[This is a transcript of the Speech given by Sri Harshaji during Satachandi Purnahuti at Guhananda Mandali]
he parabrahmamahiShi – Oh Queen Consort of Parabrahman;
AgamavidaH – the knowers of the shAstra-s;
[tvAmeva] druhiNagR^ihiNIm girAm devIm [AhuH] – refer to you as the Goddess of Learning who is the wife of Brahma;
[tvAmeva] padmAm hareH patnIm [AhuH] – they call Thee as Padma, the consort of Hari;
[tvAmeva] adritanayAm harasahacharIm [AhuH] – they refer to Thee as the daughter of the Mountain, who is the consort of Hara;
tvam - While thou are in Truth;
turIyA – the transcendent fourth;
kApi – who cannot be described in words;
duradhigamaniHsImamahimA – and with unfathomable, unattainable and boundless prowess;
vishwam bhramayasi – perplex the world [with Thy power of Maya];
In this Shloka, Srimadacharya conveys in a nutshell, the Supreme Glory of Srividya Parameshwari. Agamas and Tantras are filled with descriptions of various manifestation of Parashakti, the chief being Saraswati, the goddess of speech and learning, who is Brahma’s consort; Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and wife of Mahavishnu; Uma, the daughter of Himalaya, who is Rudra’s consort. But Srimadacharya clarifies that it is none of these manifestations are the objects of adoration in this hymn or the goals of Srividya Upasana. The central focus of this hymn (Saundaryalahari) and of Srividya Upasana is Sri Lalita or Tripurasundari, who is the transcendent fourth, beyond the trinity and their powers and who is the consort of Parabrahman or Shiva Kameshwara.
There are various aspects to this Shloka, related to Advaita Vedanta, like mAyA, its place in shAkta Tantra, reconciliation between the two paths etc. However, that would be for a student of Vedanta. Most of us are in this path of Srividya as we are not yet ready for the direct path of Jnana; so why discuss those technicalities till we get there? Let us talk of what is relevant to most of us and save the rest for future.
The incomparable name of Amba, ‘lalitA’, is explained thus:
lokAnatItya lalate lalitA tena chochyate – Amba is called lalitA as she plays transcending all the worlds.
If one notices carefully, the entire essence of this Shloka of Saundaryalahari can be expressed in a single word – lalitA. There are various planes of existence – each qualified to be called a world in its own sense, inhabited by various manifestations of Shiva and Shakti like Bhairava and Bhairavi, Rudra and Uma, Vishnu and Laksmi, Brahma and Vani etc. However, the Supreme plane of existence is called mahAkailAsa or aparAjitA, which is beyond all the other worlds. This is the residence of the Supreme Parashakti of Parabrahman, called Sri Lalita Mahatripurasundari. This is also referred to as sarvottIrNAmnAya revealed during mahA sAmrAjya medhA. One should note that Srividya Parameshwari has various auspicious names like Rajarajeshwari, Tripurasundari etc., but they are all adjectives to the name Lalita. They describe something more about Lalita, about a certain aspect of Srividya Parameshwari. But lalitA is her actual name, which is revealed in this verse of Saundaryalahari. Brahman assumes name and form to facilitate Sagunopasana and the form of Amba with four hands, sporting pAsha, ankusha, dhanurbANa is revealed in the Shloka – kvaNatkAnchIdAmA. The nature and name of the deity, who is the central focus of Srividya Upasana and of this hymn, is revealed in the current verse.
The Supreme Brahman or Kameshwara is described in Sruti thus:
R^itagM satyaM paraM brahma puruShaM kR^iShNapi~Ngalam |
UrdhwaretaM virUpAkShaM vishwarUpAya vai namo namaH ||
The Supreme power of Parabrahman, seated on his left thigh, called Adi Mahalakshmi or Srividya, is described thus:
tasyA~NkamaNDalArUDhA shaktirmAheshwarI parA |
mahAlakShmIriti khyAtA raktA sarvamanoharI ||
The Sruti also says, ‘hRishcha te lakshmIshcha patnyau’ – hrIH and lakShmi are the wives of Parabrahman. Here, hrIH refers to Bhuvaneshwari (bIja) and lakShmi to Srividya. The importance here is of Srividya as Srividya Mahamantra includes in itself the Bhuvaneshwari Bija. Thus, from the above Sruti pramANa-s, it becomes evident that Parabrahmamahishi is none but Sri lalitA or Srividya Parameshwari. One should not get confused between Adi Mahalakshmi (generally used to refer to Sri Mukambika) and Lakshmi. The former refers to Srividya Parameshwari and latter to ramA, the goddess of wealth and wife of Narayana. The supreme Parashakti or Adi Mahalakshmi is described thus in mArkaNDeya purANa:
sarvasyAdyA mahAlakShmiH triguNA parameshwarI |
lakShyAlakShyaswarUpA sA vyApya kR^itsnam vyavasthitA ||
From the same purANa it becomes clear that Saraswati, Gauri etc., though the manifestations of the same Parashakti are not the same as Srividya or Adi Mahalakshmi but instead were created by her for a specific purpose.
