Śrī Lalitā Sahasranāma | Introduction
Lalitā Triśati and Lalitā Sahasranāma Stotram are dialogues between the sage Agastya and the God Hayagrīva as recorded in Brahmāṇḍa-Purāṇa, which is well known for the extolling Śrī Lalitā Devī: It explains in detail the appearance of the Goddess Lalitā to save the world from the clutches of the demon Bhaṇḍāsura.
There are 3 important sub-texts in this Purāṇa:
The first of these texts is Lalitopākhyāna, consisting of 45 chapters and is found in the last section of the Purāṇa. The last 5 chapters are especially well known:
They extol the greatness of the Divine Mother, the significance of the mantra of the goddess (śoḍaśākṣarī-vidyā), the various mudras and postures to be practiced, meditations, initiations etc., and the mystical placement of the deities involved in Śrī Chakra.
The next text is the Lalitā Triśati in which 300 names of the goddess is featured.
The 3rd text is the celebrated Lalitā Sahasranāma, which consists of 320 verses in three chapters:
The 1st chapter is 51 verses, and relates that the 1000 names of Lalitā were recited by various devatās as commanded by the Goddess herself.
This chapter also explains that the verses are in Anuṣṭup Chaṇḍaḥ (metre known as Anuṣṭup) and that the deity Lalitā is invoked in three ways (Vāgbhava, Kāmarāja, and Śakti).
The 2nd chapter of the text contains the thousand names of the goddess in 182 1/2 verses (which you can read online in the following pages).
The 3rd and final chapter is 86 1/2 verses long and enumerates the benefits accrued by reciting these one thousand names of the Goddess. This is mainly to encourage people to recite the names with concentration to achieve, if not anything else, a peace of mind.
Lalitā Triśati and Lalitā Sahasranāma are dialogues between the sage Agastya and the God Hayagrīva.
Hayagrīva is the incarnation of Viṣṇu who assumed the form of a horse to kill a demon by the same name.
Agastya was a sage of great renown, who is immortalized as a star in the celestial heavens (one of the 7 Rishi-s, Saptarṣi). He is the patron saint of Tamil Nadu being a founder of a system of medicine called Siddha, and also having drunk the whole ocean in his Kamaṇḍalu. According to some, Agastya is the half-brother of the great sage, Vasiṣṭha.
The story of the meeting of Agastya and Hayagrīva is given in the Lalitopākhyāna and is quite interesting:
Agastya was visiting several places of pilgrimage and was sad to see many people steeped in ignorance and involved in only sensual pleasures.
He came to Kāñchī and worshipped Kāmākṣī and sought a solution for the masses.
Pleased with the devotion and his caring for the society, Lord Viṣṇu appeared before Agastya and provided the sage Agastya with the solution of curing the worldly folk from ignorance:
He explained that He is the primordial principle, and the source and the end of everything. Though He is above forms and Guṇas, He involves himself in them.
He goes on to explain that a person should recognize that He is the Pradhāna (primordial) transformed into the universe, and that He is also the Puruṣa (conscious spirit) who is transcendental and beyond all qualities(guṇas) and forms.
However to recognize this, one has to perform severe penance, self-discipline etc.
If (since) this is difficult, Lord Viṣṇu advises that the worship of the Goddess will achieve the purpose of life, given as liberation from bondage, very easily.
He points out that even other Gods like Śiva and Brahma have worshiped the goddess Tripurā.
Viṣṇu concludes his discourse saying that this was revealed to Agastya so that he (Agastya) can spread the message to devas, sages, and humans. Viṣṇu requests Agastya to approach his incarnation, Hayagrīva and disappears from Agastya's sight.
Agastya approaches Hayagrīva with devotion and reverence. Hayagrīva reveals to Agastya that the great Goddess, Lalitā, is without beginning or end and is the foundation of the entire universe.
The great goddess abides in everyone and can be realized only in meditation:
The worship of goddess is done with the Lalitā Sahasranāma (1000 names) or with Triśati (300 names) or with Aṣtottara Nāma (108 names) or with Śrī Chakra (diagrammatical form for meditation).
In tantra śāstra, each devi/deva is worshipped as a Mantra, and Yantra:
Śrī Chakra is used to represent the divine mother diagrammatically. It denotes how the power of a small point in the centre of the Śrī Chakra transforms itself into a series of triangles, circles, and lines.
One can meditate on the Śrī Chakra itself knowing the significance of the triangles and circles. These forms represent the various transformations of the Reality.
One can realize that the universe has evolved through the undifferentiated consciousness and has eventually become the universe as we know it.
The recitation of Sahasranāma and Triśati are used in the worship of Śrī Chakra.
The correspondence between Śrī Chakra as a yantra and the 15 syllable mantra of the goddess (pañcadaśī-vidyā) is achieved by carefully studying the Śrī Chakra which is constructed using the symbolism of the three dimensions and the significance of the 15 letters of the Śrī Vidyā.
The 15-syllable mantra of Śrī Devi is respectively:
Ka E I La Hrīm
Ha Sa Ka Ha La Hrīm
Sa Ka La Hrīm (Śrīm)
It is said that if meditation on Śrī Chakra is not possible, recitation of the Lalitā Sahasranāma with utmost devotion would confer the same benefits, perhaps in longer time-frame.
The Lalitā Sahasranāma also mentions how to meditate on the various centres of consciousness (chakras) in one's body:
Kundalini, meaning coiled up, ordinarily resides in the Mūlādhāra chakra, at the base of spine, and when it rises to the Sahasrāra chakra at the top of the head, one becomes aware of the ultimate reality.
Before reciting the Sahasranāma, it is advised that the Divine Mother be meditated upon according to the Dhyāna ślokas, given in the beginning of the text.
May the Divine Mother guide us in our every action and thought,
and may She confer upon us the greatest gift of all, Mokṣa, the liberation.
OM tat sat.