[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari(DPDS-79)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Sat Apr 24 08:07:47 CDT 2004

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 -
(Digest of pp.1287-1295  of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume,
4th imprn.)

girAm Ahur-devIM druhiNa-gRhiNIM Agamavido
hareH patnIM padmAM hara-saha-carIM adri-tanayAM /
turIyA kApi tvaM duradhigama-nissIma-mahimA 
mahAmAyA vishvaM bhramayasi para-brahma-mahishhI //97//

Agama-vidaH : Those who know the scriptures
AhuH : declare (You)
girAM devIM : as the Goddess of Speech,
druhiNa-gRhiNIM : the wife of Brahma the Creator
padmAM : (as well) as Lakshmi,
hareH patnIM : the wife of Lord Vishnu
adri-tanayAM : (and as well) as Parvati, the daughter of
hara-saha-carIM :  the Consort of Lord Shiva.
tvaM : (But) You, (on the other hand),
turIyA : are the fourth (higher than the other three),
kA api : not to be delimited as This or That, 
duradhigama-nissIma-mahimA: of unique glory that is both
unfathomable and limitless,
para-brahma-mahishhI :  (in fact) the Queen-Consort of the
Absolute brahman
mahA-mAyA : (being) the great Cosmic mAyA
bhramayasi  : revolving and  compering
vishvaM : the entire universe. 

The distinctive keyword in this shloka (#97) is the unusual
expression “para-brahma-mahishhI”. All along, the
Soundaryalahari has been saying that the parA-shakti is the
highest with sovereign power. In order to show to the world
their Father and Mother, that Shakti brought in a
Kameshvara and gave him the status of a husband to Her.
That was our understanding. Here the words “Queen-Consort
of the Absolute brahman”  have significant connotations. It
means that the para-brahman is the sovereign and ambaal is
next to him, as his wife.  The word “mahishhI” means
Queen-Consort.  One who herself rules is not called a
“mahishhI”; she would be called “mahA-rAjnI” or
“cakra-vartinI”. ‘rAjA’ and ‘rAjnI’ have the same
connotations, except one is male and the other is female.
So also ‘chakravarti’ and ‘cakravartinI’.  But there is no
pair of words ‘mahishha’ and ‘mahishhI’; the King is not
called ‘mahishha’. Actually ‘mahishha’ is an asura who was
in the form of a buffalo! ‘Mahishhi’ is a unique word used
for the Queen-consort, the second in command, of a King.
Corresponding to that meaning of ‘mahishhI’ there is no
male word ‘mahishha’! 

The stotra began with saying that it is She who makes Him
move. And at several places we have been told that it is
She who  is the Agent-Provocateur for every action in the
world. She is the One who  takes care of Him  even at the
time of dissolution.  After all this, when he comes to the
end of the stotra the Acharya winds up with Her as the
dutiful ‘patni’ of Him who is the all-in-all.  In fact She
Herself would like it only this way. Is She not the One who
is writing all this poetry through the pen of the Acharya?

Now let us go to the rest of the shloka. Though the last
word is “para-brahma-mahishhI”, earlier he mentions
Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati – the Consorts of the
Trinity of Divines –and then only brings in the ParAshakti
that is Kameshvari, the  ‘consort’ of the turIyaM that is
brahman.  Just in the previous shloka (#96), he had said:
“There are those who have courted and attained Sarasvati
though She is the wife of Brahma. There are all the rich
who are called ‘ShrimAn’, because Shri, that is Lakshmi,
resides with them, though She belongs to Lord Vishnu. But
nobody can fault You  as having deserted your husband.
Therefore You are the greatest in chastity!”  There is an
implied let-down here of Sarasvati and Lakshmi. The Acharya
clears himself of this let-down, in the present shloka #97.
The Teacher of advaita that he is, he cannot afford to make
distinctions between deities. He is the one who gave all
importance to the name of Sarasvati, by creating Sharada
Pitham and Sringeri where all the worship is for
Sharadambal.  The dasha-nAmi classification of renunciates
has two of the categories named as ‘Sarasvati’ and
‘Bharati’; note that no other deity gets into the names of
the dashanAmi’s. In the same way, he was the one who
composed the famous ‘kanaka-dhAra-stavaM’ on Lakshmi. In
fact it was his first composition!

So the very first thought of the shloka is to clear any
distinction between deities. It is to ambaa he says “You
are the One who  is known as Sarasvati the Goddess of
Speech, and You are the One who is also known as Mother
Lakshmi”. This is not a casual statement from him, says he.
The knowers of the Vedas themselves say so  (“AgamaviduH
AhuH”), he adds humbly.  And then it is You who is also
Parvati, the wife of Rudra. All are parAshakti. And this is
nothing but advaita. And this advaita prompts him to
mention the turIyam, the Fourth.

