There was Gautamma Buddha’s jayanti (a holy birth anniversary) recently. And I remembered that in Śrīvidyā texts I came across some pūjās related to different views or revelations. For example, such as Saura-darśana (reverence for the worldview of the sūrya devotees), Śaiva, Śakta, also Baudha (i.e. Buddhism). In Śrīvidyā, these pūjās are not dominant, they are more likely secondary, however, those who like to worship a number of Buddhist Devatas, they can worship them. In the Śrīvidyārṇava-tantra (Ch.11) there is a description of mantras that are given as bauddhadarśanādhidevatāmantrāḥ (mantras of the main deities of the Buddhist worldview, the tradition). The main Deity there is Tārā (Ugra Tārā, Ekajaṭā Tārā and Nīlasarasvatī Tārā). So, in Śrīvidyā, as in a number of other traditions, there is own version about Buddha and Buddhism, they believe that it is a part of Śaktism, Viśnuism, Śaivism or some other teachings. It is more likely that some Buddhists may not like this, however, you can really find stories in the Rudrayāmala of how Vaśiṣṭha received initiation from Buddha to worship the Goddess using the kaulācāra methods. There are other stories and interpretations as alternatives to the widespread ones. All this speaks of the non-stereotyped vision of Indians and the ability to use a variety of practical tools, regardless of different dogmas.
Today is an interesting day, the birthday of Nṛsiṃha, the incarnation of Viṣṇu, and of the Goddess Chinnamastā. According to the Toḍala-tantra, the Ten Mahāvidiyās are associated with the Ten Viṣṇu avatārs.
What do the images of Chinnamastā and Nṛsiṃha have in common? According to one legend, Nṛsiṃha came to destroy the demon Hiraṇyakaśipu. Hiraṇyakaśipu, performing austerities, asked Brahmā not to be killed either outdoors or indoors, either on the ground or in the air, either by humans or animals. Then Viṣṇu appeared in the form of a half-man and a half-lion, he killed the demon on the porch of his palace, placing him over his knee. So the demon was killed in a way that he did not expect. There is also a continuation of this story, in which Nṛsiṃha gets drunk on the blood of the killed demon and becomes infected with it. After that, Śiva appears in the form of Śarabheśvara and neutralises the blood of the demon in Nṛsiṃha. Śarabheśvara is depicted not just as a lion, but with wings, i.e. he has a great ability of manifestation in various realms, since he is able to fly through the air. Two Goddesses appear from his wings, one is Pratyaṅgirā and the other is Śūlinī Durgā, both of which are related to the elimination of the negative influence or witchcraft on the practitioner. In fact, Śarabheśvara is nothing more than an enhanced form of Nṛsiṃha. I heard from Indian tantrikas that there are no contradictions here, because Viṣṇu and Śiva are fused in the form of Harihara.
If you look at the image of Chinnamastā, you will see that it stands on Kāma, the God of sex, who is in the intercourse with his companion Rati (Goddess of passion). Thus, Chinnamastā gets energy from passion, but in its essence, this passion is also self-transformation or sublimation. Chinnamastā chopped off her own head and holds it in her hand, while her head drinks a stream of blood from the body. Two other streams are drunk by her two companions. This is a symbol of the three channels, where Chinnamastā herself symbolises suṣumṇā and the other two Goddesses – the channels iḍā and piṅgala. In other words, Chinnamastā is a certain single reality that is present in all channels, in the power of passion and creation. In fact, it is a single indestructible force within every living form. Her mantra is the same as the Vajravārāhī mantra in Buddhism, who is also known there as the Goddess Khecharī (mudrā) of white color. The name Chinnamastā in the mantra is “Vajravairocanī” (‘the shining lightning’), and the term vajra could also mean “indestructibility”.
