The Sanskrit Alphabet (Part 6)

Swami Yogakanti Saraswati (Australia)

Bam, Bham, Mam, Yam, Ram, Lam = the matrikas of swadhisthana
Vam, Sham, Sham, Sam = the matrikas of mooladhara

Swadhisthana – our own place

Yoga Chudamani Upanishad stresses the importance of manipura as the solid base for kundalini awakening. The tradition states that kundalini can start many times from mooladhara and fall back; one is established only when manipura is awakened and the willpower, the ability to perform tapas and endure the purifying fiery nature, is awakened along with it. However, it is not awakening manipura alone that enables kundalini to stabilize; it’s a matter of balance. We need a balanced human personality. And swadhisthana is the deep ocean of the unconscious, where the samskaras and karmic imprints roll about, the ocean from which our lives evolved. Manipura and swadhisthana chakras are mutually interactive, but swadhisthana dampens the flames and brings us down to earth. See how the consonant sounds related to the mantras of swadhisthana’s petals interrelate.

What is the first thing you notice? Three of the six are not varna members. In fact, we have already met two of these outcasts because they are the bija mantras of anahata and manipura chakras. Yam is for anahata and its vayu tattwa, air element. Ram is for manipura chakra and its agni tattwa, fire element. Hatha Yoga Pradipika mentioned the interaction of these two elements as vital in the awakening of kundalini and here are their mantras ensconced in swadhisthana!

You may think this is nothing to get excited about, but Lam is the bija mantra of mooladhara chakra and of its essence, prithvi tattwa, the earth element. That means swadhisthana chakra is the home of vibrations causing our programming at three major levels, anahata, manipura and mooladhara, besides its own. No wonder swadhisthana is named as it is: swa meaning our own, adi meaning original and sthana meaning place, so adhisthana meaning home, and swadhisthana, our original home. Swadhisthana is undeniably genetic and its karmendriya is the genitals and its jnanendriya is the tongue.

Sadhana for swadhisthana? Draw the lotus flower with petals, write in the matrikas on the correct petals and meditate on the meaning of life.

Mooladhara

Vam, mooladhara’s first petal reading clockwise, is the bija mantra of swadhisthana chakra. Lam, swadhisthana’s last petal, is the bija mantra of mooladhara chakra. Such a close connection between two chakras is not found anywhere else. Vam and Lam tie the two centres together in a way that explains the innate connection between sexuality and self-preservation, the instincts programmed in at swadhisthana and mooladhara, and the two primal instincts in just about all living beings. Men and women, cockatoos and peacocks, mosquitoes, all the birds, beasts and flowers live and die under their sway.

Some say mooladhara is self-preservation/security/fear, while swadhisthana programs sexuality/preservation of species/joy; others say it’s the other way round. That is because men and women are slightly different. The male gonads are down around mooladhara, whereas the female ones are up beyond swadhisthana – which must imply something. Maybe it explains a lot about the different attitudes towards sexuality, security and reproduction that are naturally held by men and women – this could be an exciting new area for yoga psychology.

We met mooladhara’s three sibilants in ajna when we were discussing how the tantrics named the solar petal of ajna chakra Ksham, which is a conjunct letter made up of Sha and Ka. It is from here in mooladhara that the Soham mantra of the breath commences on the inhalation. You may remember that the mantra of the breath includes the dental sibilant Sa, but a dental sibilant means the tongue should be up close to the teeth. When you practise khechari mudra, the tongue is rolled back in the retroflex, moordhanya, position and so the sound becomes Sha.

None of mooladhara’s three sibilant consonants are part of the five varga which organize the first 25 consonants; rather they are the tail end of the alphabet, just before that powerful aspirate Ha gives the final rattle. And speaking of snakes, this is of course the resting place of the goddess Kundalini who lies coiled in three and a half matras, speaking with Harry Potter and others of the chosen in her sibilant tongue.

So none of the petal mantras of mooladhara are members of the varna, and of course Lam, its bija mantra, is also an outcast – but then there always have been those rumours that mankind’s consciousness slipped down to mooladhara. That there was a fall of consciousness from our own home in swadhisthana, which links us to the higher chakras, and into the pit, with the snake, whose one aim in life now is to get out of the tamasic state and unite with the higher consciousness again in sahasrara.

Revision and rebirth

So we see that swadhisthana chakra has, as half of its petals, the bija mantras of anahata, manipura and mooladhara chakras, which indicates its close connection with them. It is in many ways the womb chakra – and the womb is in its immediate field of influence. Its name indicates that it is ‘our original place’, swa-adi-sthana, and we all came from the womb – or used to until, perhaps, very recently.

The womb extends between mooladhara/swadhisthana and manipura. The kanda and medhra, which together form the root source of most of the nadis in the human body, are described as occupying the same space, albeit as energy formations rather than physical structures.

Oordhvam vitastimaatram tu vistaaram chatur-angulam
Mridulam dhavalam proktam beshtitaambaralakshanam.

The kanda, situated above the anus, is one hand span high and four fingers breadth wide; it is soft and white as if enveloped in cloth.

(Hatha Yoga Pradipika 3:113)

And in Yogachudamani Upanishad,

Oordhvam medhraadadhonaabheh kandayonih khagaandavaat
Tatra naadyah samutpannaah sahasraanih dvisaptatih.

Above the medhra and below the navel, the kanda is like a bird’s egg. From there 72,000 nadis emanate.

(Yoga Chudamani Upanishad 15)

In one way mooladhara, swadhisthana and manipura are separate levels. From another perspective they are one system. They are so integrated that scriptures and masters attribute characteristics of one to the other frequently, both today and in classical texts. For example, in Saundarya Lahari, a poem by Adi Shankaracharya, chanted in praise of the Divine Mother who is responsible for creation, characteristics of swadhisthana and manipura are reversed for some purpose.

There is so much to learn and we are just starting the alphabet. There are mantras to be made and each mantra has its own yantra which one visualizes while chanting. The yantra for mantra 5 of Saundarya Lahari is fascinating because it combines all the bija mantras of vishuddhi, anahata, manipura, swadhisthana and mooladhara chakras, plus the three sibilants. The central mantra, which appears to be the bija mantra, is Tham, which relates to ida nadi and the more feminine side of our nature and to the soma or manas chakra beyond ajna that we referred to in Part 1.

Haristvaam aaraadhya pranata-jana-saubhaagya-jananeem
Puraa naaree bhootvaa pura-ripum api kshobham anayat
Smaro’pi tvaam natvaa rati-nayana-lehyena vapushaa
Muneenaam api’antah prabhavati hi mohaaya mahataam.

Adoring You, the bestower of prosperity on all your worshippers, Hari (Vishnu) was able to become a charming female and stir waves of passion in the mind of Hara (Shiva), the destroyer of the three cities.

Also

Smara (Kaama-dev the god of love) got a form by adoring you – a veritable feast for the eyes of his consort Rati, with which he has been able to cause infatuation even in the minds of sages.

(Saundarya Lahari v. 5)

If you meditate on this, it seems that the yantra is grounded in the square representing mooladhara’s earth tattwa and contains all mooladhara’s mantras. The Devi, relating to the moon’s reflective energies and the more feminine side of our own nature, descends to mooladhara after creating all the chakras from vishuddhi to mooladhara through the vibrations of their bija mantras. Because of this descent of divine grace, material forms materialize. And how does that relate to the actual meaning of the verse? Well, that is another story, but we have begun. As Rishi Gheranda said to his disciple Chandrakapila when they first met:

Abhyaasaatkaadivarnaanaam yathaa shaastraani bodhayet
Tathaa yogam samaasaadya tattvajnaanam cha labhyate.

Just as by learning the alphabet one can study all the sciences, shastras, so by thoroughly mastering yoga one attains knowledge of reality, tattwa jnana.

(Gherand Samhita 1:5)