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Kaustubha, per the Puranas and Pancharatra scriptures, is the most resplendent gemstone in the entire world. It is said to be one of the fourteen primary treasures that arose from the kshira-sagara, the ocean of milk, at the time of samudra-manthana, the ocean’s churning. Waves of light enveloped the entire world as this gem emerged from the sublime waters, and Lord Shiva declared to all present that this jewel would belong to Lord Vishnu, for Vishnu was the only one worthy of wearing this most dazzling of all lights. He could behold its entrancing beauty without becoming awestruck by it or attached to it. In later times, Lord Krishna, as Lord Vishnu’s incarnation, also wore Kaustubha around his neck.
Kaustubha represents the brilliance of supreme Consciousness, the all-pervasive power of this universe. Describing the secret of Kaustubha’s splendor, the Shrimad Bhagvatam says:
कौस्तुभव्यपदेशेन स्वात्मज्योतिर्बिभर्त्यजः ।
kaustubha-vyapadeśena svātma-jyotir bibharty ajaḥ ।
The unborn, Lord Vishnu, wears the Kaustubha gem, representing the magnificent light of sva-atma, his own effulgent Self.1
The Kaustubha gem adorns the heart region of Lord Vishnu, who is the sustaining power of this universe. Being the light of the Lord’s Self, it represents the resplendence of the all-embracing life force, the prana shakti, of this world. This most scintillating of all gems shines as brightly as the sun and contains within it the hues and qualities of all precious gemstones.
To invoke the presence and the blessings of Lord Vishnu and the light of the supreme Self, the Kaustubha mantra is recited. The Kaustubha mantra contains a set of bija mantras.
Let’s look more closely at what a bija mantra is. The Sanskrit word bija means “seed.” A bija mantra is therefore a “seed-mantra” or a “seed-sound.” Bija mantras are the most fundamental acoustic mantras; they consist of a single syllable that typically ends with an anusvara, a nasal sound, represented by a dot (bindu) above the Devanagari letter. There are many bija mantras, each of them having a strong vibratory quality. The primordial sound AUM (also spelled oṁ) is the mother of all bija mantras.
The bija mantras are extremely potent sounds that were originally heard by the ancient sages in their meditation. They represent, hold, and invoke the power and energy of a particular divinity. When you recite, sing, or meditate on a bija mantra, you awaken and invite the energy and blessings of the divinity it represents.
The bija mantras can be chanted or meditated on as a single sound, or as part of a longer mantra. The Kaustubha mantra contains different bija mantras. It appears in the Garuda Purana as one of several mantras associated with Lord Vishnu’s sacred symbols and is used to invoke his shakti.
The Kaustubha mantra is
ॐ ठं चं भं यं कौस्तुभाय नमः ।
oṁ ṭhaṁ caṁ bhaṁ yaṁ kaustubhāya namaḥ ।
Oṁ, ṭhaṁ, caṁ, bhaṁ, yaṁ.
Salutations to Kaustubha.2
Oṁ is the primordial bija mantra. The sounds ṭhaṁ, caṁ, bhaṁ, and yaṁ comprise a specific set of bija mantras that, together, when recited, invoke and honor the energy of Kaustubha.
This mantra venerating the Kaustubha, the light of Lord Vishnu’s Self, grants utmost radiance, good fortune, abundance, and energy to the one who recites it. It quiets the mind and soothes the senses, and it eliminates negativities such as fear, anger, and greed from one’s being. It is a mantra of astonishing potency, holding the power to open the heart to the supreme light of Consciousness.