From my experience of worshiping Chinnamastā, I can say that this form is associated with a deep comprehension of one element or aspect of self, through which it is possible to penetrate into all others. You kind of unite them and go beyond them. In yoga, for example, you exhale smoothly (rechaka) and automatically comprehend the essence of the correct inhalation (pūraka). Through both of them you comprehend the essence of the retention (kumbhaka). Kumbhaka – from the root कुम्ब् / kumb ( something which encompasses, embodies in itself). Therefore, a vessel is often a symbol of female genitals (yonī), from the root यु / yu, – something which connects, forms and holds in itself. Yonī could also mean something that is associated with various forms of birth, all creation comes from it, all forms of life, they dissolve in it. Kumbha or a vessel is a symbol of the body, both individual and the body of the universe, all life (amṛta) and the whole universe is in it. A vessel is a symbol of the unity of external and internal space (vyoman), the void inside and outside a vessel is one in its essence. Therefore, there is one single reality in all our bodies. We could say that these are parts: inhalation, exhalation, retention, like other parts of yoga, besides prāṇāyāma, āsana, pratyāhāra, dhāraṇā, yama, niyama, etc. All of them are one single sādhanā, one yoga, like other yogas (rāja, karma, jñāna, laya). Unfortunately, people have separated all these methods now, although they have one goal and one reality. Once you comprehend one aspect well, you automatically come to the comprehension of its inextricable connection with all others. Chinnamastā is a very paradoxical symbol, it is a symbol of cutting off all worldly things and at the same time it is a symbol of presence in everything. It is the transcendental, indestructible, radiant emptiness that generates an abundance of life forms and is present in each such form. Surely, she is associated with the complete absence of oneself in something, but also with the complete presence of oneself there. Chinnamastā is a symbol of spiritual death in which there is no conditioning by births, she is also a symbol of the fullness of life and the infinite wealth of life. Fear of death and fear of life are usually related. A yogi is one who dies for the world and through this death he is resurrected to a new vision of life in all its beauty and fullness. In this regard, Chinnamastā is a part of the Kālī pantheon (Kālī–kūla), because Kālī is connected with time, which is divided into parts, into segments. The term Kālī is feminine from kāla (‘time’), which is masculine. It comes from the root कल् (kal), which is the first gaṇa (group of roots) of ten in Pāṇini, and means सङ्ख्यान (saṅkhyāna – “to count”) , and कला (kalā) is from the same root – “a part of something general, art, etc.” She teaches to control prāṇa, and through the management of prāṇa leads to going beyond time or death.
A practitioner experiences the nature of Brahma (the creative power), the power of material diversity and countless channels, the connection between them. An ordinary person gets entangled in these material connections, while the yogi “sneak out” of them. In his heart he comprehends the nature of Nārāyaṇa. Nara means “a man”, that implies our connections with people, human attachments, these are emotional connections with people too. When we are “released” by a variety of bindings, the knot untied. Rudra is associated with liberation, with various experiences of the subtle level, with “spiritual ideas” and identification of oneself with them. That is, the idea of liberation is not liberation itself; thoughts of emptiness are not emptiness itself. There is a suitable definition in Russian Orthodoxy, I have come across, “falling into falsehood.” If a practitioner leaves clinging to such self-identifications, then he passes, frees this knots (granthis) and receives a living spiritual experience. This living realisation, associated with the sahasrāra cakra, is easier to experience in practice than to talk about it. Nevertheless, my experience shows that for full development you need a perfect guide, a Master. The gates to the sahasrāra open through the Guru-cakra that precedes it.
According to the Pāṇini’s grammar, the term cakra comes from the root कृ / kṛ, meaning “movement”. Abhinavagupta, in the Tantrāloka (āhnika 19, ślokas 106-107), explains that the term is really from the root kṛ, but it also means vikāsa (expansion), tṛpti (satisfaction), paśotkartanātkṛtiśaktitaḥ (what cuts off the fetters and what is the power of activity). Further, he says that the term is connected with the root कस् / kas or कः / kaḥ, which is translated as “who,” by which denote Ātman, Brahman, light and much more in different sources. Abhinavagupta chooses the meaning of light, pleasure.
Based on these sources, I would deduce the following: kaḥ is Brahman or Ātman, and ṛ, which means “movement”, is Śakti. Since Brahman is infinite in nature, no matter what energies emanate from Him, they close on Him forming reverse or circular motions. This also has the principle of movement, repetition – japa in Sanskrit. Since this is natural for Śakti and Brahman, it can be called ajapa-japa. The circle symbolises infinity, it evenly embraces all sides, without emphasis on any one relative to the rest, hence probably, the principle of vairāgya, or liberation from fetters (pāśa) comes. Uniformity is possible only when there is a center in a circle or bindu, which means Ātman. Accordingly, if you take the cakras in the subtle body, then these are different spheres or levels of comprehension of Ātman. For example, Gorakṣanāth, in the Gorakṣa-vacana-saṃgraha (93-100), gives the practice of comprehending the Ātman in each cakra of your body. Not only cakras are arranged by the circle principle, but also channels of the subtle body, the movement of prāṇa in the iḍā and piṅgala occurs in a spiral. The circular movements are harmonious, they generate and accumulate prāṇa, while all “broken” and “ragged” ones (that are reflection of weak control and awareness) – destroy and waste power. Therefore, the cakra or cakras are essential elements of our spiritual development.
