Saundarya Lahari

SAUNDARYA LAHARI

 

 

 

VERSE 12

 

CONCEPTUAL AND PERCEPTUAL BEAUTY
TAUTOLOGY (GIRLS) AND CONTRADICTION (ASCETICS)
PURE VERTICALITY - EXISTENCE IS SUPERIOR TO ESSENCE
 
त्वदीयं सौन्दर्यं तुहिनगिरिकन्ये तुलयितुं
कवीन्द्राः कल्पन्ते कथमपि विरिञ्चि-प्रभृतयः ।
यदालोकौत्सुक्या-दमरललना यान्ति मनसा
तपोभिर्दुष्प्रापामपि गिरिश-सायुज्य-पदवीम्
 
tvadiyam saundaryam tuhinagiri kanye tulayitum
kavindrah kalpante katham api virinci prabhrtayah
yad alokaulsukyad amaralalana yanti manasa
tapobhih dusprapam api girisa sayujya padavim

 

O Daughter of the high peak, to estimate the equal of your beauty
The best among poets, exercising their fancy, somehow created Brahma and others;
Eager your beauty to see, heavenly damsels somehow attain to
What is hard even for ascetics to gain; the state of union with Shiva.
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Verse 12 pertains to the subject of the participation of Shiva with Shakti. This takes place at the crossing of the two orthogonal parameters. Above the horizontal parameter, there is a conceptual form of beauty which requires the poetic gift of great poets to delineate in any appreciably tangible form. Unable to give a real content to theoretical beauty of this conceptual grade on the upper side of the horizontal axis, great Indian poets like Vyasa, the author of the Vedas, have filled this conceptual aspect of beauty with mythological characters created from their fecund imagination. They have no actuality, but shine by the reflected glory or cidabhasa (the indirect conceptual light of reality). Ontological richness, on the other hand, resides below the horizontal axis. That is the domain of Nature, represented by the Shiva-maids of Verse 11, who feel at home there without any need for exercising austerities or suffering special agonies.

Ontological beauty is doubly real, while teleological beauty is arrived at by double negation - by saying: "not this, not this" (neti neti). Teleological beauty is an effect, while ontological beauty is the source and the cause, and is nearer to the negative personality of the Shiva-maids. That is why it is said here, in the last line, that ascetics who go to the Himalayas and perform difficult austerities to gain a glimpse of the Absolute, especially in its positive glories, put themselves under much strain before being able to obtain even a minimum participation with what Shiva represents as a counterpart in the total situation in which he is an equal partner with Shakti. Heavenly damsels want to experience in themselves the upsurging bliss of beauty, just as they are, on the hypostatic side of the situation. The experience of beauty takes place within the mind, because beauty is a subtle value within consciousness. These heavenly damsels have only to enter sympathetically with their mind into union with the negative vertical aspect of the Goddess of Beauty to experience the ultimate bliss referred to here. This state of mind is natural and easy for them, while the male ascetics, on the other hand, cannot establish this participation as naturally and easily as the celestial maidens, for whom it is only a question of mental sympathetic adjustment with the Absolute Goddess. Both the ascetics and the hypostatic damsels are equally interested in experiencing the same Absolute Beauty, but the ascetics have the difficult task of filling the conceptual space with the help of poets or through austerities. The heavenly damsels need no ascetic practice nor poetic imagination; they only need to know how their mistress, the Devi, treats her husband, as participating with herself, without duality. The two sides thus fuse into one, an incomparably difficult task for the disgruntled and crude ascetics to accomplish.

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ADDITIONAL COMMENTS WITH STRUCTURAL DIAGRAMS RELATED TO THIS VERSE FROM SAUNDARYA LAHARI/NOTES


WORD-FOR-WORD
Tvadiyam saundaryam = your beauty
Tuhina-giri-kanye = o maiden of the high peak
Tulayitum = in order to estimate (the value of Your beauty)
Kavindrah = the best among poets
Kalpante = they imagine (exercise their fancy)
Katham api = somehow or other
Virinchi prabhrtaya = Virinchi and others
Yad-alokaut-sukyad = out of curiosity for seeing which
Amara lalanah = heavenly maidens
Yanti manasa = mentally attain to
Tapobhir = by men of austerity (renunciation)
Dush prapam api = even what is difficult (for them to attain)
Girisha-sayujya-padavim = the state of union with Shiva

