Monday, August 15, 2016

Ancient sound propagation theories and their Vedic applications (Guest post by R.Ramanathan)

 Given below is an article by Mr R. Ramanathan, the Veda adhyayin who has been doing an excellent service to Veda Matha by means of various types of articles to make the common public understand the supremacy of Vedas from different angles. In the current article, he is explaining the Science of Sound which is the basis of Vedas. This article is a kind of twin article to the previous one on how the Vedas are preserved through oral tradition. The basics of oral tradition being the ‘sound’ factor, Mr Ramanathan explains in the current article the theories of sound propagation found in the various Darshanas and ancient linguistic cognition theories, how they are used to form the philosophical background for efficacy of mantras and spiritual/metaphysical  inquiry.

Ramblings on ancient linguistic and sound propagation theories


Ancient Indians have done a very exhaustive study on linguistics principles and sound propagation. The main contribution to this was from the Poorva Mimamsakas and the Vaiyakaranas (Grammarians) and to some extent Naiyayikas (Logicians or people from the Nyaya darshanas). The Poorva Mimamsakas were very concerned with those theories as they were gung-ho on establishing the infallibility of the Vedas.  We will first deal with the sound propagation theory posited by the Poorva Mimamsa School.

Sound propogation theory from Poorva Mimamsa.

Here I will share material from an article by one Mr N. Siva Senani, whom I used to communicate with in some groups. I do not know anything about him or never met him or do not have a link to his article, except for a PDF. So I could not give the link here. The credit for this info under this heading goes completely to Mr N. Siva Senani. But I have taken some liberty to present this in a different way.

In the Bhāṣya on the mimamsa sutras of Jaimimi, 1.1.13, of the Mīmāṃsā model of production and propagation of sound is given. The original text and our translation is given below:

तच्च सयं ोगविभागसद्भािेसवत भितीवत सयं ोगविभागाििेावभव्यञ्जकाविवत िक्ष्यामः। उपरतयोः सयं ोगविभागयोः श्रयूत इवत चते,्नतैदिेम।्न ननूमपुरमवि सयं ोगविभागाः, यत उपलभ्यतेशब्द इवत। वि तेप्रत्यक्षा इवत। . . . . अवभघातने वि प्रवेरता िायिः विवमतावन िाय्विरावि प्रवतबाधमानाः सितव ोवदक्कान्सयं ोगविभागानत्पु ादयवि। यािद्वगे मवभप्रवतष्ठि।े तेच िायोरप्रत्यक्षत्वाा्यं ोगविभागा नोपलभ्यि।े अनपुरतष्वे िे तषे ुशब्द उपलभ्यतेनोपरतषे।ुअतो दोषः। अत एि चानिुातं दूरादुपलभ्यतेशब्दः।

As long as compressions and expansions (saṃyogavibhāgau) [of air particles] are present, Śabda is heard. Therefore we say that compressions and expansions are the manifesters of Śabda. If it be said that Śabda is heard after compressions and expansions have stopped, it is not so. The compressions and expansions, from which Śabda is perceived, do not cease. It is only that these compressions and expansions cannot be directly perceived. . . . . The air particles propelled by the stroke hit against other unagitated air particles and produce compressions and expansions on all sides. These compressions and expansions subsist as long as the impetus lasts. Since air cannot be directly perceived these compressions and expansions are not visible. Śabda is heard only as long as these compressions and expansions do not cease, but not after they cease. . . . This is the reason Śabda is heard for longer distances downwind. This description is, quite remarkably, exactly the same as found in any modern Physics textbook. An extract is given from a modern textbook (Singh, Singh Sardar. Longman science Physics 9. New Delhi: DK Publishers, 2009. pp. 107, 108), with the Sanskrit text from Śābarabhāṣya superimposed on the text at appropriate places.

 (अवभघातने वि प्रवेरता िायिः विवमतावन िाय्विरावि प्रवतबाधमानाः सितव ोवदक्कान्सयं ोगविभागानत्पु ादयवि।)
Consider the original position of layers of air when no sound wave exists (Fig. 5.2(a)). Now strike a tuning fork against a rubber pad (अवभघातेन वि), so that both the prongs P1 and P2 begin to vibrate. For convenience we shall consider the motion of only one prong, say P2. When the prong P2 moves to the right it pushes the layer of air adjacent to it (प्रेवरताः िायिः). This creates a region of high pressure close to the prong P2. The air gets compressed (or a compression is formed) Fig. 5.2(b). This compression is passed on to the next layers by the vibrating air layers (विवमतावन िाय्विरावि प्रवतबाधमानाः). The layers vibrate back and forth about their mean positions and the disturbance, in the form of compression, moves on. When P2 moves to the left of the original position (Fig. 5.2(c)) and leaves a region of low pressure on the right side, the layers move apart to form a rarefaction. In the rarefaction, the particles are farther apart than normal. Like in the case of compression, the rarefaction is also passed on to the adjacent layers. A compression is always followed by a rarefaction, which is again followed by a compression (सयं ोगवियोगान उत्पादयवि). This process is repeated so long as the tuning fork is vibrating (यािद्वेगमवभप्रवतष्ठिे). Thus, the net effect of a vibrating tuning fork is that it sends out the waves consisting of alternate compressions and rarefactions in the air (Fig. 5.2 (d)).”

So you can see how advanced the thinking of the Poorva Mimamsakas was. The gist of all the above is that they believed that sound produced by any source is heard when the energy, travelling in the form of compressions and rarefactions hit the ear.  This is similar to the concept of a mechanical wave in modern physics. We will also see the view held by various other schools.

