Śrī Adi Śankaracharya’s Kanakadhara
As we drift in the flow of Kanakadhara, we can explore a lot of inherent meaning. When this meaning is understood, our lives will become a Kanakadhara (Kanaka: Precious like gold, Dhara: Flow) with our nature like gold (rare and valuable) and our life a part of this Dhara. This world and our lives will eventually tend to make sense, evolving our conscience to higher plains of reality.
Exploring Śrī Śankara’s illustrations in Kanakadhara will not only help our understanding of its tatva (essence) but also will help our understanding of His later literary compositions. It’s natural to presume that the composition of a five-year-old to be less remarkable than that of an experienced scholar, however, in case of Śrī Śankara, the excellence and essence He portrait at the age of five (with Kanakadhara being his first extempore composition) was in all aspects extraordinary and consistent with His later works. This very aspect of Śrī Śankara’s compositions baffles scholars even today and so will we as we traverse through it. This very excellence made Him a Jagath-Guru (Guru of this world). It’s up to us to explore this essence through contemplation and Dhyāna. The more we explore the more our lives will flow like this Dhara, the more we flow, the more we shine (Kanaka), the more we shine the more our darkness of ignorance shall diminish giving light for others to seek shelter and shine.
Its essence can be observed in the way He starts with the concept of Karmā, which eventually leads its way to Gyana. If our perspective is limited to admiring the poetic beauty of this stotram, then we can be sure of one thing, which is, it doesn’t require our affirmation to mention such an obvious fact. A composition by a Guru is different from that of a poet. Babbling the poetic beauty of a composition by a poet is acceptable, but doing the same for literature given forth by a Guru is a loss on our part to have ignored its tatva. It’s also foolish to attempt to explore the mastery of the master himself. It would be like trying to show the Sun through the light of a lamp. Śrī Śankara’s grand composition, ‘The Soundarya Lahiri’ sloka 100, portrays His gratitude and gratefulness:
“प्रदीप ज्वालाभि-र्दिवसकर-नीराजनविधिः सुधासूते-श्चंद्रोपल-जललवै-रघ्यरचना ।
स्वकीयैरंभोभिः सलिल-निधि-सौहित्यकरणं त्वदीयाभि-र्वाग्भि-स्तव जननि वाचां स्तुतिरियम्”
ప్రదీప జ్వాలాభి–ర్దివసకర–నీరాజనవిధిః సుధాసూతే–శ్చంద్రోపల–జలలవై–రఘ్యరచనా
స్వకీయైరంభోభిః సలిల–నిధి–సౌహిత్యకరణం త్వదీయాభి–ర్వాగ్భి–స్తవ జనని వాచాం స్తుతిరియమ్
Pradipa-jwalabhir dhivasa-kara-neerajana-vidhih Sudha-suthes chandropala-jala-lavair arghya-rachana
Svakiyair ambhobhih salila-nidhi-sauhitya karanam Tvadiyabhir vagbhis thava janani vacham stutir iyam
(Ramachander P.R. n.d.)
Meaning, all sounds, and words have originated from the Divine Mother, including the words of this very sloka. Hence, explaining You (The Divine Mother) with these words is like showing the Sun through the light of a lamp, or showing the water from moonstone to the moon, or like worshiping the sea by offering water.
In Kanakadhara, Śrī Śankara gave us a message and tatva through a poor Brahmin family, if that wasn’t the case then this stotram, even today, would not have had such significance beyond time and place. Our efforts to understand this tatva and implementing it in our lives serve the true purpose and intent of such great literature left to us by Gurus. Many elders hence proclaimed Kanakadhara as a full-bloomed rice field, ready for harvest. Why? A farmer to reach harvest must first wait for the rain, plow to sow seeds at a proper distance, and maintain it with care protecting it from many factors, all this for it to reach harvest. After harvest, the farmer takes the seeds but leaves the grass (crop) behind. Similarly, Karmā is like the crop, which we have to keep performing with good nature, through Karmā we evolve and receive its seed of enlightenment, at which point the crop of Karmā is let go. Performing Karmā after enlightenment is not focused anymore, hence a gyani (jnani) can no more be pointed out for his/her implementation of karmā, nor is it associated with any ashram and discipline. For all this to happen one needs the anugraham (grace) of the primal form of Ishwara (Iśvara), who is Ganapathi, this is the secret for Śrī Śankara to begin this stotram with salutations to Ganapathi.
