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Saundaryalahari - Verse 1

 

"Only if conjoint with Shakti (Thyself), Lord Shiva is endowed with the power to create the universe. Otherwise, He is incapable even of movement. Therefore, who expect those endowed with great merits acquired in the past can be fortunate enough to either salute or praise thee, Mother Divine! Who art adored even by Shiva, Vishnu, Brahma and others?" - 1

Srimadacharya Bhagavatpada commences the Anandalahari with the auspicious and pregnant expression "Shiva", providing therein a benedictory invocation to the Supreme Being. In keeping with the time-hallowed tradition among great writers of Darshana literature, to forestall in essence the content of the entire work at the very beginning, the first stanza of this superb hymn may be said to contain the quintessence of Srividya. The reference to Shiva in this Shloka is to Parabrahman, the transcendental, all-pervading, supreme Parabrahman in his Nishkala or static aspect, described by the Mandukya Sruti thus: "Not that which is conscious of the internal subjective world, not that which is conscious of the external world, nor that which is conscious of both, nor that which is a mass of consciousness, nor that which is simple consciousness, nor is it conscious. It is unseen by any sense-organ, not related to anything, incomprehensible by the mind, uninferable, unthinkable, indescribable, essentially of the Self-alone, negation of all phenomenon, the peaceful, all bliss and non-dual." [V111]

Shakti is the primordial energy latent in thus undifferentiated, self-luminous, all-pervading consciousness, which manifests itself to create the universe after the great deluge or dissolution (Mahapralaya). This Shakti is not different from consciousness (Chit), their relation being one of inseparable concord (Avinabhava Sambandha) as between fire and its burning capacity, a subject and its attributes, speech and meaning etc. In other words, one does not exist without the other. The Shakti, in the form of vowels `i' and `a' is essential in combination with the consonants `S' and `v' to form `S+i' + `v+a' = `Siva'.

The stir (Spanda) referred to in this verse is the desire to create and the manifestation of the static energy (Shakti) is the desire create and manifestation of the static energy (Shakti) in its kinetic or dynamic aspect. At this stage, according to Agamas like Suta Samhita (Chapter 13), Shakti becomes twofold and functions as Chitshakti and Maya or Jadashakti, which evolve into the multitudinous animate and inanimate Universe.

Shiva and Shakti are respectively the Absolute Being and the Absolute Power inherent in the former. Shakti means the three- Iccha (Will), Jnana (knowledge) and Kriya (action). Though in abstract thought, Shiva and Shakti can be referred to separately, they are one – the inseparable Absolute. In their `togetherness', the mighty universe of Becoming comes into existence. For purposes of worship, they are personified as Shiva and Shakti, the Father and Mother of the universe. The word Shiva comes from the root `Vashati', to shine. Therefore the word means, `He who is the self-conscious light of intelligence' or `He who illumines, i.e., reveals the Universe'. It can also be derived from the root `Shin', `to sleep or dream', and interpreted as `He who negates the sleep of ignorance'. Shakti means the power of manifesting the universe. Shiva the power holder (Shaktiman) and Shakti, the power, though one, are yet conceived as distinct, and in the creative process, Shakti is conceived as manifesting the universe without in any way losing her inherent unity with Shiva. In Shaiva, Vaishnava sects also, Shakti is represented as female counterpart. But in these sects, Shakti is always an accessory of the Deity. But in the Shakta system, Shakti is not a mere accessory of Shiva, but is of equal importance in the Samaya system. She is the dominant element in the Kaula system. This equality or dominance of Shakti is the characteristic feature of Shakta system.

Obeisance or worship is of three kinds: bodily (Kayika), Vocal (Vachika) and mental (Manasika). `Pranantum' meaning `bowing' is a form of bodily worship. To one who is incapable of all the above three modes of worship, at least praising or Stotra is suggested in this verse. It may be recollected that Amba asks us to chant Sri Rahasya Sahasranama by which all merits may be easily obtained. However, that is also possible by her grace alone.

In this verse, the word `Adi' in the third line has been interpreted to mean:

1. Indra and the other Devas.

2. The four (three) Vedas.

3. The great devotees noted for the worship of Sridevi.

Specific reference having been made to the trinity Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra, the word `Adi' is held as denoting the lower rung of celestials like Indra and the lords of the quarters or directions by some scholars. The Vedas, which reveal the true nature of Brahman and Shakti, may also be indicated by this word. The verse `Srutinam moordhano', which is the 84^th Shloka of *Saundaryalahari* lends support to this interpretation.

The word `Adi' may also refer to the great galaxy of Devi worshippers- Devas and seers- among who are the celebrated are Manu, Chandra, Kubera, Manmatha, Lopamudra, Sage Agastya, Skanda, Dattatreya, Indra and sage Durvasa. Some texts also mention Nandikeshwara, Surya, Yama, Shankara and Vishnu as well. The compound word `Hariharavirinchyaadi' also indicates the Pranava `Aum' which is a combine of `a', `u' and `m', representing Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. The stanza indicates that when we speak of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and other deities giving the boons of Bhoga and Moksha, it is the supreme Parashakti who functions through them and hence the point of fulfillment or climax of the worship of all other Gods and Goddesses is the beginning of Srividya Upasana.

The 35 consonants, by Vyashti and Samashti considerations (severally and together) representing the 36 Tatvas of the agamas, represent Shiva. They need Shakti, who represents the 16 vowels, for their articulation. Thus, the matrikas or the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet represent the Shiva-Shakti Samarasya, from which the universe of Shabda and Artha is evolved. This clearly is a proof for the Samaya theory.

From the point of view of mantra Shastra, this Shloka is a treasure house of great mantras. Important mantras that are derived from this Shloka are: Prasada, Anuttara, Matrika or Malini, Vagvadini, Saivapanchakshari, Pashadi Tryakshari, Kadi Vidya, Hadi Vidya, Pranava etc. the first half of the Shloka has sixteen words which indicate the highly secretive Shodashakshari mantra. This verse also has got a reference to the Srichakra, the most sacred and recondite symbol representing Shiva and Shakti in cosmic evolution. The term Shiva stands for the half of the Srichakra, which includes the four Shiva triangles, and the term Shakti stands for the other half of the Chakra having the five triangles of Shakti, both together constituting the Srichakra, which represents the Shiva-Shakti in evolution. The verse `ChatubhiH Shiva chakraishcha' from Brahmanda Purana illustrates the same.

Though liberation is the goal aimed at by all votaries of Srividya, still, in view of the various ways of approach due to the differences in temperament, idiosyncrasy, as well as their intellectual and spiritual advancement, there is room for the said goal being looked upon from various angles of vision. Let us consider each of these views separately.

Vedanta

Only when in conjunction with the Shakti, (the Maya with the two-fold functions of Avarana – veiling the real, and Vikshepa – showing the unreal, not independently however of the Brahman, which is Shiva)would Shiva (the auspicious, undefiled Bliss, i.e. the Brahman which is Existence, Consciousness and Bliss – Sat – Chit – Ananda, and becomes Ishwara when amalgamated with Maya) acquire the power to create (sustain and destroy the elements, Ether, etc. and the variances evolved out of them, as also to become one with them); otherwise the Lord (who indulges in the pastimes of creation, sustenance and destruction) becomes incapable of even stirring (not to speak of engaging in the direction of such pastimes).

While so, how dares one who has not purified his mind by the accumulation of virtuous deeds through many a previous incarnation, has not studied intensively the Upanishadic lore and attained Self-realization through the grace of his Guru, and thereby been enabled to comprehend Thy real nature by the removal of the cobweb of illusion, either to salute (by way of bidding adieu to Thee) or to extol (with a view of being spared Thy attentions) Thee (that has endowed even Ishwara with such powers and that art proficient in rendering what is impossible, possible), (O Maya!), that art worthy of being served even by Hari, the sustainer, Rudra, the destroyer and Brahma, the creator and others (of that type, subject to Avidya)?

