1. Om Sri Maatre Namah.

As promised I am tweeting an introduction to Soundaryalahari which runs out of control like George Bernard Shaw's introduction to any of his works! @akri2000 @krithikasivasw @archi_tandewala @DocGilRaIm
2. Saundaryalahari, the great hymn of Sri Sankara, dealing with the cult of Mother worship, is the most popular Sanskrit hymn of its kind.
3. In South India, especially, it is studied not only by practitioners of Sri-Vidya, but learnt by heart and recited in a devotional spirit every day by persons who know no Sanskrit at all.
4. The Divine Mother is worshipped and meditated upon in many aspects. In this Text She is adored in Her creative aspect under the name Tripura, which means the Mother who embodies the three Bindus or creative stresses.
5. The first 41 verses, which are the source of various Mantras, deal chiefly with the SrI-Cakra, which is called the Abode of Siva-Sakti and which forms the special symbol of worship for devotees of the Devi.
6. The Mantra of Tripurasundarl, who is invoked in this hymn, and also the subject of KundalinI Yoga which is a part of the Vidya, are dealt with in the Text.
7. The subject matter of Saundaryalahari will thus be found to be highly technical, dealing with matters that are not given much publicity.
8. For the Mantras and the ways of adoration that are advocated in it have to be learnt by a competent student from a competent teacher who is a Sampradayavit — or one who is in the right spiritual descent and is well-acquainted with the traditions of the cult.
9. The object of translation of a Text like this and comments expounding its meaning is only to give an intellectual understanding of Sri Vidya embodied in the Text, which is recited by large numbers of people without any understanding of the meaning.
10. Those who want to practice must seek a true Guru who is a Sampradayavit, and take to the practice of disciplines under his instruction.
11. The origin of Sakti worship can be traced to such Vedic texts as Sri-Suktam, Durga-Suktam, Bhu-Suktam, Tripuropanishad, Bhavanopanishad and other Devi Upanisads.
12. In Sandhya Upasana, we think of Gayatri Devi in the solar orb and imagine that the sun shines by Her effulgence and that She is also the Truth which has kindled the light of reason in our minds.
13. Her praise is sung thus in the Mantra, ‘आयातु वरदा देवी अक्षरं ब्रह्मसंमितम्। गायत्रीं छन्दसां मातेदं ब्रह्म जुषस्व मे। यदह्नात्कुरुते पापं तदह्नात्प्रतिमुच्यते। यद्रात्रियात्कुरुते पापं तद्रात्रियात्प्रतिमुच्यते। सर्व वर्णे महादेवि सन्ध्याविद्ये सरस्वति॥
14. ओजोऽसि सहोऽसि बलमसि भ्राजोऽसि देवानां धामनामासि विश्वमसि विश्वायु-स्सर्वमसि सर्वायु-रभिभूरों गायत्री-मावाहयामि सावित्री-मावाहयामि सरस्स्वती-मावाहयामि॥ [- महानारायण उपनिषद् ३४ & ३५] :
15. “To those who adore Thee, O Mother, Thou grantest all boons. Thou art the origin of the Vedas and of all the worlds. Be pleased to shine in my heart and accept my adoration.
16. Thou art effulgence. Thou art the light of the Devas and Thou art in everything and beyond everything. Bathe me in Thy light and purify me.” A little reflection will thus show that the daily Sandhyavandana enjoined by the Vedas is primarily Sakti worship.
17. In the Mahabharata, there is reference to Shakti worship in many contexts. Before entering the Matsya kingdom for spending the last year of exile incognito, Dharmaputra prays to Sri Durga.
18. At the commencement of the battle of Kurukshetra Sri Krishna asks Arjuna to get down from the chariot and to pray to Durga, and Arjuna does so.
19. In most of the Puranas, the importance of Shakti worship is alluded to. In the Srimad Bhagavatam, we see Rukmini worshipping at the shrine of Ambika before her marriage.
20. The Devi Bhagavatam deals entirely with the glory of the Divine Mother. The Brahmanda Purana contains Lalita Sahasranama and Trishati with detailed instructions regarding modes of Devi worship.
21. Candi or Devi Mahatmyam forms part of Markandeya Purana. Then we have the vast literature consisting of Agama, Rahasya, Samhita, Yamala, Arnava and Tantra with their numerous commentaries which codify the methods of Shakti worship and explain its philosophy.
22. Referring to the Shakta Tantras, which are 64 in number, the Saundaryalahari says that after Siva had filled the world with the other Tantras, He gave out, at the request of Devi, the Sri Tantra which fulfils the objects covered by all the other Tantras.
23. And this is known as the worship of Tripura or Sri Vidya.
24. We are told that Dattatreya, seeing that the Upasana of Tripura is considered the highest of all modes of worship and that its effects includes the benefits of the other modes too, composed the Datta-Samhita, comprising 18,000 verses.
25. From him, Parasurama learnt the Samhita and abridged it in the form of 6,000 Sutras. His pupil, Sumedha, made an abridgement of the Samhita and the Sutras in the form of a dialogue between Datta and Rama. It is this abridgement that is known as Parasurama Kalpa Sutra.
26. Sakti worship in the South is mainly on the lines laid down therein. Umanandanatha, a disciple of Bhaskararaya, composed in the year 1775, the Nityotsava, clarifying the methods of worship according to the Sutra.
27. Bhaskararaya in his book called ‘Setu-bandha,’ which is a commentary on Nitya-sodasikarnava of Vamakesvara Tantra, and also in his Lalita-sahasranama Bhashya and Varivasya Rahasya has expounded Shakti worship.
28. These three works of Bhaskararaya are considered the Prasthana Traya of Sri Vidya.
29. The worship of Devi in SrI-Cakra is set forth by Adi Sankara in his Prapancasaara and Saundaryalahari, and this form of worship occupies a high place in the traditions of the Sri Mathas organized by him.
30. Numerous are the places of Shakti worship. Shakti is adored as Uma in the Himalaya, as Amba in Kashmir, as Visalakshi in Varanasi, as Gaurl in Kanya Kubja, as Bhavani in Maharastra and as Kali in Calcutta.
31. At Kanya Kumari, the southern extremity of Bharata Varsha, Shakti is worshipped as Bala, in Madurai as Mlnakshi, MantriNi or Syamala At Jambukesvaram as Akhilapdesvari or Dandini, and at Kancipuram as Kamakshi or Chitrupi or Maha-Tripurasundari.
32. She is worshipped as Sarada at Sringeri, as Camundesvari in Mysore and Bhagavati in Kerala. On the outskirts of each town and village in South India, She is worshipped as Bhadrakall in unpretentious temples as the guardian deity or Ellayamman.
33. She is adored as Durga-Laksmi-Sarasvati (three in one) generally during Navaratri, in every household. In whatever form She is invoked, She is One, the Maha-maya or Parabrahma-Mahishi.
34. Sankaracarya says in Saundaryalahari: “O Parabrahmamahishi ! The knowers of Veda call you Vak-Devata the consort of Brahma, Lakshmi the consort of Vishnu, and Parvati the consort of Siva.
35. But Thou art the Fourth (Turlya) of inconceivable and limitless majesties — the indeterminable Mahamaya who revolves the wheel of this world.”

