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The worship of the Goddess Tripura Sundari ("Adesh", summer 2014)

The worship of the Goddess Tripura Sundari ("Adesh", summer 2014)

Nowadays one of the most large-scaled current venerating the Mother Goddess in India is the cult of the Goddess Tripurasundari. One can find a lot of information and stories about the Goddess Tripurasundari in the multitude of published books. In this material I would like to acquaint you with the essential aspects of the theme and practice.

In accord with the etymology «shri» has the singnificance of abudance, plenitude, splendour and «vidya» means the knowledge which leads a jiva (embodied soul) to mukti (liberation). This Tradition is mostly known by its famous Shriyantra which is considered to be a Raja-yantra — the queen of all yantras. The tantrics often invoke other deities and worship them in this yantra. It is not a casual thing because the shakta-tantrics of Shrividya believe that the Mother Goddess Tripura Sundari gives the birth and manifistation for the whole Universe and all deities. Shrividya is the tradition of mantras indeed as this tanric cult includes a really extensive multitude of them as well as a variety of deities. Generally­ there are two groups of mantras — male and female. The male one is called «mantra» and the female mantra — «vidya». Mantras are supposed to be the subtle body of a Deity. They may have the form of «bija» — a seed syllable or monosyllabic mantra. Sometimes mantras consist of several bijas and in this case they are called «kutakshara» — a gathering of syllables. Mantras can form a subtle body of the Deity with the help of nyasas (depositions) inside of the body of a worshipper. In consequence of this process a practitioner can meditate on the oneness with the Deity.

It is also possible to install a yantra inside of the body, for example every chakra of yantra upon a chakra of sadhaka. Such kind of depositions of a Deity or its energy may be made on ones own body or upon other participant of the tantric ritual. This approach is popular in the tradition of Kaula. This tradition is nominaly divided into Shrikula (Shrividya) and Kalikula (the cult of Kali). However these currents of the Mother Goddess suplly each other and maintain the same elements. But talking about Shrikula it is to be emphasized that at advanced levels of Shrividya we start worshipping Kali as well. It is concerned with the fact that Kali is ugra (fierce) Goddess, cutting off the mundane attachments. This is why one must perform high-quality worship of Tripurasundari before beginning the practice of Kali especially in the form of panchamakaras.

The name «Lalita Tipurasunadari» is translated as «one who has the nature of a play» (leela or vilasa), also «splendid in the three worlds». She liberates from these 3 worlds or bestow jivanmukti in them. Ususally she has the forms of Bala of 8 years old, Panchadashi of 15 years old, then of the age 16 and 28 years. There are some definite mantras for every age with the corresponding amount of bijas.

Nevertheless every of her aspects may has very diverse forms. For instance Bala has a standard form of the threeakshara mantra, but at the same time there are more then 30 types of this mantra with the larger number of aksharas for different purposes. There is also a sadhana of Bala when she is worshipped as Kamakhya and there is a special yantra, retinue of yoginis and the performance of puja in this case. At the same time it is possible to worship Kamakhya Balasundari with panchatattva. There is also an upasana of Bala when she turns into Tripura Bhairavi and the syllables Ha, Sa and Ra are added to the threeakshara mantra. They simbolize Kameshvara, Kameshvari and their Union.

The Naths as well have the worship of Bala. She is depicted the same way like in the first variant, but the mantra and practice are very different, although goals are similar to Shrividya Tradition. It is possible to say the Naths are more prudent with the practice of abhichara.

Usually the parctitioners meditate on the image of Bala keeping in mind the secret sacral meaning of every element.

Bala holds in one left hand a book — the symbol of knowledge, other left hand shows the abhaya-mudra — the symbol of fearlessness, one right hand holds a rosary and the other shows the varada-mudra — the symbol of compassion bestowing the good. She wears red clothes which symbolizes Shakti, therefore the red colour is very significant for the shaktas. Her three eyes are the symbols of the Fire, the Sun and the Moon. She is adorned with the crescent on her hair (ardha-chandra) — the symbol of the Divine Light दिव्य-ज्योति and of the Divine vision (clairvoyance) दिव्य-दृषटि, the power of vision through any distance (space) दूर दर्शन शक्ति. The adornment on the head means the Divine knowledge. Her earrings कुण्डल द्वय stand for Divine Hearing and the ornaments on her hands symbolize the power of catching anything even objects at a great distance दिव्य ग्रहण शक्ति. Ornaments on her feet are the symbols of the Divine Migration (motion, displacement). The adornment of the neck कण्ठ भूषण means the Divine voice दिव्य कण्ठ स्वर. The fingers of her hands symbolize the Divine touch and four arms — the four aims of life पुरुषार्थ.

