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Saundaryalahari - Verse 5

 

"Adoring Thee, who art the bestower of prosperity on all Thy votaries, Vishnu was able to assume the form of a charming damsel and stir waves of passion in the mind of no less a deity than Hara, the destroyer of the three cities. And Smara (Manmatha or cupid) likewise, through Thy adoration, got a form – a veritable feast for the eyes of his consort Rati – with which he has become capable of causing deep infatuation even in the minds of great sages." – 5

This verse refers to the anecdote of the Mohini incarnation of Sri Mahavishnu at the time when Amrita (nectar) was obtained after churning of the ocean of milk by the Devas and the demons. When the demons snatched the barrel of nectar from Dhanvantari, Vishnu meditated on the divine form of Sri Mahatripurasundari and as a result of his identity with Amba, obtained a form similar to Sridevi that was called Mohini, capable of enchanting the entire world. He tricked the Asuras and distributed the nectar among the Devas. Shiva expressed his desire to see the supremely beautiful avatar of Narayana and on his request, Vishnu repeated his Mohini Avatara. Shiva, the greatest of Yogins, who had controlled all senses and burnt his passions and burnt Kama (the god of passion) to ashes, was kindled by passion on seeing Mohini who was the very image of Sridevi and lost himself. As a result of their love, Mahashasta was born who went on to kill a powerful demoness named Mahishi, who was the sister of Mahishasura. An alternate form of the same story says that Vishnu took form of Mohini and killed a demon named Kanakaswamin and that Shiva was enticed by this feminine form of Narayana.

Another anecdote given in this context is as follows: Lord Shiva saved the world by destroying Tripurasura. The other Asuras feared destruction of their entire community by Shiva. In a group they prayed to Vishnu to guard them from Shiva's wrath and protect their clan from total annihilation. Vishnu promised to do so, and was thinking of the means to appease Shiva. Sage Narada came there just then. He noticed the anxiety writ large on Vishnu's face. On knowing the reason for his anxiety, Narada advised Vishnu to worship Sridevi in the form of Srichakra and meditate upon Amba by repeating the Supreme Mahamantra of Sri Mahatripurasundari, which would satisfy all desires. Vishnu went in search of a Guru who could initiate him into the secret Mahamantra of Amba. Seeing his anguish and earnest desire for Loka Kalyana, Sri Parashakti appeared before Vishnu and initiated him into her secret mantra and the mode of worship of Sri Rajarajeshwari in Srichakra. By prolonged worship and meditation on Amba, Vishnu got the power to assume any form that he wished for. And thus, he assumed the form of Mohini and appeased Sri Shiva. He also deceived the demons while serving amrita got from the churning of the milky ocean.

Manmatha, the god of erotic love and passion, also worshipped Sri Mahatripurasundari in Srichakra, chanting her fifteen-syllabled secret mantra and thereby got the grace of Sridevi, for converting himself into such a beautiful person as that anyone on whom he cast his eyes, would be infused with passion instantaneously. Thus Manmatha acquired the power to captivate the entire world of living beings by Amba's grace. Even great sages like Vishwamitra had to abandon penance on being kindled by Kama (passion). Rati is said to be the beauty par excellence among the fair sex. The fact that she had been attracted by Manmatha's personality indicates that he is the most handsome among the men. Another thing to note is that Manmatha, after having been reduced to ashes by the fire that emanated from Shiva's third eye, got back his life by Amba's grace and since then has been physically invisible to all eyes except his wife's (Rati's) alone. Even with a formless, invisible existence, Manmatha's incredible success is due to be Amba's supreme grace.

