Beach 7: The Art and Science of Spiritual Love
Wave 9: ADVAITA BHAKTI THROUGH CONTEMPLATIVE PRACTICE OF NARAYANEEYAM
Note: You may want to read the Introduction, if you have not already seen it.
Sloka No. 12 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 2 - 1):
kAruNyAkula netram-Ardra-hasitol-lAsaM sunAsApuTaM /
tvadrUpaM vanamAlya-hAra-patala-shrIvatsa-dIpraM bhaje //
I adore the form of the Lord with head crowned with a diadem that rivals the brilliance of the sun; with forehead whose beauty is enhanced by the upright sandal paste mark; with eyes wetted by mercy; with face lit up by a benevolent smile; with nose well-proportioned and attractive; with ears adorned with fish-marked pendants that add lustre to the cheeks by their reflection; with neck wearing the luminous jewel Kaustubha; and with chest resplendent with a variety of decorations like the wreath of flowers from the wilderness, lines of pearl necklaces and the auspicious mark called Srivatsa.
Comment. Here is the first of two slokas (this and the next) which are very suitable subjects for meditation. When the boy Dhruva (five years old) goes to the forest for doing penance and getting to see the Lord, the sage Narada accosts him, tries to dissuade him from the tortuous task of a penance in the solitary world of the forest, but finally finds him determined; and at that point he unfolds to the boy how he should meditate and on what form. The description that Narada gives to the boy is famous in the Bhagavatam for the charming visualization (of the inaccessible Personality of Godhead) that it gives for meditation. Bhattatiri here goes one step further, by lyrically immortalising the beauty of form that one can see by going and having darshan at Guruvayoor. It is to this attractive form that Arjuna wanted the Lord to return, when he was overwhelmed, and frightened, by the cosmic vision which he had the rare opportunity to witness: ‘I desire to see thee as before, Oh Lord, crowned, bearing a mace, with the discus in hand, in thy former form only, having four arms , Oh thousand-armed cosmic form’ (Gita Ch.XI 46):
kirITinaM gadinaM cakra-hastaM
icchAmi tvAm draShTum-ahaM tathaiva /
tenaiva rUpeNa catur-bhujena
sahasra-bAho bhava vishva-mUrte //
Sloka No. 13 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 2 - 2):
Alambe vimal-Ambuja-dyuti-padAM mUrtiM tav-ARticchidaM //
Tr. I take refuge in Thy ineffable form glowing as it does with ornaments like keyUra (bracelet on the upper arm), angada (armlet) and kankana (bangle) and finger-rings of precious jewels; with four sacred arms holding in them the mace, the conch, discus and the lotus; with waist wrapped in yellow silk fastened by a golden waist band; and with feet that resemble exquisite lotuses and remove the woes of the devotees.
Comment. Those who believe only in the attributeless Absolute might have problems in visualizing divine forms as described in these two stanzas (Nos.12 and 13); but it must be said to the credit of the bhakti movement in India from the 7th century onwards, that it is this personalized intimacy with the Lord that has shown thousands of devotees the path of spirituality and led them thereon to the ultimate path of jnAna. And this proves Bhattatiri’s point made in Sloka No.11 of this selection. (See also: Hinduism is one in spite of differences among schools of Hindu philosophy)
Sloka No. 14 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 2 - 3):
yat-trailokya-mahIyaso’pi mahitaM sammohanaM mohanAt
kAntaM kAnti-nidhAnato’pi madhuraM mAdhurya-dhuryAd-api /
soundary-ottarato’pi sundara-taraM tvad-rUpam-Ashcaryato-
‘py-AshcaryaM bhuvane na kasya kutukaM puShNAti viShNo vibho //
Oh All-pervading Being! Who is there in all the universe that will not be entranced by this Thy surprisingly wonderful Form, which is superior in excellences to all objects considered great in the three worlds; which is more charming than the most charming of entities; whose splendour outshines every form of brilliance; and whose sweetness and beauty would put to shame all other objects that are noted for such qualities.
The emotional heights to which this and the earlier verses may be associated
with, cannot be dismissed as myths created by poet. It would be as foolish as
saying that the
Sloka No. 15 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 98 - 1):
yasmin-netad-vibhAtaM yata idam-abhavad-yena cedaM ya eta-
dyo’smAduttIrNa-rUpaH khalu sakalam-idaM bhAsitaM yasya bhAsA /
yo vAcAM dUra-dUre punar-api manasA yasya devA munIndrA
no vidyus-tattva-rUpaM kimu punar-apare kr^iShNa tasmai namaste //
Tr. Oh Krishna, to Him my salutations, who is the substratum on which this world of manifestation appears; who is the root cause of it; into whom it dissolves; who manifests as all the world but none-the-less transcends them all and forms the Light of Consciousness by which, and to which, they are revealed; who is far beyond the scope of exact descriptions by words and conception of mind; whose true nature neither the devas nor the sages have known, not to speak of others; to Him, Krishna, my salutations.
