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Teachings From Maheshwara Sutra

Teaching from Maheshwara Sutra is an excerpt from article titled ‘The Method and Significance of Tantra’ by Swami Kritarthananda in the January 2016 edition of Prabuddha Bharata magazine.

The eternal union of Shakti with Shiva is indicated by the letter I in the word Shiva. Take it away from the word, and it changes into shava, lifeless corpse. This unique philosophy demonstrates that the order of the Sanskrit alphabet like a, i, u, has a definite link with the process of creation. This is why when the great Mahadev Shiva appeared in his dancing Nataraja form before Panini, who wanted to know the secret of grammar, the first sound that came out of his damaru, pellet drum, gave the seeds of the entire creation.

The first three letters a, i, and u are said to be the three vertices of the basic triangle of the universe. Of these, the letter ‘a’ represents the ultimate reality beyond which nothing exists. But, left to itself, this letter is not capable of creating anything unless desire arises in it. This desire is indicated by the second letter ‘I’. These two letters, when combined, sprout the first sign of creation given by the third vowel ‘u’. Now, the first vowel ‘a’, in order to have the desire for creation, has to split itself into two ‘a’ s, which gives the letter ‘a’, the symbol of delight. Thus the first of the fourteen Maheshvara Sutra expresses the delight of self expression in creation. Again, as per grammar rules, the Sanskrit letter ‘a’ joined with ‘I’ yields the letter ‘e’, which is the root of all existence.

Hence the letter ‘e’ is looked upon in the tantras as root letter procreating the phenomenal world.

Another notable feature in the Maheshvara Sutra is that the starting letter ‘a’ in the first sutra and that in the fourteenth sutra ‘ha’ together constitute the entire gamut of our existence, as it begins with the first vowel ‘a’ in the alphabet and ends with the last consonant of the alphabet, ‘ha’ ; and these two poles, when joined by the point represented by ‘m’, makes it aham, ‘I’.

In the tantric context the word ‘aham’ represents the whole world of living beings. Like the cardinal sentence in Vedanta, ‘aham brahmasmi; I am Brahman’, the two words ‘aham’ and ‘idam’ in the tantric context represent the eternal relation between the individual soul and Shiva. It also means the elimination of the difference between the knower and the known, the enjoyer and the enjoyed.

Adi Shankaracharya also says in the introduction to his commentary on the Brahma Sutra that the physical world consists of the infinite variety of relationship between the two words ‘aham’ and ‘idam’, ‘I’ and ‘this’ : ‘A natural human behavior based on self-identification in the form of “I am this” or “This is mine”.