(Digest of pp.887-892 of Deivathin Kural)
Let those who have the capacity to go through the path of Kundalini yoga go that way. For us,the easier bhakti path which holds doggedly to The Mother is enough. What they can get, She will give the same to us. Maybe She will take us also to that path, after a certain stage and give us those experiences. Maybe She will also tell some of them who have gone through that difficult terrain, “Enough of this” and bring them back to stay quiet in a total attitude of surrender.
Right in the sloka (No.10) where it talks about the flow of amrita in the nADis, let us see how the sloka winds up. It does not wind up with the idea that the eternal flow of nectar at the point where the prANa Shakti reaches the head, brings the non-dual union of the jIva with the Absolute; but it ends up by saying: “the Kundalini in the form of that prANa Shakti descends through Chakra after Chakra and winds itself up in the mUlAdhAra Chakra, where it again goes to sleep”.
It is the winding and whirling up that gave it the name of ‘Kundalini’. When a snake sleeps it winds and whirls up. In fact all animals do it. They don’t stretch their limbs and sleep. Some winding up will be there. But it is the snake that winds up totally in the form of a kunDala (ear ornament).The parAShakti whose power is infinite, exhibits Herself in each of us only a fragment of a fragment. All the remaining power of the parAShakti is the sleeping Kundalini.
Well. Instead of continuing the talk of the flow of amrita and the blissful sensation of it, I have now come down to the talk of the sleeping state of ambaal in us commonfolk. What is the meaning of this kind of ending such a profound discussion? Yes, there is a meaning. So long as the thought that ‘I have done a great yoga-sAdhanA’ is there, even great yogis will have to tumble down to the normal ground-level state. And so, mark it, even if one goes high up to the kundalini yoga stage, the only key that will unlock the door is the attitude of surrender which says: ‘It is not me; It is You, Oh Mother’!
In the next sloka (# 11), the Shri Chakram (also called the Shri Yantram) is described. The very mention of ‘ShrI VidyA pUjA’ implies the pUjA of Shri Chakram. Every deity has a Yantram exclusively associated with it. But those who do Shiva pUjA and or VishNu pUjA do not usually keep the corresponding Yantrams in the pUjA. Maybe in temples under the various altars of the deities the corresponding Yantrams would have been formally installed. But in households where Shiva or VishNu pUja is done only the BANa lingam or the SalagrAmam is kept, but not the Yantram. In the panchAyatana pUjA which includes worship of ambaaL one keeps the stone called ‘svarNa-rekhA-ShilA’. But when you worship ambaal alone, you don’t keep that ‘ShilA’. Only Shri Chakram is kept. In some places along with the Chakram, an image with hands and feet may also be kept.
The regimen of worship for any deity has both ‘mantra’ and ‘Yantra’ associated with it. A certain sequence of sounds, repeated often and often gets the beatification of the presence of that devatA (divinity) prescribed by it. Just as each devatA has a physical form with limbs, so also each devatA has a form in a stringed sequence of sounds. It is called the sound-form, just as the recitation of mantras aims at the mantra-form.
In addition there is the Yantra-form for each devatA. The form has lines, triangles, enclosures, circular or otherwise; these are not just geometrical figures. Each of them has a meaning and significance. They have extraordinary power. Each Yantram is set to absorb and bring into focus the paramAtmA in the form of that devatA. In addition to the repeated mental recitation of the mantra, one does pUja to the Yantram also. Within the triangles of the Yantras and other enclosures, the seed-syllables (bIja-aksharas) corresponding to the mantra pertaining to the devata would be inscribed. The very devatA that is the life of an idol with arms and feet is also considered to be brought alive in the corresponding Yantram, In fact the Yantram is even more comprehensive; for it includes the native residence of the devatA and all its accessory deities within itself.
The Mother Goddess, whom we call ambaal, has many forms like Meenakshi, durgA, Bhuvaneshvari, ShAradAmbikA etc. Each of these has its own Yantram. But it is very common that even the worshippers of these forms do only the Shri Chakra pUjA, rather than the pUjA of the particular mUrti (form). This is so not only in houses, but in temples also. Famous durgA temples have only Shri Chakra installed therein. Sringeri has ShAradAmbAl as the main mUrti; however the Yantra PujA is for Shri Chakram. All this goes to show the importance of the Shri Chakram.
