Selections from the ShAkta upaniShads -1 (bahvR^icha)

Anand Hudli anandhudli at HOTMAIL.COM
Tue Apr 21 13:55:55 CDT 1998

|| shrI gaNeshAya namaH || || bhavAnyai namaH || ||namaH shivAya||

In response to the interest shown in this list about Shakti or
Devi upAsanA, I would like to present and discuss passages from
upaniShads that have been classified as ShAkta. As the name suggests,
these upaniShads aim at identifying the Highest Reality Brahman of
the major upaniShads with the Goddess, Devi or Shakti.

Shankara wrote commentaries only on the major upaniShads. These
commentaries have been further explained by Anandagiri, and others
in the advaita tradition, including ShankarAnanda and VidyAraNya,
have also written commentaries on some upaniShads. Although there
are said to be 108 authentic upaniShads, according to the muktikA
upaniShad, upaniShads other than the major ones (with the exceptions
of a few such as the nR^isimhatApinI, shvetAshvatara, and
kauShItakI) were not commented on by advaitins for a long time.
This task was taken up by Shrii upaniShad Brahma Yogin. He wrote
commentaries on all the 108 upaniShads, including the major
upaniShads. Since he belongs to the advaitic tradition, his
 commentaries on those major upaniShads are faithful to Shankara's
bhAShya's on the same. On the others, he wrote brilliant commentaries
consistent with advaitic principles.

Regarding Shakti worship, advaitins differ from Shakta's or
tantrika's in two important ways. First, in the advaitic upAsanA of
Shakti, the Goddess is considered to be on par with the four other
divinities, GaNesha, Shiva, ViShNu, and Suurya. In particular, there
is no difference between Shiva and Shakti or between Shiva and
ViShNu. Second, advaitic upAsanA of Shakti involves only the
sAttvikA elements of worship, leaving out unclean and indecent
practices resorted to by tantrika's such as offering of fish, meat,
alcohlic beverages, etc. to the Goddess. Wherever possible the
Vedic form of worship is employed rather than tantric. Shankara has
often been credited with eliminating tAmasika (ignorant) or tAntrika
forms of worship and substituting them with sAttvika or Vaidika forms
of worship, during his travels. Of course, two tAntrika works, the
Saundaryalaharii and the prapanchasAra are attributed to him, but this
does not conclusively prove that he wrote them. In any case, it is
certain that he did not advocate tantrika forms of worship which may
involve some objectionable rituals.

 The first upaniShad that I have selected for study and discussion
 is the bahVR^icha upaniShad from the R^ig Veda. This particular
 upaniShad expresses the advaitic concept of truth clearly -
 satyaM ekaM lalitAkhyaM vastu tad advitIyaM akhaNDArthaM paraM
 brahma, which means
  the One Truth is the thing called lalitA which is the nondual,
 indivisible, Supreme Brahman.

     Selections from the BahvR^ichopaniShad.h of the R^ig Veda

  gaNAnAn.h tvA gaNapatiM havAmahe kavim kavInAm-
  upamashravastamaM |
  jyeshhTharAjaM brahmaNAn.h brahmaNaspata
  A naH shR^iNvannUtibhiH sIda sAdanaM  || (Rg Veda 2.23.1)

  We invoke You, O GaNapati of the ganas (followers of Shiva),
  Who are Brahmanaspati of the brahmas (prayers), the
  wisest among the wise, Who abound in treasure
  beyond all measure, the most brilliant one.
  Do listen to our prayers, come with Your blessings
  and assurances of protection into our home, and
  be seated.

  AUM mahAgaNapataye namaH ||

  Salutations to MahAgaNapati!

  AUM praNo devI sarasvatI vAjebhirvAjinIvatI |
  dhInAmavitryavatu ||                           (R^ig Veda)

  May the Goddess SarasvatI, who bestows nourishment and protects
  (good) thoughts, protect us.

  AUM vAgdevyai namaH ||

  Salutations to the Goddess of speech (SarasvatI).

 AUM vAN^.h me manasi pratiShThitA mano me vAchi pratiShThitam-
 AvirAvIrma edhi vedasya ma ANIsthaH shrutaM me mA prahAsIranenA-
 dhItenAhorAtrAn.h saMdadhAmyR^itaM vadiShyAmi satyaM vadiShyAmi
 tanmAmavatu tadvaktAramavatvavatu mAmavatu vaktAramavatu vaktAraM ||

  AUM shantiH shantiH shantiH ||

 Speech is established in my mind; my mind (thought) is established
 in my speech. Become manifest to me! Be You both (speech and mind)
 the carriers of Veda to me! Let not what I have heard desert me.
 With this study, I join the day and night. I speak what is the
 true (mental) resolution. I speak true (words). May that protect me.
 May that protect the speaker. May that protect me. May that protect
 the speaker, may that protect the speaker!

