Sri Vidya, Sri Chakra and Goddess Lalita (2002) : Blue Beryl Blog
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Sri Vidya, Sri Chakra and Goddess Lalita (2002)

by Hyoun Bae on 02/23/13

 
Tripura-sundari-stotram,verse 2, Shankaracharya
 
Kadamba-vana-charinim muni-kadamba-kadambhinim nitamba-jita-bhudharam sura-nitambini-sevitam
Navambu-ruha-locanam abhinavambuda-syamalam trilocana-kuumbhinim tripura-sundarim ashraye
 
Dwelling in the Kadamba forest, holding a golden vina; wearing a necklace of precious jewels, whose intoxication is radiating from her face; who creates prosperity through her compassion, whose eyes are clear, who causes one to transcend death. I take refuge in the wife of the three-eyed one (Shiva), the beautiful Goddess of the three cities.
 
Tripura-sundari-stotram,verse 7, Shankaracharya
 
Sakumkuma-vilepanam alaka-cumbi-kasturikam samanda-hasitekshanam sashara-capa-pashankusham
Ashesa-jana-mohinim aruna-malya-bhusambaram japa-kusuma-bhasuram japavidhau smaramyambhikam
 
Annointed with saffron powder (kumkum), hair scented with musk,
Whose eyes are laughing with a smile, holding an arrow, bow, noose and goad;
Enchanting all people without exception, ornamented by a large garland radiant with rose flowers,
In the practice of repeating her name, I remember Ambika, the divine mother.
 
 
 
General Description and History

"She Alone is the Self (Atman), Other than her is only untruth. She is the Absolute Conscious Reality (Brahman), beyond notions of being and non-being. She is the truth of Consciousness, nondual reality-Being-Consciousness-Bliss. She is Beauty-the three cities, interpenetrating, resplendent, one without a second and independent. Verily all there is is pure Being, self-luminious Consciousness and intimate blissof the Self. Goddess Mahatripurasundari, the Beautiful, assumes various forms. All beings and things are this great, beautiful reality, the supreme truth" Bahvrcopanishad, verse 5.
 
Lalita Tripurasundari

 
Lalita Tripurasundari is considered among the fullest goddess manifestations of the Hindu Shakta and Tantric traditions. Lalita means lovely and also depicts her as the supreme shakti, eternally engaged in divine sport. Her playfullness is acted out in the universal function of creation, maintenance, destruction, concealment and release-the five most prominent functions mentioned in Shakta philosophy. Metaphysically, she is conceived as the union of Shiva and Shakti. In mythology, she is related to Shiva as Kameshvara, Lord of desire. Tripura literally means three abodes or cities and sundari refers to absolute beauty. Lalita Tripura sundari then is a paragon of joy, beauty, auspiciousness and divine sovereignty. She is also noted as being any extremely erotic figure and like Sri Radha, is related to the divine mood of conjugal delight-sringara-rasa.
 
Lalita is venerated in the Puranas, in several Tantric ritual texts and numerous hymns. The Lalita-sahasranama, a composition of 1,000 names of the Goddess, reveals her worship to be a profound culmination of teachings, allying status with both Vedic (brahmanic) communities and Tantric lineages. The worship of Lalita Tripurasundari may well be regarded as the crest-jewel of Shakta Tantrism.
 
 
Sri Vidya Tradition
 
Shaktism covers a broad spectrum of religious traditions, movements and regional variations. Shakta Tantrism itself consists of a wide variety of schools and lineages. The worship of Lalita Tripurasundari forms the heart of a thriving mystical and religious tradition called Sri Vidya. More than any other Mahavidya, Tripurasundari has been the subject of extensive philosophical, devotional and Tantric texts, sustained by an enduring and mature commentarial tradition of South Indian scholar yogis and saints. Srividya Tantra is among the few branches of Hindu and Shakta Tantra that can be said to have formulated a coherent body of teachings and methodologies.
 
Sri Vidya seems to have arisen from the Kaula tantrism of North India, specifically Kashmir. These roots were superceded by the grand flourishing of the tradition's doctrines and practices in the South. When and how this tradition penetrated the South of India is unclear, but it is there that the tradition matured and was preserved. Lalita's worship has also been historically associated with the disciplic descendents of the great Vedantic preceptor Shankara, who according to tradition, was a devotee of Tripurasundari and also wrote significant compositions in praise of her-most notably the Saundarya-Lahari. His lineage followers have taken to the worship of Lalita and Sri Chakra fervently.
 
Sri Vidya tradition incorporates worship of the Sri Vidya mantra (Lalita's root mantra), Sri Chakra (her yantra) and her iconic form. It integrates ritual and yoga in its nondual approach to Self-realization. The crux of the Sri Vidya tradition is initiation, whereby the preceptor infuses the vidyamantra) with life and instructs the disciple in the worship of the image or yantra of Tripurasundari.
 
