सुधासिन्धोर्मध्ये सुरविटपिवाटीपरिवृते
मणिद्वीपे नीपोपवनवति चिन्तामणिगृहे।
शिवाकारे मञ्चे परमशिवपर्यङ्कनिलयां
भचन्ति त्वां धन्याः कतिचन चिदानन्दलहरीम्॥

sudhāsindhormadhye suraviṭapivāṭīparivṛte
maṇidvīpe nīpopavanavati cintāmaṇigṛhe|
śivākāre mañce paramaśivaparyaṅkanilayāṁ
bhacanti tvāṁ dhanyāḥ katicana cidānandalaharīm||

Meaning: “The blessed ones meditate on You, full of Consciousness and Bliss and seated on the couch that appears like Śiva and Paramaśiva forming the bed in Your palace Cintāmaṇi surrounded by small sized bushes and celestial tress in the island of Maṇidvīpa situated in the middle of the nectarine ocean.”

In this verse, Śaṁkarācārya describes Her Abode. There is the cosmic ocean full of nectar (ambrosia). In the middle of this nectarine ocean is an island called Maṇidvīpa. The mythical island is called Maṇidvīpa because it is made up of cosmic gems and precious stones. In the middle of this island, is Her Abode gigantically constructed known as Cintāmaṇigṛha. Cintāmaṇi is a precious gem that is capable of fulfilling all the desires of the one who possesses it. Her entire Abode, Cintāmaṇigṛha is built with this gem. It is very rare to find this gem. The only probability is because of Her presence, all the gems have attained the status of cintāmaṇi. Śaṁkarācārya also gives reasons for this. He says that She is full of waves (laharīm) of cit and ānanda śakti-s (cidānanda tvāṁ). Waves arise in the ocean of nectar in the form of consciousness and Bliss. Cit here means the energy of Consciousness of Śiva. Consciousness is the exclusive property of Śiva. What She possesses is the energy of Consciousness of Śiva. In the same way, ānanda or Bliss is also the exclusive property of Śiva. What She possesses is the energy of ānanda, which is known as ānanda śakti. Cit śakti and ānanda śakti-s are inseparable. According to Kashmiri Shivaism, there are thirty six principles, also known as tattva-s. First principle is Śiva, who is full of cit śakti and the second principle is Śakti, who is full of ānanda śakti. When Śiva and Śakti are inseparable, cit śakti and ānanda śakti-s are also inseparable. Cit is the foundational consciousness, which is the unchanging principle of all changes. Ānanda is Bliss. Therefore, when Śaṁkarācārya says, “cidānandalaharī”, he means both Śiva and Śakti together and he does not mention Śakti alone. This can also be construed from the word laharī, meaning large waves. He does not refer to the normal waves that we see in an ocean. He talks about large waves; waves of Bliss emanating from the Divine Couple. This is beautifully expressed in Lalitā Sahasranāma 999 Śiva-śakty-aikya-rūpiṇī शिव-शक्त्यैक्य-रूपिणी, the interpretation of which goes like this:

This is the most revered, admired, perplexed, incomprehensible and secretive form of the Divine Couple, the confluence of Śiva and Śaktī.  The universe is created, sustained, dissolved and re-created by them at their will that is indentured by the law of karma. 

Saundarya Laharī (verse 1) says, “Śiva becomes capable of creating the universe, only when united with Śaktī, otherwise He is incapable of even a stir (known as spanda).”  Śiva is also known as Parabrahman and Śaktī as Parāśaktī.  Parabrahman is the static energy and is niṣkāma (devoid of  desire, disinterested and unselfish) in nature.  The nature of Śiva is explained in Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad (7), which says, “It is neither consciousness of what is happening within nor the consciousness of what is happening externally.  It is not conscious of all objects and it is not unconscious either.  It is beyond perception of any organ, beyond thought and sound.  In it there is only consciousness of the Self and there is a total cessation of the world as such.  It is the embodiment of peace and all that is good.  It is without a second.” This is the typical explanation of the Brahman that is preternatural and interpenetrating. 

Śaktī is primordial and latent energy of Śiva that alone manifests as the universe, its sustentation and disintegration and recreation. The consciousness referred by Māṇḍūkya Upaniṣad is nothing but the domain of Śaktī. That is why it is said that Śaktī is the primordial and latent energy of Śiva.  She exists along with Śiva and cannot be separated.  If Brahman and consciousness are discriminately differentiated out of nescience, the question of creation and existence does not arise.  In reality, such differential existence does not prevail.  But for easier understanding of the complex issue of creation, Śiva and Śaktī have been perceived as two different aspects of the same entity.  One cannot segregate the heat produced by the fire from the fire itself.  The heat of the fire is primordially present in the fire.  Neither fire, not heat can be of any use unless they subsist together.  This is a typical example showcasing Śiva and Śaktī, the one without the other remain only an inert.

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.  Prakāśa also refers to Śiva and the Brahman.  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 realise His own incomparable splendour without something that is able to reflect His grandeur.  This is like a human not able to see his own self 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 realising 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. 

Śaktī pushes forward the throb created by Śiva through different principles or tattva-s (thirty six) 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 conjoining 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 Śrī Cakra.  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 śaktīs, etc.  This triangle becomes the cause for creation beginning with Brahma, 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 Pañcadaśī mantra (nāmā 89). The upper most bindu (of the upper triangle) is the face of Śaktī (the third eye, denoting dissolution, the two lower dots represent Her bosoms (representing nourishment or sustenance) and the inverted triangle below mean Her procreative organ (representing creation).  This is known as kāmakalā and is considered as the most secretive principle of Śiva-Śaktī union.

