Ciphering the Supreme: Mantric Encoding in Abh|navagupta's Tantr loka

Paul Muller-Ortega


In his masterful and encyclopedic work, the Tantraloka (Light on the Tantras), the tenth-century Kashmiri Saivfic~rya, Abhinavagupta, often draws a veil over certain considerations claiming they are too secret (rahasya, guhya) to be fully discussed in a text and should only be imparted orally by a qualified preceptor. Thus, in Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka, we encounter the statement: "But enough of telling of secret things! The Heart of the yogin[ is hidden by its vet3' nature. The wise one who reposes there has attained his purpose" (5.73). 1 Similarly, Abhinavagupta states that while the Vedic tradition may consider a corpse or the alcohol used in the Tantric ritual as impure, such is not the truth. Rather, that which is separated from consciousness is impure and that which is identical to consciousness is pure. He adds that while the ancient enlightened sages knew this truth, they kept it secret in order not to perturb the established order of the world (Tantraloka 4.243b). Elsewhere, Abhinavagupta indicates that a certain ,~gamic theory has only been hinted at, rather than being presented in detail, because of its extreme secrecy (Tantraloka 4.145). A similar statement occurs with regard to the kulayaga, the secret ritual: Abhinavagupta states that the method has not been explained precisely because of its secrecy (Tantraloka 29.169). Such statements may be found scattered throughout Abhinavagupta's writings (and indeed in this genre of literature more generally). One of the puzzles that scholars of such esoteric traditions face centers on how to deal with such tantalizing statements. Is it possible to compensate for the lack of closure

International Journal of Hindu Studies 7, 1-3 (2003): 1-30
© 2005 by the W o r d Heritage Press Inc.

2 / Paul Muller-Ortega introduced into the almost exclusively textual study of these traditions by such reservations on the part of the author.'? Naturally, the scholar will bring to bear whatever supplementary interpretive tools are available: commentaries, parallel traditions, and modem representatives. Nevertheless, even with such supports, a lingering sense of incompleteness afflicts the study of such a tradition. This essay seeks to address a specific problem--that of mantric encoding-within the larger sphere of notions of secrecy and concealment in the context of South Asian religions. To begin let us ask two general questions. First, how has the dimension of secrecy and concealment in the South Asian religions usually been characterized in works of scholarship? And, second, are there implicit presuppositions and assumptions in these characterizations that it might be useful to revisit and rethink? Let us begin with Hinduism. It might be said that from the casual phrases of early scholars about the "jealous guardians" of the Veda to modern sociological analyses that seek to expose the "restrictive power relations" inherent in the notion of caste, scholarly discourse concerning the Hindu tradition (or rather Hindu traditions) has been often marked by the too easy assumption that we know and have clearly established what the roles played by secrecy, hiddenness, and concealment have been in this large tradition. Too often, secrecy has been represented as a kind of arbitrary obfuscation, a minor and inessential if persistently irritating feature of an otherwise interesting tradition. Many times, it has been conceived as a barrier to be "gotten past," a meaningless veil that obscures the "real truths" the investigator seeks to unveil. It is my contention that these assumptions, when operative, have missed an essential feature of the tradition, that is, that secrecy and concealment respond to the very core of the tradition, that they are not arbitrary or secondary but directly expressive of the tradition's most formative insights. From the notion of Siva's concealing power (the tirodhanagakti) to the pervasive notion of's power of illusion or maya, concealment is deeply embedded in Hindu thought and practice. In fact, it could be argued that the Hindu tradition is grounded in a fundamental dialectic of concealing and revealing and that this dialectic represents an inescapable fact for the understanding of this tradition. In order that scholarship about the Hindu tradition be descriptively accurate, it must therefore reflect this dialectic as a fundamental hermeneutical tool of understanding. To return to the Saivite notion of the tirodhanagakti: The tradition argues that what is real, what is true, abiding, and divine is hidden. Saivism tells us that because the formless Absolute is qualityless and inconceivable, it is hidden by its very nature. Cloaked in layers of form, it is obscured by its own formlessness. It is these very layers that give form to the transparency of being by

Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantr~loka / 3

revealing an array of ever-changing variety and creativity. At the same time, Saivism would say, what is real, what is true and abiding is unconcealable. The arising of layers of form thus displays and reveals the inherent nature of the Absolute. And, indeed, Saivism would further claim that for those who have eyes to see, this Absolute, far from remaining obscured, shines forth, ever revealed in the midst of all arising forms. Then, Saiva traditions would say, life reflects this self-revealing hiddenness that echoes through it in a dance of concealment and mystery. It might be argued that this dialectic of concealing and revealing, here expressed in Saivite terms, is in fact pervasively replicated in the multifarious dimensions and aspects of the complex religions tradition of Hinduism. In all of its domains--mythological, ritual, social, doctrinal, ethical, iconographical, experiential--the Hindu tradition displays and responds to the dialectical tension between revealing and concealing. We turn now to introduce the parameters of this essay's investigation of mantric encoding. The thirtieth ahnika (chapter) of Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka catalogs and organizes a large number of mantras for a variety of ritual and meditational purposes. One of the features of Abhinavagupta's discussion is that the mantras are not spelled out "in clear." Rather, they are encoded by means of names assigned to the various phonemes of the mantra. This process makes such mantric passages very difficult for the uninitiated (and indeed for the scholar) to approach. At first inspection, therefore, this chapter seems to function to contain and obscure its contents rather than to release and reveal them. Fortunately, in the case of this particular text, its twelfth-century commentator, Jayaratha, provides the equivalences which make possible the retrieval and extraction of such encoded mantras. Though this process of encoding and decoding mantras is commonly found in the literature of Hindu Tantric and Agamic texts, it has received little scholarly scrutiny. Indeed, to my knowledge, the morphology and syntax of mantric encoding have not yet been systematically explored. Since in the wider ambit of Asian scholarship mantric encoding has been largely ignored, it is not surprising that when it is glancingly alluded to, it most often continues to be understood stereotypically and exclusively in terms of conventional notions of secrecy and concealment. For example, the comments of Dirk Jan Hoens are typical: "This cryptic style of writing has been adopted to keep the contents concealed from non-initiated people. These can only be read by those who have the key" (1979: 104). In this essay I first approach the practice of mantric encoding descriptively in order to explore the various features of encoding in the fairly representative

4 / Paul Muller-Ortega sample found in the Tantrdloka. tu bfjad utpadyate dhruvam" (Verily. then its symbolic explication through "deep" encoding allows for the expression of this hidden cipher of the Supreme. instance of the relation of that which "signifies" (vacaka) and that which is "signified" (vacya). which "expresses" or "signifies.mketika). gar[ram. As Padoux summarizes: Two powers are associated with every Mantra: one power (vacakagakti). if rather special. the body of the devat(t arises from the bfja-phonic seed). Therefore. in his book Vac (1990: 380n16). I argue that the intended "clientele" of the Tantraloka (and of many similar texts) would almost certainly have been understood to be initiates for whom the mantras were not secret. It attempts to expose in conceptual terms that which makes the mantra inherently powerful. I then examine what I term "deep" encoding." is the devata [the god or "object" of the . Mantric encoding thus allowed the important mantras of the tradition to be packed densely and explicitly with ultimate meanings without thereby rendering the mantras possessed of conventional signification (sa. initial explanation for the process of encoding. Encoding served as a protective hedge to guard not so much what was secret but what was sacred. I show that the process of "deep" encoding seeks not to conceal but to reveal. there is clearly something more here. while the perceived motive of the exclusion of the uninitiated remains a plausible." is the Mantra itself. To spell out an important or central mantra directly in a text would have offended against what was understood to be the proper context for the transmission of a mantra. the so-called mantrav~rya or the potency of the mantra. which is "to be expressed" or "signified. While the mantravfrya is not finally amenable to conceptual explication--it represents nothing less than the very force and power of the ultimate consciousness itself--I argue that the most interesting mantric encodings in the Tantraloka endeavor to reveal this mantrav~rya. This connection between mantras and the deities they express is now well known and has been studied as an important. which reads: "devatayah. of Siva. If a mantra truly encodes the pattern of the Supreme. quotes from a Yamalatantra a rather sfitric passage. MANTRIC ENCODING: A R E S E A R C H AGENDA Andr6 Padoux. instances where the occasion of encoding is taken as an opportunity to reveal the symbolic sequences of meaning that are understood to be contained in that mantra. [The other] (vacyagakti).