There are notable divisions in the overall tradition. Tripurasundari is a Tantric deity and worshipers have approached her according to left-handed and right-handed rites, accepted modes of the Kaula tantrics. Kaula once again may refer to the overarching tradition of Shakta tantrism that included both of these approaches. The tradition knows of two great adherents who advocated or upheld differing views on the proper mode of worship-Bhaskararaya of the 18th century and Lakshmidhara of 15th century. Lakshmidhara was an ardent advocate of right-hand worship, a reformer who sought to establish his more ethical outlook upon the tradition. He designated his branch of worship samaya, which means 'code of conduct.' Sri Vidya, as a entity within the overall Tantric tradition, included controversial forms of worship included the ritual use of the panchamakaras as well as an erotic form of meditation called kamakala-dhyana, wherein the erotic aspect of desire is contemplated by adepts of high level attainment. This meditation may involve envisioning the yoni or vagina as the creative nexus of the world, reflected in the central triangle of Sri Chakra. Samaya is a heavily yogic-oriented school that does away with the external and ritual modes of worship fostered in the Kaula tradition.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Bala, Tripura, and Tripura Bhairavi

 
Lalita Tripurasundari's iconic portrait or divine persona is characterized in three interrelated goddess images. She is a young maiden, a mother goddess and a fierce goddess of destruction.
 
Bala-Tripurasundari

As a divine, youthful maiden she is known as Bala Tripurasundari, or Bala for short. An alternate name is Sodashi, which means sixteen. In mythology she is portrayed as a young women of sixteen. This numeric affiliation is clearly a symbolic one. The most obvious correlation is made in relation to the lunar cycle, personified as fifteen goddess of the waxing and waning phases. Tripura-sundari as Sodashi is the sixteenth lunar digit, identified with the full moon, which indicates that she exists beyond time and all relative manifestation.
 
Bala wears elegant red silk garments, her complexion is brilliant like the rising sun. Her crown is adorned with a crescent moon and bees swarm around her sweetly scented hair, fixed in braids and decorated with flowers. She has three eyes and a dazzling smile, her lips reddened with Tambula.
 
Bala's mind is filled is intoxicated with divine bliss and erotic passion. Her form is graceful and charming and her long sinuous limbs and slender waist are decorated with fine jewels. She holds a rosary and displays the gestures of fearlessness and boon bestowal. She sits on a red lotus. Her seed mantra is aim klim sauh. Bala Tripurasundari may be considered an initial manifestation to be worshiped prior to engaging in the worship of her primary form as Lalita.
 
Goddess Lalita

Lalita is the primary manifestation of the this triune or composite goddess image. She is the principal benign goddess figure, the central archetype for a host of other goddesses. She is known as Rajarajesvwari, empress of the Soveriegn lords and Para-bhattarika, the Supremely Majestic One. The term Tripura denotes a number of threefold meanings. This triadic symbolism regards her foremost as the supreme conscious Self underlying all states of consciousness: waking, dream, and deep sleep. The number three also signifies her threefold appearance as Bala, Lalita and Tripura-Bhairavi. She is declared as the sovereign source of the cosmic deities Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva. In this way she signifies the ultimate unitive experience wherein the three elements of ordinary expereince-knowledge, object of knowledge and cognizer are inseparable. Lalita is also the three principle energetic pathways of the human subtle anatomy, the three cosmic powers of iccha, jnana and kriya, as well as the three stages of manifest speech (vak)-pashyanti, madhyama and vaikhari. Her personal mantra and yantra forms are also conceived of in three divisions. In all of these designations, which in no ways exhaust her philosophical descriptions, Lalita subsumes all of the themes and motifs common to just about all of the divine feminine archetypes.
 
In meditation and external worship, Lalita's form is described as being gold and orange in complexion. She wears red cloth with gold trim. She is garlanded by a snake and atop her jeweled crown rests a crescent moon. Around her thin waist is a tiger skin girdle. She is seated on a majestic throne of precious metals and gemstones. All of her limbs are decorated with jewels. She has four arms. In her upper left hand she holds a blade, in her upper right she holds a goad. Her lower left hand wields a trident and lower right a drum. In other iconic manifestations she holds a sugar cane bow, arrows and a pink or red lotus flower.
 
The main symbolic descriptions of her implements are standardized in numerous texts. The noose and goad symbolize attraction and aversion, the sugar cane bow is the mind and the arrows are the senses or the subtle matrix of material elements.
 
Tripurasundari's iconic or anthropomorphic manifestation is worshiped in temples throughout India, though generally she is worshiped in her form as the Sri Chakra, her identifying yantra manifestation. In various regions she becomes associated with local deities and clusters of prominent regional goddesses, foremost would be that of Kamakshi of Kanchipuram, where she is worshiped in an appearance bearing an almost exact likeness to her traditional descriptions.
 

Tripura-Bhairavi

The third manifestation of Lalita is Tripura-Bhairavi, goddess of destruction. The tripartite goddess image of the youthful maiden Bala, married goddess Lalita, and Bhairavi, correlate with the cosmic functions of creation, preservation and destruction and depict three stages of human life, from youth, middle age to old age. Bhairavi's description will be supplied in a following section, where she is figured as an independent wisdom goddess, or Mahavidya.
 
