Saundarya Lahari







शिवः शक्तिः कामः क्षिति-रथ रविः शीतकिरणः
स्मरो हंसः शक्र-स्तदनु च परा-मार-हरयः ।
अमी हृल्लेखाभि-स्तिसृभि-रवसानेषु घटिता
भजन्ते वर्णास्ते तव जननि नामावयवताम् 


shivas saktih kamah ksitaratha ravis sitakiranah
smaro hamsas sakras tadanu ca para maraharayah
ami hrlekhabhis tisrbhir vavasanesu ghatita
bhajante varnas te tava janani namavayavatam


Shiva, Parvati, Eros and earth, sun, moon,
God of Love, Swan and Indra; Para, Mara and Hari
With these three sets, with their heart monomarks suffixed
They adore your letters, o Mother, by way of naming your component limbs.


Some clarifications will be needed before the reader can enter into the spirit and full implications of Verses 32 through 35. We know that there were two schools of Tantrism, called the Kaulins and the Samayins. The Kaulins were primarily interested in cultivating a form of absolutist delight or enjoyment through what they understood to be the ontological approach to the absolute source of all delight. Those who practiced this kind of eroticism were not necessarily influenced by the Vedas. They belonged to the ordinary stratum of society. Eating meat, drinking wine of some sort and having sex experiences were to be taken for granted in their lives. They did not feel any guilt in such matters. The Kaula School had two main divisions called Purva Kaula and Uttara Kaula. Purva Kaulins emphasized ontology more than Uttara Kaulins. We could imagine further subdivisions between them. In both, an actual girl of good family was a necessary item in their ritualistic orgies, often conducted secretly in the basements of neglected temples. Although their starting philosophy was something concrete and tangible, they made every effort to rise from Yantra to Mantra through the medium or means of Tantra.


In the South Indian school of Tantra, there is a convention of distinguishing divinities by certain syllables such as ha, sa, ka, la, hrim, srim, aim and klim. By convention, each of these syllables stands for a devata, which is a divinity with a special function within the structural dynamic setup of the technique of Tantra, Yantra and Mantra combined, well known by the overall, though rather vague, term of Tantra.


In the ritual worship of the Kaulins, letters of the alphabet brought to their minds images of these phenomenal functionaries (devatas) in the universe, in theological, cosmological or psychological terms. The first line of Verse 32 lists three distinct sets of such divinities.


The letter Ka represents Shiva, the letter E represents Shakti, I represents Kama, the god of love, and La represents ksiti, the earth. These four form the first group.


Then Sun (ravi) as Ka, Moon (sitakirana) as Sa, smara (the god of love) as Ka, swan (hamsa) as Ha and Indra as La, form the second group.


The third group consists of Sa, Ka and La which represent Para, Mara and Hari respectively.


When we suffix the letter Hrim (in Sanskrit, "hrim" is written with one character or letter. ED), which represents the heart centre, to each of these three groups, it is easy to recognize the favourite conventional fifteen-lettered Mantra belonging to the Adi Vidya called the Pancadasaksari Mantra, which is made up of three sets: Ka, E, I, La, Hrim; Ha, Sa, Ka, La, Hrim; Sa, Ka, La, Hrim. Thus we get a charm of fifteen divinities strung together into an imaginary rosary, and indicated by letters of the Sanskrit alphabet. If the divinities are used as monomarks for purposes of taxonomy, we could also say that the syllables stand for the same divinities understood nominalistically rather than realistically.


It is true that sometimes the sixteen-lettered Sadasaksari Mantra is also conventionally understood. The sixteenth letter is supposed to be a secret one, summing up or cancelling out into a total value having an absolutist status. This final touch cannot be imparted except by a personal guru, acting as an intermediary. This must be due to its very abstract epistemological status. Pancadasaksari Mantra and Sadasaksari Mantra both stand for the same tendency to use letters of the alphabet to represent devatas or divinities, each of whom has his own function in the total setup of the absolute Divinity or principle of beauty. We do not propose to enter into the intricacies of such esoteric technicalities, of which there is no end. The reader is referred to other esoteric books such as the Shakta Upanisads and the Shivananda Lahari, both published by the Theosophical Publishing House.


