Saundarya Lahari








भवानि त्वं दासे मयि वितर दृष्टिं सकरुणां
इति स्तोतुं वाञ्छन् कथयति भवानि त्वमिति यः ।
तदैव त्वं तस्मै दिशसि निजसायुज्य-पदवीं
मुकुन्द-ब्रम्हेन्द्र स्फुट मकुट नीराजितपदाम्


bhavani tvam dase mayi virara drstim sakarunam
iti stotum vancham kathayati bhavani tvam iti yah
tadaiva tvam tasmai disasi nija sayujya padavim
mukunda brahmendra sphuta makuta nirajita padam


"O Goddess, you, on this your servant, bestow a kind look"
Thus intending to adore, no sooner one begins saying: "O Goddess, you..",
You grant him that state of identity with you,
The same as what Vishnu, Brahma and Indra accomplished by the waving of the bright lights on their diadems.


Prayers can be of different grades of efficacy or word content. Ritual actions of different kinds are also implied in the act of offering adoration or prayers to divinities or gods. An effective prayer is that which establishes the most direct bipolar contact between the supplicant and the god that is being addressed. The gods themselves represent different grades of values, according to the taste or understanding of the seeker. Compatibility between the counterparts of worshipper and worshipped, we see here, is the first and foremost condition for efficacy in prayer. In other words, prayer is like an interaction in chemistry or an equation in mathematics where there is a kind of osmotic interchange of values taking place. It could be likened to a mathematical equation. There are also many instances of reversible reactions and retroactive processes known in thermodynamic systems or in the context of cybernetics. Semantics and logistics also conform to a system in which there is a reciprocal exchange of meanings taking place inter-physically and trans-subjectively. Such are some of the subtle structural implications to be kept in mind in order to understand the meaning of this verse.


In the first place, we have to remember that it is not just an ordinary goddess who is the object of adoration here, but it is the ultimate value in the Advaitic context that is being adored. The person fit for such an exalted and pure form of worship must also conform to certain requirements in himself. He is not to be treated as a mere upasaka (a worshipper only paying lip service), who understands the dead letter better than the living word, due to his lukewarm or hidebound attitude, and who lacks wholeheartedness because he is too full of personal outward interests to keep his soul from entering the vertical, subtle eye of the needle.


The bipolarity between worshipper and worshipped cannot become fully established, except on a homogeneous ground where these two counterparts participate on equal terms. This homogeneous ground is called worship. Here the worship is an osmotic interchange between the inner stuff of existential and essential factors. With the Goddess visualized existentially, the supplicant is to be her dialectical counterpart, in terms of the subsistent, with the overall situation of worship being the value factor, where the two counterparts cancel out in the glory of the Absolute. The worshipper and the worshipped enter into equal partnership here as interchangeable factors. The thinnest medium through which this partnership can take place is where words meet the meaning corresponding to their form. This cybernetic or thermodynamic equilibrium could also be thought of as taking place in the thinner semantic world where words and meanings circulate between subject and object, or self and non-self. Such equilibrium is called homeostasis.


In the pure world of non-duality there is reversibility of reaction, as in an equation expressing the same in algebraic terms. There is also a similar one-to-one correspondence and cancellation in a more subtle domain. Whether in the world of logic or intentionalities, prayers are judged more by the intention implied in them than by the syntactical or pragmatic aspects of the words in which the prayers are clothed.


In Advaita Vedanta it is granted that God and man are the same. If a god-like man waves lights to propitiate a god, it is quite natural to reverse the position and say that, when such a worthy man humbles himself, the god also decides to wave lights to the personality of the supplicant in return. Thus full cancellation of counterparts occurs.


In the first line, though the prayer is only just begun, the Goddess is already willing to respond to the intention present. It is only for a kind look, and not for any worldly benefit, that the supplicant here prays, because as an Advaitin or sannyasin, (renouncer) he has no other favours to ask for. Not only is the intention readily recognized, but the response is both total and spontaneous in bestowing not just a mere kind look. Partial stimulus produces total reaction of the counterpart, here contained within the word "you", as between interchangeable counterparts.


The Goddess seems to say: "You are not a mere worshipper, you are myself. There is an equality of status and richness of quality between us, because Advaita cannot countenance any shade of duality".


There is a reference in the last line to worship by the three gods, who are supposed to be far superior to human beings as custodians of the three phenomenal functions in the cosmological setup of the Absolute Universe. But, even if their worship should attain to its fullest benefit or merit; they, the most important agents in the phenomenal context of the universe, are here only given the same marks, when judged finally by effect, as the humble supplicant who stands outside the context of holiness or merit altogether. Vedantic worship is based on understanding rather than on ritualistic merits belonging to mere Vedism.


