Difference between revisions of "Sri Vidya"

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Sri Vidya is one of the most comprehensive and popular vidyas in sakta. In the context of Hindu spiritual practices, a vidya can be defined as the worship of a God/Goddess. Literally vidya means learning; it is from the word-root “vid” - to know. Knowledge is called Veda, and learning is called vidya. This includes the knowledge to be gained, different stages in the process of gaining such knowledge, the purpose of such knowledge, the procedure and practices for learning, pitfalls and corrective measures and so on. Worship of a God is the gradual process of elevating the level of consciousness of the worshipper into that of the God, realizing the God and His nature. Therefore the knowledge and worship of each God is called a Vidya. Thus Sri Vidya is the knowledge and worship of Mother Goddess Sri Devi. She is also called Sri Mata (Mother Sri), Tripura Sundari.  
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Śrī Vidyā is one of the most comprehensive and popular Vidyās in Śāktā. In the context of [[Hindu]] spiritual practices, a Vidyā can be defined as the [[worship]] of a God/Goddess. Literally Vidyā means learning; it is from the word-root “vid” - to know. Knowledge is called [[Veda]], and learning is called Vidyā. This includes the knowledge to be gained, different stages in the process of gaining such knowledge, the purpose of such knowledge, the procedure and practices for learning, pitfalls and corrective measures and so on. Worship of a God is the gradual process of elevating the level of [[consciousness]] of the worshipper into that of the God, realizing the God and His nature. Therefore the knowledge and [[worship]] of each God is called a Vidyā. Thus Śrī Vidyā is the knowledge and worship of Mother Goddess Śrī Devi. She is also called Śrī Māta (Mother Śrī), Tripura sundari.  
  
“Sri” means prosperity, auspiciousness, divinity. Sri Devi is the Divine Mother who bestows bliss and plentitude on Her devotees. In Veda, She is praised as Sri. Vedic knowledge diversified and developed into different schools like Smarta (following smritis like Dharma Sastras), Srauta (studying Sruti or Veda), Pauranica (following smritis like Puranas) and so on. Tantra is another school of practices that combines methods of worship with philosophy and theology. With these developments, Sri Devi came to be known and worshiped in different forms. In Puranas, Sri is called Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The worship of Sri Mata or Tripura Sundari, developed as Sri Vidya, one of the major cults in Sakta Tantras. The kaula-practitioners of Sri Vidya differentiate it as Sri Kula Tantra, while Sri Vidya Tantra is the general name used by all the Sri Vidya practitioners.  
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“Śrī” means prosperity, auspiciousness, [[divinity]]. Śrī Devi is the Divine Mother who bestows bliss and plentitude on Her devotees. In [[Veda]], She is praised as Śrī. Vedic knowledge diversified and developed into different schools like śmarta (following śmritis like [[Dharma]] Śāstras), Śrauta (studying śruti or Veda), Paurānika (following śmritis like Purāṇās) and so on. [[Tantra]] is another school of practices that combines methods of worship with philosophy and theology. With these developments, Śrī Devi came to be known and worshiped in different forms. In Purāṇās, Śrī is called Laksmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The worship of Śrī Māta or Tripura sundari, developed as Śrī Vidyā, one of the major cults in Śāktā Tantras. The kaula-practitioners of Śrī Vidyā differentiate it as Śrī Kula Tantra, while Śrī Vidyā Tantra is the general name used by all the Śrī Vidyā practitioners.  
  
Tripura Sundari literally means the most beautiful lady of three worlds. Mother Sri is said to be the most beautiful Goddess among all God-forms. Tripura Sundari is worshiped in different names and forms, like Lalita, Bala, Raja Rajeswari.  
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Tripura sundari literally means the most beautiful lady of three worlds. Mother Śrī is said to be the most beautiful Goddess among all God-forms. Tripura sundari is worshiped in different names and forms, like Lalita, [[Bāla]], Rāja Rājeswari.  
  
 
   
 
   
== Lalita Upakhyana – The Story of Lalita Tripura Sundari ==
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== Lalita Upakhyāna – The Story of Lalita Tripura sundari ==
  
In Brahmanda Purana, the story of Lalita Tripura Sundari is narrated by Lord Hayagriva (the horse-headed form of Lord Vishnu) to the great seer Agastya. Here is a brief of it.  
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In [[Brahmā]]nda Purāṇā, the story of Lalita Tripura sundari is narrated by Lord Hayagrīva (the horse-headed form of Lord Viṣṇu) to the great seer [[Agastya]]. Here is a brief of it.  
  
There is a popular story in which Manmatha, the presiding deity of desire, is turned into ashes by the fire of Lord Siva’s third eye. From those ashes, a demon by the name Bhandasura emerges. He acquires many powers through penance and defeats the army of Gods. He lived in his capital Shunyaka, constructed for him by Mayasura, the architect of demons.  
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There is a popular story in which Manmatha, the presiding deity of desire, is turned into ashes by the fire of Lord Śiva’s third eye. From those ashes, a demon by the name Bhanḍāsura emerges. He acquires many powers through penance and defeats the army of Gods. He lived in his capital Śūnyaka, constructed for him by Māyāśura, the architect of demons.  
  
Unable to withstand the might of Bhandasura, the gods had nowhere to go. Narada advises them to worship Sakti, the divine Mother. The gods worship the mother and perform a sacrifice to propitiate Her. The Mother emerges from the fire altar to fulfill the wishes of the gods and to dispel their fear. Since She emerged from the fire altar, She is called Agni Kunda Samudbhava. As She emerged to protect the gods and to fulfill their aspirations, She is called deva karya samudyata. She is red in hue, the most beautiful Goddess. Lord Siva assumes the form of Kamesvara, and takes Her as His consort.  
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Unable to withstand the might of Bhanḍāsura, the gods had nowhere to go. Nārada advises them to worship Śakti, the divine Mother. The gods worship the mother and perform a sacrifice to propitiate Her. The Mother emerges from the fire altar to fulfill the wishes of the gods and to dispel their fear. Since She emerged from the fire altar, She is called [[Agni]] Kunḍa Samudbhava. As She emerged to protect the gods and to fulfill their aspirations, She is called [[deva]] kārya samudyata. She is red in hue, the most beautiful Goddess. Lord Śiva assumes the form of Kāmeśvara , and takes Her as His consort.  
  
She then set out for destroying Bhanda and his armies. She is accompanied by Raja Matangi, Her minister on the one side. Raja Matangi is also called Raja Syamala, Mantrini and Nakuli. On the other side Varahi accompanied Her, the general of the Mother’s armies. Varahi is also called Dandanatha. They were followed by the gods and their armies.  
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She then set out for destroying Bhanḍa and his armies. She is accompanied by Rāja Mātangi, Her minister on the one side. Rāja Mātangi is also called Rāja Śyāmala, Mantriṇī and Nakuli. On the other side Vārāhi accompanied Her, the general of the Mother’s armies. Vārāhi is also called Dandanāta. They were followed by the gods and their armies.  
  
They announced war on Bhandasura’s capital, Shunyaka, and there was a fierce battle. Varahi and Syamala started demolishing the armies of Bhanda and killing his generals. Bhanda sent his sons to arrest the attack of the divine armies, the eldest of them being Caturbahu (having four hands). Bala Maha Tripura Sundari, the child-form of the Mother, volunteered to fight Bhanda’s sons and killed them.  
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They announced war on Bhanḍāsura’s capital, Śūnyaka, and there was a fierce battle. Vārāhi and Śyāmala started demolishing the armies of Bhanḍa and killing his generals. Bhanḍa sent his sons to arrest the attack of the divine armies, the eldest of them being [[Caturbāhu]] (having four hands). [[Bāla]] Mahā Tripura sundari, the child-form of the Mother, volunteered to fight Bhanḍa’s sons and killed them.  
  
After this, Bhanda’s brothers Vishanga and Visukra, who were earlier vanquished and fled from the field, came back to fight Sri Devi’s armies. Bhanda also applied a mystical contrivance to obstruct the march of Devi’s armies, called vighna yantra (literally the machine of obstacles). When the Mother was merely glanced with love by the Lord Kamesvara, She gave birth to Ganesha (this is described as Kamesvara mukhaloka kalpita Sri Ganesvara). Ganesha destroyed the vighna yantra much to the happiness of the divine armies. Then Bhanda inspired demon Gajasura to fight Ganesha, who was also killed by Him. The divine armies of Sri Devi marched forward, Vishanga was slain in this encounter by Mother Mantrini and Visukra by Varahi.  
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After this, Bhanḍa’s brothers Viṣañga and Viśukra, who were earlier vanquished and fled from the field, came back to fight Śrī Devi’s armies. Bhanḍa also applied a mystical contrivance to obstruct the march of Devi’s armies, called vighna yantra (literally the machine of obstacles). When the Mother was merely glanced with love by the Lord Kāmeśvara , She gave birth to Gaṇ[[eśa]] (this is described as Kāmeśvara mukhāloka kalpita Śrī Gaṇeśvarā). Gaṇeśa destroyed the vighna yantra much to the happiness of the divine armies. Then Bhanḍa inspired demon Gajāśura to fight Gaṇeśa, who was also killed by Him. The divine armies of Śrī Devi marched forward and Viṣañga was slain in this encounter by Mother Mantriṇī and Viśukra by Vārāhi.  
  
Bhanda faced the Mother directly, attacking Her with weapons inspired by mystical powers. Sri Devi destroyed his weapons with weapons inspired by the ten forms of Maha Vishnu, that emerged instantly from the ten nails of Her hands. Weapon inspired by Pasupati (a form of Lord Siva) demolished the demonic armies. Finally the weapon inspired by Maha Kamesvara, destroyed Bhandasura along with his capital Shunyaka.  
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Bhanḍa faced the Mother directly, attacking Her with weapons inspired by mystical powers. Śrī Devi destroyed his weapons with weapons inspired by the ten forms of Mahā Viṣṇu, that emerged instantly from the ten nails of Her hands. Weapon inspired by Pasupati (a form of Lord Śiva) demolished the demonic armies. Finally the weapon inspired by Mahā Kāmeśvara , destroyed Bhanḍāsura along with his capital Śūnyaka.  
  
