Thursday, May 31, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 122


It all means that opposite forces have to exist. We have to contend with both. If there were no enemy, internally, to struggle against, life could be totally without any challenges and therefore uninteresting. If everything was going smoothly, then we would not even recognize ‘good’ as ‘good’. 

The cross-currents of conflicting powers exist for the purpose of proving to us that ‘good’ will survive and surface at the end. The ‘desire’ in Brahman resulted in the creation of the universe. The ‘desire’ in the living results in the world of the living growing up.    


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 121


The major purpose of bhakti is to quell all desires and get attracted to that Infinite source of Bliss. While that is so, how is it legitimate for a bhakti-stotra to praise that very deity as One who encouraged and manouvred the powers that be, to fall in Love? In spite of our reverence to the Acharya, we have to  raise this question sometimes. The world-view has to disappear in order for Divine Enlightenment to appear; but here the deity is praised for having engineered the creation of that world !

Knowledge arises only after all ‘kAma’ (Desire) has been eradicated; but here She is glorified as having been that very Power who gave  the power to the God of ‘Desire’ for generating Desire. Does it  mean, then,  that ‘Desire’ itself is Divine Grace?  


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 120


So far in the first three shlokas the stotra does not say specifically which deity is being praised. Even in the fourth  shloka there is just a clue that the deity is without the ‘vara-abhaya’ hands. How many hands
there are, or what are in those hands? - these questions are left open. In the next two  shlokas, the clue is given (shloka #5) that it is that deity that prodded a desire in mahA-vishNu to take the form of ‘mohini’ and create sensual impulses even in Lord Shiva and it is also the same deity (shloka 6) which gave even to the God of Love (Manmatha) the power to disturb even the minds of great sages and saints. 

And thus we get the idea that the deity of this stotra could be the KAmeshvari that we spoke of, in the beginning when we discussed the original ‘Desire’ that sprouted out in Brahman itself ‘to express Itself’.


Monday, May 28, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 119


The Vishnu deity (of almost all temples) Himself, though He has four hands - with conch, disc, mace and lotus --, has no ‘vara-abhaya’  hands. Varada-rAja - the name meaning ‘the king of boon-giving deities’ -
-  in Kanchipuram, inspite of His name, does not have the ‘vara’ hand; He has the mace in that hand !

Maha-lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth, almost invariably, has the  vara-abhaya hands.  But the Goddess of Learning, Sarasvati, does not have either. 

Durga, most of the times, has an ‘abhaya’ by the right hand, while the corresponding left hand is on the thigh - this situation being  called ‘Uru-hastam’ . Some of the SuBrahmanya deity-forms have the same
configuration.  Balaji of Tirupati has the vara-mudrA in the right hand, while His left hand is an ‘Uru-hastam’. Thus the statement of this shloka ‘Other than You, all other deities show the ‘vara-abhaya’ mudrA by their hands’ is to be considered a poetic exaggeration only.


Sunday, May 27, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 118


The Goddess LalitA-Tripurasundari,  as affirmed in this  shloka does not have the ‘vara-abhaya’ hands, (vara = boon;  abhaya = fearlessness). She has the sugarcane-bow and the arrow of flowers in those two hands.  Note however, the Acharya himself says in Sloka 70 that She has all Her four hands indicative of abhaya and vara.   

Let us not make the mistake of thinking that this  shloka means that  all other deity-forms have the ‘vara-abhaya’ hands.  There are several without these hands. Think of Vighneshvara (Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed deity) whom we see at every nook and corner (in India).

What about the figure of the dancing Nataraja? He has only the ‘abhaya’ hand but no boon-giving hand. Minakshi of Madurai does not have these two hands.


Saturday, May 26, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 117


The show of ‘mudrA’ is technically called ‘abhinaya’. To exhibit whatever mood there is internally, by the expression in the face, or by a symbolic gesture of the hands or feet is called ‘abhinaya’. Particularly, that shown by the fingers of the hands is called a ‘mudrA’. It is the science of  tantra that prescribes the ‘mudrAs’. The science and art of dancing has adapted only these ‘mudrAs’.

The bottomline of this  shloka is to say that all this business of hand mudrAs belongs only to the other deities. Ambaal does not show any of these mudrAs. Obviously one is thinking here of the Goddess Lalita-tripura-sundari only.  