Lines, circles, squares, figures formed by these – all these configured into a Chakra along with a centre point (madhya-bindu), is called a Yantram. Only such a design has the power to bring into focus the power of the particular devatA – in fact it is an infinite power –and so may be called (with a smile) a ‘Divine Design’. (This is Paramacharya’s own word). These designs collect and absorb divine energy and have the power to radiate that energy .
In the Shri Chakra, the central portion is circular. There are nine triangles there. They criss cross one another, thus producing forty-three triangles. The central dot is also considered to be one triangle. Together the triangles number forty-four. These forty-four triangles are classified into six AvaraNas. The straightforward meaning of this word ‘AvaraNa’ is ‘what hides’. Here it should be taken to mean track, corridor, row, or prAkAra in Sanskrit. If several people crowd around one individual, the latter is naturally ‘hidden’. So they form an AvaraNam around him. The central dot is also taken as one AvaraNam just as it is taken also as a triangle. In fact around it the other forty-three triangles constitute five AvaraNas. Together with it we talk of six AvaraNas. Outside of these six AvaraNas annd forty-four triangles, there are three rounds or corridors. They constitute three more AvaraNas and thus we have nine AvaraNas in all. You would have heard of Dikshidar’s ‘nava-AvaraNa’ compositions in music. The ShAstras describe and enunciate who lives in what AvaraNa, what is the principle involved, who is the adhi-devatA, what kind of anugraha (Grace) they can bestow, what mudrA is to be shown to them and so on. The compositions of Dikshidar go through all this in brief.
Out of the outermost three AvaraNas (rounds) of the total nine, the two inner are made up of lotus petals arranged in two circles. The ninth AvaraNa is a design looking like three compound walls; but now it is not a circular structure but of square design. The whole thing is a unique design with an infinite divine potential.
But beware. One has to be careful.
(Digest of pages 892-898, Deivathin Kural (in
Tamil), Vol.6, 4th imprn)
A Yantra means that every bit of it whether a line or a circle or an angle, has to be of the right size and proportioin as prescribed. It cannot err even a little this way or that way. Just as a mantra, with a wrong incantation, produces contrary effects, so also a small mistake in the design of the Yantra can cause havoc. In the Shri yantra again, if the apex of the central triangle faces west instead of east, as it should, results can just be the opposite. So when you sit opposite to it for the worship, the apex should be on the side nearer to you and not on the farther side. One has to be really more careful with the pUja of a Yantram than that of an idol (vigraha), in terms of the ritualistic do’s and don’ts. In modern times many have turned over to Shri Cakra pUjA in their homes, a few merely for the pride of it, another few because it is the fashion, and yet another few out of ignorance. But the injunctions are not being followed properly. Consequently, loss of peace is on the increase.
It is not enough to just wish for great observances. We should be able
to observe the shastraic injunctions correctly. We should be able to perform
exactly as was demonstrated to us and passed on to us by our elders. Only then
we will reap the right benefits. Certainly Shri Chakra
has been eulogised in the Shastras to the sky. But the very same ShAstras have
also prescribed a certain regimen for such pUjA. By taking the attitude ‘I will
do my personalized pUjA in my own way’ not only will you miss the promised or
expected results, but actually it will turn out to be counter-productive.
A Yantra is not just the residing seat of a devatA; it is the devatA itself. It is not just a representation, or a copy. It is not a substitute for the devatA. It is the devatA itself. It is the presentation of the devatA and not a re-presentation. More so in the case of ambaal. For, Her Divine Presence is very special in Her Yantra. It is because of this that ambaal-pUjA is mostly done to Her Yantra than to Her most beautiful physical form.
[At this point, Ra Ganapathi, (the Boswell of Paramacharya),
the following note:
Usually we talk greatly of the ‘name’ and ‘form’ of devatAs.
But generally, in the case of feminine deities,
the ‘name’ takes a lesser role. And in the case of ShrI Vidya mantras,
the name is not there at all. Only the seed syllables are dominant.
Again, though the devatA of Shri Vidya, namely Tripurasundari,
is as shown by her name itself of very beautiful form,
instead of the worship of her form
This question was asked of the Paramacharya .
