SANKARA’S HYMNS TO THE DIVINE MOTHER

                                      Sankara’s
Hymns to the Divine Mother
Adi Sankara, the greatest of advaitins, has
written his commentaries on the Upanishads, the Gita and the Brahmasutras,
considered the three pillars of Hindu philosophical thought.  At moments, however, Sankara has come down
from the highest pedestal of Advaita to the level of Saguna Upasana
to give us a rich heritage of stotras or hymns composed on different aspects of
the Divine. His contribution to  stotra
literature in Sanskrit is unique.  These
hymns have captivated the hearts of Hindus by their devotional fervour, poetic
beauty and philosophical content.  Even
today millions of Hindurs throughout the length and breadth of the country
daily recite some of these beautiful hymns. 
Sankara’s personality as a poet, as a philosopher and above all as a
great devotee clearly comes through in these compositions.  
In the spiritual evolution of the individual, Saguna
Upasana
has an important place. Worshiping the Divine by singing hymns in
His praise is an essential part of this upasana.   In
the Shanti Parva of Mahabharata Bhishma says in reply to a question by
Yudhishthira that worshiping the Lord by singing hymns in His praise is the
highest dharma or virtue:
                                  एष मे सर्वधर्माणां धर्मोऽधिकतमो मतः।
               यद्भक्त्या पुण्डरीकाक्षं स्तवैरर्चेन्नरस्सदा ॥   
                 
              Esha me
sarvadharmaaNaam dharmodhikatamo mata:
             Yadbhaktyaa puNdarIkaaksham stavairarchennarassadaa        
Bhishma says “ In my opinion  worshiping Lord Vishnu,  who has eyes as beautiful as the lotus petal,  by singing hymns in His praise,  is the highest dharma”
The saints say that in this Kali Yuga this is
an easy means of salvation to human beings. 
“Of all yagnas, I am Japa Yagna”  
“यज्ञानां जपयज्ञोऽस्मि” – so says the Lord in the Gita. Japa and
stotra- these do not call for any material 
possessions on the part of the devotee. Any one, even those without
material means,  can easily do Japa
and stotra.  Sankara has, therefore, out
of kindness towards humanity, composed a large number of stotras on different
aspects of the Divine.  Each one
according to his tendencies, can worship that aspect of the Divine which is
dear to his heart by singing these hymns.
 How is it that Sankara, the greatest advaitin,
comes down to the level of saguna upasana in these hymns composed by
him?  The greatest teacher himself
replies to this point in his hymn ‘Shatpadi’:-
                                        सत्यपि भेदापगमे नाथ तवाहं न मामकीनस्त्वम्।
                   सामुद्रो हि तरङ्गः क्वचन समुद्रो न तारङ्गः ॥      
               Satyapi bhedaapagame naatha
tavaaham na maamakeenastwam         
                Saamudro hi  taranga: kwachana samudro na taaranga:
“Though
there is no fundamental difference 
between (You and me), O Lord, I am Yours 
; You are not mine.  The wave is
of the ocean, the ocean is not of the wave (though there is no fundamental
difference between the two.”   This is
how Sankara justifies Saguna Upasana.
Sankara’s  hymns to the Divine Mother are full of
devotional fervour.  In these
outpourings, the great teacher becomes a child reveling in the love and
affection of the Mother, utterly surrendering himself to Her Will.  Even the very words of the  hymn flow from Her through him as he says at
the end of ‘Saundarya Lahari’.         “ त्वदीयाभिर्वाग्भिस्तव जननि वाचां स्तुतिरियम्”
             ‘Twadeeyaabhirvaagbhistava janani vaachaam
stutiriyam’                    
 Sankara’s 
Ananda Lahari “ opens with the 
verse
                                   भवानि स्तोतुं त्वां प्रभवति चतुर्भिर्न वदनैः
                  प्रजानामीशानः त्रिपुरमथनः पञ्चभिरपि।
                न षड्भिस्सेनानी दशशतमुखैरप्यहिपतिः
                  प्रणन्तुं स्तोतुं वा कथमकृतपुण्यः प्रभवति ॥   
Bhavaani stotum twaam prabhavati chatrubhir
na vadanai:
prajaanaameeshaanah  tripuramathana: panchabhirapi
na Shadbhissenaanee
dashashatamukhairapyahipatih
PraNantum stotum vaa kathammakritapuNyah
prabhavati
“O Bhavani! Even
Brahma with his four faces, Siva with his five, Shanmukha with his six and
Adishesha with his thousand faces are unable to sing your praise adequately.
How then can any one else , with no punya to his credit, sing your
praises?”   However, the devotee does not
give up his attempt to sing the praises of the Divine mother. He says at the
end of Devi Bhujanga Stotram:
               इति प्रेमभारेण किञ्चिन्मयोक्तं
                  न बुद्ध्वैव तत्वं मदीयं त्वदीयम्।
               विनोदाय बालस्य मौर्ख्यं हि मातः
                  तदेतत् प्रलापस्तुतिं मे गृहाण ॥                          
         Iti premabhaareNa kinchinmayoktaM
              Na budhwaiva tattwam madeeyam
twadeeyam
         Vinodaaya baalasya maurkhyam hi maatah
               Tadetat pralaapastutim me gRuhaaNa
  