Friday, May 25, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 116


The hand which shows the boon-giving status is the left hand but with the palm facing us and extending downwards. ‘I want this and I want that’ is itself indicative of a lower state. Just as the actionless advaita state of ‘abhaya’ belongs to the Shiva side, namely the right side, the hand which shows the boon-giving Grace legitimately belongs to the action-packed Shakti side of the divine form. 

The left palm is extending downwards; what does it point to? It points to the divine feet, which is the last Refuge.  Hold on to My Feet, says the Goddess, ‘That is the greatest boon for you’.


Thursday, May 24, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 115


To the same question the scholars of the other (dvaita) schools cite the ‘bhava-bhIti’ that is, the fear of the cycle of births and deaths, as the major fear to be removed by Divine Grace and that is why, they say, ‘abhaya’ is kept separate from the other boons; and they stop there. 

The  ‘abhaya mudrA’ is shown by the upward extended palm of the right hand. Other schools of philosophy say that this right hand points to the Divine worlds like Vaikunta and Kailasa in the upper worlds. But we advaitins say that it indicates the non-dual state which is vast and boundless like the  wide space (AkAsha) up above.


Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 114


The moment we think of Brahman as different from us and as a God  with qualities, we get into the mood of ‘bhakti out of fear’. Even the westerners talk about the ‘God-fearing’ nature as man’s noblest quality.

When will that fear go?  It will go only when the non-duality conviction arises that there is no jIvAtman distinct from Ishvara. In that state of the Existence of One without a second, where is the scope for a boon-giver and a boon-receiver - two entities? The symbolic exhibition of the ‘abhaya-mudrA’ in the deity’s hand is in fact a formless (esoteric) principle only. 

There is no giving, no taking, there. It is a supreme state and the mudrA is only a symbol for it. The Lord may be eradicating fears from the smallest fears, through those of birth and death, to the largest fear, namely that of duality, that of separation from Him; but the actual state of fearlessness is only the non-dual state. And that is why, it does not form  part of the category of boons.


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 113

A question may arise. Why is ‘fearlessness’ sought separately? Can it not be given as one of the many wishes, by the Goddess? Why is it separated from the general category of ‘boons’?

Fearlessness (abhaya) is not a commodity that is given and taken. It is actually another name for advaita. ‘Only when there is duality there is fear’ says the Brihad-AraNyakopanishad (1.4.2). If there is only one
thing there is, from what can fear arise? Only when there is a second entity fear arises in relation to it. ‘If one thinks even of the tiniest distinction in Brahman, then fear arises. Even wise men, if they think of Brahman as another distinct object, are ceased of fear’, so says Taittiriya-upanishad (II - 7).    


Monday, May 21, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 112


Note the expert  use of the words ‘sharaNye’ and ‘charaNau’. The first comes from the word ‘sharaNa’ meaning refuge. She is the Ultimate Refuge for the whole world. The second word comes from ‘charaNa’
meaning ‘foot’. Her feet are the Refuge; because the feet themselves are capable of granting our wishes, by just being there. Just as flowers, without ‘doing’ any action, radiate fragrance.

When one asks for the removal of fear, that is, fearlessness (abhaya), the positive response from the deity could only be the removal of fear; there is nothing more to be given. On the other hand, whatever
other wish one asks for fulfillment, there can always be something more than that wish and thus She - nay, just the grace of Her divine  feet -  gives the devotee more than what he wants.  


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 111


The very word ‘kAryaM’ in Sanskrit (which means, ‘the act’ or ‘action’) goes back to the word ‘kara’
meaning ‘hand’. So the other divines have to take effort to do the action of giving ‘vara’  and ‘abhaya’. You, Oh Goddess, can do anything by the very ‘sankalpa’ (determination). Even the fivefold cosmic actions beginning with creation are done by You just by ‘wiggling the eyebrows’ (kshaNa-calitayoH brU-latikayoH -  shloka 24 - meaning: by the movement, for a moment, of the eyebrows). 

Whether it is to protect devotees from fear, or it is to give them more than what they want through their wishes, She does it by just being there. By taking refuge at Her feet, the devotee achieves his wishes. She is the refuge of the entire universe.


Saturday, May 19, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 110


‘Other than You, all divines are seen with their mudrAs of abhaya  (fearlessness) and vara (Boon). In other words they show by their hands that they give abhaya and vara’. This is the meaning of the first half of the shloka. But it does not mean that ambaaL would not grant ‘abhaya’ and ‘vara’. In fact in the Mayavaram temple She is known as ‘abhaya-ambikA’. One of Her other names is ‘vara-pradAyini’, ‘the benefactor of boons.’

