Book Reviews

Shodasi - Secrets of The Ramayana

Kundalini Yoga & Gayathri Mantra in Valmiki Ramayana

There are several versions of the Sri Ramayana, one of the two greatest epics. Following Sri Valmiki Ramayana several editions have been published in various languages, besides scores of commentaries written across centuries. Late. Gunturu Seshendra Sharma, scholar poet of 20th Century unearthed secrets of the Ramayana through his popular Telugu book “Shodasi”.

The novelty of nomenclature Shodasi, called Sri Vidya is reflected, in the 16th Chapter . Sharma’s intellectual depth comes forth in analyzing Sundara Kanda specially through Kundalini Yoga . The author highlights hidden truth in Valmiki’s thought that is similar to Vedas and says that Trijata’s dream in Sundara Kanda reflects Gayatri Mantra of 32 Syllabi in 4 lines. Sharma pays rich encomiums in the description of Lanka surrounded by three impregnable borders. He compares these three borders with Trikuta viz... Shakti , Kaamaraaja , Vagbhava Kutas with those of Sri Vidya in Kundalini . A staunch believer of Vedas, the author feels that Ramayana is a replica of Vedas and oriented towards the character of Indra . He concludes that in Ramayana the mentioning of the supreme God is Indra and not Vishnu, as the presiding deity of valour in Vedas. Utterances of the word Vishnu were considered to be imaginary overstatements in the author’s view.

This book lends a new perspective to the Ramayana by adding the dimension of Kundalini Yoga .

The foreword by Vishwanatha Satyanarayana adds credibility to the book. The current work is an English translation of the original by Gurujada Suryanarayana Murthy, a scientist by profession. His proficiency in the subject is evident in the translation throughout that doesn’t swerve from the original’s purport. - The Hindu, India’s National Newspaper, (Friday Review: 2nd October 2015)

Shodasi - Astounding scholarship of Sanskrit classics,
A product of deep research, intense intellectual labour and amazing scholarship

The book under review which is an English translation by Dr. Gurajada Suryanarayana Murthy of the original Telugu Text represents a scholarly attempt by the erudite author to justify and prove the validity of certain radical propositions which he makes about the world – renowned Kavya – Valmiki Ramayana. The propositions that he makes are – 1. Sundara Kanda is an allegory of Kundalini Yoga 2. Sita is Kundalini Shakti 3. Hanuman’s search – mission of Sita symbolises Tantric Exercise of identifying the Kundalini Shakti and raising it from the Moola Dhara Chakra (denoted by Lanka) to Sahasrara Chakra 4. The descriptive terms employed about Sita hint at Sita being essentially a Kundalini Shakti 5. Trijata’s dream is nothing but Gayathri Mantra 6. Valmiki’s language has pronounced Vedic flavour 7. The phraseology employed by Valmiki corresponds largely to the terms employed in Lalitha Sahasra Nama , Durga Saptasati , Devi Bhagawatam etc.. 8. The aptness of the name Sundara Kanda is provable on Strong Grounds 9. Ramayana is anterior to Bharatha on various grounds such as the Vedic language employed in the former the reference of Valmiki and Ramayana in Mahabharata and absence of reference to Vyasa and Mahabharata episodes in Ramayana , Mention of Rama in Mahabharata and Rama’s greater antiquity than Pandavas and a host of other plausible evidences 10. Indra , the chief Vedic god more prominently featured and praised in Ramayana than Vishnu of the Puranic origin. 11. Megha Sandesham of Kalidasa originated out of the seed of Valmiki Ramayana and 12. The benedictory verse of Sakuntalam is eulogy of Devi.

The brain – tickling propositions are not just of the cuff remarks made without basis but credible theories buttressed with profuse quotations of relevant Sanskrit Texts , wide and deep study of the relevant treatises unassailable arguments based on internal and external evidences and astounding scholarship of Sanskrit classics.

On the flip side, there are a few errors in the transliteration of the Sanskrit texts. Had the Sanskrit passages from the treatises been provided in Devanagari Script also in addition to transliterated form in Roman Script value and appeal of this essentially Sanskrit oriented book would be much higher to the large and growing Sanskrit readership. The book is doubtless, a product of deep research, Intense intellectual labour and amazing scholarship. The Vedanta kesari : August 2016, The Lion of Vedanta, ;A Cultural and Spiirtual Monthly of the of the Ramakrishna Order since 1944

An Intellectual Feast

Along With utmost devotion, the author has clear understanding of not only of the Ramayana but also Mantra Sastra, Vedas and Kundalini Yoga. His method is going deep into the subject and at the same time comparing the same with ideas of other branches of literature.

Shodasi , authored by Seshendra Sharma is a book of a special type. Though its purpose is to unfold secrets of the Ramayana many other aspects from different branches of knowledge also find a place there.

