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 Divine Mother abides in Sri Chakra.  This is also known as Sri Yantra and Chakra-raja.
This is the most supreme amongst all the yantra-s.  Uttara bhag (the chapter containing the
benefits of recitation, also known as phalashruti) of Lalita Trishati
elucidates Sri Chakra in a comprehensive manner.  Sri Chakra is the body of Shiva and Shakti.  Sri Chakra is compared to a human body and Shiva
and Shakti are compared to the soul within. 
Sri Chakra is full of life and energy and should be worshipped with
great reverence.  Any god or goddess can
be worshipped in Sri Chakra, as all of them have a place in it. 

The book has three sections. First section is titled
“Journey to Sri Chakra”. This part elaborately deals with Sri Nagara the outer
portion of Sri Chakra. We can enter Sri Chakra only after crossing Sri Nagara,
which has several forts guarded by different gods and goddesses. Our journey to
Sri Chakra begins from Sri Nagara. During this journey, we worship various
gods, goddesses, sages and saints. We also come across various rivers, ponds,
forests and gardens. When we have traversed through Sri Nagara, we are able to
see Sri Chakra and we continue our journey towards the innermost triangle after
passing through various devi-s guarding Lalitambika by remaining in various
triangles of Sri Chakra. We worship them and finally proceed to the innermost
triangle where we are completely purified. Inside the triangle, we are blessed
to have darshan of Lalitambika. After spending sometime at Her feet She takes us
to Shiva in the Bindu to get us liberated.

The second section of the book deals with Navavarana Puja.
Every aspect of mantras is explained in detail by quoting references form
Lalita Sahasranama and other sacred Scriptures. This part of the book is a complete
guide to perform navavarana puja and all the mantras with explanations and
images are given. This section of the book is eloborate, as it contains
mantras, images and explanations and detailed procedure for performing the
Navavarana puja.

Third and final section of the book is Bhavanopanishad. Bhavana
means imagination or formation of a concept in the mind. Like any other Upanishad,
this Upanishad also does not deal with practices. It helps us to contemplate
our body with Sri Chakra. There are totally  thirty seven verses (some texts call these as
sutra-s). Detailed interpretations are given for all the sutras.  At the end of this portion, we will be able
to contemplate our body as Sri Chakra.

Print edition consists of both Sanskrit and English texts.
English texts are given in IAST format so that, those who are not conversant
with Sanskrit can pronounce the mantras properly. Pronunciation guide is also

This book can be acclaimed as an encyclopaedia of Sri

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Nov 3, 2013
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V. Ravi
 Vedānta is derived from Veda. Veda means knowledge and anta means conclusive.  Therefore Vedānta means conclusive knowledge. Vedānta is a philosophy that clears doubts about the Brahman. Knowledge here means not the worldly knowledge.  Worldly knowledge is materialistic in nature and is acquired for material prosperity.  Worldly knowledge is all about temporal and corporeal objects.  Spiritual knowledge is different from worldly knowledge. Spiritual knowledge deals with infinite and eternal Brahman. Worldly knowledge has different dimensions.  Spiritual knowledge deals only with Eternity that is beyond normal human comprehension.  It does not deal with objects. Worldly knowledge is gained by affirmation and spiritual knowledge is gained by negation. 

Let us take an example.  We call a cup as a cup.  The teacher tells her students about the cup by physically showing the cup.  Therefore, students know how a cup would be.  In spirituality, this is not possible.  No one can really show God and say this is God. No body has seen the Brahman as He is beyond normal human comprehension. But, the potency of the Brahman is realized through experience. Material knowledge does not deal with omnipresence, whereas the spiritual knowledge deals only with omnipresence.

Vedānta is a very deep subject, involving different schools of thought, different interpretations and different aspects. The ultimate goal of Vedānta is to realise the Brahman within. Here comes the difference between religion and spirituality.  Religions consider God as someone with different shapes and forms and different from us, whereas spirituality affirms with authority that God exists everywhere and He is One, not many.  Vedānta does not give names and forms to God.  It calls Him as the Creator, Brahman, Supreme Soul, Ātman, etc.  Vedānta says that spirituality alone leads to eternal joy and happiness, called as bliss. The first step to Vedānta is a simple question “who am I”.  Vedānta answers this question from different view points. 

A spiritually ignorant person cannot realize the Brahman.  A religious person also cannot realize the Brahman. Both of them do not have spiritual knowledge. Spirituality exclusively deals in realizing the Brahman, only by negations and affirmations.  He cannot be described, as He is beyond description.  At the most Brahman can be described sat-cit-ānanda (eternality, purest form of consciousness, bliss), satyam-jñānam-anantam (truth, knowledge and infinite). 