Sankhya

Only when in conjunction with Shakti (Prakriti, the blind creative energy, endowed with the three Gunas: Satva, Rajas and Tamas – rhythm, mobility and inertia) would Shiva (the lame Purusha, called Ishwara) characterized by indifference and not capable of acting independently, acquire the reputation of being the creator of the world. Should it be otherwise, Ishwara becomes totally incapable of even stirring, much more so, of any action he is reputed to be the author of, as it is from the Prakriti, in the presence of the Purusha, that the Mahat, Ahamkara, Tanmatras etc. in their order, have had their origin.

While it is so, how dares one who has not acquired Thy Satva Guna (and hence the proper knowledge derived from a study of the Kapila's system, with the guidance of a guru) to salute or to sing the praise of Thee, that art worthy of being served even by the Trinity (each one of them, by partaking of the Satva, Tamas and rajas of thy Gunas, in their work of sustenance, destruction and creation respectively) and such others?

Srividya

Only when frolicking with the Shakti (His Shakti Sri Haimavati, seated on His lap) would Shiva (possessed of infinite auspicious qualities, from whom Bhava- creator, Mrda – the sustainer, and Hara- the destroyer take their origin, who has His seat on Mount Kailsa and in the innermost core of the Srichakra) be capable of procreating (as his progeny, the entire universe, nourishing it and becoming its overlord); otherwise, the Lord (though Self-effulgent) becomes powerless of even stirring; much less would there be scope for him to be credited with achievements, such as the burning of the three Puras, swallowing the virulent Halahala and the like.

While so, how dares one who cannot lay any claim to having worshipped at Thy lotus-feet during previous lives, either to make obeisance (by body, word of mouth and mind) before, or to glorify Thee that art served by Vishnu, Rudra and Brahma (and Ishwara, as the four legs of Thy couch, by Sadashiva as Thy mattress, Mahendra as Thy spittoon and so on)?

Shabdaparartha – Significant Words

Only when in conjunction with Shakti, namely the letter `e' (the combination of the letters `a' and `i' in the inverse order, i.e. `i' and `a'), does the word `Shiva' acquire a form denoting a deity for the welfare of all the world; if not so, this world forfeits its luminosity and is turned into a mere sibilant and dento-labial stump, unpronounceable and meaningless. While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or to praise Thee (i.e. the vital letter `e') that art muttered in prayer with the word `Shiva', by Vishnu, Rudra, Brahma and others?

Arthaparartha – Significance of Words

Only by the conjunction of the Shakti (the appropriate group of words in their proper sequence) would Shiva (the aggregrate of their significances) acquire the quality of appealing to the hearts of wise men; otherwise the Lord, who will be a mere thought, without any expression, will not serve his purpose in everyday life. While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or praise Thee (that art inseparably yoked with thought-forms), (O Goddess!) that art worthy of being adored even by Vishnu, Rudra and others?

Shabdotpattinirupanartha – Genesis of Sounds

Only in conjunction with the Shakti (the Parashakti, the essential basic principle of the Shabda Brahman, who, though one, is spoken of with different names by persons of different persuasions, e.g. as the Shakti by Shaktas, as the chit by the Shaivas, as the Kundalini by the yogis, as the Prakriti by the Sankhyas, as the Brahmin by the Vedantins, as the Buddhi by the Buddhists, as the Mahasatta by the Jati Vadins and as the absolute Dravya by the Dravya Vadins, and who has assumed diverse forms due to the conditions brought about by the Maya Shakti dependent on her) would Shiva (the Shabda Prapancha) acquire the power to manifest itself (in the Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari stages; and while in the Madhyama stage, to attain the form of Shabda and Artha and the interrelation between the two).

Otherwise (without the Parashakti), the Lord, the Shabda Brahman, could not be pronounced with the help of the palate and other vocal organs and thus not attain Vaikhari stage. While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or to praise Thee (that art the prime cause of the manifestation of the qualified Brahman, and the unfolding of the phenomenal world), that art worthy of being adored even by the trinity and the other gods, who have at their command the four stages of Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari?

Yantraparartha - The Srichakra

Only if Shiva (the set of four triangles of the nine triangles of the Srichakra) comes to be placed with the Shakti (the set of five remaining triangles of the same Chakra) or if Shiva (the bindu) gets inseparably connected with the Shakti (namely the triangle) would there be scope for the formation of the eight, the two sets of ten and the fourteen Konas, triangles pointing outwards, along with the eight-petalled and the sixteen-petalled lotuses and the two triads of circles and quadrangles, as also for the creation, sustenance and destruction of the world. If neither of these is the case, the Lord would be incapable of affording scope for the formation of the different parts of the Chakra detailed above, or for its division into the creative, sustaining and destructive aspects, or for the three Prastaras: into Ku, Sa and La, signifying the Bhoo, Meru and Kailasa.

While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or to praise Thee, with an adequate knowledge of the Tantras, O venerable One, that art served by Hari – the sun, Hara-the fire, Virinchi – the moon and Vashini, Vama and other Shaktis, as well as the fifty-one Matrika letters, seated in their respective seats as prescribed in Thy Chakra?

Pranavaparartha – Aum

Only when brought into union with Shakti (`a' with Bindu) would Shiva (the dyad of `u' and `m') acquire the power of assuming the form of Pranava, the embodied form of Nada, assuming the stages of Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari, wherefrom originate the Svaras (vowels), Varnas (Letters), Padas (Words) and Vakays (Sentences) galore.

If not, the Lord (the dyad of `u' and `m') becomes incapable of producing the Pranava, becoming dumbfounded. While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or to praise Thee (of the form of Pranava), O Mother, that art worthy of being adored by the Trinity – as the deities of the components of Pranava; Agni, Vayu and Surya – their Rishis; Gayathri, Trishtub and Jagati- their metres; Rakta, Shukla and Krishna – their colors; Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupti – their states; Bhumi, Antariksha and Swarga – their seats; Udatta, Anudatta and Svarita – their Svaras; Rk, Yajus and Saman – their Vedas; Garhapatya, Ahavaniya and Dakshina – their Agnis; Prahna, Madhyahna and Aparahna – their Kaalas; Satva, Rajas and Tams- their Gunas; Srishti, Sthiti and Samhara – their functions; all these standing in the order appropriate to them?

Mantraparartha – The Sanskrit Alphabet

Only in combination with the Shakti, (the group of sixteen vowels, representing the sixteen Nityas and the sixteen different modes of intonation) would Shiva (the group of thirty-five consonants, taken individually and all of them taken collectively, representing the thirty-six Tatvas in all) acquire the power of generating the several Vedas, Puranas and other lore.

Otherwise, the Lord would become unpronounceable and meaningless. While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit either to salute or to praise Thee, O Amba, that art adored by the trinity and the others, as the alphabet made up of the vital vowels and consonants and all that they go to make up?

Deshikaparartha – The Preceptor

Only when Shiva (the guru) is endowed with Shakti (the accomplishments resulting from the chanting of Srividya Mahamantra, devotion to the goddess Mahatripurasundari) would the Shishya be able o give a good account pf himself, with the grace of the Guru, who is the embodiment of Parameshwara.

If his grace is not so accomplished, even the disciple, though shining otherwise, becomes incapable of acquiring even the smallest capacity. Hence, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or praise Thee, O Goddess, the embodiment of Gurumurti, that art worshipped as such by the trinity and others, as otherwise, it would not be possible for them to understand the esoteric significance of the mantra?

Chandrakala nirupanartha – The Lunar Digits

Shiva (the first digit of the waxing moon, known as Darsha, which has the character of Shiva Tatva), only when conjoined with Shakti, (the second digit of the same, known as the Drshta and of the character of Shakti Tatva) would be able to acquire the quality of being seen and to be hailed, in the heavens.