The Ramayana is read in every household with devotion. It narrates not only story of Rama but it also spotlights very intricate and subtler points in other branches of knowledge, a point not even noticed by many.

The author has clear understanding of not only of the Ramayana but also Mantra Sastra , Vedas and Kundalini Yoga . There are two approaches to understand the Sastras. One is vertical which is closely followed in Sanskrit Literature. It is reading a book with the help of commentary on it. In this method not only each word of the original analysed; its correct meaning and contextual purpose are also examined. The second is a horizontal method where in various ideas in the text are read not with one commentary but with many commentaries by different people. This gives total meaning of the text.

Seshendra Sharma follows both methods. His method is going deep into the subject and at the same time comparing the same with ideas of other branches of literature.

This needs a thorough understanding of various branches and ability to compare texts and spot new ideas and enjoy the same. For example , when Hanuman asks Sita who she is ,she replies ,“sama dvadasa tatraham raghavasya nivesane bhunjhana manushan bhogan sarva kama samrudhinee “ . Meaning “I enjoyed 12 years of mundane pleasure in the home of Rama”

Though she is not an ordinary human being, she enjoyed mundane pleasures. “ you may mistake that I am a mortal woman , but understand I am Sri Maha Lakshmi” . That was the message. The most important clue is the statement “ Aham Sarva Kama Samridhinee “ . In Devi Bhagawatham we find “ Matah Sankaree Kamade “ In Sri Sukta “ Sarva Kamartha Siddhaye “ and in Lalitha Sahasra Nama “ too it is stated “ Om Kamyayai Namah” . If Sita were to be just an ordinary being all these statements would have been irrelevant.

At another place she says “ Maya Ramasya Rajarshe Bharyayaya Paramatmanah” which means that she is wife of Paramatma. Hanuman , the devotee , recognized Sita to be none other than Jaganmata. Hence he could identify her easily as the divine mother and says “ tat sreemadyate tarat”. The word sreemat is used to mean brilliance Hanuman identifies Sita as Devi by the holy seed letter ( Sreem ) .

The book is full of comparisons between different branches of learning and surely a feast for one who could enjoy the existence of similar ideas at various places. It only proves that ways may be different but the goal is one.

Seshendra Sharma physically lifts the minds of the readers and offers an intellectual feast along with utmost devotion. Surely everyone should read this book and keep a copy of the same at home.– Goda Venkateswara Sastry, >Tatvaloka : June 2016, The Splendour of Truth, (Monthly Magazine)

Ramayan Through Kundalini Yoga

Shodasi is an ideal read for Sanskrit-literate readers who are open to eclectic yogarthas and connotative meanings

So you thought Vyasa was before Valmiki, Mahabharat was before Ramayan, Rama a Vishnu avatar, and tantrism distinct from vedism? Think again. In Shodasi: Secrets of the Ramayana, Telugu poet Seshendra Sharma re-reads the Ramayan to come up with a number of new conclusions.

Much of the book sets out to prove that Ramayan was written before the Mahabharat. Sharma discusses how Indra is cited more often than Vishnu, thus placing the context of the Ramayan closer to Vedic than Puranic thought. He quotes from the Mahabharat to show how it follows descriptions of hills, rivers from the Ramayan. The Mahabharat has some prose, and therefore, it must have been composed after Ramayan, which is entirely in poetry. These are only some of the numerous reasons that Sharma offers to suggest a new sequence of our itihasas.

Sharma’s book is also an experimental reading of the Ramayan through the interpretive lens of what he calls Kundalini yoga. Hanuman’s flight to Sri Lanka gets a new interpretation. “Charana Charite Pathi” is interpreted as the path of Kundalini, and the first verse of the Sundara Kanda “Tatho Ravana Nithayah” is interpreted by Sharma to refer to Hanuman traversing the sushumna nadi of the Kundalini.

Trijata’s dream becomes the Gayatri mantra through an imaginative recasting of words as numbers. Gaja (elephant) means eight, danta (teeth) means thirty-two, and maha-gaja-chaturdantam somehow also adds up to 32 syllables, which is the number of syllables in the Gayatri mantra. That Trijata’s dream is halfway through the Ramayan also becomes significant for Sharma, he calls it the ‘central bead’ in the Ramayan garland of 24,000 beads. Identifying 32-syllables as the Gayatri follows a convention, for mantras are referenced by the number of syllables; however, it is the “secret” yogartha—or mystical, anagogical translations—derived by Sharma that becomes problematic, unless he is considered an authority in his own right.

conclude that the name Sundarakand is unrelated to any descriptions of beauty of any of the main characters in the Ramayan. However, Soundarya and Tripura-Sundari are well-known conventions in the tantric tradition and hence, Sharma concludes that Sundarakand derives its name from Shakti’s beauty, and “Sundara-Hanuman” means “Hanuman who is a devotee of Devi” (117).

