बालार्कद्युतिभासुरां करतलैः पशांकुशौ बिभ्रतीम्।
चापं बाणमपि प्रसन्नवदनां कौसुम्भवस्त्रान्वितां
तां त्वां चन्द्रकलावतंसमकुटां चारुस्मितां भावये॥
bālārkadyutibhāsurāṁ karatalaiḥ paśāṁkuśau bibhratīm|
cāpaṁ bāṇamapi prasannavadanāṁ kausumbhavastrānvitāṁ
tāṁ tvāṁ candrakalāvataṁsamakuṭāṁ cārusmitāṁ bhāvaye||
Śaṁkarācārya describes Her gross form in this verse to enable the aspirant to invoke Her in his mind. Orbit of the sun, orbit of the moon looking like a deer and Agni are the most powerful illumining objects in the world that are visible to our eyes. Even though She is the cause for illuminating the whole universe, including these luminaries, a comparison is drawn with these luminaries to enable us to understand Her splendour. The central point of Śrī cakra is called bindu. This is the Abode of Parāśakti. He says that the bindu is illuminating like the sun, moon and Agni (fire). He adduces reason for the brightness of the bindu. Parāśakti is seated with a bright face in the center of the bindu, wearing red apparel, Her whole body is lustrous. Her illumination looks like the illumination of the rising sun which is red in colour, which causes the illumination of the bindu. She holds in Her four hands, four weaponries noose, goad, bow and arrow. This is explained in details in Saundaryalaharī, verse 7.Her crown has candrakalā (digit of the moon) known as the crescent of the moon. This form of Parāśakti is to be invoked by the aspirant in his or her mind.
ईशानादिपदं शिवैकफलकं रत्नासनं ते शुबं
पाद्यं कुङ्कुमचन्दनादिभरितैरर्घ्यं सरत्नाक्षतैः।
शुद्धैराचमनियकं तव जलैर्भक्त्या मया कल्पितं
कारुण्यामृतवारिधे तदखिलं संतुष्टये कल्पताम्॥
īśānādipadaṁ śivaikaphalakaṁ ratnāsanaṁ te śubaṁ
pādyaṁ kuṅkumacandanādibharitairarghyaṁ saratnākṣataiḥ|
śuddhairācamaniyakaṁ tava jalairbhaktyā mayā kalpitaṁ
kāruṇyāmṛtavāridhe tadakhilaṁ saṁtuṣṭaye kalpatām||
There are sixteen types of offerings to Parāśakti, which is commonly known as ṣoḍaśa- upacāra. Out of the sixteen, the first four offerings are described here. After having known the Abode of Parāśakti and after cognizing Her form, which were discussed in the first two verses, the aspirant continues to welcome Her in his/her mind. After having offered Her a seat in the bindu, the aspirant now proceeds to make further offerings to Her.
Śaṁkarācārya addresses Parāśakti as “kāruṇyāmṛtavāridhe”, ‘reservoir of compassion’. Kāruṇya means compassion, kindness; amṛta has two types of interpretations. One is the nectar or ambrosia, referring to the nectar of the nectarine ocean discussed in verse 1. Another meaning of amṛta is imperishable, beautiful, eternity, etc. Both these interpretations are applicable to Her. Vāridhe means a water reservoir, here referring to the nectarine ocean. By addressing Her so, Her compassion towards the beings is expressed. After all, She is Śrī Mātā.
Next ācārya discusses about Her throne. He says, “īśānādipadaṁ śivaikaphalakaṁ.” She sits on a throne, whose legs are made of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Śiva and Mahādeva; and Sadāśiva forming the seat of the throne. This can be best explained through Lalitā Sahasranāma 249 Pañca-pretāsanāsīnā पञ्च-प्रेतासनासीना: She is sitting on a throne held by five corpses. These five corpses are Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Mahādeva and Sadāśiva. Brahma looks after creation, Viṣṇu looks after sustenance, Rudra causes death, Mahādeva conceals the dissolved universe (tirodhāna) and Sadāśiva again re-creates the universe (anugraha). It is said that these five Lords cannot function without their Śaktī-s or consorts. Commentators refer to the consorts of these five Gods and without them it is said that these Gods cannot perform their duties. When they are in inert condition, they are referred as corpses. Śaktī-s here should mean the various manifestations of Lalitāmbikā. Vāc Devi-s surely would not have meant to refer other gods and goddesses in this Sahasranāma. Saundaryalharī (verse 1) speaks about this. “Śiva becomes capable of creating the universe, only when united with Śaktī, but otherwise, He is incapable of even a stir. How then could one, who has not acquired merit (puṇya) worship you at least praise you, who is adored even by Viṣṇu, Śiva, Brahma, and others.” This narration means that acts of these Gods cannot be carried out, without Her participation. Without dynamic energy, static energy is of no use.
After having described Her throne made up of precious gems (ratnāsanaṁ), ācārya says that the throne is śubaṁ, indicating the auspiciousness of the throne. Not only She is auspicious, but everything associated with Her auspicious. Now She is majestically and auspiciously seated on the gem studded throne. Offering Her the throne is the first of the sixteen offerings. The aspirant then begins to offer the second, third and fourth of the sixteen offerings (ṣoḍaśa- upacāra).
Second, he offers pādya. Pādya is the water offered to Her with great respect on Her Lotus Feet. The water is not offered to clean Her Lotus Feet; it is an act of showing respect to Her. Saundaryalaharī (verses 2, 3 and 4) talks about the Grace that Her feet offers. The aspirant is not offering plain water. He mixes precious stones and rice grains mixed with turmeric and plain water. Mixing turmeric powder and unbroken rice grains using a little water is known as akṣata. Akṣata indicates auspiciousness. Next the aspirant offers arghya. Arghya is the offering of water in the hands of a guest with respect. He mixes saffron and sandal to the water and makes the water fragrant. The aspirant offers arghya in Her hands with great devotion and love. It is an act of respectfully welcoming Her to the mind of the aspirant. As the fourth offering, the aspirant offers plain water to Her to drink. The aspirant offers all these only to satisfy Her (saṁtuṣṭa). Everything associated with Her is full of auspiciousness. Saundaryalaharī uses these descriptions to purify the aspirant’s mind. In perfect concentration, one can smell the fragrances used in these verses.
(to be continued)