The idea of 84 āsanas, which is often found in yoga texts, is based on the worship of 84 nātha–yogis. Each of these 84 nāthas is responsible for the evolution of one lakh of living beings (100,000). When you follow the yoga path, you develop the psychophysical, spiritual purity in yourself, that you radiate into space. By doing your practice you help not only yourself, but also your close ones. Souls reincarnate in different forms until they become perfect yogis, the symbolism of 84 āsanas is based on this principle. The most important thing here is to understand that āsana is not just a physical process, but also a psychophysical one. The purpose of many āsanas is to be able to stay stable in the position of siddha (siddhāsana). Generally, it is the ability to stay in a meditative posture for three hours, to hold it easily, so that you can meditate, remaining in the position, on something sublime and pure in it.
There is a practice in yoga in which jñānendriyas are overlapped with the fingers of both hands, it is called yoni-mudrā. A yogi enters into pratyāhāra and immerses into himself through this practice. The term ‘yoni‘ comes from the root yu, which may indicate several qualities. The first one from the adādiḥ class, means miśraṇa (join together), and the second from the kryādiḥ class, meaning bandhana (binding). That is something that connects male and female fluids, that holds and carries the fetus. The term ‘mudrā‘ also has a similar meaning, from the root mud, which happens in two classes: the first is curādiḥ class, meaning saṃsarga (mixing, combining) and the second is the bhvādiḥ class, meaning harṣa (rejoicing). This is what connects the two polarities: consciousness (meaning) and the object that displays it, as well as something that gives joy. Thus, any practice that connects you with the essence and brings joy can be considered as mudrā, it can be a mantra, a dhyāna, even āsana and prāṇāyāma, being directed to your essential predestination.
In India there is such a famous place of the Goddess as Kāmākhyā-pīṭha, where the Goddess is revered in the form of a female genital organ (yoni). All her images in the form of ten Mahāvidiyās, including the central place – the Kāmākhyā temple, have sanctuaries that are on the surface of the earth and below them, in the form of caves, that are underground. Underground is the bosom of the Mother Goddess, the bosom is considered as the essence of any Goddess, in many yantras she is presented in the form of a bindu and a triangle in the center. If you go into the main temple of Kāmākhyā, going down the stairs, you will plunge into the darkness with only the dim light of the lamps. Merging into the darkness, you are going through the experience of death, as if leaving the sanctuary, you are kind of returning to life, already updated. All the essential elements of these tantric symbols, in the form of veneration of yoni (yoni-pūjā) are also reflected in yoga practice. You are immersed in yourself during that practice, you recognise the nature of the Mother Goddess in your body in the form of Kuṇḍalinī-śakti. Also, being renewed, you will know the true self as ātman. The Mātṛkābheda-tantra says “janmasthānaṃ mahāyantraṃ” that the female reproductive organ is the Great Yantra, although the term janmasthāna can also be associated with the phallic symbol. In fact, yoni and liṅgam both are a manifestation of the bindu, also of one triangle, but only they change to male or female symbols when turned over. This is what the Bhagavad Gītā says about yoni:
सर्वयोनिषु कौन्तेय मूर्तयः सम्भवन्ति याः।
तासां ब्रह्म महद्योनिरहं बीजप्रदः पिता ।।14.4।।
sarvayoniṣu kaunteya mūrtayaḥ sambhavanti yāḥ।
tāsāṃ brahma mahadyonirahaṃ bījapradaḥ pitā ।।14.4।।
O Kaunteya, in whatever (yāḥ) yoni (sarvayoniṣu) entities (mūrtayaḥ) do not appear (sambhavanti), the yoni for them is the Great Brahman (tāsāṃ brahma mahat yoniḥ), while I am the Father (pitā) giving (pradaḥ) seed (bīja).
