Neyveli: JUNE 12-13, 2012

Significance of the Form of Goddess Sharada

Jagadguru Shankaracharya Sri Sri Bharati Tirtha Mahaswamiji arrived in Neyveli on the evening of 12th June 2012 to a devout welcome. The Jagadguru first had Darshan of Goddess Sharada at the Sringeri Shankara Math in Neyveli. After Dhuli Pada Puja was performed and Swagata Patrikas were read, the Jagadguru blessed the gathering with an Anugraha Bhashanam.

In His Bhashanam, the Jagadguru stated that it is due to the impact of the incarnation of Sri Adi Shankara Bhagavatpada that today, Dharma is upheld, the Vedas are studied and preserved, and the right understanding of the Vedantic philosophy is possible. The Acharya established four Peethams in the four directions of the country to ensure that Dharma Prachara continues. He established the Sharada Peetham at Sringeri in the South and consecrated Goddess Sharada.

Sharada is generally considered to be Saraswati. However there is a uniqueness to the form of Sharada. Lord Dakshinamurti is worshipped as a bestower of Supreme knowledge. The form of Dakshinamurti has four hands holding an Aksha mala, Amrita Kalasha, Pustakam and sporting the Jnana mudra. Goddess Sharada too has four hands that have same attributes – the Aksha mala, Amrita Kalasha, Pustakam and Jnana mudra.

Goddess Sharada is thus worshipped in the same capacity as Lord Dakshinamurti – as the remover of ignorance and bestower of Jnana. We are immersed in the ocean of Samsara – the cycle of births and deaths – पुनरपि जननं पुनरपि मरणम् – As long as we remain in this cycle, there is no liberation. Happiness does not last as long as one is in Samsara. Many are the sufferings one faces in every lifetime:

जन्मदुःखं जरादुःखं जायादुःखं पुनः पुनः ।
संसारसागरं दुःखं तस्मात् जाग्रत जाग्रत ॥

Taking birth, old age and family life – all are suffering that is endured repeatedly. Hence the entire Samsara is filled with suffering. Hence the only to get out of Samsara and wake up to the reality is to attain Jnana. One who has realized this and attained Jnana need not get into the cycle of Samsara. “Jnana” refers to Atma-Jnana – knowing the right answer to the question, “Who am I”. Many would reply to the question with their age, date of birth, and physical attributes. However, all these are descriptions of the physical body. The “I” in “Who am I” refers to the Atman and it is that Atman whose nature has to be described in answer to the question. The Lord states in the Bhagavad Gita that the Atman is unborn, eternal and permanent –

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि-
न्नायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूयः |
अजो नित्यः शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे ||

However everyone today is at the lowest level of understanding – the one that “I am the body”. We must first understand that “I am not the body” – thats why Sri Adi Shankaracharya has repeated – नाहं देहो नेन्द्रियान्यन्तरङ्गः- I am not the body, nor am I the senses nor the intellect nor the mind.

However it is not easy to understand this because of ignorance. Many tend to even fall asleep on hearing Vedanta. There have also been scenarios when the wealthy have engaged a scholar to talk on Vedanta as a means of going to sleep! So says Neelakantha Deekshitar –

निद्राहेतोः निशि निशि कथाः शृण्वतां पार्थिवानां कालक्षेपौपयिकमिदमप्याः कथं पर्यणंसीत् ।

The reason for this is that one does not have the qualification for listening to Vedanta. As the Tamo guna is in excess, he is completely blinded to the teaching. Hence our Ajnana must go first. The Lord states in the Gita that Jnana brings about the removal of Ajnana and reveals the Supreme –

ज्ञानेन तु तदज्ञानं येषां नाशितमात्मनः ।
तेषामादित्यवज्ज्ञानं प्रकाशयति तत्परम् ॥

However, the removal of Ajnana is easier said than done. Hence one has to turn towards Lord Dakshinamurti or Goddess Sharada. For in the hands of the Lord are the Amrita Kalasha that will bestow the nectar of immortality.

The Upanishadic prayer असतो मा सद्गमय । तमसो मा ज्योतिर्गमय ।। मृत्योर्मामृतं गमय । refers to being led from mortality to immortality. The Pustaka signifies Jnana. The Jnana Mudra is one where the thumb and the index finger are brought to touch each other, signifies the non-dual truth that the Supreme Lord represented by the thumb and the Jiva represented by the index finger are not different:

अङ्गुष्ठतर्जनीयोगमुद्राव्याजेन देहिनाम् ।
श्रुत्यर्थं ब्रह्मजीवैक्यं व्यञ्जयन् नोऽवताच्छिवः ॥

By joining the thumb and the index finger, the Lord brings forth the purport of the Vedas regarding the essential identity of Brahman and Jiva.

Indeed, Sri Adi Shankaracharya says:

श्लोकार्धेन प्रवक्ष्यामि यदुक्तं ग्रन्थकोटिभिः ।
ब्रह्म सत्यं जगन्मिथ्या जीवो ब्रह्मैव नापरः ॥

I shall declare in half a verse what millions of texts state – Brahman is real. Jagat is Mithya. The Jiva is not different from Brahman

Thus though Goddess Sharada is essentially Saraswati, Her form has special significance. Sri Adi Shankaracharya installed Goddess Sharada at Sringeri so that we may perform the Upasana of Goddess Sharada and attain Jnana. He prayed that the Goddess reside at Sringeri forever and She does so blessing all Her devotees.

या शारदाम्बेत्यभिधां वहन्ती कृतां प्रतिज्ञा प्रतिपालयन्ती ।
अद्यापि श्रृङ्गेरिपुरे वसन्ती प्रद्योततेऽभीष्टवरान् दिशन्ती ॥

This is true for all the places where the Acharyas of the Sringeri Peetham consecrate temples for Goddess Sharada. The Jagadguru remembered the consecrations of Goddess Sharada by His predecessors and said that He had consecrated the Goddess in Neyveli twenty years back and the Goddess had been blessing the residents of Neyveli ever since. However as the Kumbhabhisheka had never been performed since then, it is now the opportune moment to perform the Kumbhabhisheka. The Jagadguru also noted that the Kumbhabhisheka would again take place on a Wednesday just as it happened twenty years ago in January 1992. The Jagadguru remembered the services rendered by Sri SRS Sastry at that time. The Jagadguru commended the devotees led by Sri Sampath in making preparations for the Kumbhabhisheka. The Jagadguru also expressed with joy that by the Grace of Ishwara, the auspicious time for performing the Kumbhabhisheka had fallen on June 13 to coincide with His moving towards Chennai. The Jagadguru said it was an example of how Ishwara blesses those with a pure intent, as the residents of Neyveli had with great devotion wished for the Guru to perform the Kumbhabhisheka, and that was to become a reality.

The following day, the Jagadguru performed the Punah-Prathishta Kumbhabhisheka at the temple of Goddess Sharada the following day. After blessing the devotees, the Jagadguru started for Pondicherry.