In the form of Tripurasundari (Shodashi) she is enthroned on Sadashiva. From his navel appears a lotus. According to Shrividya there is a para-vac in navel, so actually Lalita is manifestated from it. Sadashiva lies on the throne of Lalita which is situated upon the heads of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Ishvara. For this reason the Goddess Tripurasundari is worshipped along with Panchabrahma Shiva — fivefaced Shiva from whom 5 amnayas are descended. There is also a special form of Ganesha known as Kshipra Ganapati (quick Ganapati) that corresponds with the Goddess Lalita. He is supposed to be quick in revealing spiritual experience. Tripurasundari is glorified by her proper respective Shriyantra like a symbol of all yantras. Obviously this is the reason all Deities may be worshipped in Shrividya.

The whole sacred image of Tripurasundari with all its elements has a large amount of meanings: her lasso symbolizes devotion, the curved knife means the power of cutting off attachments, the 5 arrows of sugar cane — the 5 arrows of Kama-deva as well as 5 senses. She is sirved by Lakshmi and Sarasvati. It is said in «Lalita-sahasranama» that Ten Avatars of Vishnu appear from Her ten nails. In fact if we study thoroughly «Lalita-sahasranama» we can find descriptions of numerous symbols of the Goddess appearance as well as her diversed powers. Moreover her symbolism is even deeper for those who practise Shrividya: for example from the essential form of Tripurasundari may be manifestated either Durga or Kali. In the aspect of Rajarajeshwari Tripurasundari assumes the form of Durga. Rajarajeshwari is depicted on simhasana — sitting on the lion, it is the symbol of royal authority of the Goddess साम्राज्य. We all know that Durga as well move around on a tiger. Tripurasundari may also assume the form of Bagalamukhi, Chinnamasta (Shrividya form is Vajraprastarini), etc.

It is to be said that in the linage of Shrividya three Goddesses — Kali, Lalita and Durga personify the three component elements of Panchadasha mantra. Therefore first three Goddesses are very significant for Shrividya-upasana.

The principal mantras of Shrividya are the following:

Balasundari Mantra:

aiṁ klīṁ sauḥ

Panchadashi mantra:

ka e ī la hrīṁ ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ sa ka la hrīṁ

Shodashi mantra:

ka e ī la hrīṁ ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ sa ka la hrīṁ śrīṁ

Mahashodashi mantra:

śrīṁ hrīṁ klīṁ aiṁ sauḥ oṁ hrīṁ śrīṁ ka e ī la hrīṁ ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ sa ka la hrīṁ sauḥ aiṁ klīṁ hrīṁ śrīṁ |

It is to be noticed all these principal mantras are transmitted by a Guru with the corresponding initiations. On the other hand there is an infinite amount of mantras in Shrividya. For instance there are a lot of sorts of Shodashi and Mahashodashi mantras, usually they are constitued by alternating syllables what changes characteristic of mantra.

Tricona Left side Center Right side Bindu
Goddess Vama Jyoshtha Raudri Ambika
Consort Brahma Vishnu Shiva
Function Creation Sustenance Destruction
Shakti Iccha Jnyana Kriya
Sound stage Pashyanti Madhyama Vaikhari Para
Consciousness Waking Dreaming Deep Sleep
The Fourth

ka tat   Kameshvara Brahman
e savitur varenyam  Kameshvari (Shakti)
ī bhargo devasya dhī- Shiva   
la  mahi
hrīṁ dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt Maya
ha tat
sa savitur (three syllables = three mantra words)
ha bhargo devasya dhī- (one sound = six syllables)
la mahi
hrīṁ dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt
sa tat savitur varenyam
ka bhargo devasya dhī-
la mahi
hrīṁ dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt 

