[Advaita-l] Mother Goddess - 2

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Wed Oct 1 23:45:46 CDT 2003

Mother Goddess, in Hindu Thought and Culture - 2



9.  What a Grace!


In order for such over-riding of our vAsanAs to  happen with the Grace of Mother Goddess we must surrender to Her and make Her wish our wish. The fact that most of us are still having our ego is because we do not allow the Mother to cut it off with Her sword of enlightenment! In other words we should accept Her as the Mother. Then there is no end to Her Grace (= karuNA). She is ‘MatA-kRpA-sAgarI’, an ocean of Grace. She is ‘avyAja-karuNA-mUrti’, that is, one who dispenses Grace without being prompted by a reason for that Grace.  “She gives you wealth, education, indefatigible strength of mind, vision of God, a vileless heart and everything that is good; all this She gives to Her devotees, just by Her side-glance” – as the work ‘abhirAmi-antAdi’ would say in Tamil. Adi Shankara also prays for the same side-glance in his Soundarya-lahari (#57) and says: “Oh Goddess ShivA!  Cast a little side-glance of your superbright eyes on this poor me, bathe me in the waters of Your Grace; 
 it will
 beatify me and You have nothing to lose”. The graceful glance of the Mother Goddess is repeatedly referred to in every stotra glorifying Her. Cf. “Kandarpa-janaka-apAnga-vIkshhaNA” (lalitA-trishati), “Hara-netrAgni-sandagdha-kAma-sanjIvanoushadhih” (lalitA-sahasra-nAma). Both these names refer to the fact that even the much-maligned Manmatha was blessed by the Goddess. Why not ordinary people like us? Incidentally Manmatha knows Her greatness, as the scriptures themselves testify in the Surya-namaskara chapter of the Yajur-veda .


She is ‘kAruNya-vigrahA’; Grace is part and parcel of Her. Grace is Her body; She is the personification of Grace. That is why when we pray for the Grace of God, we pray to Her. Prayer to a personal God should be to a form which comes out of its own free will to create, which is un-bound in the kArmic cycle, which is a treasure house of sat, cit, Ananda and whose sole purpose is to pour out Grace.  All this constitutes the foremost quality of the Mother. In order to propitiate Her, there are four major pieces of religious literature.  These four are: the devI-MahAtmyam; lalitA-sahasranAmam; lalitA-trishatI; and soundarya-laharI. The importance and significance of these four stotras for devi worship can never be overemphasized. 


8.  Each name of Hers is a capsule of Divinity.


Let us now take the two namAvalis, lalitA-sahasranAmam and lalitA trishati. As the names indicate, the first one contains 1000 names and the second one contains 300 names of the Goddess. These famous stotras were both taught by Hayyagriva, Her foremost devotee, who was himself Vishnu incarnate, to agastya, the sage of all sages. The sahasranAmam was originally recited by the vAg-devatAs, the Goddesses of speech, right in the presence of Goddess lalitA Herself. The trishati was originally composed by no lesser divinities than Lord Shiva and Parvati, taking turns. Every name of Goddess enshrined in these stotras has a tremendous connotation and significance for the full gamut of Hinduism. In fact, the entire philosophy, mythology and purport of Hindu worship are built into these names, which are not one but thousands and more. 


Take a name as simple as, say, UMA. Three syllables, ‘u’ , ‘ma’ and ‘A’ constitute the word umA. The same three syllables, in a different order, though, constitute the most important mantra of Hindu thought, AUM. So everything that is connoted by Aum, that is, what all the scriptures say in essence (cf. ‘sarve vedA  yat padam Amananti’ – meaning, what all the Vedas say in one word) is also indicated by the word umA.


Further, ‘u’ means Shiva, the nature of Shiva is the unmanifested brahman; It is the PrakRti, the inherent characteristic of brahman that helps us  bring into our mind and worship the delimitation of that unlimited brahman. Thus ‘umA’ delimits brahman and brings him to our comprehension. This is what the derivation of the word ‘umA’ says: “ukAra-rupaM brahmANaM mAti iti umA”. The word ‘mAti’ means delimits, circumscribes, concretises. As  can be seen, the derivation of words from their root syllables is, in the Sanskrit language, a very instructive exercise and Hindu religious literature is replete with such derivations for almost every word that it uses. To recite these names is to be immersed in the wealth of their meanings. This is the surest and smoothest way to concentrate on the Almighty and delight in ecstatic states of experience in the remembrance of the Supreme. 


Another meaning for ‘umA’ is: The One, who was prevented. This refers to the situation where Parvati wanted to do penance of the severest kind, and her mother beckoned her, with the monosyllable ‘u’ and said: ‘No’. (‘mA’ in Sanskrit means ‘No’). It is in this form and name that the Mother of the Universe appears to Indra, the Lord of the divines, in Kenopanishad, as the physical manifestation of the incomprehensible Supreme. There are also other esoteric meanings of ‘umA’.  In sum a simple name like umA has so much embedded into it, in terms of mythology, philosophy and cultural history. In fact this is true of most of the  names of God that we find not only in lalitA-sahasranAma but in every sahasranAma.


