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lakshmi-nrsimha karavalamba stotram-9

From: sudarshan madabushi (
Date: Sun Apr 18 1999 - 03:04:39 PDT

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

There is an old English saying that there is really nothing to fear in 
the world but Fear itself.

In the Vedantic sense the foremost and most deep-rooted fear in the 
life of a man of true wisdom is his utter fear of desire… "kAmA". He 
ought to fear it truly as if it were a "jwAlAvalee"… a great forest 

Everything therefore which such a man of Vedantic wisdom resolves in 
his lifetime to do to overcome such fear ("bhayam", "bheeti") he must 
spare no effort to carry out. But he must first learn to pray to the 
Almighty and beseech for grace and aid in carrying out such resolve 
and such endeavour. 

The "lakshmi-nrsimha karAvalmba stOtram" is one of the finest examples 
of prayer offered by the Vedantic Man. 

*********         ************           **************

To ask why the Vedantic Man should fear the great "jwAlavalee" of 
Desire is like asking why one should fear a forest fire. 

Why should we fear a mighty, overpowering inferno which (like the 
Indonesian one we described in the last post) spews flames into our 
homes, blights our skies and seas, fills poison into our lungs and 
strikes terror in our hearts? Why, indeed?

The answer lies in the old English saying again… "There is nothing to 
fear in the world but Fear itself".

********         ************            ***********

If a forest-fire (such as our handy Indonesian example again!) spreads 
terror and mayhem amongst men…  if such a conflagration is the 
universal object of the deepest human dread… then according to Verse#3 
of the "lakshmi-nrsimha karAvalamba stOtram" … according to Sankara's 
line therein, 
ya …"… according to the LNKS the fire of human desire, the 
"jwAlAvalee" of human lust, too, ought to be the object of our 
deepest, most chilling fear.

Desire, like a fire of the forest, feeds on everything that it 
advances upon… so says the "manu-smriti".
It burns, burns and burns! It never tires of burning. It does not burn 
from 9 to 5 in a day and then say to itself, "I've done a proper day's 
work! Now I must take time off to rest!". Nor does it say, "I've 
burned enough for today. I'll come back tomorrow and finish off the 
rest". (How the Indonesians would have wished their fires had really 
done so!)

Nothing appeases a "kAmA-jwAlAvalee". It will stop at nothing at all 
to destroy the human spirit.

What fire is perhaps too weak to destroy, it certainly "blackens". The 
fire of desire, repressed but unconquered, that lies within the human 
mind, slowly but surely, disfigures it with the soot of nescience. 

**********         ************        **************
Sankara bhagavatpAda in using the metaphor of fire in this stanza to 
denote the fear "kAmA" induces in us is, thus, distinctly echoing the 
"jagat-guru gitAcharyA Sri.KrishnA", the Supreme One:

     "Avrtam gnyAna~maythEna gnyAninO nitya~vairiNa I
       kAma~rupENa kounthEya dushpurENAlEna cha  II" ( Ch 3 Verse 39)

"The fire indeed, O Arjuna," said Sri Krishna, "verily, the undying 
fire is the constant enemy ("nitya~vairiNa") of the Man of Wisdom 
("gnyAni")! It blackens ("Avrtam") his true awareness ("gnyAna")! It 
is of the form of Desire… "kAmarupEna"! It is the voracious 
("dushpurENa") ember ("analEna") of lust!".

If Sankara bhagavatpAdA was a Sanskrit poet extraordinaire, 
SriKrishna, the Supreme Being, was indeed the poet non-pareil! 

The Lord chooses to use the rare synonym "analEna" in the place of 
Sankara's relatively commonplace "jwAlAvalee". Both make reference to 
the metaphor of  "fire" indeed and to the fear of "kAmA" which it 
archetypes. However, there is a subtle difference in their respective 
poetic emphasis. To really appreciate the "rasa" … the semantic 
flavour… of this verse in the LNKS it is important we grasp the 
difference between "jwAlAvalee" and "analEna".

Those of you who are Tamil speaking will be familiar with the world 
"aNal". It refers to the glowing embers of a fire and to the torrid 
but subdued heat it generates. ("aNal-kAtthu" in Tamil is the 
expression popularly used to characterise a summer breeze which 
generates heat like a blast-furnace.) Also, you can see embers in an 
"agni-kundam" (fire-hearth) with which a "nitya-agnihOtri" (one who 
offers daily oblations to the fire god) has performed vedic "homam" 

The fires in the "kundam", if you have cared to observe, do not leap 
fiercely out of it; the fires are subdued. The fires do not burst 
forth into flames; they instead glow steadily. The flames are not 
flashing red; they are a dull amber in colour. The fires do not roar 
as in a "jwAlAvalee"; instead they crackle or growl softly like "aNal" 
always does. Sparks do not generally blaze out of such a fire; thin 
wisps of smoke invariably do.

The measure of poetic difference between "jwAlAvalee" and "aNal", 
between the forest-fire and the ember, is the distinction between the 
Fear of Desire ("kAmA") afflicting ordinary souls like us 
("a-gnyAni-s") and that which the Vedantic Man… the "gnyAni" or the 
man of Wisdom… strives in his lifetime to overcome. 

All the same, for both man of wisdom ("gnyAni" or the Vedantic Man) 
and man of the world ("a-gnyAni"), Desire remains a  "nitya~vairiNa"… 
a constant enemy. For, while the "jwAlAvalee" easily consumes up the 
"a-gnyAni", the "aNal" perennially threatens the aspiring "gnyAni" 
with the same fate too.

************           *************             **************

Verse #3 of the LNKS thus essentially offers up the following thought 
for our serious contemplation:

If even great "gnyAni-s" shudder with fear at the prospect of 
succumbing to the "aNal" of desire, how much more fearful we, mere 
"a-gnyAni-s" of the world, ought to be of the great "jwAlAvalee" of 

Therefore, should we not all hasten to beseech aloud to the Lord of 
" Hay! lakshmi-nrsimha! mama dEhi karAvalambam !"?!

*********       **********          ************

In the next post, we will take up verse #4 of the LNKS dealing with 
the second primal fear of man: the "tyranny of the senses" symbolised 
as "the fish-net" in Sankara's line:

"samsAra-jAla-pati-tasya …sarvEndriyArTha-baDishArTha-jashOpamasya 
prOth-Kandita-prachura-tAluka-mastakasya …".

 Like fish drawn by lethal bait  
 And then tangled, impaled and shred…
 These mortal coils too have lured and trapped
 My soul and every sense …

AdiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,

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