Unified Tatvam of Purusha & Prakruti
Prakruti (Prakriti) can be defined or understood as anything that’s energy, both as pure energy and tangible material (which is also energy), in short, it’s the nature and creation around us. Purusha is the singular conscience out of which every other conscience (within a jiva) is but an extension to that supreme conscience. Sanatana Dharma (Hinduism) sidhantham (fundamentals, not philosophy) expounds these concepts as a duality for us to distinguish existence in two separate modes of operation. During the initial course of this exploration we might seek their difference, however, eventually these two concepts are one perceived as two.
Ishwara (Ishvar) is not a physical or material entity, Ishwara is not just an energy, Ishwara is shapeless, formless, non-tangible and in a single statement, Ishwara is not limited to all possible phenomenon known to this creation and its countless realities. Ishwara is a supreme singular conscience also know as the Paramatma (Param:atma) who is completely aware of His own creation (as the creation exists within Him) and operates through Parashakthi (Para:shakthi).
Prakruti is considered feminine because its through Prakruti that everything manifests, including our very body, our life source which is called jiva, and everything around us. Since Prakruti is our source and adobe She is referred as feminine, and not to be misinterpreted as a biological female. Purusha as said earlier is the supreme conscience (Para:matma) and our atma is noting but an extension to it. Its we who are yet to realize that this physical existence is a shell that we wear to sustain in this physical realm. This physical body is a means to strive towards realizing our eternal existence as atma and not limit ourselves to just a bundle of five elements. Hence, the entire essence of Pooja is to use the physical materials around us as a means, and offer them to the Supreme Conscience. By doing so we relinquish our fixation towards the physical, intern foster gratitude and move towards realizing our true self, which is atma, this approach leads to Jivabhramikyasiddhi (Jiva:bhram:ikya:siddhi).
The title ‘Pathi’ usually is related to a male, however its doesn’t necessarily mean husband, Pathi means that one to be attained or a target to be reached or followed, like a steer or a shepherd. And ‘Patni’ is not a female or a wife, it means the one who does ‘Anuvartana’ meaning the one who follows and strives towards reaching a Pathi. These two titles are given to a husband and wife in Sanatana Dharma who enter Gruhast Ashram and follow its dharma through a system known as Vivaha (marriage). Hence after the ceremony of Vivaha (holy matrimony) the woman is not refereed as just patni, she is referred as Dhrama Patni, meaning the one donated by the bride’s father (Kanyadan) to Sri Vishnu (the groom is considered Sri Vishnu, and bride as Sri Lakshmi) so that they can walk the path of dharma and she is the one to support and follow the man in his efforts in following dharma and to uplift each other in the cycle of dharma. Hence we (human beings), are all considered as ‘Pashu’ meaning animals who need to be steered by Ishwara, hence the title ‘Pashupathi’, meaning the lord or steer of animals, as He is the one we all have to attain and follow. Therefore He (Ishwara), is the only pathi and we (irrespective of human gender) are all who have to attain Him and Him alone. Kindly continue your reading of the topics of Kanyadan & Dharma Patni.
In the very nature of a lingam, the top spherical shape is called the Linga, representing Purusha (which is the atman) and is the ultimate destination for a jiva to become one with para:matma in the process of Laya. Hence, as discussed earlier He is Pashupathi. The base on which the spherical Linga rests is called the Yoni or Peetham, and represents Prakruti, which is our adobe (for a jiva and the physical body) in which we get created and sustained so that the jiva can strive to realize itself to be more than just a physical body. Let’s understand Prakruti and Purusha through a story:
Why Shiva Killed his own son, Ganesha?
In the story of Ganesha jananam, Devi Parvati (the concept of Prakruti) creates a doll (a boy) using turmeric and flour, meaning She the Prakruit created a being devoid of the essence of the Purusha. When Shiva arrives, the boy fails to realize one’s own father and resists Him. Similar to us who identify ourselves as this body and not the atman. Shiva makes attempts to help the boy realize atman but He continues to resists at which state Shiva intervenes an recreates the boy in a new image. Since they (Shiva and Parvati) are the adikutumbam (adi:kutumba) meaning the first family, and Parvati as Prakruti is adikutumbini, their child should be an example for creation, hence the divine act to show us that Prakruti is the means to reach the Purusha as He is the only Pathi (destination).
Are Parvati and Sri Vishnu Siblings (Brother and Sister)? Who is Narayana and Narayani?
Parvati the essence and the concept of Prakruti, and as discussed earlier is the adobe for our existence, wherein the creation is transformed, sustained, fostered and preserved (for certain time). Hence, She assimilates the very nature of preservation and creation in this physicality. On the other hand (Vishnu tattva) Sri Maha Vishnu attains the nature of preservation, and hence is the concept of sustainability, and well-being of creation in His purview, especially the upliftment of Dharma. Hence, the sloka from Srimad Bhagavat Gita, part of Sri Maha:bharath(am), composed by Rishi Veda Vyasa, said in chapter 4, sloka 8:
परित्राणाय साधूनां विनाशाय च दुष्कृताम्।
धर्मसंस्थापनार्थाय संभवामि युगे युगे।।
(Gita Supersite. n.d.)
Meaning, I (Sri Maha Vishnu as Sri Krishna) will take care of those who are pious, rishis, humble and the eradicator of those who are perform wicked deeds and to establish dharma, I will manifest again and again.
It’s because of this very nature, both Sri Maha Vishnu and Devi Parvati manifest into different forms in different times in their own creation (especially Bhumi/Earth). Sri Vishnu takes birth mostly from a womb of Prakruti (female) and Shakthi as ayonija (meaning not born out of a womb). Sri Maha Vishnu manifests as Sri Rama, Sri Krishna, Vamana, Varaha and more. Similarly, Devi Parvati (as Shakthi or Prakruti) manifests as Himavati (as a daughter of Parvata Raja or Himavat), Dakshayani (Daughter of Daksha Prajapathi), Katyayani (daughter of Sage Katyayna), Bhargavi (daughter of Rishi Bhrugu) and many more. Both manifest time and again, sometimes together (Sri Krishna and Durga) and sometimes apart, to upheld Dharma and preserve creation. Hence, they are siblings, and bear the same color or hue, and so are addressed as Narayana (Sri Maha Vishnu) and Narayani (Devi Parvati/ Shakthi).
Comprehension of the concept of Prakruti and Purusha will keep evolving as we journey through our discussion as its both vital and magnificent. This topic is coved across Ishwara & Shakthi, Jagan:Maatha, Path to Devotion, and most important of all, the concept of Laya which explains how Prakruti blooms out of Ishwara, but for now let’s take a peek into the unified tatva(m) of both.
When Sri Adi Shankaracharya (hence forth addressed as Sri Shankara) composed Kanaka Dhara stotram, He didn’t address to Sri Maha Lakshmi alone. Though Kanaka Dhara is often addressed as a Sri Lakshmi Stotram, one should speculate on the question: Where does Sri Lakshmi reside. It can be seen in Rig Veda (one of 4 compartmentalized Veda by Rishi Vyasa), Sri Suktam, Sloka 27:
“लक्ष्मीं क्षीरसमुद्र राजतनयां श्रीरङ्गधामेश्वरीम्”
“Lakshmi Ksheera Samudra Raaja Tanayam Sree Ranga Dhaameshvarim”
(Green Message Sri Suktam. n.d.)
From the above sloka, it can be understood that Sri Lakshmi should always be addressed by Her concert. Once, Sribhashyam Appalacharyulu (a renowned scholar) was presenting in Vishakapatanam, Andhra Pradesh, said, when I address Sri Lakshmi with just the first phrase ‘Lakshmi Ksheera Samudra Raaja Tanaya’ (which means Sri Lakshmi the daughter of King of the Oceans) She would feel a little incomplete because She always feels proud to be addressed through Her in-laws. Hence, Sribhashyam Appalacharyulu said, I should always say the next phrase ‘Sree Ranga Dhaameshvari’ (meaning the concert of Vishnu). The message that is conveyed is, where Sriman Narayana is worshiped and respected, Sri Lakshmi resides there.
If Sri Vishnu and Sri Lakshmi are one, then before Kshera:sagara Madan(am) (from which Sri Lakshmi emerged) was Sri Vishnu just Vishnu (along)? Kshera:sagara Madan(am) was an event in kaal(am) (time) that was enacted by Ishwara to give perspective and a lesson to those who were interested in the amrut(am) (elixir of immortality) as they were not satisfied with what was already given to them. As a father, Ishwara helped both Devatas and Dayityas (since both are children) by manifesting as a Kurma (Sri Vishnu who manifested as a tortoise) holding the mountain. And as Shiva He consumed the halahala(m) (anti-creation element) that emerged from it, to protect His children. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.16)
The same is said in Soundarya Lahiri, which might be considered to emphasize on Devi Parvathi, however, it starts with the phrase ‘Shivas Shakthi’ where Shiva was addressed first. Without raising the word Shiva, Shivaa (Parvathi or Parvati) will not answer.
Sri Shankara gratified us with Shiva:nandha Lahiri and gave us the same tatva in its very first sloka:
” कलाभ्यां चूडालङ्कृतशशिकलाभ्यां निजतपः फलाभ्यां भक्तेषु प्रकटितफलाभ्यां भवतु मे ।शिवाभ्यामस्तोकत्रिभुवनशिवाभ्यां हृदि पुन- र्भवाभ्यामानन्दस्फुरदनुभवाभ्यां नतिरियम्”
“Kalabhyam choodalankrutha sasi kalabhyam nija thapa Phalabhyam bhaktheshu prakatitha phalabhyam bhavathu me Shivabham sthoka thri bhuvana shivabhyam hridhi punar Bhavaabhyam ananda sphura dhanubhavabhyam natheeriyam”
(Adobe of God Shiva On the Internet. n.d., Sanskrit Documents. S.L. 2010)
Meaning, Shiva, and Devi Parvathi are the fruit of one another’s tapasya and hence never to be prioritized over the other.
Sri Chandrashakarendhra Saraswathi, successor of Sri Shankara, decorated as the 68th Jagadguru of Kanchij Kamakoti Peetham, once said, to understand Soundarya Lahiri one should recite Shiva-Anandha Lahiri, by doing so, will automatically attain the ability to grasp the tatva(m)(essence) of Soundaraya Lahiri.
To gain Sri Lakshmi’s blessings, one should always get the blessings of Sri Vishnu. Worshiping Sri Lakshmi alone is not prosperous, even if one tries to obtain wealth through force and illegal means and hopes to prosper, it will only lead to one’s own demise. This happened when Ravana forcefully kidnapped Sita Devi (incarnation of Sri Lakshmi), which ended up in his own demise. Similarly, Surpanaka (Sister of Ravana) also wanted to obtain Rama without Sita, and so met with Her demise. However, Hanuman who filled His heart with both Sita and Sri Ram became the future Brahma.
There exists meaning and completeness when both Sri Lakshmi and Sri Vishnu are seen together and worshiped as one. An attempt to encompass self-created belief or priority over Sri Lakshmi or Sri Vishnu (Same applies to the case of Shiva and Parvati or Hiranyagarbha and Saraswathi) out of ignorance, and implementing them in one’s life or enforcing upon others without the contemplation of tatva is not beneficial and is ill-advised. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)
A good reference would be the story of Gajendra Moksha(m) from Srimad Bhagavatam (Sri Bhagavata Puranam) where Sri Vishnu forgot Himself for the submission of Gajendra who surrendered himself fully to the preserver of creation. Sri Vishnu in His haste to reach out to Gajendra forgot that He was holding the pallu (tip of the sari worn around the shoulder) of Sri Lakshmi and so dragged Her with Him. The tatva in this scenario is that Sri can never be separate from Purusha, so Sri Vishnu never let go of Sri Lakshmi even in the mides of His haste. Later, Sri Vishnu asked Sri Lakshmi about His actions for which She said to His astonishment, that it was Her pleasure to always watch His feet, and always walks by His side. This is exactly what Sri Lakshmi, as Sita Devi did in Ramayana by following Ram through His exile. This behavior is called ‘Auvarthi’ (meaning to follow or accompany some one’s actions and stand by their side always). We have read earlier that Sri Lakshmi watches Sri Vishnu while He watches us during our upasana, in return making us fall in the eyes of Sri Lakshmi. And She as Prakruti makes sure to support our needs as our very existence is in the adobe of Her Prakruti. Sir Vishnu shines in the luminescence of Sri Lakshmi and provides His anugraham (grace) through Her. This nature of Sri Lakshmi to follow Sri Vishnu (Anuvarthi) made Her the icon for padasevana (one of the nava:vidha bhakthi) and because of this Sri Vishnu coronated Her in His hrudaya. In others words, She with Her Anuvartana and devotion conquered the hrudayam of Sri Vishnu. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15-16)
Ishwara and Ishwari (Shakti / Parashakti)
Ishvar (also called as Ishwar or Ishwara) is derived fromParameshwara (Param:Ishwara) where in ‘param’ meaning ultimate and Ishwara meaning the supreme authority and the supreme singular conscience also know as Paramatma (Para:matma), who is not limited to the phenomenon of this reality and who can’t be classified by a gender or shape or any specific definition. Hence, moving forward rather than addressing Ishwara as an object or a thing, we shall refer to Ishwara as ‘Him’. It is not the intent to associate Ishwara as masculine or as a biological classification of being a male, its because, His conscience and the energy which is Parashakthi (Para:shakthi) and Parameshwari (Para:meshwari) through which Ishwara operates is represented as ‘Her’. Again, this is not to associate in a feminine sense, nor a biological representation of a female. It is only a means to distinguish both entities as a duality (Prakruti & Purusha) which are one and the same, but operating in two modes with one relying on the other. Ishwara has the title Pashupathi, where in the word pathi means the one we must all attain and so is not a gender classification as male. In the same way patni (commonly interpreted as wife) in Sanatana Dharma is addressed as Dharmapatni, meaning the one who is the resort and companion on the path of dharma. This the how Sanatana Dharma explained the significance of marriage and our relationship to Ishwara.