 
The Story of Lalita

 
(Needs introductory discussion of Taraka)

Legend speaks of the birth of Kumara (Kartikeya, son of Shiva and Parvati). When the couple was engaged the act of love, Kama-eros personified-was sent by the cosmic deities to influence them so that they would somehow conceive of a child who could defeat their rival, the demon Taraka. Shiva detected the plot of Kama and singed him to a pile of ashes with his third eyes.
 
A skilled artisan came upon the ashen remains of Kama and used them to paint the image of a human being. Shiva's eyes feel upon this image and brought life into. Exuberant by this outcome he joyfully instructed the being to supplicate Shiva by reciting select Vedic hymns and to receive his blessings. Shiva was pleased with his glorification and granted him sovereignty over the three world for a span of a thousands years. The gods of creation fell into despair. The make-shift deity was named Bhanda on account of the distress he brought to the celestials. Bhandha set up his capital in a well-guarded city and tyrannically ruled the universe uncontested by any being, knowing that his sovereignty was insured by the grant he had received.
 
Seeing the devastation that would ensue out of Bhanda's sovereignty, sage Narada suggested to Indra that he worship the great Devi through the performance of austerity and offerings of sacrifice. Indra conceded and lit a grand sacrificial fire. Offerings were made and out of the flame arose the great Goddess, Lalita. The gods sangs verses of praise and were confident of her ability to defeat the demon Bhanda. Brahma suggested that Lalita be married and consequently, Shiva appeared in the form of Kameshvara, a dazzling figure. Vishnu gave Lalita's hand in marriage in a grand celebration. The festivities over, all the gods left for their respective abodes and Narada reminded the Goddess of her purpose, to bring an end to the reign of Bhanda.
 
Acknowledging her role, Lalita prepared for a massive war. She ordered musical accompaniment, including conches and instruments of all sorts. She arranged her batallions who rode on horses and enormous elephants. Her chief ministers traveled by chariot. There were three heavily armed chariots in total. Lalita herself mounted her lion and was accompanied by countless manifestations of her power, Shaktis, who chose to ride into battle on exotic carriers including majestic peacocks and graceful, long-necked swans. On all sides she was flanked by her warrior goddesses, who were armed with every imaginable form of weaponry and not least, mystical powers that would cause despair to even the most formidable foe. All of the make deities assembled in support of the great goddess and battle cries filled the air. "Victory, Victory unto the supreme Goddess Lalita," they cried.
 
In the city of Shunyaka, Bhanda lay motionless in his palace. Inauspicious omens were visible everywhere and the war cries of Lalita's army shook the city walls and alarmed her inhabitants to the ensuing disaster. Bhanda beseeched his brothers for council. They argued, 'Victory is in the hands of the Shakti. She is no mortal woman. Send spies to discover her strengths and weaknesses.'
 
Bhanda, blinded by arrogance, boasted the strength of his own forces and did not heed the advice of his brothers. He immediately dispatched a messenger to declare war on Lalita. A general by the name of Durmada would ride of into battle accompanied by a band of troops to initiate battle with the front lines of Lalita's army. On the home front, Bhanda stationed his Chief generals at each of the city's gates backed with their strongest warriors who were all ready to defend their capital.
 
The War Begins

Durmada raced headstrong into battle on camel back, appearing like a windstorm from the distance as he approached the massive body of Lalita's advancing armies. Without a moments notice, the first battle had begun and Devi's warriors put down a great number of his forces with arrows and other long distance weapons. The blood from the casualties flowed like a river through the midline of the battlefield. Durmada continued to charge head on toward Lalita fearlessly.
 
In challenge, a group of Lalita's shaktis practically reared their carriers and vehicles and shifted their motion to confront the courageous general and his war party. Their leader, Sampatsaraswati, rode on an elephant. As the two great battalions clashed, many of Durmada's warriors were trampled under the feet of the giant elephant. Out of spite, Durmada managed close to the leader of the Shaktis and pulled a gem from her crown. Sampatsaraswati quickly responded. She turned round and landed a decisive blow on his vulnerable chest that immediately ended the battle. The remaining troops retreated back to camp.
 
Bhanda received news of the massive defeat and desiring revenge, sent out leagues of his troops-numbering thousands-to extinguish his mighty adversaries. Two brigades, including some of the foremost commanders of his army, fell consecutively at the merciless hands of Lalita's troops. Their prowess was inconceivable and Bhanda grew fearful that soon Lalita and her shaktis would soon be ready to storm the palace gates.
 
Bhanda flung open his chamber doors in rage and called all of his ministers in attendance. He had a plan. The only way to subvert her forces would be to attack from behind. There, Lalita would remain unguarded and vulnerable. If he could take out their leader, they would certainly triumph. For this, he would have to ignore the standard customs of virtuous battle and sneak in unnoticed. No war music, not a sign of movement.
 