 

Another version:

WORD FOR WORD
tvadiyam saundaryam - the beauty that is yours
tuhina giri kanye - o daughter of the high peak
tulayitum - to estimate the equal of
kavindraha - the best among poets
kalpante - they exercise their fancy
katham api virinci prabhrtaya - somehow what approximates to Brahma, Vishnu and others
yad alokaul sukyad - which beauty to see
amara lalanah - heavenly damsels
yanti manasa - mentally attain to
tapo bhih dusprapam api - what is hard even for ascetics to attain
girisa sayujya padavim - the state of union with Shiva

 

An innocent or pure girl has a transparent verticality.
Poets try to explain it with conceptual words, but young girls have identity with the Devi.
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slp7-p24-v12

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The snake and rope do not have equal status in the well-known Vedantic analogy, the rope is more real; in other words, ontology is better than teleology.
 
(One of the types of illusion or false knowledge is compared to mistaking a coiled rope for a snake. Thus, the ontological rope is more real than the imagined snake. In the same way, the young girls, because they are negative vertical, are more real than the horizontal, peripheral ascetics. ED)

The munis (ascetics) are peripheral.
The girls are negative vertical.
 
 

 

The girl has just to think of herself; she does not have to do penance like the ascetics, she is promoted on a course natural to any woman.
Woman is naturally innocent.
 
(During one of the study sessions on this subject the Guru remarked:
"All women are enlightened."
A student asked; "All women?"
The Guru replied: "Yes, all women")
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Poets create demiurges to represent values which approximate to the beauty of the Goddess.
The girls are promoted "manasa" (through their minds) by themselves.
Tribal girls and heavenly damsels are the same - but one is more rarefied.
 

A woman looking at the mirror and looking at the Goddess is the same.
 
 

See "Kabuli Wallah" by Tagore and the story of Iole and Hercules.

The Devi's attendants are able to merge with the Devi's personality because they already have an ontological relationship with her on the negative side.
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The Devas (gods) are hypostatic, on the positive side, and have a tendency to diffuse away from the vertical axis and thus do not accomplish this merging with the Devi by their austerities or tapas.
The gods are created by the poets, who were trying to describe Absolute Beauty.
The Devi's servants are closer to being fused with Her than the gods are.
It is Absolute Beauty which is important.
The negative females are closer to the Devi than the poets who create numerator gods.

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Neither poets nor austere men realize that neither austerity beauty nor luxury beauty is the same as Absolute Beauty.

Ontology is better than Teleology,
or Double Negation is better than Double Assertion.
 
 
Women know the Goddess very easily.
Then by tapas (austerities) there are men who try to get the same thing.

 

Another version:

TRANSLATION
Your beauty, which
O maiden of the high peak
In order to weigh ( to estimate the value of Your beauty)
The best among poets (Kavindraha)
(they) imagine (kalpanti) (exercise their fancy)
Somehow or other (kathamapi)
Brahma and others (refers to the Trinity)
(note theory of ensembles)
out of curiosity for seeing (Your beauty)
Heavenly maidens
mentally attain to
by men of austerity
even what is difficult (for them) to attain
the state of union with Shiva
In the matter of attaining unity with Shiva, the maidens are at an advantage
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These tapasvis (performers of austerities) try to build up a Numerator, but the maids get identification with the denominator Devi simply by their sympathy for Her.
 
 
 
Disgruntled ascetics in the Himalayas.
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The young women are able to merge mentally with the vertical axis, at least on the negative side.

To describe the Absolute in terms of the positive side of the  Numerator one must be a philosopher, it is very difficult.

But it is easy for the maidens to merge into the ontological vertical axis by their sympathy with the Devi.

Vertical beauty is approximated by the poets, but they cannot escape the fact that they are still dealing with the pluralistic world of many (Vedic) gods and not the one, ontological Devi.
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Your beauty is admired first by women, who appreciate it in such a way as to outwit the Munis (sages) performing Tapas (austerities).

