User:Visarga/The 36 tattvas

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  • an excellent description of the tattvas (25 pages)[1]

vāk - the speech organ[edit]

Vak tattva is the organ of speech, including the mouth and the subtle structures of consciousness associated with it. As all the other karmendriyas, vak tattva is an instrument for the creation of karma and also an instrument for the practice of karma yoga, a discipline with the purpose of liberation from the bondage of karma.

Relationship with other tattvas[edit]

A number of other tattvas also take part in the the process of creation of sound: as support for the propagation of sound and for its cyclical oscillating nature is the time-space tattva, akasa. Because sound is a mechanical vibration, it also needs a physical support which is provided by vayu tattva (air), and thirdly, the articulation of sounds is related to the tongue (rasana tattva).

In the sequence of tattvas, vak tattva is the most elevated karmendriya and its corresponding sense organ - śrota tattva (the ear) is the first outward expansion of the mind (manas tattva). The force centers primarily associated with speech are Vishuddha chakra - center placed in the region of vak indriya and Muladhara chakra as the seat of pārāvak[2].

Mouth and assimilation of food[edit]

Vak indriya (mouth), acting as the instrument of eating, is also the first part of the body that comes in contact with the food and plays a role of subtle assimilation of energies, directly from the food. The mouth is lined up with thousands of fine force channels (nadi) that have the role of absorbing prana from food.[3]. In the practice of ayurvedic medicine, plants are taken and held under the tongue for a few minutes just for this same purpose.

Articulation of speech[edit]

Depending on the position where the tongue articulates speech, there are a number of classes of sounds: velar, palatal, cerebral, dental and labial. In Kashmir Shaivism each class of phonemes is correlated with specific mantric energies of the sound.[4]. The full sequence of phonematic energies is called mātṛkā and contains 50 sounds, associated with the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. On a cosmic scale, the creation of the universe is described in Kashmir Shaivism as an evolution of sound, a descending process originating from the level of logos (pārāvak). Each phoneme represents a stage in the process of evolution, a tattva, a world in itself. Sounds are associated with energies and ultimately with aspects of consciousness. The magical power of sounds and words is derived from this association with energy (śakti) and consciousness (śiva). The study of these energies is an essential part of Kashmir Shaivism[5].

Vāk (speech) is seen as the result of the dynamic union of two parts that form the mouth (upper and lower), a complementary union of the opposites, yin and yang. There is always such a fusion of yin and yang at the basis of any creative process.

Speech as a creative power[edit]

Vak tattva plays a major creative role in the human being as the instrument of speech and as such, the origin of the interior world of thought. Speech acts as a mirror of the exterior reality, duplicating everything that exists outside into the mind. Word is the vehicle of the limited ego, ahamkara. Word as such is an imperfect tool tough, because while it can reflect the exterior reality it always approximates. For example, when we say I saw a man we don't say much - what kind of man, what impression did he give us, etc. The word is just an abstraction from reality. Thus language is at the same time a tool and an obstacle in knowledge[6].

Three creative voids[edit]

Another two creative aspects of the human body are the vulva (yoni) and the Heart (hṛdaya). Yoni is the origin of both human life and of the energy of spiritual evolution (transmuted sexual fluids that reemerge as the ascending kuṇḍalinī). The heart (hṛdaya, aham) is a matrix of pure energies centered around the Self, the origin and essence of all the individual and trans-individual experiences. Yoni, heart and mouth are three levels of the void and three centers of creative power. Even more: there is another link between the mouth and yoni. On the one hand, the mouth is a symbol of the vagina, sometime substituting the vagina in the sexual act. On the other hand, the act of kissing mirrors in small of the act of making love. Both the vagina (yoni) and the mouth (vak indriya) representing creative energies and being directly linked one with another, they are very important in the tantric practices. The creative energy of the word, in its highest form, is the logos, called pārāvak in Shaivism and Logos Spermatikos in Greek - (spermatikos=seed, a direct reference to its role as a creative power)[7].

Levels of speech[edit]

Speech is considered in Kashmir Shaivism to exist on multiple levels, but only the exterior (or spoken) speech is expressed through vak tattva. The full scale of speech is as follows:

  • vaikharī vāk - spoken word, exterior
  • madhyamā vāk - mental speech, interior
  • paśiantī vāk - pure intentionality, pre-speech
  • pārāvak - identical to the nature of the Spirit


As the self is expressed in three levels, ego, soul and spirit, so is speech expressed in three different ways:

  • at the level of the ego (ahaṃkāra), speech is fully differentiated; it includes madhyamā vāk and vaikharī vāk, thus the vehicle of speech is the word itself
  • at the level of the soul (jivatman, or puruṣa in Kashmir Shaivism) language is not ruptured from its real signification any more; it can be described as paśiantī vāk, the language of mantric syllables, symbols and non-sequential instant knowledge (intuition).
  • at the level of the spirit (atman), language is expressed as supreme word - pārāvak; in term of sound, it is represents silence[10]; here there is only one single reality and one single meaning and it is described in a multitude of concepts, all approximative, as conscious light (prakasa-vimarsa), compact mass of consciousness and beatitude (cid-ananda-ghana), supreme freedom (svatantrya), atemporal vibration (spanda) and the spontaneous flash of conscious light that projects objects into reality (abhasa). Thus at this level there is absolutely no difference between the word and its significant.

Vak tattva is identified with vaikharī vāk and is considered the exterior manifestation of madhyamā vāk, a language of the ego and limited mind.

Limiting power of words[edit]

The power of words is that of creating a new world, a world of the mind. Words act as symbols of external reality, yet their very act of indicating (or reflecting the exterior reality) is imprecise. Being trapped into the prison of words, ruptured from direct experience, the western philosophy is limited to an edifice of mental speculation[11]. While philosophy relies solely on words it cannot be a true path to the absolute Truth, because words are imprecise, limited tools[12]. Thus in Kashmir Shaivism as in many other oriental spiritual schools, accent falls on direct experience and realization through the means of the various disciplines of yoga and meditation. In Shaivism, words play as references, mere guide marks or pointers for the consciousness in its endeavor of rediscovering its true nature[13].

Occult power of the word[edit]

The word has spiritual, magical, mystical and even demoniac powers, some of which are described in the following concepts:

  • mantra - the sacred syllable, both sound and spiritual energy, is a fundamental tool in tantra and consequently, in Kashmir Shaivism (see the practice of japa and uccara)
  • prayer and religious chanting - are essential instrument in religious rituals
  • casting a spell, incantation - speech is the principal magical instrument
  • scriptures - sacred words considered to be originated from God Himself, such as agamas in Kashmir Shaivism; a notable difference between the occidental scriptures and the Kashmir Shaivism agamas is that the agamas are considered to be Shiva Himself, in the form of word, not just the mere words of Shiva
  • degraded speech - curses and profanities - associated with demoniac resonances
  • satya siddhi - the power of efficient speech - whatever one says, comes true - such a power is said to be the result of the practice of satya - truthfulness
  • nyasa - a magical ritual of imposing mantras with the hand on specific parts of the human body, thus awakening the latent occult powers within it

Word as a medium for spiritual initiation[edit]

In most spiritual schools, speech is the preferred medium of spiritual initiation. Sometimes written word is used, but the most secret initiations are traditionally transmitted "from mouth to ear". Oral teachings are usually reinforced through repetition (ritual) to become a spiritual foundation[14].

Words in meditation[edit]

The practice of meditation aims to stop the mental chatter altogether (the concept of "citta-vritti-nirodha" of Patanjali) or replace it with sacred speech (laya yoga, japa, uccara). Speech must be put aside in order for consciousness to reach that level which goes beyond the mental.