In the Southern cult of Sri-Vidya the Divine Mother is mostly worshipped in Her aspect as Lalita Maha-Tripurasundari.
36. The Devi is to be meditated upon as of a ruddy complexion, with eyes expansive as an ocean overflowing with waves of grace, with a noose, a goad, arrows of flowers and a bow of sugarcane in Her hands, surrounded by Anima and other deities, and ultimately as one’s own self.
37. The process of worship consists of Bhuta-Suddhi, several kinds of Nyasa, Prana-pratistha, Japa, Manasa-puja, Avarana-puja, Arcana, Dhupa, Diparadhana, Naivedya, Nirajana, Stotra, Kama-kala-dhyana, Homa, Balidana, Suvasinl-puja, Samayika-puja and Tatva-Sodhana.
38. The worship is done in the image of the Devi as well as in the Srl-Cakra otherwise known as Sri- Yantra.
39. Mantra, Yantra and Tantra form the three corners of the triangle of Sri-VIdya. Mantra is visualized in the Yantra. The worship of the Yantra, internal and external, and the practice of Kundalini Yoga and other Sadhanas constitute the Tantra or modus operandi.
40. The chief Mantra of Sri Vidya is Panca-dasakshari, and the chief Tantra is the meditation on the identity of Mantra, Yantra and Tantra with the Devi Herself.
41. If Sakti worship is done with understanding and appreciation and with love in the heart, then Mantra, Yantra, offerings, the procedure and paraphernalia of Puja are all transformed into forms and expressions of Cit-Shakti.
42. The object is to effect the transformation of the materials and acts of ordinary experience into forms revealing the play, the power and the bliss of the Divine Mother.
43. The Saundaryalahari says a worshipper practices AtmarpaNam, his talk is converted into Japa, normal work with the hand becomes Mudra, walking is Pradaksina, eating becomes Homa, lying down Pranama — in fact whatever action is naturally done is transformed into worship.
44. The Sri Vidya Upasaka should follow certain disciplines. He should not find fault with other paths or criticize them,while being steadfast in his own. The practice of Japa should go on as an under-current at all times. He should not ask for favors or accept them.
45. He should do his duties in the world and the worship of the Deity without attachment to fruit. He should be fearless. He should not acquire wealth and possessions with the motive of selfish enjoyment and he should consider nothing as higher than realization of the Self.
46. I will continue with the introduction tomorrow. Just to let you know that this tweetstream is only the Introduction. I am not contemplating any discourse on the 100 verses.
47. I am continuing the introduction to Soundaryalahari.