Bhanda assigned this mission to the chief named Visanga, who immediately assembled an army and proceeded to the rear of Lalita's forces. All-knowing, Lalita sensed the presence of his army lurking from behind. Her troops stumbled in fear at the surprise attack, but two of her generals remained steady and invoked her grace to do battle. A fierce struggle ensued and lasted the whole night. By dawn, Visanga's army lay lifeless on the battlefield and the shaktis reveled in the intoxication of the wrathful energy instilled in them by Lalita. Lalita's forces set up camp, amidst a ring of fire that shone throughout the day and on until dusk. The fire raged and began to consume the immediate area, and in the middle stood Lalita on her chariot appearing like the center of a solar orb.
 
Bhanda's thirty sons wished to fight for their fathers honor, and with his blessing they rushed to the battlefield letting out horrendous battle cries. Hearing this cacophony, Lalita's own nine-year old daughter, Kumarika, wished to challenge the haughty offspring of the enemy. Lalita resisted, but her chief commanders promised full support and the young goddess warrior ascended to her chariot equipped with weapons of destruction.
 
The two lively forces met in view of Lalita. The glory of the mother was witnessed in the amazing skill and dexterity of the young maiden. As she danced around the battlefield, Bhanda's forces dropped like flied. Lalita's generals watched in amazement as Kumarika unyieldingly slaughtered countless warriors. She had indeed received the transmission of her lessons in warfare. Finally, Kumarika unleashed a mystic missile that devoured the sons of Bhanda in one fell swoop. Upon hearing the news of the loss of his sons, Bhanda had to muster all of his strength to end the war-win or lose.
 
The battle lasted two more days. At the end of the second, Lalita invoked Lord Ganesh who sent out his own indomitable forces and successfully wiped out yet another wave of Bhanda's army. On the third, Bhanda suffered the loss of another battalion and his armies were diminishing. By the last, he would launch his final attack. This time, he would step out onto the battlefield to personally challenge Lalita.
 
Missiles flew overhead throughout the day and great warriors on both sides were taken out. In a final attempt, Bhanda called forth the most treacherous warriors in the history of creation as his allies. Among these infamous demons were Hiranyakashipu, Ravana and Kamsa, who had all appeared at different times and caused mayhem in the cosmos. In response Lalita called upon different descents of Vishnu such as Rama, Krishna and Kalki, who subdued their antagonists as they had done before.
 
It was time to put a halt on Bhanda's last stand. Just as his sons were vanquished, he too would fall. Lalita let forth a missile that set his body ablaze. With Bhanda down, she marched to the city of Shunyaka and burnt it to the ground as well. The gods, including Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva appeared on the site to offer songs and hymns of praise. Her mission accomplished, Lalita resorted to the sacred place known as Srinagar where she would be worshipped for ages.
 
Besides being an actual geographical location in India, Sripura or Srinagara, the abode of Goddess Lalita is explained as existing either in the ranges of the cosmic pillar or axis mundi, known as Meru in Hindu mtyhology. This Srinagara is the inner sanctum of the human individual.
 
Kanchi, where the famous Kamakhi temple (otherwise knonw as Kamakoti Peetha) stands is known to be a Sri Chakra, just as Benares is a lingam, and Vrindavan and outlying lands a mandala of its own. Around the twelth century establsihed. Kamakhsi is Tripura sundari and Raja rajeshvari, bearing the familiar iconographic details and marks of Lalita's dhanana mantras. Another shrine is located in Tripura state, near Agartala, a noted shakti pitaha. Here she is worshiped by both left and right-hand modes.
 
 
 
Sri Chakra
 
"The Srichakra represents the process by which the originally unified, undifferentiated divinity assumes the binary character of the masculine and feminine Shiva and Shakti, and creates the universe through an ongoing process of devolving particularization (kala)." Douglas Renfrew Brooks, Auspicious Wisdom, p.115.
 
Lalita Tripurasundari's well known yantra is called the Sri Yantra or Sri Chakra. This yantra, as with those of all deities, is considered a living manifestation of the Goddess-a cosmic diagram that is the visible expression of a specific god or goddess. Tripurasundari is an image of cosmic wholeness. Thus her particular yantra conforms to this symbolic integrity. Every aspect of the yantra depicts significant cosmic functions, powers and deities that preside over them. In consonance with the overall function of the Mahavidya cluster, she also embodies every phase or stage of development traversed by the spiritual aspirant. Its intrinsic structure also relays the notion of a microcosmic/macrocosmic parallelism, a central theoretical component of most Tantric teachings. The Sri Chakra is not only a map of the cosmos, but of the human individual as well. To worship Sri Chakra with success is to enter a transcendent vision of the creation and individual existence.
 
Sri Yantra is a universal symbol of completion, wholeness and auspiciousness. It is utilized in ritual worship in various religious settings, and not only by practitioners of the Sri Vidya Tradition.
 
Structure and Symbolism of the Yantra

 
These symbolic interpretations-as map of the individual, the universe and the stages of evolution of consciousness-are only three among several levels of meaning and experience revealed in the worship of Shri Chakra. This yantra's particular formation is said to be consistent with the very nature of reality, which is infinite and can only be conceived in relative depth. These three primary levels of interpretation are drawn from the composite structure of the yantra where as energetic principles they overlap or are interwoven. To theoretically understand traditional descriptions of the yantra, a familiarity with a wide range of philosophical and metaphysical descriptions is required. In the discussion that follows, we will touch upon some of the basic principles that are more general in nature.
 