The Heart [-mantra] is the very essence of that and is a self-referential consciousness which is non-different from all the parts of the body [of the supreme deity. which is made up of all the principles and depends on various different parts." if you will." in this case. and so on.ic consciousness that nourishes and sustains the outer physicality of the body). In the same way. However. then it is further the case that these subtle. occurring in three successive stages. that heart is called the place where there is a repose in the pure light and pure consciousness. I will not here dilate on these matters.H) forms the sustaining inner "life" of the outer form of the deity. the body of the blessed Lord Bhairava. Here as elsewhere the second aspect follows from the first. of the formless and bodyless absolute consciousness in terms of the powerful matrix of vibratory sound is . it is important to insist that the "bodying forth.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta' s Tantraloka / 5 mantra]. The first part of this fundamental relationship is articulated. pr~n. Bhairava] (commentary on ~loka 9). There is also an assumed argument regarding the parallel and complex process of the manifestation of the "objective" reality in terms of the thirty-six principles (tattva) of Saivism (see Padoux 1990). the fecundator who precedes her object (1963: 298. For if it might be said that the absolute consciousness is first phonically. for it is the Word which is primal. Just as the heart is the source of the human body (and by "heart. which is not different from the parts of the body. divinely. which has a universal form. which is composed of various principles. for example. worlds. has a self-referential consciousness as its essence and is composed of the fifty phonemes. so too the mantric Heart (in this case the bfja. such as the skin. there are many fascinating issues and ambiguities here. by Abhinavagupta in his Paratrggikalaghuv. and subtly "fleshed out" in mantra. Assumed in this passage is an entire argument regarding the complex process of the emanation of the Word. Abhinavagupta clearly intends the subtle. mantric "bodies" are many times "ornamented" or "clothed" in the various encodings through which the mantric "subtle body" of the deity is carefully presented in the many texts of Hindu Tantrism. cited in Alper 1989a: 267).rni. when he says: For just as in the body. 2 This complex passage plays on analogies between the macrocosmic body of the deity Bhairava (which is the entire complex of the visible universe) and the microcosm of the human body. SAU. Clearly. This fundamental relationship of mantric word and divine object stands in the backdrop of the present exploration of mantric encoding.

" and symbolically framed and "loaded" by the multivalent and multipurpose process of they are further "clothed" in the "draperies" of textual encoding. and man. and especially in the specific case of certain crucial mantras. In general terms. Bharati accurately describes the reality that surrounds mantras in the Tantr~loka. In addition. i. .ava and the Mantramahodadhi (1975:118. The votaries of mantra are. abounds in instructions about the correct form and pronunciation of the mantra. its otherwise nakedly powerful expressions in terms of vibratory. in which the instruction is couched in heuristic propositions using circumlocutory terms for mantra-constituents and Mjas which are known only to the initiate or to scholars conversant with tantric terminology. kavaca. and they are the only sandha-passages in mantric instructions of any kind. The complex structures of emergent vibratory sound both reveal and conceal aspects of the supreme divinity. The Tantric Tradition. Every tantric text. in all the three religions inculcating mantra. although this is not directly enjoined in any canonical text I have seen." "concealed. especially of the left-handed variety. y~mala. They are held concealed within a text and often revealed by the commentary to that text. they are the "Mjakoias" of the various mantra schools. yantra. In his pioneering study.. imla. there is certainly no mantra arrived at by means of sandha-instruction. Mantra loses its power if revealed to the non-initiate . These insightful and apt comments provide us with a baseline of understanding as to the textuality of mantras. mantric sounds are suitably "ornamented. these instructions seem to be obligatory in every tantric text.. in which the mantra is simply listed in the text. which is not listed in manuals like the Mantramah~m. In some cases. These instructions are therefore in sandh~bha. 120-21).6 / Paul Muller-Ortega the first (and ever-repeated) "move" in the divine play of Siva. By this complex and multistaged process. the absolute consciousness is repeatedly concealed and revealed.. not too consistent about the secrecy of the mantras so laboriously camouflaged in these sandh~-instructions. There are two ways in which instructions about how to arrive at a mantra are given: the direct way. are not couched in intentional language. in fact. Agehananda Bharati maintains that: As to the construction of mantra within the textual framework the material is vast. there are numerous manuals which list them in toto. instructions about dh~r~n. and the indirect way. that is to say. however. The reason for this seems to be that secrecy attaches itself only to the mantra itself in a degree comparable to instructions on esoteric practices.

. and knowledge of a procedure.saras are rearranged and know the terminology by which they are indicated.. for as Bharati (1965." To get the mantra. the subject of the encoding of mantras in such a manner clearly merits further study.. Sanderson (1990: 58n115) further speaks of "code terms" and "code names". 1992) in his treatments of the Srividy~ . However. part of the game" are precisely what we seek to understand in this essay. Padoux (1978) deals in detail with the "extraction" (uddh~ra) of mantras.. As far as I can ascertain." Gudrun Biihnemann (1992) has written in detail about the topic of mantras and treats perforce the processes of encoding and decoding as a fact of life in the textual literature of mantras. In any case. 3 Alper's comments that the "secrecy of Tantra became an end in itself.a).the secret is open to anyone in a position to care.b) of "substitution ciphers. we will try to demonstrate that at least in the case of Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka. The comments of Douglas Brooks (1990. which are specific to the tradition of the Kulalika-or Pagcimamnaya . "interchanging the syllables of a line" (vyakulitaksara) . vyutkramen. The most common procedures for indicating a mantra that should not be expressed directly in writing simply involved writing it in reverse order (vilomena. one must first know how to construct the diagram in which the Sanskrit ak.... Alper (1989a. more elaborate precautions were taken to guard mantras. Sometimes one gets the impression that the secrecy of Tantra became an end in itself. before decoding would be possible. the potency of the mantra. or paraphrasing it.... part of the game . The most extreme involved various forms of encoding that required possession of a key. I will not attempt a systematic survey of what little else has been said by scholars on this topic. In many instances.. This involves secreting the mantra through something like a "substitution cipher. the topic of encoding mantras has been treated en passant and with an eye towards other goals. The best example of this about which I am aware are the devices known as prastara and gahvara. 69) observes.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta' s Tantrdloka / 7 Further Harvey Alper writes: The techniques for safeguarding mantras were relatively straightforward. n. 276. One wonders whether these procedures are derived from Vedic precedents or were part of a continuous tradition of Indian cryptography (1989b: 415). the game is played with a completely serious intent: to expose to view the mantravgrya. 4 Other scholars who have written on related topics in mantra~astra include Alexis Sanderson (1990: 57) who makes reference to a "cryptic analysis" of some of the same mantras we will consider below. This illustrates the tension between concealment and disclosure.

