[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS-49)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Sun Dec 21 23:57:54 CST 2003


Recall the Note about the organization of the ‘Digest’,  from DPDS – 26 or the earlier ones.

V. Krishnamurthy

A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari -  49

(Digest of pp.1038 -1044  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)


The first shloka says that She is the soul and He is inert without Her presence. This shloka (#34) says that He is the soul and She is His body. There are two viewpoints here. 


I must have myself said – in interpreting the first shloka – that He is inert without Her.  To be precise, it is not “He is inert without Her”, but “He is inert-like without Her”. The Shiva that we spoke of in Shloka #1, is the actionless, attributeless, nameless brahman. That brahman can never be called something that is inert, devoid of ‘cit’ or Consciousness. But it is something to which we cannot attribute the act of cognizing itself. In that sense there is no ‘awareness’ of being ‘complete-in-itself’. It is in this sense, the word ‘inertness’ is used when talking of brahman. So it is ‘as good as inert’. The ‘as if’ part here is the punchline. The brahman, that ‘does not know(!) itself’  -- this to become the brahman that ‘knows’ itself is due to the jnAna-shakti and that is ambaa.  It is this jnAna-shakti, that now brings its own ichhA-shakti and kriyA shakti, and the process of Evolution starts. So the nirguNa-brahman, until it ‘knows’ itself, is inert and the shakti th
 at makes
 it, as it were, know itself, is its soul – it is in this sense the first shloka talks of ‘He is inert without Her’!


Shloka 34 is talking about ‘kArya brahman’.  Ishvara is SaguNa-brahman. When Shakti as Kameshvari prompts Him, He creates  the entire Universe and is involved in the cosmic functions. It is in this context the entire Universe is His body and the soul within is the kArya-shakti that is Ishvara. The icchA shakti that is Kameshvari prompts the Fundamental Reality that is brahman.


The contention of advaita however is: It is brahman that, through MayA,  becomes saguNa brahman which transacts its cosmic functions. There is no separate chaitanyaM (life, consciousness) for mAyA. It is inert. It gets a chaitanyaM from brahman, hides brahman and projects the universe instead, in brahman. The administration of this universe takes place by the same brahman but now as Ishvara coupled with mAyA. 


Brahman is shivaM and ambaa is mAyA – I have already told you so. It is because of mAyA that the Universe exists. So one can speak of the Universe itself as mAyA and therefore the form of ambaa. That mAyA is inert; it shines because of brahma-chaitanyaM. Therefore ambaa is spoken of as the body and the shiva who is in the place of brahman can be spoken of as its soul.  This is why “sharIraM tvaM shambhoH” – You, Mother, are the body of Shiva!.


In Sankhya school of philosophy, it is almost the same. ‘Purushha’  is the basic Truth behind all jIvas. ‘PrakRti’ is the basic cause for the Universe. The two are like body and soul, according to Sankhya.  Scholarly opinion holds that the contention of shloka 34, namely,  that ambaa is the body of the Lord and the universe itself is ambaa (through the words ‘shashi-mihira-vakshhoruha-yugaM’)  is more akin to Sankhya than to advaita. The reasoning goes like this:


Brahman is hidden by mAyA. Brahman appears as the universe and this is the projection of mAyA. Of these two things, it is the ‘hiding’ part that is dominant whenever we talk of mAyA. Even in ordinary parlance, we say ‘the thing disappeared like mAyA!’.  On the other hand ‘prakRti’, instead of being associated with the ‘hiding’ part, is usually emphasized in the case of what appears as Nature. PrakRti gets the dominant emphasis whenever we talk of the universe appearing in the place of Absolute Reality. In Sankhya, the 24 tattvas like the five elemental fundamentals, pancha tanmAtras, and then the senses, etc.  all are focussed on the Universe and its constitution (=make-up). Even advaita shAstras have accepted the 24 fundamental tattvas more because of the importance given to it by traditional scholars.  In advaita sAdhanA, these have no recognized place. In the practical sAdhana of an advaitin, knowing about the 24 fundamentals is neither advantageous nor disadvantageous.  T
 transformation of prakRti into the Universe and its living beings is important only in Sankhya. 


Though the beginning of this shloka (34) takes us back to Sankhya and advaita, the later ideas take us to the two traditions in ShAkta school, namely, the Kaula and the Samaya. In fact even the idea that ambaa is the body of the Lord and the Universe itself is ambaa -- has also a basis in the ShAkta scriptures.  Kaulam is the tradition wherein one does external worship with yantram, deity and all. Samayam is that which does the pUjA esoterically in the heart-space (hRdayAkAsha).  


Irrespective of any of these philosophies, what is important to note in this shloka is the Acharya’s refusal to forget the motherly love inherent in  the Mother Goddess. Though ambaa is depicted as the cosmic Form of the Lord, the Acharya does not have the mind to leave it as an inert ‘form’ or ‘body’. He keeps thinking about the Mother as the Mother of the Universe and its beings and therefore Her breast-feeding of Her children is hinted at by the mention of ‘shashi-mihira-vakshhoruha-yugam’! That the Sun and the Moon are the life-givers of everything in the universe is a scientifically accepted fact. Therefore the Mother who protects us as anna-poorNeshvari also feeds our lives through the Sun and the Moon. Poetically, in the language of Bhakti, they are the ones who feed us with life-sustaining breast-feed and that is why they are the two breasts of the Cosmic Form that is ambaa. 


It is customary to talk of the Sun and the Moon as the two eyes of the Lord. In Soundaryalahari  itself, shloka 48 says that “Your right eye is the Sun that brings out the day; and your left eye is the Moon that creates the night”. In Lalita Sahasranama ambaa’s ear-ornaments are said to be the Sun and the Moon.  But over and above all this, it is this shloka that touches us most, because it makes us the Mother’s children who are breast-fed by the Sun and the Moon as Her breasts. 


To be Continued

Thus spake the Paramacharya


praNAms to all advaitins and Devotees of Mother Goddess









Prof. V. Krishnamurthy
My website on Science and Spirituality is http://www.geocities.com/profvk/
You can  access my book on Gems from the Ocean of Hindu Thought Vision and Practice,  and my father R. Visvanatha Sastri's manuscripts from the site.
Also see the webpages on Paramacharya's Soundaryalahari :

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