The Shri Yantra is composed a number of geometrical shapes and symbols which form a complex, linear pattern conveying the ultimate nature of reality. The more prominent features of this yantra are the sets of intersecting triangles that comprise its inner circle. These upright and inverted triangles are symbolic of the union of masculine and feminine principles that establish objective reality. They are Shiva and Shakti. The manner in which they intersect form geometrical equations that represent or reflect the structure of the cosmos as it unfolds from subtle to gross. Thus, within this intricate design one can decipher basic patterns, which taken individually, correlate with the cosmological schema of Shakta Tantric teachings.
 
The outermost structure of this yantra is defined by three lines which form the walls of the bhupura, or square-shaped enclosure opening out through four gate or portals. There is an intermediary space between the bhupura and the next set of three concentric circles or lines called trivalaya. Not every tradition of Shri Chakra worship considers these lines as significantly functional in ritual worship or meditation. The next major component is a band of sixteen lotus petals, followed by another band of eight. Inside this next plane is situated the most essential configuration of elements.
 
There are essentially five downward-pointed triangles (trikona) which are called Shakti triangles that are situated in the center of the yantra. They are considered feminine in quality and function and denote the five physical elements that give shape and quality to all forms. Four upward triangles are conceived as being more masculine and fiery in nature and they are called Shiva triangles or vahni-konas or srikanthas. They represent the metaphysical basis of the world-the ordering pattern of creation in its most essential and subtle phases. These nine intersecting triangles symbolically relate the basic structure of the human psycho-physical and spiritual being-the tissues of the gross anatomical body (dhatus), the life airs (prana) and the most basic components of the individual personality (jiva). The texts distinguish a number of successive chakras formed of the spaces and the triangles within this intricate geometric design. The most significant distinction figures nine primary configurations, called the nava-yoni, which can be worshiped as a part while still denoting the power and structure of the whole yantra.
 
At the heart of reality is the transcendent reality, who is perfectly whole, undivided and essentially dynamic. Lalita Tripurasundari and her perfect and primordial unity with Shiva is indicative of this ultimate state of reality. In order to experience her own dynamic fullness, to taste her own beauty, she sets into course an "internal motion" in the expanse of her divine being. Her latent powers convene or swell climactically or poignantly, like a building up of pressure in an ocean of luminous, transcendental Consciousness. The center point of this transcendental activity is denoted as bindu, and represents the binary unity just prior to the most fundamental stages of creation. It is a symbol of fullness, the source of origination, the threshold of manifestation and the dynamic force of evolution. The same message is conveyed in the metaphysics of Northern Shaiva and Tantric schools that preceded or influence the theological foundations of Sri Vidya. There this dynamic activity is expressed as the spontaneous (svatantrya) action of Shiva, pure luminous Consciousness, who emerges as the cosmos through an internal, self-reflective (vimarsha) action mediated by Shakti.
 
Bindu essentially contains the inherent power of distinction that arises and expresses itself in triadic equations-equations which ultimate multiply outward in objective manifestation. Reality is conceived as complete in itself, defined in its original state as a pure, subjective "I" experience. This is the state of pure awareness, free of any distinction. This intrinsic fullness spontaneously begins to set forth a procession of internal motions. The Goddess, or ultimate reality, contemplates itself and venerates its own beauty, joy and fullness by manifesting a world of diverse experiences and experiencers. The bindu projects forth all the latent powers of creation including numbers of deities who coordinate creation and unfold the self-experience of the goddess in the form of individual living beings. In this vision, we each are an expression of the perfect bliss of the Goddess. Our individual experience is inseparable from her divine nature. Through contemplating the successive levels of the Sri Yantra, we pierce through the veils of reality that apparently separate us from the deepest level of experience of which the Goddess embodies and represents.
 
 
Abode of the Goddess

 
The Sri Chakra is the abode of Goddess Tripura Sundari. The yantra as a whole, is ritually worshiped in a procedure that follows nine stages (nava-avarana) in relation to its nine major components. This worship is called nava-avarana-puja as each successive stage of worship unfolds a layer of consciousness. Each avarana, or field, is presided over by a number of goddesses and yoginis regarded as manifestations of Lalita. They have distinct functions, both cosmic and individual. All of these deities emerge from the mula-trikona (root triangle), which consequently arises from the bindu in the center of the Sri Chakra where Lalita resides on the lap of her consort, Kameshvara. These avaranas are also called chakras and will be referred to in that manner below.
 