Possibly to guard against its inappropriate circulation. further examination of this mechanism would be beneficial. between the reception of this most fundamental initiatory energy and the development of the intellectual and intuitive capacities considered necessary to penetrate the secrets of the tradition. which will be touched on below. this chapter appears to serve as a vessel for the tools of power that are the m a n t r a s . without thereby assigning a conventional verbal signification to the m a n t r a itself. They also serve as a source of data for investigating the procedure for encoding m a n t r a s that appears to be a widespread practice in Tantric literature. the process of encoding makes such mantric passages difficult to translate without the assistance of decoding commentaries.8 / Paul Muller-Ortega tradition on the issues of secrecy and mantric encoding are important. this chapter and other places in the oeuvre of Abhinavagupta serve as a useful source of data for the encoding of m a n t r a s . At the same time. Naturally.nava T~ntrikas. most of the m a n t r a s in the text are conveyed by means of a process of encoding. Edward Dimock's (1966) classic book gives some relevant and interesting details. Clearly. We find that its thirtieth chapter catalogs and organizes a large number of m a n t r a s . Coming fairly deep into a large Sanskrit Tantric manual. s We now turn to Abhinavagupta's T a n t r ~ l o k a . To the uninformed reader of the text. primarily by means of what appear to be names assigned to the various phonemes that compose the mantra. was not meant for public scrutiny or for those who had not received the proper initiator). these passages appear to be abstruse and sometimes incoherent philosophical or ritual discussions. warrant. Therefore. it is one of the compelling features of Abhinavagupta's discussion of m a n t r a that the m a n t r a s are. By this method the exact m a n t r a is concealed from those who do not know the equivalent phonemes of the symbolic names given. In the case of the . For most important Tantric manuals contain a section on m a n t r a s (Hindu Tantra is after all many times characterized as m a n t r a i a s t r a ) . not spelled out "in clear. There is a crucial connection here.'" Rather they are encoded. it seems. the process of encoding allows Abhinavagupta to inculcate sequences of symbolic meanings into the m a n t r a . This text. This procedure allows Abhinavagupta to convey m a n t r a s in a text without explicitly expressing them. for the most part. and often the m a n t r a s are conveyed therein by various kinds of cryptographic devices and encoding subterfuges. To the informed reader--perhaps the initiate who is no longer tempted to make illegitimate use of the m a n t r a outside of the proper ritual--the text reveals and conveys the m a n t r a it contains. In any case. For mantric encoding in the Vais. Here the concept of ~aktipata ("the graceful descent of the power of Siva") is inextricably allied with the theoretical understandings of the textual preservation and transmission of the m a n t r a s .

These mantric passages in the Tantrdloka are particularly interesting because in them we can examine the juxtaposition of Abhinavagupta's often symbolic encodings and Jayaratha's decodings. in other words. These kinds of "sociological" and presuppositional concerns represent the wider horizon within which the narrower inquiry of mantric encoding may become particularly relevant. To conclude our statement of a research agenda on mantric encoding. this topic has received little scholarly scrutiny. what is its larger interpretive horizon? What does this rather microscopic and "esoteric" inquiry reveal about the larger meanings of Hindu Tantra? What. there are two parallel examples drawn from a closely related text. and what may have been the secondary or subservient relationship of the text to traditions of oral commentary. Par~tr~gik~laghuvrtti by Abhinavagupta. Even though encoded mantric cryptograms are a widespread feature of Hindu Tantric texts. the restricted distribution of such texts (and of their decoding commentaries).Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantrgdoka I 9 Tantraloka. the textual composition as a temporary fabrication for the assistance of the process of transmission and memorization. how is it done? Narrowly. First. what is the nature of the process of mantric encoding? Is there any perceivable logic to the code names used for the various phonemes? Second. the presuppositions of the authors about the audience of such a text. I am studying the process of the encoding of mantras following three specific lines. does this process of encoding tell us about the larger meanings of mantras and their textuality as they were understood in this medieval Kashmiri lineage of Hindu Tantra? The method followed in this essay will be to investigate a single textual environment of mantric encoding as exemplary of such Tantric compilations of encoded mantras. These juxtapositions reveal insights concerning the morphology and meaning of Tantric mantra encoding. that is. it might be commented that the process of mantric encoding in Tantric texts must be carried out with an alertness towards the "sociology" of Hindu Tantric texts: the circumstances that surround the composition of a text. why is mantric encoding such a pervasive and indeed commonplace feature of Tantric texts? What does it appear to mean? Third. Also. the examination of this process as part of a descriptive charting of the morphology and syntax of mantric encoding. about the life span of the text. While most of the examples are drawn from the Tantr~loka. and most speculatively. As part of an ongoing agenda of research. it might be said that the study of the encoding of the various phonemes of the mantra . Jayaratha provides the equivalences that make possible the retrieval of such encoded mantras. their understanding of the nature and category of a text. in other words. the inquiry into the immediate environment of meaning of this phenomenon. if anything.

fire. Also. association with various deities and the varn.ptograms as well as their decoding in the Jayaratha commentary. and the guttural or velar nasal d. the Par~-mantra SAUH (Heart of manifestation or creation) and KHPHREM (Heart of dissolution)6 Chapter that are named like the anunara A and iccha I. possibly with reference to the practice of we will proceed with an examination of the morphology and syntax of mantric ct3. numerical references to the list of varn. association with tattvas.. MANTRIC ENCODING: SOME DATA FROM ABHINAVAGUPTA'S TANTR2{LOKA As an introduction to the consideration of mantric encoding in chapter 30. the first encoded mantras. in the context of the ~dmbhavopaya ("the method relating to Siva or Sambhu"). especially the variation between the use of the labial nasal M. as contained in deity names. famous Mjas that are named. I have gathered. Chapter 4. ava. it would be useful to survey the Tantraloka on the topic of mantra and relevant matters. water. mantric constituents like SV. and the naming of multisyllable. In the following section.~. ether). . A further desideratum of research would create an initial typology of the various kinds of encoding and attempt to see if there is some pattern related to the following: association with various elements (earth. it might be noticed that mantras do occur in the Tantraloka chapter 30 (and its related textual environments) that are not necessarily encoded.~. the anusvara M. the naming and variety of the usually postpositional mantras.10 / Paul Muller-Ortega would include gathering systematic information on the naming of the various yarn.~H. such as NAMA. verses 74-78 deal with the mantra KHPHREM. verses 181-93 deal with the notion of mantravirya. multiword.H and SV. or multicomponent mantras such as the name pa~c~k. the variety of nasalizations used for the ending of bgjas. and PHAT.. association with various cakras. the different kinds of Mjas. SIV. I summarize here for purposes of brevity: Chapter 3 considers the various phonemes in their cosmological sense. Why is this the case? In what follows. and formulas for the construction of ritual series of repetition. water. for the sake of clarity. famous varn. association with parts of the the naming and variety of the pran.sari for NAMAH. the names or terms by which they are referred to stereotypically. a summary of the major mantric passages in the Tantraloka.~YA.~H. VAU.

207-23a mention a series of mantras. OM JUM SAH.H SIV. the Aghora-mantra from the Taittidya Upanis. I am here limiting myself to the mantric analysis. the consort of Goddess Par~. Chapter 22.. verses 7-64 give a variety of formulas for the process of tattvaguddhi.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta 's Tantrdloka / 11 Chapter 5. Chapter 15. Chapter 17. This leads to the most extended consideration of mantras. verses 23b-56 discuss the rite known as the brahmavidyd. It contains the vidyas or wisdom formulas for these deities as well. verses 20-27a mention a series of mantras.. I will now summarize this long and complex chapter.. They partake in the vimarga or self-referential nature of consciousness that is sv~tantrya or freedom.l l a give the mantra of Rati~ekhara.SMLVYOM. and Nav. Ratigekhara.. and the Netra-mantra. JHK.48b-49a. Verses 18-19 contain a general formula that gives a method for deriving a mantra for the adoration of any deity whose mantra is not contained in the M~liMvijayottara Tantra (Pfirvag~stra). RYLVOM. Verses 4-10a give the m a n t r a s for the adoration of the trident throne. As well. HRiM. verse 2 alludes to the power of freedom of consciousness once the m a n t r a s are awakened.SMRYUM. verses 191b-93 deal with the mantras PHAT and HUM.~YA. this mantra is also mentioned in code in 16. RHRK. also another mantra is spelled out in code. the consort of Goddess Apart. Chapter Verses 11 b-12a give the mantra of Nav~tm~. PHAT.H and KHPHREM in code.SHOM. Verses 1-3 give a general statement of the nature of the mantras.. 7 Chapter 7. the consort of Goddess Par~par~. verses 140--50 deal with the mantras SAU. Verses 1 0 b . Verses 16b-17 give the mantra of Bhairavasadbh~va. verses 53-71b (with the subtitle mantravidyabhid) mention OM and NAMAITI. verses 460--63 deal with PHREM. which is to be found in chapter 30 and in which many of the above mantras are also discussed. .. including OM.~tm~. verses 131-63. OM NAMA. Chapter 15. This chapter contains numerous mantras: BhairavasadbhAva. Chapter 19. Chapter 16. explored in chapter 15. verses 250--95a contain a long dissertation on the nature and purpose of mantras (mantrasattaprayojanam). K. verses 377-401a deal with the Astra-mantra. I do not consider the prior textual sources from which Abhinavagupta draws these mantras. setting aside the ritual context of these deities and the employment therein of these mantras.

