SriVidya – Tantra Sadhana

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Śri Vidya Tantra shortly

Śrī Vidyā – also spelled “Shri” or “Shree” Vidyaa. विद्या (IAST: vidyā; and to see Sanskrit letters install Devanagari.ttf or Lohit.ttf script on Your computer!) is “knowledge, learning, lore, science”, is a Hindu Tantric religious system devoted to the Goddess as Lalitā Tripurasundarī (“Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities”), Bhuvaneśvari etc. A thousand names for this form of Śrī Devī are recited in the Lalitā Sahasranāma, which includes Śrī Vidyā concepts. The school accepts and aims to provide both material prosperity and self-realisation. It has an extensive literature. Details of belief vary in different texts but the general principles are similar to those found in Kashmir Śaivism. There are various schools, including the so-called left-handed (Family Life) and right-handed (Monastic Life) practice.

Initiation must be from a true Guru (Satguru, Sadguru). Many Sri Vidya mantras are available in print but they are often considered more potent in the context of the Śri Guru’s initiation (Sparśa Dikshan, Head Touch Transmition). There is a very popular saying among Sri Vidya tradition is that one has to be verily Shiva (Śiva) himself or in one’s last birth to get Sri Vidya. Since we are not Shiva (Śiva), it has to be the last birth or when we get it, it becomes our last birth and One can worship Lalita only if she wishes us to do so.

In the principally Śakta theology of Śrī Vidyā the goddess is supreme, transcending the cosmos that is her manifestation. She is worshiped in the form of a mystical diagram (Sanskrit: yantra), a central focus and ritual object composed of nine intersecting triangles, called the Śri Yantra or śrīcakra The Meru Cakra is a three-dimensional form of this, made of rock crystal or metal, often a traditional alloy of silver, antimony, copper, zinc and pewter that is held to enhance the flow and generation of its beneficial energies, covered in gold. Subhash Kak argues that this is the yantra described in the Śvetāśvatara Upanishad.

Mantras are believed to reveal the unity of the deity, the Guru and initiate (dikshaka) and the mantra or sound syllable Itself. The first mantra given to initiates is the Bala Tripurasundari Mantra. Here the Goddess is visualized as a small child. The next level mantra is the fifteen-lettered Pancadaśi (Pañchadaśī) or Pancadaśakshari Mantra. A higher mantra is the sixteen-lettered Shodaśi or Shodaśakshari Mantra. Practical benefits of this spiritual practice results in good physical, mental and emotional health leading to a harmonious and effective relationship at home and the external world. This leads to success in all aspects of life.

The following verses and you will know why knowing the meaning of mantras is important.

MantrArtham Mantrachaitanyam YonimudrAm na Vetti Yah||

SatakotijapenApi Tasya Siddhirna JAyate ||

Those who do mantra japa without knowing its meaning and consciousness and without knowing the Yonimudra ,for them even crores of japa can’t bring mantra siddhi.

KulArnava Tantram, Chapter 15,Verse 60.

TannisthaTathgataPrAnastaChittastathparAyanah ||

TathPadArthAnusandhAnam Kurban Mantram Japeth Priye||

Priye, mantra japa should be done with unflinching concentration and constantly meditating upon the meaning of the mantra in mind.

KulArnava Tantram, Chapter 15,Verse 114.

Srividya creates a systematic, esoteric discipline combining elements of the yogas of knowledge, of devotion, and of ritual (pooja). In the Śakta form of worship, Śrividyopasana (Upasana i.e., the pursuit of enlightenment via Srividya) is considered the pinnacle of achievement. If the aspirant is initiated properly, it is the ultimate path, because it gives you the experience of union with the Universe, the Cosmos – or whatever name you prefer to call IT by. It is said you must, in past lives, have done thousands of years of sadhana of all the devatas such as Vishnu, Shiva, Devi etc. to reach this point. It is said that one can obtain initiation into Srividya only if one is in his/her or his final birth – or is verily Shiva Himself.

And within Śrividyopasana there are stages of practice – from simple recitation of mantras to long and ritually complex mediations, all of which are followed progressively until suddenly you are THERE. In this context it is said that even if you are not really competent, some past meritorious karma can still you get initiated into Srividya, and you will become a yogabhrashta (an outcast in spiritual practice) – then in the next birth you will start where you stopped and will attain the union faster. The main practice of Śrividya – worship of Śri Yantra – can take anywhere from 30 minutes to a full day, depending on how you do it.

Chakra Pooja or Yantra Pooja is the worship of a deity in a diagrammatic form. This type of worship exists in a lot of the other parts of the world also. The worship of Śri Devi in Shreechakra is regarded as the highest form of the Devi worship. Originally Lord Shiva gave 64 Chakras and their Mantras to the world, to attain various spiritual and material benefits. For his consort Devi he gave the Shreechakra and the highly coveted and the most powerful Shodashakshari mantra, which is the equivalent of all the other 64 put together.

The Bindu in the center of the Shreechakra is the symbolic representation of the cosmic spiritual union of Shiva and Shakti. The Shodaśakshari mantra is one of the most guarded secretes of Tantra. Usually the Guru gives it to a highly deserving and tested disciple. If you cannot do a detailed worship, simply worship the Sri Yantra 108 times with the simple Devi Mantra:

“Om Aim Hreem Śreem Śri Lalitā Tripurasundari Padukam Poojayami Namah”.

ŚrīVidyā appears in The Tripura Upanishad, so this is proof, according Bhaskararaya, that it is oryginally a part of traditional Vedic revelation (śruti). According to Tantra Sri Vidya Sadhana technique is mother of all spiritual knowledge. The only aim of Sri Vidya is to attend Moksha – Liberation from rebirth cycling. The person who is indulged in worshiping sri vidya will be blessed by Mahadevi right from his birth don’t forget. The blessings of Mahadevi (Great Goddness) existing on each and everyone throughout the world. The knowledge of Sri vidya is bestowed only on him and he only is allowed to enter the holy yard of Mahadevi. The presence of Mahadevi is witnessed only after travelling towards the different realms of upward consciousness. Mahadevi, The Great Goddess is being worshiped as superpower deity in the world and Sri Vidya is a sadhana technique or gateway to reach the door of all important deities. This is known as DaśaMahaVidya.

Initial stages of Śri Vidya technique:

1. Śri Vidya Kundalini Cakra Dhyana.
2. Navakkari Mantra Sadhana, (Thirumoolar).
3. Navakkari Pranayama, Cakra Sadhana, (Thirumoolar).
4. Balatripura Sundari Mantra.
5. Mantrini and Dandanatha sadhana.
6. Pancadaśi mantra.
7. Shodaśi mantra.
8. Shiva Soubhagya Mantra (Maha Shodaśi Mantra).
9. Navarana worship (Śri Ćakra worship)

Śri Vidya dhyana includes meditation, chanting, technique and variety of worshiping techniques of Mahadevi. 

Śri Vidya – Śakta Tantra

ŚrīVidyā is one of the most comprehensive and popular Vidyās in Śāktā. In the context of Hindu spiritual practices, a Vidyā can be defined as the worship of a God/Goddess. Literally Vidyā means learning; it is from the word-root “vid” – to know. Knowledge is called Veda, and learning is called Vidyā. This includes the knowledge to be gained, different stages in the process of gaining such knowledge, the purpose of such knowledge, the procedure and practices for learning, pitfalls and corrective measures and so on. Worship of a God is the gradual process of elevating the level of consciousness of the worshipper into that of the God, realizing the God and His nature. Therefore the knowledge and worship of each God is called a Vidyā. Thus ŚrīVidyā is the knowledge and worship of Mother Goddess Śrī Devi. She is also called Śrī Māta (Mother Śrī), Tripura sundari.

“Śrī” means prosperity, auspiciousness, divinity. Śrī Devi is the Divine Mother who bestows bliss and plentitude on Her devotees. In Veda, She is praised as Śrī. Vedic knowledge diversified and developed into different schools like śmarta (following śmritis like Dharma Śāstras), Śrauta (studying śruti or Veda), Paurānika (following śmritis like Purāṇās) and so on. Tantra is another school of practices that combines methods of worship with philosophy and theology. With these developments, Śrī Devi came to be known and worshiped in different forms. In Purāṇās, Śrī is called Laksmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The worship of Śrī Māta or Tripura sundari, developed as ŚrīVidyā, one of the major cults in Śāktā Tantras. The kaula-practitioners of ŚrīVidyā differentiate it as Śrī Kula Tantra, while ŚrīVidyā Tantra is the general name used by all the ŚrīVidyā practitioners.

Tripura Sundari literally means the most beautiful lady of three worlds. Mother Śrī is said to be the most beautiful Goddess among all God-forms. Tripura Sundari is worshiped in different names and forms, like Lalitā, Bāla, Rāja Rājeśwari.

Lalitā Upākhyāna – The Story of Lalita Tripura Sundari

In Brahmānda Purāṇā, the story of Lalita Tripura sundari is narrated by Lord Hayagrīva (the horse-headed form of Lord Viṣṇu) to the great seer Agastya. Here is a brief of it.

There is a popular story in which Manmatha, the presiding deity of desire, is turned into ashes by the fire of Lord Śiva’s third eye. From those ashes, a demon by the name Bhanḍāsura emerges. He acquires many powers through penance and defeats the army of Gods. He lived in his capital Śūnyaka, constructed for him by Māyāśura, the architect of demons.