The reference to the lights on the diadems, which are supposed to function here as the flames used in the ritualistic waving of lights in temples to propitiate various gods, is to indicate that Vishnu, Brahma and Indra are doing their best from the standpoint of their own notions and value systems - as far as such values are within their grasp - to honour the Absolute Goddess. But in spite of such efforts, they only get pass marks on the final test, while the non-dualistic worshiper not only passes freely beyond such a point of perfection, but attains the worship of the Goddess herself. Such is the overwhelming beauty of this situation, to be understood in the overall context of intentionality.


The "identity with you" is only to be treated as a corollary to any one of the four well known mahavakyas (great sayings) of the Upanishads, each of which is an equation between the Self and the non-Self in the context of Absolute Wisdom.


Intentionality counts more than words. We would be justified in thinking that words themselves are finally extraneous to the situation from the last verse of the poem, where Sankara washes his hands completely of even having taken the trouble of writing these verses, politely excuses himself and withdraws from the scene of holiness.





Bhavani tvam - o Goddess, thou
Dase mayi - on this Your servant
Vitara - bestow
Drshtim sakarunam - a look of kindness
Iti stotum - thus to praise
Vanchan kathayati - desiring says
Bahavani tvam - o Goddess you
Iti yaha - he who
Tadaiva - at that same time
Tvam tasmai dishasi - You grant him
Nija sayujya padavim - that state of identity with You
Mukunda brahm endra sphuta makuta nirajita padam - the same state as was gained by Vishnu Brahma and Indra by the bright waving lights of their diadems.

Arati - the ritual waving of lights.

As with the previous verse, this verse is an example of "partial stimulus, total response".
(The partial stimulus - just a kind look - is all that is needed to reach the highest accomplishment and be-all and end-all of Advaita Vedanta - the state of union with the Abslute (Brahman). "The knower of the Absolute becomes the Absolute" - "Brahmavit Brahmeva bhavati". ED)



Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva perform Puja, bowing to the Devi with their shining crowns.

Advaita is the cancellation of duality.

The intentionality of linking Self and non-Self is greater than prayer - greater than the relativistic worship of the three gods.

The intentionality of prayer is more important than the brute act of prayer.

Worship is not necessary, even before the Goddess grants sayujya ("that state of identity..."), which is better than grace.
(Union with the Goddess is not different from the union of the Self and the Non-Self - the union or cancellation into the One Absolute which is Advaita Vedanta. Worship is something quite different and implies that the worshipper and the worshipped are separate, and that one is superior to the other. In Vedanta, all is one. ED)

In the Vedic context, Brahmins and gods are elevated by their actions and made fit to worship the Devi.
Here, however, a "Dravidian child" without merit is the subject.
(This is a reference to Sankara's description of himself as a "Dravidian child" in Verse 75.
"Your breast milk, I consider, O Maiden born to the Earth- Supporting Lord,
As if it were word-wisdom's ocean of nectar, flooding from out of Your heart
Offered by one who is kind, which, on tasting,
This Dravidian child, amidst superior poets, is born a composer of charming verse."
The worshipper of the first verse is described as "akrta punya" - someone of "ungained merit"; someone who is a Vedantin, totally outside the context of good deeds and rituals which belong to the Vedic ritualist worshippers. The "dravidian child" - a despised dark-skinned South Indian - has the same implications as "one of ungained merit". ED)

This verse transcends the Vedic puja (sacrifice) by Vedanta, which does not concern itself with ritualism.
Even just the desire to know Yoga will take you beyond the Shabda Brahman of the Brahmins.
(This happens in one instant - like a streak of lightning - there is no need for relativistic slow progression as with dualistic Yoga schools. ED)

The crest-jewel is the Numerator.

(Shabda Brahman is the Absolute (Brahman) as sound. ED)


There is a word play here - the prayer can be translated as "O Goddess, You...." or alternatively, "Let me become You!"
Before the sentence is uttered, the boon is granted by the Devi.
This is the highest teaching of the Upanishads.

