by: R Ravi Sankar
It has been found that all have deep love for mother and child as expressed is one of the basis for Devi worship. Lalitha means divine play. Mata means thought or opinion. There is need to relate our prayer to a higher level. To do this we need to focus on our heart and less on the mind. Lalitha Sahasranama is to help each one of us to always visualise the Mata and remove all other thoughts. Every action must be Mataji’s action. When you reach that state then anyone can recite Lalitha Sahasranama. There is need to surrender ones ego and acknowledge that there is one Supreme Reality of which each one of us are just a part. For those who seek refuge in Devi, she reveals herself.
The first step is to maintain calm.
All Lalitha Sahasranama prayer needs to first search within one and maintain calm. Here is an interesting anecdote.
A man decided to visit a hermit who, he had been told, lived not far from the monastery at Sceta. After wandering aimlessly about the desert, he finally found the monk.” I need to know what is the first step that should be taken along the spiritual path,” he said.
The hermit took the man to a small well, and told him to look at his reflection in the water. The man tried to do so, but as he made his attempt, the hermit threw pebbles into the water, causing the surface to be disturbed. “I won’t be able to see my face in the water if you keep throwing those pebbles,” said the man. “Just as it is impossible for a man to see his face in troubled waters. It is also impossible to seek God if one’s mind is anxious about the search,” said the monk. “That is the first step!” (Paulo Coelho, Maktub)
Step Two: Become Unselfish and Strengthen your faith by becoming fearless
Miseries and difficulties come at times to strengthen our character. They are like examinations. We must prepare and pass them. Know that they are very good for the formation of character. The more we meet with difficulties, the more we remember our Mother for protection; and that was the reason why one of the greatest devotees, the mother of the five Pandavas, prayed to the blessed Lord to give her always misery and sorrow so that she might never forget Him. Generally, we forget the Lord when we find everything easy and enjoyable. So it is blessing when this teacher, in the form of misery, comes and remind us of our duties.
One must be bold enough to face everything in order to serve the Ideal. Remember what Swami Vivekananda says “are you really sure that you can stand to your ideals and work on even if the whole world wants to crush you down?” That kind of courage and self-sacrificing spirit is necessary. Truth can never be realized by weak-minded people. Our task in life must be done boldly. Fear none. Divinity and purity are your birthright. Have faith and struggle on.
Why should anyone fear who is unselfish? Selfishness is the cause of all misery and fear. There is no sin for him who is unselfish. Know this and be free from all fear and care. Fearlessness is what religion teaches and one can become fearless only through purity of thoughts and deeds. Past is dead and gone, but present is alive. So do everything with unselfishness in the present moments.
The path of Karma is so hard and so crooked, even wise men are often deluded. Depression sometimes comes, but we must try to remain quiet and steady. God’s ways are mysterious. We must struggle as long as we live. No matter if we fail thousands of times; we must still get up with fresh vigor and courage. Life is a struggle. One must be bold enough to stand everything. Let us try to follow the Master. Strength! Strength! No weeping in a corner. Stand shake off all weakness. The soul is immortal; there is no sin for the soul. Whom to fear? Move on with strength. Fear not, but move on. You are free, you are immortal. Let no one call you weak, wicked, a sinner. You are not. You are pure, you are perfect.
This is a very good song: O mind! Where can be the fear when I have taken shelter at his feet?
He is Almighty and his grace is infinite.
What can enemies do by insulting and torturing?
At the most I may die, but I will die singing His victory.
I have heard the words of great hope that even if I die, I shall always live with Him in eternal happiness. This is His promise.
In the lonely cottage of my heart I will place Him (my Ideal), who is the Lord of my heart and soul, and will spend this life with Him in Happiness and Divine bliss.So no fear after taking shelter at his feet, but happiness and bliss. That one indeed is fortunate, very, very fortunate who has devotion. The Lord says, “I can give salvation very easily, but I do not give Bhakti (devotion). By giving Bhakti, I become bound to my devotee” It is extremely hard to get true devotion. He who has it and can work on steadily and quietly, without caring for praise or blame, is blessed.
Step Three: There must be freshness at the sight of Beauty and Glow in your Eyes
“A thing of beauty is joy for ever” (Keats). In a finite thing there is no perfect unalloyed joy; what it gives cannot be abiding. Limitless Bliss and beauty external are properties of truth absolute.” Beauty is truth and Truth is Beauty” explains Keats.
Kalidasa amplifies ” That is beauty which never fades but renews its freshness at all moments.
“Ayi sumanah sumanah sumanah sumanah
Shrita rajanee rajanee rajanee rajanee
Sunayana vibhramara bhramara bhramara
Bhramara bhramaraadhipate………….. (10)
Taken from Sri Mahishasuramardini Stotra.
Meaning: Oh Mother! The one possessing splendour that is alluring like the brightness of Parijata flowers that bloom in the gardens of the good hearted heavenly beings, the one bearing the face that is beautiful like the moon that is born from the milky ocean and that which shines brightly at night, the one possessing bee like eyes, the one wearing the flowers that are crowded with bees and hence getting the `Bhramara’ When there is joy and love, there is beauty. Beauty causes Kama. Kama means desire and love. Kama is the son of Brahma and he portrays as carrying the sugarcane bow, representing the mind, and five flower arrows representing the five sense perceptions. The external world becomes knowable to us only when the mind is conjoined to the sense objects.
Manas (Mind) is so called because its function is Mamana (Thinking). The nativity of Kama from Brahma’s mind illustrates that all desires have their origin in the mind.
Devi is therefore Kama Dayini. Devi’s very nature is Kama. Which means one who gives devotees what they desire!
This means that if the desires are spiritual, then Devi takes the devotee towards liberation. However, if the devotee desires are towards material then Devi ties the devotee firmly to this earth.
Devi has Saraswathi in one eye and Lakshmi in the other eye. So Devi gifts according to your desire. She never sleeps. Her eyes are always watching out for her children and give them what she believes they need. Always does what is best for them.
The eyes of those reflecting in the Self or Atman reflect that fullness. Since there is no other which so beautiful and infinite, the look will evidence this universality. Adi Sankara has mentioned in Soundarya Lahari that it was Sakthi that made Shiva move but this movement is from inside Shiva’s heart. This means that that by knowing Devi you are inside Shiva’s Heart.
Just as Devi’s eyes are always glowing our eyes also must glow to recite Lalitha Sahasranama. Just as her glances will bestow immense wealth your eyes glows to long for Devi and raise her to the skies so that in the devotees it should generate bhakti towards her exclusively.
Step Four: Improve the quality of observance and Maintain the power of inner Silence
The definite sign of a spiritually minded person is his silent, tolerant attitude. Bees, until they have found the flower and tasted the honey, make a loud, buzzing noise; but the moment they taste the honey, they become absorbed and cease to make a sound. So it is with us. Before we find the truth, we argue and dispute and challenge others who differ from us; but when we come in contact with something deeper, we grow silent and do not try to force it on other minds. We try to live it in our own life inevitably it reaches other lives.
Spiritual qualities are infectious just as evil qualities are. One bad person can drag down many others by his evil propensities; while those who have noble ideals and loving characters uplift others merely by their silent influence. When we study external conditions, it is sometimes very discouraging to see how slowly this influence works; but it can never fail absolutely. And if we wish to produce a lasting effect on any character, it is better not to have it work too quickly. When we set fire to hay, it makes a tremendous blaze, then in a moment it is all over; while a log fire, which takes a long time to kindle, burns steadily and is dependable. Similarly in spiritual awakening, if the person is over- enthusiastic and emotionally excited, he exhausts his forces and the effect wears off. If, on the contrary, his deeper nature is touched, it may not show outwardly, but the result endures. Limit yourself to observing. Take in everything that comes to your awareness whether big, small, trite or ordinary. Content of awareness is less important than the quality of awareness. As quality improves, so silence deepens, you will experience. You will discover, to your delight that revelation is not knowledge. It is power: a mysterious power
Speech needs company, Silence needs solitude.
Speech wants to conquer others, Silence helps conquer oneself.
