The role of suṣumṇā in the mantra realisation

Looking through the Bengali text, the Bṛhattantrasāra, written by Guru Kṛṣṇānandāgamavāgīśa, I found an interesting point regarding the mantra practice, where the Gautamīya-tantra is quoted. We know that there is a classical practice of puraścaraṇa in the form of japa, homatarpaṇamārjana and brāhmaṇa bhojana. However, it speaks of a certain “exception”, which, in my opinion, is a transitional moment of sādhanā, “joining” in itself the goals of vāmācāra and yoga of the Nāthas (vajrolī). I decided to share this piece of text with you, maybe it will give someone an additional understanding of the tantra and Nātha yoga practice.

पशुभावे स्थिता मन्त्राः प्रोक्ता वर्णास्तु  केवलाः 
सौषुम्ने  ध्वन्युच्चरिता  प्रभुत्वं प्राप्नुवन्ति ते
मन्त्राक्षराणि चिच्छक्तौ प्रोतानि परिभावयेत्
तामेव परमव्योम्नि परमामृतबृंहिते
दर्शयत्यात्मसद्भावं पूजाहोमादिभिर्व्विनेति
मूलमन्त्रं प्राणबुद्ध्या सुषुम्नामूलदेशके
मन्त्रार्थं तस्य चैतन्यं जीवं ध्यात्वा पुनः पुनः

In the Gautamīya Tantra:

The mantras practiced in the paśu bhava are recited only at the letter level. The Suṣumṇā-related, practiced sounds are overflowing with power. During jāpa, the mantrāksharas should be fully connected to the power of consciousness. That (mantra) in the highest space is nourished by the highest bliss. Pūjā, homa and etc. are not required for this type of practice, practice the main mantra* through the power of consciousness in the root area (the base) of suṣumṇā (genitals). Practice meditation over and over again with that mantra essence, the consciousness of a living being.

Mūlamantra (the root mantra) is the main mantra of a Deity. For example, Śiva’s mantra is oṃ namaḥ śivāya, Gaṇeśa’s mantra is oṃ gaṃ gaṇapataye namaḥ, etc.

Sohaṃ mantra and mātṝkā

I have already quoted from the Prapañcasāra-tantra (4.21). It says that the praṇavaOṃ’ comes from the mantrasohaṃ’. If there is no ‘sa’ and ‘ha’ in it, then ‘o’ remains, and with the bindu we get ‘Oṃ’.

सकारं च हकारं च लोपयित्वा प्रयोजयेत्।
संधिं वै पूर्वरूपाख्यं ततोऽसौ प्रणवो भवेत् ।।४.२१।।

sakāraṃ ca hakāraṃ ca lopayitvā prayojayet।
saṃdhiṃ vai pūrvarūpākhyaṃ tato’sau praṇavo bhavet ।।4.21।।

According to the pūrva-rūpa saṁdhi rule, removing ‘sa’ and also ‘ha’, definitely, one should definitely get that praṇava (Oṃ) from there.

The mantra ‘Oṃ’ is called ‘para-praṇava’. That means it is primordial, it is identified with the spontaneously arising vibration (anāhata). There are many interpretations of this mantra and one of them is that the spelling ॐ is a combination of three mātrā  अ – उ – म् / a – u – m. Sometimes you can find other spellings, for example ओँ / om̐, which could be explained by grammar rules, according to which ओ / o is a combination of syllables अ – उ / a – u. So relatively speaking, we can say that all vowels fall into the range from अ / a to म् / m, which could also shift to anusvāra. According to the Parā-trīṃśikā-vivaraṇa, all vowels are associated with Śiva-tattva, and all consonants are associated with Śakti and all manifestations that emerge due to it (the remaining 35 tattvas). Sanskrit consonants are connected with all other tattvas, they end with ह / ha. Together, through the union of Śiva and Śakti, by means of kāma-kalā, they are aparapraṇava, known as अहं ‘aham’, which is the symbol of kāma-kalā.