Unable to withstand the might of Bhanḍāsura, the gods had nowhere to go. Nārada advises them to worship Śakti, the divine Mother. The gods worship the mother and perform a sacrifice to propitiate Her. The Mother emerges from the fire altar to fulfill the wishes of the gods and to dispel their fear. Since She emerged from the fire altar, She is called Agni Kunḍa Samudbhava. As She emerged to protect the gods and to fulfill their aspirations, She is called deva kārya samudyata. She is red in hue, the most beautiful Goddess. Lord Śiva assumes the form of Kāmeśvara , and takes Her as His consort.

She then set out for destroying Bhanḍa and his armies. She is accompanied by Rāja Mātangi, Her minister on the one side. Rāja Mātangi is also called Rāja Śyāmala, Mantriṇī and Nakuli. On the other side Vārāhi accompanied Her, the general of the Mother’s armies. Vārāhi is also called Dandanāta. They were followed by the gods and their armies.

They announced war on Bhanḍāsura’s capital, Śūnyaka, and there was a fierce battle. Vārāhi and Śyāmala started demolishing the armies of Bhanḍa and killing his generals. Bhanḍa sent his sons to arrest the attack of the divine armies, the eldest of them being Caturbāhu (having four hands). Bāla Mahā Tripura sundari, the child-form of the Mother, volunteered to fight Bhanḍa’s sons and killed them.

After this, Bhanḍa’s brothers Viṣañga and Viśukra, who were earlier vanquished and fled from the field, came back to fight Śrī Devi’s armies. Bhanḍa also applied a mystical contrivance to obstruct the march of Devi’s armies, called vighna yantra (literally the machine of obstacles). When the Mother was merely glanced with love by the Lord Kāmeśvara , She gave birth to Gaṇeśa (this is described as Kāmeśvara mukhāloka kalpita Śrī Gaṇeśvarā). Gaṇeśa destroyed the vighna yantra much to the happiness of the divine armies. Then Bhanḍa inspired demon Gajāśura to fight Gaṇeśa, who was also killed by Him. The divine armies of Śrī Devi marched forward andViṣañga was slain in this encounter by Mother Mantriṇī and Viśukra by Vārāhi.

Bhanḍa faced the Mother directly, attacking Her with weapons inspired by mystical powers. Śrī Devi destroyed his weapons with weapons inspired by the ten forms of MahāViṣṇu, that emerged instantly from the ten nails of Her hands. Weapon inspired by Pasupati (a form of Lord Śiva) demolished the demonic armies. Finally the weapon inspired by MahāKāmeśvara , destroyed Bhanḍāsura along with his capital Śūnyaka.

The Mother was applauded and worshiped along with Lord Kāmeśvara.

Description of the Mother and Her Abode

The Mother is said to be red in hue (Aruna). Her abode is Manidwīpa, the island of gems and pearls. It is also called Śrī Nagara. It is not reachable even for Gods like Indra. It is through Her grace alone, that one can reach Her abode. She, along with Lord Kāmeswara, is worshiped there by lakhs of Her attendant deities. She is called Kāmakalā, the manifestation of desire. Out of desire for cosmic sport She acts. Out of desire for pleasing the Lord, and union with the Lord She plays. Ever smiling, blissful and granting the boons of Her devotees, She is praised as personification of grace, bliss and mercy. She rules the universe and all aspects are Hers. All the beings, including the gods, act by Her inspiration and mercy.

In a verse meant for meditation on the Mother, She is described as:

sindūrāruṇa vigrahām trinayanām māṇikya mauLisphurat tārā nāyaka śekharām smita mukhīm āpīna vakṣoruhām pāṇibyām aLi pūrṇa ratna caṣakam raktotpalam bibhratīm soumyām ratna ghaṭastha rakta caraṇām dhyāyet parām ambikām

Meaning the seeker meditates on the Mother (Ambikā), who is eternal (parā), saffron-red in hue (Sindhūrāruna vigrahā), having crown embedded with gems (mānikya mauli), with Moon as an adornment over the head (tāra nāyaka sekharā), three eyed (trinayanā), ever smiling (śmita mukhi), having high breasts (āpīna vakṣoruhā), with hands holding jeweled wine cup and red flowers (PāNibyam aLi pūrna ratna casakam raktotpalam bibratī), ever soft and peaceful (soumyā), with Her red lotus feet rested on a gem-decked pedestal (ratna ghataśta rakta caranā).

Arunām karunā tarangitākshīm dhruta pasa ankusa puspa bāna cāpām aNimādibhirāvrutām mayūkhaiH ahamityeva vibhāvaye bhavanīm

Meaning the seeker is meditating on the Mother, red in hue, colored and shining as Sun God, whose looks shower waves of grace and mercy, with hands holding noose, goad and cane-bow that shoots flower-arrows, with Goddesses with mystical powers in the outer rungs of Her palace-city.

The first verse meditates on the Mother from head to feet. It is a general practice to meditate, describe and worship male forms or deities from feet to head upwards, and female forms or deities from head to feet downwards. Also, the Mother’s feet are said to be the abode of devotee, his ultimate destination. The second verse is about the aspects of ŚrīVidyā, which are explained through the powers of Goddesses, the weapons held.

The Origin and Philosophy of ŚrīVidyā

Lalitā Sahasra nāma in Brahmānda Purāṇā, the hymn that praises the Mother with Her 1000 names, gives comprehensive description of ŚrīVidyā, its philosophy and methods. Besides, it is called yoga sahasra, which explains the secrets of all forms of yoga, and consciousness studies.

ŚrīVidyā is a well developed form of Śāktā Tantra. The various constituent Vidyās are well organized and arranged in a more systematic hierarchy compared to other sampradāyas. śaundarya Lahari, a hymn composed in praise of the Mother in a hundred verses, is said to be one of the most beautiful and profound explanations of ŚrīVidyā. ŚrīVidyā is followed by śmārta as well as Tantric schools. There is no clear separation between them. śmriti followers are said to be śmārtas. They follow elements of tantra to the extent that they do not contradict śmritis.

ŚrīVidyā is found in the Rig Veda as Śrī Sukta, the hymn with 15 verses. It is said that this is fashioned after pancadāśi, the central Mantra of ŚrīVidyā. Śrī Sukta, with its application of single-syllable bījas (like īm, kām, srīm), appears more in line with the Śāktā Mantra Śāstra than the classical Rig Vedic Mantra Śāstra.

ŚrīVidyā tantra has two major Vidyās, pancadāśi and Shodaśi. Pancadāśi is the mantra with 15 syllables. Shodaśi is the mantra with 16 syllables. Shodaśi is one of the 10 disciplines of Śāktā tantra, called dasa mahāVidyās. The Vidyā is called triputi, having three parts. They are Agni (fire), Surya (sun) and Candra (moon) khāndas (parts). The Mother is said to shine in these three worlds.

Also, Lalitā, Śyāmala and Vārāhi symbolize the powers of Śrī Devi’s divine will (icchāśakti), knowledge (jnāna śakti) and action (kriyāśakti). Lalita Herself is the power of divine will, her associates Mātangi and Vārāhi represent the powers of knowledge and action respectively. This is evident from their roles – Lalitā is the ruler, Matāngi the minister and Vārāhi the general.

Śrī Sukta, for the same reason, praises the Mother as Suryā (Sun) and Candrā (Moon). It does not praise Her as Agni, but the Sukta itself is addressed to Agni.

Vedic and Paurānika Concept

In the Vedic theology, there are two main deities that we find: Agni and Indra. Agni is the central deity of the Veda, and Indra is the head-deity. Agni is the face of Gods, and all Vedic worship is offered to various Gods through Agni. Thus Agni is central. And the Lord of all deities is Indra, thus Indra is the head-deity or the Godhead.

We can compare this, to the way in a family the husband is head of the family and the wife is the center of the family connecting and managing the entire family.

In Saiva – Śāktā parlance, we find Śiva-Śakti dual to be similar to this. Śiva is Īśvara, the Lord. He is the guiding principle. Śakti is pervading, the principle of manifestation, causing creation, sustaining and dissolving it. She does it, inspired by and for the Lord. Vedic Indra can be seen as Īśvara and Vedic Agni, the divine will, can be seen as Śakti in Saiva – Śāktā parlance. The close association of the Mother with Vedic Agni is further explained through Her epithets like Agni Kunḍa samudbhava (discussed above), Agni Sikha (having fire for Her hair). The symbolism of Lalita Herself assuming the form of the power of divine will reinforces this idea.

Further, triputi is directly related to the Vedic theology. In the Paurānika trimurty concept, Brahma, Viṣṇu and Rudra preside over creation, sustenance and dissolution functions. They are representatives of Śatva, Rajas and Tamas. According to Yāska, they derive from the Vedic triplet Agni (Fire God), Āditya (Sun God) and Vāyu (Air God). The older Śāktā schools like Candi (Mother Durga) speak of this triplet. In the more recent ŚrīVidyā, the corresponding aspect of Vāyu finds a replacement with Śoma (Moon God). Both Vāyu and Soma are aspects of Rudra. However Vāyu signifies strength while Śoma bliss, and therefore the corresponding God/Goddess being worshiped have these qualities too. Thus, while Candi is representative of power and anger, Lalita is a pleasant form.

