What comes to mind when an Indian text tells us, for example, that the goddess Tripura is beautiful? To be sure, from the perspective of practice at least, we cannot help but associate such statements with our own culturally-based conceptions of what constitutes beauty. But it helps, I feel, to know something of the social milieu from which these works sprang forth – its ethos, its ideals and aspirations, its cultural mores. What follows is the first in a series of posts in which I will try and explore Indian concepts of beauty, and how they relate to tantra practice and in particular, to the Saundaryalahari. This opening post is very much a general introduction, outlining some of the key concepts. Continue reading »
Posts tagged ‘text’
The one who repeats the fifteen-syllable mantra of Tripurā attains all desires, all enjoyments, conquers all the worlds, causes all words to emerge; achieving identity with Rudra, one breaks through the veil of Viṣṇu and obtains the supreme Brahman.
So to verses 32-33 of Anandalahari. These stanzas are held by all commentators to express the secret fifteen/sixteen-syllable mantra of Tripurā-Sundarī. Continue reading »
I seek refuge with Tripurasundarī,
The Spouse of the Three-eyed One,
Who dwells in the Kadamba forest,
And who is ever wandering;
The Large-eyed One who holds a golden vīnā,
Wearing a necklace of priceless gems,
Whose face is glowing with wine,
And who of Her mercy grants prosperity to Her devotees.
Tripurasundarīstotra, Hymns to the Goddess, Arthur Avalon
Now for some brief comments on verses 30-31 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »
“…those who always ponder over this [fivefold act of the Lord], knowing the universe as an unfoldment of the essential nature [of consciousness], become liberated in this very life. This is what the [sacred] tradition maintains. Those who do not ponder like this, seeing all objects of experience as essentially different, remain for ever bound.”
Now for some brief discussion of verses 26-27 of Anandalahari. Continue reading »
“I bow always to she who is the very self
of Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra,
the real form of the three gunas!
I bow always to she who is the form of moon,
sun and fire, her eyes restless with desire!
I bow always to she who is the very self of Brahma,
Vishnu and Siva, bestower of liberation whilst living,
Giver of knowledge and consciousness!”
Matrikabheda Tantra (transl. Mike Magee)
Now to verse 25 of Saundaryalahari. Continue reading »
“To be a knower of Sri Vidya one should be grounded in the Trika; to be a knower of the Trika one should be immersed in the Saiva Siddhanta; to understand Saiva Siddhanta one should be rooted in Samkhya.”
A friend asked me recently if I would provide her with a select bibliography for the SriVidya tradition. Approaching tantric traditions such as SriVidya as an “outsider” can be a daunting challenge, particularly if you don’t have access to practitioner communities or networks. But trying to organise even a basic “reading list” can be equally daunting, if only because SriVidya, as with most other South Asian religious currents, is heavily influenced by other traditions (tantric and otherwise). The epigraph above illustrates this, albeit tersely – that Sri Vidya, in its development, drew on many themes and concepts from the Trika traditions of Kashmir (a.k.a Kashmir Shaivism) and these in turn, require some understanding of the wider Saiva Siddhanta tradition – which was, in turn, heavily influenced by Samkhya philosophy.
This is one of the difficulties of getting to grips with tantra – there has been tendency has been to treat it as something entirely abstracted and seperate from the broader Indian cultural landscape rather than, as contemporary scholarship tends to view it – as the “esoteric wing” of wider Indian traditions (be they Buddhist, Jaina, Śaiva, Śhakta, Viṣṇu, etc.). Tantra also builds on historically earlier traditions (such as Classical Samkhya) but re-interprets them in novel ways.
So here’s a starting point – it is not intended to be comprehensive, and I’ll try and return to it periodically with updates. For the moment, I’m going to focus on scholarly works in English. Continue reading »
“She is thus the beginning and end of the process of divinization, enabling all beings, gods and humans, to become more, even up to a final blissful immersion within Her. To participate in Her bliss, novice practitioners – including attentive readers – must assent to a gradual but ultimately complete deconstruction and enhancement of their own bodies, sensations, pleasures, and relationships. One loses all of this, regains it, and then is able to see Her directly and completely. The key to entering Her world seems to be a combination of reverence, intellect, and intense curiosity, which together make deepening interior vision possible.”
Francis X. Clooney, Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary p177
“She the primordial Śakti who excels all and who in Her own nature is eternal, limitless bliss, is the seed of all the moving and motionless things which are to be, and is the pure mirror in which Śiva experiences Himself.”
Kāmakalāvilāsa verse 2
Now for some brief notes on verses 23-24 of Saundaryalahari. Continue reading »
When I began my commentarial series on Saundaryalahari I quickly realised that I’d have to give myself a ‘crash course’ in Indian poetics. This led me into pondering the relationship between imagination, visualisation, speech, metaphor and ritual production. Unlike western philosophies, which tend to a hard distinction between the imaginary and the “real”; between mental cognition and objective truth, the imagination has a central place in Indian philosophy and religion. There are many accounts of yogis, for example, who are able to directly transform reality by the power of their minds; similarly many tantric texts stress the capacity and power of internal ritual exclusively. The Cidvilāsastava for example, is a 40-verse text detailing the mental worship of the goddess Tripurā. Continue reading »
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 »