When Sri Adi Shankaracharya sang Kanakadhara stotrams it’s inferred that he always references The Supreme Primordial Energy, The Parashakthi. At His level of conscience, He does not differentiate based on the commonly interpreted forms or the manifested forms of Ishwara. So, what does it mean by the word ‘Manifested Forms’? Ishwara is not a physical or material entity, Ishwara is not just an energy, Ishwara is shapeless, formless, non-tangible and in a single statement, Ishwara is not limited to all possible phenomenon known to this creation and its countless realities. Ishwara is a supreme singular conscience also know as the Paramatma who is completely aware of His own creation (as the creation exists within Him) and operates through Parashakthi.
The contemplation of Vedas helps us understanding this concept known as Para:matma (the Supreme singular Conscience). As explained by Ramana Mahrishi it’s safe to say that Ishwara is a concept that operates as Parashakthi. Even in times when Ishwara manifests as a human being, He takes birth through the womb of a mother, since motherhood is the essence of Para:shakti, also can be viewed as Prakruti (Prakriti). However, if Shakti has to manifest then She comes as an ‘aionija’ meaning not born of a womb, for example Devi Sita, Devi Padmavati, Devi Parvati and more.
When Sri Vishnu’s glances falls on our upasana (we becoming eligible), then Sri Lakshmi takes notice and helps us though Her Prakruti, by providing us all the necessary material comforts including good health, because this very body that we possess, is a host for our jiva and is a part of the same Prakruti. Moving forward Ishwara and Para:shakthi will be interchangeably used in this discussion. In times, Ishwara comes as an anomaly and takes a physical form to protect and reestablished dharma. This statement can be found in both Srimad Bhagavad Gita and in Devi Bhagavata(m) (Devi Bhagavata Purana(m)).
Then the obvious question, why does He behave and mimic us (living beings) by manifesting in forms and relationships similar to us? Ishwara manifests in forms that are more appealing and comprehensible to us. He lays path by making Himself an example for us, which is the reason why He comes as an anomaly and takes birth among us to guide us and to show us how to cherish and uplift ourselves in the path of dharma. He stands as an example, lays a path for us, and becomes a target for us to focus. When we say He comes and takes birth among us, it means a subset or a flavor of His conscience seeks a host body, unlike a jiva which seeks a host body because of its Karma. Ishwara Has no karma to shed, hence He comes as an anomaly to implement the message in Shastra and makes a path for us to follow. If He performs things as Paramatma or supreme singular conscience, which is not limited to a form or concept, then for us it would look impossible to follow His word (Veda) since there is no limit to what He can achieve. As a reader, it’s to be understood that, Ishwara doesn’t really have to walk like us to reach a certain destination, nor perform any physical actions if He wishes to accomplish something. He with His very thought and Sri (Devi) with Her very sight can change creation and its reality. Yet, in situations that are exceptions in the realms of this physical reality, and to show those who are yet to understand the tatvam of Ishwara, He in different times, manifests in a different way to prove that devotion can make Him behave like us. He manifests in a physical form to stand as an example by performing actions similar to humans, showing that we can also follow His footsteps. This is again a reminder to us that Sri and Purusha should be worshiped together as Shiva Shakthi, Sri Vishnu, Vaani Pathi and more.
Then what about the various forms that are depicted on sculptures and paintings? One needs to understand that poems and sculptures and paintings are depictions resulting from a devotee’s feeling, or analogy of events in Puranas and imaginations from our interpretations towards the stories in Puranas. There are some exceptions like swayambhu (self manifested entities, not carved or forged by us, like swayambhu Lingas, Idols and kshetras), but the rest are physical manifestation of our devotion, our understanding and our imagination which we intern use these physical entities as targets towards focusing and channeling our devotion by performing various acts of seva (services) and upacharas by treating such physical entities as member of our family or loved ones. Such practice should one day evolve to a state where one can visualize Ishwara in all, irrespective of shape or color, living or nonliving, friend or foe, tangible or not, finally reaching a state where one realizes one’s own atma to be an extension of Paramatma. Hence, its foolish to take such analogy which are depicted as sculptures or images and try to formulate our own baseless self imagination and understanding, and proclaim them to be meaningless. One needs to use such entities to explore the event behind it and in-turn realize the tatva (essence) behind such deceptions, since it’s the tatva which is our goal. In this path of exploring our tatva one has to cherish these stories whether one feels they are real or fictional and cherish our existence in the course of our time.
When Sri Vishnu’s glances falls on our upasana (we becoming eligible), then Sri Lakshmi take notice and helps us though Her Prakruti, by providing us all the necessary material comforts including good health, because this very body that we possess, is a host for our jiva and is a part of the same Prakruti. Moving forward Ishwara and Parashakthi will be interchangeably used in this discussion. In times, Ishwara comes as an anomaly and takes a physical form to protect and reestablished dharma. This statement can be found in both Srimad Bhagavad Gita and in Devi Bhagavata(m) (Devi Bhagavata Purana(m)).