The three functions of creation, sustenance and dissolution, are further expanded into five functions. They are sṛṣṭi(creation), sthiti(sustenance), laya (dissolution), tirodana (veiling of individual consciousness through māya) and anugraha (unveiling, making the individual realize the Truth beyond Māya). The Mother presides over these five functions, and hence is called Pancha Krtya Pārāyana. The representatives of these five functions are Brahma (creation), Viṣṇu (sustenance), Rudra (dissolution), Īśvara (veiling) and SadāŚiva (unveiling, absolute truth). All these five derive their life force, the strength to act, from the Mother. These five deities are said to form her royal chair, with Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra and Īśvara forming four legs and SadāŚivaforming the plank. Hence the Mother is called Pancha Brahmāsanāsīna. Pancha is five, āsana is seat, asīna is having sit on the seat. The five Brahmas are the five deities mentioned.

Without Her, they are lifeless corpses. That is why the Mother is also called Pancha Pretāsanāsīna or seated on the seat of five corpses. Preta means corpse.

Advaita Philosophy

While Śāktā is Advaitic in nature, there is a difference between Śankara Advaita and Advaita of Śāktā Tantra.

There are three main schools that explain the relation between universe and Brahman. One is āramba vada, which says universe has a beginning and an end. Nyāya and Vaisesica follow this. The other schools hold that universe is eternal, its dissolution and next cycle of creation are linked with the continuity of the seed of creation. The second school is Parināma Vāda, which says that the universe is a transformation of Brahman, emerges and dissolves in Brahman. The way a spider’s web comes from it, the universe comes from Brahman. Brahman is the essential substantial (upādana) cause for the universe. Śānkhya, Yoga, Karma Mimāmsa follow this. The third is Vivarta vāda, which says that universe is a manifestation, an appearance over Brahman. Śankara Advaita comes under this. According to him, Brahman is the nominal (nimitta), substantial (upādana) and undifferentiated (abhinna) cause for the world. Śankara Advaita holds that Māya bounds and releases the being. World as it appears, appears because of Māya, and it is not what the world really is. The world, in reality, is Brahman only. Thus when one realizes Brahman and gets beyond the veil of Māya, then only Brahman remains, not the world. Śāktā Tantra holds that Ātman is same as Brahman, like other versions of Advaita, but the universe is real and eternal. It is not just an appearance that gets dissolved with realization. The Mother is primal rhythmic energy, Śakti and not Māya.

ŚrīVidyā is popularized by Śankara. The Vedic followers (who follow śmritis and dharma sāstras) of ŚrīVidyā go by Śankara Advaita. Ātman is always liberated, but appears to be bound because of ignorance caused by Māya over the individual soul. Here Ātman is to be called self. Soul is actually the subtle body that is constituted of subtle senses, mind and intellect. The Causal being of the universe, Īśvara, associated with His consort Māya, rules the universe. The veil of Māya is lifted through the grace of ŚādaŚiva – and the individual being identifies its oneness with Ātman which is beyond Māya.

Sublimation and Consecration

The primary difference between Vedic and Śāktā Tantra philosophies lies in the fact that in Vedic philosophy desire is seen to be transcended. Though desire is not sought to be suppressed by force, it is not seen as a means to transcendence – it is sees as something that is to be grown over.

In Śāktā, Nature, whether it is desire or natural tendency or instinct, is seen as a divine manifestation of the Mother Śakti. It is through fulfillment of it, with the sense that it is divine, as a form of worship of the Mother, that one seeks to please the Mother.

The Vedic practitioners of Śāktā Tantra take a middle path, by praising the Mother as Māya who creates these tendencies to bind the being, seek to be liberated from these by Her grace.

Aspects of Agama

There are two major schools of literature in Hinduism. One is the Vedic literature, consisting of Vedas, various subjects that the Vedas deal with, Purāṇās, Dharma Sāstrās and so on. They deal with theology, spiritual philosophy, procedure and philosophy of rituals, various paths to salvation, code of conduct and righteousness, world views, the subjects one needs to learn to be able to understand such as the science of chanting, grammar, etymology, astronomy and so on. There is another stream of literature that deals primarily with the methods of worship. Though some of these are found in the Brāhmana and Aranyaka portion of the Veda, Mimāmsa (inquiry into the message of Veda), Kalpa Sutrās (code and procedure for rituals), most of the elements practiced in popular Hinduism are from Agamas.

Agamas expound many aspects, including personal worship, temple construction and architecture, Iconography, worship in temple, Vāstu and so on. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the popular aspects of Hinduism are found in Purānic and Agamic literature. Primarily Agamas are of three schools – Vaishnava, Saiva and Śāktā. They are followed by Vaishnavites, Saivaites and Śāktās respectively. Agama has three parts, Mantra, Tantra and Yantra.

Mantra is a divine word which is chanted repeatedly as part of worship. Yantra in general, is a contrivance inspired by the power of a mantra. In many cases it is a geometric shape, carved on a metal plate or stone or crystal or floor. In case of ŚrīVidyā, it is Śrī Cakra. Tantra is the entire philosophy and procedure of worship. The Tantra expounding ŚrīVidyā is called ŚrīVidyā Tantra, and is found in many Śāktā texts like Prapancha sāra and Rudra Yamala.

Uniquely to ŚrīVidyā, the name of the Vidyā or the Goddess or Yantra does not have a separate name. It is not popularly called Lalita Vidyā or Tripura Sundari Vidyā. The tantra is called ŚrīVidyā, the Yantra ŚrīYantra, the city of the Mother’s residence is called Śrī Nagara. However “Śrī” as we saw means divine and it is like saying divine Yantra, divine city and divine Vidyā, without a specific name of the deity. Every other Vidyā, is explicitly referred to, with the name of its presiding deity, Candi or Viṣṇu or Gaṇapati.

Yoga and ŚrīVidyā Tantra

Though Yoga is a very technical subject and its discussion is mostly restricted to teacher-student disciplines, any introduction to Tantra without the mention of Yoga is incomplete.

There are three major forms of Yoga, Mantra Yoga, Laya Yoga and Kunḍalini Yoga as part of Laya Yoga. The aim of all the three is the same, though the methods vary slightly. ŚrīVidyā Tantra involves all these three forms of yoga and integrates them.

Mantra Yoga

Sound is produced through contact, vibration and obstruction. This is called āhata. However cosmic hiss if one can hear is eternal and existent. This is called Anāhata. It is not produced by us but only heard. A yogi can hear this. In sādhana one makes the sound oneself (by doing mantra japa), in a rhythm, resonant with the vibrations of his nādis and his breath. Through this one will be able to discover the deeper vibration. This way of merging individual with cosmic is called mantra yoga.

Mantra is said to be the sound-form of Devata (god-form). One realizes Devata through the chanting of mantra in mantra yoga. Mantra yoga concentrates on nada (sound) to strike rhythm between individual and cosmic vibration, to activate the right nādis, to expose one into the cidākāsa or daharākāsa (causal space). Śabda (sound) is the tanmatra (subtle attribute) of mahābhuta (primal element) ākasa (space). And through śabda one tries to turn his vision inwards from ākasa to daharākāsa, through chanting the mantra, by producing sound to slowly listening the anāhata sound without producing it. Eventually when mantra yoga is achieved, one achieves laya yoga also, since his consciousness is directed to daharākāsa where his devata resides.

Pancadāsi, the root mantra of ŚrīVidyā is said to be the sound-form of the Mother. The mantra is divided into three kūtas or parts with five syllables each. The first is called Vāgbhava Kuta, the Mother’s head. The second is called Madhya Kūta, the trunk – from neck to navel. The third is Śakti Kūta, the part below navel.

Saraswati Sūkta of the Rigveda says that Vāk or word is of four forms – parā (eternal), pasyanti (experienced by seer in a state of deep consciousness), madhyama (when it translates as idea in the intellect) and vaikhāri (when it is verbally expressed). Realizing parā Vāk or Nāda Brahman through a regulated chanting of mantra, first externally then mentally and then finally without producing it, is mantra yoga.

Om Śri Lalitaa Mahaa-Tripura-Sundaryai Namah ||

Tripura Gayatri

Tripurasundarii Vidmahe
Pitakaamani Dhiimahii |
Tannah Klinna Pracodayaat ||

Śri Lalita Tripura Sundari (Parvati) and Her young daughter Śri Bala Tripurasundari Devi

I. Bala Mantra – बाला मन्त्र

Śrī Bālātripurasundarī mantra is one of the most powerful mantras in Śrī Vidyā spiritual cult. As a rule, one is initiated by a Guru only with this mantra when an aspirant expresses his desire to pursue Śaktī Upāsana, which is also known as Śrī Vidyā upāsana. This mantra is commonly known as Bālā Mantra.

There are three types of Bālā mantra-s and they are known by different names.

1. Bālā mantra consists of three bījākṣara-s – ॐ – ऐं – क्लीं – सौः (om – aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ)

2. Bālātripurasundarī mantra consists of six bījākṣara-s – ॐ – ऐं – क्लीं – सौः — सौः – क्लीं – ऐं (om – aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ — sauḥ – klīṁ – aiṁ)

3. Bālā navākṣarī mantra – ॐ – ऐं – क्लीं – सौः — सौः – क्लीं – ऐं — ऐं – क्लीं – सौः (om – aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ — sauḥ – klīṁ – aiṁ — aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ)

The most powerful mantra of the three is Bālā navākṣarī mantra, because the reverse order of Bālā mantra is encased by Bālā mantra itself. Encasement is known as sampuṭīkaraṇa, where the power, vibration and energy of a mantra are encased between two bījākṣara-s. When a mantra is recited in the reverse order, the power of a mantra increases several folds. When a mantra is recited with absolute concentration, it generates intent energy within the body and gets diffused through the body. In order to prevent the diffusion of the energy and to hold the energy thus generated within the body, a mantra is encased between two bījākṣara-s. These bījākṣara-s are either in the same order, like the one in Bālā navākṣarī mantra or the beginning bījākṣara/s could be in the right order and the end bījākṣara/s could be in an inverted order as in the case of ṣoḍaśī mahā mantra.