This particular school of Kaulins, by intending to bring into proper perspective this total setup within the structure of the Absolute, could be said to be traveling from the "Universal Concrete", as in the actual girl involved in the ritual, to the utmost limit of nominalism, by attempting to raise themselves through aksara. Aksara means values resulting from the fusion of alpha and omega in the alphabet of any language; A being the starting vowel and Ksa being the last consonant in Sanskrit. Aksamala means a rosary of beads which, when understood in the context of Rudra (Shiva), is called a rudraksa mala. In Verse 33 also, the same kind of values are strung together into two rosary-like formations: one as an actual rosary of beads and another as a rosary of oblations of clarified butter derived from the celestial cow.


In this verse we can see clearly how Sankara is thinking of this Pancadasaksari Mantra of the Sri Vidya. The tendency of the Kaula Tantra, as we have said, is to ascend from the realistic upward towards the nominalistic, with iconographic divinities used as monomarks which have corresponding lettered syllable combinations with a one-to-one correspondence between the monomarks and the names more symbolically understood. Evidently the pre-Vedic Kaula School of erotic Tantrism is the subject of this verse. For Sankara, the overall purpose or raison d'etre of this kind of Kaula Tantrism is to meditate realistically on the Goddess of Absolute Beauty: first with monomarks, and finally with names applied to each element that might contribute to the beauty significance that the Devi is here meant to represent. It is important to give a name as well as a function to each component element so that the totality might effectively loom into the contemplation of the worshipper, whatever school he might accidentally belong to. Even a wrong worship could be made right by the light of its correct intentionality, according to the Bhagavad Gita (IX:29 - 31). God accepts everything according to the calibre of the person involved. The attitude concerning worship is a catholic one. A man is saved by his intentions only; for his actions in this world may not have amounted to anything, due to uncontrollable circumstances.


The three sets of devatas in this verse have each to have the syllable Hrim suffixed. The heart is the centre, which is both a monomark and also something that can be understood by a syllable. It is easy to see the need for suffixing the heart monomark, because the heart refers back to the self at the centre of one's own consciousness, to which all things must refer. When we add the letter M at the end of a syllable like Hrim, we are reminded of the syllable Aum, which also ends in M. The letter A of Aum is an open sound; the letter U is a half-open sound; while the letter M is fully closed. The syllable composed of these three letters suggests the base, sides and apex of a triangle respectively, within the totality called Absolute Beauty or Absolute Value-Significance in human life. We are asked in this verse to recognize three rosary-like garlands adorning the totality of the structure of the Goddess. Between the open syllable and the closed syllable there is implied a cancellation between horizontal and vertical values. When we are able to place properly the three sets indicated, as complete garlands within the total frame of reference represented by the Devi here, we could be expected to have understood Her complete value under three main sets of categories, making up fifteen elements, each based on monomarks and spelled out by letters of the alphabet.



Bhagavad Gita, IX,


I (regard) all beings equally. To Me there is none hateful
or dear. They however who worship with devotion, they are
in Me and I too am in them.


Even if one of very evil actions should worship Me with a
devotion exclusive of all else, he should be accounted to be good
all the same merely by the fact that he has a properly settled


Instantaneously he becomes established in his own right
nature and enters into eternal peace. Believe Me in all
confidence, 0 Son of Kunti (Arjuna), that one affiliated
to Me with fidelity knows no destruction.







In this verse, we have three sets of monomarks with limbs, as related to the heart.

(The Guru uses the word "monomark" to mean something like the use of letters of the alphabet to identify points etc. in geometry eg.: "The line L joining the two points A and B". ED)

Shiva shaktihi kamaha - Shiva, Parvati, Eros
Kshitih atah Ravih - the Earth, then the Sun
Hamsa shakraha - swan and Indra
Tad anu cha - after which also
Para mara harayah - Para, Mara and Hari
Ami hre lekha bhih tisr bhih - with the three heart monomarks
Avasan eshu - at their terminals
Ghatitah bhajante - they adore as joined
Varnaste - these letters (monomarks)
Tava janani - as Yours, o Mother
Namavayavatam - they worship
Hamsa shakraha - swan and Indra
These are categories, each with its sound, with one letter for each sound.
You can schematize and generalize the Devi, using letters as monomarks for each of the schematic sections.
(These syllables are examples of what is called in Tantric practice "bija" mantras, which are one-syllabled, typically ending in "anusvara" (a simple nasal sound). These are derived from the name of deity; for example, the deity Durga yields "dum" and  Ganesha yields "gam". "Bija" mantras are prefixed and appended to other mantras, thereby creating complex mantras. In tantric schools, these mantras are believed to have supernatural powers, the term "bīja" is used for mystical "seed syllables" contained within mantras. These seeds do not have precise meanings, but are thought to carry connections to spiritual principles. The best-known bīja syllable is Om, first found in the the Upanishads. ED)
It is an "Esprit de finesse". (See Blaise Pascal, "Pensées", Esprit de Finesse is that faculty of the mind which understands suddenly and without deduction, as opposed to the Esprit de Géométrie, which understands through rational deliberation. ED)

