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.
The inner battle rages. The Goddess leads the forces of self-realisation into war against demonic egotism and stagnation.
In this battle, both sides invoke powerful weapons. The weapons of this inner battle are intense-power projections that come with specific practices and concentration.
Asuric forces are the forces of egotism and stagnation. They are power-seeking and shrink the self into shallow circles. They entice the mind and vital forces of the psyche and lead them astray. They propel the seeker towards spiritual narcissism which can lead to abuse of themselves and others. They trap the mind into vain fantasies and lead the seeker into abyss.
But not the seeker has surrendered himself or herself to the Goddess.
As Bhandasura's formidable forces advance into the inner sanctum of the seeker's soul, it becomes evident that the Daivic forces are no match for the overwhelming might of the Asuric power. In humble surrender and deep devotion, the divine forces within beseech the Goddess for intervention. She arises from the Chit-agni Kunda and battles. She leads the army from the front.
Indeed, no matter what formidable weapon the Asuric forces, led by Bhandasura, conjure, the Goddess possesses the perfect countermeasure. An astra, no less.
The astra is presided by a mantra and a devata. The 79th Name in the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama makes this aspect of the battle very clear. The 79th Name is ‘Bhandasurendra-Nirmukta Sastra-Pratyastra Varshini’
Bhandasura is not just an Asura. He is the supreme emperor of Asuric forces. He is Bhandasurendra. He goes on releasing the weapons. But the Goddess counters each of them with a divine weapon.
Bhaskararaya points out a distinction here between the weapons of the Asura and of the Goddess.
The weapons of the Asura are in the category of sastra while the counter weapons are astra. Sastra is the weapon held in hand to fight the enemy. Astras are generated through the divine will and have a presiding Deity and a mantra associated with them.
The power of the Goddess in both summoning the astras through divine will and then releasing them fast is indicated by the term 'Varshini' – She rains the weapons on the Asura.
This rain not only dispels and defeats the Asuric forces but also nurtures true spirituality in the sadhaka.
Saint Thayumanavar, an 18th century mystic from southern India, sang of the Goddess as ‘the pregnant cloud of rain that nurtures the crop of true spirituality.’
This sets the scene for even fiercer combat.
As the battle rages on, the Goddess uses a potent spiritual ammunition which, is the 81st Name:
She releases the Maha Pashupatastra whose agni burns down entire Asuric forces.
In Hindu Puranic and Ithihasa traditions, Pashupatastra is an extremely powerful weapon that can destroy the entire universe. Rare warriors alone knew its secret and they were almost never allowed to use it. Any use of this weapon by human warriors could bring upon them divine wrath and curse.
Although it's incorrect to claim that actual ancient weapons of this sort existed, the Pashupatastra can be seen as a premonition of the power of human mind, foretelling an era of devastating weaponry.
However, more important than its conception as a physical weapon is mystic leap made when this weapon gets transformed into a divine astra in the inner spiritual battle. Here the inner astra used is not Pashupatastra but Maha Pashupatastra.
Bhaskararaya points out that while Pashupatastra is associated with Iswara as the presiding, Maha Pashupatastra relates to Sadashiiva.
Iswara and Sadashiva are two divine forms linked to Tirodhana and Anugraha in Panchakritya, which represent how the universe and our inner selves function. Tirodhana involves concealing or weaving a surface-level reality that hides a deeper truth. This prompts seekers to explore.
Anugraha is the ultimate function that the other four elements of Panchakritya lead to.
Sadashiva is the Deity of Anugraha. In traditional painting of Sri Lalita Tripura Sundari, while Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Iswara form the legs of Her bed, Sadashiva forms the body of the bed from which She arises. It is this Sadashiva who is the Deity of Maha Pashupatastra.
According to Bhaskararaya, the fire of the Maha Pashupata is the highest mental emanation from the non-dual state, directed at the inner stagnation. Thus the special nature of the agni of Maha Pashupatastra, even as it burns the Asuric army, is showering Anugraha.
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