If not, the Lord is incapable of shining and gladdening the hearts of the world, so as to conduce to its welfare, as also to add to the grace of the remaining lunar digits, Darshata and others. Hence, how dares one, who has not accumulated religious merit in his previous incarnations, either to salute or to praise Thee, O Devi, of the form of the eternal sixteenth Chandra Kalaa, that art worthy of being worshipped by the trinity and the others?

The verse can also be elaborately explained in the light of Hadi Vidya, Kadi Vidya and Shiva Panchakshari Mantras. Since these have to be learnt from a Sampradayavit Teacher, I shall omit these here.

According to Bhairavayamala, the Bindu of the Trikona and the three Chakras lying outside the Chaturashra, namely the Ashtadala, Shodashadala, and the Bhugrha, these four are representative of Shiva; while the Trikona, the Ashtakona, the Antardashara, the Bahirdashara and the Chaturdashara are representative of the Shakti. Without their conjunction, the Srichakra, which may be taken to signify the entire world, cannot be formed. In other words, the universe will cease to be, when there will be Mahapralaya, the final dissolution. The Vamakeshwara Tantra says that Shiva ceases to have either name or manifestation, without Shakti.

The Devi Bhagavata Mahapurana avers that Shiva, deprived of the Kundalini Shakti, is but Shava, a corpse. Achyutananda, a commentator, remarks that the creative energy of the Shakti, in her threefold aspects of Iccha, Jnana and Kriya, is essential for Shiva to accomplish anything. Hari, Rudra and Brahma together represent the Pranava `Aum' and the others indicate other mantras. The Pranava is the foremost and the essence of the Vedas. Hence it follows that Shakti is to be worshipped with the Pranava and other Veda mantras. `Ham', the Bija of Shiva, when combined with `saH', the Bija of Shakti, yields the Hamsa mantra, which helps one realize the import of the Mahavakyas. The cosmic breath, which is made up of `Ham' and `saH', as the ingoing breath, symbolizes creation in the form of evolution and dissolution in the form of Involution. Shiva and Shakti remain as Nishkala Brahman during the Pralaya, as Paramashiva and Shanta, transcending the thirty-six external varieties, in a state of quiescence. Shanta's operation on Shiva as the Shakti brings about the creation of the world.

"The Trinity and other powerful deities worship you. Even the Brahman you keep under your sway and urge to activity. From a housefly flapping its wings and an ant crawling, all activity and work in the world are attributed to your power, your resolve. That being the case, how can any individual prostrate himself before you or sing your praises by himself without the power granted by you? My love and devotion to you my prostrating before you, are these to be ascribed to my will, are they my doing? My resolve? I have just begun to compose this hymn to you. But can I do it without the energy imparted by you, without your grace and without your consent?" the Acharya asks Amba thus, not explicitly, not in so many words, but subtly, merely hinting at what he wants to convey.

`Pranantum' means to prostrate oneself. Here it is a bodily function that is referred to. `Stotum' means to extol and indicates a verbal function. Of the triad Mano-Vak-Kaya (mind – speech – body), the latter two are covered by `Stotum' and `Pranantum'. What about the first? It is only after thinking of Amba, meditating on her, that one prostrates oneself before her and sings her praises. So, the mind is also brought in, in this way. This idea is implied in the Shloka. Thus, we see that mind, body and speech are offered to the lotus feet of Amba. The seed sown in the first stanza of the hymn attains its final stage of the ripened fruit in the one-hundredth stanza. And the fruit signifies self-surrender to Amba, the offering of oneself to her. If one cannot pay obeisance to Amba and adore her because one has not earned merit in one's previous births, it means that one cannot take the path of devotion. The Acharya who has spoken thus with regard to the way of Bhakti expresses a similar view with regard to the way of Jnana in his Vivekachudamani: "Liberation by following the path of Jnana cannot be obtained without having acquired merit in one hundred crores of lives".

The hymn starts with the highly auspicious word `Shiva'. It must be noted that the work devoted to Shakti starts with Shiva. We usually use the term `Sati-Pati', that is first wife and then husband. The Acharya has always been careful about reminding the world of the tenets of the Dharma Shastras. In many ways Ishwara and Amba are different from the worldly husband and wife pair. A woman is customarily called `Abala' – one who is weak. It is the man who protects her. When you look at the divine pair of Amba and Ishwara, the very name of the wife is `Shakti', which means power. Without her, Shiva has to remain doing nothing! The dharma Shastras, which point the way as to how life is to be lived in this world, have it that the wife is subordinate to the husband. When we regard this divine pair, it is the reverse; the former is the quiescent Brahman without any attributes while the latter is the great power (also known as Maya Shakti) and she is behind the conduct of the world.

It is not conceptually alone that Shiva is thought to be powerless and Shakti powerful. In the poetic tradition also, it is customary while portraying love or Sringara to give the heroine a place higher than that of the hero. When peace is restored between the two after an unfriendly spell, it is the hero who falls at the feet of the heroine. We see the same in Gitagovindam. Krishna requests Radha: "Please, in your large-heartedness, place your foot on my head as an ornament for it". Such sentiments are expressed in stories relating to Amba and Parameshwara in poetical works as well as in the Puranas. As the Jagadguru, Srimadacharya thought that it was his first duty to teach the world the code of conduct laid down in the dharma Shastras. Next in order was to speak about devotion according to the degree of maturity of people and then to teach them philosophy, Jnana. The Acharya was particular that he should not place before the community an ideal contrary to the tenets of Shastra. That is why he begins this hymn to Amba with the name of her husband coming first. The import of this stanza is that Shiva's greatness depends on his being united with his Shakti. The primordial couple exalts each other: she exalts him and he exalts her. As a matter of fact, one is neither higher nor lower than the other. The two are indeed equal. Ishwara and Amba are equal in glory.

Why is Samayachara called so? In it, Amba and Parameshwara are to be meditated upon as being equal in five different ways. Firstly, Amba and Shiva have same names: if he is Shiva, she is Shivaa, if he is Hamsa, she is Hamsi, if he is Ananda Bhairava, she is Ananda Bhairavi. Second, they are equal in their form or Roopa also. As Kameshwara and Kameshwari, their color is red. Though Sri Kameshwara is like a pure colorless crystal, the redness of Amba, who is his left half, reflects on to the right side and the Lord appears red in color too! Both have four hands, three eyes and the crescent as their ornament. The two hold the same weapons: arrows, bow, goad and noose. Third, they reside in the same places: on the peak of Mount Meru, at the center of Manidwipa (Island of Jewels) in the ocean of ambrosia and in the bindu Chakra of Sri Yantra. Four, both perform the same function, what is called Panchakritya. Five, the blessings received by the world from them are the same.

"There must be no cosmos; the phenomenal or empirical world is Maya. One must become the Truth that is Shivam, the Brahman hat is quiescent and without attributes". Such is the doctrine that Srimadacharya has established and taught through his various commentaries and original works. He attacks the Shakti that activates Brahman and refutes Maya. But in this hymn, he takes delight of the very fact that Shakti energizes Shiva and thereby the affairs of the world are conducted. Both these in fact represent truth. Logically both cannot be the truth. However, the attributes of the Truth are not always logically determined. Srimadacharya divides people into two categories: those capable of taking the path of Jnana and those capable of Bhakti. The former he instructs in the way suited to them by writing works on Advaita. And for the latter, he has composed hymns like *Saundaryalahari* to help them bring about their spiritual betterment. He exhorts such as those who are in a mature stage and who make efforts to see the One Entity that is the root of all to reject the universe divided as it is multifariously. He also exhorts them to reject the body, senses and the mind that experience sorrow and happiness from the same and teaches them how to become absorbed in the quiescent Root of all. This is the path of Jnana.