Sound propogation theories of other schools or darshanas (Both Astika and nastika schools)

Sankhya: The Sankhya school held that the Shrotendriya or organ of hearing (Here we do not mean the gross external ear, but the internal subtle Bhoota tanmatras that combine to form the organ of hearing). The idea behind such a concept was this. The bhoota “Akasha” or space has the quality of hearing, just as air has the sense of touch, Agni has the qualities of sound, touch and sight etc. In the theory of Panchikarana (Mixing up of the various bhootas in well-defined proportions) of the Sankhyas, depending on the nature of the organ created, the corresponding bhoota will have a dominant presence in the combination. So since the nature of akasha is of sound, akasha is the bhoota that will be predominant in the bhoota level of the organ of hearing. This may be the reason the Sankhyas posited an apparently absurd theory.

Nyaya and Vaisheshika: These schools held that sound travelled in the form of waves in ether. So these schools seem to have an earlier wave notion for sound.

Buddhists: Held that there was no contact required between ear and sound for hearing.

Theories of language cognition

Speech or Vaak was conceived as goddess Sarasvati in the Veda. 

And as discussed in a previous article, the Vedas were transmitted orally and was used extensively in rituals and in Vedantic philosophical enquiry into Brahman and its nature.  The two different kinds of usage of the Veda resulted in two different theories of linguistic cognition, the Varna vaada, believed to be posited by saga Upavarsha who wrote the most ancient commentary on the Brahma sutras. The other theory was Sphota vaada developed by Rishi Sphotayana.  Ancient authorities like Bodhayana are however of the opinion that both karma and jnana kandas of the Vedas are equally important for the Sadhaka.

The schools that supported Varna vaada are: Vedanta (Strangely so. We will get into the “why?” soon), Poorva Mimamsa, Nyaya, Vaisheshika, Gaudiya Vaishnavism, Kashmir Shaiva Siddhanta and Sakta tantra. The schools that support Sphota vaada are, Vaiyakaranas (Grammarians) like Panini, Patanjali, Katyayana and Bhartrhari . Barthrhari especially uses this theory to develop the concept of the Advaitic shabda brahman, which strangely is refuted by Shankara in his commentary on the Brahma sutra. We will take a look into a brief description of these 2 theories

Varna Vaada

The Varna Vaada School proposes that the meaning conveyed in a sentence is the sum total of the individual letters. Simply put, the whole is the sum of its parts. Thus the basic linguistic unit as per this school is the Akshara or the phonemic syllable. As stated earlier the Poorva Mimamsaka School is the arch defender of this idea. The reason the Mimamasakas supported this theory was because they had to prove that the Vedic injunctions were the main sources of dharma. Indeed as per Manu “Vedam akhilam dharma moolam”. So to do this they had to prove

1. Words are eternal.

2. Words and their meanings are eternal. When one utters the word “Gau” in Sanskrit, one immediately connects it with the idea of a physical cow along with its qualities and attributes.

3. The meaning conveyed in a sentence is the sum total of the individual letters.

But then a question arises. Sound uttered is surely not eternal as it dies away soon after uttering. So how can one claim the Vedas are eternal, since a Vedic chant also dies down like normal speech? The answer here is that the Vedas have an Aanupoorvi or fixed order of words and accents. Whenever one chants the Rudram, one has to follow the established order in the chant. This fixed order or Aanupoorvi of the Veda is the meaning of the eternity of the Vedas. It is to preserve this Aanupoorvi such great pains were taken in the oral tradition. In fact the amount of literature and knowledge generated in this field of angas and lakshana granthas is comparable to the vastness of the Veda itself.

To give an illustration of what I mean, the Taittriya shaka in many places says “Purastat svahakara vaa anye devaha| Uparisthtath  svahakaara anye”. The meaning: Some gods accept offerings when svahakara is added after the name of the devata like “Indraya Svaaha”. So this is Uparishtath svahakara, i.e. svaaha after the name. An example of Purastat svahakara is “Svaaha agnim”. So here the svaha is before “agnim”.  Some devatas can be both, i.e. “Agnaya Svaha” and “Svaha agnim”. So you see here that though by name the devata can be the same, for ritual purposes they are considered as two different deities. That is “Svaha agnim” is an offering for one deity and “Agnaya Svaha” is an offering for another separate deity even though both are “Agni”. This is an example of how Aanupurvikam or ordering of words plays an important role in rituals. Thus if a sacrifice specifies the use of both purastat and uparishtat svahaakaras for the same deity, both offering have to be performed as if though they are separate. Then only the final results accrue.

This theory can be closely connected to the Apoorva or unseen effect of various acts in a sacrifice. The Mimamsakas maintain that each step in a sacrifice results in an Apoorvata and each of these Apporvatas, add up to give the final result. For example to prepare the offering called Purodasha (Rice flour mixed with ghee and cooked. Similar to arisi uppuma). Here one has to first collect the paddy, husk it with a pestle, crush the grains with a stone etc. Each step involves the chanting of mantras and each step generates a separate Apoorvata.  Note the Mimamsakas maintain that each individual Apoorvata does not give “Some punya or minimal punya” and we can see only the combined result as stated in the Veda.

Comparing this linguistically, when we utter the word “Manager”, we do not understand the “Man” half way through, as a man, because the manager could be a woman also. But when the word is uttered we immediately get the meaning without caring to note what individual syllable’s mean. The meaning cannot be over and above the utterances of the syllables in the word. Thus the Varna vaada is deeply reflective of the ritual philosophy of the Mimamsakas. 

This theory is also the basis of the why mantras have a desired effect. Since the meaning of each word has an actual physical significance in the world, chanting them in the proper Aanupoorvi results in the exact physical effects that are desired. This is supposed to be the background philosophy for why karmas like Abhichara or black magic works.

