SAUNDARYA LAHARI

 

 

VERSE 8

AN INNER BEAUTY UNIT INVERSION
A VERTICAL TRANSFORMATION
 
सुधासिन्धोर्मध्ये सुरविट-पिवाटी-परिवृते
मणिद्वीपे नीपो-पवनवति चिन्तामणि गृहे ।
शिवकारे मञ्चे परमशिव-पर्यङ्क निलयाम्
भजन्ति त्वां धन्याः कतिचन चिदानन्द-लहरीम्
 
sudha sindhor maddhye suravitapi parivrte
mani dvipe nipopavanavati cintamani grhe
sivakare mance paramasiva paryanka nilayam
bhajanti tvam dhanyah kati ca na cidananda laharim
 
Seated on a couch of Shiva form and having the Supreme Shiva for cushion,
Placed within a mansion wafted round by the perfume of blossoms of Kadamba trees,
Located within a celestial grove on a pearly-gem island in the midst of a nectar ocean,
Some fortunate ones contemplate you as the upsurging billow of mental joy.
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It is natural for wisdom seekers to aspire for a quiet place, far from the ignoble strife of common human life. This desire only means that they want to keep company with themselves, seeking a happiness that is more than the pleasure that could be derived from society. In aspiring thus for loneliness, some aspirants might think of a cave in the Himalayas, as Shiva is intent on finding in Verse 78. Others think of an island situated far away from disturbing contacts. We have already had a hint about this kind of natural aspiration in the third verse, where a city of light placed in mid-ocean corresponds to the dear dream of an ignorant man who strongly feels that he needs the consolation of wisdom or philosophy. This same idea is carried over for elaboration in this verse where the third line alludes to a "pearly-gem island in the midst of a nectar ocean". It describes in greater detail a Mandala-like structure in which the Goddess is seated in dignity and grandeur on a couch. The island evidently has a well-furnished and well-ordered household situated in a mansion, surrounded by many varieties of trees laden with fragrant blossoms and ripe fruits. The grove itself is a holy place. The water of the ocean is not the usual salt water, but consists of rich life-giving nectar in great abundance. Poverty or indigence cannot touch such a place.
 
There are three familiar words in the context of Yantra, Mantra and Tantra, which are Mandala, Chakra and Adhara. In Tibetan Mandalas we find four walls or steps leading to four doors. A Chakra would rather suggest a space enclosed by concentric circles, some more peripheral than others and generally three in number. The term Adhara is more specifically used in yogic literature proper. There are six of them, excluding the Muladhara and the Sahasrara which bring up the lower and upper limits. We can see, by glancing at the succeeding verses, that this verse prepares the ground for viewing these contemplative units within the consciousness of the yogi in a more compactly understood form, marking specific states of consciousness as they could vary vertically or horizontally in a series, or in a hierarchy of sets or subsets. We shall have occasion to go into such details when we come to the verses dealing with them.
 
For the present, we must note here that it is the state of mind within the consciousness of a yogi, meditating with shut eyes, which is the subject here. This island thus represents rather a state of consciousness than a bit of geographical land. India itself is sometimes referred to as jambu dvipa (an island of black berries) for contemplative reasons outside of mere geographical considerations. The yogi thus meditating on the personification of Beauty within the scope of his own wisdom-awareness, in the first instance finds the most precious personification of Absolute Beauty seated comfortably on a couch.
 
She is far removed from indigence or want. A yogi who feels that he is poor cannot meditate freely on the highest of values beyond all riches, which is represented by Absolute Wisdom. It is for this reason that the seat of the Goddess here is at the very core of a situation from which all the sense of necessity of everyday life is excluded. There is a level on the negative side of the lower cone where necessity can have its place, but the island here is to be imagined as occupying the position just between the bases of the two cones, placed slightly apart in close juxtaposition.
 
The walls of the mansion could be considered a square or four-sided orthogonal figure, but the island itself should preferably be imagined as a circle, because contemplation within consciousness is comparable to a torch in misty darkness, which clarifies only a globe of light around it.
 
A burning lamp sheds its umbra and penumbra in circles. In spite of this circular, or rather global, shape in consciousness, when we think of the neutral level at which the mansion here is to be located, a square motif is not to be ruled out, because the world here is one that is viewed through lattices or matrices, as in graph paper. Television techniques and cybernetic matrices, as also gratings, microscopically studied, reveal a square shape based on the principle of orthogonality. The impossibility of squaring a circle in mathematics also indicates that the square fits into an actual context of full horizontality, while the circle is more contemplative. Reference to actuality of this kind brings the status of the Goddess into a fully realistic perspective. Vedanta is not, as some people wrongly think, a form of idealism. The idea of the universal concrete is to be respected to its very limit, as when the Chandogya Upanishad says that the nail scissors are made of steel without graduation in the homogeneity of its substance. Just as the steel completely fills the shape of the nail scissors, so Brahman fills the whole universe. The soul of man is supposed to fit, by both its existence and its essence, like the steel to the very tip of the hard nail scissors, or as a razor fits tightly in its leather case. Nothing should be explained away as not being real or being merely mental.
 
