Learning Sanskrit - Sacred Mantra-s: Aim̐ (Aim)
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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)||ai.N|
|HARVARD-KYOTO (also commonly used online)||ai.m|
The celebrated Varadātantra explains the meanings of each of the letters forming this Bījamantra in its sixth chapter:
सरस्वत्यार्थ ऐशब्दो बिन्दुर्दुःखहरार्थकः।
सरस्वत्या बीजमेतत्तेन वाणीं प्रपूजयेत्॥
Sarasvatyārtha aiśabdo bindurduḥkhaharārthakaḥ|
Sarasvatyā bījametattena vāṇīṁ prapūjayet||
The sound (śabdaḥ) "ai" (ai) means (arthaḥ) Sarasvatī (sarasvatī), (while) the dot or bindu (in Anunāsika or Nādabindu) (binduḥ) means (arthakaḥ) destroyer (hara) of pain (duḥkha). This (etad) is the seed-mantra (bījam) of the goddess Sarasvatī (sarasvatyāḥ). One should worship (prapūjayet) Vāṇī (vāṇim) by means of it (tena)||
- 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 śiṣya. Varadātantra is no exception to the rule.
- Sarasvatī is the name of the goddess of streams who is closely connected with speech and knowledge. She flows just as speech and knowledge does.
- 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.
- In this seed-mantra, "nāda" (the half-moon in Anunāsika) does not seem to have any special connotation, as only bindu (the dot above nāda) has been described.
- "Vāṇī" is an epithet of Sarasvatī. It literally means "speech, word, etc.". Since Sarasvatī is closely connected with speech as I mentioned above, it is no surprise she is also called "Vāṇī".
- Bīja-s or seed-mantra-s are always monosyllabic.
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