In twining creepers I see your body,
in eyes of startled does your glance,
in the moon the glow and shadow of your cheek,
in the peacocks’ crested plume your hair,
in the flowing waters’ quick ripples
the capricious frown on your brow,
but no single object holds
an image of your likeness.
Desire (kāma) is the will to take possession [of the other] (to make the other oneself). Veiling everything with his desire, the desirer can accomplish everything, since everything has as its ultimate principle desire itself.
Abhinavagupta, Mālinīvijayavārttika (1.281)
Now to verses 21-22 of Saundaryalahari. Continue reading »
“Likely, o beloved, [by meditating on Devi] in the form of Kāmakalā emerged in the sprout of madana, with the light-circle of the rising sun, a luminous body with an expanding flame top. She exists while gulping all the beings manifested to enjoy the world.
Existing in I-ness, keeping herself within her own supreme glory, and manifesting successively down to the ground of kāma, which is within the body, manifesting in two forms whilst being alone.”
Nityāṣoḍaśikārṇava, 4.34 – 4.37 (transl. Lidke, 2000)
Now to verse 20 of Saundaryalahari:
Whoever contemplates You in his heart,
O essence of ambrosia,
abundant and radiant like an image carved in moonstone,
will quell the pride of serpents
as if he were the king of birds,
he will cure those afflicted by fever,
with the streaming nectar that showers from his glance.
(transl. Clooney, 2005, p.52)
Continue reading »
The worship of oneself must be done with elements that are pleasing to the senses.
Let my idle chatter be the muttering of prayer, my every manual movement the execution of ritual gesture, my walking a ceremonial circumambulation, my eating and other acts the rite of sacrifice, my lying down, prostration in worship, my every pleasure enjoyed with dedication of myself, let whatever activity of mine be some form of worship of you.
In the previous post in this series I gave a brief discussion on what could be thought of as a ‘tantric’ perspective on the senses. Now I will move onto describing the “short form” of this practice, which takes the form of a short puja sequence. Continue reading »
Madhu Khanna should need no introduction from me. She was one of the first contemporary scholars to produce a comprehensive examination of Srikula with her Ph.D dissertation – The Concept and Liturgy of the Śricakra Based on Śivānanda’s Trilogy (Oxford University, 1986) – and her publications include: Yantra: The Tantric Symbol of Cosmic Unity (1994), Rta, The Cosmic Order (2004), and Asian Perspectives on the World’s Religions After September 11 edited with Arvind Sharma, (2013). She is currently the director of the Tantra Foundation. Continue reading »
“The understanding of Śaivism can only aspire to objectivity if it includes a sincere effort to see how things are in the subjective perception of its practitioners. One has to be able to enter into the spirit of their world, to be with them intimately, to see what they are saying and why they are saying it, to go beneath the surface of their texts. There has to be empathy.”
In the opening post to this series examining Saundaryalahari I noted that, as a text, Saundaryalahari “works” in a variety of ways: it can be read simultaneously as a literary work (Kavya); as a ritual manual (prayoga), as a work of devotion (bhakti) and as a text which hides/encodes tantric “secrets”.
When Saundaryalahari is sung, recited, listened to, contemplated upon, these multiple registers coalesce, offering a vision/encounter with the goddess (Tripurasundari Devi). As hymn or prayer, Saundaryalahari opens, points the way to – a direct encounter with Devi – an encounter which requires and produces transformation in all whom it touches. To speak, to hear, to contemplate Saundaryalahari is to enter into a direct relation with Devi – to attend Her and be attended to by Her. Continue reading »
“Just as one who sees something out of the ordinary experiences a feeling of amazement, so the feeling of amazement in enjoying contact with the various manifestations of knowable reality is continually produced in this great yogin with the whole wheel of the senses increasingly revealed, motionless, disclosed, by virtue of penetrating into its most intimate nature, the compact union of ever-renewed consciousness and wonder, extreme, extraordinary.”
Ksemaraja, commentary on Śivasutra, 1.12, quoted from Torella, 2012
“All wisdoms have celebrated the instant, the wise man leaves aside memory; he has few projects, makes himself at home in the present, inhabits its differential.”
Michel Serres, The Five Senses
I’ve been taking this foray into “heart practice” slowly, beginning with a central theme in tantra practice – that of the goddess dwelling in the heart. I’m now going to progress things slightly, with a look at a practice I tend to refer to as the “adoration of the senses”. But first, some thoughts on the senses themselves. Continue reading »
When She, the Supreme Power, [becoming] out of her own desire, embodying all that exists perceives herself as flashing forth, the chakra then appears.
For this post, I’m going to briefly discuss verses 14-16 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »
“Salutations to Sri Mata
Salutations to Sri Maharajni
Salulations to the Queen seated upon the lion-throne
Salutations to She who resides in the fire of consciousness
Salutations to She who shines with the red brilliance of a thousand rising suns
Salutations to She who bears the noose, the goad, the sugarcane bow; the five sense-arrows
Salutations to She whose red brilliance engulfs the universe.
One of the ways in which I have, for some years now, approached tantra sadhana is to start with something (relatively) simple, and then extend it with other practices as time, circumstances, and insights allow. There’s a tendency in western occulture to make a distinction between “basic” and “advanced” practices – where “basic” practices constitute something that you do for a set period and then never bother with again, and the “advanced” practices which are really, where the action is. In terms of my approach to tantra practice, I tend to think instead of “core” practices – which can be deepened and enriched over time. Continue reading »
There are many “origin stories” for Saundaryalahari. As I noted in a previous post, the text is traditionally ascribed to Sankaracarya. One of the origin stories has Sankara visiting Siva’s home on Mount Kailasa, where he notices a divine book lying on Siva’s throne – a treasured possession of Parvati. Sankara picks up the book and hastens towards the exit, but is prevented from leaving by Siva’s doorkeeper – Nandikesvara. He and Sankara fight over the book, and Sankara manages to get away with the first portion of the book – the Anandalahari – to which he later adds another 59 stanzas of his own. In another version, Sankara finds the entirety of Saundaryalahari inscribed in stone on Mount Kailasa (having been carved by Nandikesvara who overheard Siva eulogising the goddess with them) but the goddess erases the words, so that Sankara (again) – only memorises the Anandalahari section. These origin stories make a clear distinction between the Anandalahari and the remainder of the poem. Continue reading »