He expressed concurrence with the above statement
and joined in expressing his own astonishment that this is so.
But he did not choose to give any explanation. ]
In addition to the two natural locations for Her, namely, the
When She is in the Meru peak, the AvaraNas are piled up peak upon peak in a three-dimensional manner. It will be in the form of an upright cone. Such a three dimensional configuration of Shri Chakra is called ‘Meru-prastAram’. People call it just ‘Meru’ colloquially. When the Chakra is two dimensional it is said to be ‘bhU-prastAram’. A mixture of the two, where the beginning AvaraNas rise higher and higher, but later the latter AvaraNas are all in the same plane, is called ‘ardha-Meru’ (ardha means ‘semi’). A pUrNa-Meru is that which has all the AvaraNas in the Meru-prastara style. In our Mutt at Kanchipuram and in Tiruvidaimarudur MukAmbal sannadhi, what you find is pUrNa-Meru. In Mangadu it is ardha-meru. In the Kamakoshtam at Kanchipuram it is bhU-prastAram.
The Shri Chakra, ShrI VidyA, ShrI MatA, ShrI puram all pertain to the devI, the Mother Goddess, LalitA-tripurasundari. The prefix ShrI is the prefix usually given for respect and has no extra connotation of Lakshmi, the Goddess of Prosperity and Wealth. The Chakras and the mantras associated with other devatAs are distinguished by by their name itself carrying the name of the devatA – as in, Shiva-Chakram, Sudarshana-Yantram, ShhaDakshhara-Chakram, etc. Only in the case of LalitA-tripurasundari, the Chakram, the Yantram are known as The Chakram, The Yantram, The Mantram.
The Shri Chakram depicts the advaitic identity of Shiva and Shakti. That is why the two kinds of Chakras of Shiva and Shakti are intertwined. The (four) triangles with the apex upward are known as Shiva cakras and the (five) triangles with apex downward are known as Shakti Chakras. The angles at which these interesect, the lotus petals on the outer corridors, the circular lines, the square design at the outermost, all have specific prescriptions; these are given in Shloka 11.
All this is not to be read or studied like reading fiction or for acadmeic interest. They have to be seriously learnt straight from a Guru. They have to be preserved as such. I did not want to omit them completely and therefore I just touched upon these. But don’t take them lightly !
(Digest of pp.898-903 of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)
Shloka 12 talks about the extraordinary beauty and charm of the Devi. With a poetic excellence it says: “Much has been said in detail and with precision about Your Yantra – the lines, the planes, the circles and the squares. But to describe You and Your physical feature excellences, it doesn’t seem to be possible. No poet has ever succeeded in that task!”.
BrahmA is the Adi-kavi, the most ancient poet. The Bhagavatam refers to him in this fashion in the very first Shloka. The Goddess of Learning, Sarasvati, is his Shakti. Who can therefore be a greater poet? He has composed stotras on every devatA you can imagine. All the divines usually go to him for redress of their grievances. He takes them to the concerned God, either Shiva, or Vishnu or Devi, etc. Every time he sings praise of the particular God whom they are approaching for help. His stotra on ambaal in the work called sapta-shati is famous. But even he could not describe the beauty of ambaal as it is. The first half of Shloka 12 goes as follows:
tvadIyam soundaryam tuhina-giri-kanye tulayitum
kavIndrAH kalpante kathamapi virinchi-prabhRtayaH /
tuhina-giri-kanye: Oh Goddess, Daughter of the
tulayitum: to weigh (or assess)
kavIndrAH: great poets
virinchi-prabhRtayaH: (like) Brahma and others
kalpante: (only) imagine
kathamapi: somehow (in feeble ways).
and the others of the kind. They tried to describe Your
beauty ‘tvadIyam soundaryam’. The word ‘
So what the poets do is to imagine newer and newer examples with great effort. This effort of imagination by the poet is denoted by the word ‘kalpante’ in the Shloka. ‘kalpanA’ is imagination. They only imagine an example. They are not able to arrive at the real thing, is what the Shloka says. The fact they are not able to do it, is gracefully hinted at by the Shloka in the words ‘kathamapi kalpante’.
The Yantra-form of the Goddess has been outlined with precision. But Her physical form eludes imagination. Attempts by even the great Brahma and others to find suitable examples have only failed.