  • mauna (self imposed silence) - produces the accumulation of a large energy in vak tattva
  • bhavana (contemplation) - speech charged with spiritual energy (Sakti) through intense visualisation
  • koan - a kind of paradoxical contemplation expressed in words with the purpose of projecting the mind beyond words
  • neti neti - a kind of contemplation where negation is used instead of affirmation; the reasoning behind this technique is that the absolute cannot be captured in any affirmative affirmation as it lays beyond the sphere of speech, but it can be discovered through meditation with the help of various negations ("Atman (the spirit) is not this, Atman is not that") that act only as guide marks along the way, pointing to the various mistaken assumptions that need to be surpassed
  • devotional speech - known under various names in other spiritual traditions as nembutsu, dhikr; in Kashmir Shaivism too there are a number of remarkable devotional works


  • musical instrument - singing
  • "Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.", Kipling
  • Words are but the vague shadows of the volumes we mean. Little audible links, they are, chaining together great inaudible feelings and purposes. ~Theodore Dreiser, 190
  • humor - spiritual, transcending the problem
  • "Broadly speaking, the short words are the best, and the old words best of all." Winston Churchill
  • Words are dwarfs, but examples are giants.
  • Words are like bees, they have honey and a sting.
  • Only the great poets, the genial thinkers can invent words with creative values and innovative connotations. In most cases, we must be satisfied with reusing worn out semantic fields just as we have for a very long time.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words; also, a good melody amplifies the effect of words a thousand times


  • vaikhari vak matangi
  • gura, vorbirea - asoc lui Sarasvati
  • Kali is Muladhara and the Vaikhari or Primal Speech, the state of Awakening.
  • Bhuvaneshvari or Savitri/Gayatri is Madhyama which resides in Hridaya and is Sleep.
  • Chinnamasta represents Pasyanti and Deep-sleep, wherein the mind is put to rest, and is Ajna.
  • Tripura is the Supreme Goddess as the state of Turiya or Soma, as beyond ness, or Para Vak.
  • associated to Sarasvati (charm, wisdom) and Matangi (the profound aspects)


  • language/words are connected to one's self image, thinking and ego
  • words ensnare us when we make them into a philosophical or theological system and then become ego-attached to that system / Nagarjuna
  • example: using expressions like "pretty girl" or "smart boy" tends to attach the appropriate attribute to children and become a foundation of their thinking for life
  • Nietzche - prison of language


  • visually expressing emotions; age tell tale sign
  • Speech is conveniently located midway between thought and action, where it often substitutes for both. John Andrew Holmes, "Wisdom in Small Doses"
  • there is an innate gramar, pre-language, that exists in newbord; a universal language
  • "Para, Pasyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari, are the four kinds of speech. Para is the highest of sounds. Vaikhari is the lowest of sounds." (Yoga-Kundalini Upanishad, III.19)
  • speech is founded is, on unconscious associative network, a very extensive and intricate web of mixed and manifold relationships between mental entities and words which, on the whole, constitute an individual's uniqueness. Steiner

  1. ^ Introduction to Kashmir Shaivism; Swami Tejomayananda, pages 17-41
  2. ^ Vāc, The Concept of the Word In Selected Hindu Tantras, André Padoux, page 146
  3. ^ Magnetic Force: How to Unfold the Psychic Forces Latent Within You, A. P. Mukerji, page 118, [online version|]
  4. ^ Para-trisika Vivarana, Jaideva Singh, pages 89,106
  5. ^ Vāc, The Concept of the Word In Selected Hindu Tantras, André Padoux, page 147
  6. ^ "Jnānam bandhaḥ", The Shiva-Sutra Vimarsini of Ksemaraja, P.T. Shrinivas Iyengar, page 5
  7. ^ A Theology of the New Testament, George Eldon Ladd, page 275
  8. ^ Vāc, The Concept of the Word In Selected Hindu Tantras, André Padoux, page 130,170-171
  9. ^ Four Levels of Speech in Vedic Poetics, James J. Balakier,
  10. ^ "God speaks into silence and his word creates", Silence, the Word and the Sacred: Essays, E. D. Blodgett, pag. 15
  11. ^ See Heidegger and Deconstructionism; Silence, the Word and the Sacred: Essays, E. D. Blodgett, pag. 85
  12. ^ jnānam bandhaḥ, Śiva Sutra, verse 2
  13. ^ "The Tao that can be talked about is not the real Tao" - Tao Te Ching; Northrop Frye: Religious Visionary and Architect of the Spiritual World By Robert D. Denham
  14. ^ Silence, the Word and the Sacred: Essays, E. D. Blodgett