There are people who cannot all at once do away with worldly matters and are not mature enough to reach the state of Jnana. Srimadacharya shows them the path of devotion and he does so regarding it as a way for them to become mature. He is anxious that, since they cannot, in their present state give up their worldly outlook and their involvement in the affairs of the senses and the mind, they should not for that reason be forgetful of the Root, the Reality, and make their lie futile by becoming trapped in sensual pleasures, sorrow and fear. He shows them that all worldly affairs, worldly phenomena, are ruled by that serene Root, manifested at Ishwara conjoined with Shakti. He further teaches them to view all these as Ishwara's sport and exhorts them to involve their minds, senses, etc. in meditating upon him, in worshipping him, in listening to the narrations of his doings and in singing his glory. If, in this manner, the functioning Brahman – Ishwara, is grasped through the very phenomenal world of the senses, one would become fit by the Lord's grace, by forsaking these very things of the phenomenal world, to each the stage of the causative functionless Brahman.

We have on one hand, Ishwara who creates the phenomenal world and all creatures and keeps them under his sway and, on the other, we have the individual with a mind and senses: that there are two entities is a truth. When we inquire into the question of who or what the primary cause of all this or what the root of all this is, we find that it is all the sport, the Maya of an entity that is by itself, and at the same time doing nothing. And this is also a truth. It is not enough to say that the Acharya teaches people in two different ways according to their different mental dispositions.

The two different ways in which he imparts his teaching must be regarded as representing the Truth in two different stages of mind. It is for this reason that when one system is extolled, it may become necessary to do so at the expense of another. So, instead of subjecting the different ways or systems to criticism based on logic, they must be approached on the basis of psychology which does not come under logic, taking into account the differences in outlook of people and their fitness for, or entitlement to, a particular system. So, when a way is to be shown for the inner advancement of an individual, it may become necessary to show one system as being higher than another – this fact must be appreciated. It is with this good intention that one system is elevated and another lowered in relation to it. The purpose is not to show that the latter is worthless. The real idea behind elevating a system over another is that the individual who receives instruction to it will appreciate that it is the one that is meant for him. When he finds that it is the best suited to him, he will follow it with interest, solely concentrating on it. Also the purpose of showing another system in a poor light is to dissuade him from plunging into it and thereby becoming confused. For an individual with a different outlook, and belonging to a different culture, it may be necessary to speak depreciatingly of what is exalted in the case of the first one and that is rejected in the case of the latter may have to be presented as the best in the case of the first individual. We see the same with regard to the Puranas and devotional works. While dealing with a particular God, he is depicted as being superior to all other Gods. It is in keeping with this logic that Acharya asks us to hold in devotion the very thing that he asks us to reject as Advaitins. What he condemns while he speaks on Advaita as Maya is for those who do not have to be devout, those for whom it is not necessary to follow the path of Bhakti.

If a man wants to be a devotee, he has to necessarily feel that he is separate, even if be to the smallest degree, from the object of his adoration, which is God. In Advaita, there is no such separation, not even to the least degree, and there is only oneness. And those who are capable of following this path have no need to be devoted in the manner or sense we think. In their case, Acharya says that contemplation of one's true nature is Bhakti – Swaswarupanusandhanam.

`Hara' means one who destroys or one who annihilates. It occurs in the compound words `Apaharana' and `Samharana. Brahma creates, Vishnu sustains and Rudra destroys. `Hara' means Rudra, the destroyer. It is the one and the only Paramatman that divides itself into three deities to perform three different functions. Their power to perform these functions is derived from the primordial Shakti of the Paramatman. That Shakti is Sri Amba. She is the power of the Parabrahman that is called Paramatman. It is not only the trinity who derive power from her but all living beings, including flies and ants. She is also the power latent in all inanimate objects. The Shakti of Parabrahman must me the Parabrahman itself. A thing is a thing by virtue of its power. Therefore what is called Parabrahma-Shakti is the Parabrahman itself. However, one can also remain doing nothing, without showing off his Shakti, his power or strength. `Shivam' is to be understood in this manner, the Parabrahman being by itself in quietude, without any outward movement. It is from this state of Shivam that we have emerged as individual beings with out mind turned to outward activities and our senses involved in outward objects. When we become inseparably dissolved in Shivam, we become freed from the ties of Maya and the bondage of worldly limited existence. Since the liberation that gives us beatitude is a state of tranquility, the Brahman in which we are inseparably dissolved must also be quiescent and serene and not manifesting its power. Looked at in this manner, there is reason to speak separately of the two: the Shiva who is the Parabrahman and Amba who is the Parabrahma Shakti, even thought the two are essentially one and the same.

Apart from the three functions of creation, sustenance and destruction carried out through Shakti, there are two more functions to be added. From the state of serene Shivam, how have we been brought to the condition in which we have no awareness of the true original form of ours? It is through Shakti that it has been done. She is the one who has concealed our awareness of our true form and created nescience in us as individuals and pushed us into Maya realm of worldly existence. It is the sama Parashakti who also performs the function of granting liberation through her grace. Of the two additional functions, the first is to conceal from us, our awareness of our true self with the power of Maya. The second, to free us from the trap of Maya and bless us with liberation, that is unite us with Paramatman. The first is called `Tirodhana' or `Tirobhava'. The root `tiras' means to conceal, to veil. It is the work of Parashakti to veil our real self with the curtain of Maya and consign us to worldly existence. The function of raising the curtain and granting final release is called `Anugraha', which is the second function. Just as Parashakti has appointed Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra for creation, protection and destruction, she has appointed Maheshwara for Tirodhana. The first three functions come within the sphere of Maya. The entire conduct of the world of Maya is in the hands of Ishwara. Dispelling the Maya and granting the Anugraha of liberation is the function of Sadashiva. There are other interpretations of these functions and the version followed here is the one detailed by Bhaskaracharya in Saubhagya Bhaskara. These five functions constitute of the Panchakritya and are indicated by the name `Panchakrityaparayana' is Rahasya Sahasranama. Amba, as the chief authority, appoints other authorities under her to perform these functions. It is not only because this is a hymn to Amba that we say this. Even viewed impartially we will realize the appropriateness of Amba being the chief authority for the five functions. A `Kritya' – something that is to be done or carried out – necessarily means the use of Shakti. It is fitting thus that the Panchakritya is brought under Amba, who is the supreme Parashakti. If Amba performs the functions through five different deities, it means that she is higher than they are. Amba is the power that is the basis of all happenings, all action. She is the mistress of all the five chief deities. She is indeed higher than Sadashiva who grants liberation. To those accomplished in the mantra Shastra, she has given Darshan in her gross form, seated above these five deities. She appears as Rajarajeshwari in royal splendor. The four legs of her throne are Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Maheshwara. The seat proper, which connects the four legs, is Sadashiva. Although she is all and everything, when she is Srividya – among the various forms of hers – her chief aspect is that of Mother. Though she is the great power Mahashakti, she assumes a form in which what is manifested is her beauty and loveliness rather than her power. That is the reason we see that her very first name in the Sahasranama is `Srimata'. She creates us, protects us and, in between births, gives us a rest by destroying us. She sports with the veil of Maya and, finally, the Mother that she is, makes us one with her by granting us the liberating knowledge.

The Taittariya Upanishad says: `The one Brahman desires to become many'. If the quiescent Brahman becomes the active Brahman, it means he must have had the desire to be that, the functioning Brahman. The cosmic sport is the result the quiescent Brahman, this is Shiva, uniting with Iccha Shakti, like father and mother uniting to give rise to the offspring and the five functions are also a result of it. It is because Amba is the personification of the desire or Kama of Brahman, that she is called Kameshwari. Kameshwari is seated on the left lap of Sri Shiva Kameshwara on the Panchabrahmasana and the couple face east. The leg in the southeast is Brahma, in the southwest is Vishnu, northwest is Rudra and the leg in northeast is appropriately Ishwara. The seat joing these legs together i.e. the seat and the cushion on which Sri Devi and Bhagavan are seated is Sadashiva. The five deities are called Panchabrahmas and the seat they make is referred to as Panchabrahmasana. Each of the five is also called `Preta' or corpse. The idea is that if Amba were not to give the five deities the power to perform their five respective functions, they would be no better than corpses. For Kameshwara also, she is the life-breath. There is a name illustrating this – `Kameshwara prana nadi', found in both Rahasya Sahasranama and Trishati. However, keeping the worldly dharma in view, according to which a woman's greatness lie sin being together with her husband, despite her great strength, Amba, the very personification of power, remains with her husband Kameshwara, the supreme Brahman.