To describe the form, somebody should have seen it in full. Has anybody seen it? No. Of course it is not right to say that She has never been seen at all. Because we have several poet-devotees who have had a flash of Her and in the wake of that flash have composed wonderful devotional poetry. Even in the case of the greatest of devotees, to whom She might have given darshan, maybe one got to see Her lotus feet, another the Graceful eyes, and another the bewitching smile in the face. Like that some part of Her may have caught the eyes of even these devotees; but never the full form!
Then who has seen Her full beauty? Only the Lord, Her husband, Lord Shiva. Indeed She took this very beautiful form in order that He may be involved in the leelA of Creation. And thus She became Tripura-sundari, the beautiful. So Her physical form has been totally dedicated to Him. Though Her full beauty is not visible for our perception Her fullest Grace and Compassion are available for every one of us.
That Her full beauty is perceptible only to Her Lord is not said in so many blunt words. It is nicely couched in a subtle poetic extravaganza which comes in the next two lines of the same Shloka. (Shloka #12):
Yad-AlokautsukyAd-amara-lalanA yAnti manasA
tapobhir-dushhprApAm-api girisha-sAyujya-padavIm //12 //
yat : (of) which (beauty) (This goes with ‘Your beauty’ in the first half).
amara-lalanAH : the divine damsels
Aloka-autsukyAt : because of their curiosity to have a complete look
yAnti : reach
manasA : mentally
girisha-sAyujya-padavIm : the unity status with Lord Shiva
dushhprApAm : that is inaccessible
tapobhir-api : even by great penances.
The divine damsels who are particularly thought of here are the famous quadret: RambhA, Urvashi, tilottamA and MenakA. They are supposed to be superlatively beautiful. Even they, having seen a little of the beauty of ambaaL, have considered themselves insignificant, in relation to ambaal’s beauty. They are naturally curious to get a look at the complete beauty of Mother Goddess. But they also know they cannot have that complete picture, because the Goddess is totally dedicated to the Lord and Her complete beauty is not perceptible to any one else. So what do they do? Only the Lord knows Her fullest beauty. So they want to be one with Him, the Lord Shiva. This is the Shiva-sAyujya-padavI. Then and only then, they can have an idea of the complete beauty of ambaaL.
But that Shiva-sAyujya status is not so easy to obtain. And what exactly is this sAyujya?
(Digest of pp.903 - 909 of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)
To reach the world of the ishhTa-devatA
There are devotees of Shiva who seek that sAyujya padavI in their unquenchable thirst for becoming one with the Lord. In their case the sAyujyam is an end in itself. On the other hand, the divine damsels (go back to Shloka 12) who are seeking that sAyujya status with Lord Shiva do not seek it as an end, but as a means to be able to see the beauty of the Supreme Goddess. It is an irony that in the hands of these damsels even the greatest goal (sAdhyam) of shiva-sAyujya status has become a sAdhanA (means) for the sadhyam (that is, that which is sought, and therefore, a further goal), the darshan of the fullest beauty of ambaal!
Well, just because these damsels have sought that status is it going to be within their reach? It is something which is inaccessible even for the hardest penance. These damsels know only to disturb and destroy the penances of the rishis. The sense-control needed for the hard penance is beyond their reach. So what do they do? They only try to achieve it mentally. But that status indeed is not reachable even by the mind. ‘yan manasA na manute’ says the Upanishad, meaning, ‘What cannot be thought of even by the mind’. The bottomline therefore is, even they cannot ultimately know the beauty of ambaal!
It is to be noted that this shloka, which elevates the beauty (soundaryam) of ambaal to its apex, is actually in the midst of the first part, that is Ananda-lahari.
Another shloka (#14) describes ambaal as the personification of Time (kAlam).There are six seasons in a year. These 360 days of the year are the 360 rays of light emanating from the infinite Light of Shakti. Each of the Chakras represents one of these seasons and there are as many rays there as there are days in the corresponding season.For instance, in the mUlAdhAra Chakra, there are fifty-six rays, corresponding to the fifty six days of vasanta-ritu (the spring season). She thus contracts Herself as a ritu in Time and stays as such in that Chakra. In reality She transcends Time; She is kAlAtItA. It is in that transcendent state, She manifests as the divine Feet in the thousand-petalled Chakra, beyond the six Chakras. The pair of Her lotus feet – ‘tava padAmbuja-yugam’ -- is there in that sahasrAra Chakram.
