Bagalāmukhī as a relevant Goddess for śaktas, śaivas and vaiṣṇavas.

I would like to give a short quote from the Svatantra Tantra about the appearance of the Goddess Bagalāmukhī and her connection with Śrīvidyā, also Viṣṇu and Śiva.

अथ बक्ष्यामि देवेशि बगलोत्पत्ति कारणम्।
पुरा कृत युगे देवि वात क्षोभ उपस्थिते।।

Now, Mistress of the Gods, listen to the reason for the appearance of Bagalāmukhī. A long time ago, a great hurricane appeared in the Satya Yuga.

चराचर विनाशाय विष्णुश्चिन्ता परायणः।
तपस्यया च संतुष्टा महात्रिपुर सुन्दरी।।

All living and non-living began to collapse. Seeing this, Viṣṇu fell into contemplation and in this way he satisfied Mahātripurasundarī.

हरिद्राख्यं सरो दृष्ट्वा जल क्रीड़ा परायणा।
महाप्रीति हृदस्थान्ते सौराष्ट्र बगलाम्बिका।।

Seeing how in the playing waters of the Haridra lake (Turmeric lake) in Saurāṣṭra (now Gujarat), Mother Bagalāmukhī appeared in the heart of the Goddess (Tripurasundarī).

Further, the text says that heat (or light) emerged from Śrīvidyā (Tripurasundarī) and from there spread everywhere, stopping the hurricane. This happened on the fourteenth lunar day (Caturdaśī tithi) connected with Tuesday when the sun was in Capricorn (Makara), also on the night known as Vīrarātri (the heroic night).

Bagalāmukhī is considered as a part of Śrīvidyā Tantra and in her four-armed form she is in many ways identical to Tripurasundarī. There is also a story in the Rādhā Tantra about how Viṣṇu practiced tapasya and could not get success in sadhanā, after which the Goddess Śrī (Tripura) appeared to him and said that he need to manifest with her in Mathura, she would manifest in the form of Rādhikā. And worshiping Kalī in her by the kaulācāra methods, he, being Kṛṣṇa, will reveal all his siddhis. This happened because of the worshipping Rādhā as Parakīyaśakti, Viṣṇu (Kṛṣṇa) gained all success and destroyed many demons. The most interesting thing in all these stories is that the Goddess Śrī can be considered as Lakṣmī, but she is also Tripurasundarī, and we know that Śiva is Bhairava of Tripurasundarī. Thus, based on the analysis of these stories, we see that Viṣṇu and Śiva are one Deity –– Harihara. Also, Lakṣmī and Śrī, who were worshiped by Kṛṣṇa, may be Kalī, whom Kṛṣṇa invoked in them. This wonderful story allows you to cover a lot. We also know that Bagalāmukhī is a stambhinīśakti, she can represent not only the power of Mahāmṛtyuñjaya, but also the sthitiśakti of Viṣṇu. The Sāṃkhyāyana Tantra (Paṭala 35) describes Bagalāmukhī as one who is revered as Kalī in the uttara and urdhva āmnāyas. There is also a description of her as the one on the left side of which is Kalī, and on the right side is Tripurasundarī. Bagalāmukhī includes these two Goddesses who embrace Kalī and Śrī Kūlas.

Vajrolī in Buddhism and Indian traditions

Recently, one of my students asked me a question, “Is it true that there is semen retention in Vajrayana (in the practice of karmamudrā of the Completion stage), but is it not so in Indian tantras?”

First of all, I think that it is wrong to sacrifice a human nature to religious corporations, dividing it into Tibetan and Indian one. There is a tendency to think that if you are a Tibetan, you can retain semen, and if you are an Indian, the practice must necessarily be different. The  retention  of ejaculation in the practice of maithuna or karmamudrā is an allegory. In Indian kaulācāra, this kind of practices implies ejaculation, as an analogue of pūrṇāhuti in agnihotra. After which, this substance is mixed with wine and then used in pūjā. There is a lot of evidences of that fact, for example, in the Guhyasamāja-tantra:

विण्मूत्रशुक्ररक्तादीन् देवतानां निवेदयेत्।
एवं तुष्यन्ति सम्बुद्धाः बोधिसत्त्वा महाशयाः॥२१॥

viṇmūtraśukraraktādīn devatānāṃ nivedayet।
evaṃ tuṣyanti sambuddhāḥ bodhisattvā mahāśayāḥ ॥21॥

It is necessary to offer the secretion: urine, semen, female bodily fluids and offer them to the Deities. Thus, it will satisfy the great awakened ones, buddhas and bodhisattvas.

Prior to that, there is a recommendation to practice intercourse with a beautiful young woman. In order, for example, to offer semen in pūjā, it is obvious that there must be present a finalised ritual of maithuna. And there is quite a bit of such recommendations in Vajrayana. These kinds of transgressions in Vajrayana, which seems to be full of  savagery to the common man, in fact, are not much different from saptamakaras in aghora, which took a lot from traditions like kāpālikas.

If you read a description of vajrolī or amarolī in the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā, you will see that there is a recommendation to mix the released semen with ash and apply it as a tilaka. That is, it means that ash is a symbol of amṛta, as well as semen. It says of the same principles as in the description from the Guhyasamāja-tantra and other Buddhist texts. Here is a very similar fragment from the Yoni-tantra:

भक्त्या द्रव्यं जपेन्मन्त्रं जप्त्वा मैथुनमाचरेत् शु्क्तोत्सरणकाले च शृ्णु पार्वति सुन्दरि
योनितत्त्वं समादाय तिलकं क्रियते यदि शतजन्मावर्ज्जितं पापं तत्क्षणादेव नश्यति ॥20-21॥

bhaktyā dravyaṃ japenmantraṃ japtvā maithunamācaret 
śuktotsaraṇakāle ca śṛṇu pārvati sundari
yonitattvaṃ samādāya tilakaṃ kriyate yadi
śatajanmāvarjjitaṃ pāpaṃ tatkṣaṇādeva naśyati ॥20-21॥

The sādhaka should chant the mantra and enjoy the ‘substances’ during the practice of maithuna. Listen, beautiful Parvatī, if a sādhaka makes himself a tilaka with ‘yoni fluids’ after an orgasm, then he will instantly forsake all the sins associated with a hundred births. (20-21)

The requirement given here is very similar to the one from the Haṭha-yoga-pradīpikā. Probably, the goal here is not to retain semen so that there is no ejaculation at all. If the process is contemplative, then such a suspension or extension of the act occurs naturally. And the practitioner accomplishes that not by themselves and not because their ego wants it, like they can feed it by being ‘good technicians’. Here, the Goddess also controls the process through you. And the prolongation of the act is needed more in order to satisfy the Goddess in a woman, so she will bestow siddhi through her satisfaction. And at the end of the ritual, pūrṇāhuti is being done in the form of an orgasm. A prolongation of the act may occur due to the desire to satisfy the Divine. But not at all in order to demonstrate some kind of  ‘athletic abilities’ to stretch time, in which many people mistakenly believe. Each practice has a main task that must not be forgotten, otherwise it loses its true purpose and value, no matter how exclusive the technique may look. As we can see, ūrdhvaretā could be understood as  retracting substances back, but that is not by drawing them back into the genitals. That could be, for instance, the communion in the form of tilaka (as ūrdhva is the head area), and so on. And the most important thing is what happens on a psychic level, psychic vibes are significant. For a yogin who understands the essence of this practice, the physical side may be less relevant. They can perceive the sexual energy of life and flowering in their essence. Therefore, for some, a yogic practice is simply the essence of such ceremonies, even without their external implementation.