Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Spiritual Journey of Lal Ded

LAL DED AND HER SPIRITUAL JOURNEY*


--Dr. S .S. Toshkhani

What is it in the vāks or poetical utterances of Lalleshwari, the great 14th century mystic woman poet of Kashmir that continues to move and inspire and enthrall generations of the Kashmiri speaking people centuries after they fell from her lips? Is it her profound mystic insights into reality, her existential angst and anguish, her deep understanding of the human condition or the power and beauty of her imagery? Or is it her compassionate vision for spiritual liberation of mankind rooted in her Shaiva worldview? Or all these put together that constitute her poetic image? For me personally, she remains the greatest poet-saint that the Kashmiri language has ever produced. Every time I read her, I feel the joy and excitement of having explored a new world of meanings, of having ventured into what lies at the core of the peculiarly Kashmiri sense of values and ideals.

Known more popularly as Lal Ded or Mother Lalla, this venerated and celebrated Kashmiri Shaiva poetess seemed to be herself conscious of the power that she wielded over the minds of people. In one of her most poignant verses she says:

Dress yourself in the clothes of knowledge
And on your heart inscribe what Lalla said in verse
For through meditation on the sacred syllable Om
Lalla became absorbed in the light of consciousness
And thus she overcame the awe of death.


These lines also reveal that this power had its source in her spiritual egalitarianism derived from her non-dual Shaiva vision of reality which sees the whole universe as a manifestation of pure consciousness vibrating at every level and in every atom. She lived in times which were most critical and turbulent in the history of Kashmir, with two belief and value systems – one indigenous and the other alien – clashing ominously when Islam made its advent into the Valley. Playing a momentous role, Lal Ded saved the indigenous cultural structures from collapsing and ensured continuity by taking the essence of Kashmir Shaivism to the masses in their own native speech. Her choice of colloquial Kashmiri to pour out her heart’s devotion for Shiva was perhaps the greatest statement she made in those times of political and cultural upheaval that had torn Kashmir apart, her advocacy of the devotional path reinforcing the tremendous impact this had on the common people. It struck an immediate chord with them, enlarging her reach and tremendously magnifying the range of her appeal. And today, when cataclysmic events have again shaken the land of Kashmir and its cultural face lies battered and bruised and bloodied beyond recognition, Lal Ded’s words of immense wisdom offer spiritual solace and succor to the wounded psyche of its people.

One thing that has been completely overlooked and therefore needs to be pointed out here is that it was Kashmir Shaivism which encouraged the use of the regional language for spreading its teachings. The very beginnings of Kashmiri literature are a consequence of this encouragement as can be seen in works like the Chhummā Sampradāya verses and Mahānaya Prakāśa, which provide the earliest written evidence of the Kashmiri language. Lal Ded’s decision to express herself in Kashmiri could well have something to do with this factor. However, it is in her vāks that we hear the first distinct heartbeats of Kashmiri poetry whereas the earlier works cannot be strictly called literary compositions.

Lal Ded’s choice of vāk as the medium for her poetic outpourings was indeed most appropriate. The crisp, aphoristic, cryptic four-line verse-form was quite suitable for the rhythm of thought that marked her poetic expression and was also easy for the common man to adapt to his ear and to memorize. It was no random choice, for it is around the term vāk that the whole logos of Kashmir Shaivism revolves, according to which language can be a liberating force if it mirrors the reality of our life as a manifestation of universal consciousness. Abhinavagupta defines vāk as vimarśa or “reflective awareness of the Self” – “vakti svarūpam vimriśatiti vāk”.[1] Thus, viewed from this perspective, vāk is the most appropriate term for a verse form which could be used for the kind of reflective poetry that poets like Lalla composed. Before her we find Shitikantha also composing his Mahānayaprakāśa in a similar metrical form. Later Rūpa Bhavānī too adopted it as the medium to express her mystical experiences. But the rich suggestiveness of meanings with which Lal Ded infused it to communicate her deep intuitive experience of reality at various levels remains unsurpassable. The question whether vāk as a verse form is patterned after the Rigvedic metres, the Śloka of Sanskrit, the Āryā of Prākrit or Gāhā of Apabhramsha or whether it is a purely indigenous genre may have academic relevance, but the fact remains that she extended the limits of its possibilities to the farthest horizons.

What gave her poetry its distinctive flavour, its power and punch was the vigour and vitality of her idiom, the effect being reinforced by her use of imagery taken from everyday life. The non-dual Shaivism of Kashmir, it must be noted, sought to internalize the forest rather than asking one to renounce the world and enjoined upon spiritual aspirants to carry on their meditative practices in the midst of the daily flow of life. It was perhaps because of this that the images evoked by her verses “sunk” in ordinary people’s consciousness and became an aesthetic delight for them even though the speculative and esoteric content must have eluded the grasp of many. What Lal Ded’s vāks really did was to provide them with a spiritual vision and moral strength with which they could arm their souls to meet the tremendous challenge that the times posed for them. From this point of view, Lal Ded was not a mere itinerant woman poet-saint of the 14th century, but a symbol of the continuity of five thousand years of Kashmir’s civilisational ethos.

Everything about Lal Ded suggests that she was extraordinary – a spiritual and a creative genius who “had a special personality, spoke in a special voice, left a special imprint on the minds of later generations”, to borrow words used by Linda Hess to describe Kabir[2] who bears many similarities to her. Yet, for all her brilliance as a poet and greatness as a saint, her dazzling mystic insights and intellectual attainments, we know very little about Lal Ded’s life which is lost in a haze of legends and hagiographical accounts that surrounds it. This has resulted in blurring her actual biographical profile, leaving us with little if any material that is objectively verifiable and, therefore, credible. To grope for kernels of truth in the no-man’s land between fact and fiction is obviously an unenviable task that can hardly be expected to take us far.

While the Sanskrit chronicles are totally silent about Lal Ded’s existence, perhaps because she lived and moved about in a milieu that had little to do with the kings and their courts, and their wars and intrigues, the Persian chronicles too say nothing about her till Muhammad Azam Dedamari refers to her as “ārifā-kāmilā Lalla” in his Wāqiāt-i-Kaśmīr as late as in 1746. Earlier, Dawood Mishqati had mentioned her name in his hagiographical work Asrār-ul-Abrār (1654). But what is forgotten is that the first, the very first, reference to her is by Rūpa Bhavānī (1620-1720), who in her Rahasyopadeśa very clearly acknowledges Lal Ded as her guru:

Śuddham atyant vidyādharam
Lal nām lal param gvaram
[I have as my supreme guru Lalleshwari, who is pure and greatly learned.]