The ultimate Reality is Sat-Cit-Ananda, Existence-Consciousness-Bliss. The Essence in man is identical with this Reality but under the influence of Maya, he has forgotten his true nature.
48. He takes to be real a merely apparent world of subject and object, and this error is the cause of his bondage and suffering. The goal of all spiritual practice is the rediscovery of his true identity with the Reality.
49. For the achievement of this goal Vedanta prescribes an austere method of discrimination and renunciation. The way is, ‘Neti Neti’, to negate the Asat or unreal Upadhis.
50. If the Upadhis are eliminated through service to a Guru and proper enquiry, one realizes the identity of the Jivatman and Paramatman. But this is not so easily done.
51. Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita, “The difficulty of those whose thoughts are set on the unmanifested is greater, for the goal of the unmanifested Brahman is hard to reach for embodied beings (who are attached to their bodies).”
52. The Shakti upaasakas say, “It is God Himself who makes us feel this difference, and on account of this difference, one sees man and woman, light and darkness, and so on. As long as one is aware of this difference, one must accept Shakti as the Personal God.
53. It is God who has put ‘I-consciousness’ in us. You may reason a thousand times, still this ‘I’ does not disappear. Therefore, as long as a man is conscious of ‘I’ and of differentiation, he cannot speak of the attributeless Brahman but must accept Brahman with attributes.
54. This Brahman with attributes has been declared in the Vedas, the Puranas, and the Tantra, to be Kali, the Primal Energy.” This is the justification for combining philosophy with rituals and meditation with ceremonies.
55. Whereas the Vedantic method of enquiry is one of rejection and elimination, the Tantric method is one of acceptance and sublimation.
56. Shakti worship is a means of elevation of the consciousness, using even base materials as help, following the lead of one who has tried the experiment before and succeeded. The very poison that kills is transmuted into the elixir of life.
57. In the process of worship, the order in which the Tattvas are evolved is reversed. From the gross, one proceeds to the subtle, from the outer Bhupura of the Sri-Cakra to the Bindu, the central point.
58. By this practice one is enabled to awaken the Kundalini Sakti lying coiled in the Muladhara, at the base of the spinal column. Kundalini is a universal principle. Having evolved the complex apparatus of every object, Kundalini coils herself up at the centre of the apparatus
59. and remains at the static, nuclear basis and also as its magazine of power to draw and fall back upon. One must help oneself by drawing from this power to become free from the bonds under which one groans.
60. Even if one does not consciously or deliberately set oneself to the task of rousing the Kundalini, She will be roused by the power of Bhakti or Jnana and by the disciplines of the Upasana one practises, if one follows them with faith.
61. The awakening of the Kundalini is the beginning of spiritual consciousness, and its union with the Supreme Spirit in the Sahasrara is the consummation of Sakti worship.
62. The great Acarya Sankara was both the Bhashyakara or the commentator on the three foundational texts of Vedanta philosophy and also the Shan-matha sthapaka, the founder of the six mathas or devotional modes centering on six conceptions of the Supreme Being.
63. Though pure philosophers may find some contradiction in this coexistence of philosophy and allegiance to a personalistic form of worship (or cult) (See Note 1) in one and the same thinker, Indian spiritual tradition, both Hindu and Buddhistic,
64. finds no such contradiction in such a combination. [Note 1 – The word ‘cult’ has gained a very narrow and unwholesome meaning in modern usage in some parts of the English-speaking world.
65. But the word is used here only in the sense of ‘the personalized conception of the Deity.’ It is the only compact expression available in English.]

So were other Acaryas like Madhva, Vallabha, Nimbarka etc.
66. In the Buddhist tradition, the greatest of its philosophers, Nagarjuna of Sunyavada fame, was also one of the great teachers of the devotional mode of Pragna-paramita. The Acaryas, in fact, were not mere intellectual gymnasts like many of the Western philosophers.
67. They understood that Principle and Personality have to go together if man’s spiritual life is to move on even keel, that the highly philosophic Atma-Biahman doctrine of the Vedanta has to be clothed in a personal conception of the Deity,
68. if it is to be of any significance to the ordinary man. Upanishads go further. Says the Svetasvatara: “यस्य देवे परा भक्तिर्यथा देवे तथा गुरौ।तस्यैते कथिता ह्यर्थाः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मनः प्रकाशन्ते महात्मन: —
69. this doctrine shines as an enlightenment only when imparted to a man who has supreme devotion to the Deva (i.e. the Divine Person) and equal devotion to the Teacher who imparts this knowledge.”
70. It is only in the light of this peculiarity of the Indian spiritual tradition that we can understand how the Vedantic philosopher Sankaracarya could also be the composer of great hymns devoted to the important personalised conceptions of the Deity
71. adored in this country— VishNu, Shiva and Shakti. The verses of Saundaryalahari, though in conformity with Advaitism (Non-duality), differ in many respects from the Kevaladvaita, as the doctrine of Advaitism developed by Sri Sankara
72. in his Bhasyas has come to be called in later times.

Saundarya-laharl is his most important hymn devoted to Sakti, and it forms a fundamental text of the Sakta cult, which propagates the worship of the Supreme Being as the Mother of the universe,
73. with a philosophic -background of its own which is Advaitic but absolutely realistic.

Tradition maintains even a quasi-divine authorship to this hymn and gives Sri Sankara only the credit of transmitting it to mankind.
74. It is said that Sri Sankara in the course of his short life disappeared from the earth for a time while staying at Varanasi. He transported himself to Kailasa, the abode of Shiva. There on a wall he found this great hymn written.
75. He began to read it, but as he read it, Ganesa, the offspring of Siva, began rubbing it from below, lest this great sage should publicize this highly esoteric hymn in the world of men.
76. So Sri Sankara could master only the first forty one verses, and in place of what had been erased, he composed an additional fiftynine verses, and made it a full text of 100 verses and published it in the world of men.
77. There is a marked difference between these two sets of verses. The first fortyone are dealing with the Mantra, Yantra, and the other partly philosophical and partly ritualistic ideologies of the Shakta cult as also with the mysteries of KundalinI Yoga.
78. This portion is called Anandalahari, the Flood of Bliss. The fifty-nine verses that follow give a description of the form of the Devi utilising most of the figures of speech (Alahkaras) known to Sanskrit poetics.
79. It is this portion that is, strictly speaking, Saundaryalahari (Inundation of Beauty), although popularly the whole hymn is now known by this name.