There are three types of Vedānata philosophy.  They are Dvaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita and Advaita. Dvaita, the dualistic philosophy propagated by Mādhvācārya says that the Brahman and individual souls are different. Viśiṣṭādvaita is qualified non-dualism and propagated by Śrī Rāmānuja. According to him, Brahman and soul are different, yet the individual soul is dependent on the Brahman and has to ultimately become one with the Brahman. The third one is Advaita propagated by Śrī Śaṃkarācārya.  According to advaita philosophy, individual soul is nothing but the Brahman.  All that exists in the world is only the Brahman, thereby asserting the omnipresent nature of the Brahman. It is said that advaita philosophy is the supreme among the three.  There is also another school of thought who says that one should begin his spiritual pursuit from dvaita philosophy, progress to viśiṣṭādvaita and end at advaita. Advaita beautifully answers the question ‘who am I’?  Advaita says ‘I am That’, where, That refers to the Brahman.

For knowing an object, there has to be a knower (the one who is trying to know), the known (the object) and the process of knowing. In Sanskrit, they are known as pramātā, prameya and pramāṇa. While realising the Brahman or the Self, advaita says that both pramātā and prameya (knower and known) are the same Self.  This is based on the theory that individual soul is not different from the Supreme Soul, the basic concept of advaita.  There are three ways of acquiring knowledge. One is the pratyakṣa pramāṇa or the direct perception, the knowledge acquired through sensory organs. The example is, knowing an elephant by seeing it.  The next one is inference or anumāna pramāṇa, knowing something by inference.  When there is smoke, there has to be fire. The fire is inferred on seeing the smoke. The third one is through description or śabda pramāṇa.  This is by word of mouth, where sound is used to explain an object.  Typical example is pointing out to an apple and saying this is an apple.

Knowledge about the Brahman can be attained only through inference and descriptive words and not by direct perception.  Brahma sūtra, Upaniṣad-s and Bhagavad Gītā make one understand the Brahman by means of negations and affirmations.  Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad (II.iii.6) says, “Now the description of the Brahman. Not this, not this. Because there is no other or more appropriate description than ‘not this’.”  The question naturally arises, why this negation.  If some one asks showing the sun “is this the Brahman”, the answer has to be not this.  By showing fire if some one asks “is this the Brahman”, the answer has to be not this.  The fact is that there exists nothing to show as an example for the Brahman.  Everything is negated to explain the Brahman because, He is beyond everything.  After having negated all the objects to explain the Brahman, Upaniṣad-s proceed to affirm the Brahman.  While affirming, they do not refer to objects, but to attributes.  For example, Kaṭha Upaniṣad (I.ii.20) says, “aṇoraṇīyānmahato mahīyānātamā”. This means that the Self or the Brahman is smaller than the smallest and bigger than the biggest.  Again, Taittirīya Upaniṣad says (II.i.1), “satyaṁjñānamantaṁ brahma”, which means that truth, knowledge and infinity is the Brahman.  Śiva Sūtra (I.1) says, “caitanyamātmā”, which means Consciousness is the Brahman.  All these go to prove that Brahman is beyond physical description. If we look at the affirmations of Upaniṣad-s, they refer to truth, knowledge, infinity, consciousness, etc, which are all subtle in nature.

Sensory organs are of no use in understanding the Brahman, as He has no form.  When we are desperate to know Him, then what is the way out?  He can be realised only through knowledge.  Knowledge dawns at the end of all negations and affirmations.  Negations lead to affirmations and affirmations in turn lead to knowledge.  Taittirīya Upaniṣad said knowledge is Brahman. Therefore, knowledge is one of the sources, through which Self can be realized.

Advaita philosophy is considered as the supreme, as according to advaita, Brahman alone prevails everywhere. There is no second in advaita. Everything is the superimposition on the Brahman, giving rise to various shapes and forms. When one understands the appearance of the universe is illusory in nature and the underlying factor is the Brahman, he is considered as a Self realised person. But this thought does not occur when one begins to pursue the spiritual path.  One may claim to be an advaitin, but in reality, he may not. He may understand the fundamental philosophy of non-dualism; but knowledge is different from experience. Advaita says “I am Brahman”. If one simply repeats “I am the Brahman”, he does not become an advatin nor does he become a Self realised person. This is merely his statement.  Only when his statement transforms into experience, he is said to have mastered  the true advaita philosophy.  Therefore, in the initial stages of spirituality, one is bound to feel the difference between the Brahman and his self.  This happens because of ignorance.  This ignorance can be dissolved not only by acquiring knowledge but also by personal experience. He has to transcend several stages and cross several impediments to ultimately realise, that Brahman and he are one. For this practice is essential.  Practice is called sādhana.  Sādhana can be explained as the practice that ultimately leads to the goal.

Tattvabodha is one of the authoritative scriptures of advaita philosophy, authored by Śrī Śaṅkarācārya meant for the beginners of spirituality.  This Sacred Scripture will be highly useful for those who are just entering the spiritual path. 

