[Query] Should one recite lalita sahasranamam even after getting mantra siddhi?
kodaNDamaikShavamakhaNDamiShum cha pauShpam
dhyAyeddharim madanagopavilAsaveSham ||
The stage of mantra siddhi is that where there is complete tAdAtmya with one's iShTa devatA and in such a state there would remain no doubts. So, once an upAsaka attains such a state, he will know whether to continue the recitation.
If one examines the words of Bhagavan Hayagriva in Sri Lalitopakhyana:
chakrarAjArchanam devyAH japo nAmnAm cha kIrtanam |
bhaktasya kR^ityametAvadanyadabhyudayam viduH ||
These three duties – Navavarana Puja, Srividya Japa and Sahasranama Parayana – are the recommended practices for a Bhakta, and there is no time limit prescribed for the same. So, that would imply that these practices are to be continued till one has Bhakti for parAmbA. In other words, these practices need to be continued till a sense of separateness between the upAsya [deity] and the upAsaka [worshipper] exists. But should these practices be discarded after one attains jnAna, the liberating knowledge of the self? Not necessarily.
The following verse extols the greatness of bhAgavata and is found in the same purANa:
nigamakalpataroH gaLitaM phalam
pibata bhAgavataM rasamAlayam
muhuraho rasikA bhuvi bhAvukAH ||
The essence of this verse is revealed by Bhagavan Shuka in bhAgavata and the same can be applied to Sri Lalita Sahasranama as well for three reasons. bhAgavata is the description of lIlAmrita of Sri Krishna and Sri Lalitopakhyana, of which Sri Lalita Sahasranama is a part, sings the glory of Sri Lalitambika. As stated in padma purANa, pumrUpA kRishNavigrahA – there is non-difference between Sri Krishna and Sri Lalitambika. Hence, what is applicable to Sri Krishna applies to Sridevi as well. Second, both bhAgavata and Sri Lalita Sahasranama are expositions of the same Brahma vidyA, propounded by the Upanishads. Hence, the subject matter of both these is the same. Third, both bhAgavata and the tradition of Srividya have a common preceptor, Bhagavan Sri Shuka. Sri Shuka finds an important place in the tradition of Srividya Samayachara lineage. Shuka Samhita is the chief text of Srividya Samayachara Sampradaya. With these commonalities in mind, one should proceed.
The Veda is like a wish-fulfilling tree. It has leaves, roots, bark, flowers, fruits etc. One can seek any of these from the tree and their wish is fulfilled. Do you need to destroy an enemy, yes, the tree offers the aid of atharvaNasya duhitA. Does one need progeny, yes, there are ways for the same. But most of us know not what to wish for. We make wrong choices and experience limited bliss and mistake the same to be the true bliss. But, the true liberating essence of this Vedic tree is stored in one fruit, called vedAnta or the Upanishads. As the eighteen purANas are expositions of the Vedartha, brahmANDa purANa, which is the last of the mahApurANas, is positioned similar to the Upanishads. Sri Lalitopakhyana, which forms the last segment of this purANa, is thus rightly an exposition of Brahma vidyA, exactly like the Upanishads. Every Jiva is not capable of climbing the Vedic tree, plucking the fruit, peeling the hard skin and eating the fruit. Out of compassion for such, Bhagavan Shuka, in the form of a parrot, has ascended the tree, chosen the best fruit or Amrita Phala, which grants immortality, struck the fruit with his beak and the result is the flow of nectarine juice from the fruit. All one needs to do is to open one's mouth with gratitude and drink the blissful nectar called Srimad Bhagavata or Sri Lalita Sahasranama.
Bhagavan Shuka is the greatest of Jivanmuktas and Jnanis. He is the Guru for Samayachara the path which grants Brahma Vidya directly to the qualified who do not require treading inferior paths. There are those Jnanis who entered Samsara and through penance attained realization. Such groups are represented by those following Dakshinachara. To show such aspiring upAsakas by example that the bliss of nAma rasa is incomparable and is the easiest path to liberation, Shukadeva himself is relishing the sweet nectar. The instruction is clear in the above verse: pibata rasamAlayam – the nectar should be relished till laya. Laya here can be interpreted to mean as death or as complete merger in Bhagavati [sAyujya], which means one should recite the Sahasranama till death or till the attainment of oneness with Sri parAmbA, whichever is the first. He further says, muhuraho, again and again. The mind may attain peace or tranquility or sabIja samAdhi for a while but will return back to a lower plane again. One should immediately start drinking the nectar of Bhagavati Tattva which propels one back to the state of Samadhi. This process needs to be repeated till one is firmly established in the Brahman.
But Bhagavan Shuka is a Nitya Jnani who never descended to feel the need for ascension. He is a Nitya Mukta whose consciousness never moved away from Swaswarupa Jnana for even a second. Such Jnanis are represented by the adherents of Samayachara. And even such a Jnani is continuing to recite and relish the rasa of Bhagavattattva. Why? Even after achieving the supreme state, Brahma Nishthas like Sanaka, Shuka and Vasistha cannot resist relishing the nAma, guNa, mUrti and vibhUti rasa-s of Bhagavati and they continue to recite the divine names of Sri Paramba.
So, let us recite the names till we attain a state similar to Shuka Brahma and then we can come back to think over this question in the light of the gained realization.