Ashtakshara (Thirumanthra)

Sri RanganathaSerthi
(Left to Right) Peria Perumal (Moolavar), NammPerumal (Utsavar) with Ubhaya Nachiars, Bhoga Ranganatha, Theertha Ranganatha, on right, Serthi Darshan-Ranganayaki Thayar with NamPerumal Ranganatha

Srirangam Ranganatha Swamy is supposed to represent the Ashtakshara or Thirumanthra

By various combinations, there are 10 meanings possible, of the Ashtakshara. I give the meanings below:
  1. Salutation and pranamas to Narayana.
  2. I surrender myself to the Lord. As my existence is only for the pleasure of the Lord, I surrender the protection of myself to the Lord. I surrender the fruit or purushartha to the Lord.
  3. I am the servant only to the Lord and Lakshmi. I am not subservient to anybody else. I am not subservient to myself also. I do not have any independence. I am completely dependent on the Lord.
  4. I surrender myself to the Lord. Even this surrender is by the grace of Lord. The Lord alone is the protector. There is nobody else who can protect me. I cannot protect myself.
  5. I will do service only to the Lord and Lakshmi. I will not do anything for my pleasure. Whatever I do, is for the pleasure of the Lord.
  6. I will do service to the Lord and Lakshmi, at all times. I will also do service to Bhagavatas.
  7. I do not belong to myself. I do not have anything as mine. Nothing is mine. I belong to the Lord. Everything, that I have, also belongs to the Lord.
  8. I am not able to do any upaya (other than prapatti). The Lord is the only upaya. He should bless me with salvation and permit me to do service to the Lord.
  9. My protection is the responsibility of the Lord. The Lord will free me from all sins. The Lord will bless me with eternal service to Him.
  10. I belong only to the Lord. I do prapatti to Him. I will do eternal service to Him. These are the ten meanings of ashtakshara.
The Ashtakshara. consists of 8 syllables and is in the form of three words.
The first word is a single syllable Om.
The second word is Namaha.
The third word is Narayanaya.
So, the ashtakshara is OM NAMO NARAYANAYA. This means "Salutation to Narayana".
The Om has three letters A,U & M
A means Narayana or Vishnu.According to Sanskrit dictionary and grammer, A means Vishnu.
  1. A is the beginning of all letters. Similarly, Vishnu is the origin of all beings. Hence A denotes Vishnu.
  2. The letter A is the shortened form of the Verb "Ava", which means "to protect".
  3. Since Vishnu is the protector of all the worlds, the letter A means Vishnu, who is the protector.
The letter U means two things.
  1. It means Lakshmi.
  2. Another meaning is "only"
The letter M means the soul or Jivatma.
The letter M (Ma) is the 25th alphabet among consonants in Sanskrit. Similarly, the soul or Jivatma is the 25th tattva.The first tattva is matter. The second is the mahat. The third is ahankara. Then we have the five gross elements starting with ether, etc. Then five subtle elements, starting with sound, etc. Then we have the five senses of knowledge and then the five senses of action. So, the total number of tattvas so far is 3+20=23. The 24th tattva is the mind or manas. So, soul or Jivatma is the 25th tattva.
  1. Since the letter M (Ma) is the 25th alphabet among consonants in Sanskrit, it means the Jivatma, who is 25th tattva.
  2. Secondly, the letter M is derived from the verb, which means "to know". Jivatma is a knower, who knows things. So also, M denotes the Jivatma.
  3. The Letter M is also derived from the verb, which means "measure or limit". Since the Jivatma is limited in size as atomic, M denotes Jivatma. Thus M denotes the Jivatma
    1. If we take the letter U to mean Lakshmi, then the word Om means that the Jivatma is the servant (sesha) of Vishnu and Lakshmi. Here we have to take A (and U) with dative (4th) i.e. as "for A and U". So, M, Jivatma is for A and U; i.e. the servant of A and U, i.e. Vishnu and Lakshmi.
    2. Suppose we take the meaning of U as "only". In this case, this will mean that the Jivatma is subservient to Vishnu only; and to no one else. This includes himself viz; he is not subservient to himself also. Of course Lakshmi always goes with Vishnu.
Namaha has two meanings.
    1. If you take it as one word, it means salutation or worshipping.
    2. The second meaning is got by splitting Namaha as Na and Maha. Then, this will mean "not mine".We have to add M (Jivatma) in the context. There are four meanings:
      1. I am not mine. I am subservient to the Lord, I belong to the Lord.
      2. Everything is not mine. In other words, nothing is mine. Everything belongs to the Lord.
      3. Independence is not mine. I am not independent. I am depending on the Lord.
      4. Mastership is not mine. I am not the master of anybody, including myself. Narayana is the master of everybody. So, these are the four meanings of "not mine".

