How does the whole Sanskrit alphabet come from praṇava?

One example is the text Āgamarahasyam (Aṣṭamaḥ paṭalaḥ, 449 – 462), according to which praṇava is divided into five mātras: म् and two more – bindu (which is the concentration of sound vibration) and nāda (the spreading of this subtle concentration). Further, each of these mātras is split into a certain number of energy rays (kalā), each of these rays is associated with one or another Sanskrit varṇa, also this five appears in the form of pañcakāraṇeśvara, the five manifestations of Śiva (Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Īśvara and Sadāśiva). According to the Candrajñānāgamaḥ and some other texts, five syllables of the mantraNamaḥ Śivāya’ and five kāraṇeśvaras associated with them appear from these five mātras. Let’s analyse this in detail.

The first mātra / a is connected with Brahmā, the syllable of the pañcākṣara mantra / na and the following 10 kalās and akṣaras:

कं kaṃ sṛṣṭi – the power of creation, खं khaṃ ṛddhi – the power of development, गं gaṃ smṛti – the power of memory, घं ghaṃ medhā – wisdom, ङं ṅaṃ kānti – brilliance, चं caṃ lakṣmī – success in achieving the goal, छं chaṃ dyuti – glow, जं jaṃ sthirā – stability, झं jhaṃ sthiti – existence, ञं ñaṃ siddhi – perfection.

The second mātra / u is connected with Viṣṇu, the syllable of the pañcākṣara mantra : / maḥ and the following 10 kalās and akṣaras:

टं ṭaṃ jarā – the power of longevity, ठं ṭhaṃ naṃpālinī – the power of protection, डं ḍaṃ śānti – peace, ढं ḍhaṃ aiśvari – control, णं ṇaṃ rati – pleasure, तं taṃ kāmikā – passion, थं thaṃ varadā – power to bestow boon,

दं daṃ hlādinī – happiness, धं dhaṃ prīti – attractiveness, नं naṃ dīrghā – prevalence.

The third mātra म् / m is connected with Rudra, the syllable of pañcākṣara शि / śi and the following 10 kalās and akṣaras:

पं paṃ tīkṣā – sharpness, फं phaṃ raudrī – ferociousness of expression, बं baṃ bhayā – power to instil fear, भं bhaṃ nidrā – rest in a dream, मं maṃ tandrā – state of coma, यं yaṃ kṣut – hunger, रं raṃ krodhinī – power of anger laṃ kriyā – movement, वं vaṃ utkārī – rise, शं śaṃ mṛtyu – death.

The fourth mātra is associated with bindu and with Īśvara, the syllable of pañcākṣara वा / , as well as four kalās, which are manifested in the colour of energies, and akṣaras:

षं ṣaṃ pītā – yellow, सं saṃ śvetā – white, हं haṃ kṣaṃaruṇā – red, क्षं kṣaṃ asitā – dark.

The fifth mātra is associated with nāda and Sadāśiva, the syllable of pañcākṣara / ya and the following 16 kalās and akṣaras:

अं aṃ nivṛtti – cessation of activities, आं āṃ pratiṣṭhā – establishment, इं iṃ vidyā – knowledge, ईं īṃ śānti – peace, उं uṃ indhikā – substance for sacrifice, ऊं ūṃ dīpikā – light, ऋं ṛṃ recikā – devastation, ऋृं ṛṛṃ mocikā – liberation, लृं lṛṃ parā – transcendence, लॄं lṝṃ sūkṣmā – subtlety, एं eṃ sūkṣmāmṛtā – subtle, not affected by death, ऐं aiṃ jñānāmṛtā – cognition of immortality, ओं oṃ āpyāyanī – fullness, अं aṃ vyomarūpā – emptiness, अः aḥ anantā – lack of limit (infinity).

The connection between praṇava  and sohaṃ (continuation)

Besides the Nādabindūpaniṣad, I came across other interpretations of how praṇava is manifested from mantra sohaṃ. There is also the interpretation in which, if we remove ‘sa’ and ‘ha’ from sohaṃ, we get praṇava Oṃ. One of the early texts that I went through was the Prapañcasāra Tantra (4.21):

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 image of pūrva rūpa saṃdhi, removing ‘sa’ and ‘ha’, one must definitely get that praṇava (oṃ) from there.

Explanation: pūrva rūpa saṃdhi is connected with the ending ओ/o, which stands before अ/a of the next word, turning into a sign known as avagraha / ऽ. Thus, the text implies that from ओ/o we get the praṇava mantra.

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.

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.

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.