Transliteration in English; a –
General Meaning: The alphabet ‘a’
The alphabet ‘a’ is the first letter among the nouns. The place of pronunciation of this alphabet is the ‘throat’. In other words, it is a guttural. According to Sanskrit Grammar, it of three types viz. hrasva (having the length of one matrakala (one blink), dirgha (having the length of two matrakala-s (two blinks) and pluta (having the length of three matrakala-s (three blinks).
The methodology of orthographically representing this alphabet is mentioned as follows:
दक्षतः कुण्डली भूत्वा कुंचित्वा वामतो गता ।
ततोऽर्धसङ्गता रेखा दक्षोर्धा तासु शङ्करः ॥
विधिर्नारायणश्चैव सन्तिष्ठेत् क्रमशस्तदा ।
अर्धमात्रा शक्तिरूपा ध्यानमस्य च कथ्यते ॥
(Translation: Towards the right there should be circle which begins from the left. Then the shape should be drawn until the top. In the course of this reside the trinity of Gods viz. Shiva, Brahma and Narayana respectively. The half matra that is beyond the triad is in the form of the spiritual power and hereafter, the method of meditating upon the same will be explained).
The above stanzas explain the esoteric significance of the orthographic representation of the alphabet. It mentions that the triad of Gods viz. Brahma, Vishnu and Siva are all present in the orthographic representation of the alphabet along with the ‘shakti’ (supreme power) that is in the form of half a matra, which is to be meditated upon (by Yogin-s who wish to attain higher states of consciousness). This is explained as per the ‘Varnoddhara-tantra[#_ftn1 ]’.
The Kamadhenu Tantra states:
शृणु तत्त्वमकारस्य अतिगोप्यं वरानने ।
शरच्चन्द्रप्रतीकाशं पञ्चकोणमयं सदा ॥
पञ्चदेवमयं वर्णं शक्तित्रय समन्वितम् ।
निर्गुणं त्रिगुणोपेतं स्वयं कैवल्यमूर्तिमान् ॥
बिन्दुतत्त्वमयं वर्णं स्वयं प्रकृतिरूपिणी ॥
(Translation: O beautiful lady! Please listen to the tattva (real / hidden meaning) of the alphabet ‘a’. This is a deep secret. It resembles the moon of the winter (which is unusually bright) and has five corners. Each of these corners represents a particular demigod. It consists of three powers (Shakti-s). It represents the personification of emancipation (moksha). It has two predominant forms: One is the form that consists of the three primordial attributes (viz. sattva, rajas and tamas). The other form is beyond the attributes. It also represents the primordial nature (prakriti) that is of the nature of a ‘bindu’ (dot / point, which is of great significance in the field of Yoga).
This ‘bindu’, mentioned above is a representation of the Gods viz. Siva, Vishnu, Ananta (the primordial serpent on which Lord Vishnu reclines) as well as the Goddess Shakti.
(Note: Many more stanzas from different works of Tantra are given in the original text that explains the significance of the alphabet ‘a’. All these stanzas are, in a way, substantiating the subject mentioned above).
Notes by the editor:
The alphabet ‘a’ is the first alphabet of the ‘Pranava’ (mystic sound ‘Om’) which consists of three alphabets viz. ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘m’. The ‘Pranava’ (mystic sound ‘Om’) is supposed to be the first syllable of all the Vedas. Since the word ‘a’ is the first alphabet of the first mystic sound, it has the greatest significance. Further, it is also mentioned as:
It is very interesting to note that, as mentioned in the Vedic texts and allied literature, and further realized when one thinks deeply and concentrates on the production of speech-sounds in the human speech box, there exists only one sound viz. ‘a’. All speech sounds are, in one way or the other, modifications / variations / mutations of this principal sound. Therefore it is said to represent Lord Vishnu who is so named as he pervades everything. So also is the present sound ‘a’. All speech sounds are its manifestations. Without this alphabet, there cannot be speech in this world. Just as there can exist nothing without a cause, so is ‘a’ the primary cause of all speech sounds, and is therefore mentioned to represent Lord Vishnu, who is said to have manifested into the form of this Universe, as the etymology of the word (Vishnu) itself states. Thus, the alphabet ‘a’ and the sound it represents has a huge significance from the points of view of Vedas, Yoga, Sanskrit grammar as well as from the point of view of the layman.
Note: Grammatical derivation etc not applicable to this word as it is not a word in the real sense.
[#_ftnref1 ] Incidentally, as far as all Sanskrit alphabets are concerned, there is a great esoteric significance the way each and every alphabet is written. This is based on the esoteric value of the sound. Each sound is associated with a demigod and is also associated with the vibrations that are said to occur in certain specific ‘nadi-s’ (generally translated as ‘extremely subtle nerve-centers that exist in the body’). Therefore there is a very deep, subtle and important association between, the sound, the demigod associated with the sound and also the orthographic representation of that sound.