Thus, aham is an abbreviation, in which all akṣaras of the Sanskrit alphabet and all 36 tattvas are contained. That is, ‘aham’ is Śiva himself with his Śakti and ‘viśva’ – all manifestations emerging from them, which are always contained in them at any stage of their unfolding. Saying ‘aham’ (Self), we kind of reveal the experience of ourselves as the whole universe, what both nāthas and tantrikas call piṇḍabrahmāṇḍa-vada (the connection of microcosm and macrocosm). Different worlds of outer space are represented in our body, mainly in cakras.

So, we have two praṇavas, ‘para’ – is directly ‘Oṃ’, originating from sohaṃ, this is Śiva himself and the vowels of Śakti. And then, from the parapraṇava, the aparapraṇava manifests, in which the Sanskrit consonants and the remaining 35 tattvas unfold. When we repeat ‘sohaṃ’, or rather, we experience this phenomenon comprehensively, then we feel the identity of ourselves – अहं ‘aham’ with सः ‘sah’ (he). It can be associated with any deity or mantra associated with it. And ultimately, any mantra should lead to that experience, which is known as ‘ajapa-japa’.

There is also an inverted version of this mantra, known as हंसः ‘haṃsaḥ’. If translated literally, it means ‘swan’. Śaṅkara identifies a swan with the principle of the Sun, since it is a source of prāṇa, and the Sun, like a swan, moves through the sky. The Sun can touch a surface of the earth, its rays glide over it. The Sun rises and disappears with the sunset, and in the same way a swan can submerge under water and stay there, to be on and above water. If ‘sohaṃ’ is paramātmā, then ‘haṃsa’ is also a symbol of omnipresence, but rather, like ‘ātman’ (from the root ‘at’ – to move and spread, that is, ātman abides in everything). There is one famous mantra which is used in tantrism sometimes. It is quoted in the earliest Kaṭhopaniṣad, but initially it is found in the Rigveda, in the hymn to Dadhikar (the Sun).

The Rigveda (Maṇḍala 4.40.5)

हं॒सः शु॑चि॒षद्वसु॑रंतरिक्ष॒सद्धोता॑ वेदि॒षदति॑थिर्दुरोण॒सत् ।
नृ॒षद्व॑र॒सदृ॑त॒सद्व्यो॑म॒सद॒ब्जा गो॒जा ऋ॑त॒जा अ॑द्रि॒जा ऋ॒तं ॥

The swan [the Sun], which abides (षद् / ṣad) in the clear sky (शुचि / śuci), abides in air (वसु / vasu), in the middle atmosphere (अन्तरिक्ष / antarikṣa), in fire (होता / hotā), dwells in the center of the Vedic altar for agnihotra (वेदिषद् / vediṣad), in the guest* (अतिथि / atithi), staying at the house (दुरोणसत् / duroṇasat). Being in people (नृषद् / nṛṣad), in good beings (gods, siddhas) (वरसत् / varasat), in harmony with the world (a world order) (ऋतसत् / ṛtasat), who is in space (व्योमसत् / vyomasat), born under water अब्जा / abjā (वडवानल  / vaḍavānala – fire within the ocean), born from the Sun (गो / go) (जा / jā – sunlight). The one who was born from the perfect world order (ऋतजा / ṛtajā), born on the mountains** (अद्रिजा / adrijā), the basis of the world order (ऋतं / ṛtaṃ), the great one from whom the whole universe emerges (बृ्हत् / bṛhat).

Explanation of terms:

* Guests in India are identified with the gods and vice versa, the gods are invoked during a pūjā into the space of the rite, therefore they are also ‘guests’.

** ‘Who is born on the mountains’ – could have many meanings; adri could mean ‘cloud’, the Sun, ‘mountain’, clouds covering a mountain, something related to the number seven. I believe that we are talking about seven sacred rivers, the worship of which is present in all pūjās, they all descend from heaven, these are heavenly rivers, symbols of nectar (amṛta).

Based on this hymn, we can better understand the significance of the ‘haṃsa’ symbol.