Speech makes friends or foes, Silence befriends all.
Speech demands respect, Silence commands it.
Speech is earth-bound, Silence is heaven-bound.
Speech educates, Silence exalts.
Speech is subjective, Silence is objective.
Speech has regrets, Silence has none.
Speech has limitations, Silence is boundless.
Speech needs effort, Silence a lot more.
Speech is human, Silence is Divine.
While speaking you are heard by creatures, In silence you hear the creator.
Silence leads to stillness of the mind,
Then to introspection,
Then to self-cleansing,
Finally to liberation.
Are you aware of inner silence even now? You can spend this moment in the temple of silence, acquainting yourself with Devi and becoming peaceful. The power comes from intensifying concentration to visualize the form, hear the sound, feel the touch, taste, and smell of the divine perfume of the goddess manifesting that part of the ever-youthful goddess. She is in deep love with you.
Practice creative silence.
Step Five: Sacrifice and Self-surrender
The true devotee is conscious of the power that works through him/her. Otherwise he/she is nothing; he/she does not want anything independent of that Divine Power. He/She knows that Devi does her own work: that he/she has no right to take any credit or blame upon himself/herself. Everything is all right as long as we do not forget her. When there is Devi why should we be devoted to a Guru who however much superior to us, is not perfect.
Devi is inaccessible to most of us. We need guidance. When you seek guidance we naturally need to sacrifice our freedom. A Guru will talk to us; constrain us, to help us. The Guru will want us to see, hear, feel, touch and be aware of a chosen path. When this path is chosen we must always think of our Guru before reciting any prayer or sloka, etc. The Guru would normally progress us to the abstract form of Devi and moving us through our understanding away from Devi with form to Devi without form. In effect, what we are doing is Devi’s will through the Guru. You are always constrained to do Guru’s will. Just as Hanuman does what Rama directs him to do. You are consumed by Guru’s action.
When however we take upon ourselves to follow our atma then what we mean is you emulate to become Devi herself. Here your guidance is yourself. Stand like a rock in your faith and devotion and let Devi hold your hand. When we hold Devi’s hand there is some danger of our loosening our hold, but when she holds there is no more fear of falling down. So we must make ourselves free from every danger by always trusting in Her divine will. Do not allow other things but her to occupy your pure heart. Do not be depressed by any foolish thought, fear or anxiety. Know that nothing is impossible for Her. Have intense faith and feel free.
In this material, world the second path is a very serious sacrifice. One can be put to a very serious test like complete surrender. One should be prepared to go to the mouth of the Canon without asking why? You must be prepared to shy away from idol worship also. This is to lose duality, which means there is no object or subject. Sakthi becomes energy. The dualistic view is of Mother and Child, but it contains the seeds of the realization of Oneness, because at one time, the mother and child were one. You are now getting to the state of oneness.
Raga-svarupa-pashadhya (8) – Desire is the noose, which binds. So she has the noose of Desire in her hands. This Desire is to bind our mind and senses to the ultimate i.e. Devi. This is critical sacrifice and self-surrender.
When reciting Lalitha Sahasranama you need the presence of your chosen guru always by your side so that they are always by your side when you are praising God. The Para Brahman, the source of first cause, or truth. Essentially this means that sacrifice and self-surrender is a necessary component at the time of reciting any mantra.
“He who has supreme devotion to the Lord, and the same devotion for his own Guru, to him alone the meaning of these words become clear”. Swetashwatara Upanishad.
Step Six: Stillness and Gyan mudra
When we are conscious, our sense organs bring this material world to life. We observe our surroundings and nature, as it exists. When we have become `still’ our body is still conscious. Very often we close our eyes to draw our self inwards. We do this to draw our thoughts to our heart. By doing this motion we want our intellect to perceive nothing. This means the mind is blank. This focus is a state towards `deep sleep’. This is a condition where we are `moving towards deep sleep’ but not `deep sleep’. We are, in layman’s language, becoming still. Deep-sleep is a condition when all senses cease to function because the intellect gets drowned. There is no perception of the body or emotions of the mind or thoughts. A state reached after practice. Such states are reached by constant sadhana’s. .