Summarizing, to the Mimamsakas the reality of the shabda brahmam lies in the Aanupoorvi of the Veda and further in the injunctive statements of the Veda, only though which dharma can be known. The meaning of a statement being the sum total of the individual varnas. This could be the reason for why the Mimamsakas do not comment on the Upanishads, because they contain words that cannot be related to physical concepts and sometimes, the meanings are deeper than the apparent meanings of the stated sentence.

For example to understand the meaning of the word “Tat tvam asi”, “You are that”, one cannot state to have understood or experienced the self if one only understands the apparent meaning of the sentence as “You are that”. It requires deeper mananam and nidhidhyasanam. This is where Sphota vaada kicks in. But strangely all schools of Vedanta reject the Sphota vaada and support Varna vaada. This is gets stranger, if one considers the Advaita School and its focus on the 4 mahavakyas. Shankara very aggressively criticizes Sphota vaada. I think this is because of the need to establish the infallibility of the Shruti, including the karma kanda. All Vedanta Schools are forced to reject Sphota vaada.  Now a discussion of Sphota vaada follows.

Sphota vaada

This theory says that the meaning of the sentence is much more than just the sum of its parts. The meaning for the word Sphota is “Sudden” or “Quick”. The open hood of a cobra also is termed sphuta because of the deadly speed with which the hood opens. The Sphota vaadins postulate an entity that actually brings in the desired cognition of a sentence. This entity is not part of the aksharas in the sentence. This explains why the Sphota vaadins consider the meaning of the sentence is much more than just the sum of its parts.

Sphota vaadins too accept Vyaakarana as an important Anga in preservation of the Vedas as the Mimamsakas, but they go one step further. They postulate an eternal Shabda brahman like the Brahman of the Upanishads, which again Shankara rejects totally in his Bhashya on the Brahma sutras. The Sphota vaadins make a distinction between the existence of the physical object and its mental notion.

To the Mimamsakas the word and its relation with physical objects are real. To the Sphota vaadins the meanings reside in human consciousness, which has an eternal relationship with sound on various circumstances.  This leads to the ultimate Shabda Brahman and is represented by OM of the Vedas. Patanjali in this context states in his Maha Bhashya on Panini’s Ashtadhyayi: “The man who knows the secrets of words (Vaag-Yoga) attains bliss in this world and the next”. Patanjalai in his Mahabhashya again says “Maha devaha Shabdaha”. This means “Sound is the great Lord”.  So a study of sound will help us reach that state.

There are many statements in the Vedas to support this theory. The Maitrayini Upanishad says at the very beginning “That beginning and endless Brahman whose essential nature is shabda manifests into all this world and objects”. This statement seems to directly support Sphota vaada. Bhartrhari especially says that words and consciousness are interchangeable entities.   Also giving an example from the Purusha sookta “Namani kritva abhivadan yadastee” “After creating various forms the Prajapatis or spiritual giants started calling all objects created by name”. So names were given to objects after creation. Thus this establishes the idea that “Artha” or meaning of sounds have mental existences, and have an eternal relationship between objects, the mental artha existing in the minds of the Prajapati even before the objects got created.

Thus to grammarians the Shabda Brahman is not a secondary reality, as posited by Advaita Vedanta and various other theistic schools. It is coeval with the ultimate reality itself. The entire model is based on the Vedic conception of Omkara and Pranava itself. The additional meaning bearing entity, in addition to syllables in the sentences is called “Sphota” by Bharthrhari. Thus to know the actual meaning of Mahavakyas like “Tat tvam asi” one needs this Sphota which is not a physical syllable but is more spiritual to understand and actualize the meanings. To Bhartrhari individual varnas or letters were artificial constructs. They were not real. This very postulate cuts at the root of the Poorva Mimamsaka doctrine. Thus Kumarilla Bhatta in his Shloka Vaartika has gone the extra mile to discredit this doctrine totally.

This concept of Shabda Brahman has been used in yogic practices like Naada yoga of which music is a part. Music is considered to be a great way to realize Brahman. This has been greatly encouraged by sages like Yajnavalkya . He says in a Smriti with his name that “One can realize the Brahman by playing the veena and meditating on its notes.”

Thus the Nada yoga tradition is based on the Sphota vaada concept and use sound to realize and connect with the ultimate Brahmam. In the mantra shastras this “Sphota or meaning bearing entity” was concretized in form of Bijaakshara, which are supposed to give special effects on chanting the mantra and cause the inner meaning of the mantra to flash in the sadhaka.

This concept is found in the Sama Veda, where in the middle of a Saman being sung we find strange syllables like “Auhova”, “ee”, “Oyi”, “Bha bha” etc that are sung.  These are supposed to be mystic syllables and can be considered to be the “Sphotas” for the Saman. Also the addition of “Om Bhur Bhuvasuvaha” to the main Gayathri mantra is another example for the concept of Sphota.
But there is a problem here. There are sentences in the Veda that are opposed to this point of view. In the Taittriya shaka, Indra the divine grammarian is supposed to have partitioned the divine vaak into human language, which involves Varna and the like. So this point of view is used by the Mimmsakas to attack Sphota vaada.    This concludes the discussion of the Sphota vaada.


The conflict between these two theories as I understand (I could be wrong here), is mainly due to two different applications of the Veda, ritualistic and Spiritual realization. Personally I would like to retain the Varna vaada for Karma kanda and the Sphota vaada for the Upanishads. But as stated earlier all Vedantic (All the 3 schools condemn it in their respective Brahma sutra bhashyas) and theistic schools seem to be against the Sphota vaada. Strangely the only Mimamsakas to support Sphota vaada was Mandana Mishra. But actually it was Patanjali and Bhartrhari who actually took this theory to its logical limits, where it started to find applications in the later Mantra shastra and Naada yoga and music schools.


prasad parasuraman said...

wonderful article.. thankful to you for giving such lucid and beautiful explanation. .. we are not able to get insights or even a peek into all this otherwise.. you are doing great service to us sir... prasad

R.Ramanathan said...

