Bhaskarayaya, an authority on Srividya, flourished in the eighteenth century. He has commented on the Lalita-sahasranama, the Saundaryalahari, and the Bhavanopanishad etc. And written an independent work Varivasyarahasya also published by the Adyar Library.
He did much to dissuade devotees from following the vamacara rites and advocated the daksinamarga of Srividya worship.
He was the translator and traditional Sanskrit scholar, and a member of the theosophical society. He was also on the Adyar library staff for some time.
We are happy to bring out the eighth reprint of the Lalita-sahasranama together with an English translation by R. Ananthakrishna Sastry of the famous commentary by Bhaskararaya. The text was revised on the basis of Bhaskararaya's commentary. The Lalita-sahasranama, considered to be part of the Brahmanda Purana and the Visnu-sahasranama, forming part of the Mahabharata, are among the most popular Stotra poems of the Sahasranama genre. Both were translated by R. Ananthakrishna Sastry, who was a member of the Adyar Library Staff. He translated into English Bhaskararaya's commentary also (published by the Theosophical Society in 1899); a revised edition came out in 1925.
Bhaskararaya belonged to Maharashtra; but he traveled throughout the country. His Bhasya on the Lalita-sahasranama was composed in A.D. 1930. His commentary is influenced by the Saundaryalahari ascribed to Samkaracarya. Bhaskararaya was an authority on Srividya. Devotion leads to the grace of the deity worshipped, and transforms the spiritual powers of divine names for the devotee's enlightenment.
R. Ananthakrishna Sastry's Preface to the revised edition (1925) gives all necessary details about Bhaskararaya, and his Bhasya. It is hoped that this great work will help the resuscitation of our declined spirituality and restore to it its pristine purity.
As a Sanskrit student at Bangalore, my attention was first drawn to a Poona manuscript of the Lalita-sahasra-nama-bhasya in 1886. Five years later, while collecting old Sanskrit manuscripts for the Theosophical Society Library, where I was the pandit between 1891 and 1902, more manuscripts came into my hands. During that period, I had to translate the Bhasya into English for the use of the late Dr. Subramania Iyer (then Mr.) whose pandit also I was. And in 1899, it was printed for the use of the public who, I thought, would be very few, belonging to the Theosophical Society and capable of understanding such an abstruse subject drawn from Mantra-sastras. The difficulties of securing old manuscripts and the dilapidated condition of those secured, rendered the work of translation very difficult.
Since then the subject has become very popular due to increased knowledge in every department and to the publication of Sir J.G. Woodroffe's works on Tantras in which my English translations of Lalita-sahasranama-bhasya and Anandalahari were freely quoted and criticized. Then while collecting MSS. For the Mysore Government Oriental Library in the next ten years under Mr. A. Mahadeva Sastri, a great Sanskrit scholar, I took special interest in securing the rare manuscripts referred to in the commentary. Next I worked for the formation of a Sanskrit Library for the State of His Highness the enlightened Maharaja Geakwad of Baroda. Almost all the important manuscripts connected with the study of Mantra-sastras are available now in the Baroda, Mysore and Adyar Libraries. Many of these have since appeared in print. The Sivasutras frequently referred to for occult doctrine in the commentary especially from names 64 to 84 are printed in the Kashmere series. The Parasurama-kalpa-sutras on which the whole Tantra works are based are printed in the Gaekwad Oriental series. And almost all the Tantrika works current in Vamamarga can be procured in Bengal printed in Bengali character. (For the names of the Tantras, Agamas and Samhitas see No. 17 Gaekwad Oriental Series, Nos. 1466 to 1820)
Through the demand for this work was very great for the last ten years or so, I could not undertake a second edition owing to pressure of work. For on the 5th October 1922, when I closed my work with the Baroda Government, the great poet Rabindranath Tagore engaged me as an honorary worked to help in forming the Visva-bharati Library at Santiniketan. Another cause for delay was the financial consideration. The great occult work of Lalita could not be made a commercial concern. The 2, 000 copies of my Tamil translation of the Sutasamhita printed a few years back with the help of the late lamented Zamindar of Andipatti who wanted to distribute them gratis among deserving devotees, unfortunately feel into other hands for sale. Then my endeavours to give the proceeds thereof to the Ramakrishna Students' Home at Mylapore, proved futile. I was anxious that my present work should not meet with the same fate.