This śloka from the Gītā identifies the yoni with the Supreme Brahman. From the foregoing, it can be summarised that yogic mudra is a tantric symbol, it gives knowledge of birth and death (frees from rebirth, i.e. grants mukti), leads to the merging of the soul with the God (Brahman).
One example is the text Āgamarahasyam (Aṣṭamaḥ paṭalaḥ, 449 – 462), according to which praṇava is divided into five mātras: अ – उ – म् and two more – bindu (which is the concentration of sound vibration) and nāda (the spreading of this subtle concentration). Further, each of these mātras is split into a certain number of energy rays (kalā), each of these rays is associated with one or another Sanskrit varṇa, also this five appears in the form of pañca–kāraṇeśvara, the five manifestations of Śiva (Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Īśvara and Sadāśiva). According to the Candrajñānāgamaḥ and some other texts, five syllables of the mantra ‘Namaḥ Śivāya’ and five kāraṇeśvaras associated with them appear from these five mātras. Let’s analyse this in detail.
The first mātra अ / a is connected with Brahmā, the syllable of the pañcākṣara mantra न / na and the following 10 kalās and akṣaras:
कं kaṃ sṛṣṭi – the power of creation, खं khaṃ ṛddhi – the power of development, गं gaṃ smṛti – the power of memory, घं ghaṃ medhā – wisdom, ङं ṅaṃ kānti – brilliance, चं caṃ lakṣmī – success in achieving the goal, छं chaṃ dyuti – glow, जं jaṃ sthirā – stability, झं jhaṃ sthiti – existence, ञं ñaṃ siddhi – perfection.
The second mātra उ / u is connected with Viṣṇu, the syllable of the pañcākṣara mantra म: / maḥ and the following 10 kalās and akṣaras:
टं ṭaṃ jarā – the power of longevity, ठं ṭhaṃ naṃpālinī – the power of protection, डं ḍaṃ śānti – peace, ढं ḍhaṃ aiśvari – control, णं ṇaṃ rati – pleasure, तं taṃ kāmikā – passion, थं thaṃ varadā – power to bestow boon,
दं daṃ hlādinī – happiness, धं dhaṃ prīti – attractiveness, नं naṃ dīrghā – prevalence.
The third mātra म् / m is connected with Rudra, the syllable of pañcākṣara शि / śi and the following 10 kalās and akṣaras:
पं paṃ tīkṣā – sharpness, फं phaṃ raudrī – ferociousness of expression, बं baṃ bhayā – power to instil fear, भं bhaṃ nidrā – rest in a dream, मं maṃ tandrā – state of coma, यं yaṃ kṣut – hunger, रं raṃ krodhinī – power of anger laṃ kriyā – movement, वं vaṃ utkārī – rise, शं śaṃ mṛtyu – death.
The fourth mātra is associated with bindu and with Īśvara, the syllable of pañcākṣara वा / vā, as well as four kalās, which are manifested in the colour of energies, and akṣaras:
षं ṣaṃ pītā – yellow, सं saṃ śvetā – white, हं haṃ kṣaṃaruṇā – red, क्षं kṣaṃ asitā – dark.
The fifth mātra is associated with nāda and Sadāśiva, the syllable of pañcākṣara य / ya and the following 16 kalās and akṣaras:
अं aṃ nivṛtti – cessation of activities, आं āṃ pratiṣṭhā – establishment, इं iṃ vidyā – knowledge, ईं īṃ śānti – peace, उं uṃ indhikā – substance for sacrifice, ऊं ūṃ dīpikā – light, ऋं ṛṃ recikā – devastation, ऋृं ṛṛṃ mocikā – liberation, लृं lṛṃ parā – transcendence, लॄं lṝṃ sūkṣmā – subtlety, एं eṃ sūkṣmāmṛtā – subtle, not affected by death, ऐं aiṃ jñānāmṛtā – cognition of immortality, ओं oṃ āpyāyanī – fullness, अं aṃ vyomarūpā – emptiness, अः aḥ anantā – lack of limit (infinity).
Why do the three famous bandhas, that are often used in prāṇāyāma, have the following names: jālandhara-bandha, uḍḍiyāna-bandha, mūla-bandha?
