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The Secret Enshrined in "Pranavam"

From: M.S.HARI (Madabhushi Sarangarajan Hari) (
Date: Wed Apr 26 2000 - 23:24:01 PDT

Dear Bhaagavatas,

Please find my article on "Pranavam" as follows:

The Secret Enshrined in "Pranavam"

"Pranavam" is itself a mantra of Veda. Its form is "AUM" verbally. It is held
by the tradition in India that the Veda that is not authored by anyone is an
expansion of this single lettered syllable. It is chanted before and after the
recitation of Veda. It occurs as a part in many mantras that have their origin
in the Veda or in certain authored scriptures. Though many scholars have
deduced the meaning of this mantra, the elucidation of the same as given by
Shreeman Nigamaanta Maha Desika is unprecedented and is in strict accordance
with the authoritative scriptures. This article attempts to give an outline of
the same as follows.

As per the Sanskrit grammatical rules, the "Pranavam" which is "AUM" is
compounded of three alphabets. The first is the "A" (Sanskrit). The second and
the middle one is "U" (Sanskrit). The third and the last alphabet is "M"
(Sanskrit). Many scriptures that are held authoritative talk only of Pranavam
to be compounded by these three alphabets this way. Let us examine in brief
what these alphabets mean and what their compound mean here in the Pranavam. 

The first alphabet "A" (Sanskrit) is derived from the root of verb "Av". This
verb is to mean, "To protect" in Sanskrit. Therefore the alphabet "A" denotes
the "Protector". A protector protects what he owns. Here the "protection"
means having the reality, existence, continuance of existence, actions and
inaction of what he owns under his control as eternal supporter, controller
and owner. The Sanskrit language has very ancient dictionaries called
"Nigandu". They speak that "Akaaro Vishnu Vaachakaha" meaning, "The alphabet
"A" (Sanskrit) denotes Vishnu". Further the Vedas ascertain that such a
protector of the entire universe is only Lord Vishnu. The alphabet also
denotes the meaning of being the cause as "A" is the beginning alphabet and
from which other alphabets originates. As the Brahman identified with Vishnu
is declared as the only material cause and instrumental cause of the universe
in the Veda, "A" denotes Lord Vishnu. The fourth declension in Sanskrit, which
is "Aaya", is hidden after the "A" in Pranava. The meaning of this is "for
Vishnu denoted by 'A'". Therefore this brings out the body soul relationship
between Universe (composed of all sentient and insentient entities) and Vishnu
who is Brahman. That is the universe exists for Vishnu as his body/mode. The
second and middle alphabet of Pranava is "U" (Sanskrit). It means "eternally
universe is not fit to be owned as body by any other person other than Vishnu
and eternally the universe exists as the body of Vishnu only and negates the
independent existence, continuance of existence, actions and inaction of
universe". "U" thereby declares that the universe is eternally supported,
controlled and owned by Lord Vishnu denoted by "A" and exists for Lord
Vishnu's purpose only and therefore it is Lord Vishnu's body/mode. Lord Vishnu
is thus the soul of the universe. The alphabet "U" also says that the
Jeevatman is not for himself also. The term "M" is denoting the sentient
"Jeevaatman / Chit". It is derived from the Sanskrit root "Man" which means,
"to know". As the Jeevaatman is sentient, he knows himself and other things
and therefore is different from the insentient matter (achit). Also the term
"M" denotes finiteness (as it is derivable from the Sanskrit root "Mas"). The
Jeevaatman is finite and therefore distinguished from the Brahman who is
infinite with infinite divine qualities and untouched by all impurities of the
universe. Further in the "Samkyaa" order, the Jeevaatman is the 25th element.
The letter "M" in the Sanskrit alphabetical list is also the 25th alphabet.
There are 24 elements in insentient category. The 25th is the Chit/Jeevaatman.
The 26th is Brahman who is Lord Vishnu. The "M" along with "U" signifies that
the Jeevaatman is eternally supported, controlled and owned by Lord Vishnu as
his "Sesha" and "Daasa" and exists for the purpose of Lord Vishnu only. The
alphabet "U" also denotes Goddess Lakshmi - "Shree" who is the divine consort
of Lord Vishnu. Therefore the Pranava also signifies that the Jeevatman is
eternally supported, controlled and owned by Shree and Vishnu as their "Sesha"
and "Daasa" and exists for the purpose of this divine couple only. 

This pranava is elaborated by the remaining seven alphabets namely "Namo
Naaraayanaaya" which is a part of the Ashtakshara Maha Mantra "Om Namo
Naaraayanaaya" - the eight syllable mantra of Veda. Thus ends a brief inquiry
in to the secrets of the Pranava mantra. 

M.S.HARI Raamaanuja Daasan

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