Saudaryalahari and Sundara Kalpavriksha

Discourses by Sri Perala Bharata Sharma in 1988

A few words about the beloved exegete Shri Perala Bharata Sharma

Born in 1938, the great Sanskrit Scholar and Principal Perala Bharata Sharma was the distinguished disciple of Jnaanpeeth Awardee Viswanadha Satyanarayana of Veyipadagalu (Thousand Hoods) fame. Shri Sharma took his Master’s degree in Sanskrit from Banaras Hindu University. He was a poet, lyricist, novelist and literary critic. He authored musical-lyrical plays. He was Principal, Maharaja’s, now Government, Sanskrit College from 1985 to 1991. He was awarded Shivananda Eminent Citizen Award, and Sankara Foundation Award. He was justly honoured with the titles Avadhana Saraswati and Kalpa Vriksha Vyaakhaana Brahma. He founded the prestigious Viswanadha Peetham in memory of his Guru. In 1988 he discoursed on Adi Sankara’s Saundarya Lahari and Sundarakaanda in Srimad Ramayana. The daily newspaper The Indian Express carried the exegesis on a daily basis on the next day in those days in the year 1988. He retired from service in 1991. He breathed his last on Dec 13, 2002, in Vijayawada, the place of his revered Guru Viswanadha Satyanarayana.


It is my great good fortune to have been able to report these discourse summaries to the Indian Express. Sri.R. Rama Krishna Rao arranged weekly discourses in Telugu under the auspices of the circle of devotees of the Supreme Mother in 1986. The idea of publishing these in a booklet occured to me much later in 1988 when friends advised me to publish summaries of Shri Bharatha Sharma's discourses on Sundarakalpavriksha. Vice-President Shri Shankar Dayal Sharma was kind enough to write a foreword for that little work.

Shri Adi Shankara's Saundarya Lahari has been a monumental work of poetry besides being the seer and saadhaka's accomplishment in approximating to the Divine order. It is the acme of the achievement of a devote as well as a poet. Principal Bharatha Sharma has given word pictures of the effulgence of the glories of the Supreme Mother as envisaged by the drashta in sonorous Telegu. Rendering the gist of the discourses into English was undertaken with a view to keeping it as a record. The INDIAN EXPRESS, known for its concern for the spiritual heritage of our motherland, carried the items and, what was more, permitted me to publish them. Dr. Prema Nanda Kumar has kindly contributed a foreword to my attempt.

I thank all those responsible to bring this booklet into your hands for your perusal. I seek forgiveness for any lapses of mine.

June 1990


In the midst of an ever-widening encirclement of bad news. It is the brief 300-word review of spiritual discourses in The Indian Express that saves us from going under into a sea of depression. These reports are like a shot of adrenalin to stimulate our spirits to face the common day to fulfil our assigned tasks with a sense of commitment to ushering into the life divine on earth. Dr V. V. B. Rama Rao has been performing this important reportage with a sense of mission. Though journalism embalmed in a book is unreadable Dr. Rama Rao's articles on the Saundarya Lahari form an exception and would be a good reference target in the present collected form for sahridayas everywhere.

Adi Sankara's Saundarya Lahari is a supreme utterance on the Way and the Goal, a Basic spiritual test for Sri Vidya, a many splendored evocations of the Mother Idea in its transcendental universal and individual forms. The brilliantly imaged metaphorical language is a joy for the lover of poetry and the aspirant for the divine life. The Lalita Sahasra Nama and the Saundarya Lahari together reveal to us all that we need to know for living the life divine. After perceiving the Ananda in the Mother's Saundarya we continue to live in this world but are all the while afloat on the waves of maternal love.

The Mother described in the Saundarya Lahari is easily comprehended when we seek Sri Aurobindo's intuitive analysis in his classic, The Mother.

  • 'Transcendent, the original Supreme Shakti, she stands above the word sand links the creation to the ever unmanifest mystery of the Supreme”.
  • “Universal, the cosmic Mahashakthi, She creates all these beings and contains and enters and conducts all these million processes and forces”.
  • “Individual, she embodies the power of these two vaster ways of her existence, makes them living and near to us and mediates between the human personality and the divine Nature.”

