Subhanu.Saxena at INTL.PEPSI.COM
Wed Oct 21 05:48:16 CDT 1998
On Sep 06, Nagy wrote:
> "Gauri mimaaya salilaani takshatyeka padi dwipadi sa chatushpadi
> navapadi bhabhuvushi sahsraaraparame vyoman"
> Could someone translate this and explain.
> If what I understand from the above is right, I believe it explains
> of Shankara Stotras.
Apologies for the delay, but I had intended to reply to this post much
earlier. However, because of work pressures I was unable to reply. If in the
meantime somebody else had already replied, and I had somehow missed their
posting, then apologies again. Any way, here goes...
SrI gurubhyo namaha harihi om
This famous mantra appears in a number of places in the Veda, with slight
variances in reading:
Taittiriya Brahmana 184.108.40.206
Taittiriya Aranyaka 1.9.4 (as part of the aruNaketuka mantras)
Aitereya Aranyaka 1.5.38
Atharva Veda 9.10.21, where gaurI is rendered gaur
Rig Veda 1.164.41, its original source, where for gaurI we
As always, the literal translation conceals the deeper significance of the
"The cow, having bellowed, produces waters, becoming 1 footed, 2 footed, 4
footed, 8 footed, 9 footed, is of 1000 syllables in the highest heaven"
Tradition uniformley ascribes the cow as the Divine Word vAk, for example we
have the mantra "dhenur vAgasmAn, upasuSTutaitu" from the Rig Veda.
The mantra beautifully describes how the Transendental Word of infinite form
appears as revelation to us in different forms (note the pun on pada "feet",
also of words), and has as its source the supreme brahman signified by
waters. For example, those familiar with mantra pushpam from the Taittiriya
Aranyaka (yo'pAm pushpam veda...) will be aware how the seer poetically
describes in the mantra world around us as if reflected in water, meaning
the substrate of all (the water) is Brahman. The mantra "gaurI mimAya.."
takes us to the nature of the Revelation, according to the Veda tradition.
So, a more helpful translation would run as follows:
"The Divine Speech, uttered, fashions words (emanating from the supreme), is
1000 syllabled (infinite) in the highest heaven, becoming 1-word, 2-words,
4-words, 8-words, 9-words (in the empirical world)"
As per my previous email, my inability to translate has probably made it
difficult to convey the full force of the original Sanskrit (especially when
chanted with swara)
Bhattabhaskara, in his commentary on this mantra in the Taittiriya Brahmana,
gives the following for the symbolism behind the "words"
ekapadI The sound Om, the breath of the Supreme
dwipadI Together with the vyAhrti's (1), the sacred sAvitrI mantra,
chatuSpadI The four Vedas
aSTApadI The 6 vedAnga's,plus purANa's (1), plus dharmashAstra's (1)
, giving 8
navapadI mImAmsA, nyAya, etc, plus Ayurveda, dhanurveda,
gandharva veda, giving 9
The mantra's original setting, in the Rig Veda 1.164 , is wholly
appropriate. This is the famous suktam, beginng with "asya vAmasya...". It
is a hymn well worth serious study by students of advaita, as it directly
communicates the nature of the Supreme, as revealed through the Divine Word,
the setting of which is the Yajna. We see in the hymn that Yajna's purpose
is to declare the identity of the yajamAna with the Supreme. Very much like
Shakespeare's Hamlet, it has famous verses throughout the hymn that are
often quoted and appear in other places time and again. Here are a just a
few by way of example:
Verse 20 "dwA suparNA sayujA sakhAyA..."
This verse is quoted in the the Mundaka (3.1.1)and Swetaswatara Upanishads
(iv.6), describing the empirical nature of distinctions which give rise to
an indivual agent that seems to be acting, experiencing, enjoying, as
opposed to the witnessing principle sAkhI that remains when all distinctions
"Two birds, united, intimate friends,perch on the same tree. One of them
(the jIvAtman) tastes the fruits, the other, shines, looks on (sAkshI)"
Verse 31 "apashyam gopAm..."
This verse appears in the pravargya mantras which identify the self with the
sun, and in turn with brahman, and describes the experience of
"I have seen the universal protector, travelling upwards and downwards.
Invested with radiance, he moves in all dimensions"
Verses 33, 34 "PrichhAmi twA...."
Verse 33 has a series of questions, which are answered in 34:
"I ask thee:
i) The ultimate limit of the Earth
ii) The navel of the world
iii) The seed of the horse
iv) The ultimate apode of Speech"
The answers are:
i) This vedI
ii) this yajna, in the famous lines "ayam yajno bhuvanasya nAbhihi"
iii) soma is the seed
iv) The Supreme Brahman
Verse 39 "rcho akshare parame vyoman..."
"The rik's are established in the highest abode, where the shining ones are
seated. He who does not know, what will he do with the rik? Those who know
it, come close to Him"
One is reminded of the mantra quoted in the Brihadaranyaka and the
Taittiriya Brahmana "nAvedavinmanute tam brhantam" "He who does not know the
Veda does not know the Supreme"
Verse 41 "gaurIhi mimAya..."
The subject of this posting
Verse 45 "chatvAri vAK parimitA padAni.."
The 4 levels of speech. I have already translated this mantra in my posting
on gaNapati sUktam.
Verse 46 "Indram mitram varuNam..."
This contains of my dIpa mantras "ekam sad viprA bahudhA vadanti" , meaning
"That one truth the wise men call by many different names"
Other References to vAk
As I write the above, another famous sUktam comes to mind, namely Rig Veda X
71, which has as its devatA "jnAna" or brahmavidyA. Again, it talks to the
nature of Divine Revelation through the Word, and its opening lines have
been virtually repeated at the beginning of English translations of the
bible ("In the beginning was the Word...):
"In the beginning, oh Brihaspati, the sages sent The Word, giving names (and
forms to their vision). This Speech that was their best was stainless-it
revealed with love the Divine Mystery within them. And when they created
the Word, sifting it with the Spirit as they sift the flour with a sieve
(for somayajna), therein have friends discovered their friendships, of which
the beauties lie hidden in the Word"
In verse 4 we have some beautiful imagery:
"One looks but does not see vAk, one listens but does not hear her.
But to another, she has revealed her noble form as a loving wife, finely
robed, reveals herself to her husband"
To those interested, there is also devIsUktam at Rig Veda X 125 "aham
rudrebhir vasubhishcharAmi..", composed from the first person standpoint of
"vAk", and has the line "whom I desire, I make them formidable, a knower of
Brahman, a sage, a wise one". This also talks to the nature of the Sacred
Word. The otherwise informative notes in the Veda Pratishtan edition of the
Rig Veda make one of the understatements of the century, when they describe
this sUktam as "pretty poetic"!!
I'm not sure if I answered the question posed, but I hope the above has
given you a feel for the deeper message in the mantra, and how the Divine
Word as the Veda provides the link between revelation and the Supreme. There
is a modern day habit of interpreting the split of the Veda into karma kanda
(samhita and brahmana portions), and jnana kanda (Aranyaka and Upanishad) as
meaning there is little of value to the followers of vedanta in the mantra
portions. However, the above should help you reaffirm the power of the
mantra to directly communicate the nature of the Absolute to aspirants.
When I started composing this posting, I had in mind a short sharp posting
with a translation only. However, I found that a riot of references to other
mantras exploded in me, hence the longer response above. To me , it
confirms the power of the traditional method of learning AND MEMORISING from
gurumukha. Knowledge in a book stays there; in the mind it can interconnect
to become a whole, and go beyond the mind ."amanstAm tadA yAti", as Sri
gauDapAda says. When also recited in the traditional manner with swara,
well, what can one say about the impact of that. I cannot describe it in
I thank you, Nagy, that by posting the question, you have allowed me to rest
for a while in the Truth revealed by the Sacred Word.
SrI krSNArpaNam astu
"bhava shankara deshikame sharaNam"
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