I will continue with the introduction tomorrow.
80. I am continuing with the introduction of Soundaryalahari. Let me first deal with the Philosophical Dichotomy in it. @Savitritvs @MumukshuSavitri
81. Apart from the unlikelihood of a great Advaitic philosopher being the author of a devotional hymn, there is an allied internal evidence of a purely philosophic nature that militates against accepting the traditional view attributing the hymn to Sri Sankara.
82. Though the Shakta philosophy and Sri Sankara’s philosophy expounded in his great commentaries, known in later times as Keval’ advaita, are both non-dualistic (Advaitic), there are also radical differences between them.
83. While the Advaita of Sri Sankara achieves unity by the sublation of the ‘many’ as a mere appearance, the Sakta Advaitism seeks to obtain this by recognising in the ‘many’ a real manifestation of the One.
84. All Vedanta philosophy is an attempt at the solution of the problem of the One and the Many. The kingpin of Sankara’s Advaita system is the doctrine of Maya and the division of Reality into the Paramartha (metaphysical) and the Vyavahara (empirical).
85. The Maya doctrine maintains that the non-dual Being is the only real existence (Paramarthika) while the ‘many’ are only the appearance (Vyavaharika) of it conjured up by ignorance.
86. Appearance means that the objects experienced are not actually there while they are experienced (Mithya).
87. All the time the multiplicity is experienced, the non-dual reality alone has been in existence. A snake experienced on a rope in comparative darkness is given as an example of this philosophical doctrine.
88. The implication of this doctrine is, therefore, that creation and created objects have never been in existence (Ajaati), and that one says these are there, only because of ignorance which corresponds to the darkness which leads to the perception of a snake in the rope.
89. By explaining the phenomenal world in this way, Sankara achieves the nonduality and the immutablity of the one Existence; but in the eyes of a critic, this is achieved only by compromising the non-dual oneness of Reality;
90. for he has to admit an entity called Ignorance which must necessarily be separate from that non-dual existence.
91. If for any reason it is said to exist in the non-dual existence then it will be admitting Svagata-bheda (internal difference) in the non-dual existence, and if it is regarded as separate, dualism comes in.
92. Besides, in the light of this doctrine both bondage and liberation and the spirit seeking liberation become all unreal.
93. As a critic of Advaita has humorously put it, all the teachings of the ‘Sastras about liberaiion become like consolation given to a sterile woman on the death of her son.’
94. In contrast to this version of Advaita, the Sakta school maintains that the non-dual unitary Existence has an internal polarity which is only a distinction without a difference.

The non-dual Brahman is not only Pure Being but Pure Will also. It is Being-Will.
95. Though these are separately spoken of, they are just like fire and its heat, which form one and the same entity. The concept of Being without Will is as good as a Nihil (Sunya) and Will without Being is a fictitious assumption.
96. So according to Shakta doctrine the non-dual reality is Being-Will. It can change into multiplicity in a real sense without losing its integrity as a Whole. That change mutates the causal substance is a law that governs the entities of the limited world.
97. It cannot hold good with the Infinite and the Absolute Being, unless we make its absoluteness a meaningless expression and reduce its entity into that of a stock or stone.
98. So according to the Shakta version of Advaita, the Non-dual Entity as Will or Shakti, changes in a real sense into the world of multiplicity of Jivas and Jagat, without however forfeiting its non-dual status as Being.
99. This looks illogical, but in no way more so than when the Kevaladvaita posits an ignorance while at the same time describing the ultimate Being as non-dual.
100. Besides, in the Shakta version of Advaita, creation being real, bondage, liberation and the scriptures which teach the way for liberation all become real.
101. These basic metaphysical differences also imply ethical differences between them. For Sri Sankara, all actions have got only reference to the illusory level of Vyavahara (empirical life).
102. Though works done in the proper spirit of detachment may be an indirect cause for spiritual illumination, these have to be abandoned or renounced at a certain stage, as the aspirant should become absolutely workless in the state of Gnana.
103. No combination of Karma and Gnana is allowed in his system. But in the Shakta doctrine, there is no such dichotomy between Gnana and Karma. Upasana and Gnana go hand in hand.
104. The Shakta system is simply a system of rituals accompanied with meditations, but it is based on a non-dual interpretation of Reality.

Tomorrow I will take up the reconciliation idea.
105. Let me continue the introduction to Soundaryalahari.

Philosophical Dichotomy

Apart from the unlikelihood of a great Advaitic philosopher being the author of a devotional hymn,
106. there is an allied internal evidence of a purely philosophic nature that militates against accepting the traditional view attributing the hymn to Sri Sankara.
107. Though the Shakta philosophy and Sri Sankara’s philosophy expounded in his great commentaries, known in later times as Keval’ advaita, are both non-dualistic (Advaitic), there are also radical differences between them.
108. While the Advaita of Sri Sankara achieves unity by the sublation of the ‘many’ as a mere appearance, the Sakta Advaitism seeks to obtain this by recognising in the ‘many’ a real manifestation of the One.
109. All Vedanta philosophy is an attempt at the solution of the problem of the One and the Many. The kingpin of Sankara’s Advaita system is the doctrine of Maya and the division of Reality into the Paramartha (metaphysical) and the Vyavahara (empirical).
110. The Maya doctrine maintains that the non-dual Being is the only real existence (Paramarthika) while the ‘many’ are only the appearance (Vyavaharika) of it conjured up by ignorance.
111. Appearance means that the objects experienced are not actually there while they are experienced (Mithya).
112. All the time the multiplicity is experienced, the non-dual reality alone has been in existence. A snake experienced on a rope in comparative darkness is given as an example of this philosophical doctrine.
113. The implication of this doctrine is, therefore, that creation and created objects have never been in existence (Ajaati), and that one says these are there, only because of ignorance which corresponds to the darkness which leads to the perception of a snake in the rope.
114. By explaining the phenomenal world in this way, Sankara achieves the nonduality and the immutablity of the one Existence; but in the eyes of a critic, this is achieved only by compromising the non-dual oneness of Reality;
115. for he has to admit an entity called Ignorance which must necessarily be separate from that non-dual existence.
116. If for any reason it is said to exist in the non-dual existence then it will be admitting Svagata-bheda (internal difference) in the non-dual existence, and if it is regarded as separate, dualism comes in.
117. Besides, in the light of this doctrine both bondage and liberation and the spirit seeking liberation become all unreal.
118. As a critic of Advaita has humorously put it, all the teachings of the ‘Sastras about liberaiion become like consolation given to a sterile woman on the death of her son.’
119. In contrast to this version of Advaita, the Sakta school maintains that the non-dual unitary Existence has an internal polarity which is only a distinction without a difference.