According to ShAkta philosophy and also according to
Shaivam, there are  Divinities for the Five Cosmic
Functions. The Absolute Truth is beyond. Not like this in
advaita. Vedic authentication of advaita comes from
Mandukya Upanishad. The dream state of every jIva is
Creation, the waking state is Sthiti (Sustenation) and the
sleeping state is Dissolution; and that which is still
awake  even in  that sleep state is the Fourth, that is
brahman.  In the same strain, in this shloka, the Acharya
goes to the ‘turIyaM’ after mentioning the three shaktis of
the Trinity; he does not go to the other two of the cosmic

The ‘Shakti of brahman’ is not specially talked about by
him in advaita.  Nor can we say it is never talked about. 
Right in the commentary of the very first sUtra, in
Brahma-sutra-bhashya, The Acharya, detailing the ‘lakshaNa’
of brahman in the words
“nitya-shuddha-buddha-mukta-svabhAvaM” , he adds
“sarvajnaM”; by this addition it is therefore accepted that
this ‘One’ (ekaM) also admits of ‘sarvaM’ ( a multiplicity)
and all that is ‘known’  by This. Later, more explicitly,
he adds another lakshaNa: “sarva-shakti-samanvitaM”
(possessing all powers). Further in the commentary on
II-1-30, “sarvopetA ca tad-darshanAt”, the duality status
is recognised and he says brahman has a varied shakti-yoga.
Here ‘shakti-yoga’ means that which coeexists with shakti.
This is what becomes the “para-brahma-mahishhI” in the
language of ShAktam, as in this shloka of Soundaryalahari. 

One direct disciple of the Acharya was SarvajnAtman.  He
was the last disciple.  He is one of the leading exponents
of advaita. Listen to him in ‘Samkshhepa-ShArIrakaM’
III-228, 229. “In Shuddha-advaita there is nothing like
Shakti, leelaa or creation. However, even for those with
such faith, there is a place for karma and upAsana. Seen
from that vyavahAra perspective, the cit (Brahman,
Consciousness) takes a role of shakti and with its inert
mAya-avidyA power, creates the universe”. Yet, in the
advaita works of the Acharya the aim is not to direct
attention to this dance of Shakti.  Without giving any
importance to Brahma-shakti, he always discards creation as
the work of mAyA and calls on us to think of the
turiya-brahman beyond. Mostly he does not even refer to the
shakti or energy  that is beyond a gender specification.
When that is so, what to talk of Her as the ‘patni’ of

But the same Acharya, the teacher of brahma-vidyA, now
talks as the teacher of Shri Vidya and shows the way to
those who have a taste in this direction. And the way is 
Kameshvari, the ‘para-brahma-mahishhI’. The Shri Vidya
tantra also has the same aim as advaita-sAyujyaM. Thus he
combines the turIya at the goal of the jnAna path of
advaita and the Shiva-Shakti concept in the Bhakti path.

Incidentally when he says ‘turIyA’ in the feminine, not
only does that mean the parAshakti beyond the three of
Sarasvati, Lakshmi and Parvati, it also means that ‘turIyA’
is the patni of the ‘turIyaM’ that is brahman. 

Notice that there is a unification of advaita Vedanta with
ShAktam here. The parAshakti of the ShAkta philosophy is
identified with the mAyA of advaita Vedanta. When it is
spoken of as ‘duradhigama-nissIma-mahimA’ (of unfathomable
and boundless glory)  the language is of ShAktam. For in
advaita mAyA is considered to be ‘tuchhaM’ and therefore to
be discarded as an incomprehensible anirvacanIyaM. But here
it is the glorious parAshakti!

Our Acharya is matchless when it comes to his role as a
spiritual teacher. In Soundaryalahari he has talked both
advaita and Shri Vidya and has made a beautiful symbiosis
of the two philosophies so as to be palatable, enjoyable
and adaptible to both the Vedantins and the Shri Vidya
followers. And this has been possible because, as I have
told you in the beginning, Shri Vidya is nearest to
advaita, among all schools of thought.

In the beginning he talked about the capability of Shakti
making the first prompting that makes Him move. And now at
the end he makes the same Shakti as the prime mover of
everything in the universe: “vishvam bhramayasi”. Naturally
this compering and revolving includes all the motion of the
universe. Krishna in the Gita talked only of the movement
of the living when  He said: “bhrAmayan sarva-bhUtAni”.  By
that He meant only the movement of the minds of living
beings. But here the Acharya has included the movement of
not only the living (cetana) but also of the non-living
(acetana), by the use of the word “vishvaM”. 

This mAyA or parAShakti that makes  both the living and the
non-living dance to Her tunes, is the same one who as
Mother Goddess  graces all of us not only with everything
mundane  but finally the very Bliss of brahman  (“
parAnanda-rasaM”). This  is the content of Shloka 99.

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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