The Saundarya Lahari which is a transformations scripture helps us by positing some of the great individual aspects of this Supreme that are revealed to flawed man. The first forty one verses usually called 'Ananda Lahari provides hints for the Ananda Yoga the way to Ananda which is itself full of blissful steps taking us from the muladhara to the sahasrara. The Mother is present in all these places and streams of happiness flow from her twein feet towards the aspirant bathing him in ananda. Verses 42 to 100 termed “Saundarya Lahari”, detail the vision in all its glory.

It is our good fortune that some significant aspects of this wonderful poem have been set in elegant and simple English by Dr. Rama Rao when he absorbed the lecture, series of the scholar, Sri Bharatha Sharma on the subject and conveyed the gist of the talks to the readers of The Indian Express. What we have here is no ratiocinatively exegesis but flashes of intuitive perception. Apt comparisons from literary masterpieces and invocation of spiritual presences like Sita and Hanuman place the chosen verses in a meaningful context.

For instance, the 15th verse written in “Sikharini Vritta which perceives the Supreme as Mahasaraswathi takes Sri Sharma to Pothana's Bhagavatham:

“Pothana too described the goddess of learning in much the same way. She is white and everything about her is white, a symbol of goodness and purity. The book that she holds in her hand is the conglomeration of sounds which are symbolised by the various aksharas. The aksharas (alphabet) are the crystals in the string held by the Mother in her hand. The alphabet is white and so are the words. These in the form of a book inspire wisdom by imparting knowledge. This knowledge and wisdom enjoins on us the simplest way to her as said in the Gita. “Reform, reconstruct yourself”.

As for the word “Saundarya” what is beauty but life's symmetry?

“Everything in creation has a symmetry. The rose has it and so has the thorn. Nothing is superior and nothing is inferior. Right from the smallest to the biggest, everything in creation has its place, its role, its symmetry, its beauty. Everything is permeated by the Supreme Mother”.

And of the significance of the two sections: in “Ananda Lahari” the divine is interpreted as a subtle metephysical concept, while the descriptions in the “Saundarya Lahari” make it possible for the senses to realise the divine. And yet, we must be alert to avoid pitfalls for “one would never be able to realise the Supreme Mother as long as one cannot stop imagining her in a human form. The whole creation has to be identified with the sun and the moon as her eyes to visualise the Supreme being. This would be possible only for a devout saadhaka who wins her grace”.

Srimad Sankara's descriptions of the Mother are mystic images of the divine that appear before a saadhaka as he is self-lost in the vastness of a maternal presence. Dr. Rama Rao refers to the rasanubhava of the composer that makes it obvious that the poem itself is the work of the Mother:

“for she is the mother of all spoken words, of all creations and of all forms. The haarathi, the arghya, and the tarpana, all originate in the things of her own making; the sun's radiance, the water flowing from the moonrocks, and the waters of the oceans, the same way, the poet's words are also the creation of the mother and not by any means his own. Thus, bows down the great seer before the Supreme Mother in supplication and adoration”.

Dr.Rama Rao's work is a call for our closer approach to the great poeom. After all, no one so far, has been able to unravel all the significances of these 'waves'. Not Lakshmidhara, nor Kameswara Suri, nor Sir John Woodroffe to name but a few. Has the poem thn any relevance to our scientific age?

A recent commentary by Nataraja Guru, the student of the legendary Narayana Guru of Kerala, finds the poem the forerunner of a new kind of teaching:

“Man can examine the workings of his own mind not to say the self, through the intermediary of this wonderful new medium where line, light colourful vision and audition could help in the process of the marriage of sheer entertainment with the highest form of so called spiritual education. The possible appeal of Saundarya Lahari, more especially to the drop-out generation, became immediately evident to me”.

(Saundarya Lahari : The Up surging Billow of Beauty 1988 )

Indeed, Srimad Sankara leads us from the know to the unknown. Since we have not yet shed our vital impulses, the teacher in him makes use of these very vital images to describe the contours of the Mother and then suddenly, where are we? Thus Sri Sharma on the 62nd verse : “ Her tongue became red by constantly singing the praise of her Lord shiva in a thousand ways.” The deity is also the devotee! This is the high-water mark of devotional mysticism.

