Śrividyā

From Hindupedia, the Hindu Encyclopedia

By Swami Harshananda

Sometimes transliterated as: Srividya, ZrividyA, shrividyaa


Śrividyā literally means ‘sacred or auspicious knowledge’.

God has been approached or adored as the Divine Mother also worldwide. One of the sects of the worship of Devī or the Divine Mother is the Śrīvidyā. Literally, it means sacred or auspicious knowledge and is the same, for all practical purposes, as the Brahmavidyā of the Upaniṣads. In a more technical sense, it means upāsanā or the spiritual discipline connected with meditation and worship of the Divine Mother in her aspect as Lalitā-Tripurasundarī. The four mantras connected with it are also known by the same name. They are:

  1. The Gāyatrīmantra
  2. The Pañcadaśākṣarīmantra
  3. The ṣoḍaśākṣarī-mantra
  4. The bālātripurasundarī-mantra

Even among these, the pañca-daśākṣarimantra[1] that is particularly called ‘Śrīvidyā’.

Treatises of Śrīvidyā

The basic treatises of Śrīvidyā are the following:

  1. Lalitāsahasranāma of the Brahmāṇḍapurāṇa with its commentary Saubhāgyabhāskara by Bhāskararāya Makhin[2]
  2. Lalitātriśatī, also from the same purāṇa, with a bhāṣya by Śaṅkara[3]
  3. Nityasoda-śikārnava from the Vāmakeśvaratantra with the commentary Setubandha by Bhaskararāya Makhin
  4. Paraśurāma-kalpasutra
  5. Varivasyārahasya also by Bhāskararāya Makhin

Teachers of Śrīvidyā

The best known teachers of Śrīvidyā are the following:

  1. Manu
  2. Candra
  3. Kubera
  4. Lopāmudrā
  5. Manmatha
  6. Agastya
  7. Nandikeśvara
  8. Surya
  9. Viṣṇu
  10. Śiva
  11. Skanda
  12. Durvāsas

Aspects of Śrīvidyā

The Śrīvidyā, as a religio-spiritual system, has three aspects:

  1. The philosophy
  2. The ritual
  3. The contemplation

Concept of Śrīvidyā

The Ultimate Reality is the one in which there is a perfect merging of Śiva[4] and Śakti.[5] There arises in its mind the desire to become many. This is called vimarśa.[6] This creates spanda[7] which develops into nāda,[8] getting concentrated into a bindu.[9]

Bindu gradually swells giving rise to a polarization of Śiva[10] and Śakti,[11] retaining at the same time the original latent and potent status containing the Śiva-Śakti combination forming a triangle. This process goes on getting repeated until it results in a pattern now well-known as the Śrīcakra, representing the whole creation.

Rituals of Śrīvidyā

The ritual consists in the worship of the Śrīcakra, also known as Śrīyantra if it is in the form of a drawing, and Meru, if a three-dimensional icon with several items of worship. This is called ‘bahiryāga’. As a continuation of the spiritual evolution brought about by the performance of a devoted bahiryāga, ‘antaryāga’ results. It is the spiritual contemplation of the Śrīcakra as identified with the Divine Mother Lalitā-Tripurasundarī. At this stage, every act of the sādhaka[12] is elevated to the level of spiritual experience as depicted in the Saundaryalahari.[13]

Śrīvidyā as per Tāntrik Literature

In tāntrik terminology, this entire process, which is in perfect harmony with the Vedic tradition, is called ‘Samayācāra’.[14] Repetition of the pañcadaśākṣarī-mantra becomes an integral part of this antaryāga. This mantra has pañcadaśa[15] akṣaras.[16] Unlike a word or a sentence comprising several letters of the alphabet giving some sensible meaning, these fifteen letters produce subtle vibrations revealing the subtle body or form of the goddess.

Different Versions of Mantra

There are two versions of this mantra, one beginning with the letter ka, hence it is called as the ‘Kādimata’ and it is attributed to the sage Agastya. The other with the letter ha is termed as ‘Hādimata’ and it is promulgated by his wife Lopāmudrā. The only difference between these to versions is in the number of effective letters used. Though there are several other versions of the mantra, they are not very common. The mantra of the Kadimata is:
ka, e, i, la, hrim; ha, sa, ka, ha, la, hrim-, sa, ka, la, hrim.
In the Hādimata, the mantra means:
ha, sa, ka, la, hrim; ha, sa, ka, ha, la, hrim; sa, ka, la, hrim.

Epilogue

Ṣoḍaśīmantra, the mantra with sixteen letters, is equally famous which is obtained by adding śrih at the end. Another mantra is the bālāmantra[17] which is addressed to the goddess as a bālā or a small girl. In the Vedic and the tāntrik tradition, every mantra has a ṛṣi,[18] devatā[19] and chandas.[20] For the pañcadaśākṣarl-mantra, Dakṣiṇāmurti[21] is the ṛṣi, Lalitā-Tripurasundarī is the devatā and Paṅkti is the chandas.[22] The pañcadaśākṣarīmantra is divided into three kuṭas or parts each being given a separate name:

  1. First part - Vāgbhavakuṭa
  2. Second part - Kāmarājakuṭa
  3. Third part - Śaktikuta

These three represent the face, the torso, the legs and feet of the deity. Hence a devoted repetition of this mantra helps in visualizing the whole form of the deity. Śrīvidyā is a highly esoteric science of spiritual wisdom. Hence it has to be received from an adept guru in a proper manner as described in the tāntrik works. Otherwise it can do more harm than good.


References

  1. Pañca-daśākṣarimantra means mantra of 15 letters.
  2. He lived in 18th century A. D.
  3. He lived in A. D. 788-820.
  4. Here Śiva means consciousness.
  5. Here Śakti refers to power.
  6. Vimarśa means deliberation.
  7. Spanda means throb or stir.
  8. Nāda means vibration.
  9. Bindu means point.
  10. Śiva means Father- principle.
  11. Śakti means Mother-principle.
  12. Sādhaka means the worshiper.
  13. Śrīvidyā verse 27
  14. Samayā means Devī.
  15. Pañcadaśa means fifteen.
  16. Akṣaras means letters.
  17. Bālāmantra is aim, klim, sauh.
  18. Ṛsi means seer.
  19. Devatā means deity.
  20. Chandas means metre.
  21. Dakṣiṇāmurti is an aspect of Śiva.
  22. Chandas means a Vedic metre with five syllables in each quarter.
  • The Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, Swami Harshananda, Ram Krishna Math, Bangalore