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The Meaning of ‘MEANING’ – Part Eleven

Continued from Part ten

 

Para vac

According to Abhinavagupta

As mentioned in the previous Part, it is explained that the process of manifestation of speech, like that of the Universe, takes place in four stages. First, in the undifferentiated substratum of thought an intention appears. This first impulse, the self-radiant consciousness (Sva-prakasha-chaitanya) is Para-vac (the voice beyond). Thereafter, this intention takes a shape. We can visualize the idea (Pashyanthi-vac) though it is yet to acquire a verbal form. It is the first sprout of an invisible seed; but, yet searching for words to give expression to the intention. This is the second stage in the manifestation of the idea. Then, the potential sound, the vehicle of the thought, materializes, finding   words suitable to express the idea. This transformation of an idea into words, in the silence of the mind, is the third stage. It is the intermediary stage (Madhyama-vac) between un-manifest and manifest. The fourth stage being manifestation of the till then non-vocal verbalized ideas into perceptible sounds. It is the stage where the ideas are transmitted to others through articulated audible syllables (Vaikhari-vak).  These four stages are the four forms of the word.

In this part, let’s talk about the theories expounded and the explanations offered by two of the great thinkers – Abhinavagupta and Bhartrhari – on the subject of different levels of speech or awareness.

While Bhartrhari regards levels of speech as three (Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari), Abhinavagupta discusses on four levels (Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama and Vaikhari).

Some scholars have tried to reconcile that seeming difference between the stance of the two scholars  by explaining that Bhartrhari’s concept of the speech-principle Sabda-tattva or Sabda-brahman the fundamental basis of the all existence, virtually equates to Para Vac , the Supreme Consciousness adored by Abhinavagupta. In this connection, they remind of a passage in Bhartrhari’s Vritti on his Vakyapadiya where the description of Paśyantī Vac  is followed by a subtle hint at a para paśyantī – rūpam, which they take it as pointing towards  Abhinavagupta ‘s   Parā Vāc.

Let’s briefly take a look at the theories expounded by Abhinavagupta on various stages of language, speech and consciousness.

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Abhinavagupta Acharya (Ca. 950 to 1020 C.E) the great philosopher, mystic and a true sadhaka, was the intellectual and a spiritual descendant of Somananda the founder of the Pratyabijnya School of Kashmiri Shaiva monism.  He was a many sided genius; a visionary endowed with incisive intellectual powers of a philosopher who combined in himself the experiences of a spiritualist and a Tantric. He was a prolific writer on Philosophy, Tantra, Aesthetics, Natya, Music and a variety of other subjects. His work Tantraloka in which he expounds Anuttara Trika, the ‘most excellent’ form of Trika Shaivism (Nara- Shakthi- Shivatmakam Trikam)  is regarded as his magnum opus. It is a sort of an encyclopedia on Tantra – its philosophy, symbolism and practices etc.

Abhinavagupta was also a scholar-commentator par excellence, equipped with extraordinary skills of an art critic.  Among his notable commentaries are: the Īśvarapratyabhijñā-vimarśini and its detailed version Isvara-pratyabhijña-vivrti-vimarsini, both being commentaries on Isvara-Pratyabhijña – kārikā and vtti (Recognition of Shiva as self) by Utpaladeva or Utpalācārya (early 10th century), an earlier philosopher of the Pratyabhijñā Darśhana School. And, Abhinavagupta’s Paratrisika-Laghuvritti (also known as the Anuttara-tattva-vimarsini) and its expanded form Parātrīśikā–vivarana a commentary on Parātrīśikā also known as the Trikasūtra (a seminal text on Kashmiri Shaivism) – which is based in the concluding portion of the Rudra-yamala-tantra – is held in high esteem.

And, his work Abhinavabharati though famed as a commentary on  Bharata’s  Natyasastra  is,  for all purposes, an independent treatise on aesthetics in Indian dance, poetry, music and art; and , it helps in understanding Bharata and also a number of other scholars and the concepts they had put forth. The Abhinavabharati along with his other two works – Isvara pratyabhijna Vimarshini and Dhvanyaloka Lochana – are highly significant works in the field of Indian aesthetics.

 [For more on Abhinavagupta, please click here]

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Generally speaking, the Tantra-s of all tendencies deal with the nature of Vac and its manifestations. But, the tradition to which Abhinavagupta belonged – namely the Bhairava Tantra, and in particular to the Kula and Trika Tantras –  differs from the others in that it bestows greater importance to the nature and to the role of Vac.  It views Vac (language) at its highest level as identical with the Supreme Reality.

Abhinavagupta’s ideas and concepts with regard to language are based in the scriptures of his School and in his philosophy of language. Abhinavagupta’s speculations on the nature, on the levels of Vāc and its manifestations are, therefore, some of the important aspects of all his works. They run like a thread that ties together the diverse aspects of Abhinavagupta’s vast body of works.  The speculations on Vac also interweave his views on the religious and philosophical traditions that he expounds.

According to the Pratyabhijna School, Shiva is the Ultimate Reality; and, the individual and Shiva are essentially one. The concept of Pratyabhijna refers to self-awareness (parämarsa); to the way of recognition and realization of that identity. It firmly asserts that the state of Shiva-consciousness is already there; you have to realize that; and, nothing else. As Abhinavagupta puts it: Moksha or liberation is nothing but the awareness of one’s own true nature –Moksho hi nama naivathyah sva-rupa-pratanam hi tat.

Abhinavagupta, while explaining this school of recognition, says, man is not a mere speck of dust; but is an immense force, embodying a comprehensive consciousness; and, is capable of manifesting , through his mind and body, limitless powers of knowledge and action (Jnana Shakthi and Kriya Shakthi).

According to the Tantras of Kashmir Shaiva tradition, which recapture the ancient doctrine of Sphota, the manifestation of all existence is viewed as the expression of Shiva (visarga-shakthi) occurring on four levels. These represent the process of Srsti or outward movement or descending or proceeding from the most sublime to the ordinary. It is said; such four levels of evolution correspond with the four levels of consciousness or the four levels in the unfolding (unmesa) of speech (Vac).

Just as a Samkalpa (a pure thought) has to pass through several stages before it actually manifests as a concrete creative force, so also the Vac has to pass through several stages before it is finally audible at the gross level as Sabda (sound). Each level of Vac corresponds to a different level of existence. Our experience of Vac depends upon the refinement of our consciousness.

The latent, un-spoken, un-manifest, silent thought (Para) unfolds itself in the next three stages as pashyanti (thought visualized), Madhyamā (intermediate)   and Vaikhari (explicit) speech).

Though the speech (Vac) is seen to manifest in varied levels and forms, it essentially is said to be the transformation (Vivarta) of Para Vac, the Supreme consciousness (Cit),   which is harboured within Shiva in an undifferentiated (abheda) unlimited  form (Swatrantya).

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Abhinavagupta describes Parā vāk as a luminous vibration (sphurattā) of pure consciousness in an undifferentiated state (paramam vyomam). While Shiva is pure consciousness (Prakasha); Devi is the awareness of this pure light (Vimarsha). It is highly idealized; and, is akin to a most fabulous diamond that is also aware of its own lustre and beauty. The two – Prakasha and Vimarsha – are never apart. The two together are manifest in the wonder and joy (Chamatkara) of Para vac. And, there is no knowledge, no awareness, which is not connected with a form of Para vac.

The Devi, as Parā Vāc, the vital energy (prana shakthi) that vibrates (spanda) is regarded as the foundation of all languages, thoughts, feelings, and perceptions; and, is, therefore, the seat of consciousness (cit, samvid). Consciousness, thus, is inseparable from the Word, because it is alive.

Vac (speech), he says, is a form of expression of consciousness. And, he argues, there could be no speech without consciousness. However, Consciousness does not directly act upon the principle of speech; but, it operates through intermediary stages as also upon organs and breath to deliver speech.

 Thus, Vac is indeed both speech and consciousness (chetana), as all actions and powers are grounded in Vac. Abhinavagupta says: Someone may hear another person speak, but if his awareness is obscured, he is unable to understand what has been said. He might hear the sounds made by the speaker (outer layer of speech); but, he would not be able to grasp its meaning (the inner essence – antar-abhiläpa)).

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Abhinavagupta explains the process of evolution (Vimarsa) of speech in terms of consciousness, mind and cognitive activity (such as knowing, perceiving, reasoning, understanding and expressing).

In his Īśvara-pratyabhijñā-viti-vimarśinī  Abhinavagupta says: the group of sounds (Sabda-rasi) is the Supreme Lord himself; and, Devi as the array of alphabets (Matraka)   is his power (Shakthi) .

iha tāvat parameśvara śabdarāśi, śaktir asya bhinnābhinnarūpā mātkādevī, vargāṣṭaka rudraśaktyaṣṭaka pañcāśad varā pañcāśad rudraśaktaya

Abhinavagupta says: “When She (Parā vāc) is differentiating then she is known in three terms as Pašhyantī, Madhyamā, and Vaikharī.” The Kashmir Shaiva tradition, thus, identifies the Supreme Word, the Para Vac with the power of the supreme consciousness, Cit of Shiva – that is Devi the Shakthi.

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According to Abhinavagupta, the Vac proceeds from the creative consciousness pulsations (spanda) of the Devi as Para-Vac, the most subtle and silent form of speech-consciousness. And then, it moves on, in stages, to more cognizable forms: Pashyanti (Vak-shakthi , going forth as seeing , ready to create in which there is no difference between Vachya– object and Vachaka – word); Madhyamā ( the sabda in its subtle form as existing in the anthahkarana or antarbhittï prior to manifestation); and ,  Vaikhari (articulated as gross physical speech). This is a process of Srsti or outward movement or descending proceeds from the most sublime to the mundane.

It is said; the gross aspect (sthūla) of nāda is called ‘sound’; while the subtle (sūkma) aspect is made of thought (cintāmaya bhavet); and, the aspect that is devoid of thought (cintayā rahita) is called Para, the one beyond

Sthūlam śabda iti prokta sūkma cintāmaya bhavet | cintayā rahita yat tu tat para parikīrtitam |

[This is similar to the structure and the principle of Sri Chakra where the consciousness or the energy proceeds from the Bindu at its centre to the outward material forms.

The Bindu or dot in the innermost triangle of the Sri Chakra represents the potential of the non-dual Shiva-Shakti. When this potential separates into Prakasha and Vimarsha it is materializes into Nada, the sound principle.]

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There are also other interpretations of the four stages in the evolution of Vac.

:-It is also said; the stages of Para, Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari correspond to our four states of consciousness – Turiya (the transcendental state); Sushupti  (dreamless state);  Swapna  (dreaming state), and Jagrut (wakeful state).

Thus, Para represents the transcendental consciousness, Pashyanti represents the intellectual consciousness, Madhyamā represents the mental consciousness, and Vaikhari represents the physical consciousness. Our ability to experience different levels depends upon the elevation of our consciousness.

:-The three lower forms of speech viz. Pashyanthi, Madhyama and Vaikhari which correspond to intention, formulation and expression are said to represent iccha-shakthi (power of intent or will), jnana-shakthi (power of knowledge) and kriya-shakthi (power of action) of the Devi .These three are construed as the three sides of the triangle at the centre of which is the dot-point (bindu) representing the undifferentiated notion Para-vac. The triangle with the Bindu at its centre suggests the idea of Isvara the divinity conceived as Sabda-Brahman.

Rāmakantha (aka Rājānaka Rāma; Ca. 950 CE) in his commentary (Vritti) on Spandakārikā, explains, “The speech is indeed an action, the mediating part of the Word is made of knowledge, the will is its visionary part, which is subtle and is common essence in all [of them].”

Vaikharikā nāma kriyā jñānamayī bhavati madhyamā vāk/ Icchā puna pašyant ī sūkmā sarvāsā samarasā vtti/ /

 :-According to the Yoga School, the Para stage manifests in the Karanabindu in Muladhara chakra; and then it passes through Manipura and Anahata chakras that denote Pashyanti and Madhyama states of sound. And, its final expression or Vaikhari takes place in Vishudhi chakra.

 The Yoga Kundalini Upanishad explains thus: “The Vac which sprouts in Para gives forth leaves in Pashyanti; buds forth in Madhyamā, and blossoms in Vaikhari.”

:-The Tantra worships Devi as Parā Vāc who creates, sustains and dissolves the universe. She is the Kuṇḍalinī Śkakthi – the serpent power residing in the human body in the subtle form coiling around the Mūladhāra Chakra

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According to Abhinavagupta, the Para Vac is always present and pervades all the levels of speech; and, is indeed present on all the levels from the highest to the lowest. By its projection, it creates the flash of pašyantī vāc, the intellectual form; and finally the articulate form, the Vaikhari. He also says that without Her (parā vāk), darkness and unconsciousness, would prevail.

pašyantyādi dašasv api vastuto vyavasthitā tayā vinā / pašyantyādiu aprakāšatāpattyā jaJaā-prasagāt /

 “Everything (sarvasarvātmaiva); stones, trees, birds, human beings, gods, demons and so on, is but the Para Vac present in everything and is, identical with the Supreme Lord.”

 ata eva sarve pāšāa-taru-tirya-manuya-deva-rudra-kevali -mantratadīša- tanmahešādikā ekaiva parābhaṭṭārikā-bhūmi sarva-sarvātmanaiva paramešvara- rūpeāste

Thus, the entire process of evolution of Vac is a series of movements from the centre of Reality to the periphery, in successive forms of Para-Vani.  Abhinavagupta states: Shiva as Para is manifested in all the stages, from the highest to the lowest, right up to the gross sound through his Shakthi; and, he remains undivided (avibhaga vedanatmaka bindu rupataya).

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To put the entire discussion in a summary form:

:- According to the explanations provided here: Para is the highest manifestation of Vac. Para and Pashyanti are inaudible; they are beyond the range of the physical ear; and so is Madhyama which is an internal dialogue.

Thus, it is said, there are three stages in the manifestation of Vac: Para (highest); Sukshma (subtle – Pashyanti and Madhyama); and, Sthula (gross – Vaikhari)

Para, the transcendent sound, is beyond the perception of the senses; and, it is all pervading and all encompassing. Para is pure intention. It is un-manifest. One could say, it is the sound of one’s soul, a state of soundless sound. It exists within all of us. All mantras, infinite syllables, words, and sentences exist within Para in the form of vibration (Spanda) in a potential form.

Para-Vani or Para Vac, the Supreme Word, which is non-dual  (abeda) and  identified with  Supreme consciousness, often referred to as Sabda Brahma, is present in all  the subsequent stages; in  all the states of experiences and expressions  as Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari.

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:-  Pashyanti , which also means the visual image of the word, is the first stage of Speech. It is the intuitive and initial vision; the stage preceding mental and verbal expression.  

Paśyantī is prior to sprouting of the language or ‘verbalization’, still potent and yet to unfold. Pasyanti, says Abhinavagupta, is the first moment of cognition, the moment where one is still wishing to know rather than truly knowing. 

In Pashyanti (Vak-shakthi, going forth as seeing, ready to create) there is no difference between Vachya – object and Vachaka – word. The duality of subject-object relation does not exist here. Pashyanti is indivisible and without inner-sequence; meaning that the origin and destination of speech are one, without the intervention of mental constructs (Vikalpa). Paśyantī is the state of Nirvikalpa.

It is the power of intent or will (Icchāśakti) that acts in Paśhyantī state. And yet, it carries within itself the potentials of the power of cognition, jñāna šhakthi, and the power of action, kriyā šhakthi.

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:- Madhyama is an intellectual process, during which the speaker becomes aware of the word as it arises and takes form within him; and, grasps it. Madhyama vac is a sequenced but a pre-vocal thought, Here, the sound is nada; and, is in a wave or a vibratory (spandana) form.

Madhyamā is the intermediate stage (madhyabhūmi) of thinking. It is the stage at which the sabda in its subtle form exists in the anthahkarana (the internal faculty or the psychological process, including mind and emotions) prior to manifestation) as thought process or deliberation (chintana) which acts as the arena for sorting out various options or forms of discursive thought (vikalpa) and choosing the appropriate form of expression to be put out.

The seat of Madhyamā, according to Abhinavagupta, is intellect, buddhi. Madhyamā represents conception and internal articulation of the word- content. Madhyamā is the stage of Jñānaśakti where knowledge (bodha) or the intellect is dominant. It is the stage in which the word and its meaning are grasped in a subject-object relationship; and, where it gains silent expressions in an internal-dialogue.

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:- And, finally, Vaikhari Vac is sequenced and verbalized speech, set in motion according to the will of the person who speaks. For this purpose, he employs sentences comprising words uttered in a sequence. The word itself comprises letters or syllables (varnas) that follow one after the other.

Vaikhari is the articulated speech, which in a waveform reaches the ears and the intellect of the listener. Vaikhari is the physical form of nada that is heard and apprehended by the listener. It gives expression to subtler forms of vac.

The Vaikhari (which is related to the body) is the manifestation of Vac as gross physical speech of the ordinary tangible world of names and forms. Vaikharī represents the power of action Kriyāśakti. This is the plane at which the Vac gains a bodily- form and expression. Until this final stage, the word is still a mental or an intellectual event. Now, the articulated word comes out in succession; and, gives substance and forms to ones thoughts. Vaikharī is the final stage of communication, where the word is externalized and rendered into audible sounds (prākta dhvani).

There are further differences, on this plane, between a clear and loud pronunciation (Saghosha) and a one whispered in low voice (aghosha), almost a sotto voce. Both are fully articulated; what distinguishes them is that the former can be heard by others and the latter is not.

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That is to say; Vac originates in consciousness; and, then, it moves on, in stages, to more cognizable forms : as Pashyanti, the vision of what is to follow; then as Madhyama the intermediate stage between the vision and the actual; and , finally as Vaikhari the articulated , fragmented, conventional level of everyday vocal expressions.

Thus, the urge to communicate or the spontaneous evolution of Para, Pashyanti into Vaikhari epitomizes, in miniature, the act of One becoming Many; and the subtle energy transforming into a less- subtle matter. Thus, the speech, each time, is an enactment in miniature of the progression of the One into Many; and the absorption of the Many into One as it merges into the intellect of the listener.

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While on Abhinavagupta, we may speak briefly about the ways he illustrates the relation that exists between Shiva, Devi and the human individual, by employing the Sanskrit Grammar as a prop.

In the alphabetical chart of the Sanskrit language, A () is the first letter and Ha (ह) is the last letter. These two, between them, encompass the collection of all the other letters of the alphabets (Matrka).

Here, the vowels (Bija – the seed) are identified with Shiva; and, the consonants are wombs (yoni), identified with Shakthi. The intertwined vowels and consonants (Malini) in a language are the union of Shiva and Shakthi.

[ In the Traika tradition, the letters are arranged as per two schemes: Matrka and Malini. Here, Matrka is the mother principle, the phonetic creative energy. Malini is Devi who wears the garland (mala) of fifty letters of the alphabet.

The main difference between the Matrka and Malini is in the arrangement of letters. In Matrka , the letters are arranged in regular order ; that is , the vowels come first followed by consonants in a serial order. In Malini, the arrangement of letters is irregular. Here, the vowels and consonants are mixed and irregular; there is no definite order in their arrangement.]

According to Abhinavagupta, word is a symbol (sanketa). The four stages of Vac: Para, Pashyanti, Madhyamā and Vaikhari represent the four stages of evolution and also of absorption ascent or descent from the undifferentiated to the gross.

Abhinavagupta then takes up the word AHAM (meaning ‘I’ or I-consciousness or Aham-bhava) for discussion. He interprets AHAM (अहं) as representing the four stages of evolution from the undifferentiated to the gross (Sristi); and, also of absorption (Samhara) back into the primordial source. In a way, these also correspond to the four stages of Vac: Para, Pashyanti, Madhyama – and Vaikhari.

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He explains that the first letter of that word – A () – represents the pure consciousness Prakasha or Shiva or Anuttara, the absolute, the primal source of all existence. It also symbolizes the initial emergence of all the other letters; the development of the languages.

And, Ha (ह) is the final letter of the alphabet-chart; and, it represents the point of completion when all the letters have emerged. Ha symbolizes Vimarsha or Shakthi, the Devi. The nasal sound (anusvāra) which is produced by placing a dot or Bindu on ‘Ha(हं) symbolises the union of Shiva and Shakthi in their potent state.

The Bindu (◦) or the dimension-less point is also said to represent the subtle vibration of the life-force (Jiva-kala) in the process of creation. It stands at the threshold of creation. It is the pivot around which the cycle of energies from A to Ha rotate. Bindu also is also said to symbolize in the infinite nature (aparimitha-bhava) of AHAM.

As regards and the final letter M (ह्म) providing the final nasal sound, it comes at the end of the vowel series, but before the consonants. It is therefore called Anusvara – that which follows the Svaras (vowels). And, it represents the individual soul (Purusha).

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Abhinavagupta interprets AHAM as composed of Shiva; the Shakthi; and the Purusha – as the natural innate mantra the Para vac.

In the process of expansion (Sristi), Shiva, representing the eternal Anuttara, which is the natural, primal sound A () , the life of the entire range of letter-energies (sakala-kala-jaala-jivana –bhutah) , assumes the form of Ha’ (हं) the symbol of Shakthi; and, then he expands into Bindu (◦) symbolizing phenomenal world (Nara rupena).

Thus, AHAM is the combine of Shiva-Shakthi that manifests as the world we experience. Here, Shakthi is the creative power of Shiva; and it is through Shakthi that Shiva emerges as the material world of human experience. AHAM , therefore, represents the state in which all the elements of experience, in the inner and the outer worlds, are fully displayed. Thus, Shakthi is the creative medium that bridges Nara (human) with Shiva.

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At another level, Abhinavagupta explains: The emergence (Visarga) of Shakthi takes place within Aham.  She proceeds from A which symbolizes unity or non-dual state (Abedha). Shakthi as symbolized by Ha represents duality or diversity (bedha); and, the dot (anusvara or bindu) on Ha symbolizes bedha-abeda – that is, unity transforming into diversity. These three stages of expansion are known as Para visarga; Apara visarga; and Para-apara visarga.

Here, Para is the Supreme state, the Absolute (Shiva) ; Para-apara is the intermediate stage of Shakthi, who is identical with Shiva and also different; she is duality emerging out of the undifferentiated; and, Apara is the duality that is commonly experienced in the world.

Aham (अहं), in short, according to Abhinavagupta, encapsulates the process of evolution from the undifferentiated Absolute (Shiva) to the duality of the world, passing through the intermediate stage of Bheda- abeda, the threshold of creation, the Shakthi. All through such stages of seeming  duality , Shiva remains undivided (avibhaga vedanatmaka bindu rupataya).

The same principle underlines the transformation, in stages, of the supreme word Para Vac the Supreme Word, which is non-dual and identified with Supreme consciousness, into the articulate gross sound Vaikhari.

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[ Abhinavagupta in his Paratrisika Vivarana says :  In all the dealings , whatever happens , whether it is a matter of knowledge (jnana) or action (kriya) – all of that arises in the fourth state (turyabhuvi) , that is in the Para-vac in an un-differentiated  (gatabhedam ) way. In Pashyanti which is the initial field in the order of succession (kramabhujisu) there is only a germ of difference. In Madhyamā, the distinction between jneya (the object of knowledge) and karya (action) appears inwardly, for a clear-cut succession or order is not possible at this stage (sphutakramayoge).

Moreover , Pashyanti and Madhyamā fully relying on Para which is ever present and from which there is no distinct distinction of these ( bhrsam param abhedato adhyasa)  (later ) regards that stage as if past like a mad man or one who has got up from sleep.

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Abhinavagupta in his Para-trisika Varnana explains and illustrates the Tantric idiom ‘sarvam sarvatmakam’: everything is related to everything else. The saying implies that the universe is not chaotic ; but , is an inter-related system. The highest principle is related to the lowest (Shiva to the gross material object) .

Abhinavagupta illustrates this relation by resorting to play on the letters in the Sanskrit alphabets, and  the tattvas or the principles of reality.

He says “ the first is the state of Pasu , the bound individual; the second is the state of jivanmuktha or of the Pathi , the Lord himself  for : khechari –samata is the highest  state of Shiva both in life and in liberation”. Khechari is the Shakthi moving in free space (kha) , which is an image of consciousness. Khechari-samaya is described as the state of harmony and identity with the Divine I-consciousness-Akritrima-aham-vimarsha .]

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In a play on words, Abhinavagupta turns Aham backwards into Maha; and, interprets it to mean the withdrawal (Samhara) or absorption of the material existence into the primordial state. Here again, in MAHA, the letter Ma stands for individual; Ha for Shakthi; and, A for Shiva (Anuttara the ultimate source).

In the reverse movement, Ma the individual (Nara) is absorbed into Shakthi (Ha) which enters back into the Anuttara the primal source the Shiva (A).  That is; in the process of withdrawal, all external objects come to rest or finally repose in the ultimate Anuttata aspect (Aham-bhava) of Shiva.

Thus the two states of expansion (sristi) and withdrawal (samhara) are pictured by two mantras Aham and Maha.

In both the cases, Shakthi is the medium. In Aham, it is through Shakthi that Shiva manifests as multiplicity. And, in Maha, Shakthi, again, is the medium through which the manifestation is absorbed back into Shiva. She, like the breath, brings out the inner into the outer; and again, draws back the outside into within. That is the reason Shakthi is often called the entrance to Shiva philosophy (Shaivi mukham ihocyate).

 Abhinavagupta remarks: this is the great secret (Etad Guhyam Mahaguhyam); this is the source of the emergence of the universe; and, this is the withdrawal of the mundane into the sublime Absolute. And, this also celebrates the wonder and delight (Chamatkara) emanating from the union of the two Shiva and Shakthi.

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[ In all the voluminous and complex writings of Abhinavagupta, the symbolism of Heart (Hrudaya) plays an important role. He perhaps meant it to denote ‘the central point or the essence’. His religious vision is explained through the symbol of heart, at three levels – the ultimate reality, the method and the experience. The first; the Heart, that is, the ultimate nature (anuttara – there is nothing beyond) of all reality, is Shiva. The second is the methods and techniques employed (Sambhavopaya) to realize that ultimate reality.  And, the third is   to bring that ideal into ones experience.

The Heart here refers, in his words ‘to an experience that moves the heart (hrudaya-angami-bhuta). He calls the third, the state of realization as Bhairavatva, the state of the Bhairava. He explains through the symbolism of Heart to denote   the ecstatic light of consciousness as ‘Bhaira-agni-viliptam’, engulfed by the light of Bhairava that blazes and flames continuously. Sometimes, he uses the term ‘nigalita’ melted or dissolved in the purifying fire-pit the yajna–vedi of Bhairava. He presents the essential nurture (svabhava) of Bhairava as the  self-illuminating (svaprakasha) light of consciousness (Prakasha).  And, Bhairava is the core phenomenon (Heart – Hrudaya) and the ultimate goal of all spiritual Sadhanas.

When we use the term ‘understanding’, we also need to keep in view the sense in which Abhinavagupta used the term.  He makes a distinction between the understanding that is purely intellectual and the one that is truly experienced. The latter is the Heart of one’s Sadhana.

The Heart of Abhinavagupta is that a religious vision is not merely intellectual, emotional or imagined. But, it is an experience that is at once pulsating, powerful and transforming our very existence.

The Triadic Heart of Siva by Paul Eduardo Muller-Ortega]

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In the next part let’s see the explanations and the discussions provided by Bhartrhari on the various levels of the language (Vac).

 

Continued

In the

 Next Part

Sources and References

Abhinavagupta and the word: some thoughts By Raffaele Torella

Sanskrit terms for Language and Speech

http://www.universityofhumanunity.org/biblios/Terms%20of%20Word%20and%20Language.pdf

The Four levels of Speech in Tantra

Bettina Baeumer -Second Lecture – Some Fundamental Conceptions of Tantra http://www.utpaladeva.in/fileadmin/bettina.baeumer/docs/Bir_2011/Second_Lecture.pdf

 Sphota theory of Bhartrhari

http://shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in/bitstream/10603/31822/8/08_chapter%202.pdf

The Philosophy of the Grammarians, Volume 5 edited by Harold G. Coward, K. Kunjunni Raja, Karl H Potter

Culture and Consciousness: Literature Regained by William S. Haney

ALL PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET

 

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Virabhadra, the auspicious hero

1.1. Virabhadra the auspicious hero raging like flaming fire is Shiva‘s ferocious instrument for destruction of ignorance, ritualism and dogma. Virabhadra, the Great Warrior,is the sublimation of Shiva’s impatience and anger; the embodiment of his resolute might; and is therefore regarded an aspect of Shiva in blazing mood burning down delusion and falsehood (samhara –murti).

1.2. It is said; Shiva represents pure-consciousness (jnana shakthi); Devi is the creative energy, the thought within his consciousness, the will to intend an act (itccha shakthi); and Virabhadra is the power of action (kriya-shakthi) the determined might to transform that will into an act. Virabhadra, the action-hero,    personifies implicit faith, absolute devotion and reverence as also the ruthless efficiency in carrying out the command of his creator.

1.3. Virabhadra also symbolizes the sharp incisive power of discrimination, potent in each of us, to sever  attachments to conceited values, misplaced faith and the routines that we all run through thoughtlessly. He points out to our adulation of that which should not be esteemed; and to our neglect of that which ought to be valued. Virabhadra’s message is to open our heart, to embrace everything that life has given us, without fear or prejudice. Virabhadra destroys in order to save.

Daksha – Shiva – Uma

2.1. The origin and the relevance of Virabhadra have to be appreciated in the context of the running feud between Daksha and Shiva spread over many eons, manvantara.   The two mighty personages represent two different realities, two divergent faiths, two separate streams of understanding and two opposed world orders.

2.2. Daksha meaning ‘able, competent, skilled ‘in performing rituals, is rooted in the propriety and the relevance of elaborate rituals; and in their techniques as prescribed in the scriptures. He is also a great believer in the organized  hierarchy of gods and the proper order of apportioning the oblation among various levels of gods. He is one of the Prajapatis and is sometimes regarded as their chief. He is charged with the responsibility of ensuring perpetuation of life on earth, as also the richness and dignity in life. He is a very prominent person of the established order; and, in fact, is at its very core. Daksha holding the office of Prajapathi was a lawgiver who formulated rules for conduct of behaviour in the society and norms for the orderly working of the society along the well respected traditional lines. The world order as envisaged by Daksha defined the precise role and conduct not merely of humans but of gods as well. He expected from all, reverence to his self and obedience to his law.  He would not tolerate subversive bunch of renegades who had scant regard for the social dignity and decorum. Daksha therefore represents the matter-of-fact logical mode of thinking, the way in which most of us would like to lead our lives.

2.3. Shiva, in contrast, was beyond the pale of normal society; and stood for everything that Daksha dreaded. Shiva was a Vratya, and the most distinguished among them, Ekavratya, an unorthodox hermit, who lived by his own rules, not always acceptable to traditional society. He refused to conform to the ways of the world.

3.1. Vratyas  were a community of dissenters, social rebels and ascetics living under a set of strange religious vows (Vrata). They totally rejected the Vedic rites and rituals. Vratyas followed their own cult-rules and practices; and did not care either for the rituals or for initiations (adhikshitah); and not at all for celibacy (Na hi brahmacharyam charanthi).They did not engage themselves in agriculture (Na krshim) or in trade (Na vanijyam).They behaved as if they were possessed (gandharva grithaha) or drunk or just mad. They roamed about the countryside and lived among the warriors, herdsmen and farmers. They were worshippers of Rudra, Isana or Mahadeva; and yet were regarded irreligious. In the words of Shri DSamapth, they were the ‘freethinkers who gave a very time and space based approach to the issues; and, were the initial social scientists with rationality as the anchor’.

3.2. Shiva, Rudra the wild one, like a true Vratya, wandered among cremation grounds with a rowdy bunch of renegades consuming intoxicants forbidden in polite society and slept amidst the warmth of burning funeral pyres. He sang and danced whenever and wherever he wanted to with little heed to decorum and protocol. Shiva refused to indulge in any social rule having pretentions of respect.  He had no home, no possessions, no family, no vocation; he was a drifter, ritually impure, unsuitable for married life.

4.1. Uma was the daughter of Himavat (Uma Haimavathi) by Menaka or Mena [In this version she is not related to Daksha]; she was desperately in love with Shiva but had a hard time persuading him to marry her. Shiva narrated all his disqualifications that failed to make him a dependable householder. Despite that, Uma followed Shiva wherever he went, over hills, across desolate plains and dense forests and through cremation grounds. Shiva at first ignored Uma. He barely acknowledged her.  Uma finally told her reluctant lover, “It is for the good of both of us.You are incomplete without me and I am incomplete without you. I do not ask for anything, but you. I accept you for what you are, not deterred by what you do not have…I would like to observe with you”. Shiva could no longer be without his loving consort.

5.1. Daksha Prajapathi’s intense dislike of Shiva was because the latter was a vagrant, a tramp who had neither commitments nor sense of values in life. Daksha called  Shiva – a Kapalin having neither father nor mother, impure , incorrigible and proud abolisher of rites and demolisher of barriers who roams about in dreadful cemeteries, attended by hosts of ghosts and sprites, like a madman, naked, with disheveled hair, wearing a garland of skulls and ornaments of bones of the dead, pretending to be Siva (auspicious), but in reality is   a- Siva (inauspicious), insane, leader of the insane Bhutas (spirits), the wicked hearted whose nature is essentially darkness.’Let this Bhava (Siva), lowest of the gods, never, at the worship of the gods, receive any portion along with the gods Indra, Upendra (Vishnu), and others’.

5.2. Uma’s perception of Shiva is of a different kind. It is non-judgmental absolute faith and intense love. There are no words to describe it otherwise. It obviously is unwise. But, that foolish wisdom is a precious gift of grace received in humility of mind and simplicity of heart; an un-bounded loving energy that transforms the world more effectively than the rhetoric. But, that rarely happens.

6.1. The Daksha – Shiva conflict is more along the traditional lines, It is between establishment and anti-establishment. It occurs in every generation and all the time. It is the conflict between normal learning and intuitional understanding; between the conventional point of view and the transcendental experience; and between the man of the world and the one who has cast off all concerns and obligations.

6.2. The Indian traditions, for some reason, have always regarded content-less intuitional understanding and recognition of ‘what Is’ as being far superior to belief systems or a schools of thought. Our ancients always asserted that the immediate experience ( sakshat aparoksha) which liberates is truly superior to  the  intellectual knowledge of scriptures, rites and rituals.  They explained it as the sort of experience that leads to the true understanding of the problems of being and becoming; that which aids to cross over all sorrows (shokasya param trayathi); and to realize one’s true identity. It is beyond the understanding of the intellect; it is experience (we shall return to this theme a little later).

6.3. The Daksha –Shiva conflict enacts the theme of limited formal learning giving place to expansive intuitional understanding. This theme manifests in life, in all ages, in various forms. The ego fears for its death, so it refuses to surrender to the heart. But, it eventually does give in.  The old sage Parashara wryly remarks “in every age Daksha and the rest are born and are again destroyed.”

6.4. The emergence of Virabhadra as Shiva’s instrument for destruction of Daksha’s small ’ego’ and for awakening of true understanding in him occurs when Daksha was born as the son of Prachetas and Marisha; and was designated as Prajapathi in age of Vaivasvata Manu.

Daksha yajna

7.1. The performance of the magnificent and most elaborate Brahaspathi – savana – yajna by Daksha Prajapathi must have been a highly significant event in the very ancient past. The Daksha story became a ground for fertile epic imagination. Countless versions of the event were described elaborately in various Puranas, epics and folk legends; each version, of course, bending the event to champion its own pet theme.

By all accounts, ‘Daksha’s sacrifice’ shook the old world and brought in a new world order. Shorn of prejudices and rhetoric, the legend indicates that Rudra-Shiva an unorthodox god stormed his way into the world of established order, secured there a prominent undisputed status among all gods and claimed a fair share of esteem and oblations that were due to him. It also amply demonstrates the futility and irrelevance of mere scriptural learning, rituals and sacrifices; and upholds the way of right-understanding as the means to liberation from all sorrows.

7.2. But the germ of the story seems to be in the Taittiriya Samhita(2.6.8) , where the gods, excluded Rudra from a sacrifice; and he pierced the sacrifice with an arrow; thereafter a ‘well offered yajna (svista)’ was submitted to Rudra. Gopatha Brahmana too carries a similar story where Prajapathi deprived Rudra of his share in the Yajna; then Rudra pierced the Yajna (prasitra) and gained his share. In these brief references, there is no mention of Daksha by name; and Rudra gains his share of the Yajna by force. There, of course, is no Virabhadra.

7.3. There is another reference to Shiva and Daksha in Ramayana. The King Janaka describes the great bow Shiva Dhanus as the one wielded by Shiva when he threatened to destroy Daksha’s Yajna    because Devas had not offered Shiva a portion of the oblations. In this version of the legend also there is no mention of Rudra commissioning Virabhadra, or anyone else, to destroy the sacrifice or put the gods to flight. He is simply said to wound the gods with his bow.

8.1. All these references indicate that Shiva ( it is not clear if he was the same as the Rudra of the Rig Veda) who perhaps was  at the periphery was determined to break into the world of Vedic rituals , to be recognized as one of the major gods and to secure a fair portion of the Yajna because of the esteem associated with it.

8.2. The later epic –poets strung together these references; and spun amazingly elaborate and divergent tales around Shiva – Daksha Prajapathi conflict. The various Puranas were structured, basically, in two levels. One, Daksha and Shiva were projected as two opposite poles in the society; Daksha representing the establishment and Shiva the anti – establishment and everything that Daksha hated.

Uma the Devi was the gracious link of love that connected the two opposing worlds.

The other was the determination of the Devas to continue to keep Shiva out of the Vedic fold and to refuse him recognition within its orthodox framework by denying him a share of the Yajna; and Shiva’s repeated, determined and forceful efforts to secure the esteem which he thought was due to him. He does eventually succeed not merely in gaining acceptance but also in becoming the premier god in the Vedic pantheon revered with fair share of the Yajna oblations. Along with that, the Pashupathas stood to gain some   recognition within the Vedic fold, though it was conceded very reluctantly.

8.3. In addition, two other minor themes run through the narrations: One is the element of Shiva –Vishnu rivalry; and the other is the efforts of the Shaktha cult to use the events at Daksha-yajna in order to relate the origins of its Shakthi peethas and to base its legends.

8.4. There is however a dichotomy in these narrations; and it is not adequately explained. The followers of Shiva, mainly the Pashupathas, did not seem to have faith or respect for the Vedic rituals and their efficacy. Yet, they fight very hard, even by violence, to secure their leader a fair share in the Yajna and to see him established in the hierarchy of the Devas. And, eventually they agreed to become a part of the very Yajna which they set out to destroy.

8.5. In any case, several Puranas together have  woven a very complicated  ( at times confusing ) maze of  stories  involving assumed traditional proprieties, their alleged breach, disputed claims, divided loyalties and prejudices for and against Shiva or Vishnu; and, an undecided stand on the efficacy of Vedic rituals.

Narrations in Vayu Purana

9.1. Of the several versions of the Daksha Yajna, the narrations in Vayu Purana, perhaps the oldest of the extant puranas and in Mahabharata are restrained and comparatively brief. They describe, in substance, the waste of food and drinks stored for the Yajna and the burning of the Yajna.  Here, Devi is presented, without a preamble, as Parvathi or Uma daughter of Himavat (Uma Haimavathi) by Menaka or Mena .In this version she is not related to Daksha; she does not also visit the Yajna; and she does not die (out of grief at the insult directed at her husband).There are no references in these versions to the previous conflicts or the enmity that existed between Daksha and Shiva. Here, Shiva’s anger is directed not so much against Daksha as against the unfair arrangement devised by the Devas to deprive him of a share of the Yajna. He wills Yajna to be disrupted; but he does not command Virabhadra to kill Daksha. Shiva left to himself, perhaps, would have accepted the position as it were but for Devi who felt slighted and did not want to see her husband belittled by other gods.

9.2. Here, Uma is terribly unhappy that her husband is not invited to a great Yajna where all other gods participate joyously. And she anxiously enquires why he does not proceed to the Yajna; what holds him back? Mahadeva replied ‘This is the contrivance that in all sacrifices no portion should be assigned to me’. Devi is filled with ‘deep sorrow and trembling’ and is hardly able to restrain as her husband ‘of unsurpassable splendour, glory and power’ is excluded from share of oblations. Then, after prodding from Parvathi, Shiva says “O queen of the gods, behold whom I shall create for the purpose of claiming my share of the oblation in the yajna”.

10.1. He then creates Virabhadra from his mouth .In these versions; there is no beheading of either the Yajna who assumed the form of a deer or of Daksha. There is also no mention of beating up and mutilating various gods and sages assembled at the Yajna. Daksha at the end realizes his folly and submits to Shiva who pardons and grants him salvation. Yajna is concluded successfully. All ends well.

Lets us briefly go over the narrations as provided in Vayu Purana  and Mahabharata- Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva.[ The following is extracted from  Prof.Wilson’s   translation of Vayu-Purana ] We can later have a brief look at the variations of the legend  as depicted in other Puranas.

Virabhadra

10.2. “ Having spoken thus to his beloved the mighty Mahadeva created out of his mouth a most magnificent and frightening being glowing like the fire of fate (kaala-agni); a divine being with thousand heads , thousand eyes , thousand feet , thousand arms , wielding a thousand clubs, thousand shafts ; holding the shankha , chakra, mace, bearing a blazing bow and battle axe; fierce and terrible shining with dreadful splendour; decorated with crescent moon; clothed in tiger skin; dripping with blood; having a capacious stomach and a vast mouth armed with sharp protruding formidable tusks; his tongue was lightening; his hands brandished thunderbolt; flames streamed from his hair; a necklace of pearls wound around his neck; a garland of flames descended from his breast; radiant with lustre he glowed brilliantly like the final-fire of destruction that consumes all existence.

Four tremendous tusks projected from his wide mouth extending from ear to ear; he was of vast bulk, vast strength a mighty war god and destroyer of universe and like a vast fig-tree in spread, shining like a hundred moons at once; fierce as the fire of love; sharp white teeth and mighty fierceness , vigour, activity and courage; glowing like a thousand fiery suns at the end of the world; like a thousand undimmed moons; in bulk like Himadri , Kailasa and Meru or Mandara with all its gleaming herbs ; bright as the sun at the end of ages; of irresistible power; beautiful aspects; irascible with lowered eyes and a countenance of burning sun; clothed in the hide of elephant and lion and girdle of snakes; wearing a turban on the head, moon in his brows.

10.3. Sometimes savage; sometimes benign; having a chaplet of flowers on his head; anointed with various fragrant perfumes adorned with variety of ornaments and many designs of jewels; wearing a heavy garland of karnikara flowers and rolling his eyes in rage.

Sometimes he danced wildly , sometimes he sang out aloud, sometimes he wept out uncontrollably; sometimes he spoke gently sweetly , meditated intensely; he was endowed with faculties of wisdom, dispassion , power, penance, truth, endurance , fortitude and self-knowledge.

10.4. Virabhadra of Rudra-manohara –rupa, of terrifying and the same time heart-warming form, born of Shiva’s potent mouth (Va.p.30.122) was thus like Purusha of Rig Veda of immense strength and splendour, a great being with a huge body the size of any mountain, ablaze and adorned with crescent moon.

10.5. His monstrous exterior disguised his true nature of vibrancy – full of wisdom, detachment, sovereignty, asceticism, truth, patientince, fortitude, lordship and self knowledge (Va.p.30.125-136).He greatly resembled Shiva whose emanation he was.

11.1. The mighty Virabhadra knelt down upon the ground in respect and raising his hands on to his head in reverence addressed Mahadeva “Sovereign of gods, Command me! What is it you desire me to do?” Mahadeva charged Virabhadra to “destroy the yajna of Daksha”

11.2. Then the powerful Virabhadra having heard of the pleasure of his Lord bowed down his head to the feet of his Master and jumping out like a lion loosed from shackles he rushed to despoil the Yajna of Daksha. The wrath of Devi took the form of the fearful Rudrakali. She accompanied Virabhadra with all her train to witness the destruction.

2.1. Virabhadra then created from the pores of his skin powerful demigods the Ganas the attenders on Rudra, of equal valour and strength, who poured out in hundreds and thousands. Then, a loud and confused clamour filled the air and heavens with dread. The mountains tottered , the earth shook, the winds roared wildly, the depths of the oceans were disturbed; the fires lost their radiance and the sun grew pale; the panels of the firmaments shone not; neither did the stars give light; Rishis  ceased their hymns; and gods and demons alike were muted; thick darkness enveloped the sky like blankets.

12.2. Virabhadra and his Ganas set out in chariots drawn by ten thousand lions. Among his bodyguards were Sixty-four groups of Yoginis, Shakhini, Dakhini, along with Bhutas, Pramathas (churn spirits) guhyaka (guardian of hidden treasures), Bhiravas, kshetrapalas and other types of spirits and fiends.

13.1. In the meantime, Dadhichi, one of the sages assembled at the Yajna is distressed when he learns that Rudra had not been invited. He queries Daksha, “Why do you not offer homage to the god who is the lord of life?” and remarks “The man who worships what ought not to be worshipped or pays not reverence where reverence is due , is guilty, most assuredly , of heinous sin”. To which, Daksha laughs and replies “I have already many Rudras present, armed with tridents, wearing braided hair, and existing in eleven forms. I recognize no other Mahadeva”. Dadhichi offended by Daksha’s reply walks out of the Yajna warning it would not be completed.

Destruction of the Yajna

14.1. Then the gloom emerged fearful and numerous hideous forms, shouting aloud frightening battle cries instantly broke and overturned the sacrificial altar and danced amidst the oblations. Running wildly hither and thither like hurricanes they tossed about the implements and vessels of the yajna. The piles of the wood and the beverages stocked for the Devas like little mountains; the rivers of milk; the banks of curds and butter; the sands of honey, buttermilk and sugar; the mounds of condiments and spices of every flavor; the undulating knolls of flesh and other vandals ; the mounds of celestial liquor , pastes and confections which had been prepared; these the spirits of wrath devoured with glee . Then falling upon the assembled Devas the vast and furious Rudras mocked and insulted the nymphs and quickly put an end to the Yajna.

14.2. His sacrifice being destroyed, Daksha overcome with terror and utterly broken in spirit fell upon the ground. The multitude of the assembled Devas in disarray cried out helplessly “O Rudras have pity on us thy servants; o lord dismiss thy anger”. They all pleaded “Declare who you are. Which Deva are you”.

Virabhadra shouted back “I am not a Deva or an Aditya; nor I come here for enjoyment; nor am I curious to see the various Devas. Know you all that I am here to destroy the despicable Yajna of Daksha; I am Virabhadra springing forth from the wrath of Rudra; Bhadra kali who sprang from the anger of Devi is sent here with her multitudes of spirits to destroy the yajna. Take refuge you all Devas and Rishis at the feet of Rudra the lord of Uma; f or better is the anger of Rudra than the blessing of the Devas (ymram Icrodho ‘pi devasya vara-danam na chanyatah)”.

14.3. Suppressing his vital airs – prana and apana- and taking a position of meditation, Daksha tried fixing his thoughts .Then god of gods, Mahadeva appeared out of the sacrificial altar resplendent as thousand suns , smiled upon him and said “Daksha your Yajna has been destroyed through the sacred knowledge. I am well pleased with you. What shall I do for you?”

14.4. Then Daksha frightened, distressed and alarmed fell on his four , his eyes suffused with tears and hands raised over his brows in reverence and submission pleaded with the mighty Lord ” If you are pleased with me , have mercy on me , confer me this boon, this is the blessing I beseech of you, all these provisions that have been prepared with much effort and time , which now have been eaten , drunken and destroyed by hosts may not have been prepared in vain”. “So be it” said the merciful lord. Whereupon the relieved Daksha fell upon the feet of Mahadeva and burst into hymns,  celebrating one thousand and eight names of the lord.”

…and thereafter

15.1. The story, though it highlights vandalism and destruction, it is, in essence, the glorification of Shiva as the Supreme Lord. He destroyed the sacrifice from which the Devas had excluded him; and having destroyed it he made it the whole again and won his share. After the destruction of the Yajna the Devas lost their creative power. It is said; the Devas did not fully understand Mahadeva the great god, ferocious and kind at the same time; ruthless at one time, kind and benevolent at another; a demon and an ascetic. That is the pristine nature of Shiva.

15.2. As the Devas praised Shiva they all Pashus were relieved of their bonds and Shiva became their Lord Pashupathi. He gave back to each god his of creative power and understanding (Varaha Purana 21.78-82;33,25-28; and Mbh .10.18.22-23) . The gods recognized Shiva as the lord of the knowledge that liberates – Pashupathi.

15.1. In substance, the event was primarily a solemn Vedic event to which all important persons of that age were invited. Daksha who performed the yajna appeared a follower of Vishnu; and obviously there were many others who were not. A participant, perhaps a follower of the Pashpatha School which dominated the mountain areas, points out the lapse in not inviting Shiva and suggests that could be rectified by more equitable representation. Daksha annoyed at that, spurns the suggestion. But eventually Daksha learns his lesson the hard way; and submits to the strength of the Pahupathas .It was the triumph of Pashpatha; but then thereafter they seemed to soften their stern stand.

15.2.  In one of the Versions of the event, Nandisvara, an ardent follower of Mahadeva very strongly condemns Vedic rituals as also those who believe in it : ” let him, from a desire of vulgar pleasures, practice the round of ceremonies, with an understanding degraded by Vedic prescriptions. Forgetting the nature of soul, with a mind which contemplates other things, let Daksha continue to exist in this world of  ceremonial ignorance. Let the enemies of Rudra whose minds are disturbed by the flowery words of the Veda, become deluded! Let those Brahmans, eating all sorts of food, professing knowledge and practicing austerities and ceremonies merely for subsistence, delighting in riches and in corporeal and sensual enjoyments, wander about as beggars! “

15.3. The sage Bhrigu  spokesperson of the orthodox who were present at the sacrifice launched a counter attack and cursed the Pashupathas : ‘Let those who practice the rites of Bhava (Mahadeva)  having lost their purity, deluded in understanding, wearing matted hair, and ashes and bones, let them undergo the initiation of Shiva, in which spirituous liquor is the deity ”. The Pashupathas that Bhrigu described might be the forerunner of the Naga Sadhus of all weird appearances who throng the Kumbha Mela.

6.1. As if to justify Brighu’s curse, the Pashupathas and various schools of Avadhutas emerged strongly after the Daksha –yajna episode. And, despite their heretical stand they gained acceptance within the Vedic traditions as the essence of the most sublime spiritual wisdom. For instance, the classical texts Avadhuta –GitaAstavakra -Gita and similar other texts celebrate the glory of one who has no use for social etiquette, not bound by any dharma, never knows any mantra in Vedic meter or any ritual; and having renounced all, he moves about naked, roams the earth freely like a child, like an intoxicated or like one possessed; perceives the Absolute, the All, within himself.

These extreme schools decried scriptural learning: There are no divine scriptures, no imperative religious practices; there are no gods, no classes or races of men, No stages of life, no superior or inferior; there’s nothing but Brahman, the supreme Reality. He is the embodiment of detachment and spiritual wisdom.

[ It is said; Pashupathas should be viewed as distinct from Kapalikas who practice extreme forms of Tantra. The Pashupathas are said to be inspired by wisdom and shun hideous ritual-practices.]

16.2. Shakthas who along with Pashupathas perhaps had strong presence in the mountain regions emerged stronger after the Daksha-yajna. The Daksha-Yajna  lore provided them a base for building their  legends and temple -chains of Shakthi Pithas .These legends grew rapidly ; and the Pithas associated with Devi’s organs and ornaments  soon grew from four to one hundred and eight. The lists of Shakthi Pithas varied from text to text and from region to region. And, eventually, Shakthas too moved into the inner circle of the tradition through various forms of Tantra and Sri Vidya; and laid claim in the Vedic rituals. Later, the cults of Shiva and Devi drew close to each other ; and their merger was symbolized by Shiva-Shakthi, Ardha-narishwara formed by two halves- one each of Shiva and Devi . On a metaphysical level it was the union of the active and passive principles in the universe.

Karaikkal Ammaiyar

17.1. A branch of the Pashupatha cult spread to the South India in its moderate form. It came to be celebrated as the sublime and mysterious Siddha tradition of South. The Siddha is one who has attained flawless identity with reality.

17.2. I cannot resist mentioning here the  remarkable Karaikkal Ammaiyar (sixth century) the forerunner of the Siddha tradition  in the South  and who  in the prime of her youth abandoned the respectable life of a traditional dutiful wife  and chose to embrace  extreme asceticism of unswerving devotion to Shiva in his terrible Bhairava form.

This amazing woman was born as Punitavathi into an affluent trading family in the coastal town of Karaikkal, Tamil Nadu. She had to give-up her home, hearth and husband because of rupture in her domestic life. Punitavathi rejected the social and domestic world of conventions and obligations. She then took shelter in the cremation ground as one of Shiva’s Gana, an adoring ghoulish attendant. Punitavathi beseeched Shiva to divest her of the burden of her flesh asking only that she watch him dance into eternity. It is said; a miracle occurred:  In place of the young woman stood an emaciated hag. She even began to look like an emaciated frightening attendant of Bhirava haunting the cremation ground. Known from henceforth as Mother of Karaikkal (Karaikkal Ammaiyar) she came to regard the cremation ground as the truly beautiful place of liberation and the ideal abode to dwell in peace with the Lord of Universe. From then on she wrote poetry in praise of Shiva.

The ground is damp with liquid marrow–
Skeletal ghouls with sunken eyes
jostle and elbow–
looking furtively around them
extinguishing the fires
with gleeful hearts
they eat half-burned corpses–
There, in that menacing forest
holding fire in his hand
dances our beautiful lord.

(Vidya Dehejia, Antal and Her Path of Love:  Poems of a Woman Saint from South India, 1990)

Seated Saint Karaikkal Ammaiyar Chola period, 12th century;Metropolitan Museum of Art

This image portrays her not as a fearsome figure but as a once-beautiful woman who has lost her flesh. Her calm, smiling face expresses her inner peace while she blissfully plays her cymbals and sings to the glory of Shiva.

17.3. Ammaiyar in her poetry asserts that to know Shiva, ones state in life or ones gender is irrelevant; but one should truly transcend the limitations of ordinary human awareness and should give up a life rooted in conventions, attachments and rituals.  She does not talk of temples, worship, rituals etc; and she criticizes those who vainly attempt to know Shiva through hallow rituals.

Liberation from cycle of rebirth and to attain the nature of Shiva is the aim of Shaiva-siddantha. Ammaiyar exhorts devotees to meditate in intense devotion   on Shiva the ultimate truth and the only means to salvation.

17.4. Through her powerful poetry, Karaikkal Ammaiyar proclaims that the horrific cremation ground is indeed the cosmos; and the terrifying form of Shiva performing his dance of destruction is really the most sublime and blissful expression  of the Lord. She makes the terrible look beautiful. Ammiyar asks one to go  beyond terror and revulsion associated with the dreadful cremation ground ;  to regard it  as the theater of Shiva’s dance of life and death ;  and as  the sacred grove of liberation from this world. It is where one overcomes fear of death and the fear of losing attachments.   She explains cremation ground as the state of one’s mind, as the space in ones heart where the ego and ignorance are burnt to ashes over which Shiva dances in delight the dance of destruction. She urges the seeker to revere Shiva as the beautiful embodiment of the rhythm of life, as the destroyer of our illusions, as the conqueror of death, as pure consciousness and the ultimate sovereign of the universe.

In the cemetery where you hear crackling noises
And the white pearls fall out of the tall bamboo,
The ghouls with frizzy hair and drooping bodies,
Shouting with wide-open mouths,
Come together and feast on the corpses.
 
In the big, threatening cremation ground,
When The Lord dances,
The Daughter of the Mountain watches Him,
In astonishment.
 (Tiruvalankattu mutta tirupatikam, 2.8)
*

17.5. Kariakkal Ammaiyar’s poetry is filled with vivid images of Shiva as the heroic god whose grace rescues his devotees from sorrows of the world. Bones are a central liberation motif in Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry. Shiva adorns himself with a garland of bones he finds in the cremation ground.

Ghouls with flaming mouths and rolling, fiery eyes,

Going around, doing the tunankai dance,
Running and dancing in the terrifying forest,
Draw out a burning corpse from the fire and eat the flesh
*

17.6. Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s extreme asceticism (Pashupatha) portrays the state where the seekers strived, in body and spirit, to be Shiva the terrible Bhairava residing   in the cremation ground. Ammaiyar’s way of life and her teachings represent the early phase of Tamil Shaiva tradition before it transformed into a temple-based orthodoxy. It is said; because of its extreme views, Karaikkal Ammaiyar’s poetry is not normally sung in Shiva temples today along with the devotional hymns of the Tevaram poets.

Think of our Lord all the time

One who shines like a leaping golden flame;
With complexion of setting sun and of a smoldering fire.
Think of Our Father with the gleaming throat,
Who wanders around with the strong ghouls
His lotus-like body smeared with ash and garlanded with
Snakes and bones of others.
Happily Dances at night in the fire
With the kalal jangling and the anklets tinkling
His body cool with Ganga on his head,
A moonbeam in his long matted hair
A radiant flame in his beautiful hand
 His streaming hair flying in all eight directions.
 
All those who do not understand that he is the real Truth,
Have seen only his ghoul form.
But those who take refuge in him with wisdom
Will not be born here in this world in a body with bones.
*

[For more on Karaikkal Ammiaiyar, please read The Anatomy of Devotion: The Life and Poetry of Karaikkal Ammaiyar   by Professor Elaine Craddock; Department of Religion and Philosophy; Southwestern University, TX]

*

The other Versions of Daksha Yajna legend

18.1. As mentioned earlier, the legend as narrated in Vayu Purana is simpler and more restrained. The story however gets complicated and more violent in other Puranas.  For instance, in Kurma Purana, Sati is described as the daughter of Daksha prajapathi who is unhappy with Shiva his son-in-law because Daksha thought Shiva did not offer him the respect he deserved. And when Sati his daughter visits him next, Daksha abuses Shiva and turns Sati out of his house. Sati in deep sorrow and anguish gives up her life. Shiva on hearing the horrible news curses Daksha. Shiva then did penance and obtained Sati again reborn as Parvathi daughter of Parvatha-raja. She also undertook penance to obtain Shiva as her husband. It is in her next birth that the much talked about Yajna takes place. The Linga, Matsya, Skanda, Padma and Bhagavatha puranas mention of disputes between the daughter and her father in greater detail and say that Sati put an end to herself out of devotion and love to her husband.

It is only in Kasi kanda, a long poem, forming a part of the Skanda Purana that Sati throws herself into fire. This could be an improvement over Vayu purana and other versions.

18.2. The exploits of Virabhadra and his Ganas are more particularly described in the Linga, Skanda and Bhagavata puranas. Here, on hearing of the death of Sati, Shiva enraged produced out his wrath a terrible form of Virabhadra and asked him to destroy Daksha’s Yajna. Bhagavata Purana adds a more picturesque creation of Virabhadra (4.5.3).Shiva pulls out locks of matted hair and strikes against the mountain rocks. However, In Kurma purana it is the Devi who requests Shiva to create Virabhadra. According to Mahabharata, Virabhadra was born out of Shiva’s brow (Mbh.12.274.36-38)

18.3. The destruction and violence are particularly described in these texts.  Indra is knocked down and trampled upon; Yama has his shaft broken ; Saraswathi and Maitra have their noses cutoff ; Mitra or Bhaga has his eyes pulled out; Pusan has his teeth thrust down his throat ;Chandra is pummeled; Agni’s hands are cut off ;Bhrigu loses his beard ;the Brahmanas are pelted with stone; Prajapathi is beaten up; and all Devas and semi Devas run through the swords, struck with trident or pierced with arrows.

Harivamsa mentions that the Ganas made a hideous clamour and others furiously shouted, when Yajna began to fly up to heavens in the shape of a deer; and Virabhadra cut of its head which then settled in the heavens as the star Mriga-shira.

Shiva Purana mentions that Virabhadra pulled out Daksha who was hiding behind the altar, cut off his head and threw it into the sacrificial fire pit, the last sacrificial offering (Sp.2.2.37-61).Another version mentions that Virabhadra gave the severed head to Mahakali who played with it. Later, it is said, at Shiva’s instructions the gods put the head of the sacrificial goat on the decapitated body of Daksha. Shiva glanced at the goat head and Daksha came alive, as if waking from a deep sleep.

In another version Daksha’s sacrifice was destroyed by Shiva himself; and he danced the dance of death in the evening (Ns.4.234)

18.4. The Vayu Purana does not mention of the conflict between Shiva and Vishnu or the fight of Vishnu with Virabhadra .In the Linga purana , Vishnu’s head is severed and his head is thrown into the sky. The Kurma purana is less irreverent towards Vishnu; it mentions about Vishnu’s conflict with Virabhadra but Brahma intervenes and separates the contestants. The Kasi Kanda of the Skanda Purana describes Vishnu as defeated and at the mercy of Virabhadra .But Virabhadra is directed from heavens not to destroy Vishnu .

According to Hari Vamsa , a fight ensued between Vishnu and Shiva during which Vishnu grasped Shiva’s throat and caused black rings marks (suggesting it was not by poision he consumed after the churning of the ocean).

18.5. In every version of the legend a  reconciliation takes place between Daksha and Shiva at the end. Daksha free from malice invites Shiva to preside over the Yajna and sings his praise. But each Purana bends the Daksha Yajna legend to suit its own pet theme and to further its cause.

Virabhadra Iconography

19.1. Virabhadra is described as great warrior and one the trusted generals of Shiva. He is also the protector of sages. The puranas attribute to Virabhadra number of exploits against demons and the benevolent acts performed for protection of the holy ones. As an auspicious god, Virabhadra is worshipped greatly in Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra regions where numbers of temples are dedicated to Virabhadra.

19.2. The images of Virabhadra appear in the temples of ninth and tenth centuries   sculpted in the deva koshta (niches) figures of gods on the temple walls. In the earlier period they appear as four armed images. And later they expand into eight armed or  ten armed images of Virabhadra holding khadga, shula, parashu, dhamaru, bow and arrow etc .

19.3. The cult of Virabhadra – the ferocious and formidable aspect of Shiva- was popular among the warriors of the Vijaynagar period. Virabhadra was the mascot, the war- cry and the inspiration of the armies and fighting forces of Vijaynagar.The Virabhadra temples proliferated in the Vijayanagar region mainly in Karnataka, Andhra and southern parts of Maharashtra.

20.1. The awe-inspiring form of Virabhadra is described in various Puranas narrating the tale of Daksha Yajna. His description narrated in Vayu Purana is highly picturesque (as can be seen from the earlier paragraphs).The Shilpa – texts too provide the iconographic features of Virabhadra. But, these relate to worship-worthy images installed in temples. Let’s briefly see a couple of such details.

20.2. The Silpasangraha mentions three varieties of Vlrabhadra (viz. sattva, tamasa and rajasa) with two, four or eight arms. All are dark in color and fierce looking. The Seated figures of Vlrabhadra are called Yoga-Vlra, his standing figures, Bhoga- Vlra and those in a walking posture, Vlra-Vira.

In the first, Vlrabhadra holds a sword and shield and is seated  in sukhasana with one leg folded on the pedestal and the other hanging down.

In the second posture he exhibits the bow and arrow, sword and khetaka. On the leg is worn the anklet of heroes. The head is adorned with a crown, in the middle of which is represented a linga. A garland of skulls-munda mala –  decorates the neck. On the right side is the image of Daksha with folded arms.

In the Vira- Vlra figures, Vlrabhadra holds the trident (shula), sword (khadga), arrow (bana) and the deer (mriga) on the right side and the skull (kapala), shield (khetaka), bow (dhanus) and the goad (gadha) on the left.

In the form of Shiva as Dakshinamurti ,Bhikshatanamurti or Virabhadra , he is depicted as a wandering mandicant.

In his Digambara Form, his body is adorned with many snakes  ( bhujanga-gana-bhushana ) and his third eye is awesome. His eye brows are knit in anger and his hair is spread out  like flames ( Jvala-kesa ). His body is smeared with the and he carries a Gada ( Club ) and Trishula ( Trident ).

In Sapta-Matrka Panels, Virabhadra is in the right end and Ganapathi is in the left end flanking the Seven Mother Goddesses in between.

Avarana krama for Maha prasada Vidya described in the Krama Tantra (a tantra of the Shaiva School) mentions in its tenth avarana (enclosure) various forms of Virabhadra: Chaturbhuja Virabhadra; Ashtabhuja Virabhadra; Dashabhuja Virabhadra; Rana Virabhadra; Shodashabhuja Virabhadra; Dwatrimshadbhuja Virabhadra; Aghora Virabhadra

20.3. The Pancharatragama describes Vlrabhadra as dark in color, having three eyes and holding in- his four arms a sword, arrow, bow and club.He wears a garland of skulls and has sandals on his feet. A yellow garment is tied round his loins.

20.4. Karanagama  describes Virabhadra as one who redeems our Sins, relieves all our sufferings, and mentions  that the image of Virabhadra-murti should have four arms, three eyes, head covered with unruly mass of hair (jata-bhara) emitting flashes of lightening and fire, side tusks, wearing garlands of skulls, bells and scorpions. His face should be red blazing like fire, with an angry and fearsome countenance.His neck is blue.  A snake should form his yajnopavitha .He should be  adorned with beautiful anklets, heavy footwear. He should be dressed in tight shorts – a sort of knickers. His four hands should carry a broad sword (khadga), shield (khetaka), the bow (dhanus) and arrows (bana).

20.5. Sritattvanidhi,an amazing iconographic treatise of the 19th century commissioned by the then Maharaja of Mysore Sri Krisharaja Wodeyar III (1794 – 1868) mentions that Virabhadra-murti should have four arms, three eyes, terrifying face with fierce side tusks.He should hold in his right hands a broadsword (khadga) and an arrow (bana); and in his left a bow (dhanus) and a mace (gadha).He should be adorned with garlands of skulls, costumes of a warrior and thick footwear. On to the  left of Virabhadra a figure of Bhadra Kali should be depicted. And, on his right a figure of Daksha with a goat-head with horns should be standing with folded hands (anjali –mudra).

20.6. Virabhadra is also depicted with ten arms ; three of the five arms on the right holding an arrow (bana), axe (parashu) and sword (khadga) .In his hands on the left he holds a mace (musala), a bow (dhanus),a lasso (pasha) , a shield (khetaka) and another long sword.The Shilparatna describes him as having eight hands and riding on vetala  (a demon) surrounded by his ganas (nija gana sahita).His complexion is white and is fearsome.   His disheveled hair is flying like wild fire; and he is clad in tiger skin. He stamps on Daksha symbolizing suppression of dogma and ignorance.

Dhyana-Shloka of Virabhadra

21. In the Dhyana shlokas of Virabhadra is virtually the Shiva. He is described as having white complexion, holding a mriga (deer), veena etc and adorned with snakes.

 Following are some of such Dhyana slokas.

21.1. Svethangam Sesha Bhushangam Khadga Veena dharam Subham /
Drutakrishnamrigam veeram Shaardhoolajidhavasam //
Arthonmeelita Netram dham Trinetramcha Jadataram /
Suganthi Pushpamalam Sri Veerabhadram Namamyaham //

I worship the White complexioned Virabhadra, with half closed eyes along with the third eye in his forehead, his matted hair locked as Jatamakuta. He is   adorned with snake- ornaments, tiger skin and garlands of fragrant flowers; holding  an  antelope.

21.2. Shannetram Trimugam Bheemam Kalamegha Samaprabham /
Udharsijvalanam Neelaghatram Shatbhahu Shobinam //
Banapatrasi Soolekshu Chapa Khadga dharam Subham /
Bhoothapretadhi Dhamanm dushtarati vinasanam /
Meru vasam Mahesam tam Veerabhadram Namamyaham //

I worship the Black complexioned Virabhadra in a Fierce form with three faces, six eyes, his hair-locks flaming as fire. His six arms hold Banapatra (arrow-case), sword, trishula, bow, arrow; and he blesses all who worship him. He tames and controls Bhutas and Pretas (demons and goblins), and destroys the evil and dwells forever in the Hill of Meru.

21.3  Chaturbhujam trinetram cha Jatamakuta manditham /
Saravabharana samyuktham swethavarnam vrushadvjam //
Soolam cha abhaya Hastham cha dakshinedhu karatvayam
Gadha varadha hastham cha Vama parshvey karathvayam //
Swetha Padmasanasoonam Vatavriksha Samasritam /
Veerabhadram Ithikyadam Brahmi roopam dhadha shrnu //

(Dhyana-Shloka  in Amsumadbeda-agama)

I worship the White complexioned Lord Virabhadra with four arms, three eyes, Jatamakutam, adorned with ornaments  , sporting a flag carrying a nandi image .In his right he holds  Trisula and gestures  Abhaya mudra ; and in his left he has a gadha and gestures Varadha mudra. He is sitting under the vata Tree, on a White Lotus seat…

21.4. Marakata Manineelam Kinginee Jalamaalam /
Prakasita Mugameesam Bhanu Soma-Aagni Netram ://
Hariharamasikedatraya Kradhandakra Hastham /
Vidhudharam ahi Bhusham Veerbhadram Namami : //

I worship Lord Veerabhadra, of Blue-Black complexion, in a fierce looking form of Shiva with the Sun, Moon and Agni as three eyes representing the Vibhuti of both Shiva and Vishnu,  wearing the crescent Moon in his hair , Serpent garlands , ornaments  of bells, and holding the sword, shield and club.

21.5. Akasha-Virabhadra Mantra :-

Kalarudra Rushihi /Jagadhee Chandaha /Veerabhadra Devata / Vam Beejam / Hoom Shakthihi /

21.6. Mula Mantra:

O Namo Veerabhadraya Vairi Vamsha Nivinasaya Sarvaloka Bayankaraya Beema Veshaya Hoom Phat Vijaya Vijaya Hreem Hoom Phat Svaha ׀

Veerabhadra

I bow down to Lord Virabhadra who is as fierce as Yama at the end of Kalpa

and whose terrible laughter causes the worlds to tremble,

for destroying my fears in crossing the terrible ocean of sorrows

— Amogha Sadashiva kavacha

 

References and sources

The original Daksha saga by Klaus Klostermaier

The Presence of Siva  By Stella Kramrisch

Genealogy of the South-Indian gods: a manual of the mythology and religion … By Bartholomaeus Ziegenbalg,

The Horse-sacrifice of the Prajapati Daksha Kisari Mohan Ganguli  Book 12: Santi Parva: Mokshadharma Parva: Section CCLXXXIV.The Mahabharata  translated by

The Anatomy of Devotion: The Life and Poetry of Karaikkal Ammaiyar

Professor Elaine Craddock; Department of Religion and PhilosophySouthwestern University, TX

http://chinthamani-griha.blogspot.com/2007/01/veera-bhadra-murthy.html

All images are from internet 

 

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2012 in Iconography, Indian Philosophy

 

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Ardha-Nari

Ardha-Nari

(A bunch of thoughts – Posted in response to a Note from Shri D Sampath)

In both the Shakta and Shaiva traditions of Tantra school, the Ultimate Reality is conceived as the Unity of Shakti and Shiva They are regarded as one.

Ardhanarishvara “the Lord Whose Half Is Woman” represents a transgendered being created by the union of Shiva (male) and Shakti (female). The Ardhanari form illustrates how the female principle of God- Shakti is inseparable from the male principle of God – Shiva. The Ardhanarishvara, above all, represents the totality that lies beyond duality.

Siva in the compound form of Ardha-nari is a hermaphrodite from whose womb the phenomenal existence proceeds.

Shiva Ardha-nari is described, as being the Soul of the World, and as partaking of the nature of both sexes. From him, all existence is derived. The creation is evolving itself. Death is nothing more than a change of body and a passing from state of visibility into invisibility. Every moment, some part of the world passes into this Invisibility. It does not utterly perish, but only disappears from our sight, or being translated into some other form.

According to  Shaktha tradition, Devi is identified as the source of all manifestation, male and female … it is her body that splits in half. In other words, she is the androgynous divine.  Shakthas therefore customarily refer to the hermaphrodite from as Ardhanarishwari using the feminine ending i to suggest saying she is “a goddess who is half woman”.

(Devi as Ardha-purusha)

The significance of this view is rather interesting. Shakta creation theories place the Goddess at the center of the scheme of things. They argue that since the nature of the Cosmos is reflected in the human body; and since it is the Female who gestates and gives birth to new life,  it  is appropriate to recognize  the hermaphrodite from as being principally feminine.

In the Shakta view, the Ardhanarishwari illustrates Devi, the Goddess, as producing her consort Shiva out of herself, balancing perfectly her feminine and masculine aspects.

[ I reckon, the arguments about the male or female orientations of Ardha-nari are rather pointless, beyond a certain level of analysis . After all, the Supreme Divine is neither female nor male;  rather, it encompasses and transcends all gender distinctions.]

***

Ardha-nari in iconography is depicted as half-male and half-female. Ardhanarishvara is typically shown with the left half of his body being female and the right half, male. The female (Shakti, or Parvati, or Uma) half is usually garbed in red and often holds a lotus, while the male half (Shiva) wears a tiger skin or an ascetic’s cloth around the waist. The skin of the female half is tan, while that of the male half is light blue. His/her gaze is pensive, serene; his/her pose sensuous, inviting. The cult of Ardhanarishvara appears to have reached a pinnacle during the tenth through the twelfth centuries and again in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, when he-she became a popular subject in sculpture and painting. The best sculptural depictions of Shiva as Ardhanari are to be seen in the sensuous Chola dynasty bronzes and the sculptures at Ellora and Elephanta.

AN01027847_001_l

It was as though two objects were simultaneously perceived in close proximity. In one half it was as white as camphor and in the other half it is as red as red lead. The body of a single unit was highly wonderful. In one-half there was flowing tresses. In the middle of the necklace there was a flower. The body of the crescent moon-crested Lord had silk in one-half that was beautiful with a single anklet, ear-ring and bracelet. The body of the companion of Kubera shone with a single breast“.

 [Skanda Purana]

Her body is fair like the champak flower;
His body is like camphor.
She has elaborately braided hair decked with pearls;
And he has matted hair.

From Her you hear the movement of tinkling anklets and bracelets,
His lotus feet have glistening anklets of snakes.
She is adorned with golden armlets,
And He has armlets of snakes

Hers is the dance that creates differentiation;
His is the dance that destroys everything.
I bow to the Mother of the Universe.
I bow to the Father of the Universe.

[“Ardhanarinateshwara Stotra,” or

 “Hymn to the Lord of the Dance Who Is Half Woman”]

Ms. Ellen Goldberg observes: the true Shakti-Shiva balance of Ardha-nari enables the devotees to overcome the purely human biases and prejudices. As she explains “The image of Ardhanarishwara does not merely present a synthesis of masculine and feminine gender traits, but rather attempts to portray a fundamental belief in the possibility of personal transcendence, usually understood as the attainment of non dual consciousness. … [However,] it can only capture this ideal if and when the ego of gender — which at times distorts and privileges the male half of the image — has been recognized and [overcome].”

***

http://shaktisadhana.50megs.com/Newhomepage/shakti/shivanshakti2.html

Please see Ardhanareeshwara Stuthi which describes Shiva as Ardha nari

http://www.stutimandal.com/gif_misc/ardhanari_nateshvar_stuti.htm

Please also check the Shaktha version of Ardhanareeshwari Stotra a beautiful poetry which sings the glory and the sublime beauty of the Mother as Ardha nari.

http://shaktisadhana.50megs.com/Newhomepage/stotras/ardhanari.html

nandalal_bose_untitled_d5716157h

Rig Veda also speaks about the One appearing as many; and the single egg splitting into Bhuta and Prana. ‘He, who is described as male, is as much the female and the penetrating eye does not fail to see it’. The male is only so much male as much he is female; and the female is only as much female as much she is male. The maleness and femaleness are the attributes contained in one frame.

In the hymn ‘Ekohum bahusyami’ (Shiva Purana), Shiva says, I am One, but wishes to be many.

The imagery of the all enveloping space issuing out of a dimension-less Bindu often occurs in Tantric texts. The Bindu at the center of the Sri Chakrais the symbolic representation of the complete harmony (samarasya) of Shiva (consciousness) and Shakti (energy). It signifies a state of non-duality where all tendencies and distinctions have vanished.  By worshipping the Devi in Sri Chakra one is actually worshipping the highest ultimate force in the Tantric ideology, Sri Ardhanari, where all aspects are non-existent.

