A word-for-word translation in the Guru's handwriting.


Shivah = Shiva (numerator factor).
Shaktya = with Shakti - the phenomenal factor in the centre of the Absolute.
Yukto-yadi = when united, unified (i.e. when participating vertically and horizontally with each other).
Bhavati Shaktah = becomes able (Shiva).
Prabhavitum = to realize himself, become fully himself, attain full plenitude.
Nachedevam devah = if likewise this god.
Nakhalu kushalah = is not capable indeed
Spanditumapi = even to oscillate like a straw (?) to or (illegible)
Atah stvam = thus to or for you.
Aradhyam = worthy of worship
Harihara virinchadhibhir api = (illegible)
Prananthum = to adore
Stothum va katham = even to praise, how.
Akritapunya = one who has no merits of good acts.
Prabhavati = become specified.


EDITORIAL NOTE: throughout this commentary, where the Guru's notes, as extracted from the source material found in saundarya lahari/notes (see saundarya lahari/index) are used, there are many passages that were taken down by students in a form which is not immediately clear to the general reader - that is, to anyone who was not a full-time student of the Guru's and familiar with the background material. Therefore we have provided explanatory notes - clearly labeled "EDITORIAL NOTE and/or signed "ED.", and written in italics, and we have also corrected or reconstructed some structural diagrams. Without this, we think that it would be impossible to make these brief notes understandable. THESE ADDITIONAL NOTES AND MODIFICATIONS REFLECT OUR PERSONAL OPINION AND ARE IN NO WAY TO BE TAKEN AS DIRECT STATEMENTS OF THE GURU. However, we have been studying and teaching this text for 44 years and hope that they will clarify matters.


According to Purva Mimamsa, the first verse of a work must say:
1) What subject you are dealing with.
2) How does it relate to other subjects?
3) Does it lead to salvation?

 All of this is stated in Verse 1.

 (Purva Mimamsa: For purposes of classification, Vedic lore has been divided into Purva, or former, earlier; and Uttara, later, divisions. This division has to be understood both in the historical and literary sense. The Purva Mimamsa (Earlier Critique) is where ritualist injunctions and obligatory rules are discussed critically by Jaimini. (see Uttara Mimamsa).

Vedas: The early Sanskrit writings in praise of Indra, Varuna and phenomenal gods of nature; later displaced by the philosophical concept of the Absolute Brahman in the Upanishads. The four chief Vedas are the Rig, Sama, Yajur and Atharvana. ED)


The Main Themes of Verses 1 to 10:

Verse 1 - Vedanta is radical; do not ask me to come into the temple, there are no rituals in Vedanta.

  (Sankara places himself outside the ritualistic, relativistic or religious context of the three gods. The Advaita Vedanta he represents is concerned with wisdom, not ritual actions of worship. ED)


Verse 2 - In Vedanta the world is a monde affiné as Bergson calls it - a flux; a world of particle physics, not as actual as it seems.


Verse 3 - Put Absolute Beauty at the bindu (central locus) of the quaternion, do not put a comparative or relativistic goddess there: there is a fourfold structure.


Verse 4 - In Vedantic Methodology primacy is given to cause - do not get lost in effects. There is a borrowed light of Absolute Beauty, a reflected glory as when Vishnu takes on a women's form as Mohini. (And seduces Shiva. ED)


(Verse 5 - Erotic occasionalism; the arrow of Eros can hit Shiva if it is aimed vertically.


Verse 6 - There is a four-dimensional abstraction and generalization.


Verse 7 - The Goddess as Purushika with four limbs bearing noose and goad, bow and arrow.


Verse 8 - Conic sections: getting away to the negative side is .....(? - the original faded manuscript appears to read " the negative side is loud" which seems meaningless ED)


Verse 9 - There is a stable ascending series of cross-sectional positions known as Chakras.


Verse 10 - There are ramified sets of values within the Absolute on the positive and negative sides:


Two trees of Porphyry, one growing upwards and the other downwards, representing existential and subsistential values.


(Here are examples of trees of Porphyry by way of illustration only. ED)










(Shiva: The ancient hero-God from the times of prehistory, associated with radical virility and renunciation. He is an unconventional god like Dionysius, wearing skins and dancing in ecstasy, drunk with cosmic consciousness. He is the most ancient and the most important figure of the Indian pantheon, and occupies his seat in Benares and Kailasa. ED)




The Devi's task is to manifest the world.
The two parameters, vertical and horizontal, are revealed here, together with the subtle participation between them, and Sankara says he will focus on the negative aspect of the Absolute and treat of the lower Absolute (Apara-Brahman), not the higher (Para-Brahman).




(Para: Beyond; pertaining to the Ultimate or Supreme; as opposed to the immanent here-and-now aspect of reality which is apara. It could mean transcendent. (cognate with the English word "far").




The Devi, as manifester of the perceptual world, can be equated with Apara-Brahman, the negative perceptual aspect of the Absolute and the subject of the Saundarya Lahari. ED)





But, Sankara says, "I am outside the picture, I belong to no context".



(Sankara is saying he is a Vedantin, concerned with the Science of the Absolute (Brahma-Vidya) not a ritualistic Vedic practitioner (Brahmin).


Brahmin: One who conforms to the religion of the Vedas and initiated or confirmed by the bestowal of the sacred thread which causes him to be known as a "twice-born" (dvija) and fit thereby to assist at ceremonies of burnt offerings to the Gods of the Vedas. Socially he is the highest of the types of castes, statically viewed, in the Indian world of caste hierarchies, the others being Kshatriya (warrior), Vaishya (merchant) and Shudra (servant). Vedic learning and ritual accompanied the Brahmin as priest in the formation of society as it stratified with the penetration of the Aryans into the Indian matrix, about 1500 BC. ED).







Absolute Beauty is the result of cancellation.

Beauty emerges when two sides meet and cancel.

Creation, which exists, subsists and has value, is beauty.


Fill your mind completely with overwhelming Absolute Beauty and you are a mystic.





You meditate on the Devi and establish a bi-polar relationship with the Absolute.

A yogi can meditate on a certain abstract principle of Absolute Beauty, leading to an understanding without logic - through the emotions and intuition- something you can experience: then you will establish a relation between the Non-Self and the Self which will cancel out into a joy forever.


All proper meditation is erotic; anyone who says that it is not so does not know what he is talking about.


The contribution of Indian Civilization to spirituality is Erotic Mysticism - it was not repressed by patriarchal and prophetic religions that frowned on sensuality.

















There is a participation of horizontal and vertical factors.
On a homogenous ground there is complementarity.

A) Shiva can pulsate only with the Devi´s collaboration.
The Devi is being worshipped by the three gods; Shiva is just one of these.

(There is a distinction between Shiva seen as one of the three gods representing creation, preservation and destruction - relativistic demiurges dealing with the world of change and becoming - and Sada Shiva -  "Sada" implies eternity - who is the counterpart of the Devi, or Absolute Beauty. A demiurge is an artisan-like figure responsible for the fashioning and maintenance of the physical universe ED)

Sankara is in meditation below the Alpha Point at the negative vertical pole, while thinking only of the Omega Point at the top of the vertical axis.

He is verticalized -This is like Bergson's image of the Rhone river expanding to form Lake Geneva and then contracting into a river again

Sankara is outside the whole picture.

The horizontal contains a fanwise expansion of the vertical, that is all.



For purposes of comparison, here is an earlier version of a translation of Verse 1:

Shiva = mathematical, general
by specific function = shaktya, representing the two phenomenal factors;
wave length and vibration, res cogitans and res extensa (Descartes' thinking substance and extended substance, similar to mind and matter)
(only) when united = yukto
if he (should) become able to manifest in becoming
if not thus, this god
is not indeed expert (in the matter)
even to pulsate (pulsation)
it being thus, You (the Devi)
are being worshipped
even by (api) Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva (Vedic, relativistic gods)
to prostrate, even to praise
(Now Sankara is outside the Vedic context - below it)
one of unaccomplished merit
specifically attain (?)




VERSE 1, from an article in "Values" Magazine.

Their paintings (The artist
couple he was visiting), some of which I also saw, were of a non-representational kind where the human form, when faintly present, blended with geometric patterns and cancelled out with them in glorious symmetrical designs of colour and form.

I at once thought of the possibilities of a colour language to serve as a lingua mystica (mystical language) proto-linguistically, to explain the verses of the Saundarya Lahari (the Upsurging Billow of Beauty) of Sankaracharya, whose cryptic verses had recently intrigued me highly and lured me towards attempting a structural analysis of this much-misunderstood yet truly Vedantic text, hitherto lost to the pseudo-scientific esoterics of Tantrism and the Shakti cult of post-Buddhist decadent India.
Further scrutiny of about forty verses, with comparative study of interpretations by scholars, including the verse translation of the same by the famous Kumaran Asan (A poet from Kerala), has convinced me that all of them have fallen short of a truly critical estimate of this masterpiece. Sankara himself must have thought in terms of a structuralism then understood, belonging to the Tantra and Shaktya (Goddess-worshipping) background, whose remnants still persist as remains of past culture, both in Kerala as well as in Bengal, at the present day.

This stratum, with its precious esoterics, has been more or less overcovered by other debris accumulated and deposited in other parts of India, where the chequered rule of emperors and kings or chieftains, with greater or lesser Muslim permeation, has succeeded in covering up even the outcrops of this stratum.
The Tantra school has its proto-linguistic traditions. The Mother Goddess is also a favourite in the esoterics of Yoga.
Thus we touch here a rich deposit of ancient wisdom of rare beauty and quality. Proto-linguistic speculation excels itself here.

Having thus struck upon a rich vein of treasure trove, I have been directing my interest in scrutinising and analysing some of the verses structurally. Even the title has been intriguing and elusive enough to attract my interest.
The words "Saundarya Lahari", which are the title of these hundred verses in classical Sanskrit, suggests both the intoxication arising from beauty as well as a general overwhelming upsurge of the aesthetic sense in the contemplation of the Absolute Self. This aesthetic sense, arising out of the supreme Bliss-Value, is of the essence of the emotional content of the Absolute. Ethics, aesthetics and penetrating metaphysical analysis meet here in the upsurging of the sense of beauty within the contemplative, as understood by Sankara.
In this composition Sankara proves to be fully absolved from the possible charge as a dry-as-dust philosopher, with which appellation he is associated in the popular mind because of the exegetics and logistics in which he indulges in most of his commentaries.
Although Shakti-Tantrism is evidently the assumed background of the composition before us, there is unmistakable internal evidence to suggest that Sankara, the well-known Advaitin, is its author. His seal can be discovered as imprinted on every verse by the clear absolutism revealed and by the classical finish of the verses, as inimitable as in the case of Kalidasa. In order to give the reader just a foretaste of the delicacies and delights of this composition from a master philosopher and dialectician, we translate here the first verse of this series:
If Shiva should, only when united with Shakti,
Get the power to manifest in becoming;
If again, without such, he has no ability even to pulsate,
How then could one of unaccomplished merits
Have the privilege of bowing to, or even to praise
One such as You, adored even by Hari, Hara, Virincha and others.
Here we have more than one rhetorical question by which Sankara fulfills the conventional requirement of adoration of a deity. As an Advaita Vedantin, his praise has necessarily to refer to no other high value than the Absolute. The Upanishadic way does not give primacy to ritualistic or meritorious works for emancipation.
The structural and literary requirements of the Vedic context are, however, retained for linguistic purposes here, as useful in a negative way; by default rather than by open obligation for direct worship or praise of a single goddess or deity.
The goddess here belongs to the context of Brahman (the Absolute).
This, and every other verse of the series, approaches the Advaita by the negative way of omission rather than by recommending adoration of the Goddess Parvati or Shakti as the followers of the Tantra school, more properly so called, might do. The Tantra background, however, is seen here to be taken advantage of and adapted to serve the requirements of the highly suggestive and structural language proper to the lingua mystica of Vedanta.
In the last line, reference is made to the triple gods Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma, who have the functions of preservation, destruction and creation, respectively, in the theological and mythological context of Hinduism. He implies here that, as a devotee praising the Goddess as the negative absolute factor coupled with Shiva (who is positive, as the counterpart of the negative feminine principle), he is not on the same footing as the Vedic gods who only belong to the context of relativistic and meritorious Vedic ritualism.
The schematic analysis of the diagram below will reveal some of the structural implications applicable to the aesthetic value of the Absolute, when viewed from a negative rather than from a fully positive perspective.




Note here that it is the totality that is indirectly adored or praised.
The question of merit does not even arise when the total Absolute Value is intended here. The manifesting function is that of the horizontal negative, and the pure Absolute itself is beyond action, as it is comprised within pure verticalized positivity.
There is thus only indirect praise of the Absolute initially at the start of the work, from a negative viewpoint.


Saundarya means "value", and the highest abstract value is beauty.
Sankara under-focuses on the negative side, or the side of Maya.
He talks about beauty, and through Axiology, Methodology and Epistemology arrives at a description of the Absolute Upsurge of Beauty, as "Saundarya Lahari" can be translated. Sankara first shows the map with all the gods etc., then wraps it up by showing the dynamism of the circulation between the parts. If he uses mythological language, it is only to build up a structure, the understanding of which reveals the Absolute.


Sankara is saying,
"Do not say that I believe in all these gods - I have used them only to praise the Absolute (via ideograms)."


Reciprocity, compensation and cancellability are all operative here



The god Shiva (as a great numerator factor) and Shakti (the horizontalizing principle on the negative side)
When united only (or unified) - (when participating vertically and horizontally with each other).
(Shiva, he) becomes able - (at best participating nominally). (only when he participates does he become able)
To realize himself (in any specified way), (to become fully himself) (attaining all plenitude), (only when he participates does he keep from evaporating), (will only be an absurd mathematical figurehead).
If likewise this god is not capable indeed (wavelength means horizontal movement).
Even to oscillate (like a straw) - horizontal, as opposed to vertical movement.
Thus how can for You (Devi).
Worthy of worship (by).
Even by Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma (representing the three relativistic functions: preserver, destroyer and creator), but only as demiurges of a base order.
You are not only on the negative side of the vertical axis, but You also touch the finger of Shiva, thus representing the Absolute - and thus being worthy of worship by the three demiurges.


And below is another version:

Either to praise or worship You (how?).
One who has no merits of good acts - (I am not a Brahmin or a learned man), (how can I ever attain to the Absolute beyond all words?).
How can I become a specified personality? - (Either I must fill it with the content of beauty, via protolanguage*).
I am not a priest (Brahmin) who performs meritorious deeds.
How can I praise You? (Vedanta is not just giving alms and going to temples).
I will have to put You into relationship with Shiva, the Logos or Omega Point.


If You are not touching Your husband (participating vertically) he is just a theoretical, mathematical Omega point.


*(In the terminology of Nataraja Guru, these terms, proto- and meta-language, have a different meaning from their usual definitions in linguistics: the structural methodology used throughout his works is protolanguage. The Cartesian co-ordinates are protolinguistic in essence; so also are the longitudes and latitudes of maps. Symbols are protolinguistic; signs are metalinguistic. Alphabets belong to metalanguage and geometrical elements such as angles, points, lines or concentric circles can be used protolinguistically. ED)


Double negation is "shining like a polished door"; "prize me no prizes, for my prize is death "
It is like Milton's "dark-splendid": there is no real poet who does not know this double negation.
Double negation is "shining like a polished door"; "prize me no prizes, for my prize is death "
It is like Milton's "dark-splendid": there is no real poet who does not know this double negation.
(The Guru now makes a comparison with another example of Erotic Mysticism in Sanskrit Literature. ED)
In the case of the abhisarika(tribal) woman, (in Kalidasa's Ritusamhara) the lightning does two things: it lights her path and it helps her to appreciate the vertical aspect of her passion.
(She is walking in the Himalayas to meet her lover. ED)
She represents the Self, which has two references, vertical and horizontal.

The abhisarika (tribal) woman in Kalidasa - horizontally, she breaks the pearl necklace and the pearls drop one by one onto the ground.
She wants go both horizontally and vertically: the fire to copulate has another reference, vertically placed, it is represented by sunlight.

