A SLOKA A DAY
A STUDY OF SACRED SOUNDS OF SANSKRIT
- One of the avowed objectives of the Foundation is the propagation of Sanskrit studies. Recognizing the value of Sanskrit language as the preserver and propagator of Hindu dharmic culture, Lanka Krishna Murti used to conduct free Sanskrit classes. He hoped thereby to stimulate interest in the use of Sanskrit to understand, and benefit from, the great cultural heritage.
- bhAratIyata prAzastyam
samskrtaM hi ca saMskritiH. The greatness of Bharatiyata lies in the Sanskrit language and the culture (Samskriti).
- Sanskrit language that embodies the entire Hindu dharmic culture has originated from the Supreme Self as discovered by the great ancient Rshis in their deep meditative states. Sanskrit language and the cultural traditions it embodies always go together as both of them originated from the same source, the Supreme Self.
- Sanskrit language encompasses a very wide frame of reference, deep and multi-dimensional, with a specific world-view, various planes of existence and a host of knowledge systems.
- The ancient rishis and the grammarians have asserted that Reality is made up of primordial vibrations. The vibrations are the heartbeat of the cosmos. According to them, the reverberations from the cosmic ‘pulsing’ constitute the alphabet of Sanskrit language. First it was the ‘omkara’ which emanated from the Self-originating Brahman. Then all the sounds emanated from the ‘omkara’ that consists of three sounds A,U and M. it is said in SrimadBhAgavatam (12.6.43) that the mighty unborn Lord Brahma created from the ‘omkara’ the different sounds of the total collection of vowels, sibilants, semivowels, and consonants as they are known by their short and long measures. According to the ‘Sphota’ theory, ‘dhwani’(sound) and ‘artha’ (meaning) are two aspects of the same reality. It is said that there are four levels of Vak from the grossest to the subtlest. “VAIKHARI is what we conventionally experience externally. Here things are separate and as independent entities they relate to one another. The audible sound of a manthra when it is verbalized is at the VAIKHARI MADHYAMA is the subtle level of cognition where the manthra is in the mind as a thought but not verbalized aloud. The next, more subtle level is PASHYANTI, which is in the subconscious mind where these entities are inter-contained and inter-defined and not really separable at all. This is when the manthra disappears, leaving only a very mild presence but without form. PARA is the ultimate reality, where there are no separate entities and only an ocean of possibilities from which the aforementioned levels arise to manifest difference. The manthra is absent but there is silent but heightened awareness.” (RajivMalhotra, 2011, P.419.)
- More importantly, the Sanskrit speech sounds are said to possess enormous potency.
The sacred sounds coming from the chanting of the manthras have great impact on different levels of existence: the senses, the mind, and the intellect. They pierce through these levels to bring about purification and enlightenment.
Some experiments were conducted by the well-known scientist, Hans Jenny (1904 – 1972), Father of Cymatics, the study of wave phenomena, to prove that the sacred sounds affect the Seven Chakras in the spinal column, and the three pranic channels: Sushumna, Ida and Pingala.
- Reading of Vedic texts in Sanskrit, even without knowing their meaning, is tested and verified by the experiment conducted by the Maharshi University of Management, Iowa, U.S. to show that it produces certain physiological patterns similar to the ones produced in deep meditative states. From this it can be said that the state gained during meditative practice can be integrated with active mental processes by doing parayana, reading of Vedic Sanskrit texts like Bhagavadgita, Vishnusahasranama, etc. The experiment further revealed that the reading of the same sacred texts translated into any other language did not produce a similar effect.
- It is obvious from the above that the sacred sounds of both parayana and mantra japa induce deep states of meditation. Our ancient rishis realized various truths and mantras in such deep meditative states. This is a well-established fact. I wish to furnish three examples in support of the above fact.
- Swamy Vivekananda experienced the vision of one rishi, who, after bathing in the Sindhu river, was seen reciting the mantra that invokes Gayatri.
Swamiji heard the mantra even.
- His Holiness Jagadguru Abhinava Vidyathirtha Swamigal received detailed instructions on hatha-yoga directly from Lord Shiva in seven dreams that occurred on successive nights starting on the night of the day on which he was initiated into sanyasa by his guru Sri Chandrasekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal on May 22, 1921.
Then, this is how he describes his first experience of the Kundalini and the chakras:
This took place a few months after my being initiated into Samnyasa (on May 22, 1931). I had just finished my morning ahnika and was about to get up. Without premeditation, I joined my palms and said, “Shree Sharadayai namaH.” Abruptly, I felt an upsurge of joy and stopped being aware of my surroundings. It began to seem that my body was becoming transparent and that I was seeing my backbone from some vantage point in front of my chest… the backbone then seemed to become translucent to reveal a canal in its interior. In moments, the canal’s width became greatly magnified. I could then see a tube, red and bright like fire, traversing the length of the canal. A mellifluous female voice announced, “i-am sushumnaa naadee- this is the sushumnaa naadee.”
- The third example pertains to the experience Sadguru Jaggi Vasudev had, which in his own words goes like this:
The utterance of the sound“Shiva” attains a completely new dimension and significance in Kedar. It is a space which has been specially prepared for this particular sound.
It is not right to say this, but it is almost like on this planet, the sound
“Shiva” emanates from this place. For thousands of years, people have
experienced that space as a reverberation of that sound.
