We know of the word, Shram, which means labour, burden, and effort.
Let us now take the Shram to experience श्री – Shri / Sri.
From the same root of Shram comes Aashraya, which means a platform, support, shelter, a recourse.
From the notion of Shram and Aashraya comes Aashram, a place which takes on the Shram, i.e. the effort, the labour and the burden of providing, Aashraya, i.e.
1. support to those seeking recourse
2. shelter to those seeking support
3. platform for activities, exercises or projects, i.e. karyam meaning that which is fit or worthy to be done, from kar meaning to do, karam meaning hands. It is also a platform for education such as a gurukula, pathshala etc. All collectively are seen as a Yagna, an act for spreading knowledge and good, from Ya meaning to spread.
Hence the association of Ashrams with Yagna and shelter.
To Attach or To Detach
The common root for all these words and concepts is shra.
Shraya, shrayati means to attach.
Hence aashraya also means being attached to, being supported by, belonging to, forming a part of.
From this comes “ear”, shravan, meaning that which is attached to the face in this case.
Hearing is therefore called shravanam.
Thus reputation or fame, which is attached to a person or act, becomes shravas, and that which is extra credit, an additional attribute, becomes shreya.
From this, that which is more praiseworthy, prosperous, trustworthy, dependable, etc., becomes Shreyas.
After seeing the evolution of these terms and concepts, we can now go to understand Shri / Sri.
Shri is a title as well as an entity by itself.
From all the derivatives of shra, especially Shreyas, we can see how Shri as a title denotes one
- who has a good reputation attached
- one who is worthy of that praise
- which is worthy of hearing with the shravan, ear
- which in turn is attached to the face.
Hence Sri is used as an honorific title for elevated people and the divine.
What a beauty lies in this term!
From how shra yields aashraya, aashrama etc., Sri, as a noun, as an entity, as a being, as a something, as an existence, denotes that which is full of resource, support, basis, platform, the fruitfulness of effort (shram) and hence auspiciousness.
Indeed, Sri is a divinity one turns to in order to seek support, resources or fruit of action.
Sri is that divinity in Creation that yields fruit to an effort, yields effect to an act, yields effect to the acts of all divine forces and principles.
Sri, as a divinity Herself, is hence held as the Goddess of Fortune, destiny.
Where is Sri?
In our work Creation – Srishti Vignana, we have seen how the process of Creation unfolds from Narayana, That which is in equilibrium in the primordial waters.
Sriman Narayana is Narayana at equilibrium, balanced and at rest full of Sri resources.
Sri Lakshmi Narayana is Narayana, also stirred up with a goal, Lakshya, to create. Lakshmi here is embedded in Sri.
In Narayana, Sri or Lakshmi are an integral part. Hence Sri is used as a prefix or title, or qualifier for Narayana. Sri is thus at the heart of Narayana.
In Vishnu, Sri is more in the form of Lakshmi, who, as a consort, keeps providing resources in the form of Lakshya, the goal for the penetrative, pervading force to act.
Sri is a quality of all the divinities in the cosmos, male or female, as they have sprung from Sriman Narayana.
Sriman and Srimati
Hence Sri is used as a prefix, title for all divinities, as well as for every individual, male or female, to denote the resourcefulness, auspiciousness of every divinity, every individual, every being of existence.
In the case of men, Sri takes on the form Shriman/Sriman, meaning one who possesses a good measure, maana of Sri and puts it to good use.
In the case of women, Sri takes on the form Shrimati/Srimati, meaning one whose mati attitude is like Sri. One who always ensures that things go well and will bear fruit.
This Sri is written in English in many ways as Shri, Sree and Shree etc.
Interestingly, the word Seri seen in the name of many people, organizations and places in South East Asia is also nothing but another way of writing Sri.
A noted example is Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of the oil-rich island kingdom of Brunei. Little wonder it is one of the richest kingdoms in the world!
This also shows the “resourceful” connection that India has had with the rest of S.E.Asia.
The Auspicious Duo
These forms of Sri also confirm the Indian perspective of how masculine and feminine genders were regarded as complementary to each other in order to fulfil a purpose, an objective.
Masculine gender was seen as that which possesses the power to act in order to cause the effect that it is meant to cause, to bear fruit.
Feminine Gender was seen as the complementing consort, which endows the act with the power, the attitude, the nature to become fruitful.
Each divinity and its complementary spouse, sometimes spouses, together thus fulfil their innate role or function in the cosmic order.
And people who have realized the cosmic order, hold the divine principles close to heart and work in sync with them have been addressed as Sri, Sri Sri, Ananta Sri, Srila Sri, etc.
(The writers are founders of Bharath Gyan)