The Mother was applauded and worshiped along with Lord Kamesvara.  
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The Mother was applauded and worshiped along with Lord Kāmeśvara .  
  
 
== Description of the Mother and Her Abode ==
 
== Description of the Mother and Her Abode ==
  
The Mother is said to be red in hue (Aruna). Her abode is Manidweepa, the island of gems and pearls. It is also called Sri Nagara. It is not reachable even for Gods like Indra. It is through Her grace alone, that one can reach Her abode. She, along with Lord Kameswara, is worshiped there by lakhs of Her attendant deities. She is called Kamakala, the manifestation of desire. Out of desire for cosmic sport She acts. Out of desire for pleasing the Lord, and union with the Lord She plays. Ever smiling, blissful and granting the boons of Her devotees, She is praised as personification of grace, bliss and mercy. She rules the universe and all aspects are Hers. All the beings, including the gods, act by Her inspiration and mercy.  
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The Mother is said to be red in hue (Aruna). Her abode is Manidwīpa, the island of gems and pearls. It is also called Śrī Nagara. It is not reachable even for Gods like Indra. It is through Her grace alone, that one can reach Her abode. She, along with Lord Kāmeswara, is worshiped there by lakhs of Her attendant [[deities]]. She is called Kāmakalā, the manifestation of desire. Out of desire for cosmic sport She acts. Out of desire for pleasing the Lord, and union with the Lord She plays. Ever smiling, blissful and granting the boons of Her devotees, She is praised as personification of grace, bliss and mercy. She rules the universe and all aspects are Hers. All the beings, including the gods, act by Her inspiration and mercy.  
  
 
In a verse meant for meditation on the Mother, She is described as:  
 
In a verse meant for meditation on the Mother, She is described as:  
 
   
 
   
Sindhuuraaruna vigrahaam trinayanaam maanikya moulisphurat
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sindūrāruṇa vigrahām trinayanām māṇikya mauLisphurat
Taara naayaka sekharaam smita mukheem aapeena vakshoruhaam
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tārā nāyaka śekharām smita mukhīm āpīna vakṣoruhām
PaaNibhyam aLi puurna ratna cashakam raktotpalam bibhrateem
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pāṇibyām aLi pūrṇa ratna caṣakam raktotpalam bibhratīm
Soumyaam ratna ghatastha rakta caranaam dhyayet paraam ambikaam
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soumyām ratna ghaṭastha rakta caraṇām dhyāyet parām [[ambikā]]m
  
Meaning the seeker meditates on the Mother (ambika), who is eternal (para), saffron-red in hue (sindhuuraaruna vigrahaa), having crown embedded with gems (manikya mouli), with Moon as an adornment over the head (taara naayaka sekharaa), three eyed (trinayanaa), ever smiling (smita mukhi), having high breasts (aapeena vakshoruhaa), with hands holding jeweled wine cup and red flowers (paaNibhyaam aLI puurna ratna cashakam raktotpalam bibhrati), ever soft and peaceful (soumyaa), with Her red lotus feet rested on a gem-decked pedestal (ratna ghatastha rakta caranaa).  
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Meaning the seeker meditates on the Mother (ambika), who is eternal (para), saffron-red in hue (Sindhūrāruna vigrahā), having crown embedded with gems (mānikya mauli), with Moon as an adornment over the head (tāra nāyaka sekharā), three eyed (trinayanā), ever smiling (śmita mukhi), having high breasts (āpīna vakshoruhā), with hands holding jeweled wine cup and red flowers (PāNibyam aLi pūrna ratna casakam raktotpalam bibratī), ever soft and peaceful (soumyā), with Her red lotus feet rested on a gem-decked pedestal (ratna ghataśta rakta caranā).  
  
Arunaam karunaa tarangitaaksheem dhruta pasa ankusa pushpa baana caapaam
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Arunām karunā tarangitākshīm dhruta pasa ankusa puspa bāna cāpām
aNimaadibhiraavrutaam mayuukhaiH ahamityeva vibhaavaye bhavaneem
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aNimādibhirāvrutām mayūkhaiH ahamityeva vibhāvaye bhavanīm
  
Meaning the seeker is meditating (vibhavaya) on the Mother (bhavani), red in hue (arunaa), colored and shining as Sun God (mayuukhaa), whose looks shower waves of grace and mercy (karunaa tarangitaakshi), with hands holding (dhruta) noose (pasa), goad (ankusa) and cane-bow that shoots flower-arrows (pushpa baana caapaam), with Goddesses with mystical powers in the outer rungs of Her palace-city (aNimaadibhiraavrutaa).  
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Meaning the seeker is meditating on the Mother, red in hue, colored and shining as Sun God, whose looks shower waves of grace and mercy, with hands holding noose, goad and cane-bow that shoots flower-arrows, with Goddesses with mystical powers in the outer rungs of Her palace-city.  
  
The first verse meditates on the Mother from head to feet. It is a general practice to meditate, describe and worship male forms or deities from feet to head upwards, and female forms or deities from head to feet downwards. Also, the Mother’s feet are said to be the abode of devotee, his ultimate destination. The second verse is about the aspects of Sri Vidya, which are explained through the powers of Goddesses, the weapons held.  
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The first verse meditates on the Mother from head to feet. It is a general practice to meditate, describe and worship male forms or [[deities]] from feet to head upwards, and female forms or deities from head to feet downwards. Also, the Mother’s feet are said to be the abode of devotee, his ultimate destination. The second verse is about the aspects of Śrī Vidyā, which are explained through the powers of Goddesses, the weapons held.  
  
== The Origin and Philosophy of Sri Vidya ==
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== The Origin and Philosophy of Śrī Vidyā ==
  
Lalita Sahasra nama in Brahmanda Purana, the hymn that praises the Mother with Her 1000 names, gives comprehensive description of Sri Vidya, its philosophy and methods. Besides, it is called yoga sahasra, which explains the secrets of all forms of yoga, and consciousness studies.  
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Lalita Sahasra nāma in [[Brahmā]]nda Purāṇā, the hymn that praises the Mother with Her 1000 names, gives comprehensive description of Śrī Vidyā, its philosophy and methods. Besides, it is called [[yoga]] sahasra, which explains the secrets of all forms of yoga, and [[consciousness studies]].  
  
Sri Vidya is a well developed form of Sakta Tantra. The various constituent vidyas are well organized and arranged in a more systematic hierarchy compared to other sampradayas. Soundarya Lahari, a hymn he composed in praise of the Mother in a hundred verses, is said to be one of the most beautiful and profound explanations of Sri Vidya. Sri Vidya is followed by smarta as well as Tantric schools. There is no clear separation between them. Smriti followers are said to be smartas. They follow elements of tantra to the extent that they do not contradict smritis.  
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Śrī Vidyā is a well developed form of Śāktā [[Tantra]]. The various constituent Vidyās are well organized and arranged in a more systematic hierarchy compared to other sampradāyas. śaundarya Lahari, a hymn composed in praise of the Mother in a hundred verses, is said to be one of the most beautiful and profound explanations of Śrī Vidyā. Śrī Vidyā is followed by śmārta as well as Tantric schools. There is no clear separation between them. śmriti followers are said to be śmārtas. They follow elements of tantra to the extent that they do not contradict śmritis.  
  
Sri Vidya is found in the Rig Veda as Sri Sukta, the hymn with 15 verses. It is said that this is fashioned after panchadasi, the central Mantra of Sri Vidya. Sri Sukta, with its application of single-syllable beejas (like eem, kaam, sreem), appears more in line with the Sakta Mantra Sastra than the classical Rig Vedic Mantra Sastra.  
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Śrī Vidyā is found in the [[Rig Veda]] as Śrī Sukta, the hymn with 15 verses. It is said that this is fashioned after pancadāśi, the central [[Mantra]] of Śrī Vidyā. Śrī Sukta, with its application of single-syllable bījas (like īm, kām, srīm), appears more in line with the Śāktā Mantra Śāstra than the classical Rig Vedic Mantra Śāstra.  
  
Sri Vidya tantra has two major Vidyas, Panchadasi and Shodashi. Panchadasi is the mantra with 15 syllables. Shodashi is the mantra with 16 syllables. Shodashi is one of the 10 disciplines of sakta tantra, called dasa maha vidyas. The vidya is called triputi, having three parts. They are Agni (fire), Surya (sun) and Chandra (moon) khandas (parts). The Mother is said to shine in these three worlds.  
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Śrī Vidyā tantra has two major Vidyās, pancadāśi and Shodaśi. Pancadāśi is the mantra with 15 syllables. Shodaśi is the mantra with 16 syllables. Shodaśi is one of the 10 disciplines of Śāktā tantra, called dasa mahā Vidyās. The Vidyā is called triputi, having three parts. They are [[Agni]] (fire), Surya (sun) and [[Candra]] (moon) khāndas (parts). The Mother is said to shine in these three worlds.  
  
Also, Lalita, Shyamala and Varahi symbolize the powers of Sri Devi’s divine will (iccha sakti), knowledge (jnana sakti) and action (kriya sakti). Lalita Herself is the power of divine will, her associates Matangi and Varahi represent the powers of knowledge and action respectively. This is evident from their roles – Lalita is the ruler, Matangi the minister and Varahi the general.  
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Also, Lalita, Śyāmala and Vārāhi symbolize the powers of Śrī Devi’s divine will (icchā śakti), knowledge (jnāna śakti) and action (kriyā śakti). Lalita Herself is the power of divine will, her associates Mātangi and Vārāhi represent the powers of knowledge and action respectively. This is evident from their roles – Lalita is the ruler, Matāngi the minister and Vārāhi the general.  
  