R.s.23-56... Verse 90b-91a give the m a n t r a s OM.M. Verses 52-53 give a complex variant of the SAUH.SAT (pacification). HSHREPHREM. OM JUM.. Verse 91b gives the mantra HSVYOM. They also convey the m a n t r a HRiH.. Verses 36b-40a give additional m a n t r a s : Vidy~d. in order to glimpse the processes of encoding used here. Verses 40b-41a give the so-called Netra-mantra. PHAT.. where only OM is given in encoded form as tara while the rest of the mantra is "in clear. mantra. and PHAT. SVAHA (oblation). SA. RHRK. The above listing is in no way exhaustive but merely a survey of the major to be found in this rich text.H. and Puru. KL~/I. Verses 62-88 give the so-called brahmavidyd..H (recitation).s Verses 28b-36a give three variants of the mantra SALT/:/.. YOM. and repeat a different formula for the derivation of the mantra SHAUH.SAT (increment).SMLVYI3M... Verse 93 gives the mantra OM SMRYI3M NAMAH. Verses 54-62a give additional mantras. VA. PHREM. (elimination). and SHSAUH. Verse 26b gives the mantra of Apart.K. Sikh~. Verses 94-95a give the mantra HK.SVYl]q-J.: SHAUI7I. and then HUM. Brahma~iras. Verses 27-28a give the mantra of Parfi.gah..tuta. PASU HUM.AU. Verses 43b-45a name the six jdtis (species) of m a n t r a as connected with six mantric operations: NAMA.RAH. Verses 45b-46 give the mantra KHPHRE. KS. HK. KLEM. VAU. it is also discussed in 19. and PHAT (cursing)..SJA. Verses 95b-98 give formulas built on the mantras HRi~I." Verses 42-43a give a formula for the mantras of the guardian Lords of the eight directions. SAUtJ.SJHOAUb.H. Verse 41b gives the Astra-mantra. mantras . HR|. KRAITI. I will now proceed to subject a few of the most important of these mantras to analysis. to be pronounced at the time of death. OM SLIM.. and SRKS. Verses 99-121a give three complex and long vidyds. including SKR. (mayti and visarga =) HR[IH. HUM. RSJJHLK. HfJM. VLEM.12 / Paul Muller-Ortega Verses 20-26a give the vidya of Goddess Par~par~. HSAUIq.I. according to the Trika scriptures..rdaya. Verse 47 gives a variant form of the mantra KHPHREM. RRAH.

sara for OM NAMA . maruto p. saying: ratigekharamantro'sya (This is the mantra of Rati~ekhara).st. Example 1: Chapter 30.hasvarabindukam ratigekharamantro 'sya We can see that while the mantra is being conveyed in some form of syllabic substitution code.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta' s Tantr6loka / 13 THE MORPHOLOGY OF MANTRIC ENCODING I briefly examine the morphology and syntax of mantric encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantr~loka and (two examples from) his PardtrT~ila~laghuv. agnim~rutap.. "clear" form. These kinds of encodings are what might be called first level or light encodings. Following this.41b.~HA. and We now move to slightly more complicated and more typical examples.rthvyambusa. Turning to the commentary.SAT. and so on (22. verses 10b-lla give the mantra of Ratigekhara. the Bhairava consort of Goddess Pa~pa~. where OM is in encoded form as t~ra while the rest of the mantra is "in clear.rthvi ambu s. for example at 22. in fact.nava for OM. They may." Examples of this simple "named-substitute" form of encoding specific mantric elements abound: Pra. I attempt to specify some of my own understandings about the meanings of mantric encodings. Some mantras are partially encoded. M~yfi for HRIM. In a multielement mantra.Sad. .~YA. Abhinavagupta nevertheless alerts us that he is giving us a mantra. . Jayaratha's analysis is as follows: agnih.20-21). the Astra-mantra. SV.ak. Jayaratha provides a series of direct equivalences. basically. simply be names that were given for specific mantras and may not fully qualify for the notion of encoding as we are considering it here .H SIV. We begin by noticing that some mantras and mantric components do occur in unencoded.a. PHAT.rtti." For example at 30. OM SLIM.ha svara bindu fire repha ya la va fik~ra RA wind earth water the sixth vowel "point" (terminal vocalic nasalization) YA LA VA 0 M Here. one element is given in encoded form while the rest is spelled out "in clear. PASU HUM.22-27a: PHAT.

yellow.14 / Paul Muller-Ortega nowhere in his commentary does he actually "spell out" the entire reconstruction of the mantra.r) agnih. the D[k. without the short a). as follows: varn.syat. flames violently in the lotus of his Heart. if we try to construe them.ottare yath~ sam. like a flame made of variegated sparks of different colorswblue. the word "varn a" refers to colors. we encounter a slightly different form of encoding. The bindu shines flaming like a flame." which can be taken to mean "all in a cluster" (vowel-less consonants.mharah.sottara Tantra." Even though a mantra is being conveyed. united with Rudra and the bindu. just like the sun without clouds. He merely launches into a series of terms that.npagyetsaptadin~datha visphuliizgagnivann[lap[taraktadicitritam jajvalrti h. do not make any sense: "the reabsorption.rdambhoje bfjadfpaprabodhitam d~pavajjvalito bindurbhrisate vighanarkavat According to certain texts.agabdena niladi yadva diks. sees at the end of seven days the goal of his practice. and the wind.SMRYUM. Jayaratha continues his decoding: rudra bindu uk~ra U M . it may be assumed that the mantra of Ratigekhara is derived as RYLVI3"M. the fire. This is a fire which. for example." In the commentary. the man. blue and so on. united with Rudra and the bindu. In Example 2. red-which surrounds it. na (n.nh~ranragnimaruto rudrabindu.SA MA RA YA After this he uses the expression "pin. marut ~akara pum~n makdra repha yakara K. From the clues that he provides. Here the phonemes of the mantra are given in the expressions "sat. and the wind.148-50 and gives the mantra K. the man. awakened by this Abhinavagupta does not alert us to this fact. haranragnimaruto rudrabinduyutansmaret h. He who remembers in his own Heart the reabsorption. It occurs in chapter 5. Jayaratha glosses this as follows: sa . the fire.rdaye tanmayo lak.

r. For it is only because it rises up through these three powers that it can be emitted [. brahmamalam. Moreover. these [spheres] are real [S] because they are identical with the three powers [AU] and because they are emission [H]. can only be called "real" because it rises up through the [three powers of] will. while highly useful. Upon first reading. and because it abides in the triad of powers.imsam. this passage appears to be a rather abstruse discussion of Tantric philosophy. this example is typical of "deep" encoding. gaktitritayagocarat vedanatmakat(tm etya sam hardtmani l~yate ida. even Jayaratha's decodings. sadrfipataivai.m sa..m pr(tcym.rjyate evam. prag bodhagnivildpitam antarnadatparamargage. and action [AU]. and they thus abide powerfully conjoined with that supreme consciousness. continue to promote a level of secrecy and concealment. icchajTu~nakriyaroham.m satam gaktitrayatmatam visargam.rdaya.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantrdloka / 15 The mantra can thus be reconstructed as K. tato 'pyalam khatmatvam eva sam.rjyate hi tat tasmad bahir vatha vis.auca h.sipyaiva vartate tat sad eva bah[rapam." Thus. Even though portions of the passage can still be translated intelligibly. it goes to the condition whose nature is the pure rooted in the sphere of Brahms and known as the sphere of M~y~. Thus.SMRYUM. tath(t hi sad idam. parabodhena sam~k. indeed. mayan.186b-91b. Jayaratha does not actually write the mantra out "in clear. it is only because of that. .H] into the Bhairava Then it attains the ethereal state. in which the passage containing the encoded mantra does not simply lapse into an untranslateable sequence of code terms but is actually renderable as expressive of an intelligible discussion. It occurs in 4. vina naiva sad ucyate tacchaktitritiyarohad bhairav[ye cidatmani vis. And while the commentary does decode the mantra as outlined above. that it is able to be emitted externally [out from that Bhairava consciousness]. Example 3 brings us to the most complicated and interesting kind of encoding.praptam. This real existence that at first has an external form is then dissolved in the fire of awakening. the experienced eye will detect the presence of something else.j~itam.n s.mharah.s[bhfitam. knowledge. And. What remains as a residue is simply a cognition that is an internal sounding.rnmatam For this real existence [S].