When I got to Kedar after a long trek, I heard about Kantisarovar, so one
afternoon, I decided to go there. I set forth around 2 or 2:30pm and got
there in a little more than an hour’s time. There was the lake and snowcapped
mountains around it. In terms of nature, it is fantastic – this huge
lake of absolutely still water, no vegetation and all the snow-covered
peaks reflecting in the totally stil l water. It was an incredible place.
I just sat there, and the serenity, silence and purity penetrated my
consciousness. The climb, the altitude and the desolate beauty of that
place left me breathless. I sat in that stillness on a small rock with my
eyes open, imbibing every form around me. The surroundings gradually
lost their form and only nada – sound – existed. The mountain, the lake
and the whole surroundings, including my body, did not exist in their
usual form. Everything was just sound. Within me a song arose: “Nada
brahma vishwa swaroopa.”
I am somebody who always avoided learning the Sanskrit language.
Though I like the language very much and I know the depth of the
language, I avoided learning it because the moment you learn Sanskrit,
you will invariably end up reading the scriptures. My own vision has
never failed me in anything even for one moment, so I did not want to
clutter myself with scriptures and all these traditions. So I avoided the
While I was sitting there, my mouth was definitely closed and my eyes
open, and I heard this song in a big way, in my voice. It was my voice
singing, and it was a Sanskrit song. I heard it clearly, loudly. So loud, it
was like the whole mountain was singing. In my experience, everything
had turned into sound. That is when I perceived this song. I didn’t make it
up, I didn’t write it – it just descended upon me. The whole song flowed
out in Sanskrit. The experience was overpowering.
Nada Brahma Vishwaswaroopa
Nada Hi Sakala Jeevaroopa
Nada Hi Karma Nada Hi Dharma
Nada Hi Bandhana Nada Hi Mukti
Nada Hi Shankara Nada Hi Shakti
Nadam Nadam Sarvam Nadam
Nadam Nadam Nadam Nadam
Slowly, after some time, everything fell back into its earlier form.
These three examples amply testify to the power Sanskrit sounds have in evoking deep meditative states, in which several personal, direct experiences take place.
- It is a known fact that Sanskrit was used as an effective medium of communication both by the elite and the common people for thousands of years.
- With its rich linguistic resources, Sanskrit is eminently suited for giving creative expression to any nuance of thought or depth of feeling. A sound knowledge of Sanskrit is required to unlock the treasure of poetic richness and profound philosophic thought contained in the literature and various knowledge systems that we have inherited. Sanskrit is a very rich and versatile language with the unique facility of deriving ever new compound words and coining words in several ways. In studying a Sanskrit poem, the following steps are considered effective:
- Arranging the words and compounds (समासाः) in sentence form (अन्वयः). Consideration of gender, case (विभक्तिः) and number of each noun will be very helpful in this process.
- Breaking the joints (सन्धिः)
- Resolution of compound words (समासाः) into their component words (विग्रहः).
- Declention(सुबन्तरूपाणि) of the nouns.
- Derivation(व्युत्पत्तिः) of each word from the relevant root or verb(धातुः), conjugation of verbs and writing meanings.
6.One could next learn to appreciate figures of speach (अलङ्काराः), sentiments (रसाः), suggestion (ध्वनिः) etc.,
The Present Initiative
- It is proposed to help acquire spiritual uplift by introducing the 108 Slokas that contain the thousand names of Vishnu (Vishnusahasranama) for repeating each name with its meaning and significance.
- The meanings and significance of the thousand names as given below in English are in accordance with the scholarly interpretation and commentary of Parasara Bhattarya presented in his scholarly work called bhagavadguNadarpaNa in Sanskrit. Parasarabhattarya was a contemporary of Sri Ramanuja and as his worthy successor carried forward the Sri Vaishnava tradition.
- Repeat each name clearly as you hear it. As you repeat each name, try to catch and feel and experience the vibrations of sound. Each name can also be converted into a powerful mantra by making a few changes. Repeat each name as a mantra and again feel the vibrations of the sound. The mantric power further augments the spiritual uplift and renders Liberation or Self –Realization more easily accessible.
- It is important to understand the context in which the sahasranmas When the Mahabharata War ended with heavy losses to both the Kauravas and Pandavas, Yudhisthira approached, along with his brothers, the Grand Sire Bhishma and sought his advice on a variety of issues. Bhisma dealt extensively with the intricacies of dharmic practices vis-à-vis human conduct and behavior.
At the end, Yudhisthira asks Bhishma:
“Which dharma, in your considered opinion, is the best and foremost among all the dharmas?
On whom by doing japa does a created being get liberated from the shackles of Samsara (birth and death)?
The answer to both these questions as given by Bhishma is:
It is by praising Him,rations of
The Lord of Existence, God of Gods,
The Endless One, the Exalted Purusha,
Through a stotra of thousand names,
By worshipping Him ceaselessly, with devotion,
By meditating on him and
By paying obeisance to Him,
One transcends all forms of sorrow.
This, in my opinion, is the best and foremost among all the dharmas.
Accordingly, the sahasranama stortra, as enumerated by Bheeshma is given below. It is for the readers to get the maximum benefit by following the procedure as shown below:
A SLOKA A DAY…..
- A Sloka a day
- Keeps your Shoka away.
- Study the words in the Sloka,
- Understand their meanings,
- Memorize the words,
- Repeat them as often as you can,
- Purify the inner instrument (antahkarana),
- And reap the fruit of Divine Grace;
- It helps you to chart out
- A sure and joyous journey
- Towards Eternal Bliss.