Sri Sukta, for the same reason, praises the Mother as Suryaa (Sun) and Candraa (Moon). It does not praise Her as Agni, but the Sukta itself is addressed to Agni.  
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Śrī Sukta, for the same reason, praises the Mother as Suryā (Sun) and Candrā (Moon). It does not praise Her as Agni, but the Sukta itself is addressed to Agni.  
  
=== Vedic and Puranic Concept ===
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=== Vedic and Paurānic Concept ===
  
In the Vedic theology, there are two main deities that we find: Agni and Indra. Agni is the central deity of the Veda, and Indra is the head-deity. Agni is the face of Gods, and all Vedic worship is offered to various Gods through Agni. Thus Agni is central. And the Lord of all deities is Indra, thus Indra is the head-deity or the Godhead.  
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In the Vedic theology, there are two [[main]] deities that we find: Agni and Indra. Agni is the central deity of the Veda, and Indra is the head-deity. Agni is the face of Gods, and all Vedic worship is offered to various Gods through Agni. Thus Agni is central. And the Lord of all deities is Indra, thus Indra is the head-deity or the Godhead.  
  
 
We can compare this, to the way in a family the husband is head of the family and the wife is the center of the family connecting and managing the entire family.  
 
We can compare this, to the way in a family the husband is head of the family and the wife is the center of the family connecting and managing the entire family.  
  
In Saiva - Sakta parlance, we find Siva-Sakti dual to be similar to this. Siva is Isvara, the Lord. He is the guiding principle. Sakti is pervading, the principle of manifestation, causing creation, sustaining and dissolving it. She does it, inspired by and for the Lord. Vedic Indra can be seen as Isvara and Vedic Agni, the divine will, can be seen as Sakti in Saiva - Sakta parlance. The close association of the Mother with Vedic Agni is further explained through Her epithets like Agni Kunda samudbhava (discussed above), Agni Sikha (having fire for Her hair). The symbolism of Lalita Herself assuming the form of the power of divine will reinforces this idea.  
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In [[Saiva]] - Śāktā parlance, we find Śiva-Śakti dual to be similar to this. Śiva is Īśvara, the Lord. He is the guiding principle. Śakti is pervading, the principle of manifestation, causing creation, sustaining and dissolving it. She does it, inspired by and for the Lord. Vedic Indra can be seen as Īśvara and Vedic Agni, the divine will, can be seen as Śakti in Saiva - Śāktā parlance. The close association of the Mother with Vedic Agni is further explained through Her epithets like Agni Kunḍa samudbhava (discussed above), Agni Sikha (having fire for Her hair). The symbolism of Lalita Herself assuming the form of the power of divine will reinforces this idea.  
  
Further, triputi is directly related to the Vedic theology. In the Puranic trimurthy concept, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra preside over creation, sustenance and dissolution functions. They are representatives of Satva, Rajas and Tamas. According to Yaska, they derive from the Vedic triplet Agni (Fire God), Aditya (Sun God) and Vayu (Air God). The older Sakta schools like Chandi (Mother Durga) speak of this triplet. In the more recent Sri Vidya, the corresponding aspect of Vayu finds a replacement with Soma (Moon God). Both Vayu and Soma are aspects of Rudra. However Vayu signifies strength while Soma bliss, and therefore the corresponding God/Goddess being worshiped have these qualities too. Thus, while Candi is representative of power and anger, Lalita is a pleasant form.  
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Further, triputi is directly related to the Vedic theology. In the Paurānic trimurty concept, Brahma, Viṣṇu and Rudra preside over creation, sustenance and dissolution functions. They are representatives of Śatva, Rajas and Tamas. According to Yaksa, they derive from the Vedic triplet Agni (Fire God), Āditya (Sun God) and Vāyu (Air God). The older Śāktā schools like Candi (Mother [[Durga]]) speak of this triplet. In the more recent Śrī Vidyā, the corresponding aspect of Vāyu finds a replacement with Śoma (Moon God). Both Vāyu and Soma are aspects of Rudra. However Vāyu signifies strength while Śoma bliss, and therefore the corresponding God/Goddess being worshiped have these qualities too. Thus, while Candi is representative of power and anger, Lalita is a pleasant form.  
  
The three functions of creation, sustenance and dissolution, are further expanded into five functions. They are srusti (creation), sthiti (sustenance), laya (dissolution), tirodhana (veiling of individual consciousness through maya) and anugraha (unveiling, making the individual realize the Truth beyond Maya). The Mother presides over these five functions, and hence is called Pancha Krtya Parayana. The representatives of these five functions are Brahma (creation), Vishnu (sustenance), Rudra (dissolution), Isvara (veiling) and Sadasiva (unveiling, absolute truth). All these five derive their life force, the strength to act, from the Mother. These five deities are said to form her royal chair, with Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Isvara forming four legs and Sadasiva forming the plank. Hence the Mother is called Pancha Brahmasanaseena. Pancha is five, asana is seat, asina is having sit on the seat. The five Brahmas are the five deities mentioned.  
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The three functions of creation, sustenance and dissolution, are further expanded into five functions. They are srusti (creation), śtiti (sustenance), laya (dissolution), tirodana (veiling of individual [[consciousness]] through māya) and [[anugraha]] (unveiling, making the individual realize the Truth beyond Māya). The Mother presides over these five functions, and hence is called Pancha Krtya Pārāyana. The representatives of these five functions are Brahma (creation), Viṣṇu (sustenance), Rudra (dissolution), Īśvara (veiling) and ŚadāŚiva (unveiling, absolute truth). All these five derive their life force, the strength to act, from the Mother. These five deities are said to form her royal chair, with Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra and Īśvara forming four legs and ŚadāŚiva forming the plank. Hence the Mother is called Pancha Brahmāsanāsīna. Pancha is five, āsana is seat, asīna is having sit on the seat. The five Brahmas are the five deities mentioned.  
  
Without Her, they are lifeless corpses. That is why the Mother is also called Pancha Pretasanaseena or seated on the seat of five corpses. Preta means corpse.  
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Without Her, they are lifeless corpses. That is why the Mother is also called Pancha Pretāsanāsīna or seated on the seat of five corpses. Preta means corpse.  
  
=== Advaita Philosophy ===
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=== [[Advaita]] Philosophy ===
  
While Sakta is Advaitic in nature, there is a difference between Sankara Advaita and Advaita of Sakta Tantra.  
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While Śāktā is Advaitic in nature, there is a difference between Śankara Advaita and Advaita of Śāktā Tantra.  
  
There are three main schools that explain the relation between universe and Brahman. One is Arambha vada, which says universe has a beginning and an end. Nyaya and Vaiseshika follow this. The other schools hold that universe is eternal, its dissolution and next cycle of creation are linked with the continuity of the seed of creation. The second school is Parinama Vada, which says that the universe is a transformation of Brahman, emerges and dissolves in Brahman. The way a spider’s web comes from it, the universe comes from Brahman. Brahman is the essential substantial (upadana) cause for the universe. Sankhya, Yoga, Karma Mimamsa follow this. The third is Vivarta vada, which says that universe is a manifestation, an appearance over Brahman. Sankara Advaita comes under this. According to him, Brahman is the nominal (nimitta), substantial (upadana) and undifferentiated (abhinna) cause for the world. Sankara Advaita holds that Maya bounds and releases the being. World as it appears, appears because of Maya, and it is not what the world really is. The world, in reality, is Brahman only. Thus when one realizes Brahman and gets beyond the veil of Maya, then only Brahman remains, not the world. Sakta Tantra holds that Atman is same as Brahman, like other versions of Advaita, but the universe is real and eternal. It is not just an appearance that gets dissolved with realization. The Mother is primal rhythmic energy, Sakti and not Maya.  
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There are three [[main]] schools that explain the relation between universe and [[Brahman]]. One is āramba vada, which says universe has a beginning and an end. Nyāya and Vaisesica follow this. The other schools hold that universe is eternal, its dissolution and next cycle of creation are linked with the continuity of the seed of creation. The second school is Parināma Vāda, which says that the universe is a transformation of Brahman, emerges and dissolves in Brahman. The way a spider’s web comes from it, the universe comes from Brahman. Brahman is the essential substantial (upādana) cause for the universe. Śānkhya, [[Yoga]], [[Karma]] Mimāmsa follow this. The third is Vivarta vāda, which says that universe is a manifestation, an appearance over Brahman. Śankara Advaita comes under this. According to him, Brahman is the nominal (nimitta), substantial (upādana) and undifferentiated ([[abhinna]]) cause for the world. Śankara Advaita holds that Māya bounds and releases the being. World as it appears, appears because of Māya, and it is not what the world really is. The world, in reality, is [[Brahman]] only. Thus when one realizes Brahman and gets beyond the veil of Māya, then only Brahman remains, not the world. Śāktā Tantra holds that Ātman is same as Brahman, like other versions of Advaita, but the universe is real and eternal. It is not just an appearance that gets dissolved with realization. The Mother is primal rhythmic energy, Śakti and not Māya.  
  
Sri Vidya is popularized by Sankara. The Vedic followers (who follow smritis and dharma sastras) of Sri Vidya go by Sankara Advaita. Atman is always liberated, but appears to be bound because of ignorance caused by Maya over the individual soul. Here Atman is to be called self. Soul is actually the subtle body that is constituted of subtle senses, mind and intellect. The Causal being of the universe, Isvara, associated with His consort Maya, rules the universe. The veil of Maya, is lifted through the grace of Sadasiva – and the individual being identifies its oneness with Atman which is beyond Maya.  
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Śrī Vidyā is popularized by Śankara. The Vedic followers (who follow śmritis and [[dharma]] sāstras) of Śrī Vidyā go by Śankara Advaita. Ātman is always liberated, but appears to be bound because of ignorance caused by Māya over the individual soul. Here Ātman is to be called self. Soul is actually the subtle body that is constituted of subtle senses, mind and intellect. The Causal being of the universe, Īśvara, associated with His consort Māya, rules the universe. The veil of Māya is lifted through the grace of ŚādaŚiva – and the individual being identifies its oneness with Ātman which is beyond Māya.  
  