example 5 gives us the SAUIJ. the void state. it is reconstructed as the phoneme PHA.~rfparabijasya" (The Mja of the blessed goddess Par~ is constructed with the phoneme SA. though.rjyate. Next.16 / Paul Muller-Ortega and finally it is dissolved into that whose essence is re-absorption. and the verbal form vis. The phonemes in this decoding passage are not in the usual order that we expect for this mantra but are given as RA KHA PHA E M. This is the least explicit and most ambiguous (if not controversial) clue. which conveys the visarga H. having the phoneme hindu or M at its end.). the vowel E. giving the following equivalences: bodh~gnina: agnib[jasya: the fire of awakening. which refers to the diphthong vowel AU.. the vowel AU. The mantra is given again in the sequence sadrapat~.mvitkrama) of the mantra. I give these as Examples 4 and 5. we must attend to two other passages in the Tantrdloka and their commentaries. the triad of the ~akti. In his commentary Jayaratha supplies the decoding clues. The first part of this passage conveys twice the mantra SAUIJ. asya: the ethereal state. This mantra is known as the Heart of Reabsorption. which is covertly given in the commentary several times in the word "prasphurita. In his decoding of this mantra--which is perhaps the most famous mantra in the Trika Kaula tradition--Jayaratha essentially "spells it out" saying: "anena ca sakArayaiva auk~ravisarga. and the visarga H. Abhinavagupta gives coded clues for another mantra--termed the Heart of Reabsorptionl°--KHPHREM.. termed the Heart of Emission. and visarga.avarn. mantra as well. In order to decode the sequences of phonemes properly. and the prior is known as the Heart of Emission. khatmantvam: vyomAtmanah. From these examples we decode . the p h o n e m e RA. the phoneme KHA." which encodes the phoneme SA. the womb-vowel.. a: the pure knower. khavarn. nada: kut.Jayaratha tells us that this is the "ideal order" (sa. Here a different vowel is intended by the same encoding expression--~aktitritaya--that is used to decode the vowel in the first mantra. From evidence elsewhere. the expression tacchaktitritiya." ~aktitritaya: yonib~jasya: the triad of powers. vedandtmakatam: bindvantavarn. ~aktitraya. that is. the fire seed.. The relevant bits are the term "sad. asya: the crooked consonant.

"of the form merely of the SA phoneme. It is given as phulla blossomed. Example 6: Chapter 30. verses llb--12a give the mantra of Nav~tm~. syurnavdtmanah.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka / 17 the Pin. First. the trident AU. in 5. the first part of the mantra) is sukha. sat. and then ending in visarga H. It is only in Example 5---drawn from chapter 5. 1~ In Example 4 this same Pin. s~tk~ra. the Bhairava consort of Goddess Aparfi: agnipr~nagnisamharakalendrambusam~ranah.76-79). but there is still some ambiguity in the decoding of the second phoneme. all beginning with the phoneme SA.angaha-mantra as the unpronounceable KHPHREM. SAUIzI. and Jayaratha gives the following equivalences: . and the following equivalences are provided by Jayaratha: kharapa phulla vahni trikon. a bindu KHA PHA RA E M We now have the proper order of the phonemes for the mantra. And so these two passages help to confirm the decodings of these two very famous mantras.d. sa. Jayaratha glosses all of these terms with sakaramdtrarapa. phakara repha ekara As was just mentioned. He then creates a pun or double-entendre by saying that the first form of consciousness (that is. is given again in encoded form (in 5. tejas tryagram bindu KHA PHA RA E M.stasvarabindvardhacandrady~h.d. and s~mya. verse 146---that we get an unambiguous decoding of this phoneme by Jayaratha: kha phullam.142-44 the mantra SAUH is given as well. glossed by Jayaratha as trigala. Abhinavagupta sets forth a series of words." The second part of the mantra is given by caturdaga or fourteenth phoneme. yet another word containing the consonant PHA.

e. t.hah. Example 7: Chapter 30.a ma la va ya akara RA HA RA K. Jayaratha gives the following equivalences: jha~ra sa.SMLVYUM.HI]'M. He is not being obscure.o . which illustrates this process very well.hasvarabindukah. So in these examples from TantrMoka chapter 30. In order to further exemplify the process of mantric encoding.18 / Paul Muller-Ortega agnih. bindu jha ("in clear") ~a ha akara JHA K. pran. svara bindu free breath fire the destruction or end time Indra representing earth water the breeze. Jayaratha is straightforward in his decoding. as in the case of phulla (Example 4 above). Indeed. actually providing the corresponding phonemes. The above examples. entire mantras are given completely "in clear" (which is never the case..nharah.SA MA LA VA YA 0 M The mantra of Nav~tm~ is therefore derived as RHRK. wind. This chapter contains dozens of mantras given in various degrees of encoding.h sa. kMo indro ambu samfran. or air the sixth vowel point repha ha repha o sas. .~.sitah. suffice to convey some of the flavor of the process. p ran. we find cases of relatively "light" encoding.H and KHPHREM mantras).sa bhairavasadbhavagcandrdrdhadivibha.rtipran. let us turn to the first description of the Heart-mantra. in several places in the commentary.SA HA 0 M the destruction or end breath the sixth vowel The mantra of Bhairavasadbhfiva is therefore derived as JHKS. In this case. the consort of Goddess Par~: jhakara sa . to my knowledge. as it is present in Abhinavagupta's TantrMoka. verses 16b--17 give the mantra of Bhairavasadbh~va. in Abhinvagupta's for the SAU.o agnih.rtih.a. sat.sa4.

am. the totality in the form of "Being" (sad). O Fair Hipped One. which is to say. in the sense of ultimate basis. Instead.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta' s Tantraloka / 19 Example 8 is drawn from Paratrfgikalaghuv. caturdagena svaren. padakriyagaktidvarantarl[necchajftanangaktiyugalena.].n.rtti verse. t. sadrapam.rni verse 9 and its commentary. and it is followed by the last of the Lord of the Lunar Stations. tasmin samyak aviyogena anvitam vigrantam. yad idam. In the Sanskrit the verse is even more opaque than the translation might suggest. tat tith~ganam. of the lord of the stations. its specific phonemes are given in coded terms: caturdagayutam bhadhre tithfgSntasamanvitam tFtfya. is characterized by the entire group of knowable objects.m migrfbhatam. am.satvasam. the Heart of the Self of Bhairava is the third Brahman. sat bhairavatmano bhagavatah. anuttaranandagalina sa .am brahma sadagivatattvatmakam. bhairavatmanah. of the fifteen vowels. that which is the end." It is Abhinavagupta who specifies in the commentary that "the fourteenth" refers to the vowels (svara) and that "the Lord of the Lunar Stations" is the visarga that belongs at the end of the mantra. vigvagar~rasya h. as well as in Abhinavagupta's commentary. yo' ntah. a pariparn. It is united.mpfim." and "the third Brahman. of the blessed group of sounds that has the totality as its body. This is the heart of the essence of the Self of Bhairava. paryantabhittibhftto visargah.m brahma sugroni h. All that the verse gives as clues are (in this order): "the fourteenth. paftcadaggmam svaran. are sufficiently obscure that an uninitiated reader may miss their significance altogether. on the visarga [H.san." "the Lord of the Lunar Stations. The third Brahman is continually fused. as well as reposing.rdayar. that is. the mantra itself is not spelled out. that is to say.rdayam.ibhatedantatmakagrahyaragilak. being inseparably connected with. that is. in a condition in which their "objectivity" has not yet become clear. In typical form. vigvam. yutam satata.akriyagaktigar~ronme. The most difficult reference is to the "third Brahman. aghoraprakagasvarapam asphut. [Commentary:] The third Brahman." Abhinavagupta links it to the Sad~iva principle and . reposing. connected with the fourteenth vowel [AU]. gabdarageh.rt~. The clues given in the Paratrigikalaghuv. O Beautiful One. whose nature is the Sad~iva principle and whose essence is the light of Aghora. with the fourteenth.