  AUM Peace! Peace! Peace!

  AUM devI hyekA .agra AsIt.h | saiva jagadaNDamasR^ijata |
  kAmakaleti viGYAyate | shR^ingArakaleti viGYAyate || 1 ||

  AUM The devI alone was, in the beginning. She created the egg
  shaped world. She is known as kAmakalA, which stands for the
  syllable IM.  She is known as ShR^ingArakala, which stands for
  the half-syllable (ardhamAtrA) after the  a, u, and m of the

 Notes based on upaniShad brahma yogin's commentary:

 1. By the words "AUM devI", the Goddess has been identified with the
 praNava AUM. That is, She is AUM. AUM is the symbol of both the
 Parabrahman or nirguNa Brahman (Brahman without attributes) as well
 as the aparabrahman or the SaguNa Brahman (Brahman with attributes).

 AUM, due to the greatness of the para and apara Brahman, is called
 the material cause of the world. But this material cause or nature
 is also the prakR^iti or nature of devI, from the saying of the
 Shruti -

  praNavatvena prakR^ititvaM vadanti brahmavAdinaH

  Those who speak of Brahman say that the praNava (AUM) is the
  material nature (prakR^iti).

  Therefore, the Goddess is also the material cause of the world.

 2. She created the world-egg which is nondifferent from Her.
    The world egg is called avidyANDa because the world or saMsAra
    is avidyA or ignorance.

 3. yA jagannidAnatayA bhAtA tasyAstanurIMkArAtmanA praNavAtmanA
    cha kAmakaleti viGYAyate | (Commentary)

   She shines as the cause of the world. Her body is known as kAmakalA
   because of its nature as the IM syllable and the praNava symbol.
   kAmakalA is called IM according to the passage which teaches the
   shrIvidyA mantra. Therein, it is stated "kAmo yoniH kAmakalA...",
   kAma being identified with ka, yoniH being identified with e,
   and kAmakalA being identified with I.

 4. She is called ShR^ingArakalA. The a, u, and M are called the
    peaks (shR^inga's) of Brahman. The tip of these peaks is the
    half syllable that follows AUM. The Goddess is thereby known as
    ShR^ingArakalA. In the mANDUkya upaniShad, the three letters
    a, u, and M of the praNava (AUM) are identified with the three
    states of waking, dream, and sleep. The fourth state, turIya or
    chaturtha is identified with Brahman Itself which is Shiva or
    auspicious, and nondual. Therefore, by using the term
    shR^ingArakalA for the  devI, the bahvR^ichopaniShad is indicating
    that She is indeed Brahman.


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>From  Tue Apr 21 19:19:01 1998
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Date: Tue, 21 Apr 1998 19:19:01 -0400
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To: List for advaita vedanta as taught by Shri Shankara
        <ADVAITA-L at TAMU.EDU>
From: Ramakrishnan Balasubramanian <ramakris at EROLS.COM>
Subject: Re: Reason and Experience
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Parisi & Watson wrote:

> I have been very impressed with the high quality and helpful nature of
> the responses that have been offered to my questions, but I confess to
> being a little confused on one point. Almost everyone has reminded me
> that an understanding of the ultimate nature of things cannot be had
> from reasoning or the intellect alone, and yet I have been given a long
> list of Advaita texts to read. Is there not a discrepancy here? Could I
> not spend, say, the next ten years learning Sanskrit and studying
> Shankara and the Upanishads, only to remain in the end as divided and
> confused as I am now?

No you won't. It is a key point in the advaitic tradition that shruti
merely serves to dispell illusion, it does not _create_ any new
"realization" in the aspirant. Yes, the key thing is actual dispelling
of the illusion. However, we must realize in order to this, we need to
be aware that we are under an illusion first, and also how to get rid of
it. The books serve this purpose. One must first realize _why_ it is
said that the world appears only because of ignorance. True, this
understanding itself is in the realm of avidyA. But in the empirical
existence, a thing can be negated only by its opposite, avidyA goes away
only by vidyA. If one does not gain intellectual conviction then
suddenly one may drop his practice. Also, if one does not use the
intellect and use the "heart" instead of the "head" as some new-agists
propound, one could as well become a neo-nazi or a heaven's gate
cult-member! One might as well wait for flying-saucers :-). As soon as
one is convinced by solid reasoning, he can forget about books after
that, and concentrate only on practice. This is where shruti and a good
guru help, and in fact are indispensable. So reasoning plays a crucial
role, but is negated _ONLY_ in the pAramArthika (final-level) of
understanding. Reasoning, much like Descartes' philosophy, can point out
it's own limitations. In empirical existence however, reasoning is a key
factor, not random, arbitrary, "from the heart" statements which are

Understanding what the advaita concept of what realization means will
help. I'll try to post something on it within the next month since I am
rather busy now.


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