 
=== Sublimation and Consecration ===
 
=== Sublimation and Consecration ===
  
The primary difference between Vedic and Sakta Tantra philosophies lies in the fact that in Vedic philosophy desire is seen to be transcended. Though desire is not sought to be suppressed by force, it is not seen as a means to transcendence – it is sees as something that is to be grown over.  
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The primary difference between Vedic and Śāktā Tantra philosophies lies in the fact that in Vedic philosophy desire is seen to be transcended. Though desire is not sought to be suppressed by force, it is not seen as a means to transcendence – it is sees as something that is to be grown over.  
  
In Sakta, Nature, whether it is desire or natural tendency or instinct, is seen as a divine manifestation of the Mother Sakti. It is through fulfillment of it, with the sense that it is divine, as a form of worship of the Mother, that one seeks to please the Mother.  
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In Śāktā, Nature, whether it is desire or natural tendency or instinct, is seen as a divine manifestation of the Mother Śakti. It is through fulfillment of it, with the sense that it is divine, as a form of worship of the Mother, that one seeks to please the Mother.  
  
The Vedic practitioners of Sakta Tantra take a middle path, by praising the Mother as Maya who creates these tendencies to bind the being, seek to be liberated from these by Her grace.  
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The Vedic practitioners of Śāktā Tantra take a middle path, by praising the Mother as Māya who creates these tendencies to bind the being, seek to be liberated from these by Her grace.  
  
=== Aspects of Agama ===
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=== Aspects of [[Agama]] ===
  
There are two major schools of literature in Hinduism. One is the Vedic literature, consisting of Vedas, various subjects that the Vedas deal with, Puranas, Dharma Sastras and so on. They deal with theology, spiritual philosophy, procedure and philosophy of rituals, various paths to salvation, code of conduct and righteousness, world views, the subjects one needs to learn to be able to understand such as the science of chanting, grammar, etymology, astronomy and so on. There is another stream of literature that deals primarily with the methods of worship. Though some of these are found in the Brahmana and Aranyaka portion of the Veda, Mimamsa (inquiry into the message of Veda), Kalpa Sutras (code and procedure for rituals), most of the elements practiced in popular Hinduism are from Agamas.  
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There are two major schools of literature in Hinduism. One is the Vedic literature, consisting of [[Vedas]], various subjects that the Vedas deal with, Purāṇās, Dharma Sāstrās and so on. They deal with theology, spiritual philosophy, procedure and philosophy of rituals, various paths to salvation, code of conduct and righteousness, world views, the subjects one needs to learn to be able to understand such as the science of chanting, grammar, etymology, [[astronomy]] and so on. There is another stream of literature that deals primarily with the methods of worship. Though some of these are found in the Brāhmana and Aranyaka portion of the Veda, Mimāmsa (inquiry into the message of Veda), [[Kalpa]] Sutrās (code and procedure for rituals), most of the elements practiced in popular Hinduism are from Agamas.  
  
Agamas expound many aspects, including personal worship, temple construction and architecture, Iconography, worship in temple, Vastu and so on. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the popular aspects of Hinduism are found in Puranic and Agamic literature. Primarily Agamas are of three schools – Vaishnava Saiva and Sakta. They are followed by Vaishnavites, Saivaites and Saktas respectively. Agama has three parts, Mantra, Tantra and Yantra.  
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Agamas expound many aspects, including personal worship, [[temple construction]] and architecture, Iconography, worship in temple, Vāstu and so on. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the popular aspects of Hinduism are found in Purānic and Agamic literature. Primarily Agamas are of three schools – [[Vaishnava]], [[Saiva]] and Śāktā. They are followed by Vaishnavites, Saivaites and Śāktās respectively. [[Agama]] has three parts, [[Mantra]], Tantra and Yantra.  
  
Mantra is a divine word which is chanted repeatedly as part of worship. Yantra in general, is a contrivance inspired by the power of a mantra. In many cases it is a geometric shape, carved on a metal plate or stone or crystal or floor. In case of Sri Vidya, it is Sri Cakra. Tantra is the entire philosophy and procedure of worship. The Tantra expounding Sri Vidya is called Sri Vidya Tantra, and is found in many Sakta texts like Prapancha saara and Rudra Yamala.  
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Mantra is a divine word which is chanted repeatedly as part of worship. Yantra in general, is a contrivance inspired by the power of a mantra. In many cases it is a geometric shape, carved on a metal plate or stone or crystal or floor. In case of Śrī Vidyā, it is Śrī [[Cakra]]. Tantra is the entire philosophy and procedure of worship. The Tantra expounding Śrī Vidyā is called Śrī Vidyā Tantra, and is found in many Śāktā texts like Prapancha sāra and Rudra Yamala.  
  
Uniquely to Sri Vidya, the name of the Vidya or the Goddess or Yantra does not have a separate name. It is not popularly called Lalita Vidya or Tripura Sundari Vidya. The tantra is called Sri Vidya, the Yantra Sri Yantra, the city of the Mother’s residence is called Sri Nagara. However “Sri” as we saw means divine and it is like saying divine Yantra, divine city and divine Vidya, without a specific name of the deity. Every other Vidya, is explicitly referred to, with the name of its presiding deity, Candi or Vishnu or Ganapati.
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Uniquely to Śrī Vidyā, the name of the Vidyā or the Goddess or Yantra does not have a separate name. It is not popularly called Lalita Vidyā or Tripura Sundari Vidyā. The tantra is called Śrī Vidyā, the Yantra Śrī Yantra, the city of the Mother’s residence is called Śrī Nagara. However “Śrī” as we saw means divine and it is like saying divine Yantra, divine city and divine Vidyā, without a specific name of the deity. Every other Vidyā, is explicitly referred to, with the name of its presiding deity, Candi or Viṣṇu or Gaṇapati.
  
== Yoga and Sri Vidya Tantra ==
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== Yoga and Śrī Vidyā Tantra ==
  
 
Though Yoga is a very technical subject and its discussion is mostly restricted to teacher-student disciplines, any introduction to Tantra without the mention of Yoga is incomplete.  
 
Though Yoga is a very technical subject and its discussion is mostly restricted to teacher-student disciplines, any introduction to Tantra without the mention of Yoga is incomplete.  
  
There are three major forms of Yoga, Mantra yoga, Laya yoga and Kundalini yoga. The aim of all the three is the same, though the methods vary slightly. Sri Vidya tantra involves all these three forms of yoga and integrates them.  
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There are three major forms of Yoga, Mantra yoga, Laya yoga and Kunḍalini yoga. The aim of all the three is the same, though the methods vary slightly. Śrī Vidyā tantra involves all these three forms of yoga and integrates them.  
  
 
=== Mantra Yoga ===
 
=== Mantra Yoga ===
  
Sound is produced through contact, vibration and obstruction. This is called Ahata. However cosmic hiss if one can hear is eternal and existent. This is called Anahata. It is not produced by us but only heard. A yogi can hear this. In sadhana one makes the sound oneself (by doing mantra japa), in a rhythm, resonant with the vibrations of his nadis and his breath. Through this one will be able to discover the deeper vibration. This way of merging individual with cosmic is called mantra yoga.  
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[[Sound]] is produced through contact, vibration and obstruction. This is called āhata. However cosmic hiss if one can hear is eternal and existent. This is called [[Anāhata]]. It is not produced by us but only heard. A yogi can hear this. In sā[[dhana]] one makes the [[sound]] oneself (by doing mantra [[japa]]), in a rhythm, resonant with the vibrations of his nādis and his breath. Through this one will be able to discover the deeper vibration. This way of merging individual with cosmic is called mantra yoga.  
  
Mantra is said to be the sound-form of Devata (god-form). One realizes Devata through the chanting of mantra in mantra yoga. Mantra yoga concentrates on nada (sound) to strike rhythm between individual and cosmic vibration, to activate the right nadis, to expose one into the cidakasa or daharakasa (causal space). Sabda (sound) is the tanmatra (subtle attribute) of mahabhuta (primal element) Akasa (space). And through sabda one tries to turn his vision inwards from akasa to daharakasa, through chanting the mantra, by producing sound to slowly listening the anahata sound without producing it. Eventually when mantra yoga is achieved, one achieves laya yoga also, since his consciousness is directed to daharakasa where his devata resides.  
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Mantra is said to be the sound-form of [[Devata]] (god-form). One realizes Devata through the chanting of mantra in mantra yoga. Mantra yoga concentrates on nada (sound) to strike rhythm between individual and cosmic vibration, to activate the right nādis, to expose one into the cidākāsa or daharākāsa (causal space). Śabda (sound) is the tanmatra (subtle attribute) of mahābhuta (primal element) ākasa (space). And through śabda one tries to turn his vision inwards from ākasa to daharākāsa, through chanting the mantra, by producing sound to slowly listening the anāhata sound without producing it. Eventually when mantra yoga is achieved, one achieves laya yoga also, since his consciousness is directed to daharākāsa where his devata resides.  
  
Panchadasi, the root mantra of Sri Vidya is said to be the sound-form of the Mother. The mantra is divided into three kutas or parts with five syllables each. The first is called Vagbhava Kuta, the Mother’s head. The second is called Madhya Kuta, the trunk – from neck to navel. The third is Sakti Kuta, the part below navel.  
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Pancadāsi, the root mantra of Śrī Vidyā is said to be the sound-form of the Mother. The mantra is divided into three kūtas or parts with five syllables each. The first is called Vāgbhava Kuta, the Mother’s head. The second is called Madhya Kūta, the trunk – from neck to navel. The third is Śakti Kūta, the part below navel.  
  