The three crowns of the Numerator gods are shedding some light on the hypostatic (positive) side
But, when you utter that sentence, you wish for the light of the Absolute Devi to descend on you.
This is none of your relativistic Vedic praise of a divinity.
The very intention to understand the Absolute makes one greater than all the Brahmins of the world.
(The Brahmins praise the Absolute; the Advaita Vedantin becomes the Absolute. ED)
(A popular print of the three gods. ED)
(A more classical representation of the three gods. ED)




"Bhavani tvam" ("let me become You" ) - before these words of prayer are out of the devotee's mouth, the boon is granted.
Intentionality is respected above all relativistic prayers.

The light of the boon is complete - also having the Numerator factor included in it - and becomes the Absolute.
Hypostatic values are added as being secondary.
It occurs even before the sentence is completely uttered.


There is a very delicate philosophical touch in this verse.
Otherwise, nothing new has been said.
"Your Numerator value is so great, that the lights which I light in the temple are as nothing. My lights are all relativistic - but Your light is Absolute."

Here, one goes to the Devi with humility, in the presence of the Absolute.
As soon as You can say the words Bhavani Tvam ("let me become you.."), at that very moment, (the intentionality implied), the boon is immediately given.

Even if a man simply has the intention to know the Absolute, then he is a superior man.
The point here is that the intention is more than the act.

When you say: "Please be kind to me", before the words are out of your mouth, the boon will be granted.
The Tri-Murti (3 gods) with their shining crowns, even when waved in honour of the Devi, are not of the same calibre as the devotee who asks for the blessing of the Devi - "Bhavani Tvam" - to become the Devi.


This verse expresses the Vedantic standpoint that the intention is more important than the act.
See the philosophical dictionary and read these definitions ten times.
(See B.A.F. Fuller of the University of California. Uberweg's is the best Dictionary of Philosophy).

There are the three gods of the Vedas with their fabulous crowns.
So the Absolute Devi belongs to a higher order than these.
When You accept many grades of truth, You are hedonistic and relativistic. Their crowns shine very brightly, but are simply included in the Absolute.


When a devotee of the Vedantic context simply begins:
"I, You...", at that moment she says: "Do not say anything more, I have already granted You the greatest boon I have to give".
It is the intentionality which is the most important thing in the Absolute.
The act is not the most important thing.
(See Brentano's explanation of intentionality.)

(Brentano is best known for his reintroduction of the concept of intentionality to contemporary philosophy.  While often simplistically summarised as "aboutness" or the relationship between mental acts and the external world, Brentano defined it as the main characteristic of mental phenomena, by which they could be distinguished from physical phenomena. Every mental phenomenon, every psychological act has content, is directed at an object. Every belief, desire etc. has an object that they are about: the believed, the desired. Brentano used the expression "intentional inexistence" to indicate the status of the objects of thought in the mind. The property of being intentional, of having an intentional object, was the key feature to distinguish psychological phenomena and physical phenomena, because, as Brentano defined it, physical phenomena lacked the ability to generate original intentionality, and could only facilitate an intentional relationship in a second-hand manner, which he labeled derived intentionality. ED)


As they are hypostatic, hedonistic and relativistic, the Vedic gods are nothing when compared to the Devi - their crowns only light up her feet.
The most important point is given before the sentence is finished.
This is the difference between relativism and Vedanta.
Vedic ritualism must build up to final point. (It does not attain it in one lightning flash, like Vedanta. ED)

The three gods are waving lights with their glorious crowns - this is a reference to temple worship - not Advaita.
These are the three gods known to Vedic Brahmins.
The lustre of their crowns represents their Numerator value, but even the lustre of these crowns cannot vie with the beauty of the Devi, which is a laser ray of a superior order.

Intentionality - to be devoted to the Absolute is richer than the hedonism and relativism of the Vedas.
One must know where Veda ends and Vedanta begins.
(Veda is the domain of the relativistic ritualism of the Brahmin worshipper. It belongs to Karma Kanda - the domain of action - as opposed to Jnana Kanda, the domain of the wisdom of Vedanta. ED)


The Vedas are talking of heaven - under the sway of the three Gunas (modalities of Nature.)
Vedanta is concerned with salvation.


The three Gunas or nature modalities are: RAJAS, SATTVA, TAMAS:
Vedic luxuries are dull, like sleeping in the morning (tamasik),
or active, like hunting at five o'clock in the morning (rajasik),
the third is like Tennyson writing poems (sattvik).
They are like Brahma, Vishnu and Indra.
(Vedanta is beyond the three Gunas - see the Bhagavad Gita Chapter 14. ED)


This verse wants to say that all this is nothing and that just the intention to know the truth makes one superior to those who act within the relativistic Vedic context.


Hellenic Knowledge - to know the truth .
Hebraic Knowledge - to see the truth prevail - Ethics, Morality.

