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Bala or Panchadashi?


[Query] I am confused about who can recite lalitha sahasranamam? Please clarify whether balaa manthra diksha is enough. Some mahans permit this.

shrImAtre namaH

Irrespective of who says what, one should examine the shAstra pramANa for even an ativarNAshramI avadhUta does not truly perform actions that transgress shAstra maryAda, even while in a high state of ecstasy. Lord dattAtreya discourses on the same to sumedhas and you can refer to dattAtreya samhitA for further details. Also, the FAQ section of this group has an article on adhikAra nirNaya for reciting shrIlalitA sahasranAma.

Though it is beneficial to refer to other sources or tantras to examine this adhikAra, the chief sources are the purvOttara pIThikAs of the sahasranAma and the body of the sahasranAma itself.

Some claim abheda between bAlA and lalitA, and cite this as the reason for this assumed sanction. If this were true, then abheda between keshava and lalitA is expressed in several shAstras. So, does that mean that one initiated into the hoary aShTakSharI mantra of the Lord is eligible to recite this sahasranAma? As evident from the pIThikA and the body of the sahasranAma, the mAlA mantra deals with the sanketa traya of shrIvidyA which is not the same for bAlA. Moreover, when dealing with a work related to names and forms, how can the same be neglected while arriving at adhikAra nirNaya? bAlA forms both the pUrva and uttarA~Nga of shrIvidyA and this is cited as a reason for the sanction by some. Again, a simple examination of the angAngi rule is enough to state that what is true for lalitA dIkShAnvitas is not true for those with bAlA dIkShA. If this rule were to be true, those initiated into mantras of annapUrNA or hayArUDhA independently would qualify to recite the sahasranama as well.

First of all, who is the central focus of this sahasranAma?

pUrvaM prAdurbhavo mAtuH tataH paTTAbhiShechanam |
bhaNDAsuravadhashchaiva vistareNa tvayoditaH ||

The sahasranAma deals with lalitA, whose daughter is described as bAlA in lalitopAkhyAna. There is a nAma and mUrti bheda here. lalitA is the focus of this sahasranAma and not bAlA. Hence, an upAsaka of lalitA is qualified for reciting the sahasranAma and not one of bAlA. Are the eight different versions of bAlA sahasranAma in the Tantras merely present for the sake of exhibition? No, they are meant to be used by the upAsakas of bAlA.

Agastya, while arriving at the context of the sahasranAma says:

shrImatpa~nchadashAkSharyA mahimA varNitastathA |

Many times, when one talks of the word shrIvidyA, people tend to refer to bAlA as laghu shrIvidyA, which seems to me to be a colloquial notion than anything else. Here, Agastya avoids confusion clearly by referring to the fifteen lettered vidyA. He talks of the devatA [bhaNDAsuravadhashchaiva], shrIchakra [varNitaM shrIpuraM chApi] and the vidyA [shrImatpanchadashAkSharyA], sparing no room for confusion. There is no mention whatsoever of bAlA mantra here. Moreover, shrI bhAskararAya does not even accept this verse to merely mean panchadashI and declares that the reference here is certainly to ShodashI by stating what the Tantra defines as shrIvidyA:

kAmarAjAkhyamantrAnte shrIbIjena samanvitA |
ShoDashAkSharavidyeyaM shrIvidyeti prakIrtitA ||

So where are we talking about bAlA here? One can only assume that a person qualified to recite the sahasranAma on account of panchadashI [or ShoDashI in a more strict sense] is already initiated into bAlA as she is pUrvAnga to parameshwarI. But, there is no pramANa or even logic in assuming the vice versa to be true and claiming bAlA mantra as the qualifying factor for shrIvidyopAsanA, shrIchakrArchana etc., which are all taught in the sahasranAma. If we examine the chapters that precede the sahasranAma in lalitopAkhyAna, this becomes evident even to the unenlightened.

