Soundarya Laharī consisting one hundred verses was composed by Ādi Śaṁkarācārya in praise of Supreme Goddess Śaktī. Soundarya Laharī has two parts. The first part has 41 verses and this part is known as Ānandalaharī and the next part consisting of 59 verses is known as Soundarya laharī. Ānandalaharī deals exhaustively with the Bliss attained while worshipping Her and the next 59 verses dwell on Her physical description that can be explained both grossly and subtly.
Soundarya Lahari Verse 1
Śivaḥ śaktyā yukto yadi bhavati śaktaḥ prabhavituṁ
na cedevaṁ devo na khalu kuśalaḥ spanditumapi|
praṇantuṁ stotuṁ vā kathamakṛtapuṇyaḥ prabhavati||
शिवः शक्त्या युक्तो यदि भवति शक्तः प्रभवितुं
न चेदेवं देवो न खलु कुशलः स्पन्दितुमपि।
प्रणन्तुं स्तोतुं वा कथमकृतपुण्यः प्रभवति॥
Śivaḥ - tāntric Śiva i.e. God Himself; yadi - if; yuktaḥ - joined with; Śaktyā – Śakti; bhavati – becomes; śaktaḥ - capable of; prabhavituṁ - manifesting; (but) ced – if; na - He is not; evam - thus (i.e. if He is not united with Śakti); devaḥ - Śiva; na khalu api - is certainly not even; kuśalaḥ - able; spanditum - to vibrate; Atas - For this reason; katham – how; akṛtapuṇyaḥ - is the one who has not accomplished meritorious acts; prabhavati - able to; praṇantuṁ - bow; vā – or; stotuṁ – praise; tvām - You; ārādhyām - who are to be worshiped; api – even; by hari -Viṣṇu; hara - purānic Śiva; viriñca – Brahmā; api – etc.
Meaning of this verse: Śiva becomes inert without Śaktī. When Śiva is not united with Śaktī, He cannot manifest the universe. Because of Her functional nature, Divine Mother becomes supremely important. Even gods and goddesses find it difficult to bow before Her and sing Her praise.
Śiva is Self-illuminating. Without His existence, the universe will be plunged into darkness. Śiva is present in prakāśa (illuminating) form. Prakāśa can be explained as visible, shining, universally noted, brightness, lustre, splendour, etc. Śaktī is His vimarśa form. Vimarśa can be explained as reasoning, knowledge, consideration, reflecting etc. In spite of Śiva being the grandeur amongst the cognized existences, He cannot realize His own incomparable splendour without something that is able to reflect His grandeur. This is like a human not able to see his own form without an object that is capable of reflecting his image. Śaktī acts like a reflecting mirror where Śiva is able to realise His Reality, like a mirror reflecting the image of a person who stands before it. Pure consciousness is Śiva and realizing the Pure Consciousness is Śaktī. If Śiva is not present, the consciousness itself does not exist. If Śaktī is not present, the presence of consciousness cannot be realised. In the state of prakāśa ‘I’ and ‘This’ stand united and in the vimarśa aspect ‘This’ is separated from ‘I’. Therefore prakāśa aspect is ‘I + This’ and vimarśa aspect is ‘This’ alone. ‘I’ is the origin of the universe and ‘This’ is the expansion of the universe. Śiva is cit and Śaktī is citi. Cit means foundational consciousness and citi means the consciousness that brings about cognitive operations. Śaktī segregates I and This. Without Śaktī this vital segregation cannot take place. Śiva causes the initial pulsation for creation that is carried forward by Śaktī. Muṇḍaka Upaniṣad describes this Supreme Consciousness as ekātmapratyayasāram and the worldly process as Prapañca.
Śaktī pushes forward the throb created by Śiva through different principles or tattva-s (thirty six, where Śiva is tattva one and Śaktī is tattva two) and sustains it through Her māyā or illusion. Māyā is the sole factor that separates a soul from the Brahman. She is the manifested conglutination of Śiva and Śaktī and therefore She is both the seed and the sprout. This also drives home the point that for creation, two objects are required. For example, a soul alone cannot be born on its own. It has to come into contact with prakṛti or Nature in order to manifest. Procreation is not possible without conjugation of masculine and feminine energies.