Amidst the Anandalahari shlokas I will now pick up one shloka (#15) which depicts Her, not in Her lalitA form, but in another form consistent with the ShrI VidyA tantra.
Sharat-jyotsnA shuddhAM shashi-yuta-jaTA-jUTA-makuTAM
sakRn-na tvA natvA katham-iva satAM sannidadhate
satAM: For (those) noble ones,
sakRt : just once
natva: having prostrated
tva : to You
Sharat-jyotsnA-shuddhAM : who is as pure and white as the autumnal moonlight
shashi-yuta-jaTA-jUTA-makuTAM: who has the crown of matted hair that includes the moon, and
vara-trAsa-trANa-sphaTika-ghuTikA-pustaka-karAM: who holds in the (four) hands, the boon mudrA, the fear-protection mudrA, the crystal bead necklace, and the book
Katham-iva : why (would)
paNitayaH : the speech capabilities
madhu-kshhIra-drAkshhA-madhurima-dhurINAH: which are pregnant with the sweetness of honey, milk and grapes
na sannidadhate: not accrue?
Here the Goddess depicted is the the Goddess of Speech, (vAg-devi or Sarasvati), but without Her usual VINA in Her hand.
The word ‘sharad’ becomes very apt when one refers to Goddess Sarasvati. It is in sharad-ritu (the autumnal season) that we do pUjA to Sarasvati. She is called ShAradA because of that. Our Acharya had a special affinity to the ShAradA name. Sarasvati is very important to him because we know he reached the peak of excellence in scholarship.
ShAradA is one of the more important names of
Sarasvati. It indicates simultaneously the perfect purity of whiteness and the
cool Grace that combines pleasantness and goodness. Very often ‘sha’ and
get interchanged in tradition. In north
The second line of the shloka talks about the four hands. Two of the hands show the vara (boon) and abhaya (fearlessness) mudrAs. Earlier it was said in shloka 4 that all others other thanLalitAmbAL show the vara-abhaya mudrAs. So in this shloka he presents Saraswati with the vara-abhaya mudrAs. The dual word ‘trAsa-trANa’ indicates the ‘abhaya’. For ‘trAsa’ means ‘fear’ and ‘trANa’ means protection. Protection from fear is just ‘abhaya’, fearlessness.
SphaTika-ghuTikA is the crystal bead necklace. In Sanskrit it is called ‘aksha-mAlA’. This is the same as ‘akshara-mAlA’. The akshharas are the alphabets. The 51 letters of the Sanskrit alphabet from ‘a’ to ‘kshha’ correspond each by each to the beads in the necklace; that is why it is called ‘akshara-mAlA’, also called ‘aksha-mAlA’. Here I have to tell you a very important component of the ShAkta tradition and scriptures.
(Digest of pp.909 - 915 of Deivathin Kural, 6th volume, 4th imprn.)
The aksharas, alphabets, are very important for ShAktam. Each letter has a basic sound principle associated with it. The very creation is by the vibration of sound waves. The elemental principle of ‘AkAsha’ produces, through vibration, subtle sounds, and from these sounds creation starts, from that the mantras, and the vedas that are full of mantras. The subtle principle underlying AkAsha, that is, the tanmAtra associated with AkAsha, is ‘sound’ . The key concept in ShAktam is the cycle of evolution and involution and so, the sound principle runs as its life-line. On one side Shaktam has the artha-prapancham, the universe of matter, where the fundamental principles are Shiva-tattvam, Shakti-tattvam, sadAshiva-tattvam, Ishvara-tattvam and shuddha-vidyA tattvam – which take you through the evolutionary stage from the para-brahman to the universe of matter and being. On the other side there is the sabda-prapancham, the unvierse of sound. It starts from the most subtle one called ‘parA’. Including this there are five ‘sound’ (shabda) principles. After ‘parA’ there is ‘pashyantI’, then ‘madhyamA’.
