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 Tattva-s & Sanskrit - Non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir

Relationship between Sanskrit letters and Trika tattva-s


 Introduction

Gabriel Pradīpaka, once again. I have created this document for you to understand the profound relationship existing between Sanskrit alphabet and Tattva-s. The Tattva-s or categories (levels) of universal manifestation (See Tattvic Chart) arise from the course known as "Mantra" (seed syllables) (See Ṣaḍadhvā for more information).

These seed syllables or Mantra-s are really Vowels and Consonants of the Sanskrit alphabet. To know exactly how each Tattva is related to a specific Sanskrit letter is very important to understand how the universe is manifested from the sound.

In turn, when you pronounce a particular Sanskrit letter with an onepointed mind for a while, you gain access to the respective Tattva or category. That is why, every person aspiring to experience divine realities should study this document thoroughly. My advise is that you should also print it out for further use.

Let us get down to work.

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 Chart

The first two tattva-s or categories are the highest ones:

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
1. Śiva
a
He is beyond description. However, it might be said that He is the real "I".Philosophical name for this letter: Anuttara --the Highest letter--.
2. Śakti
ā
She is beyond description too. However, it might be said that She is the real "am". Both of them form the real "I am". Śakti makes Śiva conscious of Himself, but no separation between them both may be stated anyway.Philosophical names for this letter: Ānanda --Bliss-- and Paravisarga --supreme Visarga--.

The following three tattva-s are divine ones too, but now an ideal universe has been manifested.

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
3. Sadāśiva or Sādākhya इ ई ऋ ॠ ऌ स
i ī ṛ ṝ ḷ sa
Sadāśiva is the abode of Icchāśakti or Power of Will. Here a foggy universe appears. The consciousness is "I am This" (I am this foggy universe). Philosophical names for the letters associated: (1) Icchā --Will-- (letter "i"); (2) Īśāna --The power of mastery-- (letter "ī"); (3) Ṣaṇḍha --Eunuchs-- (letters "ṛ, ṝ, ḷ"); (4) Paripūrṇāmṛta --the perfect imperishable letter-- (letter "sa").
4. Īśvara उ ऊ ष Anusvāra
u ū ṣa ṁ
Īśvara is the abode of Jñānaśakti or Power of Knowledge. Here a distinct and clear universe appears. The consciousness is "This am I" (This distinct universe am I). Philosophical names for some of the letters associated: (1) Unmeṣa --Opening, Unfoldment-- (letter "u"); (2) Ūnatā --Diminution, Deficiency-- (letter "ū"); (3) Bindu --Dot representing the Ultimate Knower-- (letter "ṁ" or Anusvāra appearing here devoid of "a", which is added to it in the Sanskrit alphabet because a vowel is necessary for it to be pronounced).
5. Sadvidyā or Śuddhavidyā ए ऐ ओ औ : श
e ai o au ḥ śa
Sadvidyā is the abode of Kriyāśakti or Power of Action. Here the consciousness is fully balanced between "I" and "This". "This" is the universe, of course. The consciousness is "I am I and This is This".Philosophical names for some of the letters associated: (1) Trikoṇa --Triangle-- (letter "e"); (2) Ṣaṭkoṇa --Hexagon-- (letter "ai"); (3) Triśūla --Trident-- (letter "au"); (4) Parāparavisarga --supreme/non-supreme Visarga-- (letter "ḥ"). There is three types of Visarga: "ā" (supreme), "ḥ" (supreme/non-supreme) and "ha" (non-supreme). This would be the intermediate one.