Śrī Śankara is an incarnation (an avatar) of Kailasha Shankar(a), such a personality at the age of five, using this poor brahmin family as an example granted the world with a stotram to rectify our setbacks. By doing this He stands in the position of a Guru, hence, it’s our fortune if we can mine the truth and wisdom in His stotram, rather than just focusing on its poetic composition. For all the slokas and stotras that we are blessed with, are but for one purpose, to quench our thirst for knowledge and wisdom, through which, we ourselves one day become that very flow (Dhara). So, what message and knowledge is Śrī Śankara conveying to us using Kanaka Dhara? If we understand this, itself makes us a part of his flow, and forever reach content and joy with ourselves, hence the word Dhara is used in naming this stotram.
The significance of Karmā plays a fundamental role in the exploration of tatva and because of Karmā (generic word for both karmā and dush:karmā), wherein the selfishness in previous lives has resulted in this brahmin family to suffer and be deprived of Śrī Lakshmi’s anugraham (grace). This being the case, why will Śrī Lakshmi shower Her anugraham (grace) now? What has changed? The one thing different is, this poor brahmin’s wife donated a dried amla fruit to Śrī Śankara. It’s to be understood that this family had nothing to eat but that one dried fruit, which she sacrificed and donated to Śrī Śankara. Then why is that a reason for anything? How is this act of donation be of any significance? Understanding this significance itself is to drift in Kanakadhara. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)
Now, let’s think for a moment, even after singing this stotram if Śrī Śankara doesn’t receive the anugraham (grace), then it means that He has failed in His attempt. That failure automatically closes all future options to receive that anugraham (grace). So, for the poor brahmin’s wife to receive Śrī Lakshmi’s anugraham (grace), Śrī Śankara is the one who must succeed in reaching out to the compassion or Anugraham of the Divine Mother. It’s a Guru whose efforts when succeed, make way for his students and future generations as a path towards fulfillment. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)
Earning & Saving
A:sharira:vani: A:sharira:vani is a Divine voice of Iśvara, were in ‘sharira’ meaning physical form, and the negation of ‘sharira’ is ‘a-sharira’ meaning without a physical form. Finally, ‘vani’ meaning voice. When read as one, it means a voice originated without a physical form.
In this specific instance, this stotram refers to the form or concept of Śrī Lakshmi and the underlying reason for its composition was to help the poor brahmin family with the anugraham (grace) of happiness and comfort. It’s to be noted that Śrī Śankara’s intent was not to provide riches in terms of money or funds to this brahmin family, which He could have done himself being born in a wealthy family. His approach was to reach out to the karuna (empathy) of Pāraśakti, and it’s through Her, He intends to shower prosperity and comfort, but why ask for Karuna instead of riches? This is a very critical question, which we will see later in our discussion, so for now, hold on to this question. Before He sang this stotram, He asked Śrī Lakshmi to shower Her anugraham (grace) over this family, for which the divine voice, A:sharira:vani spoke, claiming this family’s dush:karmā created by their selfish nature in previous lives is the reason for their misery today. It’s to be noted, that at this very initial stage of the stotram, we can understand the significance of Karmā and its role in our lives. But before we make any assumptions, let’s wait till we explore more about what karmā is.