The three bījākṣara-s of Bālā mantra are known by different names. Bīja ऐं (aiṁ) is known as vāgbhavabīja. This bīja helps in perfecting knowledge. The second bīja क्लीं (klīṁ) is known as kāmabīja. Kāma generally means desire and here it is the desire to attain Her feet. The third bīja is सौः (sauḥ). This is called seed mantra, also known as parabīja, or piṇḍanātha. This mantra is also known as mantra of Goddess Parāśaktī. This bīja gives power to the aspirant the full potency (known as mantravīrya) to realize the Self.

Bija सौः (sauḥ) consists of three letters s + au + ḥ. S stands for the Being. au is the Powers of Will, Knowledge and Action.The last letter ḥ is known as visarga because it “inwardly” projects the universe through the letter au. सौः (sauḥ) also makes the kuṇḍalinī of a true spiritual aspirant to ascend and can be explained from tantric point of view. To attain sidhhi of this mantra, one has to recite 300.000 times.

There are four dhyāna verses for Bālā mantra and any one of them can be chosen. Normally, the Guru who initiates this mantra decides, as to which is the suitable one, for an aspirant. All the mantras have curses and each of these mantras have different mantras for removing such curses. These curses are made by sages, gods, goddesses, etc. Bālā mantra too is cursed by Devi, which can be removed by reciting Tripura Bhairavi mantra 100 times.

Tripura Bhairavi mantra: हसैं हसकरीं हसैं hasaiṁ hasakarīṁ hasaiṁ. Or another one: ह्सौं ह्स्क्ल्रीं ह्सौः hsaum hsklrīm hsaum.

Śri Bala Tripura Sundari Devi  or AśokaTripuraSundari — Parvati’s daughter

Bālā Mantra Japa बालामन्त्र जप

(This is the simple way of doing Bālā mantra Japa)

Seating: While doing Bala mantra japa, one has to either face East or North. If one does not have a guru, contemplate on Lord Dkṣiṇāmūrti and mentally accept Him as Guru.

1. Curse Removal Mantra:

बालामन्त्रजपत्वेन शापविमोचनमन्त्रं करिष्ये।

bālāmantrajapatvena śāpavimocanamantraṁ kariṣye ||

हसैं हसकरीं हसैं hasaiṁ hasakarīṁ hasaiṁ ||

(to be recited 100 times before the commencement of daily japa. The recitation of this mantra can be dispensed with after reciting 100 times for the first few days.)

2. Ṛṣyādi Nyāsaḥ ऋष्यादि न्यासः

अस्य श्री बालात्रिपुरसुन्दरी महा मन्त्रस्य | द्क्षिणामूर्ति ऋषिः। पङ्क्तिछन्दः। बालात्रिपुरसुन्दरी देवत ||

asya śrī bālātripurasundarī mahā mantrasya dkṣiṇāmūrti ṛṣiḥ|(open the right palm and touch the top of the forehead)| paṅktichandaḥ (right palm on the mouth)| bālātripurasundarī devatā(right palm on the heart chakra)॥

ऐं बीजं | सौः शक्तिः | क्लीं कीलकम् ||

श्री बालात्रिपुरसुन्दरी दर्शन भाषण सिद्ध्यर्थे जपे विनियोगः ||

aiṁ bījaṁ (right shoulder)| sauḥ śaktiḥ (left shoulder)| klīṁ kīlakam (on the navel)||

śrī bālātripurasundarī darśana bhāṣaṇa siddhyarthe jape viniyogaḥ (open both the palms and run them over all parts of the body; from head to feet)||

3. Karanyāsaḥ करन्यासः

ऐं – अङ्गुष्ठाभ्याम् नमः। aiṁ – aṅguṣṭhābhyām namaḥ| (use both the index fingers and run them on both the thumbs)

क्लीं – तर्जनीभ्यां नमः। klīṁ – tarjanībhyāṁ namaḥ| (use both the thumbs and run them on both the index fingers)

सौः- मध्यमाभ्यां नमः। sauḥ- madhyamābhyāṁ namaḥ| (both the thumbs on the middle fingers)

ऐं – अनामिकाभ्यां नमः। aiṁ – anāmikābhyāṁ namaḥ| (both the thumbs on the ring fingers)

क्लीं – कनिष्ठीकाभ्यां नमः। klīṁ – kaniṣṭhīkābhyāṁ namaḥ| (both the thumbs on the little fingers)

सौः – करतलकरपृष्ठाभ्यां नमः। sauḥ – karatalakarapṛṣṭhābhyāṁ namaḥ| (open both the palms; run the opened palms of the right hand on the front and back sides of the left palm and repeat the same for the other palm)

4. Hrdayādi Nyāsaḥ ह्र्दयादि न्यासः

ऐं- ह्र्दयाय नमः। aiṁ – hrdayāya namaḥ| (open index, middle and ring fingers of the right hand and place them on the heart chakra)

क्लीं – शिरसे स्वाहा। klīṁ – śirase svāhā| (open middle and ring fingers of the right hand and touch the top of the forehead)

सौः – शिखायै वषट्। sauḥ – śikhāyai vaṣaṭ| (open the right thumb and touch the back of the head. This is the point where tuft is kept)

ऐं – कवचाय हुं। aiṁ – kavacāya huṁ| (cross both the hands and run the fully opened palms from shoulders to finger tips)

क्लीं – नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट्। klīṁ – netratrayāya vauṣaṭ| (open the index, middle and ring fingers of the right hand; touch both the eyes using index and ring fingers and touch the point between the two eyebrows (ājñā cakra) with the middle finger.

सौः – अस्त्राय फट्॥ sauḥ – astrāya phaṭ||

भूर्भुवस्सुवरोमिति दिग्बन्धः॥ bhūrbhuvassuvaromiti digbandhaḥ||

5. Dhyānam ध्यानम्

रक्तकलाम्बरां चन्द्रकलावतं सां समुद्यदादित्यनिभां त्रिनेत्रां।

विद्याक्षमालाभयदामहस्तां ध्यायामि बालामरुणाम्बुजस्थाम्॥

raktakalāmbarāṁ candrakalāvataṁ sāṁ samudyadādityanibhāṁ trinetrāṁ|

vidyākṣamālābhayadāmahastāṁ dhyāyāmi bālāmaruṇāmbujasthām||

(Meaning of dhyāna verse for easy contemplation of Her form: I meditate upon the Bālā Devi, clad in red garments whose forehead is decorated with a crescent moon, who has three eyes, whose brilliance is like that of the rising sun, who is seated on a red lotus and who holds in her four bands a sacred book, rosary, abhaya and varada mudras.)

6. Pañcapūjā पञ्चपूजा (Follow As Per Karanyāsa)

लं – पृथिव्यात्मिकायै गन्धं समर्पयामि।

हं – आकाशात्मिकायै पुष्पैः पूजयामि।

यं – वाय्वात्मिकायै धूपमाघ्रापयामि।

रं – अग्न्यात्मिकायै धीपं दर्शयामि।

वं अमृतात्मिकायै अमृतं महानैवेद्यं निवेदयामि।

सं – सर्वात्मिकायै सर्वोपचार पूजाम् समर्पयामि॥

laṁ – pṛthivyātmikāyai gandhaṁ samarpayāmi|

haṁ – ākāśātmikāyai puṣpaiḥ pūjayāmi|

yaṁ – vāyvātmikāyai dhūpamāghrāpayāmi|

raṁ – agnyātmikāyai dhīpaṁ darśayāmi
vaṁ amṛtātmikāyai amṛtaṁ mahānaivedyaṁ nivedayāmi |

saṁ – sarvātmikāyai sarvopacāra pūjām samarpayāmi||

7. Bālā Mantraḥ बाला मन्त्रः

There are three types of Bālā mantra-s and they are known by different names. One has to choose any one of the following. Out of the three, Bālā navākṣarī mantra is very powerful and is the best mantra for recitation. It is capable of giving material comforts. The three syllable mantra is related to herbs. Those who make sacred herbal medicines should recite this mantra. The second six syllable mantra is capable of providing liberation from transmigration.

