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 Goddess is a witness of the Universe says the Sri Lalitha Sahasranama. She is Vishwa-sakshini. That is the 384th Name.
She is also the One who is not witnessed by anyone or anything, says the very next Name – Sakshi-varjita.
Then there are two more names associated with Her being the witness, which are placed one before and one next to these two Names.
She is the witness to the Dance of the great Ishwara at the end of one great cycle of time–Maheshwara-mahakalpa-mahatandava-sakshini. That is the 232nd Name.
She has also witnessed the great cosmic dissolution. The 571st Name states that She is Maha-Pralaya Sākshinī.
So two Names of Her as the Witness of the Universe and One with no witness for Her, are placed between two Names of Her witnessing cosmic dissolutions. Taken all together they form a Mandala.
Being a sakshi
The act of witnessing, or simple observation, is also an act of participation in any fundamental process.
A famous physicist suggested a cosmological model for the Universe which is called the Participatory Universe Model.
In this model, observation itself is needed to bring the universe into existence. Observation, or being a witness to the cosmos or a quantum phenomenon is not just a passive act but a participatory process which decides the outcome.
Does this suggest an extra-cosmic creator God who through an act of conscious observation brings forth the universe out of nothing, through the act of divine will? No. This does not necessitate an extra-cosmic intelligence willing the universe into existence ex-nihilo. A Participatory Universe rooted in quantum mechanics does not imply an act of creation.
So what act brings forth the Participatory Universe?
For a long time now, quantum fluctuations that happen in what is otherwise considered a complete vacuum corresponding to empty spacetime, have been a favoured candidate for what could have triggered a Big-Bang from a singularity point.
These are right now more theoretical constructs than proven cosmological facts. Nevertheless, they are very important directions to design further scientific search into the origin of the universe.
But what we know for sure is that at the heart of quantum fluctuations is the observer effect.
In the context of quantum fluctuations as a system, the ‘environment’ itself can act as the observer. When a quantum system interacts with its environment, this interaction can cause what is called decoherence, which is the process by which a quantum system loses its quantum state and converges to what we know as the classical physical world that we are familiar with.
In other words, the observer emerges from within the quantum realm and is an integral part of the overall quantum system. This arises because of the interconnectedness.
So when She becomes the Witness, She is not separate from matter – rather She is an integral part of Matter but She is not witnessed by any other, because She is the process and property rather than a person.
In the classical world of categories though She is indeed a Goddess who can take personal forms for our understanding and spiritual guidance.
Contained in the very first Name with respect to Her being the witness, Maheshwara-mahakalpa-mahatandava-Sakshini, is the insight that the Deity Maheshwara is the grand form of Iswara.
He does not destroy but He hides the manifest into their seed forms. He starts dancing and the names- and categories-based manifest Universe returns to its essential seed form and forms verily a garland.
Now the Goddess looks at Him in whom all the material seed forms are condensed. His Dance is the dance of absorbing back all existence. She witnesses this dance. In that witnessing is Her own dance – Lasya- which becomes the dance of Anugraha. And that starts the new cycle of Existence. (Saundarya Lahari Verse:41).
Then the Name Vishwa-sakshini. It shows that after the dissolution or making the manifest return to the seed form, Existence is again brought forth and in that ceaseless creation, She is the integral presence. Not separate, not non-material, not as a ghost-in-the-machine but as an integral process in the matter and as its interconnectedness.
Then She is hailed as Maha-pralaya-sakshini. When everything has been dissolved and has lost its individual categories of name and form, She alone remains. But She remains as a witness – showing the potency to start the cycle all over again.
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