Abhinavagupta considers this mantra to be of sufficient importance to warrant the repetition and amplification of his analysis.S--we would be at a loss to interpret the term "third Brahman. When the manifest form of clay is left behind. This is the last repose of brahmavadins--the followers of Vedanta. However. H. however. Example 9: In another long passage (Paratrfgikalaghuvrtti comment to verses 21-24). At the moment of this last repose there appears the Brahman. and error. According to us. all that truly remains is clay. when even the distinction formed by subject and object has disappeared. When the specific form of the odor is not cognized. the condition of repose in mere Being is no longer cognized.S. As we have seen. because of the disappearance of the distinction of its own-nature. then Being appears to enter into a condition where it is absorbed into the powers of appearing . S. We receive confirmation that the mantra conveyed in this verse has been correctly deciphered by the analysis of the mantra presented in other passages. all that remains is Being (sad). Abhinavagupta's analysis of this mantra may be used to confirm that the above reading of the mantra is warranted. Bhairava. S. beyond that. From this derives the origins of all beings. one homogeneous mass. which has become the dtman.3): My womb is the great Brahman and in it I place seed. this last repose in the phoneme S is also the repose of All--from the "water" principle to the maya principle---of the entire range of knowable objects which appears in the midst of the impure path. when the cognition of the three phonemes [of the word "sad"] has ceased. if we did not know that the pentad of Brahman here refers to the five phonemes at the end of the Sanskrit alphabet--namely.20 / Paul Muller-Ortega to the notion of Being or real existence (sad)." When such a distinction has been shattered. As it says in the Bhagavad Gfta (14. Then. who manifests the entire universe by means of his activity of "churning" that state of repose. O Bh~rata! When. Just as when one abandons the manifest expansion of an earthenware jug. there occurs. what remains is an essence formed of happiness. suffering. Even there. there remain only the forms of the knower and the knowable. immortal. When these three have been excised. and K. In the end. the All. ." Abhinavagupta has explained the concept of the brahmapa~caka in the comment on the previous verse (when he lays out the idea of the aparavisargaiakti). but he is silent about it in the comment to this verse. there ensues a repose in the first letter S alone. all that truly remains is an odor. what truly remains is the "I.

one above and one below. in the form of Being is emitted. This is the abiding in the Emission [. [H. and AU]. a state of undifferentiated identity with the "knowable object. and now with the knowing subject whose nature is the supreme Bhairava. a body made of consciousness. Because. in reference to an external object such as a pot. it becomes evident that Abhinavagupta's intention encompasses much more than the secret embedding of a mantra into a text. the "pronunciation" extends as far as that phoneme alone.H]. which is the repose in the [three] powers. now with knowable objects whose nature is the Being. As one reads this and the passage in Example 8. because nothing at all can appear without reposing on the power of such selfreferential consciousness that is "I will. that which is becoming manifest appears as reposed in the own-nature that is composed of the triad of powers. whose nature is the supreme deity. there occurs the repose in Brahman [S]. one appeased. and so on. There are thus three types of perfection: enjoyment. devoid of succession. nondifferent from it." because they are inseparably connected. and the knowing subject [. that state of mere Being is not different from the true nature of such powers--what remains is the true nature of the power." and "I know. Rather." then the All. and that because of contact with both. Depending upon which state of repose one selects. the lord Bhairava himself. these passages function to convey important . by the power of the will.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantrdloka / 21 light and self-referential consciousness." In the thought "I will" are intermixed the three powers--and in the same way in "I know" and "I act. Bhairava and the power. by the same power of the will. The true nature of this triad of powers is one. That power is either will. is emitted outwards into the external world where it assumes the form of the "knowable" objects.H]. the knowable object IS]. Therefore. or knowledge. the place of repose is a single "cognition. enjoyment and liberation. action. and liberation. the process of knowing [AU]. There thus occurs a threefold prounciation. and that Being residing in the supreme Bhairava. thrown into the supreme Bhairava. Bhalrava." The reality which unifies. formed of two knots. When. that is. The repose in the "fourteenth" [AU]. that makes of one taste (ekarasa) this triangle characterized of three Emissions. With the descent of the knower and the process of knowing. namely freedom. respectively. in reality. one aroused. and is thus made of three reposes--that reality is the supreme Emissional principle. a true body made of two dots. and it is the consciousness. and because of this freedom." "I act. that is. and one that is both. The nature of these three phonemes is that they ate composed of three states of repose in.

ultimate. centering on the supreme manifestational energy of the cosmos). absolute Being. The argument about "Being" gives us the first phoneme of the mantra. AU. and the self-referentiality of that consciousness. Finally. This confirms the identification of the "fourteenth" given in the previous passage. gives SA or S. SA.22 / Paul Muller-Ortega theoretical justifications for the specific phonemic composition of the mantra. explicit reference is made to the visarga.. takes is the triad of powers. the iccha (willing). There then occurs the fundamental triad of ultimate energies in the trigala. and kriya (acting) gaktis (capacities) inherent in consciousness. of the mantra. j~ana (knowing). this gakti. Finally. sad. In turn. Nevertheless. From sad or the unitary. H. as we have seen in the previous passage. which. so the supreme dyad of Bhairava and his consort is to be found beyond the level of sheer Being. Abhinavagupta states that the innermost nature of this triad of powers is the condition of freedom that they enjoy and represent. Indeed. This triad of powers is identified with the trigala or trident.H is both spelled and fleshed out with inherent meaning. vibratory "body" in the sacred meanings appropriate to the deity (in this case. In this way. later in the passage.. until one is simply left with the sheer existential "Is-ness" of that object. H. Par~. The process of the encoding of the mantra ornaments and clothes that subtle. the nondual Saiva tradition considers it premature to stop short with this rather inert. The "Being. Continuing. seen here as the dyad prakagavimarga. One of the forms that this power. hidden in the fabric of a rather abstruse philosophical discussion. Abhinavagupta identifies this residual pure "Being" (sad) with the Brahmanlatman of the Vedanta. Bhairava is never separated from his gakti. The mantra fashions a subtle body for the deity of the Supreme. . the last phoneme is described as composed of two dots. Abhinavagupta argues that beyond the level of sheer Being resides Bhairava. one moves to Bhairava and his consort to Siva and Sakti. is also called the third Brahman. the fourteenth vowel---AU--and second phoneme of the mantra. this freedom manifests itself as the two dots (or knots) which compose the devanagarf representation for the visarga. there comes into operation the explosively manifestational power of the visarga. the light of consciousness. Next. H." or rather the first syllable of the word for Being. the allusion to the power of Siva and to the specific group of powers known as the trident gives us the vowel AU. if transcendent. We now move to draw some more general observations and conclusions. a clear reference to the written form of the visarga. the third and final component of the mantra. The passage in this example begins by describing the process of progressively stripping away the attributes and characteristics of any finite object. the Heart-mantra SAU. This is the first phoneme.

" "thus the extraction [of the mantra] is accomplished" (see. and to the whole mantra being transcribed.rtah. While it is true that the mantra itself is concealed by such encodings. the commentary on Tantraloka 4. The process can range from no encoding.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta 's Tantraloka / 23 T H E MEANINGS OF ENCODING I would argue that such elaborate passages are not arbitrary ornamentation.190.. Jayaratha will often say "tasyoddh~ra k. the sequence of vibratory impulses that forever abide as the pulsating matrix of power. Is this because the process is such a routine feature of this Tantric world as to go unremarked? Or is this in order to sustain the very secrecy of the mantras? On the other hand. Our survey of mantras reveals a spectrum of several different "levels" of encoding. Like an x-ray photograph that obscures the surface of an object but reveals the patterns of its inner core. These phonemic sequences narrate symbolic elements that recapitulate the intrinsically manifestational nature of the absolute consciousness. these encodings of the SAUH. In his commentary. linguistic meaning. the mantra reveals its intrinsic innermost pattern. The process of "extraction" of the mantra ranges from the really (phonemes) given "in clear". to its constituent varn. which has additional connotations beyond those of simple "decoding"). m a n t r a . to actual varn as of the mantra being spelled out "in clear".w h i c h is often called the "Heart of Emission"--display the sequences of meaning captured within the mantra's phonemic structure. that is. the mantra nevertheless retains its pristine purity. to "deep" encoding in which the cryptographic verse has a philosophical meaning in addition to containing the mantra given. the "heart" of the mantra is in fact simultaneously being exposed to view. the decoding process is often called the extraction (uddhara) of the m a n t r a from its encoding. Rather. free of conventional associations and conveyed in encodings. see also Padoux 1978 on the process of uddhara. for example. to a decoding in which the encoding words are given in substitute. Draped in meanings. there appears to be no name given to the process of encoding in these texts. the mantra is given "in clear". for these meanings are not of the nature of conventional. As far as I can ascertain. From a modern perspective. to names given for the b~jas or constituent mantras. we might say that these are complex and even . to the name of the mantra being given. While we have seen that mantras can be encoded in less "complex" ways--with cryptographs of a less coherently philosophical sort--a double purpose of concealing and revealing is simultaneously taking place. There is a curious question that we might ask at this point.