1) Bālā mantra consists of three bījākṣara-s – ॐ – ऐं – क्लीं – सौः (om – aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ)

2) Bālātripurasundarī mantra consists of six bījākṣara-s – ॐ – ऐं – क्लीं – सौः — सौः – क्लीं – ऐं (om – aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ — sauḥ – klīṁ – aiṁ)

3) Bālā navākṣarī mantra – ॐ – ऐं – क्लीं – सौः — सौः – क्लीं – ऐं — ऐं – क्लीं – सौः (om – aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ — sauḥ – klīṁ – aiṁ — aiṁ – klīṁ – sauḥ)

8. Hrdayādi Nyāsaḥ ह्र्दयादि न्यासः

ऐं- ह्र्दयाय नमः। aiṁ – hrdayāya namaḥ|

क्लीं – शिरसे स्वाहा। klīṁ – śirase svāhā|

सौः – शिखायै वषट्। sauḥ – śikhāyai vaṣaṭ|

ऐं – कवचाय हुं। aiṁ – kavacāya huṁ|

क्लीं – नेत्रत्रयाय वौषट्। klīṁ – netratrayāya vauṣaṭ|

सौः – अस्त्राय फट्॥ sauḥ – astrāya phaṭ||

भूर्भुवस्सुवरोमिति दिग्विमोकः॥ bhūrbhuvassuvaromiti digvimokaḥ||

9. Dhyānam ध्यानम्

रक्तकलाम्बरां चन्द्रकलावतं सां समुद्यदादित्यनिभां त्रिनेत्रां।

विद्याक्षमालाभयदामहस्तां ध्यायामि बालामरुणाम्बुजस्थाम्॥

raktakalāmbarāṁ candrakalāvataṁ sāṁ samudyadādityanibhāṁ trinetrāṁ|

vidyākṣamālābhayadāmahastāṁ dhyāyāmi bālāmaruṇāmbujasthām||

10. Pañcapūjā पञ्चपूजा

लं – पृथिव्यात्मिकायै गन्धं समर्पयामि।

हं – आकाशात्मिकायै पुष्पैः पूजयामि।

यं – वाय्वात्मिकायै धूपमाघ्रापयामि।

रं – अग्न्यात्मिकायै धीपं दर्शयामि।

वं – अमृतात्मिकायै अमृतं महानैवेद्यं निवेदयामि।

सं – सर्वात्मिकायै सर्वोपचार पूजाम् समर्पयामि॥

laṁ – pṛthivyātmikāyai gandhaṁ samarpayāmi|

haṁ – ākāśātmikāyai puṣpaiḥ pūjayāmi|

yaṁ – vāyvātmikāyai dhūpamāghrāpayāmi|

raṁ – agnyātmikāyai dhīpaṁ darśayāmi

vaṁ amṛtātmikāyai amṛtaṁ mahānaivedyaṁ nivedayāmi |

saṁ – sarvātmikāyai sarvopacāra pūjām samarpayāmi||

11. Samarpaṇam समर्पनम्

गुह्यातिगुह्यगोप्त्री त्वं गृहाणास्मात्कृतं जपम्।
सिद्धिर्भवतु मे देवि त्वत्प्रसादान्मयि स्तिरा॥

Guhyātiguhyagoptrī tvaṁ gṛhāṇāsmātkṛtaṁ japam|
Siddhirbhavatu me devi tvatprasādānmayi sthirā||

(Meaning: You sustain the secret of all secrets. Please accept this japa performed by me and bestow Your perpetual Grace on me.)

Laya Yoga

Meditation is the means in Laya Yoga. One controls mind through the control of breath, so that full concentration is possible in meditation. Through meditation, one’s consciousness merges in the object of meditation and one realizes Atman (The Soul, Higher Self). The state, in which the difference between the one who meditates the act of meditation and the object of meditation dissolves, is called samādhi or sāyujya.

One also observes during meditation one’s own being, the different sheaths of consciousness. There are five kośas or sheaths of consciousness of being – annaMāya (physical), prānaMāya (vital-life, etherical), manoMāya (mental, astral-mental body), vijnānaMāya (intellect-knowledge, wisdom, budhi) and ānandaMāya (causal – blissful, atmic body). The first is gross, next three constitute subtle and the fifth causal being. The causal being is Īśvara who resides in all beings, along with Māya His consort. She veils the unmanifest form of the divine, Brahman. The Mother is MahāMāya, who covers the world with veil of ignorance and lifts the veil out of grace, causing the entire play of creation. This is the cosmic sport She does for the Lord, Her līla. Her play, action can be seen in karanākāsa the causal space. She is the moon of that space, and is called Cidākāsa candrika.

Gross (sthula), subtle (sūkshma), causal (kārana) and absolute (turiya) are the four states in which Brāhman (God) manifests. Realizing eternal through meditation is Laya Yoga. In Laya Yoga one, through meditation, identifies himself progressively with the inner sheaths, and finally with the inner most being – ātman (The Soul, Higher Self). The Mother (Layadevi) is said to reside in and beyond the five sheaths – Panca kośāntara sthita. Thus the seeker achieves oneness with the Mother (Layadevi) through Laya Yoga.

Kunḍalini Yoga

In Kunḍalini Yoga, one realizes divine consciousness through the activation of the hidden energy of Kunḍalini. There are magical six centers (cakras) in the spinal channel. Kunḍalini is said to be initially coiled up at mulādhara. She is the Mother (Amba, Śri Devi, Layadevi). She passes through these six from mulādhara at the bottom of spine to ajna at the forehead, then to the crown of the head (sahasrāra) where individual consciousness fully unites with cosmic consciousness. There, the Mother is said to unite with the Lord. This involves the opening of three knots or granthis in the path, called Brahma granthi, Viṣṇu granthi and Rudra granthi. There is one granthi per two cakras. Mulādhara (pelvic) and swadhisthāna (navel) associate with Brahma granthi, manipura (heart center) and anāhata (midway between neck and solar plexus) associate with Viṣṇu granthi, visuddha (throat) and ajna (center of forehead) associate with Rudra granthi. These three are the triputi discussed above.

The worship of ŚrīCakra with nine levels is also a means to this in ŚrīVidyā. Kunḍalini is said to be completely activated, with the Mother (Amba, Śri Devi) uniting with the Lord (Śiva) at Sahasrāra, when the devotee reaches the bindu of ŚrīCakra. The union of Mother Kunḍalini (The Great Goddess as Power, Śakti Devi) with the Lord (Śiva) is the liberation of seeker from Māya. This is possible with anugraha or grace as discussed above, and completes the cycle of births. This is the same as realizing Nada Brahman in Mantra Yoga, and sāyujya of Laya Yoga.

Geometry and Worship of Śrī Cakra

ŚrīCakra is worshiped as the Mother or Great Goddess Herself. In ŚrīVidyā, there is usually no other idol worshiped other than ŚrīCakra. Even if an idol is worshiped, ŚrīCakra is worshiped along with idol. All the upacāras or offerings are done to the ŚrīCakra.

The worship of ŚrīCakra is done through Devi Khaḍgamāla (literally garland of swords, indicating energy) hymn, which enumerates the deities in each level. In an elaborate worship of Śrī Cakra, each deity at each level is invoked, worshiped and offered oblations. However in a regular worship, it can be done in a much abridged way and Goddesses at each level are worshiped together.

ŚrīCakra is a model of universe, which represents a Śāktā world view. ŚrīCakra or Śrī Nagara is said to be the abode of the Mother, and She is its ruler. It has nine levels called āvaranās. The nine levels are said to be nine levels in evolution of the seeker, beginning from the outer most to the inner most where the Mother resides. ŚrīVidyā tantra explains the Goddesses at each level (or the epithets or aspects of Mother at each level), the method of worship, and the mystical powers one attains through their worship. In the inner most level called bindu resides the Mother with Lord Kāmeśvara . The various petals or lines and their number in each āvarana signify the number of Goddesses worshiped.

ŚrīCakra is worshiped in two and three dimensional forms. Planar ŚrīCakra is called Bhu prastāra (bhu – earth, meaning flat). Three dimensional ŚrīCakra, where the outer most level is the base and each inner level is in elevation over the outer one, with bindu (the inner most triangle) as the peak, as if forming a cone, is called meru prastāra (meru is a mountain, and the name indicates that the figure is similar to a mountain/cone). In an ardha meru or half meru, some of the nine levels are depicted in the same altitude.

Further, the nine are divided into three levels of three enclosures each. The outer most three comprise śrushti Cakra (the orbit of creation). The next three comprise Sthiti Cakra (the orbit of sustenance). The inner most three comprise Samhāra Cakra (the orbit of dissolution).

The geometry and worship of ŚrīCakra is comprehensive and exhaustive. It explains the entire Śāktā world view, its enumeration of the world, its philosophy and practice. Therefore we can only give a cursory glance at it, because otherwise it would become a book by itself.

The outer most level of ŚrīCakra is square shaped, with three concentric squares and four gates on four sides. The next two levels are lotus petals, with sixteen and eight petals respectively. The next five levels are basically nine triangles drawn into each other, producing a total of forty three. These are seen as five levels of 14, 10, 10, 8, 1 triangles as we move inwards. The inner most or ninth level is bindu or a dot. This is also counted as a triangle, making the total count 44.

In each level, the Mother is described as causing those tendencies that bind beings at that level. If one successfully transcends the binding at one level, that is, when he seeks to proceed further without limiting oneself to the powers he gets at that level, then he will move to an inner level. Though all the levels of ŚrīCakra are worshiped every time, one actually transcends or gets elevated to these levels gradually.

Trailokya Mohana

This is the outermost enclosure and has three concentric squares, with four gates on four sides. It is called so because most of the apparently mystic powers can be got here. It is said that even the Gods stop here without proceeding inwards, because their desires are fulfilled by the powers achieved at this level.

The three lines represent ten Mudra, Matrika and Siddhis (mystical powers).