Next tattva-s concern Limitations. Semivowels are the letters associated with them. Note that the order of association (va, la, ra, ya) is exactly the opposite if compared to that one you find in the Sanskrit alphabet (ya, ra, la, va):

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
6. Māyā
va
Māyā is Ignorance. Trika's Māyā is not like that of Vedānta. In Trika, Māyā is a tattva or a "real" level of Creation. Māyā is in charge of drawing a veil over the essential nature of Śiva (apparently, of course). This letter has no philosophical name of its own. However, the entire group of Semivowels (ya, ra, la, va) are called Antastha (lit. standing in between, they are not either purely Vowels or purely Consonants, hence they are called Semivowels) because they operate from within the human mind. They are also named "Dhāraṇā" (supporting letters) since they wrap up and support the limited consciousnes, which was formed due to the operation of Māyā, thereby preventing it from falling into the gross matter (lower tattva-s).
7. Kalā
va
Kalā is the first Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "limited activity" to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Kriyāśakti (Omnipotence) having undergone contraction. The letter "va" stands for both Māyā and Kalākañcuka.
8. Vidyā
la
Vidyā is the second Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "limited knowledge" to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Jñānaśakti (Omniscience) having undergone contraction.
9. Rāga
la
Rāga is the third Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "limited will" --leading to attachment-- to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Icchāśakti (Absolute Will) having undergone contraction. The letter "la" stands for both Vidyā and Rāga Kañcuka-s.
10. Kāla
ra
Kāla is the fourth Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "parts" --leading to the notion of time-- to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Ānandaśakti (Supreme Bliss) having undergone contraction.
11. Niyati
ya
Niyati is the last Kañcuka or Sheath of Ignorance. It gives the notion of "space" to the consciousness which was veiled by Māyā. It is Cicchakti (the Power of Consciousness) having undergone contraction.

The upcoming two tattva-s are very important. Note that from tattva 12 to 36, the letters associated with them are Labials, Dentals, Cerebrals, Palatals and Gutturals (in that order). That is to say, the letters start with "ma" and end with "ka" (tattva-s 12 to 36). If you study the Sanskrit alphabet you will realize that the order of the letters there is exactly the opposite: Gutturals, Palatals, Cerebrals, Dentals and Labials:

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
12. Puruṣa
ma
It may be called "individual soul". It is Universal Consciousness with a veil over. This veil was drawn by Māyā or Ignorance. Puruṣa still has no mind at this level, but the seed for the formation of a psychic organ is about to be sown.
13. Prakṛti
bha
Prakṛti is the seed. It is formed from three Guṇa-s (Sattva, Rajas and Tamas) or qualities which are in absolute balance at this level. Puruṣa and Prakṛti form an indistinguishable reality, but an imminent unbalance of the Guṇa-s will bring about the rest of tattva-s (right from tattva 14 to 36). Prakṛti is undifferentiated and unmanifested matter. It is the source for all tattva-s to come.

And finally we have arrived in the inner "psychic" organ (Antaḥkaraṇa), formed from intellect, ego and mind:

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
14. Buddhi
ba
Buddhi is the intellect. The intellect acts as a mirror reflecting the pure light of the inner self. It still suffers from mutations or modifications, but these are not so gross as those of Manas or mind. Buddhi is also a kind of library or storehouse of "labels". These labels are indispensable to give a name to the objects (e.g. "that is a dog"; the word "dog" is an abstract label associated with the actual "animal" that is perceived through the senses).
15. Ahaṅkāra
pha
Ahaṅkāra is the ego. You know him, don't you? (haha!). From the ego arises the rest of the tattva-s or levels of Creation. Ego is full of will or icchā. Ego is also responsible for the generation of objects with volume. If there was no ego, you would only see objects in 2D. So, ego is the cause of this 3D world. The false aspect of ego appropriates all that gets in contact with it and become identified with that. Consequently, attachment and aversion take hold of the you, and the final result is obviously "pain". Its quality of appropriation is a kind of "plague", which everybody suffers from.
16. Manas
pa
Manas is the mind. The mind is the master of Jñānendriya-s and Karmendriya-s (powers of perception and action, respectively). That is why, it is sometimes considered to be one "additional" Indriya. It is undergoing mutation and modification all the time, and this feature clearly indicates that the mind is not a source of happiness (haha!). Happiness cannot come from something that changes continuously without rhyme or reason. Manas has also other functions, but this summary is enough.

