[Advaita-l] Digest of Paramacharya's Discourses on Soundaryalahari (DPDS-67)

V. Krishnamurthy profvk at yahoo.com
Sat Mar 13 07:43:21 CST 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.1186 -1188   of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume,
4th imprn.)

The first two lines of Shloka 56 are: 

tavAparNe karNe japa-nayana-paishunya-chakitAH
nilIyante toye niyatam-animeshhAH shapharikAH /

tavAparNe has to be broken as tava aparNe. aparNA is the
name of ambaa. The name aparNa means She who did not even
eat the leaves. In her manifestation as the daughter of the
Mountain King, when She was doing penance in order to be
wedded to Lord Shiva, She adopted such a terrific 
self-discipline, wherein, She did not even have the fallen
leaves as Her  food. 
aparNe: Oh Goddess, who has the name aparNA,
niyataM : certainly, 
shapharikAH: the female fishes 
nilIyante : hide themselves 
toye: in water
japa-nayana-paishunya-chakitAH: (talking – eyes – tell-tale
– trembling) trembling in fear  that Your eyes (that extend
up to the ear) are perhaps carrying tales of slander (about
tava karNe: to Your ears.

Why do fish never swim in the upper regions of the ocean
and instead always stay in deep waters? The Acharya here
imagines an interesting reason. They see ambaal’s eyes
which extend up to Her  ears. She is always rolling Her
eyes on all sides in order that not a single being in the
universe misses Her blessed glance of protection. And so
they now and then reach the extremities of the eye and
appear as if they are touching the ears! And the fishes
think that is when the eyes say something secretive  into
the divine ears. They think defensively that the devi’s
eyes are perhaps telling tales about them (the fishes);
because they always think that the fish-eyed looks of the
devi are only competing with them as rivals in terms of
fast movements. And naturally they are afraid the devi
might take it on them and therfefore they stay in  deep
water! They know that if they are really put to test they
will lose in competition with ambaal’s eyes both in the
beauty as well as in fast movement. 

In the Meenakshi temple at Madurai, there is the tank
called ‘The tank of the Golden Lotus’. There are no fishes
in that tank. The folklore is that they don’t come there
because they know they cannot compete with the beauty of
the eyes of  Goddess Meenakshi .  Thus the Acharya in
making a comparison of ambaal’s eyes with fishes and in
painting a picture for us of the fishes  not wanting to
show up before Her,  has really subtly hinted to us of
Goddess Meenakshi in this shloka!

This takes care of the other ‘default’ – namely, that in
Soundaryalahari, where is the mention of Meenakshi?

One more observation on this shloka before we move on .
This is about the word ‘animeshhAH’. It means ‘without
winking the eyes’.  By the way, the word ‘nimeshha’ means a
unit of time equal to about one-fourth of a second.  The
Tamil word ‘nimishhaM’ meaning ‘a minute’ must have come
from this ‘nimeshha’. That ambaal does not wink Her eyes
was effectively used by the Acharya in just the previous
shloka (#55). There he says that Creation and Dissolution
take place just during the winking of Her eyes. And so in
order to prevent this universe (that has been created at
the opening of Her eyelids) from dissolution She does not
wink Her eyes at all !. Here the general traditional belief
that the divines do not wink their eyes has been used by
the Acharya as  a remarkable expression of Her protective
feeling towards the whole universe. But we can also look at
it in another way. The fraction of a second during which
the winking takes place may deny the Compassionate Divine
Glance to Her children of the world; and maybe that is why
She does not wink Her eyes!

But how can the same non-winking of eyes apply to fish? Of
course there is the  traditional belief that fishes by
nature don’t sleep.  But again this belief has been
elevated to a poetic imagination by the Acharya visualising
that the fish don’t wink because they, being afraid of the
effect of slander about them by Her eyes, want to be alert
all the time against any ‘attack’ by Her even while they
hide themselves in deep water!

Next comes one of the most touching shlokas  (#57) of
Soundaryalahari. Here we have to melt our hearts in prayer.
Maybe this particular shloka was done by the Acharya when
He was  overcome by Her KaruNA in all its fullness. But the
Acharya shows his humility even here. Instead of saying
“Your Grace has descended on me with all its overflowing
fullness”, he says, in talking of Her Grace, “Would it not
also reach me?” Look at the humility of our Acharya in
spite of his being at the apex of Bhakti, JnAna, Spiritual
Power and Poetic Excellence!

Indeed all the great nAyanmars, and Alwars, when they sing
about their love of God vie with each other in expressing
the sentiment of humility coupled with grief and self-pity.
“Oh Lord, Would you not condescend to shower your grace on
this poor little devotee of Yours?” – this is the running
theme in many of their compositions. Our Acharya also does
this. My own opinion is this.  These great giants of
devotion do not have to belittle themselves so much. They
are all already realised souls. But they sing in this
strain because they want us ordinary folk to be able to
appeal to the Almighty in that strain. Ignorant as we are,
we lack that humility and we don’t even know how to pray.
And that is why they give us the very words to pray with
that kind of humility.  And here, in this shloka #57,
ambaal has prompted our Acharya to pray to her in that
style with superlative humility!

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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