The Parabrahman was like a calm lake, which is not disturbed even by a ripple. Now, due to Parashakti, there is the first wave, the first pulsation and it is an outward manifestation of desire, that is Iccha or Kama. Thus the first pulsation was desire. If pulsation is created in the quiescent Shiva, if an act like desiring is caused in the action less Shiva, it has to be through some power or Shakti. It is not merely that the Chitshakti, the power of Jnana inhering in the Parabrahman, divided itself into Iccha Shakti and Kriya Shakti, the power of desire and the power of action. The arousal of desire in the Brahman itself is an act for which Amba has been instrumental. If one has a desire, one must have awareness that one exists. In sound sleep, we have no awareness of our existence. There are no desires in such a state. So, if the Brahman came to have any desire, it must have had an awareness of its own existence. It was Parashakti that made Shiva aware of his existence. it is not possible without the prodding of Shakti. Such awareness on the part of Shiva – that "I am", the experience of "I" – is called `Paraahantaa'. The Self, believing that the body and inner organs, that are alse and separate from it, as constituting its true form is `Ahantaa'. The Supreme Reality, the root of all individual souls, knowing itself as `I', is `Paraahantaa'. Parashakti is thus the personification of the Paraahantaa of Paramashiva or Parabrahman. Strangely, Shiva's `I-feeling' is on behalf of another. If Shiva is aware that he exists – that he knows himself as "I" – it is because of Shakti. So if he has "I" feeling, if he takes pride in it, it is all due to the splendor of Parashakti. Shiva, who is pure consciousness or Jnana, knowing himself to be what he is (that he is pure Jnana) is the first pulsation of the Brahman. There is no outward movement, no action with hands or legs. In the state of Jnana that is full and without any thought, it is pulsation created by the thought or feeling of `I'. What is called `Spanda' here means an object vibrating by itself, within itself. The Acharya uses the word very precisely. `Spanda' is not activating something from the outside. It is the pulsation of an object or entity within itself and not caused from an outside agency but brought about for itself and within itself. The root cause of creation itself is this vibration. The sound of the vibration of the Parabrahman became the Veda mantras and from them originated all gross objects. If the explosion of a central nucleus caused creation, it must have occurred from the pulsation within the nucleus. Also, the Acharya, by choosing the word `Spanda' points to the non-dualism in what is seemingly a dualistic phenomenon. It is impossible to separate Shakti from Shiva and make the former an outward entity. The tow are like the lamp and its flame, like the flower and its fragrance, like milk and its whiteness, like the honey and its sweetness, like the word and its meaning. According to Spanda Shastra, the Parabrahman is Shiva and Shakti combined into one. The dualistic world with its manifold objects is the `Abhasa' or reflection of the Parabrahman. If the world were the reflection of the Parabrahman, it would mean that the reflected light is outside of the original shining root-object. The view that the cosmos is outside the Brahman is incorrect. If Brahman is merely Shiva, it cannot be associated with the cosmos. Thus, Brahman is not only Shiva, but also Shiva and Shakti combined into one and it is Shakti that causes the Abhasa. The word `Spanda' goes to show that not only is there no cosmos outside of the Brahman or separate from it, but also that Shakti does not create the cosmos from the Brahman by being outside of the Brahman or by being separate from it. It denotes self-movement; there is no movement caused by prodding from outside. Shiva, the fundamental reality (Sat), always exists with Chitshakti (the power of Jnana) as Sat – Chit. But the ananda (bliss) is revealed only when Parashakti unfolds the cosmic drama.

In Shakta discipline, first comes the Shiva Tatva, which inheres chit that is Jnana Shakti and remains quiescent. Then comes the Shakti Tatva, which is well manifested outwardly. The third is the Sadashiva Tatva, which is associated with Iccha Shakti. The fourth is the Ishwara Tatva, which is combined with Jnana Shakti. The fifth is the Vidya Tatva, which is linked with Kriya Shakti. The sixth is the Maya Tatva. Chitshakti remains with the first Tatva of Shiva and is the same as Jnana Shakti. The first Tatva of Shiva is the Reality, the Truth; he is the prime factor in whom Chitshakti is an inner entity. The second Tatva is Chitshakti as the prime factor and Shiva, the Reality, remaining in the background. The Jnana called `Chit' is not knowledge alone. It is knowledge imbued with life; it is consciousness. `Jada' means without life, feelings or knowledge – like stone, earth, gold, silver and so on.

All living beings that have urges, feelings and knowledge belong to the category of `Chetana'. Amba is called `Chaitanya Swaroopini'. She is the life-giving power or energy of the Supreme entity. It is this life force that is knowledge or awareness, feelings and urges. `Jnana' is knowing what is experienced or `chit'. To know by reading a book that sugar is sweet is not Jnana. Jnana here is the sweetness experienced by tasting the sugar. Knowledge or knowing is only possible to the living. Chit is that with which such life force is united. Life is the basic, fundamental Shakti. So, it follows that Shakti means Chitshakti. The life-breath of Brahman, its self-awareness, is Chitshakti. Since Jnana means not only knowing but also living and consciously experiencing something, the word used for the same in English is not `knowledge' but the beautiful term `consciousness'. If we are conscious of something it means that we have our own experience of it. Such experience is possible is possible only if there is life force in us. After stating that the first Tatva is associated with chit or Jnana Shakti, it will cause confusion in the minds of people if it is said that the fourth Tatva again is combined with Jnana Shakti. The chit mentioned first is the absolute Jnana of One Prime Entity. The Jnana contained within awakens and becomes aware of itself in the second stage. In the third stage, it wishes to manifest its force. In the fourth, it `plans' to reveal outwardly its inwardly turned Jnana as the cosmos unfolding itself as many entities (plurally). If it `planned' many worlds, does it not mean that its Jnana is also not one within and that it is the foundation for its being revealed in many ways? What was the one Jnana is described as chit and the same as the basis for many Jnanas in the fourth stage is described as `Jnana' – the two have been denoted by two different words. What was `planned' in the fourth is executed in the `fifth'. What was planned by `Jnana' is now implemented. This is what is described as the pure Vidya Tatva that is combined with Kriya Shakti. This does not mean that the Brahman has already begun to be revealed as the outward cosmos. In the fifth stage, it only prepares itself to do so. After waking up, we try to shake of our lethargy by stretching our limbs so as to ready ourselves for the day's work. The fifth stage is similar. The act of creating the cosmos outside of the Brahman has not yet begun. In this fifth stage, it gathers all its strength, its Kriya Shakti, in preparation for the purpose. However, the resolve has been made to become manifest outwardly. The entity that is one, because it is going to become dual, remains with the knowledge that, it and its manifestations are equal in weight. It is this Jnana that is called pure Vidya or Suddha Vidya. Unlike in Advaita, in Shakta system, Maya comes as the sixth Tatva, after the fifth Tatva of Suddha Vidya which itself is four stages after Brahman.

