Let us see how it is possible to distribute the forms and forces of Nature among the letters of the alphabet, or vice versa. The Sankhya tells us that the five great "elements" are the last to arise out of Prakrti, and they are Ether, Air, Fire, Water, and Earth. We are also told that the higher includes the lower, for the lower arises out of the higher in regular order. Thus, if we were to represent the "element" Earth, which is at the bottom of the scale, by a single letter, it would be necessary to assign two to Water, three to Fire, and four to Air, making a total of ten.
Above the Air there is Ether; and both Nyaya and Vaiseshika tell us that its place in this scheme of thought is a very special one. Its chief attribute is sound, which is a variant of motion; and the motion of Ether is said to fill all space, and so it permeates everything. The association of Ether with the senses of knowledge and action is, accordingly, a special one; for, as these senses are all characterized either by sound or motion, they partake of the character of Ether; and, as they are said to have been created simultaneously out of the Mind, and Ether also arises out of the same, the ten senses may be said to give us as clear an idea of Ether as it is possible for us to obtain; and their two groups, of knowledge and action can represent its two characteristics, motion and sound. Thus, we may represent Ether as well as the ten senses of knowledge and action by means of ten more letters of the alphabet.
After Ether and the senses comes the Mind; and the Mimansa tells us that it is represented by the number six; and corresponding to this we may assign six letters to the Mind. We have seen that it is not possible to assign any special place to Ahankara or the I-as-an-actor; and so after the Mind comes the Intellect; and it may be represented by seven letters of the alphabet.
Thirty three consonants: Thus we see that we need ten consonants to represent the "elements" from Earth to Air; ten to represent Ether and the senses of knowledge and action; six for the Mind, and seven for the Intellect, making a total of thirty-three; and we find that that is the actual number of consonants in the Sanskrt alphabet.
Vowels: We have observed that the vowels are connected with the consonants, and we find that they can be transformed into them in accordance with the rules of Sanskrt grammar. Hence, they too must refer to the same forms and forces of Nature as the consonants. There are altogether seven vowels in this language, and so it is not possible to assign more than one vowel to each; and so "a" must refer to the Intellect; "i" to the Mind; "u" to the senses of knowledge; "r" to the senses of action; "lr" to Air; "e" to Fire; and "o" to the "element" Water. There is no reference to the "element" Earth among the vowels of the Sanskrt alphabet, and there is a very interesting idea behind it.
We have observed that there is a theory behind the structure of the Sanskrt alphabet, and it has been discussed at some length in a previous work. According to this theory the Sanskrt alphabet represents all the great forms and forces of life in the world; and, according to the ancients, all that is in the universe is to be found in the organic cell (Yatha pinde tatha Brahmande). They accordingly conceived of the alphabet in terms of the organic cell, which consists of a nucleus and a cytoplasm, the vowels to represent the nucleus, and the consonants to represent the cytoplasm; and so, as there can be no change in the cytoplasm without a previous change in the nucleus, it is not possible to pronounce a consonant without the assistance of a vowel. A number of grammatical rules have been framed to illustrate the connection between the nucleus and the cytoplasm, and the changes that they undergo. Similarly, as the nucleus consists of a fluid substance, the last vowel refers to the "element" Water. This means that there is no essence of the "element" Earth, or its property, smell, in it; and it is for this reason that the nucleus cannot disintegrate. The cytoplasm, on the other hand, contains all that is in Nature, including Earth and its attribute, smell; and so it is subject to decay. All this has already been explained, and need not be repeated here.
The vowels referred to here are all short; and, as the long vowels are but an elongated form of the short, they have the same or closely allied meanings.
Anusvara and Visarga: The vowels include two more symbols, anusvara and visarga; and they too partake of the character of the great forces of life, and represent the principles of attraction and repulsion in the world.
The anusvara and visarga come after the vowels, and precede the consonants; and, as these refer to the nucleus and cytoplasm of the organic cell, the two symbols should also have a bearing on the idea of the cell. It would be found on examination that the form of visarga (:) corresponds exactly to that of the centrosome of the cell, which plays a most important part in its evolution; while the form of anusvara (-) corresponds exactly to that of the combination of the centrosome with the chromosomes at the last stage of the development of the cell.
The soul and its symbols: It will be noticed that there is no symbol for the soul in this scheme. But, as we have observed, the soul, in all systems except Vedanta, is conceived to be altogether different from all that is in Nature, and so cannot properly be represented by any symbol or letter of the alphabet. The same is also true of God, in His unmanifest or impersonal aspect.
But all systems of thought, including Vedanta, agree that the best way of representing the soul is in terms of the different faculties of man, specially the intellect; and the same is true of God; and so we have to understand the idea of both God and the soul in terms of the symbols used for these faculties, specially the intellect.
Consonants and the forms and forces of Nature: We have assigned one vowel each to the different forms and forces of Nature, from the Intellect to the "element" Water; and need to assign the consonants in the same manner now. This can be done in accordance with a certain regular plan, the principle of which has been examined elsewhere; and here it would be enough to state that the following consonants refer to the following substances:
|Senses of Knowledge (Ether)||t||g||chh||n||m|
|Senses of Action (Ether)||t||gh||j||th||l|
An explanation: It would be found on examination that these meanings of the consonants correspond to a large number of meanings given to them in the dictionary. This has been examined elsewhere; but it is necessary to understand the whole idea in its proper perspective. For instance, we have seven consonants to represent the character of the Intellect, conceived in its widest significance; and so it is necessary to understand its character. Now we know that the idea of the Intellect has a great bearing on that of Nature and God, for it is said to be the first manifest form of Prakrti or Nature, and it is by means of it alone that we can understand the idea of God as supreme Goodness, Intelligence and Joy, or Sat-chit-ananda. We have also seen that the intellect and soul may, for practical purposes, be identified; and that is true also of the intellect and the mind.
At the same time we can associate it with the senses of knowledge and action too. It is also possible to think of it in its own character as intellect, as characterized by reflection, meditation, or pure thought. All these ideas have been associated with the seven consonants which refer to the intellect; for instance, k refers to its connection with Nature or God; i where it may be identified with the soul; d expresses the idea of charity or sacrifice, which calls for a special exercise of the intellect; b refers to Nature, conceived as different from God; s to the intellect with reference to the senses; sh as it may be identified with the mind; and y as pure intellect in itself.
The idea of other consonants is similar too: for instance, the letter r refers not only to the mind, to which group it belongs, but also to the intellect and the senses of action, because we can think of the mind in association with both. Similarly, the letter s refers to the mind as well as the soul, and for the same reason. In the same manner the letter m, which belongs to the group of the senses of knowledge, refers also to the mind, and for reasons easy to understand.