    1. "ra" means to perish. So, ra denotes achetana, which is perishable.
    2. "nara" means that which does not perish. Hence, nara means chetana or Jivatma.
    3. "Nara" means the group of naras or jivatmas. There is a second interpretation also. Nara means, which does not perish. So, Nara means the Lord also. Nara is also a name in Vishnu Sahasranama. So, Nara means those belonging to Nara, viz., the Lord . So Nara means Lord's qualities; and also Jivatmas and achetanas (which belong to Him).
The word Ayana has three meanings:-
  1. a resting place, or support or abode.
  2. upaya or means.
  3. fruit or objective
We will take the first meaning of the word, ayana, as the resting place. According to Sanskrit grammar, Narayana (Nara-ayana) means two things:
    1. One, who is the resting place of Naras i.e. all chetanas and achetanas.
    2. One whose resting place is Naras, i.e. all chetanas and achetanas.
If you take the first meaning, this means that all things - chetanas and achetanas - exist or abide in Narayana. If you take the second meaning, this means that Narayana abides or exists in all things. This is possible because He is the soul of all chetanas and achetanas. Thus, the two meanings show that
  • all chetanas and achetanas rest in Narayana;
  • Narayana rests in all chetanas and achetanas.
    1. The first meaning shows that He is the resting place of all chetanas and achetanas. All these abide in Him. This shows that He contains all chetanas and achetanas. All chetanas and achetanas are contained in Him. So, He is bigger than all these. This quality of the Lord is called as Bahirvyapti.
    2. The second meaning shows that He rests in all chetanas and achetanas. This shows the exact opposite of 1) above, i.e. He is smaller than all these. This quality of the Lord is called Antarvyapti

Antarvyapti means the Lord is present, intimately connected with all chetanas and achetanas; in such a way that He is present, wherever they are.
Bahirvyapti means this quality: The Lord is present also in places , where the chetanas and achetanas are not present. A combination of these two qualities means:
  1. The Lord is present, wherever all other beings are present.
  2. The Lord is present, even in places, where other beings are not present
If you take the meaning of ayana as upaya or means for attaining salvation; then the word Narayana (Nara-ayana) will mean that He, the Lord Vishnu, is the upaya or means of attaining salvation, for all jivatmas.
If you take the meaning of ayana as the fruit (ie. one that is to be attained): then the word Narayana (Nara-ayana) will mean that He is the fruit or end, to be attained by all Jivatmas.

Important Note:
Neither the Ashtakshara or the Dwaya Mantra or the Charma Sloka are secret.
What is secret is the hidden meanings of the
Ashtakshara , the Dwaya Mantra and the Charma Sloka.

About Srirangam Temple and Sri Ranganaatha

According to a parrot's version:

Kaveree Viraja Seyam Vaikuntam Rangamandiram
[The river Kaveri is the very same river Viraja that eternally flows in Vaikunta, Srirangam Temple is verily Vaikuntam itself, the Abode of Lord Vishnu where he sits in all splendour and majesty in the company of Nityasuris.]
Sa Vasudevo Pangeshah Pratyaksham Paramam Padam |
[The Lord of Arangam, is none but Vasudeva, the Primeval Lord Himself.]
Vimanam Pranavakaram Vedasrungam Mahadhbhutham
[The Vimana is verily the eternal Paramapada itself. The Vimana is in the form of the Pranava (the life sustaining mantra) - OM]
Srirangasayee Bhagavan Pranavarthaprakasakah ||

[The four towers are marvelously akin to the four Vedas and the Lord, Sri Rangasayee is expounding the import of the Pranava.]

Vedhanta Deshika, in His sketch of the Srirangam Temple history says:
  • The Temple or Vimana renowned as Srirangam
  • The Temple or Vimana gifted to the rulers of Ayodhya by Brahma
  • The Temple or Vimana where the invincible warrior Rama worshipped
  • The Temple or Vimana which is the refuge of Vibheeshana
  • The Temple or Vimana which secures all benefits unattainable elsewhere
  • The Temple or Vimana which is in the shape of Pranava
  • The Temple, or Vimana which destroys all sins, that is indeed
  • The Temple full of nectarine grace which never satisfies.

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