This is a very significant statement coming as it does from someone who is herself regarded as a great Kashmiri woman mystic poet and is even revered as an incarnation of the Goddess Sharikā by a section of Kashmiri Pandits. The parallels between her life and that of Lal Ded are numerous, including ill treatment by the husband and his family. Not only does Rūpa Bhavānī refer reverentially to Lal Ded as her guru along with her own father Madhav Dhar, we find her even adopting the same poetical style and using the same verse form, vāk, used by Lalla. And yet this fact, which has significant ramifications as it demolishes many a myth floated about Lal Ded, is almost completely ignored, deliberately or otherwise. What it proves beyond any shadow of doubt is that Lal Ded was not suddenly discovered by the Persian chroniclers while others had completely forgotten her. The fact is that Lal Ded has all along remained alive in folk memory and folk imagination, her orally transmitted verses making her virtually a wisdom tree for generations of common Kashmiris.

She must have already become a revered icon of the Kashmiri society when Rājānaka Bhāskara penned down sixty of her vāks for the first time in the Sharada script and translated them into Sanskrit sometime in the 18th century. Yet, her phenomenal popularity, even during her own lifetime, and the tremendous reverence she commanded due to the exalted stature she is said to have attained as a saint, led to determined and sustained attempts to build false image constructs around her with the sole object of appropriating her for ideologies totally alien to her and incompatible with the non-dual Kashmir Shaiva tradition that forms an integral part of her mental and intellectual make-up.

What has further complicated the situation and unleashed storms of confusion and controversy is a frenzied campaign to link her with protagonists of proselytizing Sufi orders. Orchestrated claims of interpenetration of stray Sufi elements into her poetry are made by those who profess to be scholars but are actually very uncomfortable with the fact that someone who is regarded as a symbol of whatever Kashmir stands for belongs to a different religious reality than theirs. Acting on their religious reflexes they use these so-called Sufi elements as a ploy to snatch away Lal Ded’s real identity from her. There is nothing in the text of her verses to support their fabrications as whatever Lal Ded has said falls absolutely within the framework of the non-dual Shaiva philosophy of Kashmir. How else would have Rupa Bhavani accepted her as a spiritual preceptor and even imitated her style or Shams Faqir used Sanskrit yogic terms to pay a glowing poetic tribute to her? Attempts to re-slot her into conventions and systems other than to which she really belonged are motivated by intentions to subvert historical facts so that the real Lal Ded is lost to us and replaced by an unauthentic shadow. To say, for instance, that the use of wine by her as a metaphor reveals a decisive Persian mystic and therefore Sufi influence is to betray utter ignorance of the poetic traditions to which she belonged. It has been profusely used by her predecessor, the celebrated author of Śivastotrāvalī, Utpaldeva to describe his state of God-intoxication. At one place, for example, he exclaims:
“Drunk am I by drinking the wine of the Elixir of Immortality (rasāyana) which is Your worship, perpetually flowing through the channels of the senses from the goblets, full [to the overflowing] of all existing things.”[3]

In the other Shaiva texts too it has been used to describe the aftermath of self-realization as a result of spiritual practice. In Tantrāloka, for instance, Abhinavagupta visualizes the yogi emerging after the practice of the “internally enacted” mahāyāga (Great Sacrificial Rite) in the following ritual gesture:

“[The yogi’s] Ritual gesture (mudrā) is whatever bodily posture the yogi may assume when fully absorbed in consciousness, he moves, staggering about (ghūrnita), as it were, drunk with the wine of self realization.”[4]

This being the case, it is necessary to arrive at an authentic Lal Ded – a flesh and blood one or at least a credible poetic version of what she could actually have been. And for this false constructs of her image shall have to be discarded and dumped. These, in fact, can be discredited on the grounds of chronology and historical plausibility alone. Need it to be stressed that stories fabricated for this purpose, like the so-called miracle of the oven telling us about a “nude” Lal Ded scurrying to hide herself in a baker’s oven on seeing “a man for the first time”, are an insult to Kashmiri womanhood. There is no way, it must be realized, that the Paramashiva of her poetry can be morphed into a Semitic Godhead, however much you may try. As Prof. B.N. Parimu puts it, “the key to Lalla’s mysticism is the Shivadvaita or Trika philosophy of Kashmir”.[5] And while monotheism is all exclusive, not allowing any other than a master-servant relationship between God and man, the monism of the Trika Shaivism of Kashmir is all inclusive.

It is indeed a great irony that a poetess whose verses aim to bring us face to face with our real selves should herself continue to be seen through false lenses. With those engaged in falsifying the facts of her life showing no signs of giving up, whatever their motivation, the only way left for us to arrive at an authentic Lal Ded lies through the text of her verses. Even though this text itself is marred by vicious interpolations, her verses, in their present corrupted state also, are packed with real biographical material. In them we can discover the course of her spiritual and poetic journey and identify the various ports of call she touched and the destinations she arrived at. The risks in this approach are many as the verses have come to us through oral transmission, and certainly not in the language in which they originally were. Then of course they have been randomly recorded, giving us no clue to the actual chronological order in which they must have been composed. Yet, all these risks are worth taking.

We will not try to reinvent the events of Lalla’s outer life or disregard everything that the legends say about her just for the sake of it, for some of them may contain a modicum of truth while others may belong purely to the realm of hagiography and imagination. But to reclaim her not as a mysterious abstraction but as a real persona, we can pick up the biographical threads scattered in her vāks and reconstruct with their help facts of her mystic life, her experiences as a woman, her views about the relationship between God, Man and the World.

Let us begin with the story of an introvert village girl interested more in answers to existential questions than in mundane matters. Her trauma began the day she was married to a nincompoop husband insensitive to her spiritual aspirations and a mother-in-law who used innovative methods to starve and torment her. Though this seems to be in line with the typical mother-in-law-daughter-in-law stories current in Indian folk lore, it may not necessarily be totally fictitious. As tradition believes, Lal Ded finally put her foot down and walked out of her unhappy marriage, snapping all ties with her husband and the tyrannical mother-in-law. The flashpoint came when, according to the legend, the husband broke with his stick the pitcher of water she had carried home all the way from the river bank. This was one of Lalla’s daily chores, but that morning she was somewhat unusually late as she took a little more time in her meditations at her favourite temple of Nattakeshava Bhairava, making her husband suspect her fidelity. The pitcher broke to smithereens but the water is said to have remained as it was and she is said to have filled all the vessels in her kitchen with it. The remaining water she threw outside where it formed a pond that came to be called as Lalatrāg, says the legend. This became a decisive moment for her and she revolted, making it plain to the tyrant duo that she could take it no longer. Refusing to play the gender-determined role of an obedient daughter- in-law any more, she said that she was going to take her own decisions and choose her own way of life. Leaving her husband’s home for ever, she became a wandering ascetic. It was in no way an easy decision for a woman to take in her time, as it left her socially unprotected and insecure.

