“Likely, o beloved, [by meditating on Devi] in the form of Kāmakalā emerged in the sprout of madana, with the light-circle of the rising sun, a luminous body with an expanding flame top. She exists while gulping all the beings manifested to enjoy the world.
Existing in I-ness, keeping herself within her own supreme glory, and manifesting successively down to the ground of kāma, which is within the body, manifesting in two forms whilst being alone.”
Nityāṣoḍaśikārṇava, 4.34 – 4.37 (transl. Lidke, 2000)
Now to verse 20 of Saundaryalahari:
Whoever contemplates You in his heart,
O essence of ambrosia,
abundant and radiant like an image carved in moonstone,
will quell the pride of serpents
as if he were the king of birds,
he will cure those afflicted by fever,
with the streaming nectar that showers from his glance.
(transl. Clooney, 2005, p.52)
Continue reading »
“The understanding of Śaivism can only aspire to objectivity if it includes a sincere effort to see how things are in the subjective perception of its practitioners. One has to be able to enter into the spirit of their world, to be with them intimately, to see what they are saying and why they are saying it, to go beneath the surface of their texts. There has to be empathy.”
In the opening post to this series examining Saundaryalahari I noted that, as a text, Saundaryalahari “works” in a variety of ways: it can be read simultaneously as a literary work (Kavya); as a ritual manual (prayoga), as a work of devotion (bhakti) and as a text which hides/encodes tantric “secrets”.
When Saundaryalahari is sung, recited, listened to, contemplated upon, these multiple registers coalesce, offering a vision/encounter with the goddess (Tripurasundari Devi). As hymn or prayer, Saundaryalahari opens, points the way to – a direct encounter with Devi – an encounter which requires and produces transformation in all whom it touches. To speak, to hear, to contemplate Saundaryalahari is to enter into a direct relation with Devi – to attend Her and be attended to by Her. Continue reading »
When She, the Supreme Power, [becoming] out of her own desire, embodying all that exists perceives herself as flashing forth, the chakra then appears.
For this post, I’m going to briefly discuss verses 14-16 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »
There are many “origin stories” for Saundaryalahari. As I noted in a previous post, the text is traditionally ascribed to Sankaracarya. One of the origin stories has Sankara visiting Siva’s home on Mount Kailasa, where he notices a divine book lying on Siva’s throne – a treasured possession of Parvati. Sankara picks up the book and hastens towards the exit, but is prevented from leaving by Siva’s doorkeeper – Nandikesvara. He and Sankara fight over the book, and Sankara manages to get away with the first portion of the book – the Anandalahari – to which he later adds another 59 stanzas of his own. In another version, Sankara finds the entirety of Saundaryalahari inscribed in stone on Mount Kailasa (having been carved by Nandikesvara who overheard Siva eulogising the goddess with them) but the goddess erases the words, so that Sankara (again) – only memorises the Anandalahari section. These origin stories make a clear distinction between the Anandalahari and the remainder of the poem. Continue reading »
Following from the previous two verses (examined in the last two posts – (see Reading the Saundarya Lahari – III-2 for summary) which together, produce an image of the goddess for dhyana) verses 9-10 shift focus suddenly towards what seem to be, at first glance, expositions of the goddess in relation to the chakras. Verses 9 and 10 are often interpreted in relation to various yogic accounts of Kundalini. Some contemporary commentaries on Saundaryalahri take this as a cue to go into long, detailed expositions of Kundalini schemas. I’m not going to do that, however. Continue reading »
Back in December, I ran into a friend who asked me what I was occupying myself with, and I told him that – amongst other things – I was struggling with my series on the Saundaryalahari and that my original estimation of how long it would to take me to write a commentary on its verses had become mired in difficulties – because, as one might appreciate, it was opening up questions – and avenues – that I hadn’t expected to have to deal with or traverse. He was sympathetic, but asserted “Well, Pagans don’t have sacred texts”. Looking around us – we were having this conversation in one of London’s largest esoteric bookshops – I pointed past him to the shelves and replied – “no, Pagans have an abundance of texts”. Continue reading »
Continuing right on from the previous post in this series, I will now examine verse 8 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »