Jñānādhiṣṭhānaṁ mātṛkā ज्ञानाधिष्ठानं मातृका (sūtra I.4)

Jñāna here means the knowledge that has been discussed in sūtra I.2.  There, jñāna referred to as the limited knowledge or ajñāna (jñaana in sūtra I.2 is kiñcijjñaana or limited knowledge, whileajñaana is completely absence of knowledge, this is the difference, i.e. āṇavamala lets a little knowledge pass, viz. it throttles but not stops the flow of knowledge). It is only the limited knowledge that precludes the individual self to realize the Supreme Self, though factually there is no difference between the Self and the self. Adhiṣṭhāna means the seat or basis. Mātṛkā refers to the Divine Mother.  It also means the Mother energy of phonemes, Śakti. She is introduced here for the first time in this Scripture.

This sūtra says that Śakti, in the form of uncomprehended Mother, also known as Śabda Brahman is the cause for limited knowledge. The limited knowledge is caused by the three mala-s that have been discussed in the previous sūtra. Mātṛkā also means the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet beginning from a to kṣa (अ to क्ष). The Divine Mother is subtle because She is in the form of unmanifested sound. She limits the knowledge of Supreme by prefixing “I am”.

Let us take this through an example. Suppose an aspirant is walking. When someone asks him, what he is doing, he will answer ‘I am walking’. The usage “I” denotes his gross body and not the Self within.  This is called bondage or attachment. An aspirant gets attached to his gross physical body while carrying out his actions. Therefore, the infinite Śiva is apparently bound by the limited body of the aspirant.  This is called ignorance or ajñāna. This ignorance happens because of formation of various words that are capable to interpreting the different states of the mind and in particular the opposites. For example, happiness and sorrow, pressure and pain, love and hatred, comfort and discomfort. The formation of words gives rise to such subtle states of mind, as the mind is always subtle and work closely with the subtle body.

Knowledge is of two types – superior and inferior. Śakti presides over both these types of knowledge. Superior knowledge works internally with consciousness and inferior knowledge works externally with shapes and forms. Further details have been provided in sūtra I.2 under parā. There are three types of Śakti-s who work on an aspirant. The first one is Ghorā, which makes an aspirant to become attached to the materialistic world and thereby blocking his spiritual path by constantly manifesting powers. The second one is Mahāghorā causing delusion in the mind of the aspirant and makes him become attracted to materialistic world. The third and the last one is Aghorā Devī also known asAghorī. They are essentially of nature of liberation and free from duality and hence they are capable of making the aspirant to walk through the path of spirituality to attain liberation. These three Śakti-s are the seat of sense organs. Mātṛkā works in close association with the other four Śakti-s Ambā, Jyeṣṭhā, Raudrī and Vāmā discussed in the previous aphorism. Mātṛkā is the power of Śiva.

Spanda Kārikā (III.13) also conveys the same meaning. It says that the aspirant is not able to realize the glory of Śiva, as he is deluded by innumerable words that create links between him and the materialistic world. Hence this aspirant is known as paśu. Paśu means the individual soul that continues to be deluded by the effects of māyā. Spanda Kārikā (III.15) says that the eight deities presiding over the alphabets hide the aspirant’s true nature by making his associated with words. Without words thoughts cannot originate and without thoughts association with matter, which causes attachment to worldly existence is not possible.

{Further reading on mātṛkā varṇa rūpinī (Lalitā Sahasranāma - nāma 577) from Advaita point of view. Lalitā Sahasranāma is Advaita Scripture. She is in the form of fifty one alphabets of Sanskrit called matṛkā. These fifty alphabets are split into six groups and worshipped in the six cakra-s frommūlādhara to ājñā. These alphabets have different colours and is said to be closely related to cosmological studies. A comparative narration is drawn between Śiva and Śakti and vowels and consonants. Vowels are always active and dynamic in nature and therefore vowels are compared toŚakti; consonants are compared to Śiva. Without Śiva-Śakti combine, the universe cannot exist, as they are two different aspects of the Brahman. In the same way, sound cannot exist without vowels-consonants combine. The sound originates from Śabda Brahman whereas the universe originates from the Brahman. She is the Śabda Brahman.

She wears a garland made up of fifty one alphabets, which was discussed in nāma 489 akṣa-māladi-dharā. Another interpretation says that She is the Mother (matṛkā) of all letters (varṇa-rūpinī). This theory goes to prove that She is the creator of all the alphabets. These alphabets are the foundation of Śrī Cakra. Based upon the theory that Śrī Cakra is a human body, these alphabets form the foundation of human existence. The difference between animals and man is the decoding and understanding of sound, which becomes possible because of Śabda Brahman. Meditating on matṛkā-s and Śrī Cakra as one, is a way of worshipping Śrī Cakra. This is called Kailāsa prastāra. There are two more prastāra-s. They are meru - prastāra where tithi nitya devi-s and Śrī Cakra are meditated upon as one and meditating Vāc devi-s (authors of this Sahasranāma) and Śrī Cakra as one is calledbhū- prastāra. Prastāra means flight of steps.}