Living her life on her own terms as an individual now, she had no one to look to for guidance or help except the old Siddha Shrikantha, an adept in Kashmiri Shaiva yoga who belonged to the lineage of the sage Vasugupta. Earlier in her life also she had received spiritual direction from him. On the evidence provided by her verses, one can safely come to the conclusion that she must have studied a wide range of the seminal texts of Kashmir Shaivism with the venerable Shaiva master, including the Tantrāloka, Śivasūtra and Vijñāna Bhairava.

One cannot but wonder, therefore, to find modern Lal Ded scholars like Jaishree Kak Odin accept on the one hand that “Lalla’s verses reveal her deep knowledge of the esoteric practices of Kashmir Shaivism”[6] and on the other hand use all the shrill feminist jargon at her command to make statements in her otherwise excellent study of the saint-poet, that have really no relevance: “Her oral transmission can be seen as a subversive act to the written discourse to which she and other people did not have access”[7]; and, “Her life in many ways represents a challenge to the prescriptive ideology of brahminical texts, including the Gita…”[8], etc. One does not know on what evidence she describes Lalla as “an outsider to the written Kashmiri Shaiva tradition”[9]. In making such sweeping observations, Jaishree Odin seems to be toeing the line of the colonial historians of yore and their present day successors, the Marxist-liberal scholars who reduce everything Hindu to “Brahminism” -- a bogey some dyed-in-wool feminists also find fashionable to raise. Arun Shourie has aptly summed up this left-lib-feminist approach to Hinduism in the following words: “In a word, both corruption and evil on the one hand and exploitation on the other are germane to, they are inherent in Hinduism: Hinduism is Brahminism; Brahminism is that ‘ism’ which serves the interests of the Brahmins; these interests can only be served by the exploitation of and oppression of people of lower castes. Hence Hinduism is necessarily an arrangement for the exploitation and suppression of the mass of people.”[10]

Jaishree Kak Odin certainly knows, or should have known, that Kashmir Shaivism does not discriminate on the basis of caste, creed or gender and that the Tantric worldview it is rooted in regards the ultimate reality as feminine in essence. Her pettifogging therefore over whether the impersonal and transcendent reality called Shiva is male or female is inconsequential; whatever her feminist reflexes may make her to say. She surely knows that Kashmir Shaivism had its female adepts much before Lal Ded appeared on the scene, Yoginīs like Keyuravati, Madanikā and Kalyānikā having imparted the knowledge of the doctrines of its Krama School to male aspirants Yogaraja, Bhanuka and Eraka, who in turn spread it to areas as far as the Chola kingdom.[11] As for oral transmission, that was how disciples were actually introduced to the theory and practice of non-dual Shaivism by their preceptors. Odin should have also remembered that the great Abhinavagupta gave priority to direct experience over knowledge of what she calls the “prescriptive texts”; and if Lal Ded did so it was not just because she was a woman, but because she was a mistress of Shaiva yoga.

Perhaps this is a digression, but it became necessary to set the perspective right. Coming back to Lalleshwari, she began a new life as a liberated woman with the quest of the divine taking her from place to place as a wandering ascetic. We do not know anything specifically about these wanderings of hers, but she renounced only the householder’s life and not exactly the world as that was not the Shaiva way of approaching existential problems. All we can say is that she got Siddha Shrikantha’s guidance and sympathy in full measure as she set out on her spiritual quest, even though legends say that she could not resist taking occasional potshots even at him. This is how we find her when she started her spiritual journey: tormented by loneliness, uncertainty, anxiety, self-doubt, inner conflict, yet restless to find out the deep secrets of life and death. We have no means to know what the first vāk she composed must have been, but poetry must have surely come to her as a medium to express her agony and anguish, to connect her with the eternal, the transcendent, the divine. It must have helped her to retain her equipoise amidst mental turmoil. To survive! Here is how she depicts her state of mind in probably one of her earliest though most memorable vāks:

With a rope of untwisted thread I tow my boat upon the ocean
Will my God hear me and carry me across?
Like water in vessels of unbaked clay, I am wasting away
Oh, how I long that I would reach my home!

This verse evokes the image of a forlorn and frail woman fighting rising waves to tow her rickety boat across a perilous sea with a prayer to God on her lips and restlessness in heart to reach the other shore where her home is. Sounding more like an anguished cry, it shows how vulnerable and weak Lal Ded must have felt when she embarked on her God-ward journey. How unsure of herself. How helpless. Towing boats in turbulent waters is a common scene in Kashmir and the metaphor of crossing bhavasāgara or the sea of existence is often used by Bhakti poets. But how touchingly personal it has become here, the words “untwisted thread” creating a tremendous effect. And how untouched and beautiful is the associated image of being wasted like water in vessels of unbaked clay. This is typical Lalla -- original and extremely creative. The feeling of frustration and utter fruitlessness of all efforts that this metaphor expresses is really moving.

In fact, Lal Ded’s verses are an intimate record of her sufferings and struggles, her aspirations and achievements. Sometimes they show her beset with lack of self-confidence and overcome with despair and frustration. Sometimes they depict her restlessness to establish a personal relationship with Shiva, the pangs of separation that torment her mind and the intense desire of absorption in Him There are also times when she realizes that it is her own imperfections and weaknesses, her own un-preparedness and follies which are hindering her progress towards her destination. But the most memorable of her verses are those that reveal her heart’s wounds from under the saffron robes of detachment:

I Lalla went forth in the hope of blooming like a cotton flower
Many a blow did the ginner and the carder give to me
And the spinning woman spun me into a fine yarn
The weaver stretched me on his loom with a kick
But when the washerman dashed me on the washing stone
And rubbed me hard with fuller’s earth and soap
And the tailor’s scissors cut me piece by piece
Then did I, Lalla, obtain the way of the Supreme.

Here Lalla uses the analogy of the process of manufacturing a garment from a cotton pod to illustrate the suffering she has endured at various stages of her spiritual development. At each stage the progress is extremely slow, but there is no way but to go through this entire excruciating process to reach the final stage of perfection.

In another verse she tries to say that she is well aware that she is ill equipped for pursuing her spiritual goals. She simply does not have the wherewithal for it, she feels:

For my wooden bow, I have a reed for an arrow!
An unskilled carpenter for building my royal mansion!
In the marketplace, a shop unguarded am I
A body uncleansed by waters holy
Oh how can I tell my plight!