This verse mentions all limbs, by threes.
This is taxonomy - a nomenclature of categories structurally understood and named with letters for each - in groups of three, punctuated by hrim (heart).
An example of a Yantra with letter monomarks or Bija Mantras.
Tantric ritual with Yantra.
The Kaulins (relativistic Tantris) are to be given credit as far as they go.
The whole of Beauty is contained in the totality of "Your component limbs".
To keep them all in mind, the factors are given letters as monomarks, then placed in Mantras corresponding to figure-8's - this is Sankara's revaluation. This is the Dravidian approach.


 Rituals with yantras and recitation of mantras.



The dynamisms between the elements named in groups of three form figures-of-8, horizontally and vertically.


The Malayalam commentary on the previous verse claims that the sacrifices mentioned in the Vedas condone immoral acts, drinking, meat-eating etc. - this represents a degenerate form of religion.

An example of degenerate religiosity - animal sacrifice.


"Shiva, Shakti, Kama, Kshiti, Ravi, Sita-Kirana, Smara,
Hamsa and Sakra, Para and Mara, Hari and the Hri-Lekhas".
This verse is concerned with numerology and nominalism.

(In this verse, Sankara is revising and revaluing the Tantric use of these "Bija Mantras" which are used as monomarks in their rituals. To a certain extent, they are a kind of schematism or structuralism. Each of these syllables is a meaning signifier or "sememe". A sememe (from Greek σημαίνω (sēmaínō), meaning "mean, signify") is a semantic language unit of meaning, correlative to a morpheme. The concept is relevant in structural semiotics. A sememe is a proposed unit of transmitted or intended meaning; it is atomic or indivisible. ED)


Other aspects of structuralism or schemas, not mentioned in this verse are:
crystals, conics, plane, solid and analytic geometry, 3-dimensional space, structural space, crystalline structure in chemistry, flower structure in biology, colour language, colour harmony, letters and numbers.


You can analyze and relate consciousness to sound.
Numerology, semantics, mathematics etc. can all be seen in terms of the quaternion structure.

This quaternion structure, as a normative reference form, will lead man from discovery to discovery.
(The quaternion structure is the structure of the Absolute,, of the Mind and of  the Universe: what the Mandukya Upanishad, 5 - 12, calls the "four-limbed" :

सर्वं ह्येतद् ब्रह्मायमात्मा ब्रह्म सोऽयमात्मा चतुष्पात् ॥ २ ॥
sarvaM hyetad brahmAyamAtmA brahma so.ayamAtmA chatuShpAt ||2||

Everything here (sarvaM etad) is certainly (hi) (brahma). This Atman (ayam AtmA) is brahman (brahma). This very Atman (saH ayam AtmA), is four-limbed (chatuShpad = chatur + pAda). ED)


Knowledge of the structure of the mind helps man to keep from making mistakes in speculation.

This verse is concerned with taxonomy, as also with the science of sounds in semantics; it is concerned with determining meaning.

Semantics, cybernetics, and logic: these are all various components, combining with logic, which go to make up structuralism.
Microcosm and Macrocosm are dialectically related.
Planck and Einstein, concerned with particles and galaxies respectively, still use the same structure.

Narayana Guru said a universe is contained in a particle of dust and many particles of dust make up the universe.

(Now we will be going into a treatment somewhat akin to the Pythagorean Tetraktys and numerology.)




(The tetraktys is a triangular figure consisting of ten points arranged in four rows: one, two, three, and four points in each row, which is the geometrical representation of the fourth triangular number. As a mystical symbol, it was very important to the secret worship of the Pythagoreans. ED)

This is nominalism in excelsis.