Saraswati Sukta of the Rigveda says that Vak or word is of four forms – Para (eternal), pasyanti (experienced by seer in a state of deep consciousness), madhyama (when it translates as idea in the intellect) and vaikhari (when it is verbally expressed). Realizing Para Vak or Nada Brahman through a regulated chanting of mantra, first externally then mentally and then finally without producing it, is mantra yoga.  
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Saraswati Sūkta of the [[Rigveda]] says that Vāk or word is of four forms – Para (eternal), pasyanti (experienced by seer in a state of deep consciousness), [[madhyama]] (when it translates as idea in the intellect) and vaikhāri (when it is verbally expressed). Realizing Para Vāk or Nāda Brahman through a regulated chanting of mantra, first externally then mentally and then finally without producing it, is mantra yoga.  
  
 
=== Laya Yoga ===
 
=== Laya Yoga ===
  
Meditation is the means in laya yoga. One controls mind through the control of breath, so that full concentration is possible in meditation. Through meditation, one’s consciousness merges in the object of meditation and one realizes Atman. The state in which the difference between the one who meditates, the act of meditation and the object of meditation dissolves, is called samadhi or sayujya.  
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Meditation is the means in laya yoga. One controls mind through the control of breath, so that full concentration is possible in meditation. Through meditation, one’s consciousness merges in the object of meditation and one realizes Atman. The state, in which the difference between the one who meditates the act of meditation and the object of meditation dissolves, is called samādhi or sāyujya.  
  
One also observes during meditation one’s own being, the different sheaths of consciousness. There are five kosas or sheaths of consciousness of being - annamaya (physical), pranamaya (vital-life), manomaya (mental), vijnanamaya (intellect-knowledge) and anandamaya (causal - blissful). The first is gross, next three constitute subtle and the fifth causal being. The causal being is Isvara who resides in all beings, along with Maya His consort. She veils the unmanifest form of the divine, Brahman. The Mother is Maha Maya, who covers the world with veil of ignorance and lifts the veil out of grace, causing the entire play of creation. This is the cosmic sport She does for the Lord, Her lila. Her play, action can be seen in karana-akasa the causal space. She is the moon of that space, and is called Cidakasa candrika.  
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One also observes during meditation one’s own being, the different sheaths of consciousness. There are five kosas or sheaths of consciousness of being - annaMāya (physical), prānaMāya (vital-life), manoMāya (mental), vijnānaMāya (intellect-knowledge) and ānandaMāya (causal - blissful). The first is gross, next three constitute subtle and the fifth causal being. The causal being is Īśvara who resides in all beings, along with Māya His consort. She veils the unmanifest form of the divine, Brahman. The Mother is Mahā Māya, who covers the world with veil of ignorance and lifts the veil out of grace, causing the entire play of creation. This is the cosmic sport She does for the Lord, Her līla. Her play, action can be seen in karanākāsa the causal space. She is the moon of that space, and is called Cidākāsa candrika.  
  
Gross (sthula), subtle (sukshma), causal (karana) and absolute (turiya) are the four states in which Brahman manifests. Realizing eternal through meditation is laya yoga. In Laya yoga one, through meditation, identifies himself progressively with the inner sheaths, and finally with the inner most being – Atman. The Mother is said to reside in and beyond the five sheaths – Panca kosantara sthita. Thus the seeker achieves oneness with the Mother through laya yoga.  
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Gross ([[sthula]]), subtle (sūkshma), causal (kārana) and absolute (turiya) are the four states in which Brāhman manifests. Realizing eternal through meditation is laya yoga. In Laya yoga one, through meditation, identifies himself progressively with the inner sheaths, and finally with the inner most being – ātman. The Mother is said to reside in and beyond the five sheaths – Panca kosāntara sthita. Thus the seeker achieves oneness with the Mother through laya yoga.  
  
=== Kundalini Yoga ===
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=== Kunḍalini Yoga ===
  
In Kundalini yoga, one realizes divine consciousness through the activation of the hidden energy of Kundalini. There are six centers (cakras) in the spinal channel. Kundalini is said to be initially coiled up at muladhara. She is the Mother. She passes through these six from muladhara at the bottom of spine to ajna at the forehead, then to the crown of the head (sahasrara) where individual consciousness fully unites with cosmic consciousness. There, the Mother is said to unite with the Lord. This involves the opening of three knots or granthis in the path, called Brahma granthi, Vishnu granthi and Rudra granthi. There is one granthi per two cakras. Muladhara (pelvic) and swadhisthana (navel) associate with Brahma granthi, manipura (heart center) and anahata (midway between neck and solar plexus) associate with Vishnu granthi, visuddha (throat) and ajna (center of forehead) associate with Rudra granthi. These three are the triputi discussed above.  
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In Kunḍalini yoga, one realizes divine consciousness through the activation of the hidden energy of Kunḍalini. There are six centers (cakras) in the spinal channel. Kunḍalini is said to be initially coiled up at mulā[[dhara]]. She is the Mother. She passes through these six from mulādhara at the bottom of spine to ajna at the forehead, then to the crown of the head (sahasrāra) where individual consciousness fully unites with cosmic consciousness. There, the Mother is said to unite with the Lord. This involves the opening of three knots or granthis in the path, called Brahma granthi, Viṣṇu granthi and Rudra granthi. There is one granthi per two cakras. Mulādhara (pelvic) and swadhisthāna (navel) associate with Brahma granthi, manipura (heart center) and [[anāhata]] (midway between neck and solar plexus) associate with Viṣṇu granthi, visuddha (throat) and ajna (center of forehead) associate with Rudra granthi. These three are the triputi discussed above.  
  
The worship of Sri Chakra with nine levels is also a means to this in Sri Vidya. Kundalini is said to be completely activated, with the Mother uniting with the Lord at Sahasrara, when the devotee reaches the bindu of Sri Chakra.  
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The worship of Śrī [[Cakra]] with nine levels is also a means to this in Śrī Vidyā. Kunḍalini is said to be completely activated, with the Mother uniting with the Lord at Sahasrāra, when the devotee reaches the [[bindu]] of Śrī Cakra.  
  
The union of Mother Kundalini with the Lord, is the liberation of seeker from Maya. This is possible with anugraha or grace as discussed above, and completes the cycle of births. This is the same as realizing Nada Brahman in mantra yoga, and sayujya of laya yoga.  
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The union of Mother Kunḍalini with the Lord is the liberation of seeker from Māya. This is possible with [[anugraha]] or grace as discussed above, and completes the cycle of births. This is the same as realizing Nada Brahman in mantra yoga, and sāyujya of laya yoga.  
  
== Geometry and Worship of Sri Chakra ==
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== Geometry and Worship of Śrī Cakra ==
  
Sri Chakra is worshiped as the Mother Herself. In Sri Vidya, there is usually no other idol worshiped other than Sri Chakra. Even if an idol is worshiped, Sri Chakra is worshiped along with idol. All the upacaras or offerings are done to the Sri Chakra.  
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Śrī Cakra is worshiped as the Mother Herself. In Śrī Vidyā, there is usually no other idol worshiped other than Śrī Cakra. Even if an idol is worshiped, Śrī Cakra is worshiped along with idol. All the upacāras or offerings are done to the Śrī Cakra.  
  
The worship of Sri Chakra is done through Devi Khadgamala (literally garland of swords, indicating energy) hymn, which enumerates the deities in each level. In an elaborate worship of Sri Cakra, each deity at each level is invoked, worshiped and offered oblations. However in a regular worship, it can be done in a much abridged way and Goddesses at each level are worshiped together.  
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The worship of Śrī Cakra is done through Devi Khaḍgamāla (literally garland of swords, indicating energy) hymn, which enumerates the deities in each level. In an elaborate worship of Śrī Cakra, each deity at each level is invoked, worshiped and offered oblations. However in a regular worship, it can be done in a much abridged way and Goddesses at each level are worshiped together.  
  
Sri Chakra is a model of universe, which represents a Sakta world view. Sri Chakra or Sri Nagara is said to be the abode of the Mother, and She is its ruler. It has nine levels called avaranas. The nine levels are said to be nine levels in evolution of the seeker, beginning from the outer most to the inner most where the Mother resides. Sri Vidya tantra explains the Goddesses at each level (or the epithets or aspects of Mother at each level), the method of worship, and the mystical powers one attains through their worship. In the inner most level called bindu resides the Mother with Lord Kameswara. The various petals or lines and their number in each avarana signify the number of Goddesses worshiped.  
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Śrī Cakra is a model of universe, which represents a Śāktā world view. Śrī Cakra or Śrī Nagara is said to be the abode of the Mother, and She is its ruler. It has nine levels called āvaranās. The nine levels are said to be nine levels in evolution of the seeker, beginning from the outer most to the inner most where the Mother resides. Śrī Vidyā tantra explains the Goddesses at each level (or the epithets or aspects of Mother at each level), the method of worship, and the mystical powers one attains through their worship. In the inner most level called [[bindu]] resides the Mother with Lord Kāmeśvara . The various petals or lines and their number in each āvarana signify the number of Goddesses worshiped.  
  
Sri Chakra is worshiped in two and three dimensional forms. Planar Sri Chakra is called Bhu prastara (bhu – earth, meaning flat). Three dimensional Sri Chakra, where the outer most level is the base and each inner level is in elevation over the outer one, with bindu (the inner most triangle) as the peak, as if forming a cone, is called meru prastara (meru is a mountain, and the name indicates that the figure is similar to a mountain/cone). In an ardha meru or half meru, some of the nine levels are depicted in the same altitude.  
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Śrī Cakra is worshiped in two and three dimensional forms. Planar Śrī Cakra is called Bhu prastāra (bhu – earth, meaning flat). Three dimensional Śrī Cakra, where the outer most level is the base and each inner level is in elevation over the outer one, with bindu (the inner most triangle) as the peak, as if forming a cone, is called meru prastāra (meru is a mountain, and the name indicates that the figure is similar to a mountain/cone). In an [[ardha]] meru or half meru, some of the nine levels are depicted in the same altitude.  
  