Oṃkāra inside sohaṃ

Many connections can be found between the praṇava oṃ and the mantrahaṃsa” (sohaṃ). The symbol of the swan, like a bird, is found in the Nādabindūpaniṣad. This image and the connection with praṇava are described there as following:

अकारो दक्षिणः पक्ष उकारस्तूत्तरः स्मृतः।
मकारं पुच्छमित्याहुरर्धमात्रा तु मस्तकम् मस्तकम् १॥

akāro dakṣiṇaḥ pakṣa ukārastūttaraḥ smṛtaḥ
makāraṃ pucchamityāhurardhamātrā tu mastakam mastakam 1

It is believed (smṛtaḥ) the mātrā “A” (akāraḥ) is in the right wing (dakṣinaḥ-pakṣaḥ), the mātrā “U”(ukāraḥ) in the north (uttaraḥ – “north” is “in the left” wing). Thus (iti), in his tail (puccham) is the mātrā “Ma” (makāraṃ), also (tu) they say (āhuḥ), ia half the mātrā, (ardhamātrā) is in his head (mastakam), i.e. nasalized vibration.

Haṃsa is the Sun

I heard from my Guru that the so-ham mantra is connected with the experience related to the sahasrāracakra, when kuṇḍalinī-śakti connects jīva with Śiiva. The haṃsa-mantra (inverted “so-ham”) is located in the six-cakras and symbolises the jīvātman (the eternal soul embodied in the body). Both mantras, which are essentially one mantra, have many meanings. I suppose, haṃsa, which is formally translated as “a swan”, requires special explanations of what is actually meant by a swan. You can find the essence of the haṃsa concept in one of the ślokas from the Rigveda, which is later repeated in the Yajurveda, the Taittirīya-āraṇyaka and the Kaṭha Upaniṣad (one of the earliest Upaniṣadas), the Mahānārāyaṇa Upaniṣad and others. This mantra is also found in tantric sādhana. It refers to the haṃsa – a swan, generally symbolising the sun. The sun is the source of prāṇa (the symbol of the jīva respectively), the sun – like a swan, rises on the horizon, moves in the sky and goes back to the earth in the evening. Thus, it is present both in the sky and on the earth, is also able to be under water and on its surface. It is something omnipresent, like prāṇa that pervades the entire universe. Here is the mantra from the Rig Veda dedicated to the Swan Sun (haṃsa):

हं॒सः शु॑चि॒षद्वसु॑रंतरिक्ष॒सद्धोता॑ वेदि॒षदति॑थिर्दुरोण॒सत् ।
नृ॒षद्व॑र॒सदृ॑त॒सद्व्यो॑म॒सद॒ब्जा गो॒जा ऋ॑त॒जा अ॑द्रि॒जा ऋ॒तं ॥  ०४।०४०।०५

The sun (swan – haṃsaḥ) located in the clear sky (śuciṣat), in the atmosphere (antarikṣasat), moving through the air (vasu), it is a priest (hotar – Agni himself) staying in a hollow (the center of the vedic altar – vediṣat), the guest (atithi) abiding in the house (duroṇasat). Dwelling in people (nṛṣat), being in the best (varasat) (that can be deities or siddhas), in the world order (ṛtasat), located in space (vyomasat), born in water (abjā, the fire inside the ocean – vaḍavānala), born of “the cows” (gojā – the sun rays), born of a world order (ṛtajā), appeared from the mountain (adrijā) – the great truth (ṛtaṃ bṛhat) (the rising sun).

The sun (savitā) is one of the main worshiping aim in the VedasSāvitrī in the Vedas is a prototype of Śakti, after which it became known as kuṇḍalinī, which ascends through suṣumṇā to Śiva in the form of the light of prākāśa. The kuṇḍalinī raises the jīva (haṃsa) through the cakras and is absorbed back into itself in the sahasrāra, turning into the realisation of so-ham (I am him) in the form of Śiva.

Grammatical analysis of the mantra ॐ

This mantra comes from the dhātu of the first verbal group – अव् / av, which means – रक्षण / rakṣaṇa – ‘protection’ (receiving from God, Ishvara). The semi-vowel labial व् / v is transformed into labial उ / u, then it is transformed into ओ / ou with the addition of labial and मन् / man, where only the nasalized म् / m remains, that can turn into a bindu.

This famous mantra is also called प्रणव / praṇava, from the prefix प्र / pra and the root णु / ṇu, which means ‘adoration’. But in this case, the vowel उ / u goes into a strengthened अव / ava, that gives णव / ṇava with the prefix प्रणव / praṇava. In a word, all together this can mean ‘the primary, initial adoration’ from which all forms of worship come from.

There are many other esoteric interpretations of praṇava. The most famous is its splitting into three mātras (अ – उ – म्), to which many traditions give very different meanings.

Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra

I translated the tantric Gorakśanātha-upāsanā according to the Kalpadruma Tantra at the request of my students.

विनियोगः। viniyogaḥ

ॐ अस्य श्री गोरक्ष मन्त्रस्य बृहदारण्यक ऋषिः अनुष्टुप् छन्दः श्री गोरक्षनाथो देवता गों बीजम् विमला शक्तिः   हंसेति कीलकं निरञ्जनात्मक सर्व तत्त्व सिद्धये जपे विनियोगः ।।

oṃ asya śrī gorakṣa mantrasya bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣiḥ anuṣṭup chandaḥ śrī gorakṣanātho devatā goṃ bījam vimalā śaktiḥ haṃseti kīlakaṃ nirañjanātmaka sarva tattva siddhaye jape viniyogaḥ ।।

The ṛṣi of the Śrī gorakṣanāthamantra is Bṛhadāraṇyaka, the rhythm is anuṣṭup, the Divine is Gorakṣanātha, the bija is goṃ, the Śakti is Vimalā (pure), the kīlaka is haṃsa, the ritual of japa for success in the essential purity of all tattvas.

ऋष्यादिन्यासः । ṛṣyādinyāsaḥ (the nyāsa starts from the head and so on)

ॐ बृहदारण्यक ऋषये नमः। शिरसि ।
oṃ bṛhadāraṇyaka ṛṣaye namaḥ । śirasi (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ अनुष्टुप् छन्दसे नमः । मुखे ।
oṃ anuṣṭup chandase namaḥ । mukhe (the face)

ॐश्री गोरक्ष देवताय नमः । हृदि ।
oṃ śrī gorakṣa devatāya namaḥ । hṛdi (the heart)

ॐ गो बीजाय नमः । गुह्ये ।
oṃ go bījāya namaḥ । guhye (the perineum)

ॐ विमला शक्तये नमः । पादयोः ।
oṃ vimalā śaktaye namaḥ । pādayoḥ (the feet)

ॐ हंसेति कीलकाय नमः । नाभौ ।
oṃ haṃseti kīlakāya namaḥ । nābhau (the navel)

करन्यासः । karanyāsaḥ । (the palm nyāsa)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अङ्गुष्टाभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya aṅguṣṭābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two thumbs of your hands)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय तर्जनीभ्यां नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya tarjanībhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two index fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय मध्यमाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya madhyamābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect the two middle fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय अनामिकाभ्यां  नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya anāmikābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect two ring fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कनिष्ठिकाभ्यं नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kaniṣṭhikābhyaṃ namaḥ । (connect two little fingers)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय करतल-कर-पृष्ठाभ्यां नम: ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya karatala-kara-pṛṣṭhābhyāṃ namaḥ । (connect the back of the palms)

हृदयादिन्यासः । hṛdayādinyāsaḥ (nyāsa starts from the heart and etc.)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय हृदयाय नमः ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya hṛdayāya namaḥ । (touch the heart)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिरसे स्वाहा ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śirase svāhā । (touch the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय शिखायै वषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya śikhāyai vaṣaṭ । (touch the crown of the head)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय कवचाय हुं ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya kavacāya huṃ । (touch your shoulders)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya netratrayāya vauṣaṭ । (touch three eyes)

ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं गों गोरक्षनाथाय सर्व विद्यापतये नमः अस्त्राय फट् ।
oṃ hrīṃ śrīṃ goṃ gorakṣanāthāya sarva vidyāpataye namaḥ astrāya phaṭ ।
(circle with your right hand above your head clockwise and hit the left palm with index and middle fingers three times)

अथ ध्यानम् । atha dhyānam (now is dhyāna)
(The text from the Kalpadruma Tantra)

निरञ्जनो निराकारो निर्विकल्पो निरामयः।
अगम्योऽगोचरोऽलक्ष्यो गोरक्षः सिद्धिवन्दितः॥
nirañjano nirākāro nirvikalpo nirāmayaḥ। 

agamyo’gocaro’lakṣyo gorakṣaḥ siddhivanditaḥ॥

Unsullied, devoid of image, free from vikalpas and disease, incomprehensible, unattainable, beyond of the symbols – Gorakṣa, revered by the siddhas.