How can she expect to hit the target when the arrow she has on her bow is but a blade of rush grass. The carpenter she has got to build her royal mansion is totally unskilled, she laments, referring to her body. Her physical and mental faculties, she feels, are hardly developed to help her transcend her limitations. She is just not in shape to go for the ultimate goal. And whatever little merit she may have already acquired, she is in the danger of loosing in her unguarded moments, like a shop without a lock in a busy marketplace which can be easily burgled. Her mind is like a flock without a shepherd with its thoughts like sheep running in all directions.

The feeling of being “suspended in the emptiness between two worlds, one which she has just left and one whose threshold she has not yet crossed but whose door, soon to close again had opened slightly”[12], overtakes her. That is what she seems to express in this verse:

The sling of my candy load is loosened
Bent is my body like a bow
I don’t know how to carry this burden?
My guru’s words have pained me like a blister of loss
Like a flock without a shepherd I have become

The weight of worldly pleasures, “sweet and enticing as candy” has begun to hurt as the “shoulder knot” that holds it on her back has loosened a bit “because of her entry into the mystic life”, but the burden has now become more unbearable. Even her guru’s words are proving of little help as he has told her to give up allurements of worldly things and concentrate on meditating on her inner self. And this she is not able to do because she finds that materiality still distracts her.

In yet another verse we find Lalla assailed by self-doubt and feelings of uncertainty and helplessness. The fear of loosing direction and being stranded midway between what she has given up and what she is yet to achieve overtakes her:

I came by the highway but by the highway I did not return
Stranded I am now halfway on the embankment
And the light of the day has already faded
I searched my pockets but not a penny did I find
What shall I now pay to the ferryman for ferrying me across?

Desperateness seizes her as she feels that she does not have the means to reach the other shore of transcendence. In terms of Shaiva praxis, the problem with Lalla as a questing mystic is that she is disempowered because forces operating outside her consciousness are crippling her. To move towards empowerment, she needs to undergo more rigrous discipline and strenuous practice. “Gururupāyah”, the guru is the means, says the Śivasūtra.[13] So she approaches her guru for guidance, and the first thing he tells her is to withdraw from the external world and turn her gaze into the inner core of her being:

My Guru said but one thing you must know,
How, from within, still further in to go
The words became my precept and my chance
And so it is, I Lalla, naked dance.
(Trs. Nila Cram Cook)

What the guru is stressing here is interiority, or inwardness, which is one of the fundamental features of practice in Kashmir Shaivism. It is important for the Shaiva aspirant to realize that everything resides within our own consciousness and nothing exists outside it. As Mark S.G. Dyczkowski writes:

“This all embracing inwardness is only possible if there is an essential identity between the universe and consciousness. The events which constitute the universe are always internal events happening within consciousness because their essential nature is consciousness itself.”[14]

In Kashmir Shaiva terminology, this is called ātmavyāpti. Shaivism suggests two methods to realize non-duality between the self and the universe: ātmavyāpti and Śivavyāpti. In ātmavyāpti or self-expansion, the universe is seen as an expansion of the self and the seeker merges the external world into his/her inner consciousness to realize the self within himself/herself. In Śivavyāpti, the process reaches its fruition “when the inner knowledge gained is applied to the external world in extrovert meditation” and “the outer is looked upon as a gross form of the inner”, as Dyczkowski puts it.[15]

Yet, ignoring what it actually seeks to convey, the meaning of this verse has been completely mutilated. The connection of the last line is severed from the context provided by the first three lines and Lal Ded’s emphasis on the ecstasy of inwardness is treated as her self-confession of wandering in the nude. The word used in the original Kashmiri is “natsun”, which means “to dance” and also obliquely “to wander”. So it is subjected to willful distortion and taken to mean that Lalla actually disrobed and went about in that state without caring for social conventions of decorum or decency. This is hardly credible as wandering naked in the freezing temperatures of Kashmir winters is just not possible. Besides, Lal Ded herself in several of her verses talks of the necessity for feeding and clothing the body. Trying to explain things, Georg Feurestein expresses the view that “the nudity attributed is a symbol of her profound surrender to Shiva, which stripped her of all egoic motivation”[16]. I personally feel that that Lal Ded’s statement about her so-called disrobing could well be a reference to discarding the pañchakañchukas or the five coverings of Maya that conceal the real nature of the self. And of course the word “natsun” could be literary taken to mean dancing in the ecstatic state of God-consciousness. But even if she did move about scantily clad, challenging the orthodoxy and throwing the rigid conventional codes of dress and decorum to the winds, like the Kannada saint poetess Mahadeviakka, it can be taken as her last act of defiance against an oppressive social system whose gender discriminatory rules she just could not accept.

Lal Ded was in a greatly disturbed state of mind after she turned her back to her husband’s home and took a leap into the dark to set out on the unexplored path to mystic realization. Rejecting a socially protected life, she finds herself vulnerable and exposed to every kind of insecurity and anxiety, including that of staving off hunger, as this verse seems to suggest:

O restless mind, do not be afraid!
The Eternal One is taking care of you
You may not know it, but He will satiate your hunger
To Him alone you must cry for help.

In another verse she says:

Do not torment your body with pangs of hunger and thirst
When it feels weak and weary, take tender care of it.

While she faces the harsh realities of life like hunger and poverty with a sense of surrender before the divine will, and is intensely aware of the agony and anguish of existence, she is greatly excited about the tremendous possibilities of transformation as she passes through various phases of her mystic life. As her verses reveal, her sensibilities are constantly assailed by the immensity of human suffering at all levels – existential as well as spiritual. But for her its solution lies in the benevolent grace of Shiva, for mystic union with whom her craving and longing intensifies day by day:

I, Lalla, set out with burning longing
And seeking, searching passed the day and night
Till lo, I saw to mine own house belonging
The Pandit, and seized my luck and star of light.
(Trs. Nila Cram Cook)

In some English translations the word “pandith” (Pandit) of the original Kashmiri has become “a learned man”, but here it refers to “the master of the house”, a sense in which it is still used in common Kashmiri parlance. Symbolically, it means the Self, while the word “house” symbolizes the human body. Interestingly, the Kannada Vachana poet Basvanna also invokes the symbolism of “the master of the house” in a similar sense.

We now see Lalla expressing her mystic feelings – the pangs of separation, the pain of ecstatic love, the burning passion of the desire for communion, the frustration of loosing the direction, the total surrender of ego before His will, the determination to surmount all difficulties in love’s way and the ecstasy of the final beatitude. Her efforts to overcome the limitations and weaknesses that “bind her to the material reality” and impede her progress intensify. She realizes that the great agony she has endured has its roots in innate ignorance. She tries to arm herself with a clearer vision and a greater awareness and sets out in a frantic search of Shiva:

I, Lalla wearied myself searching and seeking
Straining my every nerve I looked for Him
But found His doors slammed and bolted
My longing became all the more intense
And I stood there keeping a watchful eye for Him.