Mudrās are gestures, positions of fingers and hands, which are used for expressing various experiences. In case of worship, they are used as part of worship, to invoke certain experiences. The Mother is called dasa mudra samārādhya in Lalita Sahasra nāma, meaning She is worshiped through ten mudrās. They are Sarva Sankśobhini, Sarva Vidrāvini, Sarvaākarśini, Sarva Vāsankari, Sarva Unmādini, Sarva Mahānkuśa, Sarva Kecāri, Sarva Bīja, Sarva Yoni and Sarva Trikhanda.

Matrikas are the seven primordial forms of the Mother, from which all the sound forms originate. They are Brāhmi, Vaiṣnavi, Maheṣvari, Aindri, Kaumāri, Vārāhi and Cāmundi.

There are ten mystical powers of the Mother which are personified as Goddesses. They are Anima, Laghima, Mahima, Isitva, Vasitva, Prakamya, Bhukti, Iccha, Prāpti and Sarva kāma siddhis. They include small powers like victory over hunger and sleep, to great ones like getting every wish granted, knowing things far off in distance and time.

This enclosure is also called bhupura or earthly (physical).

Sarvasa Paripūraka

This āvarana is called so, because at this level every desire of the devotee is fulfilled. This level of Śrī Cakra has sixteen lotus petals. Correspondingly as this enclosure belongs to desire and their fulfillment, the Mother is praised as the one who attracts through the primal natural tendencies. The sixteen forms of desire are enumerated here. Praising the Mother as ākarṣini (one who attracts). This is where the effect of the Mother Māya is seen, as She attracts the beings with desire – making them bound with their senses, and other faculties. The sixteen forms are Kāma (desire in general, but specifically sexual), Buddhi (intellect), Ahankāra (ego), Śabda (sound – hearing), Sparṣa (touch), Rūpa (form – vision), Rasa (feel), Gandha (odor), Citta (impression), Dhairya (courage), Smriti (memory), Nāma (name), Bīja (seed), ātma (self), Amrita (immortality), Sharīra (body).

Desire is the primary obstacle in detachment and liberation of being. While the smārta way is to transcend desire, the Śāktā way is to fulfill it and consecrate it as a form of worship. Thus, fulfillment of desire is seen not only not negatively but rather positively in Śāktā.

Sarva Sankśobana

This āvarana is named SankŚobana because the Mother here is praised as the one who causes agitation, instability, commotion. This enclosure has eight lotus petals, named Ananga kusuma, Ananga mekhala, Ananga Madana, Ananga Madanātura, Ananga rekha, Ananga vegini, Ananga ankuṣa and Ananga mālini. It is Ananga (Cupid or Manmatha), the God of love, who agitates creatures in these ways.

This is the enclosure of mind.

Sarva Saubhāgya dāyaka

In the fourth enclosure, Śakti is worshiped as the granter of all kinds of prosperity. This level of Śrī Cakra has fourteen trangles. The Goddesses or the forms of Mother in this enclosure are Sarva Sankśobhini (agitator of all), Sarva Vidravini (slayer or the one who dissolves), Sarvākarśini (one who attracts), Sarva Ahlādini (one who refreshes), Sarva Sammohini (one who mesmerizes), Sarva Stambhini (one who immobilizes), Sarva Jrumbhini (one who causes growth and expansion), Sarva Vāsankari (one who controls all actions), Sarva Ranjini (one who pleases), Sarva Unmādini (one who intoxicates), Sarvārtha sādini (one who fulfills all needs and desires), Sarva sampatti purāni (granter of all kinds of prosperity), Sarva mantra mayi (one whose forms are all mantras), Sarva dvandva kṣayankari (one in who all dualities dissolve into oneness).

Sarvārtha sādhaka

In the fifth enclosure, the Mother is worshiped as the one who grants all whishes. In fact “artha” is not just a desire but a purpose. Thus the Mother grants all that we want, we need, and we need to fulfill. This level in Śrī Cakra has ten triangles. The ten corresponding forms in which the Mother is worshiped here are Sarvasiddhi prada (granter of all powers), Sarva sampat prada (granter of all kinds of wealth), Sarva priyankari (one who grants all that pleases), Sarva Mangala kāri (one who grants all kinds of auspiciousness), Sarva Kāma prada (granter of all wishes), Sarva dukha vimocani (absolver from all kinds of sorrow and unhappiness), Sarvāmrutyu prasamani (one who prevents all kinds of (untimely) death), Sarva vighna nivārini (one who prevents all obstacles), Sarvānga Sundari (one who is beauty personified, with each limb being perfect), Sarva Saubhagya dāyini (granter of prosperity and well-being).

Sarva raksha kara

In this enclosure, the Mother is called the protector. It has ten triangles.[1] The corresponding forms of Devi are Sarvājna (one who knows everything), Sarva Śakti (one who is all powerful), Sarvaīśvarya prada (one who grants all worldly possessions and occult powers), Sarva jnāna mayi (one who is knowledge personified), Sarva vyādhi vināṣini (one who prevents all kinds of ailments), Sarva ādhāra swarupa (one on who rests the entire universe), Sarva pāpa hāri (one who cleanses and absolves from all kinds of sins), Sarva ānanda mayi (one who is bliss personified), Sarva rakśa svarūpini (the protector), Sarvepsita phala prade (granter of all desires, granter of the fruits of all deeds/worship/sacrifice).

Sarva Roga hara

The seventh enclosure has eight triangles, and Śakti is worshiped as the one who removes all kinds of ailment. Ailment can be biological, but in Vedanta, the cycle of transmigration itself is called an ailment. The Mother, as She is called Bhava Tārini, makes one easily cross the sea of phenomenal existence, its ups and downs. The eight deities of this level are called Vāg-Devatās, who preside over speech. They are Vāsini, Kāmeśvari, Modini, Vimala, Aruna, Jayini, Sarve śvari and Kaulini.

Sarva siddhi Māya

The eighth enclosure is a triangle. Here the Mother is called Kāmakala, the personification of fulfillment. She signifies the desire of Īśvara for cosmic sport. She is worshiped in eight forms in this level, with the names Banini, Capini, Paśini, Ankuini, Mahā Kāmeśvari, Mahā Vajreśvari, MahāBhāgamālini and MahāŚrī Sundari.

Sarva ānanda Māya

The ninth or inner most enclosure is the bindu. It is called a dot, and also a minute triangle with edges almost falling into each other. The Mother resides here, united with Lord Kāmeśvara , and is called Śiva-Śakti-eka-rupini. Here Śiva and Śakti are united, and are undifferentiated.

She is worshiped with nine names in the bindu, Tripura, Tripureśi, Tripura Sundari, Tripura Vāsini, Tripura Śrī, Tripura Mālini, Tripura Siddhi, Tripurāmba and Mahā Tripura Sundari.

Practical side of ŚrīVidyā

ŚrīVidyā is most popular in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, two of the major states in south India. There are two major schools in Śāktā, Ćandi and Lalita. The Mother is worshiped as Durgaa, Candi, Camundi in Candi tradition, and as Lalita, Bāla, Rajarajeśwari in Lalita tradition. Bāla is Lalitaa daughter and Lalita is Rajarajeśvari daughter – Tridevi.

There are many common aspects in both the traditions, with minor variations. Both are navarna, worshiped in nine levels. There are nine forms of Durga and She is worshiped in those nine forms in the navaratri before Vijaya Daśami (Dussera festival). In fact, Candi Vidyā itself is navarna, in the sense that the two main mantras have nine letters. The concept of nine levels of worship in Lalita tradition is visible in the nine levels of Śrī Cakra.

It can be said that Ćandi is an older tradition, and ŚrīVidyā is a more recent and refined form. Tantric practices were extreme in India, with animal sacrifices and similar practices. Ādi Śankara is said to have pacified those deities by installing Śrī Cakra in famous Śāktā temples through out the country, and prohibiting animal sacrifices in those places[2]. These include Śakti pīṭhas like Kāmakhya (Guwahati, Assam) and Jogulamba (Alampuram, Andhra Pradesh) where such practices were rampant[3]. Apart from these, he visited and installed Śrī Cakra in many other temples like Śrī Śailam, Kāncipuram, Kanyā Kumāri, Kashmir and so on.

Though ŚrīVidyā was an older school, it gained popularity with Ādi Śankara and Advaita philosophy. Today ŚrīVidyā followers go by Śankara’s Advaita[4].

ŚrīVidyā and other Devatās

Though Tripura Sundari is the deity of ŚrīVidyā, most of the Goddesses like Lakshmi, Durgaa, Pārvati are worshiped in Śrī Cakra. Not only forms of Devi, but in general any God can be worshiped in Śrī Cakra. Besides, there are ŚrīVidyā samputikaranas (compositions of verses/mantras) for different Gods. For example, when Gaṇeśa and Dakshiṇamūrti are worshiped in ŚrīVidyā tradition, they come to be known as ŚrīVidyāGaṇeśa and ŚrīVidyāDakśiṇamūrti respectively.

In case of a Goddess, this difference is not usually maintained. That is to say, Lakshmi is worshiped in Śrī Cakra but not called ŚrīVidyāLakśmi. Durga is not called ŚrīVidyā Durga or Candi-Durga when She is worshiped in ŚrīVidyā or Candi traditions (Ćandi Sampradaya). This is because, She is either worshiped with the same verses meant for Śrī Cakra worship or with Lakshmi hymns, and not with separate verses. In case of ŚrīVidyāGaṇeśa, the worship is done with verses which are a combination of ŚrīVidyā and GaṇeśaVidyā. Same is the case with ŚrīVidyā Dakshiṇamūrti.