 
1. The external structure of the Sri Chakra is called the "Enchanter of the Three Worlds" or trailokyamohona chakra. This is the bhupura or outer enclosure formed of three lines, and four gates. These peripheral structures are presided over by twenty-eight goddesses, some of whom are directional deities and others that rule over human vices. The first or outermost line of the bhupura is presided over by ten goddesses who represent occult powers common to Yogic and Tantric lore. The second line is presided over by eight mother goddesses who are recognized as the sapta-matrikas-seven mother goddesses mentioned in Devi-Mahatmya, plus an eighth who is called Mahalakshmi.The innermost line of the bhupura is presided over by ten goddesses who rule over a third set of powers attainable by ritual gestures called mudras.
 
2. The outer rung of sixteen lotus petals, known as the "Fulfiller of all desires" or the sarvasaparipuraka-chakra, has sixteen corresponding deities, called nitya-devatas or yoginis. These goddesses symbolize or personify the five elements (earth water, fire air and either) that comprise the natural world and the ten sense organs and mind, which constitute the human body/mind. These sixteen cosmic deities of time (nitya-kalas) represent different aspects of physical reality on the level of the microcosm, but also enable the worshiper to attain various desired ends, both worldly and spiritual. Tripureshi, a peripheral manifestation of Devi Lalita, is the main presiding deity of this chakra. Her root mantra is aim klim sauh.
 
3. The next band of lotus petals, numbering eight, is called the "All-agitator", or sarvasankshobhana-chakra. The deities presiding over these petals are named Anangakusuma,Anangamekhala, Anangamadana, Anangamadanatura, Anangarekha, Anangavega, Anangakuha and Anangamalini. These eight shaktis, manifestations of divine power, are representative of the organs of action and the behavioral tendencies, namely: taking, going, excreting, enjoying, accepting, rejecting, and ignoring. They are all manifestations of the principle deity of this chakra, Tripura sundari, whose root mantra is Hrim klim sauh.
 
 
4. The outermost configuration of triangles formed by the intersection of the nine principle triangles is called "The giver of all fortune" or sarvasaubhagyadayaka-chakra. The fourteen shaktis who preside over these triangles represent fourteen nadis, or subtle energetic pathways, common to Ayurvedic, Yogic and Tantric literature. These deities also represent various occult powers. The root of these fourteen shaktis is the intoxicating, youthful goddess Tripura vasini, whose mantra is haim hklim hsauh..
 
 
5. The next band of triangles, numbering ten, is known as "The Giver of attainment" or sarvaarthasaashaka-chakra. These ten intermediary triangles are similarly related to ten deities overtly related to powers of the Self which can be used for worldly and spiritual ends. Symbolically, they relate to the five major and five minor functions of the vital life force, prana (Prana, apana, samana, vyana, udana, naga, kurma, krikara, dhananjaya, and devadatta). These goddesses emanate from Tripura-shri a radiant goddess of red complexion.
 
 
6. Another, internal set of ten triangles follows and is called "The Protector of all" or sarvaraksaakara-chakra. These ten triangles smaller represent variations of life forces acted upon or interacting with the fire of digestion in the physical body, jatharagni. (Rechaka, shoshaka, plavaka, dahaka, ksharaka, udgara, kshobaka, jribhini and mohaka). They perform functions or grant similar boons as those of the presiding deities of the previous chakras. The presiding deity of this chakra is Tripura Malini, whose root mantra is hrim klim blem.
 
 
7. The eight inner triangles of the Sri Chakra are entitled the "Remover of Illness" or sarvarogahara-chakra. The eight abiding deities of this formation, called the vasukona, rule over cold, heat, happiness, sorrow, desire and the three gunas (sattva, rajas, and tamas. These goddesses are known as deities of speech are representative of the sonic basis of phenomenal reality. Their names are Vasini, Kameshvara, Modinii, Vimalaa, Arunaa, Jayanii, Sarveshvarii, and Kaulinii.They also tanmatras, attachment, aversion and mind. Tripura siddha is the abiding deity of this chakra. Her root mantra is hriim shrim sauhThese eight inner triangles and the central, root triangle (mula-trikona) comprise the "nine wombs" or navayonis, which together can be worshiped summarily for the whole of creation.
 
 
8. At the center of the Sri Chakra is the inverted triangle, the mula-trikona, known as sarvasiddhiprada-chakra or "The Giver of attainments". Tripura Amba presides over this chakra. Her root mantra is hsraim hsrklim hsrsauh. Her three shaktis are Kameshvari, Vajreshwari and Bhagamalini, who represent the unmanifest state of Nature (avyakta), the ordering principle behind Nature (mahat) and the universal objectifying principle of ahankara.
 
The mula-trikona relates to the basic cosmic energies of the primordial shakti-icchajnana and kriya-as well as the principles of creation, preservation and dissolution. The mula-trikona represents a subtle level of the world process, before objective manifestation occurs. Matter still has not evolved from its pure state-shakti is on the threshold of division and objectification.
 