Moving on from the perceptible to subtle, a lot more is said about Their subtle conjugation. They are referred as two bindu-s (dots), white and red, denoting Śiva and Śaktī respectively. These two bindu-s in mutual conjunction expand and contract. When they expand, the creation takes place by means of vāc (word) and artha (lit. meaning). Vāc means the Śabda Brahman and artha means thirty six tattva-s or principles. These two bindu-s which enter one another are known as Kāma-Kāmeśvarī. Śiva, the Supreme is in the form of the first alphabet of Sanskrit A (अ), is the cause of all sounds of Veda-s. He attains the form of a bindu after having entered His own vimarśa form, Śaktī, in whom the entire universe is dissolved. Like prakāśa form of bindu entering the vimarśa form of bindu, vimarśa form of bindu also enters prakāśa form of bindu, which is already within it. As a result of this conjugation, a third bindu called as miśra bindu is born. Miśra means combined. Now there are three bindu-s, white, red and miśra. These three bindu-s form a triangle, red and miśra are below and the white bindu is placed above them causing a perfect triangle. The miśra bindu has all the tattva-s or principles within itself and is the cause for further creation. This is the innermost triangle of Sri Chakra. When these three dots are connected, the three connecting lines represent all the triads such as three guṇa-s, three stages of consciousness, icchā, jñāna and kriyā śaktī-s, etc. This triangle becomes the cause for creation beginning with Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Rudra. These three dots are also referred as sun (top), moon (right) and fire (left). There is an inverted triangle below the three dots. The three connecting lines of this lower triangle represent three kūṭa-s of Her Pañcadaśī mantra (nāmā 89).
Śiva and Śaktī together are known as Paramaśiva. Śiva alone has got independent power of autonomy, known as svātantraya śakti, which comprises of cit, ānanda, icchā, jñāna and kriyā śakti-s. These five śakti-s are known as Consciousness, Bliss, will, knowledge and action. Śiva transfers His exclusive and independent power of autonomy, comprising of these five powers to Śaktī. Śiva always prefers to remain alone in a state of Bliss. He carves out His svātantraya śakti and transfers it to Śaktī. As He has transferred His Power to Her, this verse says that He cannot act without Her. It must be remembered that whatever power She has, they represent the Powers of Śiva only. She acts on behalf of Śiva alone. There is nothing in this universe that is not Śiva. Therefore, unless one understands Śaktī, he or she cannot realize Śiva, the Ultimate. She alone can reveal Śiva, says Lalitā Sahasranāma 727, Śivajñānapradāyinī.
In the process of creation, there are so many energies in action. For example, creation is taken care of by Brahmā, sustenance by Viṣṇu and death is caused by Rudra. These three are only the primary acts of the Divine. There are many other innumerable energies and every such energy is represented by a deity, either a god or a goddess. For example, water is under the control of Varuṇa, fire by Agni, etc. All these acts are overseen by Śaktī. Without Her command, none of these gods and goddesses becomes active.
She is worshipped in Sri Chakra, where the Divine Couple, Śiva and Śaktī are seated in the central bindu (dot). Before worshipping Them in this bindu, all other gods and goddesses are worshipped in various coverings known as āvaraṇa-s. Only after obtaining the blessings of all other gods and goddesses, the Divine Couple can be worshipped. This concept is symbolically represented through Sri Chakra worship.
Lalitā Sahasranāma adores Her through 1000 nāma-s. This Supreme Sahasranāma was composed by eight Vāc Devi-s and these nāma-s highlight all Her activities. If one needs to understand Her, he or she should first understand the meaning of these nāma-s. For example the first nāma adores as the Supreme Mother and the last nāma reveals Her name as Lalitāmbikā. In between these nāma-s, She is adored for each of Her quality. Nāma 250 adores Her as pañca-brahma-svarūpiṇī. Pañca-brahma refers to Her five primary acts – creation, sustenance, death, annihilation and re-creation.
To sum up, this verse adores the Supreme Mother, who is ever compassionate, carrying out all the activities to sustain the universe. Those who have good karmas accrued over past births alone become capable of seeking Her through various forms of Her worship. When it is not easy for Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Purānic Śiva to worship Her, the kind of good karmas one needs to worship Her through Śrīvidyā Upāsana is subtly explained in this verse.