That sages with long years of penance to their credit, and Lord Shiva, the supreme controller of the senses, were unable to resist the temptation of passion by perceiving Manmatha and Vishnu respectively, because Manmatha and Vishnu had been blessed by Sridevi on being pleased by their worship, are positive profs of the extraordinary power and greatness of Amba. This verse tells us about the efficacy and greatness of the Srividya mode of worship of Sri Rajarajeshwari. The Vamakeshwara Tantra confirms the same:

etAmeva purArAdhya vidyAM trailokyamohinIm
trailokyaM mohayAmAsa kAmAriM bhagaAn hariH |
kAmadevo.api devishIm devIm tripurasundarIm
samArAdhyAbhavalloke sarvasaubhAgyasundaraH ||

It may also be noted in this context that Manmatha and Mahavishnu are the Rishis (seers) to whom the Kamaraja and Vaishnavi Srividya mantras were revealed. There is a peculiar appropriateness in Vishnu worshipping Sridevi, as he is the seer of the first Khanda of Panchadashi, as well as the first Prastara, made up of Lopamudra and Nandikeshwara Vidyas as per the Jnanarnava Tantra. Again in this verse an implied reference to the worship of Amba in the form of Srichakra and the greatness of the Panchadashi and other Devi mantras is found. Sri Achyutananda traces Sadhya Siddhasana Maha Vidya in this Shloka. Anandagiri decodes Trailokyamohana Vidya from this verse. Vishnu is also said to have chanted the esoteric Kamakala Mahamantra of Sridevi and assumed her Kamakala form as a result. Manmatha along with his consort Rati, is first worshipped at the entrance to the holy of the holies at the time of worship of Sri Mahatripurasundari, is the seer of Panchadashakshari of the three Khandas, which, with the fourth transcendent Khanda, becomes the Shodashi of Srividya, with the sixteen Nityas constituting the sixteen Kalas, which again, with its four Kamakala Bijas, takes its origin from the Rig Veda mantra, `chatvAra IM bibhratI kShemayantaH'. The Taittariya Brahmana III.10.1, 10, also supports this view.

Brahman and Brahma Shakti are spoken of in erotic terms as the Kameshwara – Kameshwari pair in the context of the arousal of the desire in the Brahman to conduct the affairs of the world. It was by worshipping Amba that Mahavishnu was able to involve Parameshwara in love. This idea occurring here gives a clue to the fact that Kameshwari is the subject of this hymn. How can Amba be extolled as the one who imparted the power to Vishnu to drag Ishwara into passion, Ishwara who is the embodiment of Jnana and the object of our adoration? Again how can she be praised, she who gave power to Manmatha to enchant even the sages and inspire their minds with desire? Such questions arise even though we are reluctant to ask them. Jnana arises when the illusory world ceases to exist for us. But here, in this hymn, the creation of the world is attributed to Amba. There is Jnana only when there is no Kama (desire or passion). Here however, Amba is adored as the one who strengthens Kama. Can it be so? If it is, we are gnawed by doubts as to whether Kama itself is a blessing. There must be forces opposed to each other. They must clash with one another; break each other's heads. The good forces must fight the evil and hoist the flag of victory. Only then can they take pride in themselves. That also creates an interest in life. If there is no opposition to the good forces and if things go smoothly for them they may not even become known to the world. One will know the goodness of shade only after having been in the hot sun. The tussle between opposing forces is to show that ultimately good will be victorious. It is to demonstrate that the still and quiescent Parabrahman is said to have the urge of Kama and is associated with the cosmos. It is because of the Kama of the Brahman that the phenomenal universe came into being. Then the sentient cosmos grew with each sentient creature becoming subject to Kama.