The explanation provided in Varivasyā Rahasya, the treatise on Pañcadaśī mantra, corroborates with the explanation offered for Kāma Kalā Vilasa, yet another treatise on Śrī vidyā. Varivasyā Rahasya (verses 69 to 72) says, “Śiva and Śaktī embrace each other.  The Brahman (Śiva) with the desire to create glanced on His other half, His consort and assumed the form of a bindu (referring to male procreative fluids), into which Śaktī enters assuming the form of another bindu (representing female procreative fluids).  The mixture formed by their aggregation is known as aham or I, the ego.”  This is the subtle form of the union of Śiva and Śaktī.

One more interpretation is possible for this most secretive nāma of this Sahasranāma.  The scene goes like this.  Śiva is sitting alone meditating, His usual posture.  Śaktī enters the place of Śiva.  Śiva wakes up.  First, Śaktī sits next to Śiva.  Later on She moves to His left lap and finally occupies His entire left side, blessing the universe with their Ardhanārīśvarā form causing creation and sustenance.  When Śaktī moves away from Śiva, He starts His cosmic dance, causing annihilation.  Śaktī witnesses His cosmic dance (nāma 232 and 571).

Saundarya Laharī (verse 34) says, “I consider your pure frame to be Śiva.  Hence the relationship of the principal and the accessory exists in common among you both who as transcendent bliss and consciousness are equipoised.”

This nāma salutes Her undifferentiated form from Śiva, that is inseparable eternally.  Their union is also known as Śiva-Śaktī sāmarasya, the identity of Consciousness, where identical state prevails in which all differentiation has disappeared.”

Śaṁkarācārya talks about ocean of nectar (sudhā sindhu). Nectarine ocean is a cosmic ocean. Nectar is the result of Bliss. Lalitā Sahasranāma 61 explains the same concept as Sudhā-sāgara-madhyasthā सुधा-सागर-मध्यस्था. Sudhā-sāgara and sudhā sindhu both mean a place in sahasrāra or the crown chakra. When kuṇḍalinī reaches this soma cakra, due to the extreme heat, a liquid flows down through the throat (nāma 106).  This liquid is called sudhā as its viscosity and taste resembles nectar.  This liquid is also called amrṭavarśinī. Amrṭam also means nectar.   She being present in the middle of this soma cakra in the midst of ocean of nectar causes this nectar to flow into all the 72,000 (nāḍi-s) nerves of human body.  It is said that, if this nectar flows into our body, it does not cause death to the physical body.  However this is possible only during advanced stage of kuṇḍalinī meditation.  This is said to be the reason for long life of great sages. Sudhā sindu also means the bindu in the centre of Śrī Cakra and this bindu is mentioned in this verse in a very subtle manner.

How Śiva can become the couch for Her? The couch is nothing but the left thigh of Śiva. Dualistically speaking, She is happily sitting on the left lap of Śiva. There is always a controversy while sculpturing Her posture with regard to which foot should be down, either left or right. If She is worshipped as Rājarājesvarī (Lalitā Sahasranāma 684), Her right foot should be down. This is based on the fact that She rules over all the three gods of creation, sustenance and dissolution, Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Rudra. In all other forms, Her left foot should be down, as She keeps Her right foot folded while sitting on the lap of Śiva. In other words, in those temples where She alone is worshipped, Her right foot can be done. In Śiva temples, Her left foot should be down. However, there are other forms too.

Power of Śiva is Śakti. They are not different as Śakti is inherent in Śiva. To understand easily their unified Nature is known as Paramaśiva.  Paramaśiva is incomprehensible and hence cannot even be described. Śakti is present in Paramaśiva only as a trace. Śakti is always associated with “I” consciousness and as “I” is absent in Paramaśiva, She does not have any significant role in Paramaśiva.  He exists in all the 36 tattvas still He is not part of these 36 tattvas.

The verse says, paramaśivaparyaṅkanilayāṁ  (paramaśiva + paryaṅka + nilaya). Paramaśiva is the Supreme Śiva, as discussed earlier; paryaṅka means sofa or cushion or palanquin and nilaya means Abode. This means that She remains with Paramaśiva in Her Abode, Cintāmaṇigṛha. There are two types of Her sitting postures that are narrated in this verse. One is on the left lap of Śiva and other posture is reclining posture with Paramaśiva. The first posture is Cit and the second posture is Bliss. Hence She is addressed by Śaṁkarācārya as cidānandalaharī.

The celestial tress and bushes are the products of māyā. Unless these blocks are removed, one cannot realize Her. These trees and bushes have fragrant trunks, leaves and flowers that induce the mind of an aspirant to get attached to the material world more intently and profoundly. Unless, the aspirant is able to go past these sense afflicting distractions, he cannot go anywhere near Her. She holds Śiva very close to Her. They are inseparable. Only She can reveal Śiva, as She alone is Śiva-jñāna-pradāyinī शिव-ज्ञान-प्रदायिनी. Śiva can give liberation only if She approves the aspirant for liberation.

Now let us interpret this verse based on the above interpretation. “You are in the form of Śiva-Śakti, full of consciousness and bliss, reclining in brahmarandra, the orifice in sahasrāra with Śiva. This subtle form of Yours can be realized only after an aspirant gets rid of māyā.” This can be attained only by meditating on Her.