Though these are mainly schools of sādhana, there are temples too, where those forms are primary deities. There is a temple for ŚrīVidyāGaṇeśa in Bangalore. There is another installation of ŚrīVidyā Gaṇapati in śveta Śrīngāchalam.

ŚrīVidyā, Śāktā and Mantra Śāstra

Most traditions in Śāktā overlap, and ŚrīVidyā shares several mantras with other Śāktā traditions. Bhuvaneśvari, Candi, Kāli, Mātangi mantras are found in ŚrīVidyā, and are independent Vidyās. Similarly ŚrīVidyā mantras are found as part of other traditions like Candi. ŚrīVidyā mantras are based on and are part of the Śāktā mantra Śāstra, its bījas and mātrikas. In turn, the Śāktā mantra Śāstra is based on and is part of the broader understanding of mantra Śāstra that is common to all the traditions including Vaiśnava, Śaiva, Śrauta and Bauddha. Śāktā’s contribution to mantra Śāstra is not only the variety of mātras but the foundational mātrikas.

Some ŚrīVidyā Practitioners and Lineages

ŚrīVidyā is practiced by many great seers. The Purānic seers like Agastya, Durvāsa and Lopamudra (the wife of Agastya) followed ŚrīVidyā. Ādi Śankara was a great exponent of ŚrīVidyā. The Soundarya Lahari hymn composed by him, is famous and chanted even today by many devotees – both practitioners of Mantra Śāstra and followers of popular religion. There are many commentaries and translations of Soundarya Lahari, a few authors to mention – Lakshmi dhāra pandita, Kaivalyāśrama Svāmi, Acyutānanda Svāmi, Viṣṇu Tīrtha and Narasimha Ṭhākur. Practice of ŚrīVidyā is coming down for centuries, in teacher-disciple tradition. In some cases it is imparted from parent to the eldest offspring, in others it is from another teacher. Ādi Śankara also gave a commentary on Lalita Trisati, the hymn-form of Pancadāsi.

Kālidāsa, a renowned poet and devotee of Śri Devi, is said to have primarily worshiped Śri Kāli and Śri Mātangi. However his praises of the Mother (Amba) include multiple forms, including Tripura Sundari – he calls Her Aruna (red in Hue, Lalita) and also Kālii (Time Goddess).

Ādi Śankara established four great monasteries in India, called Amnaya maṭhās (Amnaya means Veda, and maṭhā in this context is monastery). Each of these specializes in one of the four Vedas. He also installed Śri Devi in different forms, apart from Lord Śiva in these maṭhās. To this day, all these are worshiped according to ŚrīVidyā. Apart from these, he established many other monasteries like Kancimaṭhā. Devi is worshiped according to ŚrīVidyā School, in all these. For example, Śāradāmba is worshiped in Śrīngerimaṭhā. Kāmakśi is worshiped in Kancimaṭhā. Besides, there are many other āśramas like Siddhesvari Pīṭha of Kurtalam (a monastery), Kailāsa āśram of Hrishikesh, LalitaPīṭha, ŚrīVidyā Vimarsana Pīṭha and innumerable local āśramas that primarily worship according to ŚrīVidyā discipline.

ŚrīVidyāranya Swamy of 14th century AD was a great saint and scholar of Ādi Śankara’s tradition. He gave a commentary on the Veda, along with many other works like Vedānta Pancadāsi. ŚrīVidyārnava, a compilation on the philosophy, practices and secrets of ŚrīVidyā, is said to be his work.

Bhāskara Rāya from Bijāpur area of Karnātaka was a great ŚrīVidyā practitioner in the recent centuries. He belonged to 18th century. He lived in Vāranāsi for many years, and there are many stories about his devotion and the Mother’s divine grace over him. He was famous as a practitioner and an exponent of ŚrīVidyā in his times, and later. His name marks a lineage of practice in ŚrīVidyā. To this date, many generations after his times, Bhāskara Rāya lineage is famous. Bhāskara Rāya Mandali of Chennai, are among the practitioners of his school. Bhāskararāya’s commentary on Lalita Sahasra Nama is said to be one of the greatest commentaries.

Śrī Muthuswamy Dikshitar who lived in 18-19 centuries was another exponent of ŚrīVidyā tradition. He was a multi-faceted personality, a genius. He was a great musician, a devotee, a Vedāntist, expert in Mantra Śāstra and a scholar. He belonged to Dakśiṇamūrti tradition of ŚrīVidyā practice. (There are three main traditions in ŚrīVidyā, called Dakśiṇamūrti, ānanda Bhairava and Hayagriva traditions.) He called Devi Kamalāmba, and composed kritis (songs in Carnātic music) that extol the greatness of Her. Since they follow the progression in the worship of ŚrīCakra, they are called as Navavārana Kritis. Kamalāmba is the main deity in the temple at Tiruvāvur whom he worshiped during his stay there. It was during that time he composed the songs, which expound ŚrīVidyā Tantra in an unmatched way. The songs that praise the deities in each enclosure of ŚrīYantra, are composed in a separate Rāga. So, nine Rāgas were used to compose the songs. Another uniqueness of these hymns is that they have different vibhaktis [Vibhakti is the suffix added to noun, that determines the role and state of noun, such as singular/plural, subject/actor. In Sanskrit, verb/noun is self-sufficient, and does not depend on other words. For instance, Rāma, “Rāma did”, “By Rāma”, “Rāma’s”, “to Rāma” all these are independent words like Rāmah, Rāmasya, Rāmou, Rāme. And these words are formed by appending different vibhaktis to the word-root Rāma. There are eight vibhaktis and one common to all. These nine forms are used by Śrī Dikshitar in his songs corresponding to the nine enclosures of Śrī Yantra].

Another great exponent of Śāktā Tantra of the previous century is Kāvyakāntha Vasiśtha Gaṇapati. He is said to have worshiped many forms of Devi, including ŚrīVidyā, Chinnamasta and Tāra. He contributed greatly in spreading and popularizing worship of Devi, initiated thousands of seekers into these schools. His disciples have in turn done that, along with establishing āśramas for the same. He was an associate of Ramana Maharśhi of Arunācalam (Tamil Nadu). He produced great literature not only on Śāktā but on Vedic knowledge in general. His consort was a teacher herself, and was primarily a ŚrīVidyā practitioner. Kapāli Śāstry, a disciple of both Śrī Aurobindo and Kāvyakāntha Vasiśtha Gaṇapati, was a ŚrīVidyā practitioner too. He was the author of Siddhanjana, a commentary on Rigveda.

The previous head of Kancimaṭhā, late Śrī Candra Śekharendra Sarasvati, was a great exponent of ŚrīVidyā. He also gave an elaborate commentary on the Soundarya Lahari hymn.

There are different levels of practice in ŚrīVidyā. Usually, practitioners are initiated with Bala Mantra first. After some practice, they will be initiated to Pancadāsi or Shodaśi (Ṣoḍaśī), and Khadgamāla. Khadgamāla is the hymn, which is used to worship Śrī Cakra. It enumerates the names of deities in each enclosure of the Śrī Cakra. They are worshiped in the order they come in the hymn. Beyond, there are different stages like Pāduka Dīksha (roughly translated as the worship of Devi’s shoes). However, many will be happy in continuing their worship at one of these stages, without necessarily taking the later initiations. There are seers who do Pancadāsi, Shodaśi (Ṣoḍaśī), Khadgamāla, Pāduka dīkśa or even Bāla alone. Tādepalli Rāghava Nārāyana Śāstry and Addanki Krishna Murthy of previous century are examples of people who worshiped Bāla. There is also a practice of worshiping Śri Devi with Śrī Sukta.

Worship is done in many modes. Some worship everyday and some do collective worship on occasions. However some serious practitioners follow dīksha, for a certain period of time. During that, they follow severe austerities, worship Śri Devi with red flowers and kunkum (vermilion), wear red clothes during worship and sleep on the floor. Being red in hue Herself, such practice is said to please Śri Devi.

In recent years in Andhra Pradesh there started a practice of collective worship of Lalita Devi, chanting and worship with Lalita Sahasra Nama hymn. This is done in various occasions and regularly (weekly) in groups by many. They include Laksha Kunkumārcana, in which a hundred thousand names of the Mother are chanted along with worship with Kunkum. (Sahasra nāma hymn having thousand names is chanted hundred times – ten times each by ten persons). While there is a general trend of rise in Śāktā practices, most of them follow ŚrīVidyā. There is also a general practice to worship Lakshmi in Śrī Cakra domestically.

Though there is a different Yantra for different Śāktā deities like Durga and Lakshmi, it came to be a practice that any form of Śri Devi is worshiped in Śrī Cakra in ŚrīVidyā procedure. In some places both Candi Navarna and ŚrīVidyā procedures are followed, for example Kānci. The main priests of all these temples are usually initiated into ŚrīVidyā.