The non-dual Brahman is not only Pure Being but Pure Will also. It is Being-Will.
120. Though these are separately spoken of, they are just like fire and its heat, which form one and the same entity. The concept of Being without Will is as good as a Nihil (Sunya) and Will without Being is a fictitious assumption.
121. So according to Shakta doctrine the non-dual reality is Being-Will. It can change into multiplicity in a real sense without losing its integrity as a Whole. That change mutates the causal substance is a law that governs the entities of the limited world.
122. It cannot hold good with the Infinite and the Absolute Being, unless we make its absoluteness a meaningless expression and reduce its entity into that of a stock or stone.
123. So according to the Shakta version of Advaita, the Non-dual Entity as Will or Shakti, changes in a real sense into the world of multiplicity of Jivas and Jagat, without however forfeiting its non-dual status as Being.
124. This looks illogical, but in no way more so than when the Kevaladvaita posits an ignorance while at the same time describing the ultimate Being as non-dual.
125. Besides, in the Shakta version of Advaita, creation being real, bondage, liberation and the scriptures which teach the way for liberation all become real.
126. These basic metaphysical differences also imply ethical differences between them. For Sri Sankara, all actions have got only reference to the illusory level of Vyavahara (empirical life).
127. Though works done in the proper spirit of detachment may be an indirect cause for spiritual illumination, these have to be abandoned or renounced at a certain stage, as the aspirant should become absolutely workless in the state of Gnana.
128. No combination of Karma and Gnana is allowed in his system. But in the Shakta doctrine, there is no such dichotomy between Gnana and Karma. Upasana and Gnana go hand in hand.
129. The Shakta system is simply a system of rituals accompanied with meditations, but it is based on a non-dual interpretation of Reality.
130. Reconciliation

These are some of the basic differences between the systems. There are many other subsidiary differences too, but we shall not go into them here.
131. It is because of this basic difference in the philosophic outlook of the two systems that many modem critics hesitate to accept the tradition of Sri Sankaracarya’s authorship of Saundaryalahari, which to all appearances is a pure Shakta text.
132. It is not Saundaryalahari alone but there are equally long and important devotional texts like the Sivanandalahari which are attributed to Sri Sankara. But in the case of such texts, this metaphysical incongruity is not present, as they are only purely devotional.
133. In spite of these differences, there is one weighty fact in accepting Sankara’s authorship of this text.
134. There are about 35 commentaries in Sanskrit by eminent scriptural exigetists on the Saundaryalahari, and no one can explain this unless the text had originated from a universally accepted and venerated authority.

I will continue with the introduction tomorrow.
135. OK, let's continue with the introduction of Soundaryalahari.

The Contents of the Hymn: Schools of Saktism
136. Regarding the contents of Saundaryalahari, its first 41 verses deal with the supremacy of Sakti personified as the Divine Mother, the way of adoring Her by internal worship consisting in awakening the sleeping Kundalini and raising Her through the six plexuses
137. to the centre in the mid-brain called Sahasrara and also of Her adoration in Her external diagrammatic symbol called the Sri-Cakra and the repetition of the Mantra revealed in it (verses 32-33).
138. Besides these, the Bijas or indeclinable syllables forming the ‘seeds’ or Bijas of many Mantras of the Shakta school are derived from these verses.
139. The remaining 59 verses are devoted to the exposition of the supremely beautiful form of Tripura-sundari, the Divine Mother, in highly poetical language for the contemplation of pious votaries.
140. As has already been pointed out, the Shakta philosophy depicts the Supreme Reality as non-dual but having within it a distinction between Siva and Sakti or the Power Holder and Power, described earlier as Being and Will.
141. In the personalized conception, what is called Power here becomes the Divine Mother, Tripurasundari, and the Power Holder Siva, Her Consort. Thus though they are in principle one, in practice they are treated as distinct.
142. In pure Saivism represented by the different schools of its sects in this country, the Siva aspect is the Principal and the Sakti represented as His Consort, is subsidiary and an accessory.
143. In the Sakta conception however, Shakti becomes the dominant factor and Siva becomes practically a substratum, an entity taken for granted as. a background for His own manifestation as Power or Shakti, represented as the Divine Mother.
144. Whether they are both equal (Sama) or there is the relationship of Principal and Accessory between them is a question that divides Sakta schools into Samaya and Kaula systems of thought.
145. On this question the view of the philosophy expressed in Saundaryalahari seems to be divided, with however a leaning towards the latter in some verses at least.
146. Take for example, the very first verse which says, “United with Sakti, Siva is endowed with power to create; otherwise, He is incapable even of movement.” Next take the verse 24 which says, “Brahma brings forth the universe,
147. Hari sustains and protects it, Rudra destroys it and Mahesvara absorbs everything into Himself and disappears into Sadasiva. Then when it is time for the new cycle of creation to begin, Sadasiva, on receiving the mandate from Thee by a movement of Thy creeper-like brows,
148. manifests and restores them all into activity as in the previous cycle.”

The dominant position of Shakti is also asserted in the Ardhanarlsvara conception in verse 23, “I have a feeling that, unsatisfied even after having appropriated the left half of Shambhu,
149. Thou hast also invaded His right half; for. Thy form that shines in my heart is totally crimson in complexion and slightly bent by the weight of the two breasts, besides having three eyes and crescent moon in the diadem.”
150. Besides these, there are the following two verses, 34 and 35 in the first of which, the relative dominance of Sakti and in the second, Her absolute dominance are stated.
151. The verse 34 which refers to the sect called the Purva Kaulas, asserting the relative importance of both, runs: “O Bhagavati ! Thou art verily the form of Sambhu, with the sun and the moon as two breasts.
152. Thy body is verily the flawless body of Sambhu having nine aspects (Navatman).

