In the devotional literature of the world, hymns and prayers occupy an important place. This is specially true of Sanskrit, where we find some of the most beautiful hymns or stotras ever written. The word stotras comes from the Sanskrit root ‘stu’ which means to worship. The hymns are the out-pourings of the devotee’s heart at the feet of Hs worshipped Godhead.
Each seeker, according to his nature, has his own way of seeking, and approaches God through the image he finds most suitable. “This is what is called in yoga the ista-devatã, the name and form elected ‘v our nature for its worship”. He may come to us as Vishnu or Shiva, Durga, Ganesha, Rama or Krishna. And yet, all these are but 5orms of the One and it is to the One Godhead that finally all or ship is offered.
When we look beyond our first exclusively concentrated vision, we see behind Vishnu all the personality of Shiva, and behind Shiva all the personality of Vishnu. He is the Ananta-guna, infinite quality in the infinite divine Personality which manifests itself through it. Again he seems to withdraw into a pure spiritual impersonality or e-beyond all idea even of impersonal Self.”
In the beginning “the human being approaches the Divine by means of his humanity, with human emotions, as he would approach a fellow human being, but with more intense and exalted feelings; and only so, but the Divine also responds in a manner answering to se emotions.”
“Even as men approach him, so he accepts them and responds too by divine Love to their Bhakti, tathaiva bhajate.” And what is beautiful is that as we delight in God and seek Him, so it is believed x He too delights in us and seeks us. In the beautiful words of Sri Aurobindo:
We may seek after him passionately and pursue the unseen beloved: but also the lover whom we think not of may pursue us, come upon us in the midst of the world and seize on us for his own whether at first we will or no. Even, he may conic to us at first as an enemy, with the wrath of love, and our earliest relations with him may be those of battle and struggle. Where first there is love and attraction, the relations between the Divine and the soul may still for long be chequered with misunderstanding and offence, jealously and wrath, strife and the quarrels of love, hope and despair and the pain of absence and separation. We throw up all the passions of the heart against him, till they are purified into a sole ecstasy of bliss and oneness. But that too is monotony; it is not possible for the tongue of human speech to tell all the utter unity and all the eternal variety of the Ananda of divine love.”
And what is the way? Manana, Darana, and Samarpana, a constant thinking of him and seeing of him always and everywhere, a constant surrender of our whole being to him so that he shall dwell near to us and in us and we with him and in him.
This collection of stotras are the hymns that arise from the devotee’s heart. There is in this seeking for the Divine all the varied sentiments and passions, all the many moods and experience of love. In the intensity of this love there is no distance or fear. Krishna is worshiped as the Supreme Purushottama, as the Puma Avatama, but also as the King of thieves, Chauradhipati’. Many of the hymns have been written by great Yogis and sages like Shankaracharya, Madhavacharya and Vallabhacharya. The Siva Tandava Stotra is believed to have been composed by Ravana himself, when he worshipped Diva and offered him his ten heads. Of many other stotras the origins are lost in time and the authors are unknown.
All the storms are given in the original Sanskrit, with their transliterations (so that even those who do not know Sanskrit can read them), as well as their translations in English. However, we must remember that it is impossible to convey in a translation the beauty and the music of the original. The glossary gives brief explanations of the mythological characters and references. There are also short notes explaining the special characteristics of each Deity.
Several of these hymns have the Man/dc quality and even ii we do not understand the words, the sound-rhythms (themselves lilt capable Several of these hymns have the Mantric quality and even if we do not understand the words, the sound-rhythms themselves are capable lifting us into another world. They are sometimes sweet and enchanting like the songs of Jayadeva to Radha and Krishna, and sometimes strong, mighty and powerful like the hymns to Shiva and Durga. To read them or to listen to them is to heighten and deepen one’s own inner quest by experiencing the love, the bliss and the adoration of the true devotee.
The Vedic and Upanishadic prayers are Mantras. A Mantra, according to Sri Aurobindo, “is a word of power and light that comes from the overmind inspiration of from very high plane of intuition.” Therefore it “is a direct and most heightened rhythmic ensouls reality of things and with its truth and with the divine soul forms of it, the godheads which are born from the living Truth. Or, let us say, it is a supreme rhythmic language which seizes, holds upon all that is finite and brings into each the light and voice of its own infinite.
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