In the spiritual journey the one that gets us into the most trouble is the "I am".
The Sanskrit language is known as the language of the gods because every sound is linked to a chakra petal and every petal is where the chakra energy flows through an energy channel. That means that the consciousness of that chakra is able to vibrate through the subtle energy vibration (prana, chi, qi) inherent in sound. We don't have to speak a sound outloud to connect with its vibration. We can hear sounds silently in our mind. We can also pick up that pranic energy by reading the representation of that sound.
The Word Nakshatra and Its Hidden Meanings
So now I'm looking at this word Nakshatra and all the hidden meanings it could contain. I begin with Dennis Harness' ideas. He prefers the roots नक्षते=naksh "to approach/worship/attain" + त् tra (the instrument of that attainment) as clues to its essential meaning:
"The Nakshatras were defined originally as means of connecting with the cosmic powers and extending our human mind to the cosmic mind. Some scholars derive Nakshatra from na - kshatra, not destructible. This is a later and derivative meaning, though it is not without its significance."
I like to look at ALL the meanings, because Sanskrit is always playing a hide and seek game with us, same as Maya. Here are some combinations to think about:The Nakshatras: The Lunar Mansions of Vedic Astrology p.xv-xvi
न "no" + क्षत्र kSatra=water, warrior caste, governing body
नक् nak=night + क्ष kSa earth + त्र to protect
This makes me think of the stars as warriors or governors like the Chinese governor generals, and the idea that they are watching over us from the celestial sky above.
Sri Vasudeva speaks about mantra in the way of a tool to protect the mind from being contaminated from ego delusion (all the false "I am"s we create) after the benefits of meditation have been attained - it's a way to hold on to that bliss from meditation, and a way to connect with whatever empowers us (same as an affirmation or prayer). The word mantra मन्त्र has two important roots: मनस् manas (that faculty of mind that is involved with the senses and therefore illusion) + त्र tra "to protect"; so a mantra is used to protect the mind. The nakshatras have a very powerful connection with sound (more on that later), but here I am just thinking about them as points in the sky and points within us that protect, like a warrior or general protects and this has got to be a very basic way of thinking about them. Look up at the sky and you see the moon and the stars and you will naturally feel in the presence of some divine influence, or at the very least something that is greater than we are.
And we see this idea of protection even in the word पदा pada, that quarter division of the nakshatra. It means, among many other things: step/word/post. Post works for me for the guardian idea. Padas are of four types corresponding to four goals of life (dharma, artha, kama, moksha) and four levels of consciousness (gross, astral, causal, transcendent). They speak to four kinds of functions that each nakshatra has. And in the word pada we have प pa that means guarding or protecting. Even the दा dA part of pada gives us the idea of giving protection.
Protection is what mantra is for and when we do japa mala, the recitation of a mantra 108 times are we not going through every pada also? Here is a link where someone has taken this idea and run with it. The association of the padas of the nakshatras with the chakra petals is appropriate and important for a Vedic perspective and astrologer Achala Sylwia Mihajlović has written a marvellous book about her discoveries (link) which we can explore further. [more coming]
Pada can also mean "cleansing/heat" which is associated with that spiritual evolutionary process, and it also means "sound/drum" that relates to the vibration of life that is Shakti (Energy).
Exploring Chinese Words for the 28 Lunar Constellations
The Mayan Day Signs and Night Lords as Gylphs
"The wheel has 28 spokes, the same number used in the roofs of ceremonial buildings such as the Lakota Sundance lodge. These always includes an entrance to the east, facing the rising Sun, and include 28 rafters for the 28 days in the lunar cycle. The number 28 is sacred to some of the Indian tribes because of its significance as the lunar month."