Thus a square mansion placed within a circular island is not repugnant to the ideal doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, as understood through Sankara's commentaries. The numerous criticisms of Sankara's Advaita as tending to treat the world as unreal, are seen to be false when correctly understood in this way.
 
There is one special particularity in this verse which has to be examined more closely. The very first line seems to suggest that Shiva became a couch and that a superior grade of the same Shiva (Paramashiva) became a cushion for his wife to sit on. This offers a puzzle and an enigma which has to be explained before we proceed.
 
In the common prayer of Christianity, "Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven", reference is made to two worlds placed at the two limits of the same vertical parameter. Heaven is hypostatic, at the positive limit, while the earth is its hierophantic counterpart at the negative limit. What is there as a value is also here as a value, but there lurks within these two sets of values a subtle inversion which makes the one-to-one correspondence topsy turvy. Ancient Hermetic symbolism, as in the Tarot cards, alludes to this structural secret of "topsy-turvydom" by the picture of a man hanging head downwards. There is an inversion involved in the very structure of space, which is referred to as "mirror reflection" horizontally and "handedness" vertically. These are two kinds of symmetries that have been noted by physicists within the basic structure of space. Ontological existence and teleological subsistence have to belong together within the total scope of absolute space. Here a subtle ambivalence, a reciprocity, a compensation and a complementarity become evident. Existence and essence belong to two dichotomous poles of the total situation. What is called the phenomenological epoche or ghost is to be contained within brackets, so as to enclose the value content within the inverted curves of the two brackets which, facing opposite ways, are turned obversely and conversely. A blind man might take a water jug and, holding it upside down, say that it is useless because it has hole at the bottom. He might then touch the top and say that nothing can be poured into it. Though the Absolute has to be contained as a value within consciousness, it has to avoid falling into the double errors of tautology and contradiction. This epistemological requirement is referred to as impossibility (asambhava) and tautology (atmasraya). (See Narayana Guru's "Darsana Mala", Chapter 2, Verse 6.)
 
The difference between existence and essence, which has been the subject matter of much disputation between modern existentialists and the earlier scholastic philosophers who emphasized essence, is a problem that has been faced and solved by Vedantic tradition long ago. When Vedanta refers to sat-cit-ananda, the first term, sat, refers to existence or ontological reality, while the term ananda corresponds to the essence of God as known in Western theology. It is between these two limits that logic, cit, rules supreme. In scrutinizing the meaning of satyam jnanam anantam brahma, Sankara takes much trouble in his commentary to point out that sat is neutralized by cit in its meaning-content, and cit is again modified by ananda in its meaning-content.
 
Thus between sat-chit-ananda there is what Bergson would call a "back-to-back correction" which we must apply to the situation. According to this correction, Bergson would even go so far as to say that accidents do not happen to us, but that "we happen to accidents". If this enigma could be understood, the enigma here of Shiva becoming a cushion would be considered as quite in keeping with the views of such a modern pragmatist philosopher as Henri Bergson.
 
The hypostatic value of Shiva, when transformed on the denominator side, would become a couch or cushion. What is there is also here in a transformed or translated form, one as teleological essence and the other as ontological existence. As we have indicated already, Shiva comes down from the peak called Kailasa, looking for a cavern for his austerities. He descends from the top of the structure to the middle of the parameter. The Goddess, on the other hand, has her reference at the bottom of the negative parameter. She ascends to the structural mid-region, and thus goes beyond all necessity into the neutral ground between the base sections of the two cones, where the palace on a gem-set island in a nectar ocean is to be placed contemplatively by the votary. If this verse is read with this kind of double perspective in one's mind, most of the enigmas become self-explained. The fortunate contemplative of the last line gives us a standpoint in which we are to place the Absolute Goddess of Beauty at the Bindusthana or core of the contemplative situation to serve the purpose of fruitful yogic meditation. Shiva has only a conceptual status; it is his name that is more important than his form. Transposed to the negative side, he becomes a value that helps contemplative verticality to be promoted within consciousness. A couch and a cushion are objects which have their everyday value, which should not be excluded from the contemplative set of values. The fragrant blossoms of special sacred trees and the sanctity of the grove itself, referred to in the second and third lines, could easily be fitted into the structural context at the mid-region, when we remember that they belong to the world of intentionality and not actuality. Cleanliness and godliness are sometimes used interchangeably. The sweet smell of flowers and a grove of trees are presences or influences which give to life an interest and a zest, lifting or merging it within higher or lower stratifications of the total setup of values. The peripheral trees, forming a circle, are more existential than essential; while the central trees, with the perfume of blossoms wafted by the breeze, mark an essential, hypostatic level. While heavenly kadamba trees, which are actual, are referred to in the context of perfumed blossoms; gems are mentioned in the lower stratification. Their values are to be treated as interchangeable, whether they are placed hypostatically or hierophantically. When cancelled out vertically, they give homogeneity to Absolute Value, in which gem beauty and flower perfumes enter as equal partners, to cause the upsurging billow of mental joy referred to in the last line. When sivakare mance is taken to mean that the gods become the legs of the couch of the Devi, there is evidently a challenge staring us in the face. The pictorial representations by Mogul and Rajput schools of painting, printed in the edition of professor Brown of Harvard, do recognize that the transformation of the gods into the legs of a cot is meant seriously by Sankara, but to this day, no justification of such a transformation has been suggested, at least to the knowledge of the author, by the commentators of this work. We believe, therefore, that only through a protolinguistic structural approach could such a transformation be even barely understood. A similar image of the gods becoming the legs of the throne of Prajapati can be found in the Atharva Veda.
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(A mirror image is a horizontal, two-dimensional left-right counterpart of the original; handedness is the three-dimensional inversion involved between, say, a right- and left-handed glove. ED)

 

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

 

This is a Yogi's vision of Beauty as an island.
 