To express her personal mystical awareness of the Supreme Reality, Lal Ded takes the route of devotion, laying bare the wounds of her soul to Shiva, though her devotion is laced with speculative knowledge. As her vāks reveal, she combines her quest for gnostic illumination with the depth of her emotional experience. The ease with which she establishes an emotional relationship with Shiva, the ineffable, impersonal and formless God of Trika metaphysics, making him look personal, points to her genius both as a saint and a poet. In fact, mystical traditions “have sought and affirmed the possibility of such a relationship”. Lal Ded tries to make it compatible through her splendid imagery which she takes from her everyday experience. Kashmir Shaivism, it must be noted, does not regard this experience to be different from spiritual experience. Through her simple but spontaneous utterances she attunes our mind to the presence of the divine as the one consciousness pervading the whole universe.

Translating her spiritual experience into soul-stirring poetry, Lalla makes her entry into another phase of her mystic journey. It is a crucial phase marked by profound devotional fervour, with love for the divine helping her overcome depression and despair. But it would be wrong to give this mystic strain a Sufi context as it is located in the Shaiva Bhakti tradition represented by great poets like Bhatta Narayana and Utpaldeva who preceded Lal Ded, although they expressed themselves in Sanskrit.

It is Bhatta Narayana, a direct disciple of Vasugupta (9th century), who can be considered as the first poet of devotional non-dual Shaivism in Kashmir. He authored Stavachintamani or ‘The Wishing Jewel of Praise’, a poem of 120 verses dedicated to love directed towards Shiva. It has as its main theme the union of Shiva and Shakti in the form of prakāśa and vimarśa or light and self-awareness. Utpaldeva (10th century), a brilliant thinker and theologian besides a great poet, who followed Bhatta Narayana, wrote the Śivastotrāvalī or ‘The Series of Hymns to Shiva’, which in the words of Paul E. Murphy is the “most beautiful of Shaiva love songs”[17]. In this work he expresses himself in an impassioned form of devotional verse in a personal and touching style.

Together, the three of them -- Bhatta Narayana, Utpaldeva and Lalleshwari – can be regarded as the foremost representatives of Shaiva bhakti poetry of Kashmir, with the difference that Lalleshwari chose to express herself in Kashmiri, the language of the common masses, as we have pointed out earlier, while the former two poets wrote in Sanskrit. All of them display a sense of harmony between rigrous metaphysical thought and mystic experience, self-awareness and devotional fervour. Though Lal Ded appeared on the scene nearly four hundred years after these two predecessors of hers, she shared with them a sharp feeling of the immediate presence of Shiva, the Divine Being, and a mind inflamed by a powerful longing for him. Her poetry, like theirs, stems from an intense sense of resignation to the divine will and reflects her vivacity, vitality and deep sincerity. Lalla approaches Shiva yearning intensely to attain mystic communion with Him. There are times when He seems to elude her but she refuses to give up the search and appears more determined to find Him and even possess Him:

I diffused outside the light that lit up within me
And in that darkness I seized Him
And held Him tight!

Images and metaphors relating to the concept of Shiva’s self-luminosity abound in Shaiva devotional poets. The ‘darkness’ that Lal Ded talks about is the dark ‘Mystical Night of Differentiation’ accompanied by anguish and suffering, but it ultimately leads to the bright ‘Night of Un-differentiation’. The image that Lalla evokes here bears a striking similarity to some of Bhatta Narayana’s images. In one such image Bhatta Narayana shows himself clenching Shiva and holding Him in his fist with an impassioned cry:

“Here you are, I am holding you in my fist!
Here you are, I’ve seen you, where are you fleeing?”
(Stavachintamani: Trs. Paul E. Murphy)

Utpaladeva too describes this Mystical Night, and calls it the Night of Shiva:

Let this inexpressible Night of Shiva reign supreme
Shiva whose radiant essence spreads its own brightness
It is in it that the moon and the sun as well as other (dualities)
Penetrate when they set.
(Shivastotravali: Trs.Paul.E. Murphy)

Abhinavagupta describes this Night of “undifferentiated and ineffable” Shiva as “Light of all Lights, darkness of all darknesses”. Lal Ded uses this symbolism of the Mystical Night in several other verses also, as in the following one:

The day will be extinguished and the night will come
The earth will be extended to the sky
On the day of the new moon, the moon has swallowed up rahu
Realization of the self as consciousness is the true worship of Shiva

The Kashmiri Shaivite aspirant believes that suffering and sorrow will continue to depress the individual soul unless it achieves samāveśa or complete absorption with Shiva, the undifferentiated reality. This is possible only by elimination of mental states and thought constructs (vikalpas) through yoga. The soul has to rid itself of all the impurities and limitations that are the root cause of its predicament. In Shaiva terminology the limiting factors that give rise to the perception of duality are known as malas and there are three of them – ānava mala, kārma mala and māyīya mala. Ānava mala or “pollution of the miniscule” as Wagish Shukla calls it, is innate ignorance which conceals the individual soul’s real nature and metamorphoses it into a limited being devoid of universal consciousness. From this primary impurity arises kārma mala or the impurity of action, which implies “pseudo knowledge” that entangles the soul in the karmic cycle of birth and death, and māyīya mala or the psycho-physical limitation caused by association with the evolutes of māyā --. kalā or division, niyati or determinancy, rāga or attachment, vidyā or limited knowledge and kāla or time, also known as the pañchakañchukas or five coverings -- which cause the world to come about according to Shaiva theory of cosmogenesis . These impurities bring into play the process by which pure, undivided consciousness or Paramashiva concretizes into the universe covering 36 categories of limited, material existence. For overcoming these limitations and liberating the individual soul from bondage, Triadic mysticism offers a whole range of meditative techniques or methods known as upāyas. Lalleshwari appears to be fully aware of these and claims to have purified herself of all the impurities caused by Maya and its evolutes through intense practice and yogic discipline. She claims:

Impurities were wiped away from my mind
As from a mirror
Then only did I attain knowledge of the Self
And when I beheld that He was near me
I realized that He is all and I am nothing

Here the use of mirror as a metaphor needs particular attention. It is through the analogy of external objects reflected in a mirror that Shaiva thinkers of Kashmir explain how manifestations of consciousness are “separated from the Self”. In several other verses also Lalla claims that she has purified her mind by burning the dross that had gathered around it and prevented the self from revealing its true nature. As, for instance, in this one:

My heart I parched as farmers parch the grain
And from that fire there came a wondrous light
And Shiva in a flash I did obtain.
(Trs. Nila Cram Cook)

Lal Ded, it is said, attained enlightenment by practicing the kundalinī or layayoga which involves “meditative recitation of the sacred syllable Om combined with breath control and concentration”. The practice is actually known as uchchāra and is included under ānava upāya in Shaiva praxis. There are several vāks in which Lalla clearly refer to it. For instance, we have the following verse:

Having crossed the six forests, I awakened the moon
By controlling my breath I appeased nature
With the fire of love, I scorched my heart
And in this way I found Shankara.