Comment. It is legitimate to ask for a quick list (and many have so asked) of all the attributes of the Ultimate God or Godhead in Hinduism. Here is an answer in this sloka. (Also see sloka 17 below). But, as the author himself acknowledges, the true nature of God cannot be fathomed by any one. The Lord Himself says: There is no end to their detailed description (Gita Ch. X – 19): ‘nAstyanto vistarasya me’. That is why there is an abundance of sahasranamas for the various divinities in Hinduism. In trying to depict the undepictable, one uses words but the Vedas themselves say ‘Words recede from (describing) It’ (‘yato vAco nivartante’ – Taittiriyopanishad). So Bhattatiri also says: ‘yo vAcAM dUra-dUre’, that is, ‘It is far beyond the scope of words’. To describe the undescribable, you cannot but borrow ideas and even words from the Upanishads. The words ‘sakalam-idam bhAsitaM yasya bhAsA’ of the second line reminds one of the famous line from Mundaka Upanishad II – 2 – 10: ‘Through Him all of them shine, and through His expression, everything is expressed’ : ‘tameva bhAntaM anubhAti sarvaM tasya bhAsA sarvam-idaM vibhAti’.
Sloka No. 16 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 98 - 8):
yad-bhItyodeti sUryo dahati ca dahano vAti vAyus-tathAnye
yad-bhItAH padmajAdyAH puna-rucita-balIn-Aharante’nu kAlaM /
yen-aiv-AropitAH prang nija-padam-api te cyAvitArash-ca pashcAt
tasmai vishvaM niyantre vayam-api bhavate kR^iShNa kurmaH praNAmaM //
Tr. Fearing whom the sun rises, fire burns and wind blows; for fear of whom Brahma and other deities perform their cosmic functions as obligatory punctual offerings; by whom all these deities are installed in their places at the beginning and removed afterwards – to Thee Oh Lord, who thus regulates the whole universe, my salutations.
Comment. This is a actually an echo of Taittiriyopanishad II -8 – 1. ‘bhIShA’smAd-vAtaH pavate; bhIShodeti sUryaH ; bhIShA’smAd-agnish-cendrashca; mR^ityur-dhAvati pancama iti’ , meaning, Out of His fear the Wind blows; out of fear the Sun rises; out of His fear runs fire, as also Indra, and Death, the fifth. That is why He is called ‘ugraH’ in Vishnu sahasranama (ugras-samvatsaro dakShaH). The ultimate cause of fear must itself be indestructible, since a contrary supposition will lead to an infinite regress. And such an eternal agent is The Absolute. This sloka is also an epitome of a whole bunch of slokas (3 – 29 – 40 to 44) in the Bhagavatam in the chapters on Kapila’s philosophical teachings to his mother.
Sloka No. 17 (Ref. nArAyaNIyaM : 98 - 9):
trailokyaM bhAvayantaM triguNamayam-idaM tryakSharasy-aika-vAcyaM
trIshAnAm-aikya-rUpaM tribhir-api nigamair-gIyamAna-svarUpaM /
tisrovasthA-vidantaM triyuga-jani-juShaM trikram-AkrAnta-vishvaM
traikAlye bheda-hInaM tribhir-aham-anishaM yoga-bhedair-bhaje tvAM //
Tr. You manifest the three worlds through the three guNas. You are the One who is implied by the three letters of the praNava. You are the one Being who manifests as the three Deities, Brahma, Vishnu and Siva. It is your Nature that is sung and glorified in the three Vedas. You are the Pure Consciousness that witnesses the three states of waking, dream and sleep. You incarnate yourself in the three yugas of treta, dvapara and kali. You measured the whole universe with your three strides. You are changeless in the three parts of Time, namely, past, present and future. I worship You always with the three forms of yoga – karma, bhakti and jnana.
Comment. The list of attributes (see sloka 15) of the Lord is continued here with poetic excellence. One cannot but recall an analogous poetic flourish from the Tamil poet Kamban in his Ramayana, ( yuddha-kANDa, iraNiyan-vadaip-paDalaM, verse 25), put in the mouth of Prahlad, the greatest devotee of all times: (in Tamil)
mUnru avan guNangaL cheigai mUnru avan uruvam mUnru
tonralum iDaiyum Irum toDangiya poruLkaTku ellAm
sAnru avan-iduve veda muDivu idu sadam enrAn .
Meaning, His qualities are three (satva, rajas and tamas); His actions are three (Creation, Protection and Dissolution); His forms are three (Brahma, Vishnu and Siva); He has three eyes (Sun, Moon and Fire) ; His worlds are three (Earth, the nether-world and Heaven). All that have a beginning, a middle and an end constitute a monumental proof of His existence, This is also the bottom line of all the Vedas.