Further, the nine are divided into three levels of three enclosures each. The outer most three comprise Srshti chakra (the orbit of creation). The next three comprise Sthiti chakra (the orbit of sustenance). The inner most three comprise Samhara chakra (the orbit of dissolution).  
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Further, the nine are divided into three levels of three enclosures each. The outer most three comprise śrushti Cakra (the orbit of creation). The next three comprise Sthiti Cakra (the orbit of sustenance). The inner most three comprise Samhāra Cakra (the orbit of dissolution).  
  
The geometry and worship of Sri Chakra is comprehensive and exhaustive. It explains the entire Sakta world view, its enumeration of the world, its philosophy and practice. Therefore we can only give a cursory glance at it, because otherwise it would become a book by itself.  
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The geometry and worship of Śrī Cakra is comprehensive and exhaustive. It explains the entire Śāktā world view, its enumeration of the world, its philosophy and practice. Therefore we can only give a cursory glance at it, because otherwise it would become a book by itself.  
  
The outer most level of Sri Chakra is square shaped, with three concentric squares and four gates on four sides. The next two levels are lotus petals, with sixteen and eight petals respectively. The next five levels are basically nine triangles drawn into each other, producing a total of forty three. These are seen as five levels of 14, 10, 10, 8, 1 triangles as we move inwards. The inner most or ninth level is bindu or a dot. This is also counted as a triangle, making the total count 44.  
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The outer most level of Śrī Cakra is square shaped, with three concentric squares and four gates on four sides. The next two levels are lotus petals, with sixteen and eight petals respectively. The next five levels are basically nine triangles drawn into each other, producing a total of forty three. These are seen as five levels of 14, 10, 10, 8, 1 triangles as we move inwards. The inner most or ninth level is bindu or a dot. This is also counted as a triangle, making the total count 44.  
  
In each level, the Mother is described as causing those tendencies that bind beings at that level. If one successfully transcends the binding at one level, that is, when he seeks to proceed further without limiting oneself to the powers he gets at that level, then he will move to an inner level. Though all the levels of Sri Chakra are worshiped every time, one actually transcends or gets elevated to these levels gradually.  
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In each level, the Mother is described as causing those tendencies that bind beings at that level. If one successfully transcends the binding at one level, that is, when he seeks to proceed further without limiting oneself to the powers he gets at that level, then he will move to an inner level. Though all the levels of Śrī Cakra are worshiped every time, one actually transcends or gets elevated to these levels gradually.  
  
 
==== Trailokya Mohana ====
 
==== Trailokya Mohana ====
Line 154: Line 154:
 
The three lines represent ten Mudra, Matrika and Siddhis (mystical powers).  
 
The three lines represent ten Mudra, Matrika and Siddhis (mystical powers).  
  
Mudras are gestures, positions of fingers and hands, which are used for expressing various experiences. In case of worship, they are used as part of worship, to invoke certain experiences. The Mother is called dasa mudra samaradhya in Lalita Sahasra nama, meaning She is worshiped through ten mudras. They are Sarva Sankshobhini, Sarva Vidravini, Sarva Akarshini, Sarva Vasankari, Sarva Unmadini, Sarva Mahankusa, Sarva Khecari, Sarva Bija, Sarva Yoni and Sarva Trikhanda.  
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Mudrās are gestures, positions of fingers and hands, which are used for expressing various experiences. In case of worship, they are used as part of worship, to invoke certain experiences. The Mother is called dasa mudra samārādhya in Lalita Sahasra nāma, meaning She is worshiped through ten mudrās. They are Sarva Sankśobhini, Sarva Vidrāvini, Sarva ākarśini, Sarva Vāsankari, Sarva Unmādini, Sarva Mahānkuśa, Sarva Kecāri, Sarva [[Bīja]], Sarva Yoni and Sarva Trikhanda.  
  
Matrikas are the seven primordial forms of the Mother, from which all the sound forms originate. They are Brahmi, Vaishnavi, Maheswari, Aindri, Kaumari, Varahi and Chamundi.  
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Matrikas are the seven primordial forms of the Mother, from which all the sound forms originate. They are Brāhmi, Vaiṣnavi, Maheṣvari, Aindri, Kaumāri, Vārāhi and Cāmundi.  
  
There are ten mystical powers of the Mother which are personified as Goddesses. They are Anima, Laghima, Mahima, Isitva, Vasitva, Prakamya, Bhukti, Iccha, Prapti and Sarva kama siddhis. They include small powers like victory over hunger and sleep, to great ones like getting every wish granted, knowing things far off in distance and time.  
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There are ten mystical powers of the Mother which are personified as Goddesses. They are Anima, Laghima, Mahima, Isitva, Vasitva, Prakamya, Bhukti, Iccha, Prāpti and Sarva kāma siddhis. They include small powers like victory over hunger and sleep, to great ones like getting every wish granted, knowing things far off in distance and time.  
  
 
This enclosure is also called bhupura or earthly (physical).  
 
This enclosure is also called bhupura or earthly (physical).  
  
==== Sarvasa Paripuraka ====
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==== Sarvasa Paripūraka ====
  
This avarana is called so, because at this level every desire of the devotee is fulfilled. This level of Sri Cakra has sixteen lotus petals. Correspondingly as this enclosure belongs to desire and their fulfillment, the Mother is praised as the one who attracts through the primal natural tendencies. The sixteen forms of desire are enumerated here. Praising the Mother as akarshini (one who attracts). This is where the effect of the Mother Maya is seen, as She attracts the beings with desire – making them bound with their senses, and other faculties. The sixteen forms are Kama (desire in general, but specifically sexual), Buddhi (intellect), Ahankara (ego), Sabda (sound - hearing), Sparsha (touch), Rupa (form - vision), Rasa (feel), Gandha (odor), Citta (impression), Dhairya (courage), Smriti (memory), Nama (name), Bija (seed), Atma (self), Amrita (immortality), Sharira (body).   
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This āvarana is called so, because at this level every desire of the devotee is fulfilled. This level of Śrī Cakra has sixteen lotus petals. Correspondingly as this enclosure belongs to desire and their fulfillment, the Mother is praised as the one who attracts through the primal natural tendencies. The sixteen forms of desire are enumerated here. Praising the Mother as ākarṣini (one who attracts). This is where the effect of the Mother Māya is seen, as She attracts the beings with desire – making them bound with their senses, and other faculties. The sixteen forms are Kāma (desire in general, but specifically sexual), [[Buddhi]] (intellect), Ahankāra (ego), Śabda (sound - hearing), Sparṣa (touch), Rūpa (form - vision), Rasa (feel), Gandha (odor), [[Citta]] (impression), Dhairya (courage), [[Smriti]] (memory), Nāma (name), [[Bīja]] (seed), ātma (self), Amrita (immortality), Sharīra (body).   
  
Desire is the primary obstacle in detachment and liberation of being. While the smarta way is to transcend desire, the Sakta way is to fulfill it and consecrate it as a form of worship. Thus, fulfillment of desire is seen not only not negatively but rather positively in Sakta.  
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Desire is the primary obstacle in detachment and liberation of being. While the smārta way is to transcend desire, the Śāktā way is to fulfill it and consecrate it as a form of worship. Thus, fulfillment of desire is seen not only not negatively but rather positively in Śāktā.  
  
==== Sarva Sankshobhana ====
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==== Sarva Sankśobana ====
  
This avarana is named sankshobhana because the Mother here is praised as the one who causes agitation, instability, commotion. This enclosure has eight lotus petals, named Ananga kusuma, Ananga mekhala, Ananga Madana, Ananga Madanatura, Ananga rekha, Ananga vegini, Ananga ankusha and Ananga malini. It is Ananga (Cupid or Manmatha), the God of love, who agitates creatures in these ways.  
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This āvarana is named SankŚobana because the Mother here is praised as the one who causes agitation, instability, commotion. This enclosure has eight lotus petals, named Ananga kusuma, Ananga mekhala, Ananga Madana, Ananga Madanātura, Ananga rekha, Ananga vegini, Ananga ankuṣa and Ananga mālini. It is Ananga (Cupid or Manmatha), the God of love, who agitates creatures in these ways.  
  
 
This is the enclosure of mind.  
 
This is the enclosure of mind.  
  
==== Sarva Saubhagya dayaka ====
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==== Sarva Saubhāgya dāyaka ====
  
In the fourth enclosure, Sakti is worshiped as the granter of all kinds of prosperity. This level of Sri Cakra has fourteen trangles. The Goddesses or the forms of Mother in this enclosure are Sarva Sankshobhini (agitator of all), Sarva Vidravini (slayer or the one who dissolves), Sarva Akarshini (one who attracts), Sarva Ahladini (one who refreshes), Sarva Sammohini (one who mesmerizes), Sarva Stambhini (one who immobilizes), Sarva Jrumbhini (one who causes growth and expansion), Sarva Vasankari (one who controls all actions), Sarva Ranjini (one who pleases), Sarva Unmadini (one who intoxicates), Sarvaartha sadhini (one who fulfills all needs and desires), Sarva sampatti purani (granter of all kinds of prosperity), Sarva mantra mayi (one whose forms are all mantras), Sarva dvandva kshayankari (one in who all dualities dissolve into oneness).  
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In the fourth enclosure, Śakti is worshiped as the granter of all kinds of prosperity. This level of Śrī Cakra has fourteen trangles. The Goddesses or the forms of Mother in this enclosure are Sarva Sankśobhini (agitator of all), Sarva Vidravini (slayer or the one who dissolves), Sarvākarśini (one who attracts), Sarva Ahlādini (one who refreshes), Sarva Sammohini (one who mesmerizes), Sarva Stambhini (one who immobilizes), Sarva Jrumbhini (one who causes growth and expansion), Sarva Vāsankari (one who controls all actions), Sarva Ranjini (one who pleases), Sarva Unmādini (one who intoxicates), Sarvārtha sādini (one who fulfills all needs and desires), Sarva sampatti purāni (granter of all kinds of prosperity), Sarva mantra mayi (one whose forms are all mantras), Sarva dvandva kṣayankari (one in who all dualities dissolve into oneness).  
  