(One might perhaps add: "Vedantic knowledge - become the truth" ED)


So, the highest culture is to see the truth and to see it prevail, according to Mathew Arnold.
This is also the Absolute - and the Gita says that even a little taste of this will save you from pain and suffering.

Whether they say it or not, everyone loves Absolute Truth.

So, to teach appreciation of Absolute Values is the highest calling and any such teacher will be reputed a great man, even if he remains hidden.

Sankara tells you about the distinction between Vedas and Vedanta and rises above good and evil.

He uses Tantric language, thus rising above the criss-cross divisions of language and custom - and it is these that are the causes of tribalism.

So Sankara is the Numerator Value for the Hindus.
He provided a philosophy with a place for the pantheon of Hindu gods.

The verse says that these crowns are lighting the feet of the Devi.
But the Vedantic devotee is visualising the totality of the situation.

The combined light of the three crowns of these three greatest gods only serves to light up the feet of the Devi.


Be a votary of the Absolute, all the rest is relative.
Your intention is tantamount to understanding.
Before you even finish the sentence, the full beauty of the Absolute will descend upon you.


The worshipper is worshipped.
Subject and predicate are interchangeable.
"Bhavani Tvam.." = "O Goddess, You.." as well as "Let me become You.."
The whole grace has descended on the worshipper just because of his intentionality and thereby he becomes identified with the Devi.



Another version:


- O Goddess, You
- On me, Your servant
- Confer
- Gracious regard
- Thus intending to adore when one begins
- Saying. "O Goddess, You..."
- That same moment
- You confer on him
- Your proper unified state
- That state adored by waving of clear ritual lights of the crowns of Vishnu, Brahma and Indra.


Here is the subtle turning of subject into object.
The crowns have diamond tips of light and they bow to the devotee, because he has become the Absolute.
Shakespeare does the same thing in making Shylock a tragic hero - he is more sinned against than sinning.



Begin by relativistic worship from the Numerator side, culminate in the Trimurti (the 3 gods) offering puja (worship) at a temple.
Outside the temple is the Vidyarthi (wisdom seeker): he says " Bhavani tvam.." ("let me become you") and he is immediately overwhelmed: the others come out of the temple, see him meditating there and do Puja to him.

Indra, Varuna and others should be told as they leave, that out there is the one they should prostrate to.

He sees only magenta glory, the third eye, the crescent moon etc.

This is a repetition of the same image throughout, with appropriate music etc.
The boy who was a Vidyarthi has now become a Yogi (Sankara himself).

The Absolute is ready to be kind to you, and you should be ready to be overwhelmed.

An elderly disciple should tell the temple-goers that if they go to a certain tree, they will see a saddhu (wandering ascetic) who has realised the Absolute Goddess.

"More than asked for boon": people are thirsty on a hot day, suddenly a terrible downpour comes.











त्वया हृत्वा वामं वपु-रपरितृप्तेन मनसा
शरीरार्धं शम्भो-रपरमपि शङ्के हृतमभूत् ।
यदेतत् त्वद्रूपं सकलमरुणाभं त्रिनयनं
कुचाभ्यामानम्रं कुटिल-शशिचूडाल-मकुटम्


tvaya hrtva vamam vapur aparitrptena manasa
sarirardham sambhor aparam api sanke hrtam abhut
yad etat tvad rupam sakalam arunabham trinayanam
kucabhyam anamram kutila sasicudalamakutam


Absorbing the left half of the body of Shiva and unsatisfied in mind still,
The other, I surmise, became absorbed also; therefore,
This your form, having three eyes and bent by twin breasts,
Wearing a curved, crescent-bedecked crown, became of magenta glory.


The ideal of cancellation of worshipper and worshipped is accomplished by virtue of a cancellation in terms of grace between counterparts having different value-grades. Each layer is to be removed, one after the other, in a certain epistemological and methodological order, before we can understand how a reality that is beyond the four dimensions could be revealed to view, when shorn of all that is extraneous to the situation.

In this verse Parvati, the wife, appears to be devouring her husband alive. When this act of mutual absorption or cancellation attains to its full limit, what remains of Shiva, in vague outline, is the crescent moon and three eyes, immersed in the pale magenta halo or glory of the Goddess. On the part of the Goddess, what remains of the eternal feminine principle is the twin breasts, which are so ponderous, weighed down by the responsibility of motherhood, that they make her body recumbent. Her own body is completely dissolved in terms of an all-pervading magenta, dispersed in infinite space and thus made equally magenta in content everywhere. It is as thin and tender in consistency, in existential terms, as the mathematical crescent of a subsistential order, against which the vaporous cloud of colour is to be cancelled out. The three eyes are retained as belonging both to the onlooker as well as to the one looked upon, interchangeably and indifferently. It is the third eye, through which the thinnest aspect of the vertical parameter is to pass as an eternal inner witness, which is common to both Shiva and Parvati.