Therefore, in the matter of relationship of Sesa (the accessory) and Sedhee (the essential), both of ye- Ananda-bhairava (Paratman) and Ananda-bhairavi (Para) -stand on equal footing.”
153. (See notes on the verse for full implication.) Going still further and asserting the complete dominance of Sakti in the creative cycle, verse 35, which is said to support the view of Uttara Kaulas, runs : “Thou art the mind, Thou art the Akasa, Thou art air as also fire.
154. Thou art water and the earth too. When Thou hast transformed Thyself in this way into the form of the universe, there is nothing beyond not included in Thee.
155. It is to transform Thyself, who art Consciousness-Bliss, into the universe that Thou assumest the form of Siva’s Consort.”
156. All these important verses of the Text imply the supremacy of Sakti, which is the reason for designating this school as Sakta in contrast to the schools of “Saivism, where Siva is dominant in creation and dissolution and Sakti is only accessory.
157. In Indian iconography this is indicated by the smaller size given to the Sakti by the side of Siva.
158. The dominance of Sakti in the Sakta sect is shown most con- spicuously in the Uttara-kaula image of Kali, where Sakti, shown as the very picture of power and energy, stands on the chest of the inert form of Siva.
159. In contrast with the Kaula conception of Kali, which represents the aspects of Maha-Kali or Sakti as the destroyer and consumer of the cosmos, the Saundaryalaharl is exalting the same Sakti in Her creative role as Maha-Tripura-sundari,
160. the supremely Divine Beauty of the three Puras or Bindus. But even here in picturing the Devi thus, is it not the dominance of Sakti that is conveyed in a verse like the eighth of the text, besides what we have already quoted?
161. The verse number eight runs as follows: “Fortunate indeed are the few, who adore Thee, the Inundation of Bliss-Cpnsciousness, as abiding on a mattress that is ParamaSiva (Supreme Siva) spread on a couch, which too is an aspect of Siva,
162. placed in a chamber of wish-yielding gems amidst a Nlpa pleasute-garden in Manidvipa (Isle of Gems) situated in the Nectar-ocean which is fringed by rows of the celestial Kalpaka trees.”
163. Here an expression like ‘abiding on a mattress that is Parama-siva or Sadasiva’ seems to indicate the dominance of Sakti. The same seems to be the implication of the expression “a couch which too is an aspect of Siva.”
164. It is maintained by commentators that the couch on which the Devi is resting has Brahma, Hari, Rudra and Isvara as its four feet. These four together with Sadasiva, who forms Her seat, are called Panca-preta, the Five Dead.

My introduction to soundanryalahiri will continue.
165. I am continuing my introduction to Soundaryalahari.