Intent to earn and save wealth is not deemed wrong, Śāstra never once claimed that earning and saving wealth was improper. A human being with the help of their gifts earns and works towards the accumulation of wealth. One cannot claim or find fault in this nature of a human and force one to donate or share. Śāstra tries to convey that saving wealth is not wrong but emphasizes the opportunity a man loses to evolve in conscience by just living for their own self and not utilizing the available resources towards the exploration of higher conscience. Eventually, this gift of man (could be a skill, beauty, strength, wealth, or more) that one uses to earn comfort and fame, one day will run dry and so will the opportunity to evolve in one’s conscience. Śāstra just does not want a man to be happy now but strives for a man to reach joy always, hence presents various opportunities and ways to evolve. This evolution of conscience happens when Devotion (Bhakthi) assimilates with Karmā. Just Karmā can take a man to a certain level by presenting further opportunities for future comforts, but Bhakthi, when assimilated with Karmā, evolves one’s conscience to higher plains of wisdom. Losing such opportunities will only lead to the man falling into the lower level of conscience. Then the question arises, what is Bhakthi? (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)
Reciting Kanakadhara Stotram out loud is not the only intent here, it should be noticed that at every step of its composition, Śrī Śankara tries to rectify the setbacks of this poor brahmin family. The word Dhara in the name of this stotram itself signifies that it’s a never-ending flow that is not limited to time or situation. It can glorify different individuals at different levels and can drench us with prosperity. Hence the meaning and truth conveyed through this stotram is something that needs to be incorporated in our lives. As a student, if the zeal is to drench in the tatva from a Guru, then such a student should not limit oneself to think that Śrī Śankara’s sloka to Śrī Ganesha was only to bestow this poor brahmin’s family with riches.
The manifestation of joy (referring to the Śrī Ganesha) is to whom Śrī Śankara begins His salutation so that Śrī Ganesha can shine not just at the beginning, but throughout the course of the Kanakadhara. So, anyone who wishes to be such a student should also start Kanakadhara with gratitude towards Śrī Ganesha. The very purpose of identifying and eliminating obstacles lays the foundation for what’s coming next, hence Śrī Ganesha is called the Vignadipati or Vignaraja (both the creator and remover of obstacles, because an obstacle in situations can turn out to be good or be a hindrance).
(Srichaganti. S.V.V, 2013., p.1-2., Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-3)
The Dhara (Flow) Begins
“वॅदे:वंडारू म्नदाराम इंदिरा-नंद कंदलम
अमंडनंद:संदोह बंधुरम सिंधुराननां”
“Vandey vandaru mandaram indirananda kandalam
amandananda sandoha bandhuram sindhura nanam”
(Astrojyoti. K.S. n.d.).
Śrī Śankara, none other than the incarnation of Kailasha Śankara, knowing the significance of Namaskaram begins his stotram with the word ‘Vande’ (salutation). Why start with a Salutation, why not just start praising Śrī Lakshmi (the Goddess of Prosperity)? These are few such questions when one attempt to comprehend reveals profound meaning inherent in Śrī Śankara’s stotram, and it’s this very essence that He intends to pass on to us all, and it’s with this information and essence, our understanding towards this very reality extends. Now the obvious question, to who is this Vande (salutations)?
‘Vandey:vandaru mandaram’ meaning, I Salute to the one who can grant our wishes like the wish-fulfilling tree (Kalpavruksham), this Namaskaram is to that person.
‘Indira:nanda kandalam’? It refers to someone who is dear to Indira, and ‘amanda:nanda sandoha’ means the face, which is always Joyous to look, and ‘bandhuram sindhura:nanam’ refers to the one with an elephant face. That person is none other than Śrī Ganesha, who is most dear to Indira (Mother Gowri) and has a joyous elephant face that grants our wishes and removes obstacles. Śrī Śankara’s intention is very clear on why He chose to begin His stotram with the salutation to Śrī Ganesha since He is Agra:Pujitha or Prathama Pujitha (First or primal deity or concept to be worshiped). (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-3)
The word Indira itself means, to be most wealthy and prosperous, which doesn’t just refer to Śrī Lakshmi, but to Devi Gowri and Devi Sarasvatī, so the phrase ‘Indira-Nanda Kandala’ was referred by Śrī Śankara with such liberty. This is also a reason why Śrī Śankara has established Para:shakthi in the form of Sharada in Srungagiri Peetam, more the reason why ‘Indira-Nanda Kandala’ now applies not just to Devi Pārvatī but also to Her son Gaja-Mukha (Elephant face) or Ganapathi or Śrī Ganesh(a).