Learning Sanskrit - Sacred Mantra-s: Strīm̐ (Strim)
Vadhūbījamantra or Bījamantra of the Supreme Woman or Śakti
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1) The sound Anunāsika (demilune plus dot in the original Sanskrit character above) is a nasal resonance which should be pronounced by keeping the mouth open always, feeling that the sound goes up from the palate up to the crown of the head. If you were to close your mouth at the end of its utterance, that ascension to the summit of the head would be impossible. It sounds like ng approximately.
2) Pronunciation 1 is a good document to start your pronunciation learning.
3) First of all, there is a measure unit called mātrā or the time gap needed to pronounce a short vowel (e.g. a). Short vowels (a, i, u, ṛ, ḷ) last 1 mātrā, while long vowels (ā, ī, ū, ṝ) and diphthongs (e, ai, o, au) last 2 mātrā-s. In turn, Anusvāra and Visarga last 1/2 mātrā. Anunāsika (final resonance indicated by demilune and dot in the above Sanskrit character) also lasts 1/2 mātrā and thus it should not be protracted. Granted, these measurements cannot be followed to the letter the whole time, but one should always attempt to follow them as closely as possible.
4) If you want the Mantra to have a more powerful effect on you, firstly repeat it with the physical tongue, and then with the mental tongue (i.e. repeat it in your mind). If you were to mentally repeat it once while inhaling and once while exhaling, the energy contained in that Mantra would spread much more quickly across your system.
5) Here you will find a complete explanation of the nature, characteristics, etc. of a Mantra.
6) Mental repetition of a Mantra is always more powerful that gross utterance performed by the physical tongue, as the mental tongue is subtler. However, it is usually good to start your practice with some gross utterance before entering the mental one.
7) To repeat a Mantra while one beholds its form, that is, the Sanskrit characters forming it, is extremely auspicious. Therefore, repeat the Mantra while beholding its form and then close your eyes and keep repeating it mentally.
|Transliteration||IAST (International Alphabet of Sanskrit Transliteration)|
|ITRANS (commonly used online)||strI.N|
|HARVARD-KYOTO (also commonly used online)||strI.m|
The celebrated Varadātantra explains the meanings of each of the letters forming this Bījamantra in its sixth chapter:
दुर्गोत्तारणवाच्यः स तारकार्थस्तकारकः।
मुक्त्यार्थो रेफ उक्तोऽत्र महामायार्थकश्च ई।
विश्वमातार्थको नादो बिन्दुर्दुःखहरार्थकः।
वधूबीजार्थ उक्तोऽत्र तव स्नेहान्महेश्वरि॥
Durgottāraṇavācyaḥ sa tārakārthastakārakaḥ|
Muktyārtho repha ukto'tra mahāmāyārthakaśca ī|
Viśvamātārthako nādo bindurduḥkhaharārthakaḥ|
Vadhūbījārtha ukto'tra tava snehānmaheśvari||
(The letter) "sa" (sa) expresses (vācyaḥ) deliverance (uttāraṇa) from difficulties and dangers (durga). The letter (kārakaḥ) "ta" (ta) means (arthaḥ) savior (tāraka). Repha or (the letter) "ra" (rephaḥ) is said (uktaḥ) to mean (arthaḥ) here (atra) Liberation (mukti), and (ca) (the vowel) "ī" (ī) signifies (arthakaḥ) Mahāmāyā (mahāmāyā). Nāda or half-moon (nādaḥ) means (arthakaḥ) the Mother (mātā) of the universe (viśva), (while) bindu or dot (binduḥ) signifies (arthakaḥ) destroyer (hara) of pain (duḥkha). The meaning (arthaḥ) of the seed-mantra (bīja) of the Supreme Woman or Śakti (vadhū) (is) here (atra) uttered (uktaḥ) out of love (snehāt) for You (tava), oh Great (mahā) Mistress (īśvari)!||
- The Tantra-s (revealed scriptures, see Tantricism for more information) are presented as a dialogue between Śiva and Śakti. Pretty generally, Śiva acts as the spiritual preceptor or guru, and Śakti as his disciple or śiṣyā. Varadātantra is no exception to the rule.
- "Vadhū" is in this case the Supreme Woman or Śakti, i.e. the Highest Power of Lord Śiva. Of course, She is not a woman in reality, but poetically speaking. The same thing is true for Śiva, i.e. He is not a man really. Both of them are the two aspects of the Supreme Self who is beyond any difference of sex. I make this point clear because some people seem to think of them as a divine man and a divine woman or something like that. As a matter of fact, they are only considered as man and woman in poetry in order to describe their natures somehow. Śakti is feminine because is dynamical and creative, while Śiva is masculine because is static and immutable. Of course, in other cultures the concepts of feminine and masculine might be considered in a different manner. At any rate, forget about that Śiva is a man and Śakti a woman strictly speaking. It is just a metaphor or poetical way to describe them.
- "Repha" is the name of the letter "ra". Some others letters also have a name, e.g. Visarga (ḥ), Anusvāra (ṁ), etc., but not all the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet have one like in the Greek language.
- Mahāmāyā or great Māyā (the veiling power) is according to Trika (Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir) a special kind of Māyā which is operating in the tattva-s 3 to 5. She is called like that because subject ("I") and object ("this") exist as two realities, but the subject experiences unity with the object though. In turn, under the influence of the common "Māyā", the subject experiences no unity with the object, but he feels different and separated from it. See the documents in "Trika/Trika (overview)" section for more information.
- Anunāsika (half-moon and dot) is also known as Nādabindu, being "nāda" the half-moon and "bindu" the dot. Read Meditation 6 for more information about Nādabindu, please.
- Even though you can see that the sounds forming the seed-mantra are: "s", "t", "r", "ī" and Anunāsika (half-moon and dot), the consonants in the Sanskrit alphabet have an appended "a". What is the reason? Because "a" is Śiva, the Supreme Self, and without Him all consonants are barren, as it were, that is, they have no power at all. Thus, Śiva describes the original consonants including "a" in the stanza, i.e. "sa", "ta" and "ra" despite they appear without "a" in the seed-mantra itself.
- In the last line, Śiva makes clear that both the seed-mantra (bīja) and its meaning are uttered out of love for His own Śakti, i.e. both the repetition of the seed-mantra and the recitation of this stanza of Varadātantra, in which the meaning of Strīm̐ is explained in detail, is out of love for the Supreme Śakti, got it now?
- Bīja-s or seed-mantra-s are always monosyllabic.
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