There are many practitioners of ŚrīVidyā today. They not only initiate many seekers into the path and guide them, but popularize the school through lucid explanations and popular discourses, collective worship. Some of the famous teachers and practitioners include Dr Śrī Vīrabhadra Mahādev and Śrī Samavedam Śanmukha Śarma. Śrī Mahādev is primarily a teacher and practitioner of ŚrīVidyā. ŚrīŚanmukha Śarma has reached out to people through his discourses, about the practice of religion. His discourses include praises and expounding the philosophy of all the major schools, Viṣṇu, Devi and Śiva. He is a living example of how, having experienced the deeper reality, one can easily understand and see the same spiritual philosophy in different religions or theistic schools like Vaiśṇava, Śaiva, Śāktā. The same holds true in case of many seers – Vasiśṭha Gaṇapati, Ramaṇa Maharshi, Śrī Aurobindo, Kapāli Śāstry, Candra Śekharendra Sarasvati.

Mantra Vidyās in ŚrīVidyā

There are several mantra Vidyās that are practiced as part of ŚrīVidyā worship. Broadly, there are two kinds of mantras – mūla Vidyās (the central or root Vidyās) and anga Vidyās (subsidiary Vidyās).

Mūla Vidyās

There are four main or Mūla Vidyās in ŚrīVidyā

(a) Gāyatri: Vedic Gāyatri, the primary Vidyā that one is initiated into, before the ŚrīVidyā mantras like Bāla or Pancadāsi.

(b) Bāla or BalaTripuraSundari: The three lettered Vidyā (Trika). The presiding devata, Bāla Mahā Tripura Sundari, is a child. Bāla is said to be one of the most attractive and wonderful forms of Śri Devi. Holding book and japa mala and sitting in a white flower, She presides over knowledge and bliss, and grants all the boons that the devotees ask for. It is a general practice to initiate ŚrīVidyā practitioners into Bāla before initiating them into Pancadāsi. However there are several sādhakās who are happier practicing Bāla Vidyā alone and have attained salvation. There are multiple Bāla mantras, such as the Māla Mantra and Bāla Hridayam.

(c) Pancadāśi: Pancadāśi is the famous fifteen lettered ŚrīVidyā mantra. Dakshiṇamūrti is said to be the seer of Pancadāśi. There are several variations to Pancadāśi. There are twelve major variations, and are called dvādaśa Vidyās in Pancadāśi. First two of them are the famous “ka-adi” Vidyā (begininning with ka) and “ha-adi” Vidyā (begininning with ha). The remaining ten are said to be practiced by, and hence named after Manu, Candra, Kubera, Agastya, Nandikesvara, Surya, Indra, Viṣṇu, Śankara and Durvāsa.

The Pancadāsi is set of three putis or groups of bījas. Each puti is said to represent a level of consicousness, a kuta in mantra Śāstra, and a granthi in Kunḍalini Yoga and in general a level in sadhana. Each puti ends with Māya or Bhuvaneśvari bīja. Symbolically Śri Devi is called Tripura Sundari, since there are three Bhuvanās or Puras She is ruling. Presiding Devatās of mantras with Māyabīja are usually pleasant forms, and Tripura Sundari is one of the most pleasant and beautiful forms.

(d) Shodaśi (Ṣoḍaśī) or MahaaShodaśi: Shodaśi is the sixteen lettered ŚrīVidyā. Pancadāsi with an additional bīja (usually Śrībīja) becomes Shodaśi. Tripura Sundari, the presiding Devata is said to be sixteen years old. Practitioners say that there is no form of Devata which is more beautiful and pleasant than Shodaśi. The very incarnation of Devi in this form is to restore desire, creation and bliss in the world.

Anga Vidyās

The several subsidiary Vidyās of ŚrīVidyā are arranged into six Amnayās. Amnayā means Veda/Agama, and in Saiva there are five Amnayās. They are represented by the five faces of Śiva facing Purva (eastwards), Dakṣiṇa (southwards), Paścima (westwards), Uttara (northwards) and Urdhva (upwards). In ŚrīVidyā there is a sixth Amnaya called Anuttara. Each Amnaya is associated with a guru mandala and several Vidyās, astra kamya and parā. Besides, all the Vidyās are grouped at different levels. Some of the major Vidyās are listed below.


The Purvamnaya contains Vidyās for

three gurus sva-guru, parama guru and paramesthi guru
four peethas or seats of Devi, called Kāmagiri, Purnagiri, Jalandhara and Odyana
Gaṇapati, various forms of Śyāmala, Mrityunjaya, Pratyangira


Dakṣiṇamnaya contains Vidyās for

eight Bhairavas
nine Siddhās
three Vatukās (celibates)
the two feet of Devi, the prakāśa and vimarśa
forms of Bagala, Vārāhi, Dakśiṇamūrti and Paśupata


Pascimamnaya contains Vidyās for

ten Duti Devatās (messenger Devatās)
three mandalās (the Agni-Surya-Soma mandalās representing three putis of ŚrīVidyā)
ten vīra Bhairavās or warriors
sixty four siddhas
forms and associate Devatās of Viṣṇu
nine grahās
Sura mantras or mantras for Devatās like Indra


Uttaramnaya contains Vidyās for

Mudra Navakam or mantras for nine mudrās
Viravāli or the five presiding Devatās of the universe (Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Īśvara and SadaŚiva)
Forms of Durga, Candi, Kāli etc.


Urdhvamnaya has Vidyās for

Mālini or Mātrika varna māla (the alphabet mantras)
Guru Mandala
Parā Vidyās like Parā Sāmbhavi, Paramba, Parā Shodaśi, Khecari, Ajapa, Tvrakāmba, Niśkala


Anuttaramnaya has Vidyās for

Catuśpāt or Gāyatri of four feet
Shodaśi (Ṣoḍaśī)
Various forms of nyāsa, sankalpa and pāduka Vidyās

Nitya Devatās

There are fifteen Nitya Devatās who preside over each day between a full moon and a new moon day. Each Nitya Devata is worshiped through a Vidyā named after Her. They are

Kula Sundari
Nīla Pātaka
Sarva Mangala
Jvāla Mālini


The Tantric texts like Rudra Yamala expound ŚrīVidyā. Khadgamāla Stotra, is the map and worship of Śrī Cakra. Besides there are several Śrī Kula texts in the oral traditions, either as compilations or as part of the mantra Śāstra texts like Mantra Mahodādhi, Mantra Mahārnava and Śāktā texts. A few of these texts are listed below –

Kāmakala vilāsa
Tantrarāja tantra
Tripurārnava tantra
ŚrīVidyārnava tantra
Jnanārnava tantra
Dakṣiṇamurti samhita
Gandharva tantra
Nitya shodashikarnava
Yogini hridaya.

Brahmānda Purāṇā has the story of Lalita slaying Bhanḍāsura (asura = devil, demon). The Lalita Sahasra Nama in Brahmānda Purāṇā expounds ŚrīVidyā. Bhāskara Rvya’s Varivāsya Rahasya, a commentary on the Sahasra nama is a comprehensive text on ŚrīVidyā. Lalita Triśati, which is also found in the same Purāṇā, is the hymn form of Pancadāsi Mantra. Śrī Sukta, a hymn of Rig Veda found in its Khila part is also used in ŚrīVidyā worship. In fact Tripura Tapini Upanishad, an entire Upanishad is dedicated to Her. Ādi Śankara’s prapanca sāra tantra mentions some of the ŚrīVidyā mantras. Devi Bhāgavata describes Mani dvīpa, which according to ŚrīVidyā is the Mother’s abode.


1. ↑ Sarva Raksha Kara; Shloka:
sadAnandamayi cinmayi sadAshivamayi
dashatrikoNayutasarvarakShAkaracakreshvari Translation:
The Goddess of the Sarvarakshakara cakra, which consists of ten triangles, is of the nature of eternal bliss, consciousness and auspiciousness.
2. ↑ There is no direct relation between elimination of animal sacrifice and ŚrīVidyā. However, it became a general smārta practice to worship ŚrīVidyā, and also discourage animal sacrifices.
3. up ↑ This is known from the Sthala Purāṇās of these shrines.
4. up ↑ There is a historic debate about Śankara’s relation to ŚrīVidyā, and it is said that Saundarya Lahari, TriSati Bhaṣya are not originally authored by Śankara. It is also said that the Śankara lineages worshiping ŚrīVidyā is a practice later than Śankara himself. However, the Śankara lineages and smārtas in general do worship ŚrīVidyā.


Śrī Lalita Devi Caritra by Jagadguru Śrī Siddheswarananda Swami, Published in Telugu by Swayamsiddha Kali Peetham, Guntur
Śrī Guru Samsmarana, The Souvenir on Centenary of Śrī C V Swami Sastriji
Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965), The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (Fourth revised and enlarged ed.), Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 81-208-0567-4
Bhattacharyya, N. N. (1999), History of the Tantric Religion (Second revised ed.), New Delhi: Manohar, ISBN 81-7304-025-7
Dempsey, Corinne G. (2006), The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple (first ed.), New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518729-8
Dev, K. V. (editor) (1996), The Thousand Names of the Divine Mother, San Ramon, California: Mata Amritanandamayi Center, ISBN 1-879410-67-2
Flood, Gavin (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43878-0
Joshi, L. M. (1998), Lalitā Sahasranāma, New Delhi: D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd., ISBN 81-246-0073-2
Sastry, R. Ananthakrishna (1986), Lalitāsahasranāma, Delhi: Gian Publishing House
Tapasyananda, Swami (1990), Śrī Lalitā Sahasranāma, Mylapore, Chennai: Sri Ramakrishna Math, ISBN 81-7120-104-0
Melanathuru, Venkata Subrahmanyam, Śhrī Vidya Upasana, Nellore, Andhra Pradesh – 9849120534 

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