[Advaita-l] A Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS - 05)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Fri Aug 8 20:15:25 CDT 2003

Recall:  About the organization of the ‘Digest’: THE ENTIRE
WHEREVER IT OCCURS, IS HIS. The ‘I’ of advaita-vedanta is always
 Additional explanations given by Ra. Ganapathi are so
acknowledged. Parenthetical remarks by him, like ‘with a smile’,
‘after a small pause’  etc. that all refer to the speaker, the
Paramacharya, are repeated, if at all, as they are in the
original, within parentheses.  My own remarks, if any, shall be
properly demarcated. And note that the Paramacharya most often
refers to Adi Sankaracharya as ‘Our Acharya’.
V. Krishnamurthy
A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari -  5

Of Soundaryalahari it may be said that there never was one like
it, nor ever will be. It has a perennial charm that does not
satiate. And its majestic eloquence is unbeatable. In his
bhaja-govindam our Acharya uses very elementary words because it
happens to be  the alphabet of Vedanta. But here he is
describing the undescribable. So he uses words very precisely.
Consequently  the vocabulary turns out to be difficult.  But the
words  chosen only add to the lilting charm of the poetry that
he weaves. The metre  used is ‘shikariNI’, meaning ‘that which
is at the apex’. It has 17 syllables for each of the four lines.

 Through the descriptions of the Goddess’s form that make up the
latter 59 slokas, he brings ambaal right before our mental eyes
in all Her majesty, grace and splendour and overwhelms us by the
bliss which the very words and metaphors pour on us. Just as a
master-sculptor dedicates each movement of his chisel to the
object of his sculpture, he transforms each word, as it were, 
by his own spiritual experience of the Goddess and thus in turn
we readers feel the  words themselves constitute the Goddess.

	It is not only blissful poetry, but blessed poetry. Such
blessedness arises not because of any flowery  language, but by
the fact the Acharya  is himself blessed ! ‘Mother, this hymn is
nothing but a composition of yours in your own words’
(‘tvadIyAbhir-vAgbhiH tava janani vAcAm stutir-iyam’ – Verse
no.100), says he in  the concluding line. Inspirations of great
saints and sages, not only benefit mankind by their inspired
poetry, but bring to successive generations, an inspired contact
with the great men, even  long after they have passed away. Thus
our  Acharya in enabling  us  to have a ‘darshan’ of the Goddess
herself, gives us, in addition,  a ‘darshan’ of himself !

	The concept of ‘intense’ devotion does not care for the 
language used, or for the manner of  worship. It is the
intensity of devotion and depth of feeling that matter. But
getting that intensity and depth is the most difficult thing.
That is exactly what eludes us. Now that is where the beauty of
such blessed poetry like ‘Soundaryalahari’ excels. Whether you
understand it or not, whether you pronounce the words correctly
or not, the very attempt itself of reciting it   produces in you
the needed bhakti! This is the word-power of the words of such
blessed poetry.  The vibrations of the words  give us all the
material  and spiritual success. We have only to keep the
objective of bhakti steadfast in our minds. Everything else just

	Of all the stotras that our Acharya has done, it is the
Soundaryalahari that is the topmost. The aShTottara-nAmAvaLi of
the Acharya has the nAmA ‘soundarya-laharI-mukhya-bahu-stotra-
vidhAyakAya namaH’ meaning: ‘prostrations to the one who
composed many stotras with soundaryalaharI as the prime one’. Of
the bhAshyas that he wrote, ‘brahma-sUtra-bhAshya’ towers
supreme; of his expository works, ‘viveka-chUDAmaNi’ is prime
and of all his works of bhakti, the Soundarya-laharI tops the
SundarI, the beautiful, is Her name. Tripura-sundari or
mahA-tripura-sundari both derived from the root name, SundarI,
is the Goddess propitiated by the great mantra called
‘shri-vidyA’. Of the many names of ambaal, such as PArvatI,
durgA, KALI, BAlA, BhuvaneshvarI, etc., it is the sundari name
that goes with ‘RAja-rAjesvari’, the Queen-name of all the
scriptures that talk of and dwell on the Mother Goddess.  Sage
Ramakrishna has said: I have seen many forms of Gods and
Goddesses; but I have never seen one more charming than
‘Tripura-sundari’ !  The word ‘soundaryam’ pertains to SundarI
and means ‘The Beauty’.

But the beauty of it all is, that the name ‘Tripura-sundarI’ or
any of the other (synonymous) names of the same form, namely,
‘LalitA’, ‘RAja-rAjeshvarI’, ‘KAmAkshI’ or ‘KaAmeshvarI’ do not
occur anywhere in the text, including its title ! Even the other
descriptive names of the Goddess like ‘hima-giri-sutA’ (daughter
of Himalaya mountain), or simply, giri-sutA,  shivA, bhavAnI,
umA, satI, pArvatI, chanDI – occur only at one or two places.
General attributed names, like ‘jananI’, ‘mAtA’, ‘ambA’, ‘devI’
meaning either ‘mother’ or ‘goddess’, -- which commonly go with
all feminine deities --  occur at a few more places, but even 
they are few.
While he begins with ‘shivaH-shaktyA’, the most potent name of
ambaal, namely ‘shakti’,  gets mentioned. ‘Shakti’ means
‘power’. It is the absolute brahman’s power or energy that
ambaal personifies. So this name tells everything about the
Goddess. And it comes in the very beginning, but never after. 
(In sloka no.32, the word ‘shakti’ appears 
but there it is a code-word for a syllable in ambaal’s mantra).

Finally, one more point regarding occurrence of names. The role
of a woman has three stages: as daughter, as wife, as mother.
The last two roles certainly do get mentioned  very  often in 
stotras pertaining to a feminine deity. But the Soundaryalahari
uses the daughter-reference such as ‘himagiri-sute’,
‘tuhina-giri-kanye’, more often.  And again,  when the first
part of 41 slokas ends, he ends by referring to ‘janaka-jananI’
, the mother-father role of both Isvara and IsvarI of the whole
(To be continued).
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.

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