The creation of the actual dualistic world is after the preparation for the outward dualistic manifestation. It is in this sixth stage that all creatures appear as individual souls. Until this stage is reached, there is only one Entity: Shiva-Shakti. It is only after individual souls are created from Shakti as an outward manifestation of herself – to delight herself in sport, and to play hide and seek with them – that she has bound them to Maya. She thus makes them oblivious of the truth that they too are the One Entity and keeps them under the illusion that they are the body, the senses and the inner organs (Antahkarana). The wonderful that Shakti happens to be is demonstrated not only by the clouds at sunrise and sunset, by mountains like the Himalayas or the seven seas but even by the brilliance of a dew-drop on the tip of a blade of grass reflecting the light of the sun. but all these phenomena of the vast insentient world are not sufficient to complete the joy of the drama that is enacted as her sport. And she delights herself further by creating sentient beings, individual souls, and makes them unaware of their root by keeping them bound to Maya. "That is all right. Amba may find delight in such sport. But does that not make our plight unbearable? What she finds delight in is an ordeal for us – is that not so? That fact that we are squeezed and strangled by Maya, is that not a pain in our life?" so people may ask. True, it is so. That is the reason why Acharya has given importance to Maya and expounded the philosophy of Advaita as a way pointing to its eradication. In the Shakta system, Maya comes as the sixth Tatva, but even so they do accept that it is important. Whatever the system advocated, its purpose is to show the people a path to follow. So it must pay the maximum attention to the problem that seems the most important to them.

Although Amba is beyond Maya as the Suddha Tatvas or the pure principles, what we know about her is that, in the form of Maya, she keeps us bound to Samsara – the cycle of birth and death. That is why, just as the Paramatman has the Pranava, Shakti has for her Bija `Maya'. Stress is laid on the Mahamaya aspect of Sridevi in Durga Saptashati. "All that is right. But when the Shakta doctrine also agrees that, as Maya, Amba has cast us into stupor and kept us bound, how is it right to extol and worship her? This power keeps us hidden from our true identity and drags us down by giving us the mind, the senses, the world and worldly goods and also loves and hates. Is it not the right thing then to do what the Acharya does in his Advaita philosophy of excoriating her that is Maya? Why should there be Pooja to her and a hymn to celebrate her? Why has the Acharya, who attacks Maya, composed a hymn like this?" such a question would be justified if the Mahashakti were no more than the Maya Shakti. The point to note is that she, the Maya Shakti, is also the Jnana Shakti. Is she not also the Anugraha Shakti (the power that grants grace), the one that bestows Jnana on us and frees us from Maya? She keeps the individual souls bound to Maya; the purpose of the same is for her to have the "extra" joy derived from the sport of separating us from the One Entity and uniting us again with it. In sum, she protects us remaining herself not only as Maya Shakti, but also as Jnana Shakti, Prema Shakti, Anugraha Shakti and Saundarya Shakti. The primordial Iccha of Amba did not stop with the desire of dividing herself into many separate Jivatmans. Amba has Iccha for them, that is she has great love for them, that is the love of a mother for her children. How can Amba not have affection for those born of herself? Mother, children, filial affection, all these come later, and affection in this world is but a reflection of her original motherly affection. It is because of her Iccha or desire for the Jivatmans that she apparently pushes them into Maya so as to derive the extra joy to be had from uniting with her after their being separated from her. This is a process, a manifestation of her Iccha of freeing them little by little from Maya and drawing them back to herself. It is to attract the world of humans that she sports as the personification of beauty, as one possessing beauty of form as well as the beauty constituted by her qualities.

At first is the desire to become this, to act in this manner, and only then comes the stage of translating the desire into action. It is because of her Iccha that she actually attracts people with her beauty. Iccha is the seed of all action. Though Amba grants us her Anugraha even to pass a board examination, this term really means our passing the ordeal of fire conducted by Maya and graduating to Jnana. It is that which grants us unalloyed beatitude and eternal bliss. However, the Shakta system has it that concealing the reality of our being the Brahman and our being forgetful of the same, our being in possession of a body as a Jivatman and Antahkarana that involves the body in action, the world in which we are engaged in work or activity, the enjoyment we derive in worldly actions – all these are part of Anugraha. This Anugraha includes Tanu (body), Karana (mind), Bhuvana (world) and Bhoga (experience of the individual self).

The Shakta Shastras also explain their relevance thus: "after somehow becoming a Jivatman, you have been trapped in karma. There is no liberation for you until you exhaust your karma. How will karma be exhausted? It is to be worked out by experiencing it, its consequences. The fruits of the past karma are to be experienced by being born again, by thinking good with the mind and by doing well with the body. To do so, you need the world. It is only by working in the world, employing your body and mind and having varied experience (Anubhoga) that you can work out your karma. That is why being endowed with these four is called an Anugraha. These four, which are responsible for our being ensnared in karma, are the very means of our being liberated from it. That s why the four are described as an Anugraha bestowed on us. But how difficult it is to make good use of these means! So, Anugraha in the true sense is Amba's grace in granting us good sense and discrimination to work out our karma and being vouchsafed the bliss of final release. After its karma has been entirely worked out, the Jivatman, the individual Self, is not inert but in a state of bliss in which it knows itself to be an entity that is full by itself. Vouchsafing us such a state is Amba's Anugraha, her divine grace.

There is nothing higher than the bliss of the atman, the bliss of realizing the Self. It is this bliss that Amba grants us in the form of liberation. In Atmananda, there is Shiva but no Amba. Without stopping after the state of fullness, she unfolds her power and sports herself. The one, who is ananda herself, sports outwardly also. Experiencing the bliss of the Self, she makes herself playfully into two and as a separate entity, or seemingly as a separate entity, to manifest herself as the dualistic cosmos. The Mahashakti of Brahman becomes playful when its joy waxes. Why is such a joy called sport, play? How else can you describe something done for no particular reason, for no purpose, and merely out of overflowing joy? Since Shakti is the embodiment of ananda to start with, it would be wrong to state that her joy is revealed outwardly in dualistic creation. It would be wrong again to say that she performs the function of creation to derive joy from it. There is nothing she has to obtain, nothing she needs to attain. She is fullness, not wanting anything. It is only from her sport of creation that we ourselves derive the joy of sporting. There is no reason behind it, nor is the sport conducted with the expectation of any fruit or reward.

Though the work of creation is done for no reason and for no reward, because of the joy it gave her, Amba continues to conduct the sport of creation. On the whole, sport is a matter of joy or ananda. That is why ananda is regarded as a full-fledged entity and the work of creation is called a `Lila' – play, sport. This prodigious cosmic sport has been going for crores of Kalpas (One-seventh of the life span of Brahma, the creator. One day of Brahma is 8,640,000,000 years. His life span is 100 years, each year being 365 days), for eons and will go no for crores of Kalpas. What an immense power of joy she must be who is its source, its spring! It is a sport of immeasurable dimensions. So it follows that the one who sports must be immeasurable joy personified. Considering this, though Amba has infinite number and kinds of Shaktis, her Ananda Shakti transcends all her other powers. Her very great joy rises bubbling up, showing that she is such an ananda Shakti as to contain all Shaktis – and in this joy, all the cruelty, sorrow and fear that we experience in this world become unnoticeable like a tiny needle in a vast desert. Joy is the nature of life itself. Love and beauty are for joy, a means to obtain it. `Chitkala' is one of the names of Amba n Rahasya Sahasranama. The names appearing next are `Anandakalika' and `Premarupa'. All these names are interlinked and this should become clear by the discussion held till now.