we have seen how the encoding process is used as an occasion for a kind of "symbolic loading" of the mantra. like the cosmic kr~ha or sport of existence itself. Rather. summarized in such later digests as the M a n t r a m a h o d a d h i . appearing routine and even pointlessly mechanical. Within this process of encoding. For it is this that allows Abhinavagupta to load the m a n t r a s with complex sequences of symbolic meanings. just as clearly.nketika). acrostic. But this later devolution should not discourage us from appreciating the importance and centrality of the early process of mantric encoding. a and Paratrggikalaghuv.H.rtti) are given over to an examination of these fundamental linguistic. cosmogonic forces of reality. It must be granted.. they may be said to be just that. mantric encoding carries the weight of an ultimate and salvational purpose.24 / Paul Muller-Ortega playful word games. The process of mantric encoding is clearly not a random event of simple encryption engaged in only for the multiple purposes of secrecy. In this view. that certain later uses of mantric encryption give way to a kind of baroque ornamentation and that the enterprise of the symbolic loading of mantras loses its subtlety. it must be emphasized that they are not just trivial word games (like those we play in newspapers: jumble. Thus. And. They have a salvific. is built into the encodings of the mantra SAUH. But. for example. and world-building correspondences. The arcane lore of mantric encryption is redolent with the complex correspondences of Abhinavagupta's matrkagastra or philosophy of language. conceptual. ritual. the sparkling freshness of Abhinavagupta's encodings will eventually devolve into the formulaic routines of encoding. the phonemes that compose the m a n t r a s are expressions of the most fundamental. and doctrinal purpose. The "word games" of mantric encoding mirror and reflect the cosmic game of Siva's hide and seek. This process allows for the remarkable fluency of symbolization that. however. we have arrived at some preliminary answers to such a question. anacrostics. we encounter one of the "payoffs" for the confection of this complex philosophy of language. The complex linkages between tattvas (fundamental principles) and v a ~ a s (phonemic linguistic elements) are central to an understanding of what Abhinavagupta entails in the process of encoding. . the T~ntrikas' word games a~e not trivial. and crosswords). even as the m a n t r a s remain devoid of conventional signification (asat. in essence: Does the encoding itself reveal some meaningful pattern or is it random? If it is not random cryptography. As we have said. We began the inquiry into mantric encoding in this essay by asking. is the encoding itself amenable to some form of interpretation? At least in the case of the mantra SAU . And indeed from one perspective.mgikavivaran. It is no accident that chapter 30 of Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka (as well as major portions of his Paratri.

the energy of the AHAM or 'T' consciousness. The examination of such details gives us entry into another crucial notion related to mantras: the mantrav[rya or potency of the mantra. the phonemes of the empowered mantra congeal and contain the powerful superfluidity of the prak~ga. This however does not rob them of meaning. (Tantraloka 30. and display in their structure the vibratory sequences of consciousness. with the addition of vowels and preceding consonants. whose nature is the Heart. its multivalency. Thus say the ancient masters. . About this potency Abhinavagupta says: The pure and spontaneous cognition of the mantra is the " r ' itself. so too the mantric "software" reveals its inherent meaningfulness. The mantra harbors within itself the roaring sound of the pran. is the very force of all the mantras. Without this [potency of the mantras] they [the mantras] would be inert. SAUH changes into SHAUH and HSAUIzl. ever changing with a quicksilver fluidity. a powerful unchangingness. These recombinant mutations of sound are not necessarily meant to make sense to the mind. which is somehow captured and harnessed within its phonemes for the purposes of ritual and meditation. recombinant. the vibrant and sonic potency of the Absolute.27-30). This is the very capacity for illumination of light. This. This mantravfrya is the supreme spanda. the mantras display a playful and powerful sense of mutation. like living beings without a heart (Tantraloka 4. and the dynamism inherent in its structure.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's Tantraloka / 25 By "symbolic loading" we mean not so much the logical description of doctrine but rather a kind of teaching that evokes the richness and density of meaning contained in the mantra. Like the apparently meaningless sequences of binary code that reveal an inherent pattern when applied to the proper configuration. once it is set into the mantra it gains a permanence of being. becoming understandable in terms of its ritual and meditational effectiveness or inherent efficacy. We have seen that in their phonemic forms. In this way. of being bits and pieces of this harnessed energy.ava. this contained dynamism of the mantrav~rya as they reduplicate. ~2 The mantrav~rya is the energy of ultimacy ritually injected into the mantra by the teacher at the time of initiation. expand.192-93). Though this fluid energy of ultimacy is mutational. The mantras exhibit. therefore. It is conceived as the very gakti or energy of the enlightened consciousness of the teacher. and SHSAUI:t. its gakti. and mutate in form. It is only because of this potency that the mantra becomes an efficient and capable instrument that can reliably give access to power and to definitive transformation. the immense vibrating light. the ultimate light of consciousness. in fact. For example.

it is present both as the m a n t r a (in terms of its phonemes) and in the mantra (in this sequence of meanings exposing the hidden cipher of the Supreme). Paradoxically. While in the ordinary sense. If the mantravirya functions as a kind of transcendent and invisible pulsation of consciousness. In the passages examined. the phonemes of the m a n t r a and. The mantravTrya is what makes the mantra inherently powerful and salvifically efficacious. Therefore. to the way Hindu Tantric teachers utilized such texts. It must again be emphasized that the mantrav[rya lies far deeper than this lattice of philosophical meanings and phonemic structures.26 / Paul Muller-Ortega The argument I am hazarding in this essay is that the instances of what has been termed "deep" encoding obliquely signal a symbolic conveyance of the mantrav~rya. as students of esoteric texts. Mantric encoding thus allows the important mantras of the tradition to be packed densely and explicitly with ultimate meanings without thereby rendering the m a n t r a s possessed of conventional signification (sat. it could be said that the process of "deep" encoding is as much about revealing as it is about concealing. In these textual environments we have encountered the way that texts were used as a means to preserve the mantras (which are the keys to unlock the "descent of energy"). It attempts to expose in conceptual terms that which makes the mantra inherently powerful soteriologically. I would argue that this sequence of meanings does expose to view a conceptual analogue of the nonconceptual potency of the mantrav~rya. Appropriate ritual and meditational use of the empowered mantras . it is the encodings of the mantra that allow this hidden cipher to be seen. Nevertheless. If a mantra truly encodes the pattern of the Supreme. the so-called mantravfrya or potency of the mantra. we have seen the complex interweaving of the containment of a m a n t r a hidden in a text. coupled with a philosophical exploration of the meanings structured into that mantra--itself never explicitly or directly given in the text. the mantravfrya is n o t finally amenable to conceptual explication--as we have seen. insofar as this potency can be conceptualized. then the explication of such a m a n t r a symbolically--by means of "deep" encodings--allows for the expression of this hidden cipher of the Supreme. their symbolic meanings crystallize this potency into visible. it represents nothing less than the very force and power of the ultimate consciousness itself--the argument presented herein seeks to demonstrate that the most interesting mantric encodings in the Tantr~loka (and elsewhere) seek to reveal this mantravfrya to view. and comprehensible forms. This kind of analysis alerts us. In those cases where encoding has been taken as an opportunity to reveal the symbolic sequences of meaning in a particular mantra. of Siva.nketika). tangible. at a different level.