Thanks Mr Prasad

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Marvelous article Mr Ramanathan. Even since I read this article, my mind is engrossed with too many thoughts from different angles which I am trying to arrange in organised sections to be shared with you and all readers here. The first thing to share here is the beautiful composition by Saint Thyagaraja which gives the nutshell of the entire article you have written here. It is 'Shobillu saptaswara' song set in Raga Jaganmohini.

Shobillu Saptaswara Sundarula Bhajimpave Manasa!

Naabhi Hrut Kanta Rasana NaasaadhulaYandu

Dhara Rig Saamaadulalo Vara Gaayathri Hrudayamuna
Sura Bhusura Maanasamuna Shubha Tyagarajuni Yeda

O Mind (“manasa”)! Praise (“Bhajimpave”) the divine forms (“sundarula”) of the seven (“sapta”) musical notes (“svara”).
Which glow (“yandu”) in the navel (“naabhi”), heart (“hrut”), neck (“kanta”), tongue (“rasana”) and nose (“naasaadhula”) of the human body.
Which shine in the four Vedas (“Dhara Rig Samaadulalo”) and in the sublime Gayathri Mantra as its essence (“Hrudayamuna”). Which sparkle (“shubha”) in the hearts (“maanasamuna”) of the celestials (“sura”), of worthy Bhusuras and of Tyagaraja.

R.Ramanathan said...

Thanks madam. Waiting for more...

Jayasree Saranathan said...

On the propagation of sound by Mimasakas of Jaimini school explained by Mr Siva Senai:- This reminds me of the Sangam Grammar work of Tholkappiyam on "Pirappiyal" sutras of how letters (aksharas) are produced by air within our body. It says that the air pushed by an impetus resonates (like a tuning fork) in or through 8 organs (one or more of them at a time) within the body namely navel, head, throat, chest, teeth, lips, nose and palate results in creation of 12 'Uyir' and 18 'uyir-mei' letters. The beauty of this exposition of sound formation through movement of air - which Mimamsakas explain as compression or expansion of air - is classified by Tholkappiyam as those (1) that are fixed always and don't undergo change as "Uyir" or "soul" or Atman and (2) those which are formed by joining a body as Uyir-mei or "Atman-body" or "body with the soul" or "Purusha - Prakruthi combine". This naming in Tamil meaning "Atman" (or Purusha) and "Atman-body" (or Purusha- Prakrithi) looks like a mind blowing concept that contains within itself the entire idea of Shabda Brahman!

The rules of how the air undergoes change, and through what parts of the body to create a particular sound of "Atman" (Uyir) or "Atman-body" (uyir-mei) show the existence of aksharas within the human body. This is what Varna vaada supposes. But their manifestation require a prior effort which is equivalent to consciousness of Sphota vaada.

When no effort is done to push the air through those organs, it can not mean that the "Atman / Uyir" letters (aksharas) do not exist. Like how Purodasha is made through a process, the air has to undergo a process to come out as that letter. This is like what Varna Vaadins say. As conscious effort or prior effort is needed to give rise to the manifestation of a sound, we can say Sphota vaada is the underlying concept.

However there may be times when no prior effort is done to create the sound, like little babies making sounds without any conscious effort. Universally all little babies make the sound "aa" within the first 3 months. Tholkappiayam says அஆ ஆயிரண்டு அங்காந் தியலும்

That means 'a' and 'aa' are formed just be opening the mouth. None of the other letters / sounds can be made so easily like 'a' sound. The very first attempt to create a sound is to open the mouth by which the air comes out of akasha (mouth - the open space in our body). Air- Akasha connection forms the first akshara which signifies A-kaaram which is identified with Vishnu as per Sanskrit dictionary or "Aadhi Bhagawan" as per Thirukkural.

A-kaaram needs no effort to make it as it exists by itself - therefore it is Brahman. It is like Varna Vaada. But without opening the mouth (which produces 'a' sound) one can not identify / make that sound. This is Sphota Vaada. What this shows is that these two are same and not opposed to each other. One exists as part and parcel of the other.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

This reminds of some Vedic ideas of Creation which I will organise properly in my mind and write as another comment. For the current theme, I would like to add that this kind of development of sounds of letters have been meticulously recorded only in Tamil and Sanskrit grammar. Tamil grammar infact covers 3 letters that are not found in Sanskrit namely "zha", 'Ra' and 'La'. Tholkappaiyam describes how these sounds are made and by which organs. It means these sounds are also possible and exist in nature. I feel like re-visiting my earlier article written on Tamil as Manushya Basha - the naturally formed language of early man with the inputs gained from this article.

Thinking on these lines, I tested with the alphabets of English and recall how Americans speak English. Those alphabets are not formed the way that air passed through 8 organs. Almost all of them are formed superficially within the organs of the mouth. And the speakers of English speak through their lips and tip of the tongue. This makes me think that English can not fulfill the rules of air passing through naabhi- hrud, kanta etc to invoke the sound of Brahman! I dont think any other language in the world can invoke air through those passages to create aksharas. Only Sanskrit and Tamil have them!

R.Ramanathan said...

Interesting perspectives, which i did not think off. Thank you madam.

Dr Rama Krishnan said...

Thank you Shri Ramanathan. I have to read the article a couple of times and contemplate to get the meaning. Waiting for more. Thanks madam Ji for a fantastic input. Looking forward to your article.

R.Ramanathan said...

Thanks MR RK

Venkat said...

Nice writeup Mr Ramanathan. Great work!

R.Ramanathan said...

Thanks Mr Venkat

mythra81 said...

actually the kanchi kamakoti site talks about how different languages in different regions of india are due to the dominant branch of vedas there [rigveda vs yajurveda vs samaveda etc] but he says sanskrit does have the 'zha' sound originally but has disappeared over time [old kannada too]....the verse agnimile purohitham yajnasya devam rtvijam hotaram ratnadhaatamam .... the agnimile is pronounced agnimizhe

Jayasree Saranathan said...

@ mythra81

// he says sanskrit does have the 'zha' sound originally but has disappeared over time//

That is where I put my theory that the Rig Vedins spoke Tamil as Manushya basha / their mother tongue. Their early settlements during Ice age was on the extended west coast beyond the current shoreline in the Arabian sea. By 13,500 a first batch of settlers in this region were pushed by sudden sea rise and entered Indian mainland from south to north through Saraswathi river from its estuary in the then Dwaraka and sailed upto Hiamalayas. They settled down on the banks of Saraswathi. What they gave was Rig Vedas. Later Parashurama retrieved the submerged coastal parts on western peninsular India and settled Saraswathi Brahmins whose ancestors were the ones who gave Rig Vedas. The tendency to cling to olden, ancestral places was one the reasons to re-settle them in that stretch. I have written n detail these things in many articles. Google search with suitable words of search along with the url of my blog, you get a number of articles on this topic.

Venkat said...

Both ma'am and Mr Ramanathan are doing a tremendously good job and are helping ignorant Brahmins(if I can even call myself that) like us learn and appreciate our great past and heritage.
If I may take the liberty to ask Jayashree ma'am and Mr Ramanathan.
Ma'am, how did you first start researching on astrology, history, Vedic references etc and develop such great insights and content? Was your upbringing itself in such an environment or did you develop it over the years? And how do you find time for such endeavors?

And Mr Ramanathan, I read elsewhere in the blog that you have a regular IT job. How did you find time to do Adhyayana and how are you able to observe aacharaas and anushtanas?
I would like to learn from your lives.
Sorry if I have exceeded my brief.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks for your comment Mr Venkat. I am not so well versed as you think and I have a long way to go. As far as interest in astrology is concerned, I owe it to my mother. I lost her at a very young age and that loss left an indelible mark in my mind. It is to know whether she died due to my destiny that I started looking for sources to comfort myself. That led me to study astrology and also vedanta to know why I am born and why I am undergoing the kind of experiences that I am / was undergoing. This search started when I was 17 years of age and continues. Had my mother been alive, i would have got lost in to the crowd. By her death she had resurrected me :) Since I am interested in diverse subjects and was in touch with them all along my life, at some point over the years, I am able to find a connection between many an issue and that is what I am doing now in these blogs.

Unknown said...

Mr Venkat thank you for your comments. I have been doing some minimum adhyayanam since my upanayana at the age of 9. But in the middle due to 10th and 12th exams and also due to the scramble for undergraduate and 2 post graduate seats(MSc and MCA) i lost touch with adhyayana. But was able to somehow keep up my minimum learning going.

But after joining work, i was in a position to continue from wherever i left. I basically do adhyayaynam in the early mornings and continue to teach some classes. On weekends i am learning the Vedic angas. As for acharas, i try to follow as much as possible within the given circumstances. Wherever i go i make sure to do all the 3 sandhyas as far as is possible without causing much fuss.

R.Ramanathan said...

Btw the previous comment was from me

Venkat said...

Very inspiring ma'am. By such sharing of knowledge, you are paying the best tribute to your mother.

Venkat said...

Wonderful to know Mr Ramanathan. Balancing work and vedic study must be tough. Credit to you.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Continuing my thoughts on Varna vaada and Sphota vaada:-

There is a scientifically proven mantra for Aanupoorvi. Like ‘Agnaye Swaha’ and Swaha agnim’ as referring to two different deities, the mantra for morning twilight Agnihotra and evening twilight Agnihotra have a slight difference in the address to the same Sun God. Though Agni hotra mantras are many, it was found in a scientific research, that more than 100 oxides are released into the air when just a pint of unbroken and unpolished rice is offered to Agni exactly at the time of sun rise or sunset by reciting just two mantras. This effect did not arise at any time before during the Agnihotra homa but only when the 3 conditions were fulfilled – namely, the exact moment of sun rise and sun set, offering the unbroken and unpolished rice in the Homa fire and the recital of the 2 mantras at that moment.

Though these mantras are same for the two times (morning twilight and evening twilight), there is just one difference in the first mantra as to whom it is addressed. In the morning mantra it is “Suryaya swaha” in the evening it is “Agnaye Swaha”.

The morning mantras are “Suryaya swaha, Suryaya idam na mama// Prajapataye swaha, Prajapataye idam na mama//”

The evening mantras are “Agnaye swaha, Agnaye idam na mama// Prajapataye Swaha. Prajapataye idam na mama//”

When the researchers changed the order of the names in these or used Surya in the place of Agni and vice versa, the maximum results as noticed by way of release of oxides did not happen. The tonal quality of reciting the mantra was also found to be specific and not low or high pitch or not told in mind. So the sound of that mantra mattered. This research was a strong proof for Varna vaada for Vedic sounds.

The effect / fruits of Agnihotra does not end with what the scientific research has found out. The research found out that Agnihotra cleanses the atmosphere. It injects nutrients to the atmosphere. The result of it was seen during the Bhopal gas tragedy. When all the families perished by inhaling the poisonous gas that pervaded Bhopal city, only one family survived in their midst. This family was regularly doing Agnihotra for many years. When tested it was found that the air around their house and the smoke deposition on the walls due to years of Agnihotra has contained substances that repelled poisonous gases. In other words, the air around the house of Agnihotris contained substances that protected them from poisonous gases or fumes. The Aanupoorvi of the homa made this possible. The sound of mantras had the final clinching effect on the outcome of the homa.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

Having said this, one must not reduce the efficacy of this homa as only an anti- pollutant or anti-poisonous tool. It is because scriptures speak so high of this homa as something that can give knowledge to the doer. The research had not unravelled this part of it. But there is a verse in Brahma sutras (4-1-16) which mentions this homa as generating good effect of producing knowledge (of the Atman). In that context, Sphota vaada is a better tool to explain.

This homa as done in Vedic tradition (as against how the research has understood it) involves a long process and more mantras – though they don’t talk about any knowledge of the Atman outwardly. But a person who does it every day throughout his life would gain knowledge. The generation of that knowledge can only be explained through Sphota vaada.
In this context I wish to connect the “dadami Buddhi yogam” guarantee of Gitacharyan in Bhagawad Gita 10-10. For those who think of Him with Dhyana, preeti and bhajanam, He grants Buddhi – knowledge, says Gitacharyan aka Krishna. So the mental factors such as these three while doing the Agnihotra bestow knowledge of the Atman (about Him) to the doer. In terms of Sphota vaada, the relationship between the Atman and the homa or rituals done as per the laid-down rules goes beyond the creation of results at the mundane level. It further leads one to gaining Atma –gyana.

From this discussion on Agnihotra one thing becomes clear. It is that Varna vaada and Sphota vaada are like two sides of the same coin. In any ritual or work involving Vedic mantras, it gives rise to a result at mundane level by virtue of the sound effect and it also enables the doer to inch towards the realisation of the Atman. When this is done with a thought or desire for realisation, the doer definitely gets it at some point of time.
To support this idea – that Varna vaada and Sphota vaada are not contradictory to each other or competing with each other, let me give more instances.


R.Ramanathan said...

Great ideas you are giving out, and as usual your correlation excellent. Waiting for more. Never thought this article could provoke so much discussions here.

Jayasree Saranathan said...

The foremost instance that comes to my mind is 4000 Divya Prabhandam of Alwars. These hymns were sung by different Alwars in different temples in different time periods. They were not written and then sung. But Nadamunigal, by reciting the 11 hymns on Nammalwar sung by his disciple Madhura kavi Alwar, for 12000 times, was able to retrieve all the 4000 hymns by the grace of Nammalwar. This is not a myth but something that had happened sometime about 1000 years ago. Only if Tamil aksharas are eternal and the hymns of Alwars are Vedas, this could have happened.

Any letter that is pronounced becomes eternal only when it is pronounced with a tonal quality and in length and breadth or what we call as ‘Maatra’. The Tamil letters (which are same as Sanskrit letters and an additional 3 letters namely La, Ra and zha) which arise as air within the body and come out through certain organs of the body (mentioned previously as 8 in number) become Veda when pronounced with some tonal quality and maatra.
This is inferred from the “Pirappiyal” (origination of letters) chapter of Tholkappiyam. It concludes with a note as follows:

எல்லா எழுத்தும் வெளிப்படக் கிளந்து,
சொல்லிய பள்ளி எழுதரு வளியின்
பிறப்பொடு விடுவழி உறழ்ச்சி வாரத்து,
அகத்து எழு வளி இசை அரில் தப நாடி,
அளபின் கோடல் அந்தணர் மறைத்தே
அஃது இவண் நுவலாது எழுந்து புறத்து இசைக்கும்
மெய் தெரி வளி இசை அளபு நுவன்றிசினே.

It means that ‘how the letters are formed by means of air that arises within the body and how their sounds are heard have been told so far in that chapter of Tholkappiyam. However the way how those letters are measured (maatra) can be known from Vedas. Here (in Tholkappiyam) I (Tholkappiya) am not giving those details but only those that pertain to how the letters are heard.’

This verse is proof of how Tamil and Sanskrit had a same basis during the development of their grammar as claimed by tradition and some Tamil texts. Though the rules of formation of letters from within the body and their manifestation as sound to be heard in a designated way are common for Tamil and Sanskrit, the intonation / accent and chandas are something that can be known only from Vedas - that is what Tholkappiyar says. As Mr Ramanathan wrote in the previous article, these two are what make Vedas oral tradition.

One can find adherence to specific accent and chandas in Divya Prabhandam also. If one observes the way they are recited by trained persons, one understands that every letter of the hymn is pronounced in the exact way it has to be produced as per Tholkappiyam rule. In addition the words are recited in certain swaras as in Vedas. Due to this Divya Prabhandam are Vedas. Because they are Vedas, it became possible for Nadamunigal to retrieve them.

Thinking of how this retrieval of Prabhandam hymns became possible, there is only one explanation – that words / letters of the hymns didn’t die out after being rendered by the Alwars. They had existed in Akasha /ether. In other words they were eternal.

A question comes can any word or letter of Tamil / Sanskrit exist in Akasha as eternal so that they can be retrieved any time later like how Nadamunigal did or Rishis had done.
The answer is no, because by simple logic, if any letter / word of Tamil / Sanskrit is said to be eternal, then all of them can be termed as Vedas – which in reality are not. So there is some qualifying element to make the letters / words eternal.

What is that qualifying element?


Jayasree Saranathan said...

To understand that there must be a qualifying element let me quote a verse from Chandogya Upanishad in the 5th adhyaya. Once Jabala Satyakama taught Goshruthi what is food for Prana. It is water. He said that by saying ‘water’ a dry wood would grow new leaves! Can such a thing happen if we say ‘water’ to a dry wood?

Similarly when Yajanvalkya left the sacred rice on the throne of the king, it grew into full-fledged plants in no time. The magic is not with the rice or water but in the man / yogi / rishi whose pranic level was so evolved that it could make a dry wood grow leaves and dry rice to grow into a plant. The mental level or mental thought is very important in giving potency to the word. This is Sphota vaada.

In the case of utterance of ‘water’ that made the wood grow leaves, the potency of word was there and the mental state of the speaker also mattered. Thus we find that Varna vaada and Sphota vaada are not opposite to each other. What we actually find is that one does not work without the other. Applying it in Alwars’ Prabhandam, the evolved state of Alwars made their utterances Vedas.

A similar example can be quoted from the life of Thiru gyana sambhabdar. A young girl called Poompavai died of snake bite. She was cremated and her ashes and bones were kept in a pot. Thirgyana sambhandar on his visit to this girl’s house sang hymns on Lord Kapaleeswara, the presiding deity of Mylapore (where this girl lived), to give life to her. The girl indeed came to life from the ashes and bones. Here again the power of bringing back her to life wrested with the hymns (sound factor) and the composer whose mental level was very much evolved.

For those who may doubt this incident, let me remind them that in Vedic way of cremation, the ashes and bones are collected on the 3rd day after cremation by reciting certain Vedic mantras. The ashes and unburnt bones are collected systematically organ by organ by reciting the mantras and kept in the pot. In this context the mantras make the departed person become body-less by the 10th day. This works on the principle that each organ / faculty came from some element of Nature. The physical part is merged with that element in Nature by those mantras which go on till 10th day. Whatever element of physical entity existed for the departed person (jiva) – that is being merged or absorbed into Nature by Mantras – This is Varna vaada concept.

After that the jiva is guided to reach the state that it its original – through mantras by yearlong ceremonies. The Jiva which now exists devoid of any physical connect is guided by sounds of mantras to merge with pithrus – This is like Sphota vaada. Physical manifestation is dealt with in Varna vaada. Mental manifestation is dealt with by Sphota vaada. It is like how karma khanda deals with material good and gyana khanda deals with mental good. Both are needed for one to evolve into realms to understand one’s relationship / connect with Brahman.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

Coming Poompavai incident, the ability to retrieve the person to get connected with the physical factors became possible by a person of high mental stature like Thiru gyana Sambhandar in whose utterances the words gained potency.

As an aside, this concept (of helping the departed person / jiva to shed connection with physical elements) goes against the present day practice of cremating in electrical crematoriums where you cannot collect the ashes through Vedic mantras. This concept also revolts against the idea of donating the body after death. Everything in Vedic tradition is to do with equilibrium. A jiva’s travel from one body to another is facilitated by Vedic mantras to happen in a way that helps the jiva to give back to Nature what it got while it took birth. Only after completely shedding what it took from the previous birth, can it move on without baggage to the next level. This is another topic which is not relevant to the current discussion. What I intend to state here is that the Poompavai incident is possible and words are potent when spoken by persons with evolved mental status.

This is something like mental yajna, where your body becomes the homa kunda. The mind and thoughts are the offerings in the homa with which attainment of Brahman becomes possible. This is what Sphota vaada is based on. Omkara, pranava, tat tvam asi – etal are possible only through this mental yajna.

In this context the relevance of shabda Brahman – veena etc can be understood. It is once again a combination of Varna – Sphota. The sound of music conditions one’s physical elements and this transforms one to sublime level.

Many instances have been reported in the past – of the door opening or closing for music. Nature abides to sounds of bhakthiman. Sounds do posses the power – but who utters them matters. To ignite it we need some trigger –like purodhasha – a process of sound based and mind based action is needed.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

The description given by Mr Ramanathan of Varna vaada and Sphota vaada effectively contains a distinction in the context where they apply. This is supported by a description by sage Vyasa found in section 231 of Shanti parva in Mahabharata.

This chapter describes creation of the worlds. Creation occurs at 2 levels – first at gross level and then at subtle level. The initial creation is at gross level springing forth from the 4-faced Brahma. How he creates / or how prepares to create – itself pertains to mental nature that can be explained by Sphota vaada only. But that was before the creation of the worlds.

From Mahat, Mind is formed from which creation comes forth. The first ever creation is Space / Akasha. It has sound as its property. Only from this level onwards, sound gets manifest / created. From Akasha, other elements started springing up. Likewise from sound other properties / attributes started springing up. All these are happening at gross level.
Once these are formed the Brahman “the original Creator of all beings, having by his Maya divided Himself, enters that subtile form for surveying or overlooking everything” .

Vyasa says, “ Two Brahmas should be known, viz, the Brahma represented by sound, ie, the Vedas, and secondly that which is beyond the Vedas and is supreme. One that is conversant with Brahma represented by sound succeeds in attaining to Brahma that is Supreme.”

{For complete translation of this chapter go to this link:-}

This sentence contains everything of the application of Varna vaada and Sphota vaada .
The manifest world starting from Akasha onwards has sound etc., as attributes. The many deities that spring from this point of creation onwards can be invoked by the sound which is the first formed attribute of the created Universe that has 4-faced Brahma as the progenitor. That is being done by the Vedic mantras which follow certain procedures called Aanupoorvi to be capable of tapping the deities or the creations that followed Akasha.

But there is an All Pervading Brahman which was the cause for the 4 –faced Brahma himself. That cannot be tapped by sound of Vedas alone. Being the In Dweller of any and every being – both animate and inanimate – It can be tapped by in dwelling Thoughts only.