Personally, I believe that these names in haṭhayoga, like many other things, could come from tantrism. The aim of these bandhas in yoga is to unite the prāṇas within the suṣumṇā channel, which leads to the control of prāṇa and consciousness (i.e. contemplation). There are four famous śaktipīṭhas in tantrism, such as kāmarūpā, jālandhara, uḍḍiyāna and pūrṇāgiri. Many tantras describe them not only as geographical places in India and as those that are in the central triangle of yantras, but also as located in our body, in various cakras. For example, kāmarūpā, which is associated with Satī’s yoni (one of the main places for tantra practitioners) is located in Guwahati of Assam State. In a way, this is the main place for tantrikas and śaktas, so when we say ‘mūla‘, we can translate this as “root” and as “main.” According to Yoga-cūḍāmaṇyupaniṣad (7), Gorakṣa-śatakam (10), Sidhda-sidhdānta-padhdati (2-1) and a number of other texts, this pīṭha in our body is in the area of mūlādhāra-cakra. This fully corresponds to what associated with mūla-bandha.
Take other examples with pithas, for example, in Kaulajñānanirṇaya (8.20-22) jālandhara-pīṭha is located in the root cakra, although according to the SSP, it is located in the head region. In any case, jālandhara-bandha is what directs upward the flow of prāṇa going into the cakras, like uḍḍiyāna-bandha, which means the movement of prāṇa in suṣumṇā and upwards. Obviously, it is connected with uḍḍiyāna-pīṭha, regardless of the fact that different texts have it in different ways. This special pīṭha in tantrism, the center of any yantra, is also venerated by the Gurus, from whom comes the tradition in which this practice is used. For Buddhists, this is also a very significant place where many great masters came from. If we talk about ājñā-cakra, then it means “following the will of the Guru“, his transmission. But, for this we must direct ourselves from the bottom up to him. This is the dissolution of their lower nature in the Divine, thereby sublimating this nature. Of course, when we do uḍḍiyāna-bandha, we work on the entire abdomen, lifting prāṇa up through suṣumṇā. The fourth, pūrṇāgiri-pīṭha, is also located differently according to different texts, somewhere in the crown of the head, somewhere in anāhata-cakra, etc. It means the completeness arising from the fusion of different energies. Usually, pīṭhas in tantrism, as sacred places in India, are associated with the performance of some sacred processes in our body. If we say this in relation to yoga, then our fragmented, imperfect vital energy (asiddha-prāṇa) becomes perfect (siddha-prāṇa) when it makes a “pilgrimage” to different areas within suṣumṇā. Thus, we are immersed in dhyāna within ourselves.
Besides the Nādabindūpaniṣad, I came across other interpretations of how praṇava is manifested from mantra sohaṃ. There is also the interpretation in which, if we remove ‘sa’ and ‘ha’ from sohaṃ, we get praṇava Oṃ. One of the early texts that I went through was the Prapañcasāra Tantra (4.21):
सकारं च हकारं च लोपयित्वा प्रयोजयेत्।संधिं वै पूर्वरूपाख्यं ततोऽसौ प्रणवो भवेत्।।४.२१ ।।
sakāraṃ ca hakāraṃ ca lopayitvā prayojayet ।
saṃdhiṃ vai pūrvarūpākhyaṃ tato’sau praṇavo bhavet ।।4.21।।
According to the image of pūrva rūpa saṃdhi, removing ‘sa’ and ‘ha’, one must definitely get that praṇava (oṃ) from there.
Explanation: pūrva rūpa saṃdhi is connected with the ending ओ/o, which stands before अ/a of the next word, turning into a sign known as avagraha / ऽ. Thus, the text implies that from ओ/o we get the praṇava mantra.
इन्द्रियाणां मनो नाथो मनोनाथस्तु मारुत:।
मारुतस्य लयो नाथ: स लयो नादमाश्रित: ।। ॥ २ ९॥
indriyāṇāṁ mano nātho manonāthastu mārutaḥ |
mārutasya layo nāthaḥ sa layo nādamāśritaḥ || 29 ||
1) The mind (manaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of the senses (indriyāṇām).
2) Also (tu) vital force (mārutaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of the mind (manaḥ).
3) Dissolution (layaḥ) is the lord (nāthaḥ) of air (mārutasya).
4) And that (sa) depends (āśritaḥ) on resonance (nādam). (Haṭhayogapradīpikā 4.29)