The followers of Sri Vidya who worship the Sri Chakra too envision the deity as Mother Goddess.

It is explained the Sri Chakra is itself androgynous by its very nature .Bindu is Kameshwara, the ground of the universe; the trikona is Kameshwari the mother of the universe. The union of the two is Sri Chakra, which in its androgynous form symbolizes the underlying unitary principle in all existence.

The Samayin school of Sri Vidya regards Shiva and Shakthi as one; Shiva becomes Kameshwara and Kameshwari becomes Shiva. The identity of Shiva and Shakthi is the foundation of phenomenal manifestation in order to create (srusti), preserve (sthithi) and withdraw (samhara).

This school regards Shiva as Dakshina_ murthi. The expression Dakshina means a woman, a female principle which is competent to create, unfold and manifest. And, when Dakshina assumes a form as Dakshina_murthi, it is Ardha-nari.

Kashmiri Shaivism too argues that the Absolute is not merely self-luminous but is also self-consciousness and dynamic. The two aspects of self-luminosity (svaprakasha) and self-consciousness (vimarsha) are the representations of Shiva and Shakthi. And, their non-duality is figuratively expressed through the concept and the form of Ardha–nari, the two conjoined- the one as two and inseparable. This school believes that the Absolute manifests itself as multiplicity while never shedding its fundamental nature. The entire world of experience –diversity and unity, subjective or objective- is the manifestation of the Absolute.

The relationship between the world of manifestation and multiplicity, with the Absolute is sought to be explained with the analogy of the gold and the ornaments made out of it.Shiva is the essence and when this force fuses with Shakthi it results in multitude of manifestations.

The relation between Shiva and Shakthi is also compared to the relation between the sun and its rays. The analogy represents the union of the core substance and energy it radiates; the Being and his Shakti. It embodies the principle of Ardhanaeeshwara.

Brahman is static Shakti; and Shakti is dynamic Brahman.

ot23

**

Ajna chakra is positioned at the eyebrow region and is said to represent the psychic channels Ida and Pingala which meet here with the central shushumna channel, before rising to the crown chakra, Sahasra. Ajna is considered the chakra of the mind. It is the seat of intuition, and the ability to see the underlying reasons behind everything. It is here that all energies of the body meet up and become one. The presiding over this chakra is, aptly, the Ardhanareeshwara also called Shukla –mahakala, a hermaphrodite form of Shiva-Shakthi symbolizing the primordial duality of Subject and Object and the culmination of all energies. The deity of this chakra is Haakinii, the one with six faces and six arms.

***

Rig Veda speaks about Dyava-Prihtvi  Heaven and Earth as parents who sustain all creatures; they are also the parents of the gods. One is a prolific bull and the other a variegated cow, both being rich in seed.  In this case, the Earth or Matter was the wife; and the Soul often identified with Heaven or the subtle ether was the husband. By their conjunction all things come in to existence. So inseparable is their union, as father and mother, that the two blend together, forming one great Hermaphroditic deity from whom sprang every varied part of the Universe.

[Dyaus is usually referred to as the father (Dyaus pita), while Prithvi the Earth is the Mother (Prithvi –mata).But, strangely, both are, at times, spoken of as two maidens or mothers (RV: 10.64.14).And, in about 20 passages, Dyaus is feminine and is called as a Devi (goddess) .Prof. MacDonnell remarks that Dyaus’s female counterpart (Prithvi) was so dominating and overpowering as even the gender of Dyaus of got subdued into a feminine status.]

In this material system, the Intelligent Being was sometimes regarded the animating Soul and sometimes the husband of the Universe (purusha), while the Universe ( creation ) on the other hand was sometimes reckoned the body and sometimes the wife of the Intelligent Being (prakriti). The husband and wife blended together into one hermaphrodite; whatever is said of the one is also said of the other.  Shiva and Parvathi form that compound deity partaking of both sexes, the Ardha-Nari. The union of the two is as perfect as that of the soul and body in a person.

The Great Poet Kalidasa hails the two as inseparable like the word  (vak) and its meaning (artha). 

The expression Purusha etymologically signifies that which moves ahead (purati agre gachchhati) . It is derived from the root pf which carries shades of meanings as protecting, pervading, filling etc. Prakriti the feminine principle represents matter, nature and life . Prakriti evolves, changes and binds; but it needs the presence of Purusha to enliven, to create and to preserve life. The Universe is the manifestation of Purusha and Prakriti, entwined inseparably.

(Painting by Sheree Rehema who says “This is easily my favourite of any art piece I’ve done, and symbolizes creation, love, and divine unity amongst a host of other things for me. I hope the love shines through.”)

***

Similar ideas appear in other cultures and other religions. Please check this interesting site for details. It showcases comprehensively then on-binary and inte-rsexed deities in Egyptian, Greek, Hindu,Kabbalah,Buddhist,Christian, Polynesian, Sumerian, African Aztec and Norse traditions :

http://www.whatisgender.net/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?t=187

When you make the two one, and when you make the inner as the outer and the outer as the inner and the above as the below and when you make the male and female into a single one, so that the male will not be male and the female not be female …. Then you shall enter the Kingdom.”

Jesus of Nazareth, in the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas, Logion 22

Zohar considered the most important work of kabbalah or Jewish mysticism  too holds the belief that the Godhead is complex, rather than simple, and that divinity is dynamic and incorporates gender, having both male and female dimensions. The oneness of God is perceived in androgynous terms as the pairing of male and female; the former characterized as the capacity to overflow and the latter as the potential to receive.

George Stanley Faber in his The Origin of pagan idolatry (1812) makes an interesting observation in this regards:

We sometimes find in these texts the serpent was produced from the egg, and sometimes the egg from the serpent. They stand therefore connected mutually with each other in the relation of parent and child. It is perhaps that contradictory relationship which is feigned to subsist between the great father and the great mother. The one is said to be the husband of the other; and from their mystic embrace all things are generated: yet the great father is described as the parent of his consort; and the great mother is represented as the parent of her husband.

But the great father was Adam reappearing in Noah: and the great mother was the Earth melting into the character of that smaller world the Ark. These two being blended into one, whatever is said of the former is equally said of the latter: and, as the great god was also a goddess, and as the great goddess was also a god; each of them, by whatever name they may be distinguished, is alike pronounced to be one and all things.

Such is also the character of Janus, Jupiter, Pan, and every other chief god: they are declared to be each the same person. Such also is the character of Isis, Isi, Venus, and the other kindred goddesses: they are each declared to be one person, and properly they are the Earth and the Ark viewed conjointly; yet, from their hermaphroditic union with the great father, they are each like him declared to be the Universe.

The Shakta texts declare that Devi is the Brahman (the Supreme Divine), and that Shiva and all other gods and goddesses are her aspects. Amazingly, the Ardhanarishwari produces her consort Shiva out of herself, perfectly balancing Her Feminine and Masculine aspects. She is atonce the mother and the consort.

The tantric text Pingalo-panishat (verse 21) describes the Devi. She is seated in the centre of the triangle (trikona chakra) the three sides of which are represented by the three gods Brahma (creator), Vishnu (preserver) and Rudra (destroyer). They are the expressions of the aspects of Shakthi. They are her creations. She is Chinmayi, pure consciousness. She is masculine, feminine and nature .She is the mother goddess, the mother- father of the entire universe. She is the hermaphroditic Devi in the form of Ardha-Nari.

At the same time, the other texts describe that in the single character of Hiranyagarbha all the three offices of Brahma, Vishnu, and Siva, are united. He is at once the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer. He is the primeval hermaphrodite, or the great father and great mother blended together in one person. Consequently, he is the hermaphroditic Siva in the form of Ardha-Nari.

[ http://www.amcbryan.btinternet.co.uk/origin-of-pagan-idolatry-vol-1.pdf ]

The Chinese, the Pythagorean, the Orphic, and the Platonic theology regard same great father and great mother united in the single mysterious person of the hermaphroditic Adonis, or Zeus, Phoenician, or Orphic theology.

According to Greek mythology Hermaphroditus the child of Hermes and Aphrodite fell so passionately in love with Salmacis, a nymph, that they beseeched Zeus , the king of gods, to unite them for all times. Zeus did accede to their request and joined them in a single body. Since then , it is believed , man and woman reside in each other.

The Pythagoreans were fond of expressing such notions by numbers. Similar to this is the Chinese opinion, that one produces two, that two produce three, and that three produce all things.

In Chinese Taoism this concept is symbolized by the coming together of YIN and YANG in the Tao. Like Ardhanarishvara the Greek god Hermes, is associated with communication; the intermediate being that often serves to mediate between women and men, mortals and deities, and between other entities.

  

Androgynous Azoth by Johann Georg Gichtel(1638 – 1710)

According to some interpreters of Tarots, the central figure is androgyny; and the scarf conceals this fact. This figure represents Truth, just as Ardha –nari represents Truth and harmony in nature.

Similarly, the Hermit is the Androgynous keeper of self knowledge. He too wears a veil.

***

Finally, The Supreme Reality is conceived as non-dual, having within it, a subtle duality of Shiva and Shakthi – the Power holder and Power- described as being (Sat) and will (Chit). What is called the Power becomes the Mother, Tripurasundari and the Power Holder, Shiva her Concert. Though they are one in principal, they appear distinct. Shiva and Devi both encompass each other’s aspects and each becomes the substratum of Ardhanareeswara.

ardhanarishvara_parvati_shiva_pg81sm

At another level, Ardhanareeswara´s iconographical embodiment of paradox and the meeting of dualities-embodied sonically as well as visually- and synthesis; embodied by individual men and women. The male hormone Testosterone in women and the female hormone Estrogens in men testify to the fact that characteristics of both sexes are present in each one of us. The production of these in our bodies keeps our personalities and our bodies in balance. The differences are brought together in the beautifully conceived anthropomorphic form of Ardhanareeswara. The form encompasses everything from action to inaction, eternal rest to endless activity, the terrible and the benign. The Devi depicted on the left half of the deity, is the power of god by which creation, protection, and destruction of the universe is accomplished. The philosophy of the Ardhanareeswara places the genders on equal terms without question.

Ardhanareeshwara stands for a profound philosophic truth that the female and the male are complementary to each other and it is their combination, the blending of grace and power  that contributes to the creation , preservation and propagation of life.

It is one of those things; as a concept Ardha-nari is highly fascinating;  and one can talk endlessly  about it eloquently and even sing in rapture. But as a reality, it is very hard to deal with; and more so live it.It is worse than living hell.

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Resources:


Lalitha Sahasranama, Soundarya Lahari and Bhakararaya’s commentary on  Bhavanopanishath.

Women, Androgynes, and Other Mythical Beasts by Wendy Doniger O’Flaherty

The Lord Who Is Half Woman: Ardhanarisvara in Indian and Feminist Perspective by Ellen Goldberg

ALL PICTURES ARE FROM INTERNET

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2012 in Ardha-nari, Indian Philosophy, Speculation

 

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