Spirituality is a journey from the outer world of names and forms to the subtle world of energies, to the innermost core of our being - the Self. The nature of the Self is described as Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram – Truth, Tranquility and Innocence, and Beauty.
Satyam, or The Truth is multi-dimensional. It is that which is unchanging with time and space, it is the substratum, basis of the entire creation.
Shivam is the embodiment of calmness and tranquility, innocence and benevolence. The aspect of Shiva is always mentioned alongside Shakti. Shakti is the primordial energy responsible for this entire creation. This energy is the feminine aspect and is addressed as the Mother Divine, the devi. Like the sea and the waves, though seemingly separate, they are essentially the same. Like the light and the lamp, Dancer and the Dance, Shiva and Shakti, the creation and the creative impulse are inseparable.
Sundaram means beauty. In life, we move from recognizing beauty outside to the beauty within which is the real beauty. The Saundarya Lahiri, which literally means, waves of beauty, is a composition by Sri Adi Shankara which glorifies the incomparable beauty of the divine mother. Seemingly, it is a case of a classic contradiction. Adi Shankara, a saint, an advaitin, full of dispassion, firmly established in the non-dual consciousness, how did he come to sing such verses which describe the beauty of the form, the names, the attributes of the Divine Mother?
Adi Shankara in the Saundarya Lahiri speaks of the Apangat (Kama – the God of Love) who is an archer with a bow and five arrows. Each arrow is made up of five flowers. When Apangat hits you with an arrow of flowers, a wave of beauty is created inside you.
The five flowers represent the five senses. Through the five senses you experience something that is beyond the senses. You experience a wave of beauty rising deep inside you, and your eyes close. You are no longer in form; you have dissolved into the formless. In fact, it is incorrect to say you have dissolved into the formless. You are formless.
In this way, Adi Shankara has described the beautiful journey from the gross to the subtle, the outer to the inner, the form to the formless, and the limited to the infinite non-dual consciousness.Established in such a state, you start appreciating everything from a thorn to a snail to even a sea urchin.
Dispassion to one’s Self, dedication to society and devotion to God is the secret of undying beauty. Without dispassion, beauty is short-lived. But possessiveness turns beauty into a mirage. Devotion and wonderment is simply appreciating beauty without possessiveness. You see a beautiful painting and you want to own it, you want to take it home with you, but then you hang it on your wall and after a while you don’t even look at it. Adi Shankara is an embodiment of dispassion. It is no wonder that he could fully cognize and experience the beauty in the entire creation.
Beauty creates a thrill; it wakes up the sleeping consciousness. Beauty can also bring ecstasy and draw you into deep meditation. Meditation is complete relaxation.
Meditation is de-concentration. Meditation is like a cool shower for the mind.
Meditation is the act of getting in touch with your own divinity.
Meditation is getting back to your nature. Your nature is truth, innocence and beauty.
To be able to perceive truth or beauty in creation, calmness is essential. An agitated mind can neither see the truth nor appreciate beauty. That’s why Satyam, Shivam and Sundaram always go together. The whole of Creation is nothing but ‘Waves of Beauty’.
(This article has appeared in The Times of India newspaper)