Even That Brahman created everything including the 4-faced Brahma through Its Thought. “It Thought – May I become many and It became Many” so says the Upanishads on this level of creation. This is how the very beginning of beginningless creation started. Such a Being which is the In-Dweller cannot be invoked by the further-down- the –line created sounds etc, but by the same Inner Thought process. The realisation of that In Dweller therefore cannot be explained by Varna Vaada but by Sphota Vaada only. Now if the readers read again the above article by Mr Ramanathan on Varna vaada and Sphota vaada, I am sure whatever he has said can be undertstood as those applicable to gross level entities versus Supreme God.

In the easy-to-understand language we may say where mental manifestation is involved, Sphota vaada holds good, where physical manifestation is involved, Varna vaada holds good.
Creation springing out from the Thought pertains to Sphota Vaada. The Name, Form and Works that arose from that pertain to Varna vaada.


Jayasree Saranathan said...

We can also explain the two as Deduction and Induction process.

Words are eternal – true. Utter the word, the true content of it will manifest. – This is the basis for Varna vaada. Deduction process is involved here.

Start with premise ‘Tat Tvam Asi’– you have qualities like him – you can become him – so you try and become him. This is the basis for Sphota Vaada. Induction process is involved here.

In essence these two processes exist together – you have start from Him (Brahman) he gets manifest as many (Varna vaada / deduction) – connect these many and they are Him (Sphota vaada / induction)

At this point I am led to wonder why the schools (of thought) chose one over the other while both are seen to be complementary to each other. It is like how Bedha or Abedha sruti alone does not define Brahman. One blends with the other if we have to derive the complete meaning. One of it cannot give the complete description of the Brahman.

Aksharam has a meaning – that is core of Varna vaada. But one has to meditate on the aksharas to realise it – it is Sphota vaada. To quote an example from Brihadaranyaka Upanishad, Prajapathi gives an Akshara ‘Da’. It is the sound of thunder / of Indra. It is understood differently by Deva, Man and Asura as Dhamam – daanam, dayaamithi respectively.
Devas, men and asuras did meditate on different meanings (each of them) of the Akshara “da” to realise the meaning that they thought. So Varna and Sphota are hand in glove.

The deities of Aksharas must have been linked in this way. Agni Purana gives the names of deities signified by aksharas. They are as follows.

A - अ - Brahma , Vishnu, Siva, ocean, parvathi, war, tortoise, bow string etc.
Aa – आ - Brahma
e- इ - Kamadeva
ee – ई - Rathi or Lakshmi
u – उ - Siva
uu – ऊ- protection
yE – ए- Devi
Ai – ऐ - female muni – yogini
O – ओ - Brahma
Au – औ- Maheswara

Of these uu – ऊ looks like sandhi.

We can know it in Om shabda.

Its constituents are AUM.

Of this, a -Brahmam – ma- jeeva – u- sandhi

In mediation of AUM, the union of Brahman and Jeeva is attained.

A sound comes out by opening the mouth.
M sound comes by closing the mouth.
U is the sound of wind/ air.

Within the mouth (Akasha) the sounds A and M unite to enable the meditating one to realise Him. Perhaps this is the rationale.

I stand corrected.

R.Ramanathan said...

Thanks for more points madam. The list of Akshara devata's you give from the Agni purana is different than the one given for varna krama. I do not remember the exhaustive list off hand.

Also in the sama veda, when the stobha "ee" appears in the a sama gaana, it mostly has Agni for its devata. For example the 3rd gaana in the prakriti gaana of the sama samhita is "Oognay(ee). Ayaahi(ee), vo(ee) to yayaay. Na(ee) hota aa saa". "Bha" in it means usually the sun or surya as devata. The brihat saman is related to the sun, which is "Aabitva shuranoo numovaa(4)", is sung in soma sacrifices with a lot of Bha's in between. "Bha" also means "shining". Just wanted to give concrete examples of sphota vaada for each saman

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Mr Ramanathan, I would like see the list of akshara devathas as per Varna krama. Some of the akshara devathas are mentioned in Mahabharata also. Ka for Prajapathi is found in Adhi parvam.

Bha - also finds a place in old astrology texts in the context 'Bha- chakra' the path of sun around the zodiac. Infact Bha chakra refers to the zodiac.

The Sama veda references you have given are interesting. I think ee itself is a root having certain meanings such as go, send etc. The ha-vu-ha like extended sounds might be based on maatra - time duration required to give rise to the power of the mantra. Your thoughts please.

In my own experience I have found Sahasranama and Govindashtakam doing something to breathing. There was a time I was suffering from asthma. I used to struggle to speak properly due to the breathing problem. But I was able to recite these two sthothras without any difficulty in breathing. Infact I would start breathing easily once I started reciting them. I used to think that changes in the air passage caused by reciting the sthothras make it kept open and not requiring to gasp for air.

Similarly in vocal carnatic music and in sama gaana such changes are happening to the wind pipe and the body through it. Perhaps this does the physical level conditioning for the practitioner in his / her quest for the Supreme Brahman.

R.Ramanathan said...

Will check for the lists and post it here madam.

R.Ramanathan said...

Madam, this link gives some of the characteristics of all varnas, from their gender, qualities(Satva, rajas and tamo), devata. But what is missing here is the Varna(Brahmana, kshatriya and so on) of each "Varna".

Jayasree Saranathan said...

Thanks a lot Mr Ramanathan for introducing this video. I think gender, guna (satva / rajasa / tamasa), colour and devata are basic in-built things. Varna as Brahmana etc comes as a resultant of a combination of gunas and karma. That is why they were not mentioned.

Seems the varnas are the basis for beejaksharas. I need to study Shree tattwa of Vaishnava acharyas in the light of sha varna for Lakshmi. The la, La varnas for Prithvi and Atman also are in my mind for further thinking. The La is Tamil Zha according Kanchi Paramacharya.