9. Bindu, transcendental source and center of microcosm and macrocosm, is known as the "The Wheel of complete, absolute Bliss" or sarvanandamaya chakra. In this center, Mahatripurasundari resides on the lap of Kameshwara. She manifests sixteen eternal powers, called nitya-devatas, who each represent a specific phase of the lunar cycle. The moon is the reflection of the light of the Supreme Self. These aspects of the goddess personify the all-pervading consciousness of the Goddess, whose benefic live-granting powers are distributed by the lunar orb. The names of these sixteen well-known goddesses are Kameshvari, Bhagamalini, Nityaklinna, Bherunda, Vahnivaasinii, Duti, Kulasundari, Tvarita, Nitya, Nilapataka, Vijaya, Sarvmangala, Jvalamalini and Chitra
 
The bindu is the seat of the supreme shakti. In relation to the trikona it is the linga, and mula-trikona the yoni.
 
 
Reading the Map of Reality
 
"Lalitaa, the supreme divinity, is one's own blissful Self" Bhavanopanishad, verse 27
 
Indian culture, philosophy and spirituality deal with two universal principles at the basis of existence. These are: 1) the evolution of matter and energy from Spirit and 2) the involution of these principles back to their primeval source. They are the evolutionary and/or devolutionary currents of Shakti-descending and ascending trends that unfold and direct the course of human life and the natural world. They are called pravritti and nivritti respectively. Totally contrasting ethical and practical approaches to life can be devised according to the mode in which society, religion and science relate to these principle functions of reality.
 
The Sri Chakra, as a functional symbol or living energy structure, operates as a model by which we contemplate, interface and identify with these universal energies in a direct way. Meditating upon the Sri Chakra allows us to utilize the energy intrinsic to its structure to reorient our total being with the larger picture of reality. To fully comprehend its mysteries requires the descent of supreme grace (shaktipat) arising from the depths of our inmost being. Conversely, our initiative or aspiration to experience our innate fullness matches this divine mercy; Paradoxically, the two are in fact the same divine impulse, just as shakti manifests as ascending and descending currents.
 
The Sri Chakra can either be worshiped mentally or a physical image can be utilized for ritual purposes. There are two ways in which this yantra is fashioned in the mind or prepared outwardly, which signify two ways of reading into its structure. It is a map of reality that can be detailed starting either from the periphery or directly at its center. A well-known Tantric text featuring the worship of Tripurasundari is the Yogini Hridaya, which is in actuality the second section of a work called Vamakeshvara-tantra, delineates the process of drawing the Sri Yantra. Another seminal work in this regard is the Kama-kala-vilasa.
 
The structures of Sri-yantra relate to various experiences of reality or different levels of consciousness. The entire spectrum of human experience is said to be charted in this structure in the form of nine structures or layers distinguishable in this yantra. Each represents a gradation from dualistic reality to the ultimate standpoint of unity consciousness. Each sphere of geometric form is called an avarana , which literally means "layer of concealment".
 
To traverse the Sri Chakra's architecture from bindu to bhupura or square enclosure is called shristi-krama. Sristhi is the experience of the expansion of Consciousness outward as the dynamic creation of forms. It means to realize one's ultimate nature and to experience its intrinsic wholeness in the patterning of creation.
 
The reverse, to begin drawing and then meditating on the yantra from periphery to core is called samhara-krama. Samhara is the dissolution of the limited, egoic consciousness and final integration with the divine source, the bindu. This is a move from gross to subtle entailing the deconstruction of ordinary dualistic experience. The culmination of this process is to abide in the ultimate experience called samarasa, "one taste," where all notions of duality eventually fade away into primordial unity of Shiva and Shakti. This is similar to the processes of laya-yoga an important method or branch of Yoga and Tantra.
 
Sri Vidya adepts perform these ritual and meditative processes according to the approaches of their lineages, for which initiation into certain practices and instruction in theory is deemed indispensible. Age old lineages and schools within the larger tradition of Sri Vidya remain split in their outlooks and approaches on the esoteric contemplation of the Sri Chakra and Sri Vidya mantra.
 
Contemplating the Self as a Mirror of the Divine

 
Knowledge [Cognitive experience] is the offering; The Object of Knowledge is the oblation, the Knower is the Sacrificer. Contemplating the nonduality of Knowledge-Object of Knowledge and Knower is the mode of worshiping Shri Chakra. (Bhavanupanishad, verse 10).
 
The Bhavanupanishhad teaches that the Sri Yantra is a metaphor of the human body/ mind. It delineates a method of meditation in which the Sri Yantra is to be contemplated as a mirror of the Self, by which we can penetrate into the mystery of our individual existence and the cosmos. The whole of creation, signified by the Sri Yantra, suggests that the spectrum of existence and reality is a continuum. A "seamless whole" devoid of any internal division-between the objective reality and our inmost being, which is pure Consciousness. This is not a static model of reality, but a full-spectrum model, where unity is manifesting as diversity and diversity is dissolving back or resting in eternal oneness. This involution and evolution of consciousness is ordinarily missed, but it is an ongoing affair occurring in every moment. The sri vidya adept traverses the hiearchical planes of consciousness in their contemplation of the Sri Yantra, and thereby realizes the inherent unity behind all of the Goddesses manifestations. They remain free while embodied and consciously participate in Devi's eternal play.
 