After taking a structural perspective in the second to last verse, as well as in the last, and before going into realistic aspects to be followed by more positively conceived perspectives with Verse 14 and elsewhere, this section terminates only at Verse 41,  keeping up the same attitude; i.e. treating Beauty as an inner experience.

Here, in the present verse, the value implications as between various components or limbs, are meant to be brought into relief.

It should be noted that it is nothing other than the value of Absolute Beauty in the abstract that is the theme here.
Beauty in the abstract is neither wholly schematic nor wholly categorical.
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The items of any imaginable category within the scope of the Absolute have one-to-one correspondance with structural aspects considered schematically. Both of them could refer to the Self or the Non-Self at one and the same time and need not be separated into subjective individuation of the Absolute Self or its objective individuation, implying introversion or extroversion, as some recent writers belonging to the Analytical School of psychology seem to suggest.
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Terms like "Saguna Brahman" and "Nirguna Brahman", "Apara Brahman" and "Para Brahman", "Jivatama", "Paramatma", even "Atma" and "Unatma" are applied to epistemological aspects of the same Brahman according to the prakarana (chapter) context in question.
 
(Saguna means “with attributes”. The term “Saguna Brahman” implies that the Absolute has a name and form and other attributes. “Nirguna Brahman” implies that the Absolute has no name and form or attributes. The pair Para and Apara Brahman refers to a higher and lower or transcendant and immanent Absolute. Atman refers to the soul. These are all technical terms of Indian Philosophy which need to be studied in depth to be understood. The reader is referred to the website's search engine for further information. ED)

Thus there are other grades and subdivisions of the notion of the individual or the self, such as: "Pratyagatma", "Sutratma", "Vaishvanara", "Taijas", etc. etc. These terms have to be referred correctly to their positions, both structurally and categorically. The categories afford the symbols or monomarks, while the structural aspects fix the signs in relation to each.
 
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When they tally, they explain one in the light of the other. We can use such explanations for the psychological, cosmological or theological clarifications for ourselves according to need, as they arise when the subject unravels itself verse by verse in the order conceived by the author himself. To follow the workings of the mind of the author is the primary task of the critical reader and it is the claim made here - for the first time perhaps - of following such a line of critical scrutiny in respect of these verses whose meanings have intrigued scholars for over a thousand years.
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Now this justifies the other most natural claim that Sankara, as an Advaitin, could not have been thinking of any Godhead or deity whatsoever, other  than the Absolute itself, viewed under the aegis of the one Absolute Value, both real and abstract at once, which is the aesthetic content here alluded to as a sheer or overpowering sense of beauty.
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The Upanishads underline many times that Ananda or joy is to be recognised by intelligent men as representing the final content of the Absolute (anandam brahmano vidvan). This does not, however, exclude the possibility of the same Brahman being understood under the other two perspectives of psychology or cosmology.

Ananda, Atman or Brahman ("Bliss, the Self and the Absolute) are always interchangeable terms of equal dignity. Brahman could be rich in ontology without it contradicting the idea of its having a high intensity of value or bliss. Brahman is something Great, Adorable and Existent, and these epithets have to be pressed together into one sheer experience in terms both of understanding as well as aesthetic sense.
 
In Chapter VIII of Narayana Guru's Darsana Mala we read:
 
"Bliss, the Self and the Absolute
Are said to be the names of this alone.
In whom there is such sure awareness,
He as a contemplative is well known. 

 
"I am Bliss, I am the Absolute, I am the Self."
In whom, in such forms,
There is always creative imagination,
As a contemplative he is well known."


 
What is implied in Sat (Existence) is to be neutralized by what is implied as different from it in the term Chit (Subsistence) or what might be suggested by the term Ananda (Bliss) which necessarily refers to a value judgement.
 
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Whether we call Brahman Sat-Cit-Ananda or describe it as Satyam (existence), Jnanam (subsistence), Anantam (infinite), as is sometimes done in Upanishadic texts, each of these terms is explained by Sankara as having the effect of neutralising or countering any vestige of perfect unity suggested by any other of them, so that they add up to a perfect unity of content which melts or fuses them together into one non-dual Reality, Truth or Value.

The Good, the True and the Beautiful, as in Western parlance, have to refer to the same Absolute. It is Absolute Beauty with which we are concerned in the present as in all the verses of this work. Neither Tripurasundari nor Parvati need be necessarily presupposed, except by way of some latitude or condescension made to religious-minded or pious upasakas such as the Shaktyas, Samayins or even Kaulins. The jnani, or man of jnana, (wisdom) is always superior to the man of mere piety or works.
 
( An actual Goddess such as Tripurasundari or Parvati, to be worshipped by religious people, is to be understood as inferior to the Absolute Beauty which the Vedantin experiences and becomes. ED)
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This is stated in the Bhagavad Gita (VII, 16).

"Four kinds of the (doers of the) good are intent on
Me, Arjuna; the distressed, the seeker of
knowledge, the seeker of the goods of life, and the
wise, 0 Leader of the Bharatas (Arjuna)." 

 
Sankara would be the last philosopher to minimise the efficiency of wisdom by itself for the purpose of appreciating the aesthetic values that he wishes to bring into evidence here in a manner consistent with his own philosophy, as expounded elsewhere in his writings. Therefore, no question of upasana or worship arises here. Those who use this text as a form of religious observance rather than in terms of understanding, pure and simple, are likely to miss its best message, as intended by Sankara. The Upanishads boldly assert that a knower of Brahman can, without any further factor intervening, attain the Absolute: "Brahmavit apnoti param". ("The knower of the Absolute obtains the Ultimate")
 
(There is also the Mahavakya (great saying): "Brahmavit Brahmeva Bhavati" - "The knower of the Absolute becomes the Absolute". ED)
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Devotional attitudes or practices such as Yoga or Brahmacharya are only the lower rungs of a ladder, to be discarded when surmounted. This does not, however, mean that they have to be left out of consideration and have no place. When spiritual progress is so looked upon, with all the steps or rungs of the ladder that must necessarily belong to it, it is thus that even the Upanishads refer to the Vedas: "Vedah sarvagani satyam ayatana." The meaning of this verse will become clear to the reader in the light of what we have just said. It only remains to be put together so as to tally the structural with the categorical elements in order to make the meaning emerge to view.

There are the following factors involved in this verse:
1) Estimating the beauty-value of the Absolute;
2) The question of describing it in literature;
3) How the appreciation of Beauty is easier from the negative ontological side of the psyche as represented by heavenly damsels;
4) How it is not so easy through austerities.

Now let the reader scrutinize the text, word by word, and see that the top half of the circle is to be filled by values that are hypostatic and Vedic.
 
The bottom half is to be similarly filled by the values within easy grasp of the heavenly damsels. Now place the men of austerities on the right or plus sector above the horizontal line, and the damsels themselves on the minus left sector.
 
 

Appreciation consists of abolishing horizontal as well as the vertical duality. The total implication thus arrived at will be sufficiently clear to the reader. Similar verses will be found to have more than just curiosity about beauty; such as the next one where heavenly damsels are again referred to, which will have other values more realistic or more abstract than what is implicit in the curiosity about beauty here.
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Beauty can be appreciated as within itself from the ontological rather than the teleological side. Ascetics represent the latter. The inter-subjective and trans-physical relationship on a homogeneous basis should be kept in mind in order to appreciate the contrast involving the two sets of value appreciations under reference here.
 

 

STRUCTURAL ANALYSIS FOR MAKING A FILM:
The above figure taken together with the comments will suffice for a structural analysis of the content and purpose of this verse. In an over-all form the intention of the author is to say that celestial maidens, being vertical minus in status, understand the value of the Goddess by direct participation, which the ascetics can only attain indirectly.
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The positive numerator side of the Goddess can be created by the poets.
The heavenly maidens understand that side automatically.
They also want to be in union with a husband on the numerator side.
Ascetics are outside the picture completely and have to supply both Numerator and Denominator by abstraction and generalization; it is difficult for them to visualize.
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Heavenly maidens supply the Denominator, poets supply the Numerator.
Beautiful maidens have verticality in their own beauty, poets have verticality in their imagination.