At the beginning of creation, the sole existence was of Sri Adi Mahalakshmi, who created Sri Mahakali with a predominance of Tamo Guna and Sri Mahasaraswati with a predominance of Sattva Guna. Then, each of the three great goddesses created a mithuna or a couple. Sri Mahalakshmi created Brahma and Lakshmi. Mahakali created Rudra and Saraswati. Mahasaraswati created Vishnu and Gauri. Brahma was given Saraswati, Vishnu was given Lakshmi and Gauri was given as wife to Rudra. Deriving their powers from the Supreme Adi Mahalakshmi, the three couples engaged themselves in the acts of creation, preservation and destruction of the world. Now, how is it by worshipping Uma, ramA or vANi that one can hope to attain the Supreme Parashakti lalitA, who created these three powers and hence is beyond them as the transcendent fourth? By saying thus, Srimadacharya sings the glory of Srividyopasana as being superior to other paths and this need not be assumed as mere arthavAda. If Parabrahman is the goal, the way towards him is thorugh his mahiShi – Srividya. The Sruti says:
Yato vAcho nivartante | aprApya manasA saha |
Sri Lalita is beyond the realms of speech and mind. Such is her power of enchantment or mAyA that even the greatest of jnAni-s cannot escape her:
jnAninAmampi chetAmsi devI bhagavatI hi sA |
balAdAkR^iShya mohAya mahAmayA prayacChati ||
Then how does one escape from mAya and attain salvation? Sage Markandeya has the answer:
stutA saMpUjitA puShpaiH dhupagandhaiH sudhUpitA |
dadAti vittaM putrAmshcha matiM dharma tathA shubhAm ||
sA yAchitA cha vijnAnam tuShTa R^iddhiM prayacChati |
ArAdhitA saiva nR^iNA bhogaswargApavargadA ||
Amba is the giver of whatever is sought by an upAsaka. When one asks for wealth, she grants the same as Lakshmi; when one asks for learning, she grants it as Sharada; when one prays for physical prowess, he is blessed by Amba in her form as Uma. Worshippers of other deities get just what their deity is capable of granting. But Amba is capable of granting everything as all other deities derive their power to grant specific boons to their devotees, from Amba. However, when one performs niShkAma karma, without any attachment to fruits, such a devotee is blessed by Amba in her resplendent aspect as Sri Mahatripurasundari, with the liberating knowledge of the Self. Srimadacharya, by refusing to accept Srividya Parameshwari as Lakshmi, Uma or Vani, has made an important statement here, that Srividya Upasana is not for wealth, prosperity, powers etc., but for mokSha alone. Bhagavan Hayagriva states the same, mokShaika hetu vidyA sA shrIvidyA nAtra samshayaH. We often hear the statement, shrIvidyA is bhogamokshapradAyinI, which is true. Amba, being the personification of limitless compassion, grants Bhoga and Moksha to those who worship her as Srividya Parameshwari. But, this is her doing. This in no way means that the aspirant should pursue Srividya Upasana with the goal of Bhoga and Moksha as this would be against the code of conduct prescribed by Bhagavan Hayagriva. Again, it must be remembered that Srividya is not meant for all types of aspirants and is prescribed for uttamAdhikAri-s alone, who aim for Moksha. If Bhoga comes along in the way, unasked, that is fine but in no way, knowingly or unknowingly, should one pursue Bhoga over Moksha. Srividya is not for such aspirants. Many times, though claiming to perform niShkAma karma, we are secretly engaged in sakAma karma. I have a bad financial position and know that Srividya Samputa of Srisukta can help me. But I am a Nishkama Upasaka and cannot resort to such prayoga-s. So what do I do? I find a priest who does it for me. Or, I will simply recite the Sukta without mentioning anything about the actual purpose during the Samkalpa. Neither of these is Nishkama karma and both are technically prayoga-s. Though the samkalpa does not specify the actual purpose of the Japa, the mind is secretly dwelling on it, making it sakAma. How can Chitta Shuddhi occur with such ‘niShkAma’ karma-s?
Another aspect of significance here is the usage of the word ‘Parabrahman’ referring to Kameshwara. This verse is basically doing Shakti mahimA gAna – singing the praises of Parashakti as the Supreme. But Srimadacharya does not forget to bring in Kameshwara in this hymn, ensuring that he is a part of her glory. This is the basic trait of Samayachara – where Shiva and Shakti are given equal importance and Shiva Shakti Aikya is stressed, remembered and contemplated on, at every stage, in various ways based on adhikAra.
shambormUrtishcharati bhuvane shankarAchAryaswarUpA ||
sUkShme.api durgamatare.api guruprasAda –
sAhAyyakena vicharan apavargamArge |
saMsArapa~Nkanichaye na patatyamUm te
kAmAkShi gADhamavalambya kaTAkShyayaShTim ||