==== Sarvartha sadhaka ====
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==== Sarvārtha sādhaka ====
  
In the fifth enclosure, the Mother is worshiped as the one who grants all whishes. In fact “artha” is not just a desire but a purpose. Thus the Mother grants all that we want, we need, and we need to fulfill. This level in Sri Cakra has ten triangles. The ten corresponding forms in which the Mother is worshiped here are Sarvasiddhi prada (granter of all powers), Sarva sampat prada (granter of all kinds of wealth), Sarva priyankari (one who grants all that pleases), Sarva Mangala kari (one who grants all kinds of auspiciousness), Sarva  Kama prada (granter of all wishes), Sarva dukha vimocani (absolver from all kinds of sorrow and unhappiness), Sarvamrutyu prasamani (one who prevents all kinds of (untimely) death),  Sarva vighna nivarini (one who prevents all obstacles), Sarvanga Sundari (one who is beauty personified, with each limb being perfect), Sarva Saubhagya  dayini (granter of prosperity and well-being).  
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In the fifth enclosure, the Mother is worshiped as the one who grants all whishes. In fact “[[artha]]” is not just a desire but a purpose. Thus the Mother grants all that we want, we need, and we need to fulfill. This level in Śrī Cakra has ten triangles. The ten corresponding forms in which the Mother is worshiped here are Sarvasiddhi prada (granter of all powers), Sarva sampat prada (granter of all kinds of wealth), Sarva priyankari (one who grants all that pleases), Sarva Mangala kāri (one who grants all kinds of auspiciousness), Sarva  Kāma prada (granter of all wishes), Sarva dukha vimocani (absolver from all kinds of sorrow and unhappiness), Sarvāmrutyu prasamani (one who prevents all kinds of (untimely) death),  Sarva vighna nivārini (one who prevents all obstacles), Sarvānga Sundari (one who is beauty personified, with each limb being perfect), Sarva Saubhagya  dāyini (granter of prosperity and well-being).  
  
 
==== Sarva raksha kara ====
 
==== Sarva raksha kara ====
  
In this enclosure, the Mother is called the protector. It has eight triangles. The corresponding forms of Devi are Sarvajna (one who knows everything), Sarva Sakti (one who is all powerful), Sarvaisvarya prada (one who grants all worldly possessions and occult powers), Sarva jnana mayi (one who is knowledge personified), Sarva vyadhi vinasini (one who prevents all kinds of ailments), Sarva adhara swarupa (one on who rests the entire universe), Sarva papa hari (one who cleanses and absolves from all kinds of sins), Sarva ananda mayi (one who is bliss personified), Sarva raksha svarupini (the protector),  Sarvepsita phala prade (granter of all desires, granter of the fruits of all deeds/worship/sacrifice).  
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In this enclosure, the Mother is called the protector. It has eight triangles. The corresponding forms of Devi are Sarvājna (one who knows everything), Sarva Śakti (one who is all powerful), Sarvaīśvarya prada (one who grants all worldly possessions and occult powers), Sarva jnāna mayi (one who is knowledge personified), Sarva vyādhi vināṣini (one who prevents all kinds of ailments), Sarva ādhāra swarupa (one on who rests the entire universe), Sarva pāpa hāri (one who cleanses and absolves from all kinds of sins), Sarva ānanda mayi (one who is bliss personified), Sarva rakśa svarūpini (the protector),  Sarvepsita phala prade (granter of all desires, granter of the fruits of all deeds/worship/sacrifice).  
  
 
==== Sarva Roga hara ====
 
==== Sarva Roga hara ====
  
The seventh enclosure has eight triangles, and Sakti is worshiped as the one who removes all kinds of ailment. Ailment can be biological, but in Vedanta, the cycle of transmigration itself is called an ailment. The Mother, as She is called Bhava Tarini, makes one easily cross the sea of phenomenal existence, its ups and downs. The eight deities of this level are called Vag-devatas, who preside over speech. They are Vasini, Kameswari, Modini, Vimala, Aruna, Jayini, Sarveswari and Kaulini.  
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The seventh enclosure has eight triangles, and Śakti is worshiped as the one who removes all kinds of ailment. Ailment can be biological, but in [[Vedanta]], the cycle of transmigration itself is called an ailment. The Mother, as She is called [[Bhava]] Tārini, makes one easily cross the sea of phenomenal existence, its ups and downs. The eight deities of this level are called Vāg-Devatās, who preside over speech. They are Vāsini, Kāmeśvari, Modini, Vimala, Aruna, Jayini, Sarve śvari and Kaulini.  
 
   
 
   
==== Sarva siddhi maya ====
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==== Sarva siddhi Māya ====
  
The eighth enclosure is a triangle. Here the Mother is called Kamakala, the personification of fulfillment. She signifies the desire of Isvara for cosmic sport. She is worshiped in eight forms in this level, with the names Banini, Capini, Pashini, Ankushini, Maha Kameswari, Maha Vajreswari, Maha Bhagamalini and Maha Sri Sundari.  
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The eighth enclosure is a triangle. Here the Mother is called Kāmakala, the personification of fulfillment. She signifies the desire of Īśvara for cosmic sport. She is worshiped in eight forms in this level, with the names Banini, Capini, Paśini, Ankuini, Mahā Kāmeśvari, Mahā Vajreśvari, Mahā Bhāgamālini and Mahā Śrī Sundari.  
  
==== Sarva ananda maya ====
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==== Sarva ānanda Māya ====
  
The ninth or inner most enclosure is the bindu. It is called a dot, and also a minute triangle with edges almost falling into each other. The Mother resides here, united with Lord Kameswara, and is called Siva-Sakti-eka-rupini. Here Siva and Sakti are united, and are undifferentiated.  
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The ninth or inner most enclosure is the bindu. It is called a dot, and also a minute triangle with edges almost falling into each other. The Mother resides here, united with Lord Kāmeśvara , and is called Śiva-Śakti-eka-rupini. Here Śiva and Śakti are united, and are undifferentiated.  
  
She is worshiped with nine names in the bindu, Tripura, Tripuresi, Tripura Sundari, Tripura Vaasini, Tripura Sri, Tripura Maalini, Tripura Siddhi, Tripuraamba and Maha Tripura Sundari.  
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She is worshiped with nine names in the bindu, Tripura, Tripureśi, Tripura Sundari, Tripura Vāsini, Tripura Śrī, Tripura Mālini, Tripura Siddhi, Tripurāmba and Mahā Tripura Sundari.  
  
 
   
 
   
== Practical side of Sri Vidya ==
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== Practical side of Śrī Vidyā ==
  
Sri Vidya is most popular in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, two of the major states in south India. There are two major schools in Sakta, Candi and Lalita. The Mother is worshiped as Durga, Candi, Camundi in Candi tradition, and as Lalita, Bala, Rajarajeswari in Lalita tradition.  
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Śrī Vidyā is most popular in Tamil Nadu and [[Andhra]] Pradesh, two of the major states in south India. There are two major schools in Śāktā, Candi and Lalita. The Mother is worshiped as [[Durga]], Candi, Camundi in Candi tradition, and as Lalita, Bāla, Rajarajeswari in Lalita tradition.  
  
There are many common aspects in both the traditions, with minor variations. Both are navarna, worshiped in nine levels. There are nine forms of Durga and She is worshiped in those nine forms in the navratri before Vijaya Dasami (Dussera festival). In fact, Candi Vidya itself is navarna, in the sense that the two main mantras have nine letters. The concept of nine levels of worship in Lalita tradition is visible in the nine levels of Sri Cakra.  
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There are many common aspects in both the traditions, with minor variations. Both are navarna, worshiped in nine levels. There are nine forms of Durga and She is worshiped in those nine forms in the navratri before Vijaya Daśami (Dussera festival). In fact, Candi Vidyā itself is navarna, in the sense that the two main mantras have nine letters. The concept of nine levels of worship in Lalita tradition is visible in the nine levels of Śrī Cakra.  
  
It can be said that Candi is an older tradition, and Sri Vidya is a more recent and refined form. Tantric practices were extreme in India, with animal sacrifices and similar practices. Adi Sankara is said to have pacified those deities by installing Sri Cakra in famous Sakta temples through out the country, and prohibiting animal sacrifices in those places<ref>There is no direct relation between elimination of animal sacrifice and Sri Vidya. However, it became a general smarta practice to worship Sri Vidya, and also discourage animal sacrifices.</ref>. These include Sakti peethas like Kamakhya (Guwahati, Assam) and Jogulamba (Alampuram, Andhra Pradesh) where such practices were rampant<ref>This is known from the Sthala Puranas of these shrines.</ref>. Apart from these, he visited and installed Sri Cakra in many other temples like Sri Sailam, Kancipuram, Kanya Kumari, Kashmir and so on.  
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It can be said that Candi is an older tradition, and Śrī Vidyā is a more recent and refined form. Tantric practices were extreme in India, with animal sacrifices and similar practices. Ādi Śankara is said to have pacified those deities by installing Śrī Cakra in famous Śāktā [[temples]] through out the country, and prohibiting animal sacrifices in those places<ref>There is no direct relation between elimination of animal sacrifice and Śrī Vidyā. However, it became a general smārta practice to worship Śrī Vidyā, and also discourage animal sacrifices.</ref>. These include Śakti pīṭhas like Kāmakhya (Guwahati, Assam) and Jogulamba (Alampuram, [[Andhra]] Pradesh) where such practices were rampant<ref>This is known from the Sthala Purāṇās of these shrines.</ref>. Apart from these, he visited and installed Śrī Cakra in many other temples like Śrī Śailam, Kāncipuram, Kanyā Kumāri, Kashmir and so on.  
  