Sri Adi Shankaracharya always refers to that Parashakthi as the concept of Devi Saraswathi in the case of wisdom and knowledge, and as the concept of Sri Lakshmi when it comes to wealth and prosperity. Let’s take a simple analogy in today’s social designations, wherein a District Magistrate and a District Collector be performed by the same individual in some situations. Similarly, the same can be applied to Parashakthi who is the true essence, and based on the situation and prayers She manifests herself in the concept of Devi Saraswathi or Sri Lakshmi. Hence, referring Her, as Parashakthi is accurate, rather one should say it being an evolved perspective. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)
One might ask, how does one see Ishwara? In the process of exploring Ishwara one reaches a state wherein we start to see Ishwara in our parents, family, our Guru, in all beings, in all of creation and finally realizing that oneself is Ishwara.
The word Indira itself means, to be most wealthy and prosperous, which doesn’t just refer to Sri Lakshmi, but to Devi Gowri and Devi Saraswathi, so the phrase ‘Indira-Nanda Kandala’ was referred by Sri Shankara with such liberty. This is also a reason why Sri Shankara 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 Parvathi but also to Her son Gaja-Mukha (Elephant face) or Ganapathi or Sri Ganesh(a).
(Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)
Earning & Saving
A:sharira:vani: A:sharira:vani is a Divine voice of Ishwara, where 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 Sri Lakshmi and the underlying reason towards its composition was to help the poor brahmin family with the anugraham (grace) of happiness and comfort. It’s to be noted that Sri Shankara’s intent was not to provider 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 Para:shakthi, 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 sung this stotram, He asked Sri Lakshmi to shower Her anugraham (grace) over this family, for which the divine voice, A:sharira:vani spoke, claiming this family’s dush:karma 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 stages of the stotram, we can understand the significance of Karma and its role in our lives. But before we make any assumptions, lets wait till we explore more about what karma is.
Intent to earn and save wealth is not deemed wrong, Shastra 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. Shastra 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. Shastra 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 Karma. Just Karma can take a man to the certain level by presenting further opportunities for future comforts, but Bhakthi, when assimilated with Karma, 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)
Bhakthi & Shraddha
Bhakthi is a submission that fosters into various flavors and evolves out of exploration without a specific time frame or destination other then jiva brahmaikyasiddhi (Jiva:brahma:ikya:siddhi). Please note that this is not a simple topic to define or express opinions. So, in this article lets explore the following. What is bhakthi or devotion and its flavors? How does one foster bhakthi? What are the different types or ways of bhakthi? Who is a Nasthik? We will see this, not through opinion but through various references from Sanatana Dharma’s (Hinduism) Shastra and Puranas.
Very few exceptional personalities with prior lives of saadhana (practice and effort towards accomplishing a goal) inherit bhakthi (devotion) towards Ishwara (Ishvara). And there are those, who are the very manifestation of Ishwara like Veda Vyasa, Sri Adishankara and more. For the rest of us, devotion is not something we can purchase in a store. Even if we wish to foster bhakthi, we must have faith and confidence in Ishwara’s existence. Shastra says, no one, except for few anomalies are born with the awareness of Ishwara, for the rest, life is an exploration towards realizing and becoming Ishwara. Shastra doesn’t depict one as Nasthik (closest meaning atheist) just because one does’nt believe in Ishwara. Many of us don’t know or understand Ishwara by birth. Then who is a Nasthik? Shastra claims the one who dismisses Veda or Shastra is a Nasthik. Veda explains the construct of this creation and its constraints. It emulates the concept of Ishwara through various other concepts. Its through a Guru that we get to interpret these concepts. Hence, Shastra proclaims Guru on a higher position than Ishwara himself. Veda are not rules, and Veda doesn’t expect one to follow blindly. Veda is the breath of Ishwara heard as sruthi by sages/rishis during their tapasya. So its our effort to explore Shastra and understand its concepts that allow bhakthi to evolve.
So, let’s try to define bhakthi. When we make an attempt to foster liking and admiration towards an entity, based on their traits, beauty, and marvel and with an ever growing zeal to understand and taste the essence of that entity, and in this process uplift ourselves towards higher consciences, higher compassion and morals then that is called bhakthi. This leads towards we placing our trust in that entity and our lives to progress towards that entity as our target, that is bhakthi. (Srichaganti. B, n.d., p.1)
Well, its good to define it with few words, but HOW does bhakthi foster? How does one cultivate bhakthi? Let’s look at various ways in which bhakthi can be understood.
1. Exploration of Shastra with Shraddha is Bhakthi.
2. Implementation of the wisdom of Shastra in our lives is Bhakthi.
3. Eliminating fear and cultivating confidence is Bhakthi.
4. Expressing ourselves to Ishwara is Bhakthi.
5. Reasoning with our ego, pride and desire is Bhakthi. Being honest to the self is Bhakthi.
6. Srimad Bhagavad Gita has an entire chapter dedicated to the exploration of Bhakthi called the Bhakti Yoga (one of four yogas), so, its vital that one continues this exploration as this aspect it not discussed in this article, however, a conscience effort has been made to capture that essence.
1. Exploration of Shastra with Shraddha is Bhakthi:
Trust in Shastra is bhakthi, sincerity in implementing Shastra is bhakthi, Shraddha (closest meaning is dedication) towards Guru and Shastra is known as bhakthi. Then what is a need for shraddha and why is shraddha important? In Vivekachudamani, Sloka 25, Sri Adi Shankaracharya says:
“शास्त्रस्य गुरुवाक्यस्य सत्यबुद्ध्यवधारणम्। सत्यबुद्ध्यावधारणा
सा श्रद्धा कथिता सद्भिर्यया वस्तूपलभ्यते॥”
“Shastrasya guruvakyasya satyabuddhyavadharanam |
sa sraddha kathita sadbhiryaya vastupalabhyate”
(Sanskrit Documents. V.C. 2017)
Which means trust in Shastra and in the words of Guru with truthful behavior performed with Shraddha intern helps in the understanding of reality and the gain of desired results or objects.
Each day with Shraddha, bhakthi evolves within us making itself a part of our lives and finally becoming our very existence. For example, in the initial stages of our efforts to foster bhakti, we might perform some ritual like puja (pooja) during a specific time of the day, later we get involved into our daily material lives, its challenges and pleasures. This state of bhakthi is more part time, but there comes a stage in lives when bhakthi assimilates within every step of our lives, making us progress towards a life of gratitude. At this stage when one wakes up in the morning, steps on the floor, touches one’s forehead to the floor expressing gratitude towards our Mother Bhudevi for bearing and allowing us to walk on Her, with similar gratitude during the course of our day, finally at night we rest thanking Ishwara for everything.