A few earnest devotees have now come forward, among whom are a ruling chief in Kathiawar and two Maharanis, to meet the expenses, considering it a punya to spread the spiritual knowledge, and so we have together undertaken the work. The sale proceeds of the work after meeting the expenses of printing, etc., will go to a charitable institution as did the proceeds of my English translation of Visnu- and Siva-sahasranamans in the last stage of the sale to the T.S. funds. Mr. Ramachandra Iyer, a true disciple of that great Yogi, the late Maha-Svamigal of Sringeri Math was also urging me to bring out a second edition and offered me his notes prepared under the guidance of that Great occultist. I was corresponding with him on the matter but before anything could be arranged, unfortunately (for us) he became a Mukta, a liberated soul.
However, familiarity with the subject and a number of manuscripts connected with it passing through my hands for the last thirty-five years gave me confidence that if I had time enough I could revise and re-edit it. Having dedicated my life wholly for manuscript works I could not spare any time for other work without breaking my vow. But while touring for MSS. In Malabar last March in connection with the Santiniketan Library Mr. Madhava Raja, the President of the District Board, Malabar, himself a devotee of the District Board, Malabar, himself a devotee of Lalita, suggested, on account of the terrible heat then prevalent there, that I should suspend my MS. Work till the monsoon broke in. he kindly offered me a house in Ooty where I could stay and bring out the second edition, and I accepted the offer.
The work is now thoroughly revised; many obscure passages have been made clear and certain others left out in the first edition have been included. It is a happy coincidence that both the editions have come out from the Nilgiri Hills. The first one was brought out a quarter of a century ago at Bhavani House, the summer residence of the late Sir K. Seshadri Iyer. And now the second edition has made its appearance from Gulai Hind belonging to Mr. V. I. Mannadiar Avl., of Vedas-seri. The Superintendent of the Vasanta Press has undertaken to expedite the printing of the book. It is due to Devi's influence that I am able to publish the second edition within such a short time. May Devi bless him and others referred to above in their spiritual advancement.!
Bhaskararaya, the second son of Gambhirabharati and Konamamba, was born in the village of Thanuja, in the Vijaya district in the Maharashtra country. He was brought up in his early days in the town of Bhaga but his father soon took him to Banaras for his education. He learned all the eighteen Vidyas under one Nrsimha and was initiated into the Srividya by Sivadatta Sukla at Surat. Then he made a number of pilgrimages traveling as far eastwards as Kamarup in Assam, as far south as Setu, in the west up to Gandhara and in the north up to Kedar in the Himalayas. He initiated all the Rajas of his time into the Srividya, built temples in all important centres, and dug up tanks near them. He married and lived for some time at Banaras with his wife Anandi, where he defeated all the other Pandits in assemblies as was then the custom. He left Banaras and spent some time on the banks of the Krishna river and later moved to the banks of the Krishna river and later moved to the banks of the Kaveri. On the northern bank of the river at a place called Bhaskarapura in the Tanjore District he established his own puja. He died at Madhyarjuna near that place. His contemporaries were Kunkumananda-svamin of Banaras, the great devotee of Devi, Narayana Bhatta, etc. in one of his works he incidentally refers to Sri Samkaracarya's time, (making adoration to him) to be six years after the Saka Era, i.e. 1844 years ago. This affords a new clue for ascertaining the date of our great Acarya, the incarnation of Siva, admired at all times by all scholars. This history of his life is extracted times by all scholars. This history of his life is extracted from a Kavya of one hundred and thirteen slokas composed by his direct sisya of the same family by name Jagannatha (printed in the Nirnaya Sagar Press, Bombay, and added in the Lalita-sahasranama-bhasya).