When explicitly dealing with adhikAra nirNaya, the Lord says:

shrImAtr^ibhaktiyuktAya: The one qualified, necessarily has bhakti, but that bhakti has to be essentially towards shrImAtA or lalitA, the central focus of this sahasranAma. One who has bhakti towards kAlI will recite her sahasranAma, one attached to durgA will recite hers and the same holds true for bAlA as well. Though all devatAs are same in essence, the sattvaika ghanIbhUta svarUpa of mahAkAmeshwara mithuna, which distinguishes it from every other deity from shrIvidyA perspective, including bAlA, cannot be neglected when talking of names and forms. bhAskararAya discusses the same at length and you may refer to it for greater detail. ParAmbA assumes various forms like annapUrNA [annapradAnasamaye], durgA [raNe], ramA [shrIvitaraNe] etc. based on a purpose and bAlA is one such pastime of parameshwarI [bAlalIlAvishiShTatvAt bAleti kathitA priye, traipura-siddhAnte].

shrIvidyArajavedine: We saw how it was clarified in earlier verses that shrIvidyA, in this context, clearly refers to panchadashI or ShoDashI, and not to bAlA or ramA or other mantras. Every commentator interprets this verse as panchadashI and there is no room for confusion here.

Now, look at the very next verse:

shrIvidyaiva tu mantrANAM tatra kAdiryathA parA ||

We already established beyond doubt that the shrIvidyA that hayagrIva talks of is panchadashI at the least and not bAlA. For those who still prefer to stick to the laghu shrIvidyA hook, the clarification follows in the above verse. Lord adds an adjective to the shrIvidyA that he is talking about: kAdiH. There is no kAdi, hAdi, sAdi or kahAdi bheda defined for bAlA manu.

Analogy is very clear.

shrIvidyeva tu mantrANAM tatra kAdiryathA parA |
purANAM shrIpuramiva shaktInAM lalitA yathA ||
shrIvidyopAsakAnAM cha yathA devo paraH shivaH |
tathA nAmasahasreShu varametat prakIrtitam ||

Best of the Best among:

Mantras is kAdi vidyA
Yantras is shrIchakra
Shaktis is LalitA
Shrividyopasakas is Shiva
Sahasranama is Lalita Sahasranama

Merely eyeballing through this analogy presented by Lord hayashIrSha is sufficient to give one a fair idea on how the different pieces fit.

One should next consider the actual practice of the sahasranAma:

chakrAdhirajamabhyarchya japtvA pa~nchadashAkSahrIm |
japAnte kIrtayennityamidaM nAmasahasrakam ||

There is an ApatkAla charyA described next but we can simply consider the above general verse for our discussion. The devotee first worships the chakrarAja or shrIchakra by a process called navAvaraNa Krama, recites panchadashI and then recites the sahasranAma. This is the normal flow for the upAsaka who intends to practice the sahasranAma. The Tantra is abundant with pramANas which even prohibit touching a bhUprastAra shrIchakra without initiation into panchadashI. There can be no pravesha into shrIchakra or AvaraNas of lalitA with bAlA mantra. Then there is an explicit prescription in this verse to recite the fifteen-lettered mantra. Thus, without panchadashI, the very basic practice prescribed by the Lord to the one desirous of reciting the sahasranAma, falls apart.

The same flow is prescribed by lalitA parameshwarI herself, which cannot be ignored, even if one decides to ignore hayagrIva:

shrIchakre mAm samabharchya japtvA panchadashAkSharIm |
pashchAnnAmasahasraM me kIrtayenmama tuShTaye ||

Now, further clarification on shrIvidyA, which is considered as essential to recite the sahasranAma, is offered by vashinyAdayaH in the sahasranAma. The three bIjas in bAlA mantra are called vAk, kAma and shakti bIjas and we tend to use the same nomenclature for the three components of panchadashI as well. But the distinction between the two is clearly made by the very technical usage of the word: kUTa.


kUta here means akSharANAM samudAya and thus cannot refer to bAlA mantra. The names dealing with granthibhedana [brahmagranthivibhedinI] are sa~Nketas for the hR^illekhA at the end of the three kUTas which are absent in bAlA mantra.

Again, one should refer to the names:

shrIvidyA: bhAskararAya states here: pa~nchadashIsvarUpA
shrIShoDashakSharIvidyA: vidyA aShTAviMshativarNavishiShTa, as stated by shrI gauDapAdAnandanAtha

Now, there are kAdi, hAdi and other bhedas. To clarify that the reference here is to kAdi, the name kAmasevitA is inserted.

The reference to bAlA occurs when dealing with a~Nga vidyAs: tryakSharI. This name is interpreted to mean either shuddhavidyA or bAlA based on the sUtra: tryaksharI shuddhavidyA kumarI cha.