Kali Yuga is often described as age of darkness, because kali refers to the last and worst of the four Yugas or ages. Kali has got many interpretations depending upon the context. Some of the commonly understood meanings of Kali are strife, discord, quarrel, contention, etc. There is a reference to this in detail in Śrīmad Bhāgavata (IV.viii.3). In general, it is believed that God realization is difficult in kali yuga, due to the predominance of adharma (unrighteousness, injustice, wickedness) over dharma (virtue, morality). It is also interesting to note that kali also refers to symbolical expression for the numeric 1 (probably referring to numero uno). If we seriously investigate why adharma prevails over dharma in the recent times, we will find huge imbalance in the three guṇa-s - sattvic, rajas and tamas.  Sattva guṇa means the quality of purity and knowledge.  The presence of other two guṇa-s is not very prominent in sattva guṇa as this guṇa is endowed with the highest purity.  Rajo guṇa is the activity of passion. Tamo guṇa is inertia or ignorance.  These two guṇa-s have higher trace of other guṇa-s.  Guṇa-s are the inherent qualities of Prakṛti.  Ego and intellect originate from guṇa-s that are present in all the evolutes of Prakṛti at once, but distributed in unequal proportions in each individual.  The predominant guṇa that prevails in an individual is reflected through his thoughts and actions. 

Kṛṣṇa explains guṇa-s in Bhagavad Gīta (IV.6 - 9) “Sattva, rajas and tamas - these three qualities born of Prakṛti (Nature) tie down the imperishable soul to the body.  Of these, sattva being immaculate is illuminating and flawless; it binds through identification with joy and wisdom.  The quality of rajas is in the nature of passion, as born of avariciousness and attachment.  It binds the soul through attachment to actions and their fruits.  Tamas, the deluder of all those who look upon the body as their own self, are born of ignorance.  It binds the soul through error, sloth and sleep.  Sattva drives one to joy, and rajas to action, while tamas clouding the wisdom incites one to err as well as sleep and sloth.”   Kṛṣṇa again says (Bhagavad Gīta XIV.20), “Having transcended the aforesaid guṇa-s, which have caused the body, and freed from birth, death, old age and all kinds of sorrow, this soul attains the supreme bliss.”

This series will make an attempt to explain how to transcend these guṇa-s to experience bliss, which is the infantile stage of our spiritual pursuit. The entire series will be in the form imaginary conversation between Shiva and Shakti. 

V. Ravi
 Vishnu means all pervading. Vishnu is the administrator of the universe. He puts in place, the laws of the universe and administers the universe strictly according to the law. He is a strict disciplinarian, yet highly compassionate in nature. He presides over all the seven planes of the universe. The abode of Vishnu is supposed to be the Supreme one. He has prescribed various paths through which one has to travel to reach His abode, the point of no return for a soul, known as liberation. He has been referred to in Vedas. Without Vishnu, no fire ritual is complete. He is quite often referred to as Purusha, the Supreme Soul. His famous sleeping posture on Ananta, the snake, who floats on the ocean of milk, is very well known. This posture is not merely a gross description, but has got subtle meaning. Ananta means infinite and the milk of ocean refers to the eternal bliss. He lies in the ocean of eternal bliss. Those who seek Him also enter the state of bliss at some point of time. He incarnates in different forms to destroy evil doers. His avatars occur whenever there is imbalance between morality and immorality. When immorality begins to dominate over morality He incarnates. His notable incarnations are Lord Rama and Lord Krishna. 
The scene of unfolding this great Sahasranama happened in the great epic Mahabharata authored by sage, Veda Vyasa. Bhisma was lying on a bed made of arrows awaiting his death. At that time, he was meditating on Krishna. Knowing this, Krishna asked Yudhishthira (eldest among Pandava brothers and known for his righteousness) to seek spiritual initiation from Bhisma and also told Bhisma to initiate Yudhishthira. Yudhishthira asks Bhisma kimekam daivatam loke meaning who is the Supreme Lord of the world. Bhisma replies by saying, that the purest, the most auspicious, the chief among the gods and the father of all the beings is the One who is Supreme, referring to Lord Vishnu. This conversation appears in the prrvabhag of this Sahasranama. The spiritual initiation of Yudhishthira by Bhisma is Vishnu Sahasranama. Krishna was also present when this happened and this Sahasranama was blessed by the Lord Himself. 

Vishnu is also known as Narayana. Garuda Purana (III.24.54, 55) explains the etymological meaning of Narayana. “As He is the resort of merits and demerits and as He abides in the waters of ocean, He is called Narayana. Water is also called nara (probably meaning cosmic water); as His Abode is water, He is called Narayana.” Vishnu is the most auspicious form of the Brahman. He is not only invoked during auspicious occasions, but also while performing funeral rites. At the time of conclusion of all rituals, the effect of the rituals are surrendered to Vishnu. 

Vishnu Sahasranama consists of three parts – purvabhag or the first part; stotrabhag or the main part from which one thousand names or nama-s are composed; and uttarabhag or the concluding part. The main part consists of 108 couplets from which all the 1000 nama-s are derived. Apart from these three parts, this Sahasranama has seven dhyana verses by which one can meditate upon His auspicious form. 

All the one thousand nama-s have been interpreted based on ancient Scriptures like Upanishad-s. Wherever possible, quantitation from Upanishad-s and other Scriptures have been used. Many of the nama-s are interpreted from the point of view of attaining Him to get liberation. Wherever needed, Sanskrit verses have been used along with IAST, for the sake of proper pronunciation.
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