In fact the Acharya only means that She doesn’t have to give ‘abhayaí and ‘vara’ by Her hands. Her divine feet alone are capable of granting what other deities do by their hands.   


Friday, May 18, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 109


Sloka 4 continues to dwell on the glory of the Divine Feet but does it very subtly.

tvad-anyaH pANibhyAM abhaya-varado daivata-gaNaH 
tvam-ekA naivAsi prakaTita-varAbhIty-abhinayA /
bhayAt trAtuM dAtuM phalam-api ca vAnchhA-samadhikaM
sharaNye lokAnAM tava hi charaNAveva nipuNau // 4 //

daivata-gaNaH: The multitude of gods
tvad-anyaH :  other than You
abhaya-varado: grant abhaya (=fearlessness) and boons
pANibhyAM: by the hands
tvam-ekA asi: You are the only one
na-eva:  not at all
prakaTita-vara-abhIti-abhinayA: exhibiting - boon (giver) - 
fearlessness (giver) - by your ‘mudrAs’.
sharaNye: Oh Refuge
lokAnAM : for all the worlds
hi: indeed
tava: Your
charaNau-eva: feet alone
nipuNau: (are) expertly efficient
trAtuM : to protect
bhayAt : from fear 
dAtuM api ca: and also to give
phalam: the fruit, the result
vAnchhA-samadhikaM: more than what one wishes. 


Thursday, May 17, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 108


What is incomprehensibly divine would be made comprehensible by the divine itself if we cultivate intense love for that divine. This intense love is bhakti. If we have that, the divinity then would descend to make itself comprehensible to us. It is this bhakti-rasa coupled with the poetic rasa that our Acharya gives us in the form of Soundaryalahari.

So with all this introduction based on Sloka 1, we may now go forward.   Sloka 2 elaborates the words ‘hari-hara-virincAdhibihir-api ArAdhyAM’ (you who are worshipped even by Vishnu, Shiva and BrahmA and others) of Sloka 1. Here it says that only by Her Grace these three great divinities discharge their functions of Creation, Sustenance and Dissolution.   

And this they do just by the power of the dust of the holy feet of the Mother Goddess! This praise of the divine dust is carried over into Sloka 3 also. It (the divine dust) is the ‘rising sun for the darkness of the Ignorant, the flower-bunch giving out the honey of wisdom for the Dull-witted, and the wish-fulfilling godly gem for the Poor’.


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 107

All the things in the expanded mode have to get back into the internal mode and merge in Brahman. That is ascent (ArohaNam).  The descent of  jIvas and the universe from  Brahman is  avarohaNam.  The terms ‘expansion’ and ‘merging’ seem to be better. Expansion of Brahman is Evolution and the merging into Brahman is ‘Involution’.  All of us have evolved from Brahman; not by ourselves but by the Will and Action of ambaal. We cannot involve into Brahman except by Her Will and Grace.

Even though, in her cosmic Play, She seems to have given us a role for ourselves, we can never  complete the ‘Involution’ without Her Grace. The electrical switch makes the fan rotate. Only the same switch can stop it from rotating. Thus the same Cause which made us evolve has to work again to make us involute into Brahman.  So we have to pray to Her. This is where bhakti, jnAna and yoga come in.


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 106

Now we can make the meaning of the first  shloka more meaningful.The very fact that the Acharya says that it was ambaal who activated the first movement in ShivaM gives a clear hint to us, that the reverse movement of the universe going back to that immutable ShivaM has again to be triggered only by Her Grace. 

All the movements which resulted in the  jIvas and the universe coming up are together called  (cosmic) evolution. This is not Darwin’s evolution. In his case it is something where lower level beings transform in due time to higher levels. In Vedanta, the  Brahman at the apex expands into the universe and living beings. This outward expansion of subtle principles into gross matter is called evolution. The principles are taken to be 36 by some and 24 by some.  Having become the  jIvas, our goal should now be to go back to the source. That going back is mokshha.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 105

It is at this point that the object and its reflected image analogy leads to the positive and negative. What we said earlier pertained to electricity. But now we shall take the positive-negative phenomenon of photography. In the positive, light is light and dark is dark. In the negative on the other hand, light is dark and dark is light.  That is the Ignorance which shows what exists as not existing and non-existence as existence. This is the handiwork of MAyA ! We are all submerged in this MAyA and since ambaal is responsible for this, we call Her, MAyA.  

