(Digest of pp.794 - 802 of Deivathin Kural Vol.6, 4th imprn)
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?
(Readers, please note that these talks of the Paramacharya
probably date back to the thirties or the forties
of the 20th century ! VK)
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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 sloka 1 says.
(The ParamAcharya goes on like this irrepressibly !
It must be enjoyed in the original.
But I have to rush forward to take the readers
to the other slokas. So I am omitting a few pages. – VK)
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 that creates 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!
(Emphasis mine – VK)
(Digest of pp.802 - 820)
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.
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 !
Now we can make the meaning of the first sloka 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
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.
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’.
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
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.
(As in sloka 1, to get the total meaning, please read the English portions above in the order in which they are presented above. The Paramacharya does the same thing, but presents it in the order in which it will make sense in the Tamil language. He usually does not give the total meaning, initially, in one go. We shall follow the same arrangement in the succeeding slokas also. VK)
(Digest of pp.820-824 )
“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 sloka. But it does not mean that ambaaL would not grant ‘abhaya’ and ‘vara’. In
fact in the Mayavaram
In fact the Acharya only means that She doesn’t have to give ‘abhaya’ and ‘vara’ by Her hands. Her divine feet alone are capable of granting what other deities do by their hands. 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 – sloka 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.
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 - ggives the devotee more than what he wants.
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’?
(The following paragraphs are so exquisite in the original
that I chose to translate them literally word by word ! VK)
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).
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.
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.
(The translation-mode ends here. VK)
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”.
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 sloka 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.
- 19 -
(Digest of pp.824-831 )
The Goddess LalitA-Tripurasundari, as affirmed in this sloka. 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 sloka 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
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 sloka “Other than You, all other deities show the ‘vara-abhaya’ mudrA by their hands” is to be considered a poetic exaggeration only.
(At this point the Paramacharya begins
an elaborate introduction to slokas 5 and 6,
thereby dwelling on the topic:
“Is it legitimate for God to bless one ‘to desire’ ?´ -VK)
So far in the first three slokas the stotra does not say specifically which deity is being praised. Even in the fourth sloka 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 slokas, the clue is given (sloka 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 (sloka 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’.
(See DPDS -9 and 10. VK)
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?
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.
Note another interesting marvel. What we
consider as ‘good’ has something ‘bad’ in it and vice versa. To understand this
subtlety of Creation and carry on our struggle in this drama of the world is
the art of living in fullness. Desire (
On top of this all there are two important things to note. One is the Lord’s shower of Grace; and the other is our surrender to Him. Both are products of Creation; without the existence of evil and the necessity to fight it, Grace and Surrender have no meaning. On His side, the highest He does is ‘Grace’ or Anugraha. On our side, the highest we can do is ‘Surrender’. To accept that we cannot do anything except to surrender to Him is the Apex of all that we can do ! You will know it when you do it !
(Note: Emphasis mine – VK)
- 20 -
(Digest of pp. 831-836 )
Even if millions of people do not go the right way what is of significance is that one of them will see the difference between good and bad and make the total surrender to Her and get Her shower of Grace for him to see that he (the jIva) and the Ultimate are one. Not all the seeds of the fruits of a tree grow into a full tree. In the whole world of living beings even if one in a million achieves that Infinite fullness of Man the purpose of Creation is fulfilled. That probably is ambaal’s idea of Creation.
But again, those who do not so achieve the Fullness are not to be considered wasted or damned. There is no eternal damnation in our scriptures. Acharya Madhva propagated that idea. Maybe he thought that at least the dread and fear of eternal damnation would motivate people into reforming themselves to be good. Even an extremely sinful person has a way of ultimate redemption -- that is the creed of our religion.
Once there was a king. An ordinary commoner was told by him, on an important mission, to come and see him in his camp. But the commoner entreated the king to give him some kind of an authentification, like a ring or something, which would gain him the entry to the king’s presence when he presented himself at the camp. The king gave him such a ring; but the ring did not have his (the king’s) seal. It had the seal of the enemy king. The commoner was perplexed. Why is this king giving him a ring which would only be identified as the enemy’s? The king himself removed his doubt by saying: “There are so many of my own couriers and courtiers who have obtained from me my authentified ring so that they can meet me any time they like. The line of such people would be so large at any time, that you would not get anywhere near me when you come to meet me. But if they see the seal of the enemy king in your hands they would take you to be a spy and would present you before me in no time !”
This perhaps is the strategy of ambaal ! Desire, Anger and the whole gang of bad things are Her own Grace to us in the form of authentified ‘rings’, so
that we may go to Her soon. Once Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, asked
Again, the opportunity of showering Grace on
an individual does not stop with that person. It continues to pour on all the
offsprings of that person in the same way. At this point one is tempted to say
that, in spite of the general Hindu prayer that there should be no more births,
the very fact that there are offsprings is itself a shower of Her Grace. How else can the balance of karma of jIvas be exhausted? If there was no ‘
And the scriptures come to our help by earmarking four stages of life in which one of the stages, namely, grihastAshrama (the householder-stage) is set apart for giving vent to our legitimate desires. Just as there are exceptions to every rule, for this general rule of creation also there are certain exceptions in the form of a few, - very few -, who take to the fourth ashrama (sannyasa) without having to go through the second ashrama of a householder.
Another final point. Whoever has the power and the means to
create should have also the power and the means to bring the end to creation and the
created. The ambaal has the power to create and spark the desire in us; and
therefore She has also the power to free us from that
creation and release us from the desire that overpowered us. The obverse of a coin has always a reverse.
So the same (obverse) power which originates ‘
So Manmatha, the God of all sensualities, who overpowers us by the power which he got from ambaal, has however to obey Her when She says: “Thus far and no further”. The slokas 5 and 6 which talk of the power of Manmatha has this implication for the devotees of ambaal, though the slokas do not say so; they only talk of the obverse of the coin, not its reverse ! And that, the unsaid reverse, is the significance of those two slokas, especially for those of us who can surrender to Her through recitation of these slokas. Her leelA is: From advaita through ‘desire’ to dvaita; and then, ultimately, to advaita through Her Grace and Compassion!
Now we shall go over to sloka 7. Here comes, for the first time, a graphic description of the form of Kameshvari (Raja-rajeshvari, LalitA-tripura-sundari), the deity of praise in Soundaryalahari. Even here, no name is mentioned; in fact, throughout the hymn, the name does not occur.
Acknowledgement of Source Material:
Ra. Ganapthy’s ‘Deivathin Kural’ (Vol.6) in Tamil published by Vanathi Publishers, 4th edn. 1998
Ó Copyright of English summary. V. Krishnamurthy