शरज्ज्योत्स्ना शुद्धां शशियुत-जटाजूट-मकुटां
वर-त्रास-त्राण-स्फटिकघुटिका-पुस्तक-कराम् ।
सकृन्न त्वा नत्वा कथमिव सतां सन्निदधते
मधु-क्षीर-द्राक्षा-मधुरिम-धुरीणाः फणितयः
saraj jyotsna subhram sasiyuta jatajuta makutam
vara trasatrana sphatika ghatika pustaka karam
sakrn natva na tva katham iva satam sannidadhate
madhuksira draksa madhuri madhurina phanitayah
Clear as autumnal moonbeams, with matted hair-made diadem
Attached with crescent and with hands bearing refuge or boon-giving gesture,
Rosary made of crystal-clear beads and book: how could any one worshiping you but once
Not gain in flow of words, somehow, the pleasing sweetness of honey, milk and grapes?
In this verse we are no longer concerned with the phenomenal aspects of beauty, as we ascend one step higher in a vertical direction. The value here is the gift of poetic expression, which is not to be understood in a religious sense, but in a wholly aesthetic context. One aspires to be a great poet so that one can hold up a mirror to life or truth. Poetry has sometimes been defined as a critique of life. Social novels reflect the state of contemporary society and all that belongs to it, in the form of crisscross or rival interests, with heroes and heroines of greater or lesser nobility, all tending to reflect the actual problems of life. Romantic plays, however, like Victor Hugo's "Hernani", rise higher in the scale where romance and tragedy blend their value-systems.


In the plays of Sophocles and Euripides tragedy attains to further heights of the fearful and pitiable. There is thus a difference of levels represented by the literary works of different great poets. The expert manipulation of phrases is the main task of the author. When word-value substitutes other values, such as the joy implied in the successive seasons, as in the previous verse, we naturally come to the Goddess of Word Wisdom, like the Santa Sophia of Constantinople, to whom a great domed church was once dedicated, although the votaries inside have been indifferently Christian and Muslim at different times.


Word-wisdom has its value and its consolation to cultured people. On the Indian soil, Sarasvati represents this value. In the "Sathapatha Brahmana", she is represented as sending her arrows in two diametrically opposed directions: one upwards to nominalism through conceptualism, and the other downwards through very earthy expressions to the very source of the Word.


The third line describes such a Sarasvati with her familiar crystal rosary beads and book. When we look at the first line though, where Sankara applies a dialectical touch to her representation, we find a slight departure from the conventional Sarasvati. The brightness of moonbeams still suggests a hypostatic region of highly intelligible values, but the reference to the "matted hair-made diadem" serves as an anti-climax. The word-goddess is here deprived of her jeweled headdress; instead of which her glory is expressed through the same matted hair of which her husband is so proud. This anticlimax introduced into the upper limit of the situation is intentionally meant to cancel out against the actual sweetness of "honey, milk and grapes", referred to in the last line. The matted hair represents renunciation and indifference to sense values, but at the opposite limit the tastes of honey, milk and grapes are represented as containing within their existential enjoyability an essence which is meant to participate with the value represented by the same matted hair.
The third line also states that austerity cannot go with the love of grapes, except in people who can put them together as limiting instances of one and the same value parameter, from the highest to the most factual limit of ontologically significant values. The lahari of overwhelming beauty here resides within the mind of a poet who is able to see how the taste of grapes and the matted hair could belong together, when compressed within the one absolute notion of Beauty. If anyone could understand how such a cancellation of two aspects is possible in the name of Advaita Vedanta, all could be accomplished for them in terms of spiritual progress, forever. The result might be that they decide to be a poet rather than a religious magnate. This does not make any fundamental difference, because both a kavi (poet) and a manisin (spiritually perfected person) are treated as equal partners in terms of their understanding of absolute values.

In the second line, the crescent of Shiva is also duplicated as the natural heritage of Parvati, though her glory has a negative reference only. The ambivalence is transcended when existence and subsistence, or fact truths and logic truths, meet and cancel out into the significant value of beauty, although expressed through words here.

The "hands bearing refuge or boon-giving gesture" have been described previously by the author in Verse 4. He justifies bringing them into the picture again here, as we pointed out before, through methodological necessity which should not be mixed up with doctrinal conclusions. By the same token, we could now understand this compromise between the conventional Vedic Sarasvati and a fully ontologically-based Parvati, on the grounds that her downright existential aspects, like the taste of honey, milk and grapes, are intended to be cancelled out against higher essential values at the higher level. That Parvati consents to remove her crown and be satisfied with matted hair, like her husband, Shiva, is already a gesture that heightens her status in a fully revised context of Vedantic absolutism. In order to have a one-to-one correspondence with this heightened status implied at the higher limit, the poet takes care to balance it by such factual factors such as the joy one gets from tasting honey, milk or grapes. Cancellation thus becomes mathematically adequate and justified. The resultant vision is meant for very highly evolved poets. Others may not obtain this vision so easily. Moreover, it should be noticed that the sweetness of honey, milk and grapes is to be enjoyed here through literature and not merely as a preference of the palate. This puts the whole meaning into the core of word-wisdom, which has nothing to do with sense-indulgence at all.
It is suggested here that poetry excels when realistic aspects are correctly blended with word-aspects, which are nominalistic only. A perfect sentence or paragraph must contain as many references to fact truths as to truths that are only imaginary. It is the one-to-one correspondence between these two bipolar aspects that makes literature pleasing in an absolute sense. This truth has been recognized by Shakespeare when he makes the acts and scenes of a play alternatively touch lighter and more serious chords in the human heart. Indian jewelers know how to set rubies and diamonds side by side, pearls with coral, or amber and crystal beads together so that the different qualities of jewels cancel out into a beautiful garland. A book is a natural ornament for Sarasvati, the Word-Goddess; while the thin crescent of Shiva represents a pure mathematical function in the domain of reason. She also wishes for the same pure reasoning as her husband, as represented by the crescent moon. The bright moonbeams of clear autumn nights figure as a favourite ideogram in Sanskrit poetry.
The overwhelming Beauty in this verse is to be located in the reference to the "matted hair-made diadem" which effects a complete cancellation of any negativity she might represent otherwise. Taken as a whole, this verse might be said to cover the same value ground as the logos, the verbum or the Word, in western theology. The value-ground of the Word continues up through Verse 19, inclusive.