My Guruji explains this by the following way. In the beginning we worship young Balasundari Goddess of 8 years old. So we use the Bala mantra of three aksharas aiṁ klīṁ sauḥin practice. The bija «aiṁ» is the bija of speech, «klīṁ» — Kama — wish and «sauḥ» — Shakti (mystical power). After the practice of this mantra the experienced sadhaka starts the practice of mantra of 15 years old Goddess — Panchadashi mantra. It is a symbol of the Goddess starting to have the menstrual cycle. Her vidya is divided into 3 kutas: the first starts with «ka» ka e ī la hrīṁ; the second with «ha» ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ and the third one with «sa» sa ka la hrīṁ. These kutas are speech, wish (will) and shakti (power), in fact they proceed with what is practised in Bala mantra. Then sadhaka practises the mantra of 16 syllables which is the essence of the two previous and allows to recieve knowledge directly from the Goddess perceiving the Atman. The transmission of the 16 syllables mantra my Guru calls shakta abhisheka. After this sadhaka worships Tripurasundari with the mantras of more then 20 syllables when the Goddess becomes like a mature woman united with Shiva Kameshvara and from this moment she is Kameshvari. At this stage sadhaka is empowered and gains authority to practise the most secret methods of Shrividya in the form of panchamakara-puja etc. This intiation is called purna abhisheka. Afterwards upasaka worships Kali and other fierce forms of Goddess. In general all these stages are considered to be the process of Kundalini awakening and realizing of her oneness with Shiva. Certainly all these stages have a lot of secrets and Guru may transmit them only to tested disciples in whom he has a real confidence. In some currents of Shrividya other Gurus may have different algorithm of initiation and principles, but in this article we will explore the most famous mantra and its meaning.

It is to be mentioned here that in the lineage of the Naths there is also one initiation called Upadeshi-diksha or Shankhadhal when Guru trasmits mantras and forms of upasana to disciples. But mantras themselves and the way of Goddess Bala worship are quite different. At the same time the image of Bala is identical to Bala of Shrividya and the mantra is like a derivation from Paraprasada mantra Soham along with Threeakshari mantra, but with the symbolism of Sarasvati, Kali and Lakshmi united in the image of Bala. The principal Panchadashi mantra of Srividya is considered to have the origin of Atharvaveda, Shri devi atharva-shirsha in particular. This shloka can assume the form of bijas.

कामो योनिः कमला वज्रपाणिर्गुहा हसा मातरिष्वाभ्रमिन्द्रः |
पुनर्गुहा सकला मायया च पुरुच्यैष विश्वमातादितिविद्योम् || १४ |

kāmo yoniḥ kamalā vajrapāṇirguhā hasā mātariṣvābhramindraḥ |
punarguhā sakalā māyayā ca purucyaiṣa viśvamātāditividyom || 14 ||

Kama, Yoni, Kamala, Vajrapani (Indra), Guha, Hamsa, Matarishva, Abhra, Indra, Punarguha, Sakala, Maya are also mantras of the Mother of Universe who is the Brahman un-doubtedly.There are a lot of ways of decoding of this shloka, I offer the three well-known variants:

1. Каmа (eros) — ka, Yoni (source) — e, Каmаlа (Goddess) — ī, Vajrapani (Indra) — la, Guha (Skanda) — hrīṁ, Hasa (Hamsa) — ha, sa, Matarishva (air) — ka, Abhra (sky) — ha, Indra — la, hrīṁ, sa, ka, la, Maya — hrīṁ.

2. ka — wish, e — intention, ī — motivation, la — accomplishment, hrīṁ — light and realization of soul, ha — the Sun, sa — the Moon, ka — wish, ha — pra-na, la — accomplishment, hrīṁ — light and realization of soul, sa — moon energy of mind, ka — wish, la — accomplishment, hrīṁ — shakti and light.

3. ka — Shiva, e — Shakti, ī — the God of Love, la — earth, ha — the God of Sun, sa — the rays of the cool Moon, ka — the God of Love, ha — the Sky, la — Indra, sa — Parа, ka — the God of Love, la — Vishnu.

Derived sound Vocal root Esoteric meaning
ka kan, shine Shiva, Enlightener
e in, learn learning tool, i.e. Buddhi
[ka + e point to radiant mind]
ī ī, fill filling of all reality
la + ha + rī
ṁ    reason of superiority
han, affect
bravery, ha – cause of victory over the enemy
so, enjoy or su, generate wealth, assistance in enjoyment
ka kam, wish women, who are attracted by mantra and are objects of desire
ha oharn, go regard to the achievement of courage, wealth, desire etc.
la + ha + rī ī, shine glory

sa ka la
that whereby there exist aforementioned actions
hṛ hṛ, eliminate Destroyer of Universe
shine, cause of creation and maintenance
[hṛ + ī = Mother who shines in the heart and dissolves the pain, hrī – dependent determined component (karmadhārya) with ṁ] 

primary sound (nāda) or knowledge

There is a multitude of mantras in Shrividya with the various number of aksharas similar to panchadashi where aksharas can have the concealed alchemical meaning. This alchemy as a rule is formulated by mutual interaction of different powers and energies. But most of Gurus keep it in secret. In some sense the alchemy of Shrividya is very allied to that one of the Naths. However it is to be noticed that nowadays not all of Guru manage to retain this knowledge. In fact there are a few experts in this field of practice. Most of such kind of Masters prefer to teach only restricted cycle of followers selecting aspirants by extremely exigent way.