9.  Names are scriptural epitomes


Every sahasranAma of God describes the Lord’s infinite qualities in several ways and each description is only a fragmentary rendering of the infinite number of auspicious attributes that we can ever offer to Him. Every sahasranAma has the same majesty of encyclopaedic exhaustiveness. lalitA sahasranAma is famous for the internal organization of the text and the rhythmic sound vibrations it can produce. lalitA is dear to devotees because of their devotion, so She is ‘Bhakti-priyA’. She is also ‘Bhakti-gamyA’, because She is attainable through Bhakti alone. She is ‘BhayApahA’, since She removes all fears. She is ‘Bhakti-vashyA’, since She is bound by Bhakti. She is ‘niranjana’, faultless; ‘nirlepA’, attachmentless; ‘nirmalA’, blemishless; ‘nityA’, permanent; ‘nirAkAra’, formless; ‘nirAkulA’, delusionless; and therefore not reachable by those who are deluded. She is ‘nirbhavA’, one without birth or death; and for this very reason, She is ‘bhava-nAshinI’, one who destroys the dis
 ease of
 birth and death. She is ‘antar-mukha-samArAdhyA’, one who is to be worshipped by turning inward. And by the same token, She is ‘bahir-mukha-sudurlabhA’, unattainable, if you look outward. She is devoid of name and form, so ‘nAma-rUpa-vivarjitA’. She is however pleased by the recitation of Her names, so ‘nAma-pArAyaNa-prItA’. She is the One Person to be known by all the vedas, therefore ‘veda-vedyA’. She is the original source of the vedas, therefore ‘veda-jananI’. She is the One who is pointed out by the word ‘That’ in all the scriptures, so She is ‘tad-pada-lakshyArthA’.


11. lalitA-trishatI


This particular piece, trishati,  is considered to be even more sacred and powerful than the sahsra-nAma. The names are not just names, each one of them is a mantra -- in the sense that they have esoteric spiritual meanings and when recited, the very recitation, even without the understanding of the meaning, can give powerful effects, just because of the vibrations they can generate. Every sahasra-nAma and every name of God has this characteristic, but in the case of lalitA-trishati it is expressly certified to be so. Consequently each name is dense with meanings, not only with the obvious ones but with several non-obvious profound interpretations.  Adi-Sankara has written an elaborate commentary on it.
There is a fifteen-letter mantra for the Goddess which is not only famous but at the same time forms the greatest of secrets in the worship of the Goddess -- secret in the sense that the mantra has to be earned from a guru  orally after a number of prerequisites are fulfilled to the satisfaction of the guru. The three hundred names in the trishati occur in groups of twenty names, one for each letter of the fifteen-letter mantra. So the first 20 names all start with the letter 'ka' which is the first letter of the mantra. The second 20 names all start with the letter 'e' which is the second letter of the mantra; and so on it goes. The mantra is thus well-known because we can guess the text of the mantra by putting together the first letters of the fifteen groups of 20 names. But we are not supposed to be in possession of the mantra until we have 'received' it from a guru -- who must have himself  repeatedly recited it several hundreds of thousands of times with all the reveren
 ce and
 concentration it demands so that he possesses the spirit of the mantra in him! 


This concept  of the spiritual possession of a mantra is an important  part of the culture of the religions of the East. And In Hinduism particularly, the necessity to repeat the mantra has an  extraordinary emphasis because the effect of the  mantra is held to be proportional to the intensity of the spiritual possession of it and this latter, is directly proportional to the number of times it has been repeated formally and reverentially.


12.Mantra power


To chant the names of God is to be immersed in the ecstasy of identity with the glories of God as encompassed by the name we chant. The mind is always riddled with desire and hate, lust and greed, and so is as unsteady as a sailboat in an ocean and as such, needs a symbol, a prop, upon which God can be superimposed for the purpose of single-minded concentration. The  name of God or Goddess  serves as this symbol. Reciting Her names, repeating them in a certain rhythmic pattern, recalling Her majesty and splendour, Her immanence and Transcendence, Her omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence, Her perfection - these are the ways in which one uses this prop of Her names for turning the mind inward. Such a prop of God's names is used in every religion.  But in Hinduism it is the unmistakable central chord that vibrates throughout the vast tradition and literature.


And the foundational concept for this is   the power of the mantra. In fact if there is one thing that is common to all the votaries of the religion, spread through its multifarious sects and schools, it is the value and significance that get attached to mantras and names of God – though the mantras or the names may differ from sect to sect and school to school. Whether one murmurs it or says it aloud whether it is done non-stop for hours together or it is done at set timings each day, whether it is done as a penitiential act or an act with a desire, whether it is done in a static posture or when one is moving, whether it is done individually or collectively, – the belief in the efficacy of mantra-power is the great common factor of all votaries of the Hindu religion. The mantra may be just a name (= nAma),  of a deity enshrined in a temple or of an avatAra of God or of God thought of without any reference to a temple or location. 


(To be continued and concluded)

PranAms to all 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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