Aravindan Neelakandan's series on the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama has a new title, 'Sahasra'. This Navratri, we bring to you one article each from this series, each day.
Ultimately, it is the feet of the Divine that every seeker wants to unite with. Throughout Hindu tradition, the Divine feet are glorified.
In Sri Lalitha Sahasranama, the Divine feet of the Goddess are glorified in Names 42 to 46.
42- She whose ankle is rounded: Gudagulpha
43- She whose instep is arched like the back of a tortoise: Kurmapr̥ṣṭha-jayiṣṇu prapādanvitā
45- She whose pair of feet has such radiance that defeats in beauty the lotus flowers: Pada-dvaya prabhā-jāla parākṛta-saroruha
46-She whose auspicious lotus feet are adorned by anklets that produce joyful musical vibrations -Siñjana-maṇi-mañjīra-maṇḍita-śrīpadāmbuja
All these are the aesthetic dimensions of Her Divine Feet. But Her feet also, by their very presence perform another great task.
That task happens ceaselessly.
The 44th Name Nakhadidhiti-sanchanna-namajjana-tamoguna brings out this aspect of Her Feet.
The radiance emanating from Her toe nails removes the inner darkness of the worshippers.
Then there is another meaning with relation to the guna aspect here.
According to Kaivalyasrama, an important commentator of Saundarya Lahari, the Goddess has four feet. They are named Sukla, Rakta, Misra and Nirvana.
The foot Misra is in the twelve petalled lotus of Anahata Chakra.
The feet Sukla and Rakta are in the two-petalled lotus of Ajna Chakra.
The foot Nirvanā is in the thousand-petalled Sahasrara-Dvadasanta complex. Literally Dvadasanta means ‘at the end of twelve’.
In the traditional Yogic-Tantric texts some use the terms Sahasrara and Dvadasanta as equivalents.
In the Hindu geography tradition, while Kasi is associated with Sahasrara, Madurai, an abode of the Goddess, is associated with Dvadasanta.
Sukla, Rakta, Misra and Nirvana are associated with Vishnu, Brahma, Rudra and Sada-Shiva, who in turn map with sattva, rajo, tamo gunas and the last one with the state of gunati-tatva – transcending of the gunas.
This web of relations of gunas with the feet of the Goddess and the Deities who are by the side of the respective feet shows that She is adored by all the Deities related to all the three gunas.
These three gunas are always in dynamic disequilibrium. This in turn is responsible for various forms of actions of individuals.
The same energy flows through all the three modes. With conscious efforts, one guna can be weakened and another strengthened in one’s character.
From the gut-microbiome to meditation many factors can be consciously and unconsciously used to change the nature of this disequilibrium.
Swami Vivekananda explains that every one of us has ‘a reservoir of strength, infinite power, infinite purity, infinite bliss, and existence infinite.’
Our bodies are the boundaries through which this infinity shines either bright or dim.
As ‘the tamo-guna becomes the rajo-guna, and as the rajo-guna becomes sattva-guna, more and more of this power and purity becomes manifest’ in every individual.
But here, for both the spiritual seeker and a human being of worldly duties (and these are not mutually exclusive categories) there is a problem. Swami Vivekananda points out that ‘the tamo-guna loves very much to array itself in the garb of the sattva.’
In serious spiritual seekers too there is a problem. In his Yoga Sutras, Patanjali speaks of a samadhi which is the cessation of all mental activities through constant practice. Here also tamas can play a trick. Swami Vivekananda explains:
This is the perfect superconscious Asaṃprajñāta Samādhii, the state which gives us freedom. ... When we can really do this, that very moment we shall attain liberation. When persons without training and preparation try to make their minds vacant, they are likely to succeed only in covering themselves with Tamas, the material of ignorance, which makes the mind dull and stupid, and leads them to think that they are making a vacuum of the mind. To be able to really do that is to manifest the greatest strength, the highest control.
So laziness of the mind and intelligence can put on a spiritual cloak. Cowardice can posture itself as spiritual maturity. This is true not only for the individual who postures as spiritual. It can also happen to a society. Swami Vivekananda was painfully aware of that state of India when he went through the entire nation as Parivrajaka.
His agony at the spiritual-self deception of the nation is relevant even today:
Do you not see — talking up this plea of Sattva, the country has been slowly and slowly drowned in the ocean of Tamas or dark ignorance? Where the most dull want to hide their stupidity by covering it with a false desire for the highest knowledge which is beyond all activities, either physical or mental; where one, born and bred in lifelong laziness, wants to throw the veil of renunciation over his own unfitness for work; where the most diabolical try to make their cruelty appear, under the cloak of austerity, as a part of religion; where no one has an eye upon his own incapacity, but everyone is ready to lay the whole blame on others; where knowledge consists only in getting some books by heart, genius consists in chewing the cud of others’ thoughts, and the highest glory consists in taking the name of ancestors: do we require any other proof to show that that country is being day by day drowned in utter Tamas?
He saw the entire nation immersing itself in tamas, deluding itself that it was sattva.
With such pain in his heart, where did Swami Vivekanand come to?
He came to the very feet of Ma Bharati. Kanyakumari. There he sat in the last piece of rock of the Indian mainland.
What is the traditional name of the rock? Sri-Pada Parai - the rock of the auspicious foot of the Goddess as She immersed Herself in tapas standing on one leg.
Here Vivekananda meditated amidst the dark night and among the roaring waves. The rest is history.
The thick cover of tamas was pierced by the roar of the lion of Vedanta. The nation awakened through Swami Vivekananda’s clarion call.
The meaning of the name that the radiant light from Her feet removes tamas is a truth witnessed by the history of this nation.
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