कलत्रं वैधात्रं कतिकति भजन्ते न कवयः
श्रियो देव्याः को वा न भवति पतिः कैरपि धनैः।
महादेवं हित्वा तव सति सतीनामचरमे
kalatraṁ vaidhātraṁ katikati bhajante na kavayaḥ
śriyo devyāḥ ko vā na bhavati patiḥ kairapi dhanaiḥ |
mahādevaṁ hitvā tava sati satīnāmacarame
kucābhyāmāsaṅgaḥ kuravakatarorapyasulabhaḥ ||
kalatraṁ vaidhātraṁ - wife of Brahmā (goddess Sarasvatī); katikati kavayaḥ - innumerable poets; bhajante na – not adored; śriyo devyāḥ - goddess Lakṣmī; ko vā na bhavati patiḥ - who have not attained Her (Lakṣmī); kairapi dhanaiḥ - with a little wealth; mahādevaṁ hitvā – except Śiva; tava – Your (Parāśakti); sati (satī ) – faithful wife; satīnāma carame – foremost amongst chaste women; kucābhyām āsaṅgaḥ - contacting with your bosoms; kuravaka taroḥ api asulabhaḥ - difficult even for henna tree (lawsonia inermis ).
“Innumerable poets have attained goddess Sarasvatī. Similarly those with a little wealth court goddess Lakṣmī. But You, foremost amongst the chaste women cannot be touched, even by henna tree.”
This verse does not undermine the other two goddesses Sarasvatī, the goddess of knowledge and Lakṣmī, the goddess of wealth. Śaṁkarācārya says that anyone can get the grace of these two goddesses, by proper learning and hard work. But attaining the Grace of Parāśakti is difficult for all of us, except Śiva, who alone can be close to Her. She never allows anyone near Her, except Her Consort Śiva. Śiva is not only Her Consort, but also Her Creator.
A person who studies well and is capable of composing verses is said to have the grace of goddesses Sarasvatī, which is also known as Sarasvatī kaṭākṣa (kaṭākṣa - grace through side glance). Similar is the case with Lakṣmī. Those who earn wealth through proper means is said to have attained Lakṣmī kaṭākṣa. The verse says that those who have attained the grace of Sarasvatī and Lakṣmī said to have courted with them in the sense that these fortunate ones are blessed by them. This is said so because knowledge itself is considered as Sarasvatī and wealth is considered as Lakṣmī. For a wealthy person, Lakṣmī is at his home and this blessing by Lakṣmī is called as courting and attaining, by Śaṁkarācārya.
When Sarasvatī and Lakṣmī are considered so, why such a reference is not made to Parāśakti? The first thing that comes to our mind is Kaṭākṣa-kiṅkarī-bhūta-kamalā-koṭi-sevitā (Lalitā Sahasranāma 590, which is explained thus: “By Her mere glance She is attended by millions of Lakṣmī-s, the Goddess of wealth. If Lakṣmī glances at a person his richness grows. This nāma says that Lalitāmbikā is attended to by countless number of Lakṣmī-s, signifying Her incomprehensible nature of wealth and prosperity.” This means that Parāśakti is the source of both Sarasvatī and Lakṣmī and if Parāśakti worshiped, there is no need worship other goddesses.
Secondly, Parāśakti is “mokṣadhārini”, which means She is capable of giving Liberation, which is the ultimate aim of anyone in this life. Mokṣa is the last of the four puruṣārtha-s and this is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 291, Puruṣārtha-pradā which says, “Puruṣārtha is the fourfold values of human life. They are dharma (righteousness or virtues), artha (wish or purpose), kāma (desires and pleasures) and mokṣa (the liberation). It is clear that the ancient scriptures do not prohibit these great human values. What they say is not to get attached to them. On many occasions this concept is misquoted. She is the giver of this puruṣārtha. There is another interpretation. Puruṣā means Śiva (Śaktī is prakṛti), artha means salvation and prada means giver. Śiva gives salvation through Śaktī. The importance of Śaktī is emphasized or probably the interdependence of Śiva and Śaktī is cited through this nāma.”