However, we are not referring to such a `Deep-Sleep’ state for most of us. We are referring to a state of consciousness where we are conscious of things that exist but also of the `absence of things’. To give a simple example we need to feel the state where at a party we notice the absence of an individual in a party. In this case that feeling is for `Devi’.
`There is nothing above or below, outside or inside, or across, east or west for me who in reality the one atman without a second.”(5)……………From Ten Verses on the Atman
This condition can only be felt when we are still, we shall be “dancing the dance of stillness”. (43) ………….Sri Ramana Ashtottara.
Are not dance and stillness contradictory? What is meant by “still dance”? Consciousness is the stable ground of all movement. To abide in it is to be aware of it.
The touching of the tip of the thumb and the index finger of the right palm in contact signifies the union of Paramatman and Jivatman. The contact should not be pressed hard. Other fingers are kept upright. This pose is called Gyan Mudra. This practice while reciting Lalitha Sahasrahrama ensures mental peace, concentration, sharp memory and spiritual feeling. The energy within oneself is slowly activated. The thumb is said to represent agni or fire and the index finger air or vayu. The coming together of air and fire activates the spiritual energy within oneself.
“My Mother and I are one; we are not separate at all.” …………….Sri Karunamayi
Stillness and Gyan Mudra together creates the right condition to recite Lalitha Sahasranama.
Step Seven: The toe of Devi and Source of Sound
The beautiful toe of Devi is in front of you. You are humbly submitting to her at tip of her toe. You are now seeking her grace. Before the radiance of the pair of Lotus feet of Devi, the real lotus pales into insignificance, according to Lalitha-Suhasranama Pada-draya-prabha jala parakrta saroruhayai(45).……… Lalitha Sahasranama
“The divine foot pales the lotus into insignificance. Lotus withers away in snow. But, Devi, whose house of birth as well as the house of marriage both are in Himalayas, the feet are always excelling in snow. Lotus droops during night, but the divine feet beams with freshness. The lotus has the goddess Lakshmi within it. Whereas the divine feet of Devi dispense wealth and prosperity to all who touch them.” …………….Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi Kanchi Mahaswamigal.
Om nakha – didhiti – samchanna – namajjana – tamo – gunayai namah.(44)……… Lalitha Sahasranama
Salutations to Her the illuming splendour of whose toe nails dispels the darkness of ignorance in the votaries prostrating at Her feet.
Concentrating on the toe of Devi would help the moon like shine of Devi’s toe to radiate to your forehead. That love for Devi will radiate love for us and for all. This state will dissolve our anger, selfishness, lustful passion, selfishness etc. In the ultimate state everyone becomes your Mother, Father, Brother and Sister.
——- Pranata Suraasuna moulimanispharadam shula sannakha chandra ruche—– (15)……….Sri Mahishasuramadini Stotra
Meaning: ——– The one sporting toe nails that are bright like the moon beams and which are adorned by the light emanating from the gems studded in the crowns of gods and demons falling at your feet—– (15)
Goddess Saraswati is wisdom, learning, arts, knowledge, performing arts, music and speech. The Sanskrit word `Sara‘ means `essence’ and `swa‘ means `self’. Thus saraswati means `essence of self’.
Devi as Saraswati creates sounds. She is the source of all sounds whether heard by humans or outside the range of human hearing. Even, light is said to be a type of sound.
Sound is different forms of vibrations. The source of creation is from sound. Remember the big bang theory of the beginning of the universe. Our Vedas confirm this proposition but goes further to say that the sound is continuous like a fan, which makes a constant noise while rotating.
Lalitha Sahasranama, are sound-forms that embody different aspects of divine consciousness. We have the Thousand Names of Lalita Devi. Each Devi’s name is really a mantra that contains the energy of a divine quality. When we recite the names, we are not just praising Devi.