Vertical and horizontal aspects of her passion participate and reveal the Absolute.
When you can appreciate this, you are a mystic.
She says: "It may be the Himalayas, it may be midnight, but I am going anyway because I badly want a child". Passion is what is found in her heart and sunlight reveals the vertical aspect of the same.
(There is a discrepancy in the original documents, from saundarya lahari/notes: in the text of the Ritusamhara, the Abhisarika woman is walking across the mountains in the moonlight; however, some of the notes say "sunlight". It is probable that the student who originally wrote the notes was confused and wrote "sun" for "moon". We have reproduced both versions as they appear in the original notes - in any case, it is not all that important - what is important is that there is a light from above descending vertically upon the scene with the love-sick woman providing the horizontal counterpart. ED)
(Further comments on Kalidasa's Ritusamhara can be found in Saundarya Lahari Notes, 1970 SLC8, Page 23. ED)
Kandukavati, Nataraja, thunder and lightning, the Abhisarika woman; they can all be telescoped together into a paradigmatic cliché to be repeated over and over again after the basic portions of the cassettes on which the Saundarya Lahari can be produced.
(Nataraja: The dancing Shiva. The virile cosmic principle which Shiva stands for is seen dancing on a demon, representing ignorance, in the familiar bronze statues. The Shiva dance is referred to in various mythic contexts, where the glory of Shiva is emphasised as against later intrusions into this prehistoric tradition. ED)

Below is a depiction of Nataraja:
A tribal or Abhisarika woman:



("Kandukavati" refers to the description of a dancing girl from the Dasakumaracarita of Dandin (Page 105). Dandin was a 6th-7th century author of Sanskrit prose romances. A commentary on this passage is to be found in Saundarya Lahari Notes, 1972, File SLP2, pp.4-30. ED)




On Kandukavati and her dance, Nataraja Guru said: "There is no Indian Spirituality without the Dancing Girl. Take away the dancing girl and there is nothing left."

(In South India, a "devadasi" (Sanskrit: servant of deva (god) or devi (goddess) ) is a girl "dedicated" to worship and service of a deity or a temple for the rest of her life. The dedication takes place in a Pottukattu ceremony which is similar in some ways to marriage. Originally, in addition to taking care of the temple and performing rituals, these women learned and practiced Sadir (Bharatanatya), Odissi and other classical Indian artistic traditions and enjoyed a high social status as dance and music were essential part of temple worship. ED)
To make this passage understandable, one must introduce some well-thought-out representative clichés or ideograms: put three circles around them and treat them as Chakras.
There is a common subject-matter to Verses 1 and 2: the phenomenal and the noumenal, and the cancellation of the three functions of creation, preservation and destruction.
In the "Darsana Mala" by Narayana Guru there is cancellation into absolute value.
In his "Atmopadesa Satakam" the pure Absolute is at the Omega Point.
In Verses 3 and 4: Ontology is contrasted with a teleological approach - there is a normative centre.
Atmopadesa Satakam deals with Triputi (the" tri-basic prejudice" of seer, sight and seen), it is like the the Darsana Mala, but with bipolarity.
(Triputi: the aspects involved in the event of knowing something, namely: the knower, the known and the act of knowing. Literally "the three-petalled one" or "having three bases". It is a technical term in Vedanta referring to three aspects of cognition, namely the subjective, the objective and the process itself. The knower of the pot; the object called the pot; and the knowledge of the pot, would illustrate the three ways by which the same cognition could be viewed. Absolute knowledge is without this triple-based difference. ED)
Although the methodology for all Vedanta is roughly the same, we can find a doctrine appearing in different places: it can come at the beginning or at the end.

Narayana Guru fixes the Omega Point, at the top of the vertical axis, in the first verse of the Atmopadesa Satakam.


Rising even above knowledge, what within the form

Of the one who knows, as equally without, radiant shines,

To that Core, with the eyes five restrained within,

Again and again prostrating in adoration, one should chant.

Thus, Nataraja Guru, from this point on, gives up trying to treat all three works together, he will work only on the Saundarya Lahari verses.

In Verse 1 of the Saundarya Lahari, all of life is a love affair.

Absolute Beauty is the result of cancellation.
Creation, which exists, subsists and has value, is beauty.
She is superior to the three gods.
The worshipper in this verse, Sankara himself, is a man without merits - an akrta punya, ("a man of ungained merit" - outside the context of sin and good deeds. ED) a man of no relativistic virtue.
Sankara is not a religious man.
Shiva shaktya yukto... (Shiva united with the Devi) - an arc lamp bursts into flame
There is a paradox between two factors, plus and minus.
Atah stvam = thus to or for you.
Aradhyam = worthy of worship
...imagine a globular mirror with pictures of the three gods prostrating.