Let’s note that a ritual is not a substitute for bhakthi, however, when bhakthi assimilates as the fundamental entitiy in our lives then we crave to express gratitude and server Ishwara through a ritual, such a state takes us to a new level of conscience. A ritual without bhakthi is called ‘Yantrikam’ meaning superficial, or an act, yet the effort is not in vain. Bhakthi is a language to express our feelings, our limitations and our gratitude to Ishwara. (Srichaganti. B, n.d., p.1)
Let’s ask a question, can anyone stay without performing karma? It’s not possible. Then will all who perform karma get the same result? Say if ten people perform Satyanarayana Swamy Pooja (Ratham), do all ten get the same result? What about those out of the 10 who performed the Pooja (puja) with devotion ignoring all distractions? Will Ishwara feel happy for the karma alone, or the devotion and Shraddha (dedication) involved in performing Karma? If performing karma with Shraddha and devotion becomes a habit, then may be, we will become conditioned not to act with pride and for self-gain.
Since we all have to face the inevitable effects of our Karma and receive its karma-phala (Fruit of our actions) by the same Karma-a:karma-phala-pradhata (the bestower of the result of Karma, who is the Ishwara), no matter how tough, one cannot stop urging Ishwara for forgiveness and for devotion towards Him (yes to get devotion towards Ishwara, one must ask Ishwara to grant us that devotion, since there are no two entities, one to give and the other to take).
2. Implementation of the wisdom of Shastra in our lives is Bhakthi:
No matter how much we know about Shastra, what matters most is its application in life and living by the path of dharma. A good analogy is to have a lot of sticks in the house but unable to use them to protect oneself when attached, say by animals or harmful entities. Similarly knowing dharma is not sufficient, of course it’s a great step towards evolving, but the significance is in its aacharana (implementation) and upasana (practice), otherwise, with such knowledge one might try to misuse it to cheat people or foster pride. Knowing how to perform Sandhya Vandanam or ability to beautifully recite Gayatri is to be fortunate, but not implementing it in one’s life is to have such a great opportunity go to waste. Dharma itself is what constitutes Sanatana Dharma (again it’s not a religion). Hence Sanatana Dharma commands aacharana at its highest significance, without which one cannot declare to live the life Sanatana Dharma. Without acharana the chances of intertwining or unifying karma with devotion are very slim.
3. Eliminating fear and cultivating confidence is Bhakthi:
The motivator for any action is desire, and in many cases fear towards loosing a desire (which is also a desire), but if fear dictates a human to follow certain philosophy then where is the room for hope and gyana (wisdom). Karma and its understanding are not to induce fear or force one to perform, because the same actions when performed has different results for different individuals based on kaal(am) (time) and place (desham). Understanding this concept gives hope and removes fear, because without hope how can one learn to evolve, or learn karma and its karma:phala, or to rectify past karma. Without its understanding how can one bring out the strength to uplift oneself in their conscience or to repent and realize one’s own mistakes? Understanding karma is not something that is forced upon a human, because karma is, and will always be in play whether an individual makes an attempt to learn it or be ignorant about it. Karma will also be in play irrespective of which philosophy a person believes in, and no matter what name or definition karma is defined in that philosophy because karma is a concept that explains a kriya (action) with its associated result, making the one performing the karma as karta. It doesn’t require a person to understand in Sanatana Dharma to believe in an action and an associative result, which is based on the time and place the action was performed. No matter which philosophy one believes in, everyone is born in the same reality and must abide by its constraints. Not everyone is born with the complete understanding of any philosophy, not everyone sees or experiences Ishwara at birth or during the early stages of life. Not everyone has complete and unshattering proof of Ishwara’s existence. Everyone, except few anomalies like Sri Shankara, the rest of us are born in this uncertain reality, and every action has its effects whether we like it or not. However, it’s our choice to either understand it through Shastra or make up our own philosophy out of our life experiences. It’s to be noted that each person’s life and their experiences are different and so are it’s results, hence one person’s experience can’t necessarily be applicable to another, because each individual is unique in their own sense and interpretation. Understating philosophy presents comprehension towards understanding the choices presented to us by this reality, hence without such an understanding and the hope that is derived from it, how can there be room for mistake and for us to learn from it. It’s from repentance and realizations that a human in many occasions evolves in conscience. Death comes ones to a man, but constant fear (Chinta, meaning fear in anxiety) kills a man each day, like Kamsa who under constant fear of Krishna was dying each day, however was saved by death itself when Krishna finally did come. If fear is the basis, then how and when will one enjoy the freedom with Ishwara and build confidence and hope towards Ishwara, like the poets we have seen earlier. Without such freedom, the concept of Ishwara will become a ferocious entity that one must worship to survive and to bear comfort.
Does this mean fear is bad? No, fear like kama should be uttama, meaning positive or rather call it healthy fear. Healthy fear keeps one’s actions in check making sure not to perform a:dharma. It helps us to draw a line placing ethics and honor as former giving us the ability to check ourselves and pull back on our thoughts and decisions. A human being without such a check can lower oneself to any level of insanity and discrimination under the name of free-will and liberty. Without such a check, one can seek endless power and wealth in whatever means necessary in the name of self-preservation and prosperity disregarding the preservation of resources for others and the future generation. Human beings without such a check will forget that human are social beings and must rely on one another to foster culture and civility, because no matter what we believe, all our prosperity has one source, which is Earth, hence the title Vasundhara, meaning the Mother who gives us all wealth and riches and is the single adobe for our existence.
So, if it’s not fear then what? One can always claim that one’s own self-conscience itself is the basis for choosing the right approach and to be a better judge, if that’s the case, then each individual’s experience and understanding towards this creation is both different and limited, since a human lacks a holistic vision or a collective notion of all entities and factors that define our reality. A human also lacks the ability to feel exactly what other human feels, nor can one visit or comprehend events beyond kaal(am) (time) (both from past and foresee future). Each event can foster different experiences and different perspectives in a human, and each era allows same or different events to occur providing even more possibilities or experiences. This approach will become a trial method. If conscience evolves from knowledge and information and this in return helps us make better choices, than illiterates, the poor, the less fortunate, children and many others are doomed to fall into a spiral of mistakes and misfortune. Even after that, it’s very likely for a person to provide a justification for their actions that seem valid to them, and thus each person will end up creation one’s own philosophy to justify their actions. This the very reason for one to seek a Guru, because a Guru is the conduit for comprehending Ishwara. A Guru is not a promoter of Shastra, nor a representative or a proxy for Shastra. A Guru is not bestowed by any responsibility or duty to teach or share Shastra. A Guru is the one who has passed beyond the comprehension of this reality by understanding the tatva. A Guru is like a tree which doesn’t advertise its shade nor its fruits, similarly, a Guru doesn’t advertise his wisdom. For such a gyani, materials and comforts have no meaning, because a Guru always reminiscence in joy (Brahma:nandam) by understanding this reality and by overcoming all fear.
How do one overcome all fear? When one realizes that there is but one Ishwara and that he/she himself/herself is that Ishwara, hence there is no duality or a secondary entity to fear. One doesn’t have to struggle in identifying such gyani since they are very few in numbers. Such gyani are anomalies created by this reality (or rather the Divine Mother) in comparison to those who self-proclaim such a title making it a profession or a business with Kashayam as a dress code.
The tatva of Shasta is not to abide by fear but to lose the very flavors of fear that many constantly dwells in both acquiring and preserving what has been acquired. If an action no matter how good the intention, leads to a choice, made of one’s conscience and if that results in an outcome causing much pain and suffering to both nature and others, will such action bear satisfaction or guilt? This is the reason why attma Shakti (attma means soul or in this case refers to the conscience of a jiva and Shakshi means witness) is the last option laid out by Shastra towards making a choice. Then what is the primary option that one can always choose? Sanatana Dharma in its very name has the answer, which is dharma, which takes the precedence among all towards making a choice towards choosing an action (which becomes karma). This dharma is illustrated by Shastra hence Shastra takes first preference, but the same Shastra doesn’t enforce its choice on the will of man, it just presents that option for our choosing to be the most moral one.
Not everyone is well versed in the comprehension of Shastra by birth, in that case one must seek the teaching of a gyani as a Guru, if one is not fortunate to find such a Guru, then one must understand the stories and accounts that Ishwara Himself has faced and illustrated in various Purana like Sri Ramayana. If one doesn’t know such stories, then one should read and follow the footsteps and the behavior of great and compassionate personalities that history and time have given birth to. Finally, if an event arises that one is unable to choose an action and is not aware of any of the above, then one must choose bearing one’s own atma as a witness (attma shakshi). Before we do any of the above, one must ask Ishwara to help us comprehend Him. If one is yet to believe in Ishwara, then one must ask the universe itself to help us understand it, this is the very essence of Gayatry Mantra. But if a person who doesn’t place an effort towards any of the above, for this a sloka from Mahabharata making a reference to Ramayana:
“न भूतपूर्वं न कदापि वार्ता हेम्नः कुरंगः कदापि न दृष्टः
तथापि तृष्णा रघुनन्दनस्य विनाशकाले विपरीत बुद्धिः”
“Na bhootpoorvah na kadaapi vaartaa hemnh kurangh kadaapi na drushtah
Tathaapi trushna Raghunandanasya vinaashkaale vipreet buddhih”
‘Raghunandanasya’ meaning Rama who chased the deceiving golden deer where in His mind worked against Him towards imminent danger. This part of the sloka ‘vinaashkaale vipreet buddhih’ is used in various slokas, what this means is, in the times of one’s own imminent demise brought upon by one’s own ego, then that person’s buddhi (knowledge and decisions) will always make choices towards one’s own destruction. A good example was Ravana, though a great scholar, kept making bad choices to please his own pride and ego, even till the very end, when Ram offered to show mercy and asked him to surrender and to seek forgiveness.
Sri Ram never performed actions based on His personal like and desire. He always abides by dharma no matter how though the situation became. In case of Him chasing the golden deer, He know there was something wrong with the scenario on how a deer could be that majestic and mysterious and agreed with Lakshmana (His brother) that no deer exists on Earth, but said that as a Shatreya (born in the family of Kings) its His Dharam to eliminate such demons. This information can be found in Sri Vakmiki Ramayana, Aranya Sarga, chapter 43, sloka 38.
“यदि वा अयम् तथा यत् माम् भवेत् वदसि लक्ष्मण |
माया एषा राक्षसस्य इति कर्तव्यो अस्य वधो मया ||”
“yadi vaa ayam tathaa yat maam bhavet vadasi lakShmaNa |
maayaa eShaa raakShasasya iti kartavyo asya vadho mayaa ||”
(Valmiki Ramayana. A.K. n.d.)
Exploring Shastra by reading or listening, and we discussing this very concept is a uttama kama, without which this instance of reading so far would not have been possible.
The quintessential of Santana Dharma is that Devotees dictate Ishwara and can bind Him. Numerous magnificent kshetra (holy sites) are a result of devotees who urged Ishwara to manifest. Many rishis and sages commanded Ishwara to reside in few places and bestow His anugraham (grace) and console mankind. When we say ‘commanded Ishwara to reside’, doesn’t mean to have a physical presence, but more a manifested form, because we discussed that Ishwara is a concept, not limited to a specific form or shape. What it means is, to help create a kshetra (a hold site) or a sanctuary for people to congregate and foster devotion by performing various karma, like pooja, upacharas, dhyana, cultural events and more to seek Ishwara in a physical sense though our indriya (sense organs), because not every one can comprehend Ishwara at the atma level. This is the reason why time and again Ishwara manifested into various forms to uplift humanity. It also means that rishis asked Ishwara to create new karma (acts and events) through which one can counter and reduce the effects of our dush:karma and gain sat:karma. This is the reason why each kshetra in Santana Dharma has a unique significance and a unique set of rituals presenting various unique results. It’s also said that, when a student with interest and a good listener meets a Guru from whom Shastra flows like a dhara and who is eager to pass on his/her tatvam, then that place becomes a Kshetra.
Ishwara underwent abuse from His devotees, like in the story of Purandara Das who got angry and punished Panduranga, who came to him as his Servant. Another example was when Sri Anantacharya and his pregnant wife were digging a pond ‘teert(am)’ for Sri Venkateshwara in Tirumala, Tirupati, Andhra Pradesh. Seeing Sri Anantachaya’s wife getting exhausted, Sri Venkateshwara manifested in the form a young boy and started helping Her without Anantacharya’s permission. Anantacharya who got frustrated seeing him with his wife and throw his shovel that scared the boy’s chin. Even today sandalwood is applied to the chin of Sir Venkateshwara in Tirumala.
Another devotee named Surdas always used to sit in Sri Krishna’s temple singing bhajans (rhythmic songs praising Ishwara). On the day nearing his daughter’s wedding he requested the groom to wish for a gift along with the items needed for the wedding. The groom was surprised knowing his father-in-law’s poverty, and so modestly hesitated to ask. Surdas insisted and so the groom prepared a list based on his family’s desires. Upon submitting this list, Surdas further insisted the groom for his personal preference. The groom was even more surprised on how he would manage to arrange these items, but with sarcasm asked for a grinding stone. Surdas took this list and went to the temple, kept that list the feet of Sri Krishna went back to his bhajans. A deliveryman in a cart approached the in-laws place and delivered each item on that list including the grinding stone asked by the groom. Everyone was surprised and asked the deliveryman as of who the sender was, to which he replied it being Surdas. Everyone rushed to the temple and confronted Surdas who was deeply in his bhajan. Surdas unaware of the event urged his in-laws to patiently wait for few more days, and that he will arrange all the items demanded by them. To his surprise they confirmed to have received all the items, Surdas asked how and who delivered it but his in-laws were uncertain. Surdas realized it to be Sri Krishna himself who has delivered them and wept at his feet washing them with his tears. Such was the devotion that made Ishwara servile.
Sri Chaganti Koteshwar Rao garu once with many other devotees traveled to Sringeri Peetam, Karnataka, India, one of the four institutions founded by Sri Shankara. At that time the current inheritor of that that Matt (peetam) was Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swami. Sri Chaganti had the opportunity to meet the mother of Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swami and conveyed his devotion by bowing down to Her feet. She returned a namaskar back for which Sri Chaganti requested Her not to since she was blessed being the mother of Sri Bharathi Tirtha Swami and it was her womb that gave birth to such great personality. Though true, she replied with modesty saying that she was no special. Sri Chagantiurged Her to explain the karma to be the reason behind such great fortune. Though hesitant in the beginning, upon further requests, she explained that during Her childhood where in each day she would get ready by taking bath and applying turmeric to Her feet and tag along with her father in joy to visit Kotappakonda temple in Guntur district, Andhra Pradesh. Eventually, she said to have realized the temple’s significant deity was Dakshina Murthy who being Shiva’s manifestation as a Guru. This karma had the potential for which she had the great opportunity of being the mother of such significant personality.
(Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.13)
4. Expressing ourselves to Ishwara is Bhakthi.
Ishwari or Devi has a title known as “Bhavana Matra Santustayai Namaha”, meaning She (the Devine Mother Devi) feels happy just by we expressing our devotion by feeling and imagination. Nothing in this creation is ours, but when we offer as Nivedana to Ishwara like fruits, flowers, deep (and many other upacharas) we are actually expressing our love towards Ishwara by presenting items from the His/Her own creation. We can’t really feed Ishwara or give holy bath to Ishwara, or any other Upachara (offering service to Ishwara during pooja) directly. However, we thought these upacharas, imagine and visualize as if Ishwara is with us and we as His children are serving Him with items from His own creation. Just with our imagination of service and love, Ishwara feels happy and proud. For example lets say a father gives his child something nice to eat, the child before eating offers it back to their parents to be tasted first with love, this gesture itself makes them feel happy and proud, same goes for Ishwara.
Path to Devotion (Bhakthi & Shraddha Cont..)
In Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram, Sloka 2 and 3, Devi is called:
“उद्यद्भानु-सहस्राभा चतुर्बाहु-समन्विता ।
रागस्वरूप-पाशाढ्या क्रोधाकाराङ्कुशोज्ज्वला ॥
मनोरूपेक्षु-कोदण्डा पञ्चतन्मात्र-सायका ।
“Udyadbanu saha-srabha chatur-bahu saman-vita
Raga-svarupa pashadya krodha-karanku-shojvala
Mano-rupekshu kodanda pancha tanmatra sayaka
Nijaruna prabha-pura majabhramhanda mandala”
(Hindu Temple of Hong Kong. S.L.S.S. n.d., Sanskrit Documents. S.L.S. 2013)
Meaning we who live chasing behind materials with the notion of ‘mine’, the Divine Mother, in a glimpse, like a lightening, can wipe off that illusions and free us from our own bondage, showing us the path to devotion. Without Her luminescence, one cannot take even a single step towards Ishwara, and so will continue to dwell aimlessly in the illusion of desire in this materialistic reality. It’s the Divine Mother who creates the illusions among prakruti (nature and its reality) making a man chase these illusions in the concept of desire. One day those curtains of illusion are brought down opening paths to realizing the omniscience and the compassion of the supreme singular conscience. The Divine Mother unties the bonds of illusion and tethers us with a rope of devotion pulling us closer to Ishwara. It’s similar to realizing that all gold ornaments are nothing but gold as it’s base metal, and all earthen pots with different shapes are all actually earth. When this notion is realized, man will be released from the illusion, which creates the limitations on the shape and from.