And now the Jñānendriya-s or powers of perception. They may be called "organs of perception", but I prefer to use "powers" because the Jñānendriya-s are really the "energies" circulating through the respective "organs" that we use to perceive. Manas is behind every Jñānendriya as its inner controller. We might say that the Jñānendriya-s are the sensors by which Manas perceives the outer reality:

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
17. Śrotra or Śravaṇa
na
The power of hearing. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of hearing (ears).
18. Tvak
dha
The power of feeling by touch. It is that energy that "predominantly" circulates through the skin.
19. Cakṣus
da
The power of seeing. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of seeing (eyes).
20. Jihvā or Rasanā
tha
The power of tasting. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of tasting (tongue).
21. Ghrāṇa
ta
The power of smelling. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of smelling (nose).

The following group of five tattva-s is Karmendriya-s or powers of action. These are the instruments by which Manas performs activities in this world. They have, as well as the Jñānendriya-s, a set of organs through which operate generally. However, since the ten Indriya-s (Jñānendriya-s and Karmendriya-s) are energies (not physical organs), they are able to work by using some alternative organ (e.g. the normal course of a blind person's power of seeing must be diverted to the organs of hearing and feeling by touch because the eyes are not working. Thus, that person finds that he can hear and feeling by touch better than ever.):

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
22. Vāk
ṇa
The power of speaking. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of speaking (mouth).
23. Pāṇi
ḍha
The power of handling. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of handling (hands).
24. Pāda
ḍa
The power of locomotion. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of locomotions (legs and feet).
25. Pāyu
ṭha
The power of excreting. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organ of excreting (anus).
26. Upastha
ṭa
The power of sexual activity and restfulness. It is that energy that ordinarily circulates through the organs of sexual activity and restfulness (genitals).

Just ten more tattva-s to go. The following set of 5 categories is the Tanmātra-s. Tanmātra-s are the subtle elements from which will be evolved the last five tattva-s (the well-known gross elements: space or ether, air, fire, water and earth). Tanmātra-s are a kind of patterns or atoms. For example: the Tanmātra known as Sound-as-such is the auditory pattern by which you are be able to recognize different sounds:

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
27. Śabda
ña
Sound-as-such. You can recognize different sounds because of this sound pattern.
28. Sparśa
jha
Touch-as-such. You can recognize different kinds of touch because of this touch pattern.
29. Rūpa
ja
Color-as-such. You can recognize different colors because of this color pattern.
30. Rasa
cha
Flavor-as-such. You can recognize different flavors because of this flavor pattern.
31. Gandha
ca
Odor-as-such. You can recognize different odors because of this odor pattern.

And finally the five gross elements or Mahābhūta-s. These five tattva-s emerge from the Tanmātra-s. They should not merely be understood as "space or ether, air, fire, water and earth", but as "space or ether, all that is gaseous, all that contains heat and color, all that is liquid and all that is solid", respectively. As you see, the meaning behind such simple words as "space or ether, air, fire, water and earth" is much more comprehensive:

TATTVA
(CATEGORY)
ASSOCIATED LETTERS A BRIEF DESCRIPTION
32. Ākāśa
ṅa
The space or 3D framework within which the entire physical world exists.
33. Vāyu
gha
All that is gaseous. So, it is not only the ordinary "air".
34. Agni or Tejas
ga
All that contains heat and color. So, it is not only the ordinary "fire".
35. Āpas
kha
All that is liquid. So, it is not only the ordinary "water".
36. Pṛthivī
ka
All that is solid. So, it is not only the ordinary "earth".

I am done enumerating the 36 tattva-s and their respective associated letters. When you repeat one of those letters with an onepointed mind, you will lastly realize the tattva associated with it. By "realization" I mean "full understanding". For example, if you repeat "i", you will come to realize the Supreme Will which that vowel embodies. You may use each letter to attain to the level or tattva you wish. In the document "First Steps (4)" I explain in detail this topic to you.

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 Further Information

Gabriel Pradīpaka

This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.

For further information about Sanskrit, Yoga and Indian Philosophy; or if you simply want to comment, ask a question or correct a mistake, feel free to contact us: This is our e-mail address.