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A meditation on Lalita

The Saundaryalahari (“Flood of Beauty”) is a key Srividya text, sometimes attributed to Sankara. Composed of 100 verses, it is usually divided into two parts – verses 1-41 and verses 42-100. The first section, sometimes called the Anandalahari (“Wave of Joy”) is concerned with the facets of Lalita sadhana – her image in external worship, but also her Yantra and mantra-modalities The verses can also be read in such a way as to relate them to the subtle mapping of chakras, nadis, etc. The Anandalahari is sometimes seen as originating directly from Siva, or Lalita Herself.

Let’s take verses 7-8 for instance, which apparently give a description of Lalita suitable for meditation/external worship:

“Banded with a tinkling girdle, heavy with breasts like the frontal lobes of young elephants,
slender of waist, with face like the full moon of autumn,
bearing on the palms of her hands bow, arrows, noose, and goad,
let there be seated before us the pride of him who shook the cities.(7)
In the midst of the Ocean of Nectar, where covered with groves of heavenly wishing trees
is the Isle of Gems, in the mansion of wishing jewels with its grove of nipa trees,
on a couch composed of the four gods Shiva, your seat a mattress which
is Paramashiva – some few lucky ones worship you, a flood of consciousness and bliss.(8)”

Verse 8 in particular homologises the image-modality of Lalita with her as Yantra. The Ocean of Nectar is both the bindu of the yantra, the heart-space and possibly, the Sahasrara. The heavenly wishing trees can be taken as a reference to the five downward-pointing triangles of the Yantra.

Lalita’s weapons (v7) can be understood in the following ways. Firstly, in terms of likes and dislikes as noose – attachment/desire; goad – aversion/anger. Another perspective would be that through the noose Lalita draws her devotees to Herself and through the goad, she encourages their resolve to worship Her.
The bow and arrows is of course the sugarcane bow of the mind and the five tanmatras. The three weapons together can be thought of as: noose=icchashakti; goad=jnanashakti; bow+arrows=kriyashakti. Again, Lalita is the source of these – recalling the Tattvas – through her sport or play in emitting the Universe.

The four gods who make up the couch (they are the four supports, or legs, of her seat) are Brahma (southeast), Visnu (southwest), Rudra (northwest) and Isvara (northeast). The Isle of Gems and the mansion of wishing gems may be taken as references to the nine chakras in Sri Vidya.

Nipa trees (“water coconuts”) are a type of palm tree, bearing clustered fruits, from which can be extracted sugar. Its sap ferments very quickly.

Likening Lalita’s face to the autumnal full moon reinforces the radiance of her face to the devotee. India’s autumnal period (aproximately mid-October to December) is relatively free of clouds, allowing the moon to shine brightly and clearly.

The pleasure-garden setting reinforces the fact of Lalita’s royal status.

“the pride of him who shook the cities” – is a bit more tricky. Obviously a reference to Siva; this particular translation seems to indicate that Lalita is the source of Siva’s ability – i.e. inseperable Sakti.

This is just a beginning obviously – I’m not even going to go into the process of decoding the mantras hidden in the verses.