in different regions and communities. On manuals of mantragastra. including digests of mantras and Tantric lexica where he mentions the Udddrakoga and B~janighan. vigvar~pam. Notes 1." 3. pardmargasara. Like a locked box that contains its own key. Therefore.n. presents us with a puzzling scholarly paradox. of unexpected hidden meanings.rdayal. syatkra budhah.m vibhaktatattvabhuvanadimayam. to portray and assess the role mantra plays in the life of the Hindu world today. h. He states: The significance of these little noticed works cannot be sufficiently stressed: If it is ever going to be possible to write a social history of the use of mantra. "yatha hi sarvatattvamayagar~rasya vibhaktatvagadisantdnatantritasya tadavibhagaprakgzgavimargavigrantidhama h. He continues: One caveat is in order. this literature must be mastered and digested.t.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta' s Tantraloka / 27 by sadhakas finally disclosed the salvational experience of the ultimate reality of Siva.26) says about the vocabulary of Tantra in general applies afortiori to the vocabulary of mantra: 'ffantric literature offers a jungle growth of specialized terminology rarely defined or paraphrased. with its embedded mantras. It can easily strike one as tiresome and insignificant. idam.u. It is often repetitious and inelegant. we gain access to what is literally the phonemic dimension at the heart of Saivite esotericism: Siva's playful matrix of power.rdayapadam ucyate. "ala. The process of mapping this terminology has only just begun and what Goudriaan (Goudriaan & Gupta 1981. Insofar as we manage to extract this key. the text.rdayam tatra vigrantah." All translations from the Sanskrit are mine. 1. tathaiva bhagavato bhairavanathasya tad ida. a single basic Indological imperative must govern future research on both the ritualistic and meditative sides of Mantragastra.m ~ar~ram tasya tadavibhagapar~margasgtram. yogiMh.m rahasya kathayd guptam etat svabhavatah. categories or prescriptions" (422-23). amaya. To understand mantric utterance as it was meant to be practiced means deciphering the technical terminology in which [it] is couched. of mutual intersection of fundamental ideas. see Alper (1989b: 420--443).. .m pa~caiadvarn. 2.. the process of studying it has barely begun (421-22).

m. ritual. see Paratrit. the alphabet is conceived of [as] the primal matrix out of which the ordinary (vyavaharika) world emerges and to which the adept may return (431). has been clarified. 10. fire: tejas--ra.169-72a. but he does not seem to have addressed it in his subsequent work (434-35). Utilized in cosmogonic. On this mantra. One of the conventional associations of the semivowels with elements is as follows: earth: p. primordial sounds that are the building blocks of the cosmos in its entirety. 5. water: ap---va.rsadbhava. 105) provides a useful definition. Rather. 5. see M~lin~vUayottara Tantra 8.39-43. no one has catalogued the textual descriptions of bfjas. 7. 4. On this mantra in variant form. the true being of consciousness. the master of the pinna. see Dimock (1966: 225-48). the fivefold master of the pin. meditative. see also Malin~vijayottara Tantra 4.181b-93. But Hoens (Gupta. one has an ordered cosmogonic procession of phonemes understood to be eternal. See Muller-Ortega (1989: 179).dan~tha. K~laka~i. he remarks: Central to Tantric mantrag~stra is the use of bgjas: adamantine. 9. 11. a and PardtrTgikalaghuv.25. and mantric contexts. which should not be understood as a diachronic question.rtti iloka 9 and comment. 6.n. Insofar as I know. A bija is "a mantra consisting of one syllable with no ordinary meaning and always ending in the anusvara: . Pi.ngikavivaran. Tantraloka 3. Alper maintains with regard to the Tantric "alphabet": Although it is conventional to speak in this context of an "alphabet." The problem that is most vexing is that of the etiology of bijas: Where do they come from? Questions concerning their history and function will not be solved until the question of their origin. & Goudriaan 1979. 8.ha. See Muller-Ortega (1989: 180-81). air: vayu--ya.n. There are alternate decodings possible of the clues that are given for this . and Paficapi. 4. Bharati (1965. 113-18) outlined the problem over twenty years ago.28 / Paul Muller-Ortega Further.dan~tha.rthvg--la.142-45. unbreakable syllables lacking meaning outside a mantric context. the one who draws along time. On b[ja and other exemplary mantras. The comments by Alper and Bharati cited above are quite typical." this is somewhat misleading. This mantra is also quite famous and known by a variety of names: Hoens. For a lucid and insightful account of the nature of mantras for the Sahajiya tradition.

emar~ja's SivasatravimarginL'" In Harvey P. Albany: State University of New York Press. The Place of the Hidden Moon: Erotic Mysticism in the Vai. The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism. Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Government. Agehananda. 1975 [1965].saiva prakagasya prakagata. Alper. Teun. Albany: State University of New York Press. "Hindu Tantric Literature in Sanskrit.rdayatmakam. Understanding Mantras. MMingvijayottara Tantram (ed. Gudrun. Alper. Jr. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Bharati. "Transmission and Fundamental Constituents of the Practice. 1989b. Understanding Mantras. Edward C. Paul E. 249-94. 1922. vinanena jahaste syur fiva iva vina h. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz. The Triadic Heart of Siva: Kaula Tantricism of Abhinavagupta in the Non-Dual Shaivism of Kashmir. New York: Samuel Weiser. Albany: State University of New York Press." In Harvey P. BUhnemann. Albany: State University of New York Press. aha . ed. Brooks. Madhusudan Kaul). 12. Hindu Tantric and Sakta Literature.avatantra. Chapter 15.rtrimamanabilam. Hoens. Harvey P. part 2.. 1979. J. ed.. Brooks.Mantric Encoding in Abhinavagupta's TantrMoka / 29 mantra (see Sanderson 1990: 58nl 15). etad v~ryam hi sarve. Dimock. Goudriaan. Muller-Ortega. 1990. part 1." In Sanjukta Gupta." In Teun Goudriaan and Sanjukta Gupta. The Tantric Tradition. Albany: State University of New York Press. 1966. Hindu Tantrism. . 327-443. Ritual and Speculation in Early Tantrism: Studies in Honor of Andr~ Padoux. ed. M~linivijayottara Tantra.rda.~tn h. Dirk Jan Hoens. Dirk Jan.'" References Cited Alper. 1992. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Auspicious Wisdom: The Texts and Traditions of Sr~vidya Sakta Tantrism in South India.sam mantran. Alper. 1989a. 61-106.. Douglas Renfrew. 1992. Brill. and Teun Goudriaan. "The Cosmos as Siva's Language-Game: 'Mantra' According to Ks. Douglas Renfrew.a: Kularn. "A Working Bibliography for the Study of Mantras. 1981.. Harvey P.ava-Sahajiya Cult of Bengal. In Teun Goudriaan. "etadrapapara-mariamak. On Puragcaran. Leiden: E.mityahure.

gik~vivaran. Paris: l~ditions de Boccard. ed. 12 1990. <rashivam@rochester. New York. 1918-38. Paratrim. Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Government. Padoux. Recherches sur la symbolique et l'Energie de la parole dans certains textes tantriques.. "The Visualization of the Deities of the Trika. PAUL E. Jagaddhara Zadoo). Andrt. Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Government. Vac: The Concept of the Word in Selected Hindu Tantras. 1990 [19631. a [of Abhinavagupta] (ed. Mukunda Rama).com> ." Bulletin de l'Ecole fran~aise d'Extreme-Orient 56: 65-84.rtti. "Contributions h rttude du Mantragastra: I. Srinagar: Jammu and Kashmir Government. Tantraloka [of Abhinavagupta] (eds. Tantrfiloka.30 / Paul Muller-Ortega Padoux. 1963. 1978. Alexis. Paratr[gikalaghuv." In Andr6 Padoux. 31-88. Andrt. Albany: State University of New York Press. Paris: [Sxlitions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique. la selection des mantra (mantroddhara).rr. 1947.m~ik~vivara. Sanderson. 1918. Andrt. Par~tri~ik~laghuv. Par~tri . Mukunda Rama and Madhusudan Kaul). MULLER-ORTEGA is Professor of Religion at the University of Rochester. L'image divine: culte et meditation dans l'hindouisme. Padoux.rtti [of Abhinavagupta] (ed.

Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful