By MM Swami Shankarananda
Animal life is about smells, sounds, and sensations, and being the predator or the prey. It’s about self-preservation, procreation and finding food. It is a world of desire and fear.
Human life is also about all of those things, but with something added. Human life is conducted in a web of words. All life is words. Your relationships, your work, your group affiliations, your attitudes, your art and your spirituality are all words. Sounds, words, sentences, statements, concepts, principles: this is human life.
The fourth sutra of the founding text of Kashmir Shaivism, the Shiva Sutras, says jnanadhisthanam matrka, which roughly translates as ‘the unknown mother of everything is the power of sound inherent in the alphabet’. Mother, matrix, matrika … The suffix ka suggests unknown. Language is the hidden force behind everything that we do.
When I first heard this sutra, it spoke to me like no other. I was a student of literature and I loved words, but I had become cynical about them. Was there any meaning? Did words just serve the ego? Now I understood that words are a double-bladed axe. They can take you to heaven, or they can push you to hell.
For a seeker, and actually for everyone, it is important to understand our languaging, our matrika: the words we say to others, the words others say to us. And maybe most important, the words we say to ourselves in the privacy of our own mind.
Are there words that you need to say to others?
Someone you love, someone from whom you are estranged?
Someone with whom you weren’t completely honest?
Are there words that people want to say to you,
that you are running from or blocking?
Critical words, intimate words, beneficial words.
Regard the words you speak to yourself…
Are they gentle and accepting?
Are they harsh and unrelenting?
Is your inner voice kind to you,
or the opposite?
Are there words you need to keep inside and not say?
Words that create separation and make things worse.
Are there words you need to bring
from the inner world to the outer world?
To speak up when you need to speak up,
to find the sources of creativity within.
Are there words that you need to
dissolve in your inner space?
Bad stories that you tell yourself.
Cultivate fearlessness towards words.
Cultivate kindness in words.
Find the words that take you to God.
Words from the scriptures, words from the Guru;
Mantras, mahavakyas, Great statements.
They resonate in your inner being.
The key to any authentic spiritual process is an understanding of matrika. Bondage is to be at the mercy of mechanical matrikas that arise within based on cultural and family conditioning. Liberation is gained by clearly seeing the matrikas that arise mechanically and learning to control them, making sure that they are moving in a positive direction.
A liberated being has choice. He or she is not at the effect of automatic and mechanical processes. To be the Lord of your own matrika is a great and profound attainment. A great yogi rises to this level by the grace of the Guru and his own self-effort.