[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari(DPDS-12)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Mon Aug 25 08:44:12 CDT 2003

Recall that  the entire contents of the Digest are from the
Paramacharya’s ideas and words, except for my English rendering.
Wherever he uses specific English words himself, I have drawn
the attention of the reader to that fact. FOR NEW READERS of
this series, it may be worthwhile to go back to  the
Introduction  about the objective of this Digest and the Note on
the Organization (both at advaitin Message No.18425; ambaa-L
message no.5273; advaita-L message No.14046; Sadhana_shakti
message no.334).
V. Krishnamurthy

A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari -  12

I was saying that our Acharya , had included ideas from the
non-advaita schools also. These ideas  as well as those of
advaita had their origin long before their chief proponents 
propagated them formally as a   siddhanta. So Soundarya lahari
being a work of bhakti leaning a little on  the side of the
Shakta schools, has these  ideas also in it. It  talks about the
‘spandanam’ of brahma-Shakti  and praises, in superlative terms,
 the Shakti that caused it. But there is no such idea of
‘spandanam’ in the advaita  shAstra of Adi Sankara. 

The Brahman of advaita is motionless, and changeless. This
immutable Brahman was, according to advaita, neither moved from
outside  nor perturbed from the inside. The multiple
presentations that resulted through the Creation process was
just due to mAyA, which, with the base (adhAra) of Brahman,
somehow initiated  it. It is only an appearance according to
advaita and that is why mAyA is criticised and recommended to be
negated. Our Atman is nothing but that very nirguNa Brahman. If
we do not know it, it is because mAyA has done its work of
hiding the Reality from us. 

But it is that very same mAyA that the Soundaryalahari now  has 
taken to the skies and praised as Shakti, as a power greater
than even the Triad of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. Though  it does
not use the word ‘mAyA’ here, it uses the word ‘Shakti’ and 
from the very fact that Shakti is the root cause for creation of
the universe, it is clear it must be the same as the mAyA of

In advaita the nirguNa Brahman is unrelated to the saguNa
Brahman which produces and monitors the whole universe by mAyA
Shakti. For, nirguNa Brahman just is; it can never be related to
or predicated with anything. The miraculous way in which mAyA
exhibits that Brahman, as Brahman with name and form and all the
associated multiplicity,  is analogous to the way we see in a
dimly lit twilight the appearance of a snake in a rope. Clearly
there is no relationship between the appearing snake and the
rope which is the support for the appearance.

However, the Shaktam that the Acharya projects to us has a mAyA
Shakti which is not unrelated to Brahman. There is no
brahma-Shakti talked about in advaita. Here in ShAktam, it is
brahma-Shakti that is important. That is the ambaal. One of her
aspects is the magic wand of mAyA. Not only that. She is Herself
the jnAna-Shakti (the power of cognitive self-recognition) which
is diametrically opposite to mAyA; and further it is the icchA
Shakti (the power of wilful self-emanation) and kriyA Shakti 
(the power of creative act) also. She stands inseparable from
the Shivam which is the nirguNa Brahman of ShAktam which,
however,  is a shade different from the nirguNa Brahman of
advaita. The identity of Shiva and Shakti is important here.
Identity means total oneness. It is this Shivam that is made to
be the object of spandanam, and then coupled with Him She does
the creation and all further processes. Since She is the
‘Energy’ or ‘Power’ of Shivam, it is clear that any action She
undertakes cannot but have a relationship with that Shivam. 

When Shakti, the ambaal, grants moksha to the jIva, the jIva
attains the changeless nirguNa state, say the Shakta works like
the ShrI-vidyA. Even then  that nirguNa state has also the
Shakti in it!. It is said that  Shakti itself revels in
enjoyment of bliss in its own creation of the universe of
duality. But it is not even right to say that the play of
creation  is for  enjoyment. Because if you accept this, it
would mean that when there is no creation, Shakti is without
that bliss! So instead of saying that She indulges in Creation
for enjoyment of bliss, we should rather say that it is the very
Bliss that is part of Her that exhibits itself as the creation. 

Let me now explain the subtle difference between the mAyA of
advaita and the different Shaktis of the Shaiva and ShAkta
schools. Starting from  the Shivam-Brahman, they talk of 36 
principles. The first five are called pure ‘mAyA’ and the latter
31 belong to the category of impure ‘mAyA. 

Shivam is the first. Next there come three different shaktis,
namely, cit-shakti, jnAna-shakti, vidyA-shakti. These correspond
to three different dimensions of cit. When it pertains to the
non-dual shiva-shakti, it is cit. When it pertains to the
seed-knowledge of duality for the purpose of creation it is
called jnAna. In the next stage it is aware both of its non-dual
state and its potential for the sprouting out into multiplicity,
and then it is called (pure) vidyA. After these three, come the
next, now the fifth in order, namely the kriyA shakti which is
the executing part. Only thereafter, starting from the sixth
principle, it is mAyA and all its evolutes. 

All this importance given to Shakti in the Shaiva and Shakta
schools is avoided in advaita, with all the evoluted appearances
from Brahman being branded as the effect of mAyA and we being
asked  to discredit them.

But even in the way the Shaiva and Shakta schools go, the
question can be asked; Somehow or other, it is the hierarchy of
these Shaktis that bind us to this samsAra. Why then praise that
Shakti and worship it with hymns like Soundaryalahari?

This is the key question. The answer is, mAyA Shakti even in the
Shakta schools does not end there. It is also the jnAna Shakti
as we saw above. And the bottomline of it all is that this same
Shakti as jnAna Shakti graces us with Knowledge and
Enlightenment in the end. And in the meantime She shows Infinite
Love towards us in order to take us back into her fold. That is
the greatest anugraha that She does for us. And that is why we
worship Her and pray to Her for Release. 
(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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