The three gods, being Vedic, are in the context of religious merit, sin and virtue.  Sankara does no belong there; he is outside the religious context.

The relationship between Shiva and Shakti is a paradox.
Bowing down is existential.
"How can I praise?" is subsistential.

As the text states in a later verse, Verse 4:

"Other arms than thine are explicitly expert in giving boons..." She grants boons through Her feet - ontology is superior to teleology.



Other arms than yours can confer protection or boon;
You alone do not act overtly, by gesture, the promises of refuge or boon
What is more, your feet, o sole refuge of the world of beings,
Are alone expert indeed in yielding boons more than asked for.



Kshetra - the field - is horizontal.

Kshetrajña - the knower of the field - is vertical.





Both Shiva and Shakti have equal importance.
Shiva is not active, he is only a catalyst, a parameter like the thread of a pearl necklace, a correlating principle at the Omega Point.



Maya is spreading from the Alpha Point to the virtual and actual sides.

(Understanding the concept of Maya is of the greatest importance to understanding Advaita Vedanta. Nataraja Guru has variously defined it as: the universal category of error, illusion, ignorance. A fuller definition is to be found in the Glossary on this website:

"Maya: Connotes a factor of epistemological and methodological importance in Sankara's Vedanta especially, and in Upanishadic lore generally. Whatever is postulated as the cause of the unreal, spoken of in the most generic of categorical terms in philosophy, as against theology, is to be laid at the door of maya. It is the basis of duality or synergic antinomies. The nearest Western equivalent is the Negativität of Hegel's system".

It is also important to keep in mind the identification of the Devi with Maya in Verse 97:

"As the Goddess of the Word, Veda-knowers speak of You as Brahma's wife
Lakshmi is Vishnu's wedded one, and the Mountain Daughter is Shiva's consort;
Certain others as the unattainable and boundless fourth state refer to You;
While you remain as the great Maya, making the universe go round, as queen of the Ultimate Absolute." ED)


The Numerator is only a thin parameter and a crescent moon:
It cannot pulsate without the Devi.


Shiva is a catalyst, he does not change. Shiva is a magnet
Shiva is a fire which is not affected by heat, but which heats an iron ball.

(The iron ball would represent the Devi or the manifested Absolute in this image. ED)





Once upon a time, Brahman, the Spirit Supreme, won a victory for the gods. And the gods thought in their pride, 'We alone attained this victory, ours alone is the glory;

Brahman saw it and appeared to them, but they knew him not. 'Who is that being that fills us with wonder?' they cried.

And they spoke to Agni, the god of fire: '0 god all-knowing, go and see who is that being that fills us with wonder.'

Agni ran towards him and Brahman asked: 'Who are you?' I am the god of fire,' he said, the god who knows all things.'

What power is in you?' asked Brahman. 'I can burn all things on earth.'

And Brahman placed a straw before him, saying: 'Burn this.' The god of fire strove with all his power, but was unable to burn it. He then returned to the other gods and said: 'I could not find out who was that being that fills us with wonder'

Then they spoke to Vayu, the god of the air. '0 Vayu, go and see who is that being that fills us with wonder.'

Vayu ran towards him and Brahman asked: 'Who are you?' 'I am Vayu, the god of the air,' he said, 'Matarisvan, the air that moves in space.'

'What power is in you?' asked Brahman. 'In a whirlwind I can carry away all there is on earth'

And Brahman placed a straw before him saying: 'Blow this away.' The god of the air strove with all his power, but was unable to move it. He returned to the other gods and said: 'I could not find out who was that being that fills us with wonder.'

Then the gods spoke to Indra, the god of thunder: '0 giver of earthly goods, go and see who is that being that fills us with wonder.' And Indra ran towards Brahman, the Spirit Supreme, but he disappeared.

Then in the same region of the sky the gods saw a lady of radiant beauty. She was Uma, divine wisdom, the daughter of the mountains of snow.