When scrutinized more closely, these four lines reveal overall epistemological or cosmological dimensions that even modern physicists are beginning to recognize. The first line promotes us from a one-dimensional to a two-dimensional perspective as a horizontal line that is being cancelled from the right to the left, as when we travel from real to imaginary or negative numbers.
If one goes to a shop and asks for ten oranges and does not pay for five of them, the value of these five oranges is seen to be negative, because one still owes the shopkeeper some money. The five oranges that have been paid for can be eaten with greater satisfaction. Such is the value-gradation to be understood here. In line two we notice that instead of paying the debt, she insists on cancelling it. The "shopkeeper" who is being refused payment is not a stranger or outside person, but represents the dear husband, Shiva himself, who is being bodily consumed by the wife out of all kindness. The debt is thus being cancelled out at the second level of virtuality.


What remains is a verticalized version of Shiva and Parvati, not of the order of mere cancellable equations, arithmetically understood, but in terms of a purer three-dimensional or four-dimensional context of higher mathematics, as in integral, differential or infinitesimal calculus, which require higher powers of abstraction and generalization. The operations take place in duality from below, as intended also in Verse 18. We see that the crown is still retained in the picture. This is merely to mark the form of thinner perimeters or asymptotic curves cutting the parameter at different levels.
Cantor's mathematics also admits of a one-to-one correspondence between many grades of infinite sets of ensembles. Points, curves and lines, all thinly visible through a magenta haze - which itself results from ultra-violet and infra-red neutralizing each other on the side of real existences - are all meant to give us this finalized picture of the value of Absolute Beauty to be shared in common between Shiva and Parvati, without any vestige of duality intervening between them The bending of breasts is highly suggestive of curves in calculus. The thin crescent would suggest infinitesimal variation. The parameter traverses the total situation, like the streak of lightning in Verse 21. The ocean of magenta can also be thought of as encroaching into the total field to obliterate all duality from below, as also intended in Verse 18. We see that the crown is still retained in the picture; this is merely to mark the Omega Point of the total situation. The Alpha Point is to be understood and will come into evidence when the process of absorption here is reversed and oriented negatively. The culmination is still marked by the magenta glory of the last line, which is not a point, but is meant to fill all space horizontally. The "crescent-bedecked crown" is more fourth-dimensional or time-like than space-like. The whole picture results from an ascending process rather than a descending one.


(Cantor's diagonal argument, also called the diagonalisation argument, the diagonal slash argument or the diagonal method, was published in 1891 by Georg Cantorthat there are infinite sets which cannot be put into on-to-one correspondence with the infinite set of natural numbers. Such sets are now known as uncountable sets, and the size of infinite sets is now treated by the theory of cardinal numbers which Cantor began. ED)




Tvaya hrtva vamam vapah - by You absorbing the left (half) of the body
Aparitrptena manasa - unsatisfied in mind
Sharir ardham shamboh - the half of the body of Shiva
Aparam api - the other also
Hrtam abhut -
Yad etat tvad rupam - this which is Your form (resulting thus)
Sakalam aruna bham - wholly of magenta glory
Trinayanam - three eyed
Kuchabhyam anamram - slightly bent, recumbent, by virtue of twin breasts
Kutila shashi chudala makutam - wearing crescent-bedecked curved crown


Magenta absorbs all but the Omega Point by stages.
She does not abolish, but cancels.
Magenta and the crescent have homogeneous status.

Once again, the Devi is "slightly bent" at the waist.
Here the Devi devours the left half of Shiva, then absorbs the other half.
Her form becomes completely magenta, with three eyes.
The two breasts are bent into a sinus curve or a Yin-Yang figure.




The crown and the third eye compensate for any weakness in the Numerator by the Denominator.
This is reduction into Absolute Unity.

Three compartments are abolished into the quaternion.
The whole ground becomes magenta and homogeneous.

The Devi, with the left half of her body, absorbs half of the body of Shiva; then, not content with that, she absorbs what is left.
Then she becomes magenta-coloured.
Her breasts are described as being bent in a figure-eight.