“As we chant each name, we stimulate different points in our subtle bodies. When all these points are fully purified and activated by the mantric vibrations, our consciousness will be capable of expressing the divine Consciousness embodied by Lalita Devi. We will be like a channel for Her love, Her grace, Her compassionate mercy, Her wisdom, Her divine energy. We will realize our Oneness with this entire universe.” ..Sri Karunamayi
The sound in the chant actually creates a sound form of Devi in the air. As mentioned earlier, when sound was first created when this universe was formed which released a bundle of energy or sakti.
When we recite Lalitha Sahasranama we need to concentrate on the source of this sound creation within us. The recital of Lalitha Sahasranama has to be continuous without a break.
Constant practice helps us to concentrate at the base of our spine where Lakshimi reside as our spiritual energy or lotus. This is where Kundalini yoga begins.
When we recite Lalitha-Sahasranama we also must not only concentrate on the source of sound but also the gaps between two sounds. The gap between two sound states is a state of silence. The silence craves for thoughts; restless thoughts crave for silence. Eros, craving, is the fundamental nature of silence; at this state, as one practice’s one can also feel one’s universal self. This is the ever-present reality. Its presence will help vibrate our spiritual energy. It is this spiritual energy that helps us feel Devi’s presence.
When you start reciting Lalitha Sahasranama, the toe of Devi, source of sound, and the gaps between sound ie silence, are important aspects for us to bear in mind.
Step Eight: Breath regulation (Pranayama) and Regulation of Nama recital
Pranayama is a compound word of Prana and ayama. Prana is vital breath. Ayama means both restraint and extension. Therefore pranayama means regulation of breath. Pranayama is a basic yogic breathing technique through the alternate nostril while sitting still in Gyan Mudra posture. ( See Step 5 above) Benefits of Pranayama while reciting Lalitha Sahasranama ( Taken from Deccan Herald article on Breath Control.) `The results of the research, conducted by K V V Prasad, P S Raju, M Venkata Reddy and K J R Murthy of the Vemana Research Institute and Y Venkata Ramana of the National Institute Of Nutrition, was published in the Journal of Exercise Physiology.
The study was conducted on 30 people and identified the use of energy while doing pranayama compared to standard physical activities like treadmill walking, or field walking or a graded physical exercise. It was observed that while energy output in pranayama was very high, the energy consumption was minuscule. Jogging resulted in exactly opposite results. The heart rate and oxygen consumption during the yogic exercise were significantly lower than during jogging, indicating that energy cost for pranayam was lower.
Comparatively, while the energy cost on the body during treadmill walking was 3.59 kilocalories per minute, it was 2.80 KCal/min for field walking and 2.23 KCal/minute for Pranayama. The heart rates during these three forms of exercise were 80.2, 74.8 and 66.9 beats per minute respectively. The study indicated that in pranayama subjects, the body was using oxygen “more efficiently (aerobically) rather than shifting to less-efficient anaerobic metabolism.” The oxygen pulse rate was 8.98 ml/beat for treadmill walking, 7.39 for field-walking and 6.66 for pranayama. The subjects also reported low fatigue as against other forms of exercise. Besides improving physiological functions and physical endurance, the exercise also lowers the lactate level in blood.’
“The purpose of Pranayama, to state briefly, is to destroy the deep-seated impurities and evil propensities of the mind. After prolonged practice even the atomic impurities embedded in the causal body are removed and the mind becomes quiescent. Worldly thoughts or evil influences coming from outside would not then be able to disturb the devotee’s mind. When this stage is reached he becomes ready to receive the divine voice or to have the beatific vision of Devi.”———-—– Sri Suktam by B B Konnur
The regulation of Lalitha Sahasranama or its Namavalli using the simple method which everyone can follow are as follows:
1. Exhalation: First of all the stomach is emptied of all the air contained therein by exhaling through the right nostril by closing the left nostril with the liitle and ring finger,
2. Inhalation: outside air is gently drawn in through the left nostril by pressing the right nostril with the thumb.
3. Retention with mental repetition of one line of one line of Lalitha Sahasranama or five Namavalli with meaning. By closing both the nostrils with five fingers the whole of one line of Lalitha Sahasranama or five Namavalli recollecting at the same time the meaning.
The number of lines or namavalli can be increased of decreased according to proficiency.The main purpose is the breath control should be taken to its limits.Practice will provide that guidance. I would suggest reference to any yoga book to make this perfect.