There are however passages which are clearly indicative also of the equality of Siva and Sakti.
166. Reference can be made to the six verses beginning with the 36th on meditation in the six Cakras or places along the Susumna or Kaula path. In these meditations Siva and Sakti have an equal place.
167. The Siva-Sakti conceptions to be meditated upon are — Para-sambhunatha and Cit-paramba in Aagnya-cakra, as Hemesvara and Hemesvari in Anahata-cakra, as Vyomesvara and Vyomeavari in Visuddhi Cakra, as Samvartesvara and Samayamba in Svadhishtana-cakra,
168. Meghesvara and Saudaminl in Manipura-cakra and as Admatha and Lasyesvari in Muladhara-cakra. These topics of meditation are elaborately discussed in the notes on the verses concerned.
169. Besides, Sri-Cakra which forms the symbol of Siva-Sakti according to the Saundarya-laharl and is elaborately discussed in many verses, implies the co-presence and therefore the equality of giva and Sakti in all conditions.
170. The Samatva or equality of Siva and Sakti in both creation and dissolution is set forth by commentators as five-fold: Adhisthana-samya (identity of basis), Avasthana-samya (identity of condition), Anusthana-saamya (identity of occupation or purpose),
171. Rupa-saamya (identity of form) and Nama-samya (identity of names). Siva and Sakti are in this context named as Samaya and Samaya, respectively.
172. The form of worship described as Samayacara accepts this position of equality and importance between Siva and Sakti in both creation and dissolution.
173. From the analysis of verses of the Saundaryalaharl given above, it will be noted that the text of this great hymn supports both these doctrines, the Kaula and the Samaya, with a tilt towards the latter.
174. But the followers of the Samaya path contend, as does LaksmTdhara, a noted commentator whom we have followed in. our translation and notes, that the Kaula Marga is banned by Saundaryalaharl on the basis of the verse 31 which runs
175. “Pasupati (Siva) deceived or deluded (atisandhaya) the world by giving out the sixty four other Tantras which expound practices conferring only one or another of the various psychic powers and worldly fulfilments. So on Thy special insistence He revealed this.
176. Thy own Tantra, to the world independent of all the others and .capable of conferring all the Purusarthas — Dharma, Artha, Kama and Moksa, by itself on the votaries.”
177. Lakshmldhara contends that these sixiy-four Tantras are ‘Vedabahya’, that is, excluded from the sanction of the Vedas, because they inculcate cruel and unclean practices of the Kapalikas, Digambaras, Kshapanakas and other degenerate sects.
178. But a weighty authority like Bhaskararaya, also a noted interpreter of the Sakti cult, differs from LaksmTdhara’s views of wholesale condemnation of these Tantras. He maintains that they have received the recognition of Vamakesvara Tantra and Kalpa Sutras as Sastras.
179. So Laksmidhara’s views, according to him, are either coloured by prejudice, or are the result of an imperfect understanding of the true import and utility of these Tantras. This view is also reflected in Arthur Avalon’s translation of the above verse 31.
180. Substituting abhisandhdya for atisandhaya (the text according to KameSvarasuri), he translates the first line of the verse as:
181. “Pasupati, having known all things in the universe by means of the sixty-four Tantras, was proficient in the Siddhis with which each of these Tantras deal.”
182. This brings us to the subject of these two sects of the worshippers of Sakti — the Samayins and the Kaulas. It is maintained by Laksmidhara that Samayacara is a pure form of worship, where worship is done inwardly in DaharakaSa (the Sky of the Heart)
183. as contrasted with Mahakasa i.e. the external space in which all of us find ourselves. Worship for the true Samayins consists in raising the already awakened Kundalini from the Manipura (the third of the Cakras) to the Sahasrara or
184. the Thousand-petallcd lotus through the intervening three Cakras known as Anahata at the level of the heart, Visuddha at the level of the throat and Ajnya at the level of the brows,
185. and finally uniting the Kupdalini with Siva in the Sahasrara or the Thousand-petalled Lotus at the level of the brain. The aspirant thus gets perfect Samadhi.
186. It is doubtful if this exposition of Lakshmidhara is fully supported by the text of the Saundaryalahari. In verse 9 of the text it is clearly stated that the meditation of the Kundalini begins from
187. Muladhara at the base of the spine, and the power, passing through Svadhisthana, Manipflra, Anahata, Viiuddhi, and Ajnya, and thus covering the whole of the Kula path, is united with Siva in the Sahasrara.
188. The lower Cakras of Muladhara and Svadhisthana are regions of darkness and Kundalini is in a sleeping state there.
189. But Laksmidhara is of opinion that as in the case of followers of the Samayacara, the Power is already awakened by the Mahavedha done by the Guru, his meditation begins from Manipura. There is no authority for this in the Saundaryalahari.
190. On the other hand, besides the 9th verse already referred to, verses 36 to 41 deal with meditation as beginning from Muladhara upto the Ajnacakra and the Sahasrara.
191. According to Lakshmidhara’s own statement the six verses deal with the meditation of those who follow the Samayacara. However, in his edition of ‘ the Saundaryalahari as also of those who follow his views, these verses are arranged in the reverse order —
192. in other words as beginning with Ajnya Cakra and ending with Muladhara. This looks like a highly artificial arrangement, as meditations never begins from the highest level and comes gradually to the lowest.
193. So Arthur Avalon has with great justification changed the order of the verses into the natural one and meditation is made to proceed from the lower level to the higher.
194. Laksmidhara’s arrangement of the text must only be for safeguarding his position that Samayacarins begin their meditation from Svadhisthana only, as the Kundalini is already awakened in them.
195. The justification for the arrangement given by Laksmidhara is given in the comments on the relevant verses.

I will continue with the introduction tomorrow.
196. I am continuing the introducion to Soundaryalahari.

Sri-Cakra

But among those who call themselves Samayacarins, there is hardly anyone who does this kind of exclusive internal worship in which all the rituals are performed in the Cidakaasa or
197. Dahara (the sky or dimension of the Spirit). What they do is to practise meditation in an amateurish way, and do all worship on Sri-Cakra, which is a diagrammatic representation of Siva-Sakti in the Cosmic and individual aspects.
198. In the Sanathani's devotional practice, there are three kinds of external symbols used for worship of the Supreme Being who is in Himself formless and nameless. The most external is the image cast in various human forms but with paraphernalia signifying supra-human divinity.
199. The last and the most subtle is the Mantras, which are Divine names preceded by Bijaksharas or letters indicating certain indeclinable seed sounds. A Mantra is Divine Power clothed in sound.
200. Between these two come Yantras, also called Cakras which are representations of the Deity in geometrical diagrams. The Mantra, which is considered the very deity as sound, is for continued repetition followed by meditation while the Yantra is for external worship.
201. Among the Saktas or followers of the Sakti worship, the Sri-Yantra, or Srl-Cakra as it is usually called, is considered the holiest and the most significant of these, and the worship of the Deity is done in that.
202. The Sri-Cakra is conceived as Siva-Sakti in the macro-cosmic as also in the microscsmic aspects i.e. as the Cosmos and as the individual.
203. The diagram consists of a series of nine triangles superimposed around a small central circle known as Bindu, forming forty-three Konas or triangular projections.
204. In the centre is the Bindu, representing Siva-Sakti in union in the causal state from which all the other parts of the diagram representing the cosmos are evolved.
205. The Bindu is in a central triangle with apex downwards in the Samhara-cakra of the Kaulas, but in the Srsti-cakra of the Samayins it is below the base of the central triangle with its apex upwards.
206. Enclosing it and superimposed on one another are the four Siva triangles {Srikan(has) with apex upwards and five Sakti triangle ( Sivayuvatis ) inclusive of the central one, with apex downwards.
207. These are surrounded by two circles of lotuses, one with eight petals ( Vasudalam ) and the other with sixteen petals [Kalasram).
208. Outside these, are three circles ( mekhalatraya ) around and a rectangular enclosure ( Bhiipura ) of three lines for the whole figure, with four entrances on the four sides.
209. The small central circle known as Bindu stands for SivaSakti in the causal stage of creation. Sakti is here represented as Mahatripurasundarl, the great Mother or the Divine Beauty of the three Puras or Bindus.
210. The Bindu represents the initial pulsing forth of massive or ghanibhuta-iakti, with the potentiality of the universe within itself.
211. It is spoken of as three to indicate the three stresses when the unified non-dual Siva-Sakti becomes separated into the two aspects— Prakasa (the Aham or I-Consciousness) and VimarSa (the idam or this-consciousness).
3212. These three stresses are technically called Nada, Kala and Bindu. Nada is the inchoate sound movement (interpreted by the human ear as Omkara), and Kala is the Kama-Kala, the desire to create, which the Vedas represent -as ‘May I be many.’
3213. Bindu is the potential universe ready to separate into various categories. All these three stresses (Mudras or poses) of Siva-Sakti together is represented by the central red circle
3214. with an imaginary line across it to represent the polarity in that supreme category as Siva- Sakti. This Bindu, the threefold stress of the externalising or creative Sakti, is the Mahatripurasundarl. She is described in verse seven of the text as Pura-mathitur ahopurushika.
3215. Popularly interpreted as the ‘Pride of Siva,’ it really means that Siva as Prakasa (Luminosity of Consciousness) realises Himself as ‘I am,’ through Her, the Vimarsa Sakti (the Object as the Reflector). Further in Verse 8 She is described for meditation in the heart thus:
3216. “Fortunate indeed are the few who adore Thee, the Inundation of Bliss-Consciousness, as abiding on a mattress that is Parama-siva (the Supreme Siva or Sada-siva) spread on a couch which is also an aspect of Siva placed in a chamber of wish-yielding gems ,
3217. amidst a Nlpa pleasure garden in Mapidvipa (Isle of Gems) which is in the Nectar-Ocean fringed by rows of the celestial Kalpaka trees.”
3218. The rest of the Srl-Cakra represents the whole of the Cosmos (Brahmanda) as evolved from the Bindu, standing for Tripura-sundari or creative cosmic power. Surrounding the Bindu are a series of overlapping triangles.
3219. Four of them called Srikanthas or the Siva triangles, having their apex upwards, and the other five are superimposed upon the former with apex dowards. They are the five Siva-yuvatis or Sakti-triangles.