Some tantrikas view external, ritual worship to be indispensible to the yogic path, others insist that the deity must be acknowledge with the inner eye alone and take to the rigorous and subtle path of introvertive meditation. This is to travel the inner landscape, where the Goddess Tripura is said to reside in the inner city of Sripura, her eternal abode in the heart of reality. To realize her is to do away with outer ritualism and to turn within, to realize the congruity between cosmic and individual existence. This transformation of consciousness involves coursing the subtle body described in Yoga and Tantra. The Sri Chakra and Tripura are treated as metaphors for human being and the fulfillment of human existence. There are important texts describing methods of contemplating upon the Sri Chakra, which have their underlying purpose the unfolding of this experience. The Bhavana-Upanishad, a seminal Shakta Upanishad of this tradition is a concise text, which has received noted commentaries and entreats this philosophical notion.
 
The Shri chakra can be drawn or engraved in bark, or metal plates. In contrast to these flat geometrical drawings, texts also discuss the methods of contructing three-dimensional yantras that appear pyramidal. The three-dimensional Sri Chakra lends a visual cue to the cosmological schema inherent in its structure. The ascending puras or planes of the chakra extending from the bhupura to bindu represent subtler and subtler gradations of reality. As a map of the subtle body, The sahasrara chakra is the bindu and the central, downward facing triangle, called mula-trikona, is the muladhara-chakra. Thus, these two central structures represent the subtle underlying matrix of the energetic architecture of the human body/mind. The sahasrara as bindu, is the transcendent abode of the Goddess. As there are nine chakras or principal structures in the Sri Yantra, commentators and traditionalists have counted and identified nine chakras in the subtle anatomy of the human being. Indian yogic tradition generally notes seven.
 
Sometimes we will find the central triangle pointed upward and other times downward facing. Once again, this depends upon traditional approach. The Samaya-achara faction worships the chakra with upward pointing trikona, the Kaula's prefer the image with a downward pointing central triangle. They also choose to worship the Goddess in the form of kundalini in the muladhara and sahasrara-chakras respectively. The difference in approach holds significant implications, ones too involved to explore here.
 
 
 
Sri Vidya Mantra

 
Many Tantrics regard themselves as the followers of the essence of the Vedas, or the spiritual heritage of the Indic traditions. They see their esoteric practices as the fulfillment of the spirituality of the ancient traditions-the inner core or heart of the Hindu tradition. At the heart of Indic spirituality is the notion of Divine Sound-the perfect and supreme manifestation of Divinity. All of the major deities are to be realized and worshiped through sonic contemplation. Mantras form the perceivable, sound body of the deities. Mahatripurasundari is invoked through her own mantra. Her mantra, according to text and tradition, is the inner secret of the Vedic gayatri-mantra as well as the primordial om. The mantra, devata and yantra are deemed as one and there is a direct correlation between the constituents of the mantra with the yantra itself.
 
Mahatripurasundari's root mantra is called the Sri Vidya mantra-the mantra of supreme wisdom. Sri denotes auspiciousness and prosperity, hence worldly accomplishment. Vidya here denotes wisdom-perfect knowledge that liberates. The Sri Vidya mantra is declared the supreme granter of all perfection (siddhi). Worship of Lalita Tripurasundari through the recitation of her root mantra in combination with contemplation and ritual worship of her yantra constitutes the primary practices of the Sri Vidya tradition.
 
Two sages by the names of Kamaraja and Lopamudra are said to have revealed variations of this vidya or mantra. This root mantra of fifteen syllables is called panchadashi andexists in two primary forms, preserved by followers of the two schools of these respective sages.
 
The fifteen syllable mantra is divided into three kutas or divisions as follows:
 
Ka, e, ii, la, hriing,
ha, sa, ka, ha, la, hriing,
sa, ka, la, hriing
 
This variation is called the kadi vidya, referenced by its beginning syllable ka. Its alternate is known as the hadi vidya, similarly identified by its first syllable of ha:
 
Ha sa ka la hriim
Ha sa ja ha la hriim
Sa ka la hriim
 
Another variation involves the addition of the seed syllable shrim. It is called the Sodashi sri vidya and is particularly associated with the sixteen primary manifestations of Tripura-sundari-the nitya-devatas mentioned above-who personify the sixteen lunar digits (kala).
 
 
 
All the phonemes of the Sanskrit language are said to exist in the letters of these variations of Lalita's mantra, signfiying that all the powers of creation are contained in this all-comprehensive, all-powerful mystic utterance. Various levels of interpretations have been given in terms of the esoteric meanings of these mantras (mantra-arthas). The Yogini-hridaya is an important text delineating various meanings of the sri vidya.
 
Sri Vidya practitioners indeed recognize Tripurasundari to be the source of all manifest and unmanifest powers. Consonants in the Sanskrit language are masculine energies and have no power of influence without the combination with the vowels, who are the shakti or divine feminine energies of creation. The total mantra is comprised of bija-aksharas or seed syllables. As seed syllables are thought to contain the essence of the deity, the combined total of all of these syllables essentially represents the power of all of the prominent deities of popular and Tantric Hinduism.
 
 

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