This Kavya also gives the names of thirty-eight of the many works of Bhaskararaya. Lalita-sahasranama-bhasya was composed in 1785 Samvatsara Era, i.e. nearly two hundred years ago years after, at Saptakotisvaraksetra in Goa, the site of the present church at Panjim, where St. Xavier's body is preserved. His sisya Umanandanatha speaks of him in his work Umanandapaddhati on Parasurama kalpasutra thus: "There was not any part on earth unvisited by him, not any king known uninitiated by him, and not any science unknown to him. Indeed his form itself is the Parasakti." Before him came the great Kavindra another Maharashtra Brahmin who lived at Banaras and was the teacher to Darashaoko (see Kavindra list No. 17 Gaekwad's oriental series).
These great and typical Brahmans have incarnated themselves to help those less advanced in spirituality. Amongst Bhaskararaya's works on different subjects, the Prasthanatraya on Devi are Varivasyarahasya, Lalita-sahasranama-bhasya and Setubandha which are held in high esteem for their literary merits and spiritual thoughts.
Anyone gong through this present work patiently from beginning to end, though he will find the subject scattered about and not condensed at one particular place, as was the case in all our old writings, will easily understand what our spiritual practice was in ancient days. The kundalini-sakti should be aroused from its place which is at the beginning of the spinal cord (muladhara) and led to the cerebrum (sahasrara). The next stage is Samadhi where Devi is realized in one's own self. This was the experience of all our great Acaryas (see Saun., verse 10, and the commentary on the names 90 to 111 of this work). It would be superfluous on my part to write an essay on this occult subject swelling the pages of this book, as promised in the introduction of the first edition. So the pious and earnest readers are referred to this great work, where all the essential cults of our ancients, are carefully recorded.
In this connection I mention for the benefit of the children of our Aryan religion the following practices preparatory to the above process. One should get up very early in the morning and after finishing the morning ablutions should take breathing exercise in a well ventilated place. This is done by inhaling and exhaling the breath deeply through one or both nostrils for about ten minutes, sitting cross-legged and facing east or north. This must be followed by the kumbhaka practice for five minutes. According to this one should, after inhaling, retain the breath as long as possible without straining himself before he breathes out again.
The third practice is the bhasra (bellow) practice. This is done for the next five minutes by automatically pressing the bely backwards in quick succession by contracting the muscles of the stomach for exercising the smaller intestines. This may be repeated at sunset also by one with an empty stomach. It improves greatly the digestive power and keeps the bowels in order. It helps the free circulation of blood and is good for the lungs.
These practices do not require any special instructions from a teacher and are quite harmless. They ought to be continued systematically every day throughout life. This may be practiced by all persons irrespective of age or sex, excepting women in a family way who should not attempt the bhasra. But chronic patients afflicted with bowel or lung diseases should be carefully guided by a scientifically trained instructor. Before starting to do it he may pray for protection to the universal mother repeating the first name of this work, namely Srimata and at the finish he may conclude by prayer to Lalitambika (the last name). Among the schools started lately for the benefit of our degenerate youth-degenerated under a faulty system of education and dissipating habits, what with artificial stimulants such as coffee and tea and what with an artificial standard of living is the famous one at Lonavla, a beautiful sanatorium in Poona district. Its experiments supported by X-rays are recorded in its quarterly journal called the Yoga-Mimamsa. May our young generation take up these practices and become a healthier nation, is the pious wish of the author!
Lalita-sahasranaman containing 320 slokas in three chapters occurs in the second part of the Brahmanda-purana which is the last of Sri Vedavyasa's 18 Puranas. Even a cursory reading of this will impress one with the importance attached by Sri Vedavyasa to the subject of Mantra-sastra in the last of his Puranas. The Puranas have come to u s as an explanation to some abstruse Vedic passages, elaborated with some histories of past students. Of course, some accretions naturally crept in the long run which make some scholars think lightly of them. For instance a two-hundred-year-old manuscript entitled the Brahma-gita-vyakhya on Suta-samhita, by Vidyaranya on Aitareya Upanisad (No. 24, 1895-1902 collection) which reached my hands while examining manuscripts last November and December as an honorary worker for the Bhandarker's Oriental Institute, Poona, contains only thirty slokas whereas the present printed one contains more than a hundred slokas dealing elaborately with the subject and touching a little on other subjects as well. Our ancient rsis have attached more importance to the passages of the Puranas than those of the Vedas where the Puranas were treated as part of them and not as separate literature (see Br. Up., II. 4. 10). It will be seen from Pauranika manuscripts of the tenth to thirteenth centuries which are very rare to secure that the Puranas were intended to explain the Vedic doctrines to lay minds. But like every other subject, they have degenerated to such an extent that they have lost their real significance and have come to be treated as childish stories. In these days both the reader and the hearer of the Puranas are generally uncultured. The former especially has no spirituality in him and the reading has become a profession for him as a means to his livelihood. With the revival of our spirituality, I hope, the Puranas will regain their original place.