The “six forests” are obviously the six chakras or centres of energy (plexuses) which the yogis seek to ‘pierce’ by arousing the coiled energy kundalinī. The ‘moon’ in esoteric Shaivism symbolizes “enlightened consciousness” or “the Heart of reality”, as Paul Eduardo Ortega-Muller explains, quoting Abhinavagupta.[18]

The yoga that Lal Ded practiced appears to have encompassed the various upāyas – ānava, śākta, śāmbhava and also anuttara or anupāya -- described in the Kashmir Shaiva texts as means to liberation. Her verses are replete with references to her intense sādhanā. However, it is not just her impressive use of the terminology of Shaiva yogic techniques that makes Lalla what she is. It is the “fire of love” burning within her heart and denoting intense mystical fervour that animates her vāks. Purifying her body and mind in this fire of spiritual passion, Lalla now acquires the mature poise of a soul who has arrived on the threshold of mystic realization.

Yogic experiences, we find, have exorcised the fears and tensions lurking in Lalla’s mind and uplifted her from the state of despondence and depression into the realm of divine grace. Trying to put her imperfections and limitations behind her, she moves decisively in her spiritual journey from gross to subtle, from object to subject, from outer to inner, experiencing higher and higher ranges of consciousness. It is a journey in which the infinite is reached by discarding the trappings of finitude and recognition of one’s true nature as Shiva – the transcendent absolute whose infinity pervades everything. The vision of Shiva being apparent everywhere is a transforming vision that frees a person from assertion of ego and one no longer sees oneself different from others. It is to this emancipating vision we see Lalla referring to in her poetry when she says:

One who sees no difference between oneself and others
Who regards the day and the night as the same
Whose mind is free of all duality
S/he alone has the vision of Shiva, the lord of the gods.

You will see different people in this theatre of the world
Tolerate this difference and you will find happiness
If you root out anger, resentment and ill-will
Then alone you will see Shiva’s face.

It is thus the unique spiritual egalitarianism of non-dual Shaiva philosophy which celebrates life and rejects the otherness of God that shapes Lalla’s outlook. Inspired by this mystic vision, she sees Shiva as a universally pervasive principle of consciousness. In a verse she emphasizes the oneness of all existence beautifully by using the three states of water as a metaphor:

Cold changes water into snow and then into ice
It looks as if the three states are different
But on reflection we find there to be no difference
And as the sun of consciousness shines
All this diversity is dissolved into unity

Then the entire universe, animate and inanimate, seems to us to be Shiva Himself

Lal Ded finally attains the rapturous state of illumination. It is supposed to be an experience that is inexpressible and indescribable, but she tries to share it with us in several of her verses:

In seeking ‘me’ and ‘Thee’ I passed the day
Absorbed within Thyself Thou hadst remained
When I beheld Thee in myself, I gained
For Thee and me that rapture unrestrained
(Trs. Nila Cram Cook)

At the end of moonlight to the mad one did I call
And soothe his pain with the love of God
Crying ‘It is Lalla, it is I Lalla’, my loved one I awakened
And by becoming one with Him my mind and body became pure

“The end of moonlight”, of course means the early dawn when the night of ignorance is over. “The mad one” is none else but the mind, “intoxicated and maddened by worldly illusion”. “The loved one” who is “awakened” by Lalla is the self.

The first step in this mystic progression is “self-annihilation or destruction of all doubt and dualism”, and the culmination is realization of one’s Shiva nature. It is an inexpressible and indescribable state in which nothing remains except Shiva-consciousness.

In telling images Lal Ded tries to describe the state of her mind as she attunes herself to feeling Shiva’s presence everywhere and in everything, naturally and freely. As one ineffable and undifferentiated reality, He transcends all polarities and yet is immanent as Shakti, making Himself known through the world of phenomena which She unfolds as His creative power. The two, in fact, are not separate from one another but two aspects of the one absolute reality. Lalla experiences the bliss of their union as she enters the garden of her own heart. And it is there that she finally quenches her thirst for the “nectar of un-differentiation”:

Through the door to the garden of my mind
I, Lalla, entered and lo what bliss!
I saw Shiva in communion with Shakti
There I became immersed in the lake of nectar
Now what can Death do unto me?
For I shall be dead even though alive!

This is the height of mystic experience that Lalla now attains – the state of becoming a jīvanmukta or liberated while still alive. In such a state death ceases to have any meaning.
Lalla’s tremendous sense of wonder at the blissful union of Shiva and Shakti that she experiences within her own self finds expression in the words “ta wāh”. Her unifying vision of the simultaneous unfolding of the harmony of both evolution and involution, the transcendent and immanent aspects of the Ultimate Reality is what constitutes absorption of ones consciousness in the infinite vastness of the void. This sense of wonder is the yogic plane of self-realization, as the Shiva Sutras say – vismayo yoga bhūmikāh.[19] The “lake of nectar” she refers to is the same as the “ocean of nectar of enlightenment” (bodhasudhā sindhu) which Kshemarāja alludes to in his explanation of another aphorism -- “āsanastham sukham hrade nimajjati” (“Abiding in this posture he plunges easily into the lake”) in his Śivasūtra Vimarśinī. The imagery of immersion (lay gayas) is to be particularly noted here with implications of absorption, submersion, dissolution, which all point to the wondrous delight of samāveśa.

Yet, even in the state of rapturous union with Shiva “full of incomparable sweetness” which has “filled the abyss of separation”[20] as Utpaldeva says, the ecstasy may last only for a moment like “a flash of lightening”.[21] It is samāveśa or total immersion in the Lord that the Shaiva mystic craves for. Like Utpaldeva, Lalla too is apprehensive that she may not after all be able to drink from the “cups of nectar” full to the brim that she sees tantalizingly before her:

Absorption in the Self led me to that house of nectar
There were cups filled to the brim but no one was drinking.

