Here is another in Shakti Sadhana's "Conversations About Srividya" series.
As usual, "Q" is me, asking all the dumb questions. "A" is an accomplished Srividya upasak and guru, who (also as usual) offers patient and lucid replies for the benefit of the Group, but in return requests anonymity to avoid being flooded with queries from too many people. If any member has a specific issue that s/he would like me to discuss in a future conversation, please send me a private e-mail, and I'll do my best to help you:
Q: Why were the Sri Lalita Sahasranama and other thousand-name hymns composed?
A: Why do you think?
Q: I assume because it reflects what the sages discovered upon contemplating Her?
A: No. Think again. Start looking at the structure. Go further. What is the first name?
Q: shrI mAtA. The Mother.
A: But why the Mother? Whose Mother? For that you must refer back to Lalitopakhyana [i.e. Story of the Goddess Lalita; an important text describing the Great Goddess of Srividya Shaktism], on how Lalita manifested Herself.
A: When the Devas were running away from the asura Bhanda, they reached a hopeless situation, and they decided to do the mahaa yaga, which is sacrificing oneself part by part and, ultimately, completely. And they did it. And thus were all the Devas consumed by the sacrificial fire. And from that fire arose a power - formless; attributeless - that coalesced into Lalita, the ever playful one. And what did she do first? She recreated the devas, thus becoming the Mother of all Gods. Hence the name shrI mAtA.
Q: I see ...
A: Now lets take the second name, shrI mahArAjnI, the Great Empress. How did She become that? Upon being recreated, the Devas decided that in the coming battle they needed a leader composed of all their powers - and that was manifest as Lalita in front of them. So they crowned Her the Empress.
As the Empress, Lalita needed a consort; so Shiva became a male Lalita - like a twin to Her in every respect, except that He was a male He was married to Her. And they ascended the throne, and She became the third name of LS, srImatsimhAsaneshwarI on being seated on the throne. Thus the early part of Lalitopakhyana was compressed into the first three names.
Q: And it goes on from there
A: Yes. Lalitopakhyana is the story of Lalita and her acts, and the entire Lalita Sahasrama refers only to Lalitopakhyana. Because that is the summum bonum of Lalita's story. And it goes on, answering in turn all of our questions about Her. We wonder, Where did She manifest from? and the fourth name reminds us, chidagnikunda sambhootA, She was born out of the chidagni, the fire of the mind.
Why was She born? The fifth name tells us, Devakaarya samudbhavaa; for the benefit of the devas.
What does She look like? See the sixth name: udyat bhaanu sahasraabhaa; like the light of a thousand rising suns.
What are Her physical attributes? The seventh name, caturbAhu samanwitaa; with four arms.
And so, on it goes ...
Q: So it is correct to say that these are truly not names - they are simply descriptives.
A: Yes, that is what I am saying. When you understand the Lalitopakhyana, and then stop at each name in Lalita Sahasranama and reflect on the relevant part of Lalitopakhyana, it becomes a meditation. You visualise the birth and acts of Lalita; She becomes ALIVE. She manifests herself. She appears before you. The descriptive names help you to visualise and relive her acts. It becomes a powerful meditation. It makes you one with HER! And that's the whole purpose of upasana. Understanding and doing it is an upasana by itself. Hence it is called the greatest sahasranama.
Q: Thank you.
A: Read the Lalitopakhyana, if you haven't. And Tripura Rahasya too. Those are the primary texts you should know. Lalita Sahasranama, Lalitopakhyana and Tripura Rahasya. And thank Ms. Yvonne for becoming the catalyst for me to mention these texts. I am very happy she caused me to refer to these texts to the group. You see? Everything has a purpose and result!
Q: Between the three of those texts, there is an ocean of knowledge, a lifetime of study.
A: But as I always say, we are just standing near the shore of the ocean and dipping our hand in -- and even for that, we are the lucky few in the world! There are greater treasures out there.Unimaginable treasures to be likened to great pearls, and what not!
Aum Maatangyai Namahe
Why does DEVI have so many names
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