Although Maya and Jnana are opposed to each other, it is as a means to take the path of Jnana that the world of Maya, the senses and the mind are to be involved in love and in beauty that are unsullied; and Pooja, hymns and so on are prescribed so that we will be blissfully immersed in Amba's remembrances. If our mind became one-pointed in this manner, it would be easy to engage ourselves in reflections that are a necessary part of Jnana. If we adhere to the path pf Bhakti, as shown by our beloved Acharya, we will be able to follow the path of Jnana easily, making use of the very instruments of the world of Maya. Those who are, to start with itself, capable of keeping their minds and senses under control and who are passionless and detached, do not have to employ their minds and senses in the performance of Pooja and other rites connected with Bhakti. They can realize the Brahman using the short cut of shaking off Maya through spiritual practice. In his teaching imparted to them, Srimadacharya lays stress on Maya that is to be discarded as worthless and on the goal of the atman to be achieved, prescribing self-enquiry and practice aimed at attaining the ideal of Advaita. He exhorts the rest to involve their minds – which otherwise are caught in the noose of Maya by being addicted to petty pleasures – in matters that give joy that is pure and belonging to a higher plane like remembrance of the Lord, Pooja, listening to the stories of the divine, and worship at temples. In this way, he shows them the path of Bhakti by following which they will eventually become mature and qualify for the way of Jnana. Pooja, the singing of hymns and so on, that form part of the way of Bhakti or karma are meant for those who cannot yet cast off Maya as taught by Advaita. Such people must regard Maya as the sport of the Lord, of Parashakti and as associated with the divine. All the objects of the world of Maya, the senses and the mind that have them under their sway and all those things we enjoy and thereby become spoilt, must be involved in the worship of Jagadamba, who rules over Maya, through Pooja, recitation of hymns, listening to Puranas, worship at temples, Japa and meditation. Things connected with Maya cannot be easily done away with. Except those who are mature, detached and possess discrimination, the rest are constantly lured by the world, by the senses and the attachments caused by the same. Those who want to sever such ties, but are yet immature, will not succeed in their endeavor to do so. There is everything in Maya except the highest stage of the realization of the truth of the atman; there is in it even the means of seeking Jnana that is Sadhana. The object of Sadhana, the one who is engaged in Sadhana, the act of Sadhana – these are separate and hence dualistic in nature. That means all this is Maya. The effort to do away with Maya through the instruments of Maya is part of the Sadhana for the realization of the highest state of Advaita.

Even the act of the Guru teaching his disciple, imparting him Upadesha is dualistic in a sense. But is at the same time a means of obtaining non-dualistic realization. That is why in this hymn Srimadacharya gives voice here and there to Tantra, dualism, qualified non-dualism, Shaiva and Shakta concepts, though the only reality projected is the complete non-dualism: Kevala Advaita. Sects claiming Acharya to be a Kaula, a Shakta and other things do so only to be benefited by associating themselves with his glory. It is to be clearly understood that the hymn, though supporting many of the above-said views, aims at teaching the final beatitude of Advaita only. The stress is only on Jnana and unnecessary and illogical means to achieve this finds no support whatsoever, by Acharya or by the Shastras.

One must not think that Advaita makes no mention of Shakti at all since it associates creation with Maya. Is there any need for a man steeped in Jnana to turn to Shakti? That is why no special importance is given to Shakti there. When it speaks of Paramatman, Chandogya Sruti says that is possesses all karma, all desire, all scents and all essences. A view expressed in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad comes very close to the concept of Kameshwara and Kameshwari. Besides, the Upanishad says that all orders of life originated from the two, the primordial Mother and Father. What the Upanishads speak of the Paramatman as being Almighty, the Brahma sutra underlines by saying `Sarvopetaa ca taddarshanat'. In his commentary on the Brahma sutra, Acharya says clearly: "sarva Shakti yukta paradevataa'. Since he himself regards Maya as indefinable or indescribable, he has no reason to be afraid of asking questions about the origins of Shakti. We can gauge the profound depths of the Brahman only by what the Vedas say about them, no by arguments, so observes the Acharya with an air of finality. The question of creation arises only when the Brahman is not by itself, when it is not absorbed in itself, in the state of Samadhi. According to the Acharya, when the Nirguna Brahman, in the state of pure Jnana, is associated with the creation posited by Avidya or Maya, it acquires an accession of universal power. The line `Shiva shaktya yukto' indicates the same. The concept of creation as the Lila or sport of the divinity is also mentioned in the Brahma sutra: "lokavattu lila kaivalyam". In concluding his commentary on this passage, Srimadacharya observes, "According to the vedas, creation does not have to do with the Supreme Truth, the Nirguna Brahman. It is the dualistic view, worldly truth born of Avidya". Though he speaks thus from the standpoint of Advaita, he accepts the fact of creation as the sport of Ishwara in the empirical stage and speaks in praise of it, taking delight in it. He says, "The creation of the cosmos may seem to be a great feat but is just play for Ishwara since he has unbounded Shakti".

There is authority in the Sruti to show that the inner vibration of the non-dualistic Brahman causes the dualistic cosmos. The Katha Upanishad says: "All this universe is caused from the life force called prana and vibrates". The word used in this context in the Brahma sutra is `Kampana'. Commenting on this, Acharya Bhagavatpada says: "The prana that causes vibration is not mere breath but Brahman itself". It can be fairly concluded that Advaita accepts the view of creation by Maya as a worldly truth at a particular stage, thus favoring the Shakta view to a certain extent.

Kundalini yoga is the secret focus of *Saundaryalahari.* The Acharyas of Srimadacharya's lineage, though adepts in this yoga, have neither publicized it nor have recommended it for all. To mingle this little power, i.e. the individual Self with the great power of Paramatman, of the individual Self blossoming into the great power, is not something that happens easily. Parashakti has made it more difficult for the individual Self to dissolve in Shakti than for it to dissolve in serenity. There are people who follow the path of Jnana and there are people who follow the path of Bhakti. Amba has both by her side and she makes them witness her dance of power. Not only that, she imparts them a little bit of power and makes them instrumental in conferring her grace on the world. However, neither devotees nor Jnanis desire power on their own. The devotee longs for love, the bliss of love and the Jnani longs for tranquility that is boundless. But the case of a Kaula is different. He practices Kundalini yoga with the deliberate intent of obtaining power. But Amba does not respond to his efforts easily. She seems to haggle over the price he has to pay for it. Even practitioners whose Kundalini has awakened only to a tiny extent will experience a vibration in the crown of their head and a concentration of the power between their eyebrows. This does not mean that their Kundalini is fully aroused or that Amba has revealed in all her glory, like the radiance of the rising sun. What actually happens is a little ascent and a greater descent. As the Kundalini ascends, there is a manifestation of her power and the practitioner gains some Siddhis. It is Amba herself who confers such powers on the Sadhaka so as to distract him from his ultimate quest of perfection, of liberation. Apart from this, if Kundalini deviates from her right path, the results can be disastrous!

There are many manifestations of Maya in this world and there are many kinds of practices, disciplines to free ourselves from the same Maya. Kundalini yoga enables one to grasp the power of Amba, but she has mixed it in a great deal of Maya. She has kept the practice of this discipline very hard indeed. It may be asked: "Do those who follow the path of devotion or Jnana achieve their goal and have a vision of the deity they worship or realize the self easily?" The question is justified. But the Sadhana adhered to by the followers of Jnana or Bhakti is not as difficult or as complicated as Kaula or Kundalini yoga. Also, unlike this, any errors committed in the pursuit of Jnana or Bhakti does not lead to adverse consequences. In this path, the Sadhaka runs the risk of Pratyavaya, as mentioned in Gita, the opposite of what is originally intended. Also the Sadhaka is deluded into thinking that he has achieved perfection and won the ultimate fruits of his efforts when he earns only a little benefit in the form of certain Kshulluka Siddhis. The path is certainly an excellent road to take one to the highest state of Samadhi. But qualifications to follow this path are rigid and many in number. People who look down upon Jnana and Bhakti in preference to Kaula should realize that there is no inward fullness to be gained by Kaula that we cannot achieve through Bhakti or Jnana. Caution is necessary with regard to mantra yoga also. Mantra produces the same results as Kundalini yoga and it does so through the vibrations in the Nadis. Upadesha from a capable, accomplished guru, well versed in not only rituals and Kriya, but also in the theory behind the practice and the right approach to mantra Shastra is vital. For these reasons, mantra Shastra is not dealt in detail in this article. There is no use knowing mantras if they have not been taught in the proper manner by guru. You may have lengths of wire in your house of good quality, also switches and bulbs. But will the bulbs burn if they are not connected to the powerhouse? The power of guru is similar – it is a live power. Without the teaching of the Guru, acting like the bulb, if we try to conduct the electricity ourselves to get the light of Siddhi, it only leads to a bad shock, unrecoverable most of the times.