Again, let us examine the uttarapIThikA:

na kIrtayati nAmAni mantrarAjaM na vetti yaH |
pashutulyaH sa vij~neyaH tasmai dattaM nirarthakam ||

One, who does not recite the name and is not initiated into the mantrarAja, is a pashu. In the context of shrIvidyA, no mantra other than panchadashI or ShoDashI is termed as mantrarAja. That bAlA is distinguished from lalitA for all practical purposes, is illustrated by counting bAlA sahasranAma among the “other” mukhya sahasranAmas:

teShu mukhyaM dashavidhaM nAmasAhasramuchyate ||

ga~NgAshyalakA balarAsabhA: ga~NgA, gAyatrI, shyAmalA, lakShmI, kAlikA, bAlA, rAjarAjeshwarI [here referring to mahArAj~nI], saraswatI and bhavAnI.

nAvdiyAvedine brUyAt nAbhaktAya kadAchana |
yathaiva gopyA shrIvidyA tathA gopyamidaM mune ||
pashutulyeShu na brUyAt janeShu stotramuttamam |
yo dadAti vimUDhAtmA shrIvidyArahitAya tu ||
tasmai kupyanti yoginyaH so.anarthaH sumahAn smR^itaH ||

"One should never discuss or give the sahasranAma to the one without a formal initiation into panchadashI. The Sahasranama should be kept as a secret [i.e. restricted to those formally initiated into shrIkula] like the shrIvidyA and never divulged to the pashus. The word pashu has been explained earlier by the Lord [mantrarAjaM na vetti yaH]. One, who breaks this rule and offers the sahasranAma to the uninitiated, will earn the wrath of the Yoginis". This statement seems to be taken at a face value by most and ignored. If one does not believe that Yoginis are present guarding the Sahasranama, as stated here, why would one believe the claims in the same work that reciting these names grants merit? Discussing sampradAyika rahasyas like shrIvidyA mantra tattva, mantrArtha etc. in front of an unqualified audience brings welfare to neither the listener nor the preacher and the proof here, other than the shAstra pramANa of course, is the experience of various illustrious upAsakas. H H Mahasannidhanam during his visit to Bangalore in the late 90s [was it 99?] remarked: These days, especially in Andhra Desha, every person discusses Srividya like the local news.

Sometimes, H H Chandrshekhara bhAratI mahAsvAminaH gave lalitA sahasranAma as upadesha to some disciples. But that was specific to that case and he never stated it to be a general rule. Once, Brahmasri Kamakoti Shastrigal, who played a very important role in the way things shaped up after the infamous daNDatyAga incident at Kanchipuram, recollected the visit to Mutt by an old lady from Kumbhakonam to see Paramacharya. The situation was still tense in the Mutt and H H was busy performing Sahasranama Archana. The lady, along with her son, came in and said: "Gurunatha, there is nothing I can do in these testing times. Please assign this lowly being some mantra that I can recite in these tense times". H H smiled and said, "You have Bala upadesham from Sundararama Shastrigal right? Recite Sahasranama in front of Tulasi 3 times every evening”. Both the old lady and her son, who also was initiated into bAlA, fell at his feet and said, â"We shall follow your orders". H H immediately remarked, "Thyagaraja, how can you recite the sahasranAma? You do not have shrIvidyA upadesha. I only allowed your mother to recite. You perform Gayatri Japa, till you get initiated". This Thyagaraja is none other than our own Ravi Thyagarajan's father who later obtained upadesha from H H Abhinava vidyA tIrtha mahAsvamigal, the Jagadguru Shankaracharya Swamigal of Dakshinamnaya Sringeri Sharada Peetham. A particular prescription given to a particular person by a mahAn is applicable only to that specific case and cannot be taken as a general rule, especially when it contradicts shAstra pramANa. Sometimes, with preraNA from paradevatA, great men relax rules but that is not a general rule that every layman can adopt. The Lord clearly hints at that as well:

svatantreNa mayA noktaM tavApi kalashIsuta |
lalitApreraNAdeva mayoktaM stotramuttamam ||

When a person approached the great Light at aruNAchala and mentioned he was reciting a mantra without initiation and felt it was ok as he was doing it with "niShkAma bhAva", bhagavAn ramaNa at once said: If you have attained niShkAma bhava, what are you reciting this mantra for? And, those who use this pretext to indulge in shAstraviruddhAchAra are hardly like bhagavAn shukadeva who indulge in nAmA and vibhUti rasas in spite of AtmaniShThA, solely out of overpowering love towards paradevatA.

dhyAtAsi haimavati yena himAmshurashmi-
mAlA.amaladyutirakalmaShamAnasena |
malpairdinaiH sR^ijasi sundari vAgvilAsam ||

hare kR^iShNa