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More from @Janamejayan

13 Sep
1. My father was born, I belive in the year 1878 or thereabout and my grandfather was born in the holy city of Varanasi in the celeberated year of 1857, the year of the Indian Revolution.
2. My great-grand father participated in it fighting the English shoulder to shoulder with his niece Manikarnika Tambe who was then Jhansi Rani. When the revolution failed he came down to south carrying his wife and new born son on a horse back. I am digressing.
3. My father was a friend or relative of one Narayanaswamy Aiyer who wrote on this Yoga-kundalini Upanishad of Krishna-Yajurveda and published it in 1914 and my father had a copy of it.
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10 Sep
Maarichi to Ravana (1)
Mariachi to Ravana:
राज्यं पालयितुं शक्यं न तीक्ष्णेन निशाचर।
न चापि प्रतिकूलेन नाविनीतेन राक्षस।।
O nightwalking demon! a kingdom cannot be governed by a king who is rude or hostile or impolite.
Marichi to Ravana (2)
स्वामिना प्रतिकूलेन प्रजास्तीक्ष्णेन रावण।
रक्ष्यमाणा न वर्धन्ते मेषा गोमायुना यथा।।
O Ravana, people who are ruled by a cruel and hostile king will not grow like the sheep protected by a jackal.
Marichi to Ravana (3)
अवश्यं विनशिष्यन्ति सर्वे रावण राक्षसाः।
येषां त्वं कर्कशो राजा दुर्बुद्धिरजितेन्द्रियः।।
Under a rude, crooked king whose senses are not under his control the subjects will surely perish.
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30 Aug
1.Valmiki says that Janaka let know of the princes in the world that he has a daughter for marriage but she would be given in marriage to the one guy who can lift the special bow and and tie it. He was going to conduct a yaga for the success of his resolve and had invited sages.
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3. Viswamithra had a secret purpose in this request viz. that on their way Rama has to step on a stone that was actually Ahalya who was cursed to become so and on Rama's stepping on it will end her curse.
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30 Aug
1. Aum Namo Bhagavathe Sri Krishnaya |

Most of you might remember I used to teach Samskrit as twitterstream years ago. In this Janmashtami I want to pick up one chapter and retweet that stream. It was titled as SANSKRIT LESSON – 11
2. Today’s Sanskrit Lessons deals with धातुरहस्य (Dhāturahasya) – The secret of root sounds.
a. The Origin of the Language – An Indian Perspective
b. The System of Seed Sounds
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29 Aug
1. न्यायावलिः is the proverb in our ancient times. Let me give some 5 of them every day.

अन्धपङ्गुन्यायः
The maxim of the blind and the lame.

A lame man sits on the shoulders of a blind man, the former guiding the latter.
2. अन्धदर्पणन्यायः
The maxim of the blind man and his mirror.
It is used in case of persons who possess things which can be of no use to them. ( @VAIDYALINGAMPUT !)
3. This third one has a long explanation.

अन्धगजन्यायः
The maxim of the blind men and the elephant.
Certain blind men approached a tame and docile elephant in order to get an idea of the creature. One felt his trunk, one his legs, one his tail, and so on.
Read 59 tweets
23 Aug
1. I am now going to tell you two stories into one. @maidros78 @notSoSweetLove

In the days of yore pitr bhojanam used to be a daily affair and the pasu offered is always a goat.
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4. Indra lamented to Brihaspathi about losing the testicles as he would be ridiculed by the asuras as eunuch, Brihaspathi ordered the pitris to part away the testicles of a goat they received that day as pitrbhojanam and so the pitris fitted the testicles of the goat to Indra.
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