The verse itself juxtaposes the hard coral and the soft bimba fruit when describing the hard teeth and soft lips of the Mother. Nataraja Guru takes us to the regions of Advaitha when linking this strange balancing act with the Truth of the Brahman:

“Pluralism can coexist with the notion of unity, so that the philosopher could cancel them both out into the non-dual Absolute. All propositions must contain terms which it is the task of the logician to resolve into its own middle term, such a middle term is the Absolute”.

For the common man caught in the speed of modern living, the Saundarya Lahari projected as an image of the Supreme Mother is the need of the hour. This service is performed by Dr. Rama Rao with a transparent sincerity of purpose. Our deep gratitude to him for having brought us face of face with that Supreme Beauty whose waves as Annapurna Girija, Vakdevi, Bhavani, Gayathri, Hymavathi Durga, Shakhambari Maheswari, Mahakali Mahalakshmi and various other discernible aspects constantly draw us to Her; the Mahasaraswathi who is, in Sri Aurobindo's incandescent words.

“A mother to our wants, a friend in our difficulties, a persistent and tranquil counsellor and mentor; chasing away with her radiant smile the clouds of gloom and fretfulness and depression, reminding always of the ever-present help pointing to the eternal sunshine, she is firm, quiet and persevering in the deep and continuous urge that drives us towards the integrality of the higher nature”.

Saundarya Lahari – I

Adi Sankara's Saundaryalahari is a poetic composition inhering in it a manifold enunciation of the principal of unity of the universe, the unity of supreme and the unity of the Divine. The hundred Sloka test of this composition is capable of interpretation at various levels. The evolution of the Supreme soul is evidenced both in the composer and the composition. Devi, the Supreme mother, is both the seer's intuitive experience and the inspired imaginative and expressive power. The dichotomy of the self with the rest never poses itself as an obstacle to the evolved soul. The Supreme being is myriad-faced, myriad-eyed and myriad-footed.

Giving a lucid exposition of Saundaryalahari, Mr.Bharata Sarma Principal of M R. Government Sanskrit College Vizianagaram described the intuitive grasp of reality underlying the description of the beauty of the Supreme. The supreme matter is one and so are Supreme truth and the Supreme vision.

Just as the truth is perceived in many ways, matter is present in every object and every being, inanimate and animate. Adi Sankara's ‘bindu' is a conceptual relation of the meaningfulness of existence in the oneness of Sakthi and Purusha.

This realisation is the common factor in all the religious scriptures in the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, the Gita and the Bhagavatha.

The last Sloka in the fifteenth canto of Sundara Kanda in Sage Valmiki’s Ramayana shows how Hanuman has gone to the heart of the matter in the realisation that Devi Sita is present in Lord Rama's body and Lord Rama in Devi's body. That is the only way the divine could brook separation. The respective souls lay in the other's body.

In the Mahabharata which is a huge and meticulously worked out symbol, the oneness of Purusha and Sakti is once again brought out. Draupadi's husbands are five in one. The five are the Pancha Kosas.

Pandu's aspiring soul on it's way heaven-ward is stopped since he had no son of his loins to redeem him. Kunthi solves the problem by invoking Yama at the suggestion of her husband. Dharma Raja is born and then the others in a like way. Enmeshed in worldly pleasures first dharma and then artha and finally kama Pandu is destroyed. The moksha yearning is fulfilled in Dharmaraja in the Swargarohana Parva.

Great minds and evolved souls enshrine truth in symbols. To understand truth hardwork (Saadhana) in terms of getting in to the mind, merit (punya) in terms of intuition and a probing mind (jijnasa) in terms of understanding are necessary.

1st March, 1986


Expatiating on a Sloka the speaker brought out the mighty conception of the seer of the pervasive magnitude of the Supreme mother. The Adi Parashakthi wears ear-studs which symbolize the Sun on one side and the stars and the Moon on the other. If her ear lobes alone have such magnificence, how glorious should be her total being! The flowers she wears in her hair are four each standing for a side or disa. She wears disas as an embellishment to her hair. The earth and the ocean below and the hardened water the clouds above with the Sun-the moon and the stars in the firmament in her being. Shakti rises in her glory which is above all mortal conception or imagination. Human intellect fails to grasp the universe-enfolding form of the Supreme mother.