We attract different forms of cosmic energy to ourselves, as we chant each name. This energy works to transform our nature completely. Each mantra reduces our ego, our personal likes and dislikes etc and reduces our attachment. Finally, all the negativity is being cleared away. Eventually only Devi remains, and She will shine forth clearly from our entire being. Devi has always been within us, shining in the inner sky of our hearts like an eternally full moon, brilliant and spotless. In the past our egos had been overshadowing this divine inner moon. Devi’s grace emerges in the devoted. She reveals beauty and radiance to us individually. We have to earn it through our merit.
Step Nine: Listening to Lailtha Sahasranama is the first step
The first mark of listening to Lalitha Sahasranama is lightness of the body, health, steadiness, clearness of countenance and a pleasant and calm mind and voice. Listening to Lalitha Sahasranama increases your devotion and bhakti. True devotion has a wonderful power. Listening helps you to absorb the way this sahasranama is to be recited. It also helps you to internalize the meaning of various words in the sahasranama. It helps in realizing the nameless.
Where does this nameless reside in you?
The Narayana Sukta, which is the hymn on Lord Narayana, the answer is found.
`………….adho nishtya vitastyante nabhyaamupari tishtati jwaalamalaa kulaam bhaati vishwasyayatanam mahat'(7)…..
Meaning: Below the Adams apple, at a distance of a span, and above the navel (i.e., the heart which is the relative seat of the manifestation of pure consciousness in human beings), effulges the Great Abode of the universe, as if adorned with garlands of flames.
When we start anything we want success and all obstacles need to be cleared in our tradition we need to pay homage to Lord Ganesha who clears away all obstacles to obtain Devi’s Grace.
Lord Ganesha is the great Mahadeva, to be invoked before every act and especially worshipped to when changes occur in our lives as we move from the old established patterns into new ones. Lord Ganesha is there to steady our minds and open the proper doors as we evolve towards progress.
Worship of Lord Ganesha is immediate; one has to think of his form to contact him. Close your eyes for a second, visualize his murthi or form and a direct communication has immediately begun.
Lord Ganesha sits on the psychic lotus of the Muladhara Chakra. It is the ganglia of nerves at the base of the spine of man, which governs time, matter and memory. As the aspirant is lifted into conscious awareness of the Muladhara Chakra, he encounters the holy feet of Lord Ganesha. Worship of Lord Ganesha strengthens your memory and brings knowledge within. He is ever there and you have intimate access by simply holding him in your mind. Look into his eyes. Carefully visualize the large head, his trunk, the full body and each object that he holds. Train yourself to see him within your mind with your eyes closed. This is the key.
Once this connection is firmly established, all of the currents of the mind and body become harmonized; and if after strong connection is made he should falter on the spiritual path, he has gained divine protection.
It is her wish and will even to pray to her .She choses and bless her Devotees. She is within you and guides you in all what you do. Dont worry just carry on it is HER WISH AND WILL.
We can now start again from the first step. Constant repetition is the key just as nature performs its cycle of day and night for many million of years; we now go back to the Step One
When you are introduced to Lalitha Sahasranamam, the first day it may be difficult, the second day easier and the third day you are to recite reading Lalitha Sahasranamam.
Sooner you will be able to recite without the book to your amazement.- referring it now and then.
Lalitha Sahasra Namam is singing her Praise through recital of 1000 names. We are not bartering or negotiating with God in Lalitha Sahasra Namam.
“People who are in love with the Truth might worship God in different ways and in different forms. The attraction of Truth does not let them go, until the Truth of their own Heart is recognized, and there is nothing left to let go. If we grasp any aspect of the Truth of the Supreme even partially or imperfectly and hold on to it with a focus and commitment, the Absolute Truth reveals it Self as our own nature. Valmiki misunderstood the mantra Rama and kept repeating Mara, Mara, Mara. This faulty repetition did not prevent him from becoming a great sage”. ………………Shri Ramana Maharishi
The purpose of life is to realise God within you and that is what Lalitha Sahasra Namam does.