During discourses given before a public assembly these subjects like Kundalini yoga and Srividya mantra Shastra must not be elaborated upon, but only hinted at. The elements of a Shastra guarded as a secret must be taught only to sincere Upasakas. These must not be dwelt upon indiscriminately before a general audience. However, to ignore or omit altogether references to concepts pertaining to disciplines of Kundalini yoga and mantra Shastra while explaining the stanzas is to take too narrow a view of things. It would mean overlooking profound philosophical truths. However, great caution is needed in dwelling on these and one must not go beyond a certain point in revealing their content. Certain passages of *Saundaryalahari* may seem to be too erotic in flavor or even capable of causing disgust, disagreeable feelings, when read superficially. But they are not so when examined in depth. `Substance' or `Padartha' is called `matter'. Its character or nature is inertness, i.e. it is without the power of action or motion. We know that the cosmos has come into being by inert matter set in motion in various ways and occurring in various combinations. This means that there is a certain power that activates the inert matter. Matter is the inert Shiva and the power that activates Shiva is Shakti. Shiva, who is quiescent and motionless, and Shakti that keeps everything pulsating, from planets and stars to the atom, are inseparably united. Not only are they united; they are in fact basically the same. This is confirmed by the rule of science, which proposes the transformation of matter to energy. There is a difference though.

According to science, matter will cease to exist after it is converted into energy. But Shiva and Shakti exist as eternal truths. When Shakti is manifested as energy, the matter that is Shivais not annihilated. This is so because the matter here is not insentient but a living spirit. It remains as the atman that is not destroyed, that cannot be destroyed. Indeed it exists as a living force, as Chaitanya. Even the matter that science speaks of, matter that is inert to start with and ends in inertness, is born out of this Chaitanya. While there are differences between science and Shastra, there are many points on which they agree. The discoveries made in nuclear science arising out of Einstein's Theory of Relativity come close particularly to the ideas propounded by Advaita Vedanta and the Shakta system.

Nothing in the word exists as a truth on its own, as an absolute entity; this applies to time and space also. Everything is dependent on something else and is all part of a continuum, though each appears as a truth by itself in the empirical world. The Brahman is the one fundamental truth. The entire world is based on it, as its reflection, manifested by Maya. The Shakta texts identify Maya as a Shakti of Amba. Is there not room to think that the concept of Maya is the same as the Theory of Relativity? Science has not discovered the truth that is absolute. This Absolute is not something to be found only in books; it is a truth realized by great men as the atman. It is the life of all life, indeed the only true life. Science has not spoken of this absolute yet. Even if one day, scientists come to accept this truth on a theoretical basis, they will have to admit that the proof of the same is beyond their capacity. Science can only partly explain the drama enacted by Parashakti through her vibrations or motions and derive rules from it. It cannot have a unified view of these vibrations, all those vibrations that keep the mind of the individual Self pulsating and show the way to keep it still and tranquil and realize itself as the Absolute. Anyway, this is not the aim of modern science, to point the way to self-realization. That way will be shown by the Shastras. But, even if they do so, even if we advance by the way of the Shastras, it is only Amba who will keep the ultimate goal open for us. She it is who separates us from the Absolute in her sport; that being so, who else can again unite us with It? It is also wrong on our part to speak about the failure of science to understand things beyond its frontiers. At the same time, the scientists themselves must realize that there are limitations to science. They are also not justified in saying that the disciplines dealing with things beyond it, that is beyond science, are false. Both sides must believe and realize that the two are complimentary.

For example, we may take it that the positively charged proton in the nucleus of the atom is Shiva and the negatively charged electron is Amba. The point at which the weight of an object is kept even on its two sides, maintained in equilibrium, is to be known as one of tranquility. It is the center of gravity. Even a terrible storm has a center. It is from a calm center that power emanates and spreads, that power manifests itself or even explodes - and matter, objects are created and functions are performed with force. This calm center is Shiva and the entity that emanates from this center and revolves round it is Shakti. Instead of looking at Shiva and Amba in this way, the two are said to be half and half of the same Absolute entity. This is the concept of Ardhanarishwara. The heart is in the left side of the body and it gives strength to the entire body. But it is the right side that is stronger; it has more `power' to do work. The right hand generally lends itself to greater use than the left hand. An idea is implied here: that it is Amba who gives strength to the body. We see that the functions of the right side of the body are controlled by the left side of the brain and vice versa. That means Shakti side of the brain controls `Shiva' side of the body, which performs functions with greater power. In this Amba's Pativratya is beautifully revealed. Although it is she who imparts power to her husband, she shows him to be stronger. His dance of deluge i.e. Pralaya Tandava makes all the cosmos tremble – it has such awesome power. Such force is revealed not only in the dance of deluge; Shiva's dance of bliss i.e. Ananda Tandava is such as to make all the eight cardinal points of space tremble and shake. If he beats the earth with his matted locks, a Virabhadra will arise. If Parameshwara so much as laughs once, more power will be released than the bombs that destroyed Hiroshima and it can reduce the Tripuras to ashes. It is Amba who imparts such power to Shiva. Panchakritya is definitely under the control of Amba. She has assigned it to Parameshwara and she herself remains utterly serene, without our knowing where she is.

Thus, Amba is the left half of the Absolute entity and imparts all the strength to the right half, which is Shiva. The right side of an object becomes the left side of its reflected image. Similarly the left side becomes its right side. In the same way, Nirguna Brahman, reflected in the mirror called Maya, becomes the Saguna Brahman that rules the dualistic world. Thus, under the influence of Maya, Shiva appears as Shakti. They are not different tin any way. Amba who creates the illusion that the unreal is real is real will one day, out of supreme compassion, make the real truly unreal and unite the self with the real. If we go to her as the sole refuge and grasp her feet tightly, without ever relaxing our hold, and pray for release, she will certainly bless the Jiva with liberation.

What the Acharya is trying to say in this first stage is this: "Without your compassion, can we reach that state of tranquility called Shiva?" Amba is the great power that moves what does not move. Her sport starts with the vibration that makes the Parabrahman aware of its own existence. Thereafter, it is vibration after vibration, movement after movement, ending with the gross vibrations of our daily life. These vibrations, originating in the Brahmana and ending with the gross world of living beings, are in the descending order or Avarohana Krama. They descend step by step and are mentioned as the thirty-six Tatvas. This is what is `evolution' that involves descent from the highest peak of Brahman down to us humans. It is the process of Brahman turning outward and countless entities evolving form It. Each entity getting back to the original state of Brahman is Moksha or liberation. This is called Arohana or ascent. The Brahman, becoming outward and unfolding itself into the universe and the living beings, is evolution. The living beings caused by this unfolding have to turn inward and retrace their path to Brahman. This process is aptly denoted by the word `involution'. That the great entity called the Brahman has evolved into us is not something that has been accomplished by ourselves but by the sport of Amba, her Lila. So how can we, by our efforts alone, become the Brahman again? It is true that, in the drama that she conducts with the individual souls, she has given us a part in which we have to undergo much trouble and exert ourselves in many ways, but that does not mean that we can by ourselves achieve liberation, attain the state of Brahman. Through her grace alone can we reach this supreme goal. The force that has thrust outward, the same force has to thrust us inward. If Amba is Maya, she herself is the Jnana Shakti that can lead us inwards. Acharya, through the words of his hymn, teaches us to pray for her grace to bring about our involution into Shiva.