A coda in this book is about the benedictory verse in Kalidasa’s Sakuntalam which has traditionally been understood to refer to Ishwara. Sharma re-interprets this verse highlighting the “eight forms” of the last line as the eight forms of Devi that please Ishwara.

This book is suitable for a reader who is Sanskrit-literate and open to eclectic yogarthas and connotative meanings. Sharma cites substantially from the Ramayan in roman but without diacritics, this is difficult to follow; and he does not always include translation. Sharma often cites commentators without citing names and sources. It is not clear why the book is called Shodasi—readers may note, this book is not about the Srividya tradition. Even if the reader is unconvinced by Sharma’s reasoning or methodology, the free flow of references may prove absorbing for a reader interested in the subject.

This could also be an eclectic reference for a scholar researching tantric elements in the Ramayan. - Mani Rao, The Sunday Standard Magazine, The New Indian Express, 29th November 2015

Scholarly and deeply researched monograph
Pearls of insightful ideas and truths

Most of the ancient treatises like the Valmiki Ramayana and Bhagavatham lend themselves to allegorical interpretations. The book under review is scholarly and deeply researched monograph that formulates the startling theory that the immortal epic Valmiki Ramayana, particularly, Sundara Kanda, is nothing but the enunciation of the doctrine of Kundalini Shakthi Yoga. The very title of the book is bound to make the scholarly fraternity and even the common readership sit up and take notice. The radical propositions that the erudite author advances are on the basis of relentless logic and a mass of internal and external evidences are: Ramayana is rooted in Vedas, both in terms of ideas it disseminates and its verbal garb in those it is clothed.

Many of the similes that Valmiki employs are inspired by Vedic poetry and literature. Many of the expressions employed in the Valmiki Ramayana bear close resemblance to phraseology found in texts like Devi Bhagavatham, and Soundarya Lahari. Sita is none other than Divine Mother and Gayathri. As borne out by an analysis of similarity of names and words used in Valmiki Ramayana and Sri Vidya Literature. Sundara Kanda is nothing but delineation Kundalini Yoga. Hanuman’s aerial voyage in search of Sita represents allegorically the devi worshipper’s exercise in Kundalini Yoga. Sita is Kundalini Shakti. The episodes of mainaka, surasa and Simhika – representing satwa, rajas, tamas respectively –represent piercing of the triple knots by the spiritual aspirant. The Sanskrit phrase “Charana Charithe pathi” that occurs at the opening Canto of Sundara Kanda clearly implies Hanuman’s movement through the path of Sushumna. Lanka is the Mula Dhara Chakra, the seat of Kundalini implied in Valmiki’s graphic description of Lanka, the place of incarceration of Sita. Lanka is Muladhara also from the point of view of Yoga and it is Sri Chakra from the point of view of Spiritual practice. The burning of Lanka symbolises awakening of Swadhishthana. The aptness of name Sundara Kanda is explicable in the light of various evidences embedded in the epic. Trijata’s dream is nothing but the Gayathri Mantra as can be inferred from certain Sanskrit terms representing their numerical equivalents employed to describe dream – scenes of Trijata and also from Dramatis Personae appearing in her dream. Mahabharata is an image of Ramayana and many striking similarities may be found between Valmiki and Vyasa in their style of narrative.

Valmiki’s Ramayana is the seed of Meghadootha and Valmiki reincarnates, as it were, as Kalidasa. The vedic god Indra, as the supreme deity dominates epic as a benchmark for all comparisons with Rama and dwarfs Vishnu, the Puranik God, in importance. Ramayana is anterior to Mahabharata. There are 2 annexures at the end of the book “benedictory verse of Sakunthalam is nothing but eulogy of Devi “and “All Humans have same destination”.

Coming from the pen of the Telugu poet proficient in several languages, who was active in various disciplines ranging from Sanskrit studies to Cultural activism and who was given the Sahitya Akademi Award, this book is definitely of exceptional merit as the ingenious interpretations of various verses of the epic and also of allied hymnal literature to establish the novel but plausible propositions, come as a refreshing revelations. The book unmistakably bears imprints of an amazingly analytical, deeply erudite and marvellously nimble mind that effortlessly plumbs the oceanic epic and picks up and presents to the community of discerning readers pearls of insightful ideas and truths. One glaring drawback of this essentially Sanskrit-oriented book is the absence of Sanskrit quotations in Devanagari script as transliterations in roman script that are given are poor substitute sonorous Sanskrit words clothed in Devanagari script. The merits mentioned in a short review of this book packed with quaint and profound ideas constitute merely the proverbial tip of an iceberg. A fund of fruitful and lofty ideas awaits those who venture dive deep into this great book. In short, this book is a riveting read for scholars and a strong stimulant for the general readers. – N. Hariharan, Madurai


More by :  Saatyaki Sharma

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