5. Reasoning with our ego, pride and desire is Bhakthi. Being honest to the self is Bhakthi:
‘Pancha Tanmatra Saayaka’, till now these eyes saw the glitters of the material word and since this creation is an illusion these glitters and its mysteries are endless, making us forever in bondage with these materials. However, the path of devotion will lead to us seeing Ishwara in the same beauty of prakruti (nature and material creation). These ears, which once wished to seek joy in listening to meaningless and purposeless compositions, now will seek to listen to the glorified accounts of Ishwara and those magnificent poems and slokas passed on to us by extraordinary sages. The mouth and tongue, which only eat seeking taste and pleasure, will now eat with gratitude considering everything as Ishwara’s prasad(am). These hands will now wish to touch the flower at the feet of Ishwara. Only a path of devotion will allow us to enjoy the same creation and its beauty with our five senses considering everything as Ishwara’s creation. And as we discussed earlier, to get devotion one needs to urge Ishwara to bless us with devotion. Devotion and faith are not commodities that can be purchased nor are they a formula or routine. Devotion is a change in one’s perspective that arises when one’s conscience seeks to reason with one’s ego and pride. This attempt to reason with ego will help us realize the reality from Maya (illusion) and helps us realign our priorities in life. It gives us focus on the important things like Parents, Guru, family, compassion, and realizes one’s potential. Sri Ramana Maharshi once said, the highest form of devotion and karma is the introspection and self examination of one’s own atma. The manas(u) of a Guru is like a sugar cane, no matter where we cut or squeeze or chew we get the same sweetness. Similarly, when all the five ‘tanmatras’ (human senses) are surrendered to Ishwara and walk the path of dharma, then one day this will lead to realizing that Ishwara is everywhere and everything and that He has always been within the self and the notion of ‘I’ or ‘mine’ will disappear becoming one with Ishwara. When we said ‘surrendering tanmatra to Ishwara’ it does not mean to forcefully subjugate one’s desire, it means to enjoy desires in line with dharma and cherish them as Ishwara’s prasad(am). It’s when the soil is rich and fertile, allows a seed to sprout when the rain wets the soil, similarly a person should first strive this host body to be rich and fertile by performing karma inline with dharma and one day under the rays Ishwara the seed of devotion will sprout. Moving forward we will see how Sri Shankara explains on how the devotion like a flower should bloom in our hearts under the light of Kanaka Dhara, because this very effort is for the light of this dhara to fall on us. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.15)
At this state of mind, the person is untouched or rather unblemished by desire, hate, fear, sadness or pleasure. One becomes a witness to the existence and the creation around. Such a state is like viewing creation through the eyes of Ishwara, not that Ishwara has physical eyes like us, but metaphorically to see creation beyond the limitations of a human who is but an entity within the fabric of this reality. (pic)
Forcefully subjugation desires is like holding a snake’s head under the feet just to get bitten the moment it’s removed. Suppressing desires, when in despair and desperation, will overthrow our logic and reasoning and makes us submit to weakness, which will consume us, pushing us deeper into the abyss of darkness and hate.
So how does one attain a state of unification with Ishwara? This happens when knowledge unifies with devotion through the exploration of Shastra and listening and reading the accounts and stories of Ishwara, similar to the efforts we are making now. For a human mind to even think in this direction, the Divine Mother must nurture us, because to get devotion one has to urge Ishwara for devotion. One who realizes the creation to be Ishwara’s illusion and proclaim Him the creator, then such person moves closer and closer towards the unification with Ishwara.
Please note, not everyone at every state can understand Ishwara, but one can always clear their mind of predefined conclusions or self-proclaimed justification and explore the vastness of this reality being truthful to oneself. With such an exploration if one can relinquish ego and pride even for a moment and accept that we are not it’s creators and that we don’t know anything, and ask the universe itself for its knowledge so as to understand it, such submission leads to the exploration of things and its comprehension without prejudice. This statement is the very essence of Gayatri mantra. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.1-19)
Please continue your reading of Nava:veda Bhakthi in continuation of this topic.
Sri Shankara 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 Sri Shankara 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.
Earlier we have learned that it’s because of Karma (generic word for both karma and dush:karma), wherein the selfishness in previous lives has resulted for this brahmin family to suffer and be deprived of Sri Lakshmi’s anugraham (grace). This being the case, why will Sri 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 Sri Shankara. It’s to be understood that this family had nothing to eat but that one dried fruit, which she sacrificed and donated to Sri Shankara. 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)
Shankara is requesting anugraham (grace) from Sri Maha Lakshmi. What exactly is the meaning of anugraham?
Anugraham is grace or blessings that come from the Devatas (Gods). So, another question, how do Devatas shower us their Anugraham? It’s said to be done through their sight or vision. When we offer something to Devatas as Nivedana (Offerings like Satvika foods like fruits) they don’t pick and consume (eat) them, rather they look at our offerings which itself is called Anugraham. Though history shows few rare exceptions where Ishwara consumed food for a devotee’s devotion. This creation and everything in it belongs to Ishwara, there is nothing that we can give that’s not already His. It’s through the act of offering Nivedana, we express our gratitude. And its aspects like respect, humility, compassion and gratitude that make us human and makes us evolve in conscience.
Sri Ganesh(a) is also the only exceptional entity (concept) who when offered (home cooked satvika items) accepts and consumes our offerings, this is the reason He is depicted holding an edible item in His hand. Coming back, it’s through their looks they nourish the worlds and it’s with their look they also dissolute these worlds. In Lalitha Sahasranama Stotram, Sloka 66, Devi is called:
“Unmesha Nimishotpanna Vipanna Bhuvanavali”
(Hindu Temple of Hong Kong. S.L.S.S. n.d., Sanskrit Documents. S.L.S. 2013)
Meaning, She the almighty Lalitha Para Bhatarika, dissolute (not destroys) creation with the blink of Her eyes.
In Soundarya Lahiri, sloka 47, Sri Shankara made multiple references of similar aspect about Devi’s eyes and Her looks:
“भ्रुवौ भुग्ने किंचिद्भुवनभयभंगव्यसनिनि”
“Bhruvau bhugne kinchit bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini”
(Hindu Literature. S.L.L. n.d.).
Meaning when one makes the expression by Narrowing their eyes, it’s to convey anger or dislike, however, Sri Shankara says, the Divine Mother who when narrows Her eyes looks utmost beautiful. It’s always to be noted that the Divine Mother’s beauty in Sanskrit(am) is called Soundrayam, which is not about the physical appearance, but rather the beauty of compassion when seen through the eyes of a son with love towards one’s mother.
So why did Sri Shankara make such a claim by the statement ‘bhuvana-bhaya-bhanga-vyasanini’? Sri Shankara is referring to a Mother’s anxiety towards Her children’s sorrow and Her thoughts of compassion towards their well-being. So, when Sri Shankara is requesting anugraham (grace) from Devi, the question is for whom? It’s rather obvious to say it’s for the poor brahman family. Earlier we discussed that Sri Shankara is singing this stotram not just for that very instance, but for all times to come, and for whoever wishing to recite this stotram. This is the reason why Sri Shankara never uses His own name in the stotram, rather uses the words ‘I’ or ‘me’, which when recited by us, automatically refers to ourselves standing in Sri Shankara’s place. This is one such greatness in Sri Shankara’s compositions.
Now, let’s think for a moment, even after singing this stotram if Sri Shankara 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 Sri Lakshmi’s anugraham (grace), Sri Shankara 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, makes way for his students and future generations as a path towards fulfillment. (Srichaganti. K.D.S, n.d., p.4)