“ O Mother! I have uttered a  few  words
of praise out of my deep love for you without understanding my or Your True
(Real)  Nature.  Surely, even the foolish utterances of the
child provide fun for its Mother. Please therefore, O Mother! Accept this
prattle of a hymn of mine.”  
Tripurasundari Vedapada Stotram is a beautiful composition
consisting of 110 verses where Sankara, the skilful poet he is, ends every
verse with a quotation from Vedas/Upanishads. Here you find such lines from the
Upanishads as:
    
      आदित्यवर्णं तमसः परस्तात्।
(aadityavarNam tamasah parastaat)
     “beyond
darkness, resplendent like the sun
     समस्तसाक्षिं तमसः परस्तात्। (samastasaakshim
tamasah parastaat)
    
     विद्यया विन्दतेऽम्रुतम्  (vidyayaa vindate amritam)
     “by
spiritual knowledge (experience) one begets immortality”
     श्रद्धा भक्ति ध्यानयोगादवैहि (shraddhaa
bhakti dhyaanayogaadavaihi
)
     “know
Him by faith, devotion and meditation and introspection”   
     नातः परं वेदितव्यं हि किञ्चित् (naatah
param veditavyam hi kinchit
)
     “ Nothing beyond this is to be known”
                
     जिह्वा मे
मधुमत्तमा (jihwaa me madhumattamaa)
     “may the tongue(speech) of mine be
sweet as honey
     नेह नानास्ति किञ्चन (neha naanaasti
kinchana)
     ‘There is no multiplity here’
     न चक्षुषा गृह्यते नैव वाचा (na chakshushaa
grihyate naiva vaacaa
)
     ‘It is comprehended neither by the
senses nor by words
’      
     न तत्र सूर्यो भाति न चन्द्रतारकम् (na
tatra suryo bhaati na chandrataarakam
)
     “There neither the sun shines nor the
moon and the stars
   At the end Sankara says-
     यत्रैव यत्रैव मनो मदीयं तत्रैव
तत्रैव तव स्वरूपम्।
     यत्रैव यत्रैव शिरो मदीयं तत्रैव
तत्रैव पदद्वयं ते ॥
   
     (yatraiva yatraiva mano
madeeyam tatraiva tatraiva tawa swaroopam  
      yatraiva yatraiva shiro
madeeyam tatraiva tatraiva padadwayam te)
  
     
“O Mother! Wherever
my mind wanders, there is  your form.  Wherever I place my head, there are your
lotus feet”
In stotra
literature, there is a category of stotras called ‘Manasa Puja stotras.” In
this category are the following:
       त्रिपुरसुन्दरी मानसपूजा स्तोत्रम् (Tripurasundari
manasapooja stotram)
       देवी चतुःषष्ट्युपचारस्तोत्रम् (Devi
chatuh shashtyupachara stotram
)
       श्री मन्त्रमातृका पुष्पमाला स्तवः (sri
mantramaatrukaa pushpamaala stavah
)
These are
beautiful compositions where the devotee mentally offers to the Divine Mother
al the upacharas  which, in the
normal type of puja, it is materially impossible for the devotee to offer.  The Divine Mother is offered all the sixty
four upacharas in देवी चतुःषष्ट्युपचारस्तोत्रम्.  These ‘maanasa pooja stotras’ are recited daily
with devotion and faith by many devotees, instead of offering worship in the
traditional manner with flowers, incense, naivedyam, waving of lights etc.
.
In Devi Bhujanga
Stotram, Sankara expresses his yearnings in the following verse:
         कदा वा हृषीकाणि साम्यं भजेयुः
             कदा वा न शत्रुर्न मित्रं भवानि।
         कदा वा दुराशा विषूची विलोपः
              कदा वा मनो मे समूलं विनश्येत्॥
         kadaa vaa hrisheekaaNi saamyam
bhajeyuh
         kadaa vaa na shatrurna mitraM
bhavaani!  
         kadaa vaa duraashaa vishoochee vilopah
         kadaa vaa mano me samoolam vinashyet||
“O Bhavani! When
will my senses receive pleasure and pain with equanimity? When shall I be without
friends and foes? (regard friend or foe alike). 
When will the greed of mine vanish? When will this mind of mine be destroyed
from its very roots?”
Here Sankara has
given expression to the yearnings of a true devotee who wants to transcend this
world of pairs of opposites and become one with the Divine Mother.                  

 Here Sankara has
given expression to the yearnings of a true devotee who wants to transcend this
world of pairs of opposites and become one with the Divine Mother.                  

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