But to top it all, we should not forget that, the very ambaal who does all this play of MAyA, is Herself the Most Compassionate One, and those of us who can surrender to Her as the Only Refuge, will be graced
by Her and made to cross the MAyA-curtain !


Sunday, May 13, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 104

I was saying: It is Shiva Himslf who gets reflected in the mirror of MAyA and becomes ambaal. If you ask the advaitin, ‘What is this MAyA’, he will reply: ‘It is not possible to say what it is. You know it is called MAyA, magical ! So it will not allow us to understand it’. The  ShAkta school will say: ‘Even MAyA is only a part of ambaal.’. 

I already told you that  MAyA occurs only at the stage where  ShivaM becomes the  jIva, according to  ShAktaM. That the  jIva does not know that it is itself ShivaM, is  MAyA. It is the work of  MAyAShakti that makes it incomprehensible for  jIva to know the Permanent Eternal One and mistake the ephemeral things as permanently existing. 


Saturday, May 12, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 103


Another observation about ‘left’ and ‘right’. What is ‘right’ in the original is shown as ‘left’ in the reflection. And what is ‘left’, becomes the ‘right’. The  non-dual  nirguNa-brahman-Consciousness when it gets reflected in the mirror of  MAyA, becomes the  saguNa brahman thatcreates and monitors the dualities of the universe. This is an accepted principle of the advaita school. In other words IT IS SHIVA THAT GETS REFLECTED IN MAYA AND BECOMES THE AMBAAL!


Friday, May 11, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 102

When something is positive and the other is negative, it does not appear to be equivalent. So to arrive at equivalence there is another way of looking at it. Instead of saying that one is in the center and the other revolves around it, think of each as half and half. 

That is the  ardha-nArIshvara form. The right side is Shiva (positive), and the left side, ambaal (negative). This may be justified by the fact that the heart is on the left side and supplies the ‘life’ for the entire body. If it does not work properly,  the right side also cannot work: na khalu kushalaH spanditum api, as the shloka 1 says.


Thursday, May 10, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 101

There is a ‘still center’  for everything which is its peaceful center.

Even though it has no vibration it is not the emptiness nor it is of zero potential. The equilibrium which we aim at when we weigh a weight, is this still center. Every object has a center of gravity. Even in a dreadful storm, there is a ‘storm center’. 

Always the energy radiates from such a center and that is why movement and action are produced. It is that center which may be called ShivaM and the energy that radiates from it and revolves about it is ambaal.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 100

It is unfair on our part to find fault with science for what is beyond science. In the same way protagonists of science must realise that there is a limit to their scientific quest. They have no right to say that what transcends their science is wrong or false. That the two are complementary must be felt by both sides. It will be fascinating to discover that several scientific truths have been enunciated, though in a different way, by some of our scriptural findings.

Why not think of the proton with a positive charge in the centre of the nucleus, as Shiva and the electron with the negative charge that goes round, as ambaal?  


Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 99


But this fact has evaded science. Even if the scientists one day accept it in theory, they will have to say “its ‘proof’ is not within our jurisdiction; go to the  shAstra of Spirituality to know it”. Science can explain, through its laws,  only certain ‘movements’ of the grand cosmic dance of  parAShakti; whereas it is incapable of showing a path for becoming the Absolute by quelling the live Mind that vibrates in an integrated way together with all the vibrations of the universe. 

Nor is it the goal of Science. Only religious scriptures can show you the way. But even then, the final gates will be opened only by  ambaal. Who else, except the One who originally separated us from the Absolute, can reunite us with that Absolute?  


Monday, May 7, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 98


After the Relativity theory of Einstein, science has come nearer to advaita vedanta and the  ShAkta schools. Time and Space are relative concepts, as far as I have understood these scientific theories. Brahman is the only absolute. Everything else is relative, says vedanta. Anything that appears as real, does so because it is resting on the  Brahman-canvas. 

This appearance as reality, is the relativity of science and the MAyA of advaita Vedanta. Science which talks of the relativeness, does not say what is the absolute. The only absolute is Brahman , according to our religious scriptures as well as philosophical schools. 

Though western knowledge makes a distinction between religion and philosophy, SanAtana dharma does not make any distinction between the two. In it the two are inseparable like Shiva and  Shakti ! And that Absolute has been experienced as Atman by our great sages. That is the soul of all souls.


