image in every form."
That is why we have said in our Indra Gita:
“Sadvyapakasaktim pranam kathayanti
Vyaktetarasabdam kalam ganayanti.” (17)
“The pervading force of Existence they call Prana ;
and they reckon as Time the unmanifest Sound.”
FOOTNOTE - 17- Indra Gita is one of the compositions of Ganapati Muni and is included in Gitamala.
There itself it has been said that Kala, Time, is known by the name of Yama and Rudra.
“Rudram vidureka netarbahulilam
Prahur yamam anye kayam tava kalam.”
“O, Leader, some know you as Rudra of many sports ;
Others call thy body Time, Yama.”
Rudra who is the Sabda Brahman and Time factor pervades the sky. His effulgence impelled by the fire of Mantra becomes the Agni, named astra in the form of sara. This Agni is the Lord, the Commander-in-Chief of the armies, the destroyer of Asuras, the accomplisher of the Divine Purpose. The word isu is formed only from the word isika. The ancients employ the word isvastra to denote astra.
“Isvastram esam devatvam paritranam satamiva
Bhayam vai manuso bhavah parivado satamiva.”
“Their astra denoted divinity.
It bore divine protection to good people.
Fear is their human aspect to the wicked.”
By esam (*) the Kshatriyas (warriors) are covered. Also the primary name for astra is only isikastra. (See Ramayana and Mahabharata). Though the word sara meant astra, later on by derivative significance, it came to denote the arrow. The word sara is a pointer to the other “faggot bundles” (weapons) of astra. Principally, the usage is the form “from out of the forest of sara”, saravanabhava.
FOOTNOTE - * esam, a Sanskrit word for prowess (footnote supplied by K.Natesan)
THE APPROPRIATENESS OF SKANDA AS THE GURU?
If “Skanda” had these attributes alone, he would be a War God, not the Guru Causal. Yet being the God of war does not deter him from being the Guru Causal. In fact, it helps. The one who manifests the fire of astra, destroying foes, is our inner illumination. He burns away the ties that bind, and reveals the shore beyond darkness.
An effulgence of sound is inner knowing. By this alone, the Brahmin attains a vision of the Divine.
By the effulgence alone, the Kshatriya (warrior) masters the divine astra. The effulgence is the Brahmanhood of Brahman; the kingship of the Warrior caste.
And thus ends the Second Chapter.
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