A strange thing about the opposing forces of good and evil elements is that the good forces have evil elements in them and the evil forces have good elements in them. We must have an understanding of this subtle truth in our struggle so as to fully appreciate the cosmic drama and its various moods. That desire and anger are bad is a statement based on generalization. If you go deep into the subject, you will recognize that they too have good aspects. You must have desire for the good and the bad objects must arouse anger in you. In such a sense, desire and anger are not exactly evils. There are two things to be considered above everything else: the supreme mother bestowing her compassion on us is one; the second is our going to her for refuge, our total surrendering to her. These two are possible only when there is creation and when there are bad elements, which it is necessary for us to combat. The highest as far as Amba is concerned is bestowing her compassion on us; and the highest on our side is to surrender to her. The best we can do is to not do anything, realizing that we are incapable of doing anything. If there was no creation or if there was creation and yet people were not troubled by desire, anger and so on, where would be the opportunity for Amba to show her compassion? If there was no trouble for anybody and everybody was satisfied with his or her lot, who would care for Amba's compassion? When we fight the forces that oppose us as best as we can and eventually realize that we are not strong enough to triumph over them, only then will we think of Amba and go to her for refuge, crying, "You alone are our help!" And only then will we experience the great joy of surrender – and only then will Amba come rushing to protect us and only then will there be full scope for her to show her compassion and take delight in the same. When Amba's protection becomes an accomplished fact, the compassion of `that side' (i.e. of Amba) and the surrender of `this side' (i.e. our going to her for refuge) will be dissolved in the confluence of the flows of joy experienced by both sides. Any kind of enquiry now into whether it was the victory of Amba or of the individual self has no meaning; the individual Self becomes Amba. It would be all right even if a hundred thousand or ten million people were spoiled and their lives rendered futile. It would be enough if one in ten million became successful against evil forces and went beyond creation. Is it necessary and possible for all seeds borne by a tree to become trees? Do the millions of sperms produced by man become children? Similarly, it would be enough if even one in ten million people attained fullness. In that, Amba thinks, the purpose of creation will be fulfilled. Our religion does not subscribe to the doctrine of eternal damnation.

Madhvacharya, the chief of the dualists gave expression to a view akin to it. Let us hope that he felt that at least by instilling this fear of eternal damnation in the minds of people, they would be turned to good. However, the concept of eternal damnation is not accepted in our religion. There is liberation for even the greatest of the sinners. Even if it takes eons and eons, Amba will correct her children and hold them in her lap.

Bhagavan Krishna asked Kunti her wish. She said, "I want suffering. Grant me that. Then alone will I think of you." How is suffering caused? By desire, anger and so on. Only when they torment us, when we suffer their consequences do we think of Amba and pray to her. We will then realize how the creation of this world, Kama and anger are all blessings. If Amba bestows Kama on an individual it is because she will have an opportunity to show her seamless compassion. But this does not stop with that individual. It is an `arrangement' by which the children born of his Kama will also receive Amba's compassion. Great men have sung, "No more births for us!" but can people who have bundles and bundles of karma still to be exhausted escape by crying like that? To work our their remaining karma, they have to be born again and again and live virtuously. If there is no Kama, how can people be born again so as to unload their burden of karma? During the time an opportunity is given to them by rebirth and if they do not wash away their past karma and instead add further to the impurity of their karma, it will be their own fault. Birth is an opportunity given to us to bring an end to further birth. Birth is an opportunity given to us to bring an end to further birth. We must understand this truth and act accordingly. Amba has established a system in which Kama is one of the aims of a man's life along with dharma, Artha and Moksha. Kama is to be experienced in the householder's stage of life and in a disciplined and restrained manner, according to the tenets of the Shastras. If life is lived in this manner, in due time you will be freed from karma, become purified, and taken to the higher stage of Sanyasa.

That Kama agitated the sages and the great men is not the end of the story. The fact to be given importance is that they became pure again by Amba's grace. If they were subject to Kama at one time, it was for the well being of the world. The episode of Shiva getting enchanted by Mohini occurred for the sake of birth of Mahashaasta (known as Ayyapan in Malayala Desha) who destroyed a demoness named Mahishi. Mahishi had obtained a boon that only the sun of Shiva and Vishnu could kill her. Also, only the beauty of Parashakti Lalita, now assumed by Mohini through Amba's own grace, was capable of attracting Shiva. If Menaka did not attract Vishwamitra, there would be no birth of Shakuntala and her great son Bharata, who became the overall ruler of the subcontinent. If Krtasi had not attracted Vyasa, there would have been no Shuka Maharshi, who is unmatched for his observance of Brahmacharya and an unmatched teacher of Advaita. These accounts also remind us that without the help, without the grace of Parashakti, anyone, whoever he is, will stumble and fall. Whoever has the authority to create something, he alone has the authority to destroy it. If Amba has the authority to create this world as well as Kama, she alone can free us from this world – and she alone can give us a helping hand to become freed from Kama. The present explicitly speaks only of Amba's urging Manmatha to bring us under his spell. We must also understand the implied meaning that there is a reverse side to this, that she will grant us, the grace of destroying Kama.