समस्त रस भोक्ता यो यः सदा भोगवर्जित ।
सदा समरसो यश्च श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
samasta rasa bhoktā yo yaḥ sadā bhogavarjita । 

sadā samaraso yaśca śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To Him, who enjoys all races and who is always free from pleasures, who forever abides in samarasya, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

हठयोग विधाता च मत्स्यकीर्ति विवर्धनः ।
योगिभिर् मनसा गम्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
haṭhayoga vidhātā ca matsyakīrti vivardhanaḥ । 

yogibhir manasā gamyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

To the creator of haṭhayoga and to that who increased the fame of Matsyendra, the one whom yogis comprehend in their hearts, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

सिद्धानाञ्च महासिद्धिः ऋषीणां च ॠषीश्वरः ।
योगीनाङ्चैव योगीन्द्रः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
siddhānāñca mahāsiddhiḥ ṛṣīṇāṃ ca ṝṣīśvaraḥ । 

yogīnāṅcaiva yogīndraḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 

To the great siddha among the siddhas, to the lord of the ṛṣi among the ṛṣis, to the lord of the yogis among the yogis, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

विश्वतेजो विश्वरूपं विश्ववन्द्य सदाशिवः ।
विश्वनामा विश्वनाथः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
viśvatejo viśvarūpaṃ viśvavandya sadāśivaḥ । 

viśvanāmā viśvanāthaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥

Universal light manifested in the image of the Universe, revered by all, Sadāśiva, who is called by all kinds of names, the lord of everything, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

अनन्तलोकनाथश्च नाथनाथशिरोमणिः।
सर्वनाथसमाराध्यः श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
anantalokanāthaśca nāthanāthaśiromaṇiḥ। 

sarvanāthasamārādhyaḥ śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 

To the Lord of infinite worlds, the greatest (lit. “head precious adornment) of the Nāthas, to the Lord of all, to the one who is respected, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

शून्यानाङ्च परं शून्यं परेषां परमेश्वरः ।
ध्यायताञ्च परं धाम श्री गोरक्षनमोऽस्तु ते ॥
śūnyānāṅca paraṃ śūnyaṃ pareṣāṃ parameśvaraḥ ।
dhyāyatāñca paraṃ dhāma śrī gorakṣanamo’stu te ॥ 

To the highest emptiness among the voids, to the Supreme Lord for others, to the highest state for the meditators, may there be worship to you, Śrī Gorakṣa!

Then you can practice japa using the mantras from the above tantras, they can be found here:


About Bhuvaneśwari

On the Bhuvaneśwari jayantī I want to write something about her famous and very significant mantra ह्रीँ (hrīm̐), which is sometimes called Mahāmāyabīja (the seed syllable that includes all dimensions). According to the Vedas, the first sound of the original yajña and creation was the famous praṇava Om. Out of it three mātras () three worlds arose, it is also a form of anāhatanāda creating or absorbing the creation. The practice of nāda is very significant for layayoga. However, each tradition has its own forms of praṇava, for example, in the Śаivasampradāya it is the bīja हुं (huṃ), in the Kaulasampradāya it is the bīja ऐँ (aim̐), in the Trika tradition it is the bīja सौः (sauḥ), and for the Śаktas the praṇava will be ह्रीँ (hrīm̐). Since so many do not at all distinguish the concept of tantra with śaktiupāsanā, in India praṇava is often associated with tantrism. Thus, the Goddess Bhuvaneśwari is the Mother of all worlds, of different dimensions (bhuvanas) and is very significant for Śaktism in general.