It is only a great kumbhaka yogi like Hanuman who could get at the heart of the mystery of the mother. In the first Sarga of Sundara Kanda sage Valmiki describes the glory of the Supreme being striking Hanuman's realisation full with its effulgence. The ring which he takes to Devi Sita and the Chudamani which he brings from the Devi to the Lord have been fabulous symbols. The ring encircles the entire creation and the Chudamani is a mani which is a mantra. It is the key to understand the ultimate, the divine and the everlasting. It is the highest wisdom.

Hanuman is the truly blessed one for he bears both the noblest of creations the anguleeya and the chudamani,. He it is for whom the Lord has the greatest love for he has been a fully realised yogi and full-blossomed soul who saw the indivisibility of Shiva and Shakti, Kala and Kali. Hanuman's leap from the peak of Mahendra to the peak of Trikoota is a symbol again from the senses to the mystic three kootas.

The divine and enchanting letters, Bijaksharas take Hanuman from flight to flight to newer heights. He elevates himself from one chakra to another ultimately ascending the Sahasrara Chakra where from oozes the divine nectar enabling the Sadhaka to be one with the divine.

The Supreme mother according to Adi Sankara, is the bindu attained through flights to ojas and delving the depths of prasada and ultimately joining the two base points with a line of Samadhi. The product is triangle: many such triangles are embedded in Sri Chakra, a symbolic representation of the Supreme mother. The chakras and kosas are there in every human being. The flight and the descent from the one to the other are possible only to very few Sadhakas.

2nd March, 1986


Continuing his weekly discourse in Adhyayana Mandali in Praturi House, Vizianagaram Sri Bharatha Sarma described the significance of the Supreme mother being deiscribed as Meenakshi.

She blesses by her mere glance. 'Kleem' is the sound which describes her with Bijaksharas in it. She is the unseen and the unseeable. She can, however be perceived through ascending the chakras and chanting the bijaksharas. In her are unified bindu nada and kala. Shatchakras, naada and the kalas are at the root of manifestations. The body is the base of agni, Surya and Chandra chakras which stand for 108, 116 and 136 kalas. The highest attribute of the Sadhaka is to see in himself the universe as also in the 360 kalas symbolising the unity of time space and body.

The glory of the Supreme being is also sung during the prayer to Gayatri. Vikasita Vadanam the open articulating organ of the devi is a symbol just as her whole being is symbolised by the lotus. It is only Shakti who is worthy to wear gold by virtue of her attainments. She is the yellow coloured tatvardha varnatmika. She is bhakta namra, humble to the devout. She is Bhavani she being bhava and the Supreme lord's indivisible consol it. She is Sri Vidya embodying in her the four Shiva chakras and five Shakti chakras.

The highest of poets have been the highest of seers. The Sutradhari's introductory verse in Kalidas's Abhijnana Sakunthala is the poetic enunciation of Shakti the Supreme being. The dramatist was giving a poetic interpretation of the pratyabhijna Shiva the recognition of the supreme through a symbol.

Dushyanta forgetting Shakuntala is the result of an imprecation but the recognition of the realisation are only through a symbol. Kalidas is the blessed one tossed on the waves of beauty, a beneficiary of Saundaryalahari, blessed with immortality by the Supreme Being through his vak-articulate expression.

Seers have asserted time again that the beauty of shakti is inconceivable unless one attains the status of Shiva. The sadhaka has to strive to see the divine by looking inward by what is called Swaroopa anu sandhana. The vision is in enchanting-punsam mohana roopa.

While the supreme realisation is possible only after gradual ascent, the lesser mortals shatter themselves by terminating their sadhana after attaining to mooladhara chakra. Adi Sankara cautioned sadhakas to set their aims on the ultimate sahasraa chakra. The immature and the worldly bring destruction on themselves by achieving dushta shaktis, evil powers.

A true sadhaka like the blessed Hanuman can withstand the rigours of the path of realisation. It is through realisation that kapi becomes Kapeeswara at the beginning of the eleventh sarga of Sundarakanda.

11th March, 1986

Continued to Next Page 


More by :  Dr. Rama Rao Vadapalli V.B.

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