 It might further be suggested that there is a gentle touch of sarcasm that a keenly critical eye can discern in this verse. This sarcasm is of the order of "damning with faint praise". There are numerous places in the Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads where veiled sarcasm and faint praise blend into something ineffable, beautiful and harmless.

Sankara is not unaware of this subtle literary device. When viewed in such a light, the praise of Sarasvati here could still be seen to fit correctly into the sequence and context of these verses. When we read, in the third line, that it is enough to worship such a Sarasvati even once, the ironical implications present here in a veiled manner would become recognizable and even appreciated.



Hedonistic beauty without renunciation.
saraj jyotsna subhram - clear as autumnal moonbeams
sasi yuta jata juta makutam - with matted hair-made-diadem attached with crescent
vara trasat trana sphatika ghatika pustaka karam - with hands bearing refuge or boon-giving gesture, rosary of crystal beads and book
sakrt - once
natva na tva - worshipping you but once
katham eva satam - how long could a good man
sannidadhate - not attain the presence of
madhu - honey
kshira - milk
draksa - grapes
madhuri madhurina phanitayah - (blank in the original manuscript).
The tongue is the locus here, the transition point from perception to words. .
On the Numerator side read good poetry,
On the Denominator drink a glass of wine.
Before, in Verse 14, the Devi's feet were above the mind at the positive limit of the vertical axis.
Here he descends to the level of the goddess Saraswati, the consort of Shiva, slightly lower than in Verse 14, but still at the top of the vertical axis.
The Devi is here seen as hypostatic, with four hands, holding a rosary and a book. (traditional attributes of the goddess Saraswati, symbolizing meditation and learning).

Sankara is descending through the Chakras, from the top of the vertical axis in Verse 14.

"Having at least worshipped this Goddess once, how could his words not have the sweetness of honey, milk and grape juice?" (These are on the denominator, perceptual side. ED)

The numerator Goddess, when understood, will give this denominator benefit.
Saraswati must have the corrective principle, which is the absolute status given by Shiva's crescent moon, worn in her crown.



Here, Sankara is equating experience with knowledge.
That is, he is equating the Experimental Denominator and Axiomatic Numerator.
(The experimental method involves the use of controlled observations and measurements to test and prove hypotheses.
An axiom is a proposition that does not require proof. ED)

Put the experimental and the axiomatic in two compartments and equate them.
Conceptual and perceptual entities are here brought together: perceptual factors -  honey, milk, etc., are canceled by the numerator aspect of Shiva; this cancellation is represented by the fact that the Devi wears Shiva's ornaments.

The existential satisfactions coming from the three foods are on the denominator side.
The crescent is above the Himalayas on the numerator side.

Ganesha is to the left - the actual side, and Subrahmanya to the right - on the virtual side.
The crescent moon is above; there is a dangerous middle ground of forest; then the Devi at the Alpha Point at the bottom of the vertical axis.
Numerator and Denominator cancel.

How could anyone who has seen this vision at least once ever miss tasting the absolute value of these words which describe the Absolute?

(The question is: "Why should the words of a man who has seen this vision not have the sweetness and pleasure of honey, milk and grape-juice?")

(The above illustration is from a popular print and does not conform exactly to the correct traditional model ED)
The book is Numerator, the rosary is Denominator; if you think something right, She will pull you towards Her.
The rosary beads she holds in Her hands are for Herself, for Her introverted meditation, and are thus on the negative side.
The book  is positive, like the Vedas, which are public rather than private.

The space between the beads and the book; between ontology (atman - the individual soul, roughly translated) and the teleological concept (Mimamsa) must be filled (eliminated) by the disciple in his meditation.
Reference by commentator. (? ED)

In the ocean of beauty, there is the Devi, with three eyes and eight arms - four above and four below as a reflection of the upper four.

Monomarks are marks which give you the function of certain elements in a mathematical function (equation).

The eight arms that appear in an example verse from the Malayalam edition have the function of monomarks.
(Maha Saraswati, a variant of  the Goddess, appearing in certain legends (puranas) is depicted as eight-armed and is often portrayed holding a Veena whilst sitting on a white lotus flower. ED.)