Sunday, May 6, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 97


In atomic science they talk about the interconvertibility of matter and energy. This energy is our Shakti. This is what makes inert matter non-inert.  So ShivaM, the immutable Brahman, has to be compared to the ‘inert matter’ of science; but the comparison is not right since, Brahman is consciousness so not  jaDam (that which has no consciousness), whereas  inert matter of science is jaDam. 

Further, in the convertibility of matter into energy there is a difference for, when matter becomes energy, the matter that has become energy is now not there as matter. But in our philosophies, when energy shoots forth from ShivaM, the ShivaM still remains the same ShivaM.  


Saturday, May 5, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 96


Shiva is the husband and  ambaal is the wife. It is only by Her power that even He moves - this is the content of the first shloka. One might ask: Just to boost up the glory of Mother Goddess does one have to descend to such a level as to bring God Himself to the level of saying that He is simply a nonentity?  The esoteric principle here is that the immutable  Brahman expresses itself only by the unfolding of the cit-Shakti. The poetic principle involved here is that the beloved, being the fair sex, is always to be given the credit and so ‘He moves only when She moves Him’ is also acceptable. Thus on both counts, the presentation is enjoyable.

Now let us come  to modern Science and see whether there is any correlation with the set of ideas relating to ShivaM and Shakti.  Matter is inert and its nature is inertia. But we know that  inert matter undergoes internal changes and in due course evolves into more complicated matter and finally the universe itself. What is the power which made inert matter non-inert?


Friday, May 4, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 95


Finally what is wanted is a rapport with the author. A devotee, a poet and a vidhushaka (the Royal Fool or Clown in the Kingís Court) - these three have a great licence to do or write what they want. Of these our Acharya was both a devotee and a poet. So there is a bhakti-bhAva in everything he writes and there is also a poetic licence exhibited in pieces like the Soundaryalahari. 

In classical literature, there is always a respectable status for this freedom which a poetic or devotional piece enjoys. Of the many such licences we can refer here to nindA stuti (where you actually criticise the deity you are supposed to praise), praise one of the divine couple to the extent of bringing down the other of the pair and so on. If we look at these with a humility and an open mind for poetic exaggeration, we may also enjoy them. Now come to the first shloka.


Thursday, May 3, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 94


That is not the only thing. There is more in it. The power that comes through these electrical words of the mantras, can also give you a shock because you may not be properly insulated. Only when it comes from the guru, it gets properly secreted within bounds; if it exceeds the bounds, that is if the insulation is not there, it will only burn you ! 

My own suggestion to book-writers is that when they publish such things, let there be a popular edition which avoids the profound matters of mantra secret. And let there be a limited circulation book which does get into those secrets, but such ‘classified’ books must be made available only with the authorization of the proper guru. I think, from my platform, it is my duty to say this. 


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 93


The mantras and their esoteric meanings have to be safeguarded  like  nuclear secrets. If you really want to get them, approach the proper guru and if he thinks you have the requisite qualifications he will tell you. In this connection I will tell you an important matter. I am touching it, so that you may not ‘touch’ it! 

The name  KunDalini and all the associated  cakras are being talked about by every one now, especially ever since Sir John Woodroffe wrote about ‘The Serpent Power’. I am not finding fault with him. I only thank him for bringing to light the fact that our ancients had great things to tell the world in spite of modern advances in science.  My only warning to you is that without a proper initiation no mantra or japam will help anybody. It is like having costly electrical and electronic equipment in your house without a  power connection. The same thing with these  mantras and  KunDalini yoga. Without the guru power they will not work.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Soundarya Lahari - Part 92


Thus arose two major setbacks in the culture. The first one is that those who were traditionally equipped to do the upAsanAs and were also  fit to do them, preferred the glamour of modern days to break off from their traditions.

And the second one is that all and sundry took to these difficult upAsanAs without proper guru or training. It is not clear, I must confess, which is the major disaster.

I know that I may be criticised and commented that I have a ëvested interestí in saying all this. But having started to talk on Soundaryalahari publicly, I cannot but give you this warning. Let me conclude by saying that there is nothing wrong in approaching shAstras like Soundaryalahari as an aid to get Mother Goddessís Grace and  thereby to go upward in the spiritual ladder. It is enough you know that it is great. Just with that approach if you recite it, ambaal will give you  the necessary mental strength and maturity to reach higher levels of  spirituality. Automatically the ultimate object of realisation would also be obtained by Her Grace.