Eventually, Lalla reaches a stage where she acquires an uninterrupted and unmediated awareness of the Ultimate Reality. This is anupāya or ‘no-means’ in which there is direct experience of reality without recourse to any means. If all is Shiva, then there is nothing for the seeker to do but to remain as he or she is. Here all contradictions resolve and all opposites merge. The difference between subject and object, liberation and bondage disappears. It is an experience of the absolute beyond transcendence and immanence (Shiva and Shakti), existent or non-existent. It is about this state that Lalla speaks in this verse:
Nothing exists there --
Word or mind, manifest or transcendent
Nor vow of silence, nor yogic gestures
Have any admission there
Nor Shiva, nor His Shakti there reside
If anything remains then take that as the precept.

At another place we find her saying:

Neither you, nor I, nor meditation or its object exists
All actions are forgotten automatically
The blind could make nothing of it
But the wise became one with this supreme state.

Lalla attempts to express her experience of immersion into the ineffable reality called Shiva, whose essence is inconceivable and beyond contemplation except in terms of the concept of śūnya or emptiness. She takes us along this difficult metaphysical terrain with relative ease. Her favourite expression “śūnyas śūnyāh mīlith gav” (emptiness has merged with the emptiness) is widely relished by her readers though its actual meaning evades the understanding of most of them. The term śūnya has actually been taken by Kashmir Shaivite philosophers from Mādhyamikā Buddhism (or is it vijñānavāda of Yogāchāra School?), but interpreted in their own way by them to denote ‘fullness’ of the Absolute. Lalla often uses it to point to her state of absorption into the Supreme:

When the sun disappeared, there remained moonlight
When the moon vanished, only mind remained
When the mind too disappeared, then nothingness was left
Then earth, ether and sky merged into vacuity.

When the Tantras disappeared, the mantras remained
When mantra disappeared, the mind remained
When mind too disappeared then nothing remained
Emptiness merged with the emptiness.

The vicissitudes that Lal Ded goes through to arrive at the threshold of this experience are many. She traverses, in fact, a reverse journey from manifestation to undifferentiated awareness, from the categories of existence to the supreme subjectivity of Paramashiva, from the gross to the subtle and subtler. It is a process that involves piercing of the veils of Maya and expansion of consciousness to include the entire universe as one’s own self. It does not take place in any i external realm but in one’s own mind.

Though He was within, I searched for him outside
The control of breath soothed my nerves
Through meditation, I realized that the world and God are one
The manifest world became one with the unmanifest

Kashmir Shaivism is a life-affirmative philosophy that regards the human body as an abode of the divine. It validates the reality of the material world and considers consciousness to be the substratum and ground of everything. “yathā tatra tathā anyatra”[22], “As it is there so it is here”, says the Śivasūtra. As such, what is outside is not different from the core of one’s own inner being. And that is what is integral to Lal Ded’s thinking also.

Lalla’s mystic journey to realization was by no means an easy one. She attained the spiritual heights she came to scale after straining every nerve. She tells us of her excruciating experience in quite a few of her verses:

The soles of my feet tore off and smeared the paths I walked
Then the One alone showed me the one true path

But she emerges from this ordeal unscathed and brimming with self-confidence. It is a new Lalla, transformed in both body and mind. And she talks about this transformation with a new sense of self-assurance and in an unusually ecstatic tone:

The soul is ever new, the mind is new,
The waste of water I saw new and new!
Since body, mind I scoured through and through
I, Lalla, too, am ever new and new.
(Trs. Nila Cram Cook)

Her illumination to her is a real experience and she begins to see things in a new light. Her journey, she realizes, has been actually a journey of self-discovery in which it is Shiva who sets out in search of Shiva for Shiva is All – ora ti pānay yora ti pānay (“It is he Himself on this side and He Himself on the other”).

As a spiritual genius whose face radiated all the wisdom of an enlightened Shaiva sage (“I diffused my inner light in the world outside”), Lal Ded now starts wandering from place to place to share her insights with everybody who cared to listen. Displaying a Bodhisattva like compassion, she tries to reach out to the common people and engages in discourse with them. Shiva is not someone out there, she tells them, Shiva is everywhere. Shiva is everyone’s innate nature.

This must have certainly had a great impact on all those who came to Lal Ded for spiritual guidance. She seems to have known her audience well to which she explained the Triadic (trika) vision of oneness of God, man and the world in an idiom it could easily understand. And surely, despite her occasional admonishments and ruing that she is wasting her time “feeding molasses to asses”, it seems that she shared rather eagerly with admiring and appreciative groups of people her insights into the secrets of existence.

However, a non-conformist as she was, a rebel in her total rejection of outer ceremony, animal sacrifice, fasts and other shams and pretences, sacred dates and sacred places, and other forms of religious shams and pretences against which we find her lashing out in her vaaks, she must have offended some sections of the society of her times. To her these were mere “orthodox ritual genuflections”, to borrow an expression from A.K.Ramanujan[23], but her scathing attacks evoked hostility from the orthodoxy for which religious formalism was an accepted way of life. Not taking it kindly, they reacted sharply and in turn subjected her to mocks and jeers. She, however, remained unruffled, taking all the slander in its stride and refusing to get provoked, her humanistic impulses anchored in her Shaiva ethos, a way of looking at the world (Śivadriśti) without othering it, guiding her even in her relations with her detractors:

Let them hurl thousands of abuses at me,
I will not entertain any grievance in my mind
If I a true devotee of Shankara be
How can ashes stain the mirror, after all?

Here Lal Ded unambiguously affirms her status as a bhakta of Shankara, and it is in this capacity that adoration or abuse does not disturb her equanimity. This is an important assertion as Bhakti for her is not “just a simple attitude and an unthinking act of faith”, to put it in the words of Krishna Sharma which she uses in while talking of Kabir, “but a well reasoned and individual act of spiritual striving.”[24] Indeed it is her intense longing to be immersed in the love of the divine that gives her poetry the distinct flavour it has. But the Shankara she pines for is not the popular anthropomorphic deity of the Puranic pantheon, determinate and personal. He is the transcendental reality with no name or form or attributes, the ground and support of all animate and inanimate beings – “the void of absolute consciousness” as Swami Shankarānanda describes Him[25]. Yet the Kashmiri Shaivite devotional poet has no difficulty in experiencing Him in intimate and personal terms as we have already pointed out earlier. Lalla, and before her Bhatta Narayana and Utpaladeva, echo the paradox in their poetry which is as charged with love as the best of devotional verse addressed to any personal deity. Lalla says:

My guru I asked a thousand times
What is the name of Him who has no name
Again and again I asked till I became weary and tired
Out of this nothing something has come out