The subtle sound ‘parA’ cannot be heard by human ear and cannot be vocalised by human voice. It is in fact the root source, the substratum, of all sounds. When that gets a little focussed – just a little – and materialised, it becomes ‘pashyantI’. In other words, what was ‘without purpose’ and was just plain and simple sound-root, namely, ‘parA’ , became inclined towards being heard and being spoken and so in that direction ‘solidified’ slightly and thus ‘pashyantI’ arose. So ‘pashyantI’ has a purpose!. The very word itself means ‘seeing’, ‘looking forward’. ‘parA’ had no purpose; but when the ‘purpose’ arises, it becomes ‘pashyantI’.
Next comes the actual subtle sound, called ‘madhyamA’. This is not produced by any human voice. It arises by itself. This is therefore midway between the subtle sound of ‘pashyantI’ and the actual sound of the human voice, which is physical. Hence the name ‘madhyamA’, which means ‘what is in the middle’. This is a self-generated sound. It is therefore also called ‘anAhata’. ‘Ahata’ means ‘what is forced or externally generated’. That which is not forced or not generated externally, is the ‘anAhata’ sound.
All that is externally generated is ‘Ahata’. In this category come all sounds, that human voice produces, by the vibration of air through the larynx, and all instrumental noises produced by the blow of air or by beat of drum or by the friction of matter with matter, metal with metal.
After parA, pashyantI, and ‘madhyamA’ comes the speech that man produces
with effort. This is called ‘vaikharI’.
This is classified into two: just mere noise is called ‘dhvani’
--- when a child cries, or when we just laaugh loudly or weep aloud; that which
is recognisable as ‘such and such a sound’ is called ‘
The five principles of the artha-prapancham are usually equated with the five sound principles. In fact the latter are more important, because it is by the vibration of these sounds that the artha-universe began.
Now let us come to the five elemental principles
in which Ambaal manifests Herself in the kundalini
cakras. Starting from mulAdhAra, upwards to the vishuddhi Chakra,
the tattvas of earth, water, fire, air and AkAsha are proceeding from the concrete to the
subtle ones. This is the artha-prapancham. The five elemental sound principles
are also manifested in the kundalini Chakras,
but in the reverse order. It is in the mulAdhAra Chakra
that the most fundamental sound energy ‘parA’ is present. So from the mulAdhAra to vishuddhi,
they go from the subtle to the concrete, thus ending up with the most concrete
one of the human voice, namely, the ‘
The 51 sounds of the alphabet are called ‘mAtRkAs’. The word ‘mAtRkA’ means ‘mother’. An young mother who moves and mingles with us in our own childish world is called ‘mAtRkA’. A royal mother with a higher status is called ‘mAtA’. She is the ‘mahA-rAjnI’ of LalitA-sahsranAma. But She is also the ‘mAtRkA-varna-rUpiNI’, meaning She is in the form of the varnas (=aksharas) or the mAtRkAs. In ShAkta scriptures the aksha-mAlA and the book are indicative of the shabda-prapancham. That is why ambaal is holding them in the other two hands.
The ShrI vidyA mantras are made up of pure aksharas only. It is the Mother Goddess Herself who takes the forms of these sounds. Those who do the mantra-japa are being blessed by Her through these sounds. Her Grace makes even the kundalini yoga achievable by the vibrations of the nADIs at the japa of the mantras. We, in addition, get many of our other desires fulfilled. Not only this. By repeating these sound vibrations we get even the darshan of Her physical form.Thus Her entire leelA takes place in this universe of sounds and sound vibrations. All that I said now is about the akshharas only.
When we combine these akshharas in various combinations we get the various words and nAmas and also the stotras. In fact even the Vedas arose like this.
In the ShrI vidyA mantra there are three ‘kUTas’, spheres of influence. The first one is called ‘vAgbhava-kUTam’. It means that it arises from ‘vAk’, speech. The entire mantra is the form of ambaaL. And in that form, the face is ‘vAgbhava-kUTam’. In the scriptures and stotras of ShAktam, it is very often said that She gives ‘excellence of speech’ to Her devotees. In this very sloka (#15) that is what it says. Why all this importance to this Grace of the Goddess? Let me explain.
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Acknowledgement of Source Material:
Ra. Ganapthy’s ‘Deivathin Kural’ (Vol.6) in Tamil published by Vanathi Publishers, 4th edn. 1998
Copyright of English Summary © V. Krishnamurthy