The splitting from bindu to trikona (triangle) generates manifestation of these categories of triadic deities and energies and there are various descriptions of them in the texts of Shrividya. A lot of Masters list different connections and metaphisical principles of them and sometimes they vary deeply in significance and interpretations depending on a school.

The unfolding of the triangle starts from the left line (rekha) of the inner triangle of Shriyantra (sarvasiddhiprada) and goes clockwise. This way every element of the symbolic triads becomes related to the lines of the triangle in the center of Shriyantra. The bindu (point) is situated at the same center and symbolizes the Goddess Ambika personifying the authentic Self of a man — Atman. When the Mother Goddess creates the Universe the unique source in the form of mahabindu is divided into 3 bindus (sun, moon and fire) and they are joined by the different forms of nada. These three bindus symbolize the corners of Shri Yantra triangle which is in its turn the yoni of the Goddess.

ka e ī la hrīṁ — Kameshvari (rajas)

ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ — Vajreshvari (sattva)

sa ka la hrīṁ — Bhagamalini (tamas)

All Shri Yantra appears, following the evolutionary trends (pravritti), from the central triangle. Panchadashi-mantra is considered to be the foundation of Shri Yantra. Together with the central bindu and syllable śrśś it appears as Shodashi.

Some tantrics also relate Panchadashi-mantra to the Vedic Gayatri and they believe that Gayatri can be transformed into a form of Panchadashi bijas, and that Panchadashi contains all the Gayatri. Please find attached the relevant tables of interrelation Gayatri with Panchadashi. And, even each kutakshara is able to contain the potential of Gayatri-mantra.

Panchadashi mantra is unique because it is capable to untie the three nodes (granthas) in human body, awaken chakras and Kundalini. So, for example, pronouncing ka e ī la hrīṁ, we untie Brahma-grantha and activate the condition of fire. When we recite ha sa ka ha la hrīṁ, so we untie the Vishnu node and activate the Sun power, while pronouncing sa ka la hrīṁ, we untie the Rudra node and activate the Moon power. The sixteenth bija śrīṁ allows to open the Sahasrara — chakra, and by vibrating bindu (anusvara) in syllable śrīṁ with mantra’s help we can activate sukshma-chakras of dvadashanta.

Panchadashi mantra syllables are also known by their connection with fifteen lunar days (tithi), which are associated with fifteen Nitya Goddesses. In Indian astrology the Moon plays a key role, while in Tantra it is believed that the Moon contains both powers — its own and the solar one. For example, the new moon (amavasya) is related to the lunar power, whereas the full moon (purnima) — to the solar power. In human body new moon is associated with lower chakras, while full moon — with upper chakras. If we translate the word hatha-yoga, so means Moon and tha means lunar and solar discs simultaneously. Hatha-yogais the balance of the lunar and solar power or Prana and Apana (ascending and descending forces), and also the union of Shakti and Shiva. How the mantras of fifteen Goddesses are associated with the outer and inner cosmos, this is a topic for another article, here I will just mention this connection.

Furthermore, the greatness of fifteen syllabic Tripura Sundari mantra is also in fact that its syllables contain 36 metaphysical categories of Being which are popular in both Shivaism and Shaktism. Moreover, Panchadashi mantra has the potential of all the letters of Sanskrit, in Shaktism they are considered as the Goddesses Mothers (Matrika). For example, the first system a-ka-tha is connected with three kutas of Yantra. The first kuta includes all Sanscrit vowels from a, the second kuta includes consonants from ka to ta, and the third kuta — remaining aksharas from tha. There are other systems that link matrikas with mantra. Sanscrit aksharas have a feature: consonants contain also the vowel «a», which is pronounced at the end of the word. For example, syllable ka has two sounds fused together such as k and а, while vowel е contains just itself and nothing else. If we count the number of sounds in Panchadashi-mantra, including the sounds of Nada and Bindu in hrīṁ, we will get 37 sounds. These sounds are related to the 36 tattvas, including the 37th category Paramashiva (tattvatita) or that Shri Abhinavagupta called Anuttara. All the Sanscrit letters, from Tantrism point of view, have a deep sacred value, so, for example, vowels are often seen as being associated with Shiva, while the consonants — with Shakti. Consequently, all mantras consisting of compounds of vowels and consonants are the personification of the blessed union of Shiva and Shakti.

Yogi Shri Matsyendranath

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Tags:  tipurasunadari interview tantra shrividya
Author: Yogi Matsyendranath Maharaj

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