The Poet as Architect - Vibration and Consciousness

chandī path poetry sadhana saundaryalaharī Mar 06, 2024
Towering skyscrapers in Chicago

Inundated since antiquity with Her silent grace,

the riverside gives refuge letting this child of wisdom grow.

Will she dream of empires and riches,

skyscrapers of desires reaching to the heavens such genius defeat of limitations?

Or will she let her sighs slip into a mantle of joy silent and deep;

heavy and buoyant like snowfall?

...excerpted from the poem Antarīkṣa, in the poetry collection Journey to Oḍḍiyāṇa by Mā Umā-Pārvatī

Recently, while reading the Saundaryalaharī, I was again astounded by the metrical precision and poetic perfection, which aren't just embellishments to a beautiful narrative but convey its profound meanings. It's one thing to effectively and directly communicate profound truths or complex philosophy. To deliver it with aesthetic rapture and metrical harmony that supports and adds to its beauty displays an astonishing construction. It's architecture par excellence.

The poet is the architect in the Indian tradition. Three dazzling examples are

  • the metrical precision and succinct poetry of the Vedas,
  • the brilliant vibrational encoding of mantras and sādhanas while narrating the engrossing story of the Chandī Path,
  • and the refined and sensual aesthetic of Saundaryalaharī.

These three vibrant examples show how sound pulsation creates a matrix of images, moods, and energy transformation. The practical aim of these texts is to impart wisdom, clarify this in the context of the human experience and predicament, and reveal a practical sādhana that one can engage in to embody this wisdom.

Like architecture's practical and aesthetic aims, sādhana must fit people's lives, meet embodiment's needs, and reveal wonder and delight.

Perhaps this is why the ṛṣis and masters revealed the precious wisdom teachings in poetry. Or because it was easier to remember and grasp in an oral pre-written culture, yet we see poetry as the chosen conveyance, for example, in Saundaryalaharī and other later works of literate societies. Practicality is to be maintained; without it, things become afterthoughts or fun embellishments but not necessary sustenance. Beyond practicality, I wonder if the metrics and conventions of poetry allow for the innate paradox of life to be meaningfully conveyed. Life has an inherent paradox. To paraphrase the Vedas, this is because the observer is the observed. Life has an inexpressible beauty, and our place in it is often juxtaposed with hardships and suffering.

How do we include this mystery of beauty and wonder and show the way of clarity and wisdom without circumventing individual and collective suffering and pain?

Rhythm, sound, and images reveal an atmosphere of harmony, texture, and energy that gives context to this ineffable, paradoxical yearning to express and display itself. These dynamics remind me of Śakti. Consciousness's power and self-reflexivity also unfolds in this cadence. Perhaps it's Her language of inexpressibility. The inexpressible is felt and seen by the inner modes of perception. That is how we know it exists and why we are compelled to express it. Beautiful architecture does this, too. Of course, people will disagree on what is beautiful. Yet we can note practical features sensible to harmonious construction, whether of a sādhana or a building.

To me, both seem to require a harmonious functionality in their landscape, not overpowering it but articulating its features and serving the movement of life effectively with space for the spontaneous upsurges of beauty.

Architecture requires the techniques of sound and precise engineering. Looking at skyscrapers as an architects' summit of expression, I see engineering feats seemingly defying human limitations. Chicago comes to mind; though the height of skyscrapers in other cities has surpassed it, it remains an unparalleled city of architectural innovation and contemporary geometric beauty for me. The towering buildings capture and reflect light, playing with the natural elements and offering it to the human ambition of reaching the skies like a laughing and audacious magician. In Chicago's brutally cold winters, the snow, sun, and light reveal gleaming white brilliance across an iconic skyline reflected pristinely on Lake Michigan. Strange as it may seem, I feel  the power of Sarasvatī  in this frozen and reflective landscape. Soaring intelligence and spatial eloquence descending from the summits to the plains.

Vibration is both Śakti's and the poet's tool of engineering.

In a diligent analysis of sound vibration, the ṛṣis identified that vibration starts to flow and expand from Śakti's outflowing volition. From the simultaneity of this vibration arises space, and this simultaneity unfolds also as wisdom and intelligence, and then, when brought into successive intervals, it births time. Any movement within this vibrational continuum affects everything else within its spatiotemporal matrix. Śakti has freely birthed all this as a display of  Śiva's fullness.

That which is unlimited chooses space, time, and causality, limitations to express its wholeness. Measures of limits become a paradoxical monument to its wholeness.

The fundamental expression of Consciousness is dynamic triune vibration unfolding as volition, wisdom, and action that has the power to create, sustain, and destroy. Sādhana follows this pattern of the One unfolding as three-fold and then further differentiates into a five-fold structure.[1] I have observed five corresponding components in the architecture of sādhana. Except for recognition, these categories are mine and are not based on traditional Śrī Vidyā 

  • Coherence/ Congruence
  • Transformation
  • Reciprocity
  • Integration
  • Recognition

Sādhana is the means of atma vidyā, to know the unchanging Self. It gives the means "to know that by which all is known" to paraphrase from the Vedas. It is a system of methodologies to reveal and calibrate the Universal to the individual. It means to give support to peace or being. It is often translated as "means of accomplishment."

The accomplishment here is the release of suffering and the bondage of illusion and ignorance.

Before we go into the details, it is essential to understand that sādhana is a vehicle. We do much sādhana, using it as a rope to climb as high as possible so that when we let go, we have enough velocity to fall very deep into the heart of the Self, penetrating through numerous veils. Just as a rocket needs extraordinary velocity to break the gravitational field, sādhana works in reverse; it needs to involute deep enough to break through the karmic stratum, mind and body conditioning, and armoring of (perhaps) lifetimes. 