 
The island is located in the yogi's mind .
The Bindusthana (central locus of meditation) is an island.
 
 
 
 
 


 

WORD FOR WORD
sudha sindhor madhye - in the midst of an ocean of nectar
suravit api vati pari vrte - surrounded by celestial trees
mani dvipe - on a pearly-gem island
nipopavana vati - having within her precincts a grove of Kadamba trees
cintamani grihe - in a house made of contemplative gems
siva kare mance - on a couch of Shiva-form
paramasiva paryanka nilayam - with Supreme Shiva for cushion
bhajanti tvam dhanyaha - those rare fortunate ones worship you
kati ca na cidananda laharim - as the upsurging billow of mental joy.
 

 
A Mandala comes in here, also seen in conics.
 
 

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Here, we have a conic section as a Mandala.

The Omega Point has two degrees: Shiva and Parama (Supreme) Shiva.
There is one-to-one correspondence between Numerator and Denominator.

The ocean of value is plenitude itself: Ananda or bliss
- the crystal is formed therein for our meditation..

 

 

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Above is the same Mandala, seen from above.

 

Vertical transformations take place in this verse.
Shiva is made into a cot, and the Supreme Shiva (Paramashiva), who is even higher at the positive pole of the vertical axis, is called a cushion on the cot.
The cot is stable - the numerator Shiva is here changed into a denominator cot.
The cot and cushion are for the Devi to sit on.

 

An earlier, tentative, version:

TRANSLATION
mid ambrosial nectar ocean
by grove of celestial arbours surrounded, within a gem island
in a mansion of thought, with a garden of Kadamba trees around
in a cot representing Shiva form
placed on a cushion of Paramashiva
they adore
certain persons of religious merit adore You
as the upsurging billow of the bliss of understanding


What is true of the Numerator side is not true of the Denominator
- this is the secret.


Sartre rejected essence, which belongs on the numerator side, in favour of existence on the negative side, but the transfer from Numerator to Denominator is not an easy one.

 

(Jean-Paul Sartre  21 June 1905 – 15 April 1980, was a French philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the key figures in the philosophy of existentialism, and one of the leading figures in 20th Century French philosophy and Marxism. ED)

 

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Existence and essence belong to the same Absolute - and the Absolute is a flux, flowing in one direction or another.
You can reverse the current, and thus revise the direction.


Numerator values are not of the same nature as denominator values, although they are reciprocal parts of the same whole.

What is a value in the Numerator can become transformed in the Denominator into a complementary factor.


In the previous verse, the Devi is seen as positive or Numerator - as Purushika.
Here, Shiva is brought to the Denominator

 


MATTER FOR THE FILM

There is one-one correspondence between Numerator and Denominator.


Conic sections are implied; the footstool is interchangeable with Shiva:
how to justify this? See VERSES 22, 27, 25, 30.


Method: A Pujari (priest), who waves ritual lights here and there and then downwards, showing you how to see the Numerator and Denominator as the same, with an intersubjective and transphysical relation between them.
Applications of these lights have somehow to be shown.

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This verse describes a beautiful woman in a garden, surrounded by Kadamba trees.

 


Placed in the midst of a nectar-ocean is the abode of the Devi, a fool's paradise for the audience to melt into; a place of luxury.

 

 


The Devi is to be presented, not as a sanyasini (female ascetic), but as a full-blooded, buxom, healthy woman.

 

 

 


The point is that numerator and denominator factors - back-to-back and by double correction - are interchangeable. This is a secret.


The footstool is as good as Shiva. This is also found in the Tarot: that which is above is analogous to what is below, etc., and both are component and integral parts of the whole.

 

 

 

 Inversion in the Tarot - the Hanged Man.

 


In the Gita, the inverted tree refers to the same great secret of inversion.

This is represented by the Pujari priest (a performer of Puja - ritual worship) and his waving of lights. (This is the secret of temple ritual).

 


Here, bring in some Tantra, as also the throwing of baskets of flowers for so long that the Pujari falls down for some time as if dead from overwhelming devotion.

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Another version:
TRANSLATION
Some lucky men contemplate thee as the upsurging billow of mental joy
Seated on a couch of Shiva form and having the supreme Shiva for cushion
Placed in a mansion wafted round by perfumed blossoms of Kadamba trees
In a pearly-gem island, mid-ocean placed.
 
COMMENTARY
One should imagine several concentric circles and try to place the supreme value of Absolute Beauty at the very core.