1. The commentator Vimarsanandanatha is a pupil of Vimalanandanatha whose commentary is a short one containing about 2,000 granthas. We do not know much about his history, the MS. Was lately discovered in Kanchipuram, the old centre of learning and it was much injured by works and was given to the Adyar Library.
2. Vidyaranya Munisvara is another commentator who was a disciple of Anantaranyapujyapada. His commentary contains about 1,500 granthas. We do not know whether this Vidyaranya Muni is the same person who commented upon the Vedas under the name of Sayana. But according to tradition Vidyarnya-Svamin wrote a great treatise on Mantra-sastra (may be the book Vidyaranya, a complete MS. Of it is in the Jammu Library, Kashmere) and built the Sringeri Math and the Sricakra tower over it. His commentary is for the thousand names only, and a complete copy of his work has not been secured yet.
3. Bhatta Narayana. His commentary consists of 2,500 granthas. Little is known of him excepting that he was born of Venkatadri, the inculcator of Advaita-vidya, to his wife Narayanamba and that he was the pupil of Parasivanandanatha. Wherever I found that Bhatta Narayana differed from Bhaskararaya, or gave more meanings than the latter has given, I have quoted the extracts from his (Bhatta Narayana's) commentary. (All the commentators divide the book into twelve sections: see page 27, footnote 3).
4. The next commentator was one Samkara who gives only ordinary meanings. His work is not of much importance.
5. Bhaskararaya. He is the author of the present work, which is presented to the public in the English garb. He freely quotes a number of his predecessors whenever he plunges into occultism for the meaning of the names. But I think he depends largely for his ideas on the first-mentioned commentary. We do not know how many commentaries were written before this. But I find he depends more for his authority on Saundaryalahari of Sri Samkaracarya (the first 41 slokas are called Anandalahari and the remaining 42 to 100 slokas are termed Saundaryalahari) and on his guru's guru, Gaudapada's works. The Saundaryalahari with a number of commentaries on it has become so popular throughout the length and breadth of India that I used to find manuscripts of the same spread from Manasarover to the Cape and Gandhara to the Chinese Wall. About a hundred of the commentaries with the text have been secured and deposited in the libraries assisted by me.
I have added to this book the Sanskrit text corrected and carefully prepared according to the commentary for the use of parayana (the daily reading). The thousand names are thousand Mantras. I used to witness in many houses and temples where Lalita-sahasranamarcana was performed on Fridays and other auspicious occasions, the performers and pujaris owing to their ignorance torturing the names. By this practice according to our Sastras, not only do we not get the desired results as described in the result-chapter, but we get bad results on the contrary. For instance when people generally visit Kanchipuram or Madurai the pujari performs the Lalita-sahasranamarcana to the goddess by these names. But as the pilgrims themselves are ignorant it does not strike them if the Mantras are correctly uttered or not. Fortunately it is not the case in the temples in the North where, being Vedic ones, the puja is performed by the visitors themselves and not by proxy. I hope this edition will be useful for the correct performance of the puja in the North as well as in the South. I hope also to see at an early date the establishment of an university in the South with the superfluous Temple funds, to trains up the pujaris in our occult sciences, for the resuscitation of our declined spirituality and restoring to it, its prestine purity which alone can bring true happiness to Bharatakhanda, the land of our rsis.
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