Even while worshiping Her, no one even touches Her lotus feet. Even gods like Brahmā, etc only wear the dust that is under Her feet for performing their duties perfectly. This is explained in Soundarya laharī (verse 2). “By collecting these dust particles, Brahmā creates fourteen worlds (seven upper and seven lower), Viṣṇu sustains the universe and Śiva causes death and destruction. Dust particles can also be explained as infinite individual souls, the cause for all that exists in the universe. Without soul a body cannot exist. Therefore, it is implied that these three God heads create, sustain and dissolve the beings by collecting the souls from Her feet.”
Since, we have virtually reached the end Soundarya laharī, more information is required at this point to enumerate Her role in liberation. Śiva’s power is incomparable and is supreme. But Śiva does not act on His own. In order to effectively coordinate different activities of the universe, Śiva carved out His Powers and created a separate abstraction, called Śakti. Therefore, Śakti is not a different entity in existence, but the Supreme Power of Śiva. The independent power of Śiva is known as Svātantrya Śakti, also known as Parāśakti. Parāśakti means Supreme Power. How Śiva carved out His Power and transferred to Her is the question now. Śiva has five energies - cit śakti (Consciousness), ānanda śakti (Bliss), icchā śakti (Divine Will), jñāna śakti (Divine knowledge) and kriya śakti (Divine action). Śiva transferred all these five śakti-s to Her and when She holds all the independent and exclusive powers of Śiva, She is known as Parāśakti, also known as Pratibhā (creative activity of Consciousness) Another question that needs to be answered at this point is, why we should worship Her, when Śiva is Her Creator, the Ultimate Reality, from whom the whole universe originated. Śiva is Prakāśa (Supreme Consciousness), the Supreme Light and She is Vimarśa (awareness of Prakāśa) and only through Her, everything else is made known. Thus, Śiva and Śakti are inseparable in worldly process. But, cessation of transmigration happens only if one merges with Śiva and Śakti plays a crucial role in liberating person. When Her worship transforms into Love for Her, She imparts knowledge about Śiva to that yogi (Lalitā Sahasranāma 727 - Śiva-jñāna-pradāyinī) and makes this yogi to merge with Śiva.
Hence, Śaṁkarācārya has chosen to describe Her as the One, who cannot be attained that easily, mainly because of two reasons. First, She is the Power of Śiva and secondly, She is Kaivalyapada-dāyinī (Lalitā Sahasranāma 625).
Further reading: Kaivalya is the final stage of life of a living being. Nobody is there with that being during that time. He is all alone without any help around and he has to achieve on his own. This is the final stage of one’s evolution. The soul is about to leave its present body and getting ready to merge with the Brahman. Kaivalya is liberation or salvation and hence it is called the final stage. This final stage can be reached in two ways. One is the mundane stage associated with desires and attachments where soul gets ready for rebirth. The other stage is the stage of samādi, where the soul gets ready for its union with the Brahman not to be born again. This is kaivalya. Lalitāmbikā is the giver of this stage.
Pada means four types of consciousness. They are sālokya, sarūpa, samībha and sāyujya. Beyond this is kaivalya. Sālokya is the stage where one performs ritual worship, worshipping idols or portraits of gods. In sarūpa he leaves idol worship and does not differentiate himself from god. In samībha he goes near the god and in sāyujya stage he merges with god. These are the stages of one’s consciousness that finally lead to kaivalya. One has to progress from one stage to another and this progression happens depending upon the level of spirituality. By being spiritual does not mean one has to be religious. Spirituality transcends religious affinities, though religion forms the foundation of spirituality.
To attain kaivalya stage one has to progress from ritual worship to mental worship (meditation). By making sufficient progress in meditation, one has to search for the Brahman within. Once the Brahman is located and realized within, the practitioner moves to the stage of kaivalya, by detaching himself from worldly affinities by staying connected with his Creator. His soul is now under preparation to merge with Him, for final liberation. Finally, he gets liberated with no further transmigration for that soul.