(Nominalism is a metaphysical view in philosophy according to which general or abstract terms and predicates exist, while universals or abstract objects, which are sometimes thought to correspond to these terms, do not exist. ED)

Pierre Abelard
was a nominalist philosopher, the lover of his student, Heloïse, and who was castrated by her relatives because of it.
Heloise asked him to show her at least the attention he gives other disciples.
He was a nominalist: Vedanta is also nominalist.

The logos is an inseparable part of reality.
(The Logos is "the Word"; it became a technical term in philosophy, beginning with Heraclitus (ca. 535–475 BC), who used the term for a principle of order and knowledge. ED)
"By way of giving names to your aspects, or limbs, we make them real."
Taxonomy is the science of giving names - of nomenclature.

Kratylos is the chapter of Plato's "Republic" which deals with names.
See St. Thomas Aquinas on the origin of divine names.

This verse deals with nominalism - the giving of names to the various aspects or limbs of the Devi.


Another version:

- Shiva, Shakti, Kama (vertical, horizontal, desire)
- Earth, then Sun (enumerating a list of nominalistic factors)
- The cold-rayed one (the moon)
- Vishnu
- Swan (Hamsa)
- Sakra
- Para, Mara, Hari
- These triple heart-marks (4, 5, 3, divided into 3 sets)
- At their terminal points
- As joined they meditate (they meditate as joined)
- These consonants
- For you they become, o Mother (of the Universe)
- By way of name


Some people meditate on these names as representing the Devi.
The twelve items named have to be divided into three sections - not necessarily 4, 5, 3 - this is the pundit's idea.

These are the names of the components of the Devi: Shiva, Shakti, Kama and Kshiti, Sita-Kirana, Smara, Hamsa, Sakra, Para, Mara and Hari.

1)   Shiva
2)   Shakti
3)   Kama


4)   Kshiti
5)   Ravi
6)   Sita-Kirana


The remaining six:

7)   Smara
8)   Hamsa
9)   Sakra
10) Para
11) Mara
12) Hari

These are tentative divisions.
They are divided into three distinct sets; the exact division into sets is not imporant.

In every country, one philosopher gets an idea about nominalism, for example, and other unqualified men try to explain it.

Each philosopher will use categories which have a name and a structural position.

So, the Devi twelve limbs: the Guru arranges them in his own way.
These twelve names are all monomarks.


These names suggest certain functions or areas, so these are monomarks, purposely selected for purposes of nomenclature.
This is Nominalism.

Whatever way you group these, it really does not matter.
There are three groups, punctuated between them with hrim (means "heart") - a heartbeat.
(We should keep in mind that this list of names is in the form of the kind of mantras that are recited during Tantric rituals and which are here revised by the author of this poem - he is restating such charms or incantations in a Vedantic context. ED)

"Renormalization" means naming the categories schematically.
This is a renormalized taxonomic nomenclature using monomarks for ensembles.
Three ensembles are mentioned here, they have to be placed properly in the structure.


Another version:

- Shiva, Parvati, Eros (Shiva, Shakti, Kama)
- The Earth, then the Sun
- The Moon and the God of Love (Smara)
- Swan (pure spirit), Indra (powerful god)
- The ultimate source thereafter
- The tempting factor and the saving Vishnu (Marah, Harih)
- With the three heart monomarks
- Suffixed
- As united they adore
- The letters these
- Yours, o Mother
- As names for your component limbs


First come Shiva and Shakti; then place Smara (Another name for Kama Deva) - Eros as "love" and "Explainer of the Vedas".
("Smara" stands for many meanings in Sanskrit. The prominent meanings are love, remembrance, longing and memory. "Smarana" is the act of remembering something. The god of love, Kamadeva, is also referred to as Smara. ED)


Shiva, Shakti, Kama, Earth - This is the frame.
Ravih (sun), Moon, Smara, Powerful God, Hamsah, Para (source), Maraha (temptation),
Hari - The negative side of the vertical axis.
(If this verse seems obscure, this is natural; the author is revising and revaluing technical terms of the context of Tantric ritualism. We must remember that this ritualism, using mantras and yantras, was a major element in the Hindu religion of Shankara's day. Indeed it still is today. ED)
Each of these ensembles has a circle around it.
This is a picture of the total mathematical world.

"They adore" refers to the relativistic Kaulins who worship the Devi.
Sankara is telling them that this is the proper way to use Tantra Shastra to adore the Devi.