The above five categories are neither linear nor distinct; a spiral and interpenetrating nature qualify them. I will closely examine the first of the five in this blog post.


Coherence reveals the inherent order (rta) of Consciousness where the individual and Universal, relative and Absolute, are intertwined and reflect each other in a perfection of vibrational interconnectedness. They are two sides of one whole; the individual is never separate, appearing distinct from the Universal Consciousness. The individual is a clear and precise map of the immensity of the absolute.

Coherency allows for congruency with the whole, the highest, and where there is coherency, it is constantly calibrating this highest to the relative, changing, and impermanent world of forms. 

The human incarnation is considered incredibly precious and unique. There are a few reasons for this; for our topic, it is because it is the conduit for higher Consciousness and not only the vehicle of Divine expression but is the Divine in vibrational microcosm with the ability to be the mesocosm, mediator of wisdom for others species.

In sādhana, the primary step is to experience this coherence directly. This heals a fundamental and existential split and can re-integrate psychological fragmentation. The ground of being as an individual is in the relationship to the unchanging and self-luminous. Yet, we rarely feel this as a foundation, sometimes perhaps as an aspiration.

From the absolute point of view,  the unchanging and self-luminous overflows and expresses itself as the many.

And it is doing that constantly and multi dimensionally. For sādhana to progress, we must have this irrevocable understanding of our context to the Oneness as our sure foothold for when Consciousness reveals itself beyond ordinarily accepted concepts and boundaries of the mind.

As mentioned earlier, the "observer is observed in the Upanishads." Coherence reveals this inherent paradox of incarnation. How can a seemingly separate object be the same as that which perceives it? Is there a perceiving non-separate self?

The ultimate level of coherence is the reconciliation that the seer, the seen, and the act of seeing is one simultaneous, unfragmented whole that we perceive successively through the partial lens of "me."

These three are one vibrational dynamic of Śakti reflecting Her architectural masterpiece of creation to Siva.

This mystery that one is many, literally, not symbolically, ultimately resolves our struggles. It lifts our obsession on our inner thoughts and perceptions to the transcendental view of the wonder of diversity and richness beyond what our dualistic minds can perceive. Then, we can open to further mysteries of how interpenetrating and holographic Oneness is. To paraphrase the Tantras, how everything is of the nature of everything.

Sādhana insists on and provokes this experience; otherwise, it remains at a mental or conceptual level. Concepts can't carry us when we are in a crisis or on the threshold of a breakthrough. What has been experienced, known directly, and embodied marks the difference between a breakdown and a breakthrough.

The bridge or the messenger of this coherence to reach beyond our ingrained mental and anguished fragmented levels of defending and protecting "myself" is devotion.

Fortunately, no one is devoid of devotion. The Sanskrit word for devotion is Bhakti, and one of its many meanings is to belong. We belong to Oneness relationally, and our beingness is part of Consciousness's wholeness.

Coherence relieves us of the one-dimensionality of experience and the proprietorship of the Ahaṃkāra. The Ahaṃkāra  translates to "I am the doer" and is usually understood as the ego. The ego is a confusing word that we use casually in many ways. The Ahaṃkāra  is the part of the Self that experiences itself as separate, different, and limited and thus sees itself as the doer. It's that knot in our being that we feel but goes undetected underneath much of our experiences and makes us feel separate from others. Life happens on many levels unknown to us. There is a synergy and dynamic of knowledge that does not fit into the narrowness of the Ahaṃkāra's view. This knowledge opens a world beyond that tangled knot of "myself."

Coherence reveals this vaster realm and lays the proper context for surrender. We are freed from always doing and being the doer behind our relentless activities.

A clear indicator that one feels the interconnection of the individual self to the Absolute is the ability to detach. This detachment increases, and at one point, united with devotion, it becomes a living surrender. Neither detachment nor surrender is final; they are dynamic and usually gradually unfolding in the bottomless ocean of potentiality and must be exercised repeatedly.

Gradual dynamics are more stable. Sudden changes are noteworthy and exciting,  yet less coherent. Sometimes, an earthquake is needed to alter the landscape radically; other times, a slow-moving river gently carves a pathway through seemingly impenetrable rock.

Sādhana has many methodologies for coherence, laying the foundation for the towering peaks of sādhana to lead to the summit of nonduality. Many technologies can give this, as most Śrī Vidyā sādhanas traverse the previously-mentioned five-fold correspondence. Some practices precisely calibrated for this stage include puja, specific meditations and visualization, japa krama, Ishtadevata yoga, and all mantra and stotram recitations.

Plunged in the sādhana of Chandī Path or Saundaryalaharī, its poetic and rhythmic structure is a ladder ascending to the summits of Consciousness; the transcendental realm becomes accessible. It's paradoxical that many perspectives are vibrationally coursing through us from nonduality. The magnitude of this vastness localizes within the human perspective. The dynamic of the relative expresses the Absolute bursting beyond the confined meanings of the entangled knot of ego. Emptiness' game of fullness. In modern skyscraper architecture, the towering, seemingly liquid Aqua building in Chicago, admittedly one of my favorites, comes to mind: a rising wave of vibrational space, sound, and light— its riverine liquidity surging upwards as light cascades down—a poem to the sky.


[1] Sri Vidya has a map of the descent of Consciousness and power in this structure of one to three to five that will not be covered here.