"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Monday, January 2, 2012

Lalitasahasranama - 002 - The Emergence of Lalita

There are many levels of understanding – each name of Lalita can be discussed at various levels for hours, I have limited myself to the literal meaning here.

Rati continued to pray to the Divine Mother to manifest as Lalitadevi to bring Rati’s husband Manmatha, or Kamadeva, to life.

Meanwhile, Chitrakarma, one of the commandants of Shiva’s forces, made a little doll out of Manmatha’s ashes. And he was pleasantly surprised when the doll sprang to life in Shiva’s proximity. Chitrakarma asked his new son to perform penance to please Shiva, who appeared to the young man, years later. The young man asked that whoever he battles, should lose half his strength and skill and that should get added to his own. Shiva not only granted him the boon but also gave him the kingdom to rule for 60,000 years.

Brahma was furious to hear this and swore “bhanda”, and the young man from then on was known as Bhandasura. Meanwhile two more asuras had emerged out of the ashes of Manmatha – Vishukra and Vishanga. Many more asuras sprang from the ashes, and they all joined Bhandasura’s army. Shukracharya became the preceptor to the asuras, and he invited his friend Maya to build a city for Bhandasura known as Shunyaka Patana. Under the guidance of Shukracharya, the Asuras lived a vedic education and worship was life was followed.

As time went by, the kingdom became more powerful, and Bhandasura became more arrogant. He issued instructions to his people to consider the celestials as the enemy who is waiting for Manmatha to be born again and create the desire for procreation and increase their numbers. He asked his people to assume the form of vayu or air and enter the celestials and dry up their bodily fluids, then do the same on earth to humans. As this plan took shape, the hordes of Bhandasura dried up the body fluids and mental faculties. Everyone lost their looks and the desire to love one another.

The water element plays a crucial role in life. rasa, the fluid principle, is a form of the Supreme Consciousness. śukla (sperm) and śoṇita (ovum) are together known as vīrya. It is vīrya that gives the attributes of kānti (radiance), ullāsa (happiness), dharma (righteousness), dayā (compassion), prīti (love), buddhi (intellectual capability), vikāsa (development), parākrama (valor), śāstra vijnāna (scientific knowledge), kalā āsakti (interest in arts), saundarya draşti (proper concept of beauty). In plants too, we know the importance of rasa that sustains them, and without which the logs can catch fire. rasa is prāṇa. And, Bhandasura’s plan had drained his enemies. Vasanta, the deity that represents spring, observed the changes and told Rati that the universe now was waiting on Lalita. Rati started praying to the divine Mother in earnest.

Meanwhile the weakened population went to Vishnu asking for solace. Vishnu explained to them that this was all Bhandasura’s doing. Vishnu, Brahma and Rudra live in the causal plane, as kāraṇa puruşa, as causal beings for the manifest creation. Living in creation, they were themselves subject to the actions of Bhandasura. But Mahashambhu and Parashakti who live beyond the manifested universe, were untouched by this. Vishnu led everyone to the periphery of the universe. It took a year for everyone to breach through a wall, and see beyond - the cinmaya ākāśa which is nirālamba (independent) and nirājnāna (untainted) beyond the five elements including space. Standing in the cinmaya ākāśa, they sang the praise of Mahashambhu who is of the form of cidākāśa.

Mahashambhu and Parakshakti appeared, and blessed them.

Mahashambhu was dark as clouds, holding a śūla (spear) in one hand and kapāla (skull) in the other. Parashakti was shining and cool like the moon, holding a mālā (necklace of beads) in one hand and a pustaka (book) in the other. Mahashambhu spoke in a thunderous voice, and explained that there were three types of pralaya - periods of dissolution when the three guṇasattva (purity), tamasa (inertia) and rajasa (action) – are in balance. The rescuer of the world from avāntara pralaya (intermediate dissolution) was Mahashambhu himself, the rescuer of the world from mahā pralaya (final dissolution) is Vishnu, and the rescuer of the world from kāma pralaya (dissolution of universal will) is Lalita.

There are fourteen worlds, of which the upper seven are - bhūloka, bhuvarloka, suvarloka, maharloka, janaloka, tapoloka and satyaloka. The first three form one group that is mentioned in the gayatrī mantra for Surya. The remaining four belong to higher planes. A night of Brahma is the period of dissolution for the first three worlds, avāntara pralaya (intermediate dissolution). When the 100 years of Brahma’s life, all the other worlds will perish as well in the mahā pralaya (final dissolution). For kāmapralaya, Mahashambhu explained that they needed to pray to Lalita devi. All those who had gathered there asked Mahashambhu for the method of appeasing Mahashakti.

Mahashambhu said he would be the hota, the priest who performs offerings for a yaga (yajna, or fire sacrifice). And his cidāgni would be the fire. The pit created by the drying of the last of the seven seas would be used as the fire pit. And the six great oceans would serve as the six drops of ghee to be used as offering.

The five sraşṭi, creation, would be the sacrifical offering : mānasa sraşṭi – mind-born creation, jarāyavee sraşṭi – womb creation, aṇḍā sraşṭi – creation through eggs, swedaja sraşṭi – creation through sweat, and udbhijja sraşṭi – creation through sprouts.
Five substances would be used – bhūmi (land), parvata (mountain), jala (water), vāyu (air), and ākāśa (space). Since Mahashambhu’s cidāgni was to be used, no fire was needed for this yaga.

At the end of this yaga, everyone had to jump into the homa kuda (firepit) with great devotion. Then Lalita Parmeshwari would manifest, seated in a chariot called cakra rāja ratha. She would then create Parabrahma as Kameshwara, as her consort. This couple would re-create the entire universe, in a form even more beautiful than the previous one. Lalita would bring Manmatha back to life.

She would create four weapons: ikşu dhanuşa (sugarcane bow), five puşpa bāna (five flower arrows), pāśa (noose), and ankuşa (hook, as used by an elephant driver). With these four weapons, she will kill Bhandasura. She will bring Manmatha back to life, and give new bodies to all who had jumped into the sacrificial fire.

Mahashambhu and Parashakti started chanting the Lalita Mahamantra, and entered the Universe in the form of seven-layered vāyu (air). Parashakti assumed the form of kriyā śakti (energy of action), with whose help Mahashambhu as vāyu blew dry the seventh sea. And in this fire pit, he kindled the cidāgni with his third eye, the fire raging through the fourteen worlds from Patala to Brahmaloka. 

Using the clouds Pushkala and Aavartaka (clouds appearing during pralaya) as the two spoons to offer ghee, he offered the six oceans as ghee and then the five substances. He then offered the celestials to the sacred fire. Then assuming his real form, Mahashambhu chanted 8 mantra and performed 8 homa.

At the end of the homa, Lalita emerged from the fire altar.

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