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lakshmi-nrsimha karavalamba stotram

From: sudarshan madabushi (sudarshanm_at_hotmail.com)
Date: Tue Mar 16 1999 - 22:49:45 PST

Dear bhAgavatOttamA-s,

As inveterate SriVaishnavites not all of us may be inclined to agree 
with the philosophy of Sri Sankara 'bhagavatpAda' but his poetry is an 
altogether different matter. 

Sankara's Sanskrit poetry is a magnificent blend of lofty thought and 
intense feeling. His hymns like the famous "bhaja-gOvindam" and 
"soundarya-lahari" indeed stir the mood of thoughtful "bhakti" in both 
SriVaishnava and non-SriVaishnava reader alike.  
   
My own favorite Sankara hymn is the "lakshmi-nrsimha karAvalamba 
stOtram" sung (it is widely believed) in praise of our Lord at Ahobilam. 
It is composed in the attractive metre (or "virutta") called 
"vasanta-tilakam"… a delightful arrangement of euphonic 14-syllabled 
four-lined stanzas. There are 17 such stanzas each ending with Sankara's 
heart-rending cry of despair:

"lakshmi-nrsimha mama dEhi karAvalambam !"

"Lend me Thy Hand and set me free, Lakshmi-nrsimha!"

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

This "stOtra", or hymn, is more than a prayer to Deity too. It is, I 
believe, Sankara's sombre tribute to the pangs of agony which all 
spiritual aspirants in the grip of an experience called "virakti" 
undergo.
 
"virakti", loosely described in English as stuporous "world-weariness", 
is a state of mind which the lonely traveler along the spiritual road, 
sooner or later, must inevitably pass through. If you read the accounts 
of the Masters, the "purvAchAryA-s" of the Vedic faith, they will all 
tell you, almost without exception, that he who pursues "para-tattvam" 
i.e the Supreme Truth of SrimanNarayana, must inevitably brave himself 
to labour, for sometime at least, under the heavy cloud of a wrenching 
world-weariness. The cloud though dark, thick and threatening at first… 
the Masters tell us… the cloud however passes away as quickly as it 
might appear in the first place.     

We might find it useful now to spend some time examining "virakti" as a 
religious experience. But before we do that we must first learn to 
understand and enjoy Sankara's verses.  In Verse#3 through Verse #11 of 
the "stOtra" the experience of "virakti" has been portrayed in vivid and 
masterly metaphor by the 'bhagavathpAdA'. I have pulled out the relevant 
lines from the verses and have given below a free translation of them. 
Later on in ensuing posts we will discuss 'virakti'.

(1)"samsAra-dAva-dahanAtura-BhikarOru-jwAlAvalee-Bhirati-dagDha-tanuruhasya 
….".

Like hapless strands of hair inflamed, 
I burn, I burn, I burn…
In searing blaze ringin' this forest… 
This infernal life of mine.


(2) "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 …
    
(3) "samsArakoopa-atigOram-agAdamoolam 
samprApyadukha-shatha-sarpa-samAkulasya…..".

 Dark is this well… this life, my world --  
 An abyss of numberless misery;   
 Where serpents of sin, agents of distress, 
 And angels of fear hold sway. 
       
(4)"samsAra-Bheekara-kareendra-karABhiGhAta-nishpishta-marma-vapushaha      
prANa-prayANa-bhava-bheethi-samAkulasya….".

The terrors of life and the pain of death…
The mysteries of life evermore --
Like an ireful tusker in the wilds --
Have maimed me in their hold.
  
(5)"samsAra-sarpaGana-vaktra-BhayOgra-teevra-damshtrA-karAla-vishadag
Dha-vinashta-murthEhE…".

This life my world is a serpent's mouth
The fount of human bane
Venom and vile, ruin and dread 
Fangs of doom've devoured me.

(6) "samsAra-vruksha-maGhabeejam-anantha-karma 
shAKhAshatam…karaNa-patram anangapushpam..
Aruh~ya dukhapalinam patha-taha…".

An endless Fall's indeed my fate
>From the Tree of Life with sin as its seed
With greed its boughs and lust as leaves
With love as flower and woe its fruit.
  
(7)"samsAra-sAgara-vishAla-karAla-kAla-nakra-graha-grasana-nigraha-vigraha-hasya…vyagrasya 
rAgani-chayOrmini-peeditasya….".

The course of desire, the waves of disquiet
The tides of dread on the High Sea of Life 
Into the gaping jaws've me they trawled 
To feed me as fare to the Alligators of Time.

(8) "samsAra-sAgara nimajjana-muhya-mAnam….."

This life my world is sea unbound
Chaos in its waters, nullity its depths--
Leagues around …not a raft in sight!
To sink without trace: my eternal plight. 

(9) "samsAra-Gora-gahanE charathO murArE…. 
MArogra-Bhikara-mruga-pravrArdi-tasya…. Arthasya  
matsara-nidhAga-nipeedi-tasya….".

When I'm not prey in this jungle of nescience
To the beast of Passion: the sovereign of fears--
I bake in the summer-heat of harsh un-love… 
A wilted spirit in a wasteland of tears.
 
(10) All the above stanzas end with the common refrain:
 "lakshmi-nrsimha mama dEhi karAvalambam !"

"Lend me Thy Hand and set me free, Lakshmi-nrsimha!"

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

We will study a few of the wonderful verses above in some detail in the 
ensuing posts.

adiyEn dAsAnu-dAsan,
sudarshan

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