He is nameless as he is beyond thought, but his name is All-Names, to use the words of Mark S. G. Dyczkowski.[26] “It is a man who gives It a name to aid in his quest for enlightenment”, Dyczkowski writes, “and endear it to his own heart.”[27] Thus, he is called Shiva, Bhairava, Maheshvara, Parameshvara, Shambhu and so on by the great Shaivite sages like Vasugupta, Utpala, Kallata, Somānanda, Abhinavagupta, Kshemarāja and others, Shankara being the name mostly preferred by the preceptors of the Spanda School, and Bhairavanātha and Parameshvara by Abhinavagupta. Lalleshvari too calls Shiva by a host of names, some of them like Shyāmagalā (the Blue-throated One), Surgurunātha (Lord and preceptor of the gods) being uniquely her own. However, what is quite interesting is that like the Sahjiyā Siddhas or the Nāthapanthīs she has used the term “sahaj” at a few places to describe the Ultimate Reality:

For realizing the Ultimate one does not need
Restraint or self-control
The door to liberation will not open through mere wishing

Into this universe of birth I came,
By yoga gained the self-revealing light

The Sahajiyās practiced a form of Tāntric yoga as the most natural or easy way to attain the experience of sahaja or the Ultimate Reality. And like them the Kashmiri Shaivites too believe in attainment of sahaja samādhi or mystical trance as the natural state of liberation for the siddha yogis. The term sahaja is frequently used by them to denote the highest state of enlightenment which they regard as synonymous with anupāya which comes naturally and directly as intuitive realization annulling the requirement for any kind of practice. Lal Ded’s rejection of restraint and austere practices is perfectly in keeping with the six-limbed (śadānga) yoga propounded by Jayaratha and Kshemarāja. The point sought to be made here is that the two vāks of Lalleshwari quoted above help in confirming the link between the Sahajiyā Siddhas and Kashmir Shaivism. Paul Muller-Ortega quotes Mircea Eliade to show that such links did indeed exist not with the Sahajiyās alone but also with the Hatha Yogis and the Nātha Panthīs.[28] The synthesis that Eliade says took place among elements of Sahajiyā tāntrism (both Hindu and Buddhist), Nāthas and the Hatha Yogis between the seventh and the eleventh century, “deserves close scrutiny” says Muller-Ortega, pointing out that “the Kaula lineage (in Kashmir Shaivism) is one of the important sources for this synthesis.”[29] The question is was Lal Ded directly aware of these “sources”? Did she have any links with the elements that were components of this synthesis?

Lalla gives this yearning of oneness with Shiva as the transcendent reality a unique twist by expressing her desire to be one with His immanent aspect also. If “Shiva is all” then how can He be different from the ordinary man -- the man on the street who laughs and sneezes and coughs and yawns, she says in a powerful yet totally ignored verse:

Yes He it is Who laughs and coughs and yawns
He, the ascetic naked all the year,
Who bathes in sacred pools in all the dawns
But recognize how He to you is near.
(Trs. Nila Cram Cook)

There are dimensions of Lal Ded’s personality and creativity which have to be explored before we can understand the entire range of her attainments. So far not much has been done in this direction with most studies of the great medieval saint-poetess remaining hardly any thing more than clichéd statements full of oversimplifications, vague generalizations, contradictions or distortions that tend to strip her of her real glories. There are some who have tried to link her humanistic concerns and her acute social awareness with superficial issues of present day political debates. Looking for communitarian ideas in her verses, they have twisted her spiritual humanism and interpreted it in an arbitrary manner to suit their ideological predilections. Though she is deeply troubled by the sorrow and suffering that prevails as a part of the human condition, she sees its solution only in the realization of man’s essential divinity – ‘Shivahood’ to use the term of Kashmir Shaiva philosophy in which her worldview is anchored. Everything is Shiva and therefore Shiva is everything. Nothing is separate from the eternality of existence. Creation and dissolution, life and death are aspects of a process that never ceases. Human life is an eternal flow of consciousness, a stream that flows onwards and onwards:

We have been there in the past
And in the future we shall be
Forever the sun rises and sets
Forever Shiva creates and dissolves and creates again.

It is this view of reality that is at the core of Lalla’s mystic realization.

Lal Ded’s poetry continues to dazzle us with its million watt incandescence, its meaning unfolding at several levels. She started her spiritual journey as a tormented soul but attained a stage where self-realization and self-awareness gave her inner strength and the confidence that derived from that strength. If Lal Ded’s immense impact on the Kashmiri mind has practically remained undiminished despite the passage of almost seven centuries, it is essentially because of the fusion of the poet and the saint in her. Or, to borrow the words of Dileep Chitre, which he has used for the great Bhakti poet Tukaram, it is because of “a poet’s vision of spirituality and a saint’s vision of poetry” which she presents in her vāks.
________________________________________
* Based on a lecture delivered by the author at India International Centre, New Delhi on March 14, 2007. [1] Ishwara Pratyabhijna Vimarshini, Part II, p. 15.Ed. Mukunda Ram Shastri, KSTS, Srinagar, 1918.[2] Three Kabir Collections: The Sants: Studies in a Devotional Tradition of India, p.137. Ed. Karine Schomer and W. H. McLeod, Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 1987. [3] Shivastotrāvalī with commentary by Kshemarāja,13 / 8, Ed. with notes in Hindi by Swami Lakshmanjoo, Chaukhamba, Benares, 1964. [4] Tantrīloka, 4 / 200, Ed.Madhusudan Kaul, K STS, 1918. [5] The Ascent of the Self, Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi. [6] To The Other Shore: Lalla’s Life and Poetry, p. 44. Vitasta, Delhi, 1999. [7] Ibid. , p.45. [8] Ibid.[9] Ibid. , p.34.[10] Arun Shourie: Eminent Historians, pp.149-150. ASA, New Delhi, 1998.[11] Navjivan Rastogi: The Krama Shaivism of Kashmir, pp. 90-91. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1996.[12] Paul E. Murphy: Triadic Mysticism, p. 109. Motilal Banarasidass, Delhi, 1999.[13] Shivasutra: 2/6, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, Reprint 2006.[14] The Doctrine of Vibration, p. 47. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, Reprint 2000. [15] Ibid. [16] The Yoga Tradition, p. 357.[17] Triadic Mysticism, p. 85.[18] The Triadic Heart of Shiva, p. 152. Shri Satguru Publications, Delhi, 1997. [19] Shiva Sutra, I / 12.[20] Shivastotravali, v. XVIII, 19. [21] Ibid. ,v. IV, 8.[22] Shivasutra , 3 / 14.[23] Speaking of Shiva, p.25. Penguin Books, London, 1978. [24] Bhakti and the Bhakti Movement: a New Perspective, p.165. Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1987.[25] The Yoga of Kashmir Shaivism, p. 129. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, First Indian Edition, 2006. [26] The Doctrine of Vibration, p. 103. Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, Reprint,2000.[27] Ibid. [28] The Triadic Heart of Shiva, p. 55. [29] Ibid.

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