Though Sri Vidya was an older school, it gained popularity with Adi Sankara and Advaita philosophy. Today Sri Vidya followers go by Sankara’s Advaita<ref>There is a historic debate about Sankara's relation to Sri Vidya, and it is said that Saundarya Lahari, TriSati Bhashya are not originally authored by Sankara. It is also said that the Sankara lineages worshiping Sri Vidya is a practice later than Sankara himself. However, the Sankara lineages and smartas in general do worship Sri Vidya.</ref>.  
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Though Śrī Vidyā was an older school, it gained popularity with Ādi Śankara and [[Advaita]] philosophy. Today Śrī Vidyā followers go by Śankara’s Advaita<ref>There is a historic debate about Śankara's relation to Śrī Vidyā, and it is said that Saundarya Lahari, TriSati Bhaṣya are not originally authored by Śankara. It is also said that the Śankara lineages worshiping Śrī Vidyā is a practice later than Śankara himself. However, the Śankara lineages and smārtas in general do worship Śrī Vidyā.</ref>.  
  
=== Sri Vidya and other Devatas ===
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=== Śrī Vidyā and other Devatās ===
  
Though Tripura Sundari is the deity of Sri Vidya, most of the Goddesses like Lakshmi, Durga, Parvati are worshiped in Sri Cakra. Not only forms of Devi, but in general any God can be worshiped in Sri Cakra. Besides, there are Sri Vidya samputikaranas (compositions of verses/mantras) for different Gods. For example, when Ganesha and Dakshinamurty are worshiped in Sri Vidya tradition, they come to be known as Sri Vidya Ganesha and Sri Vidya Dakshinamurty respectively.  
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Though Tripura Sundari is the deity of Śrī Vidyā, most of the Goddesses like Lakśmi, Durga, Pārvati are worshiped in Śrī Cakra. Not only forms of Devi, but in general any God can be worshiped in Śrī Cakra. Besides, there are Śrī Vidyā samputikaranas (compositions of verses/mantras) for different Gods. For example, when Gaṇ[[eśa]] and Dakśiṇamūrti are worshiped in Śrī Vidyā tradition, they come to be known as Śrī Vidyā Gaṇeśa and Śrī Vidyā Dakśiṇamūrti respectively.  
  
In case of a Goddess, this difference is not usually maintained. That is to say, Lakshmi is worshiped in Sri Cakra but not called Sri Vidya Lakshmi. Durga is not called Sri Vidya Durga or Candi-Durga when She is worshiped in Sri Vidya or Candi traditions. This is because, She is either worshiped with the same verses meant for Sri Cakra worship or with Lakshmi hymns, and not with separate verses. In case of Sri Vidya Ganesha, the worship is done with verses which are a combination of Sri Vidya and Ganesha vidya. Same is the case with Sri Vidya Dakshinamurty.  
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In case of a Goddess, this difference is not usually maintained. That is to say, Lakśmi is worshiped in Śrī Cakra but not called Śrī Vidyā Lakśmi. Durga is not called Śrī Vidyā Durga or Candi-Durga when She is worshiped in Śrī Vidyā or Candi traditions. This is because, She is either worshiped with the same verses meant for Śrī Cakra worship or with Lakśmi hymns, and not with separate verses. In case of Śrī Vidyā Gaṇeśa, the worship is done with verses which are a combination of Śrī Vidyā and Gaṇeśa Vidyā. Same is the case with Śrī Vidyā Dakśiṇamūrti.  
  
Though these are mainly schools of sadhana, there are temples too, where those forms are primary deities. There is a temple for Sri Vidya Ganesha in Bangalore. There is another installation of Sri Vidya Ganapati in Swetha Sringachalam.  
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Though these are mainly schools of sādana, there are [[temples]] too, where those forms are primary deities. There is a temple for Śrī Vidyā Gaṇeśa in Bangalore. There is another installation of Śrī Vidyā Gaṇapati in śveta Śrīngāchalam.  
  
=== Sri Vidya, Sakta and Mantra Sastra ===
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=== Śrī Vidyā, Śāktā and Mantra Śāstra ===
  
Most traditions in Sakta overlap, and Sri Vidya shares several mantras with other Sakta traditions. Bhuvaneswari, Candi, Kali, Matangi mantras are found in Sri Vidya, and are independent vidyas. Similarly Sri Vidya mantras are found as part of other traditions like Candi. Sri Vidya mantras are based on and are part of the Sakta mantra sastra, its beejas and matrikas. In turn, the Sakta mantra sastra is based on and is part of the broader understanding of mantra sastra that is common to all the traditions including Vaishnava, Saiva, Srauta and Bauddha. Sakta's contribution to mantra sastra is not only the variety of matras but the foundational matrikas.  
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Most traditions in Śāktā overlap, and Śrī Vidyā shares several mantras with other Śāktā traditions. Bhuvanesvari, Candi, Kāli, Mātangi mantras are found in Śrī Vidyā, and are independent Vidyās. Similarly Śrī Vidyā mantras are found as part of other traditions like Candi. Śrī Vidyā mantras are based on and are part of the Śāktā mantra Śāstra, its bījas and mātrikas. In turn, the Śāktā mantra Śāstra is based on and is part of the broader understanding of mantra Śāstra that is common to all the traditions including Vaiśnava, śaiva, Śrauta and [[Bauddha]]. Śāktā's contribution to mantra Śāstra is not only the variety of mātras but the foundational mātrikas.  
  
=== Some Sri Vidya Practitioners and Lineages ===
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=== Some Śrī Vidyā Practitioners and Lineages ===
  
Sri Vidya is practiced by many great seers. The Puranic seers like Agastya, Durvasa and Lopamudra (the wife of Agastya) followed Sri Vidya. Adi Sankara was a great exponent of Sri Vidya. The Soundarya Lahari hymn composed by him, is famous and chanted even today by many devotees – both practitioners of Mantra Sastra and followers of popular religion. There are many commentaries and translations of Soundarya Lahari, a few authors to mention - Lakshmi dhara pandita, Kaivalyashrama Swamy, Acyutananda Swamy, Vishnu Teertha and Narasimha Thakur. Practice of Sri Vidya is coming down for centuries, in teacher-disciple tradition. In some cases it is imparted from parent to the eldest offspring, in others it is from another teacher. Adi Sankara also gave a commentary on Lalita Trisati, the hymn-form of Pancadasi.  
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Śrī Vidyā is practiced by many great seers. The Purānic seers like [[Agastya]], Durvāsa and Lopamudra (the wife of Agastya) followed Śrī Vidyā. Ādi Śankara was a great exponent of Śrī Vidyā. The [[Soundarya Lahari]] hymn composed by him, is famous and chanted even today by many devotees – both practitioners of Mantra Śāstra and followers of popular religion. There are many commentaries and translations of Soundarya Lahari, a few authors to mention - Lakśmi dhāra pandita, Kaivalyāś[[rama]] Svāmi, Acyutānanda Svāmi, Viṣṇu [[Tīrtha]] and Narasimha Ṭhākur. Practice of Śrī Vidyā is coming down for centuries, in teacher-disciple tradition. In some cases it is imparted from parent to the eldest offspring, in others it is from another teacher. Ādi Śankara also gave a commentary on Lalita Trisati, the hymn-form of Pancadāsi.  
  
Kalidasa, a renowned poet and devotee of Devi, is said to have primarily worshiped Kali and Matangi. However his praises of the Mother include multiple forms, including Tripura Sundari – he calls Her Aruna (red in Hue, Lalita) and also Kali (black).  
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Kālidāsa, a renowned poet and devotee of Devi, is said to have primarily worshiped Kāli and Mātangi. However his praises of the Mother include multiple forms, including Tripura Sundari – he calls Her Aruna (red in Hue, Lalita) and also Kāli (black).  
  
Adi Sankara established four monasteries in India, called Amnaya mathas (Amnaya means Veda, and matha in this context is monastery). Each of these specializes in one of the four Vedas. He also installed Devi in different forms, apart from Lord Siva in these mathas. To this day, all these are worshiped according to Sri Vidya. Apart from these, he established many other monasteries like Kanci matha. Devi is worshiped according to Sri Vidya School, in all these. For example, Saradamba is worshiped in Sringeri matha. Kamakshi is worshiped in Kanci matha. Besides, there are many other ashramas like Siddheswari Peetha of Kurtalam (a monastery), Kailasa Ashram of Hrishikesh, Lalita Peetha, Sri Vidya Vimarsana Peetha and innumerable local ashramas that primarily worship according to Sri Vidya discipline.  
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Ādi Śankara established four monasteries in India, called Amnaya maṭhās (Amnaya means Veda, and maṭhā in this context is monastery). Each of these specializes in one of the four [[Vedas]]. He also installed Devi in different forms, apart from Lord Śiva in these maṭhās. To this day, all these are worshiped according to Śrī Vidyā. Apart from these, he established many other monasteries like Kanci maṭhā. Devi is worshiped according to Śrī Vidyā School, in all these. For example, Śāradāmba is worshiped in Śrīngeri maṭhā. Kāmakśi is worshiped in Kanci maṭhā. Besides, there are many other āśramas like Siddhesvari Pīṭha of Kurtalam (a monastery), Kailāsa āśram of Hrishikesh, Lalita Pīṭha, Śrī Vidyā Vimarsana Pīṭha and innumerable local āśramas that primarily worship according to Śrī Vidyā discipline.  
  
Sri Vidyaranya Swamy of 14th century AD was a great saint and scholar of Adi Sankara’s tradition. He gave a commentary on the Veda, along with many other works like Vedanta Pancadasi. Sri Vidyarnava, a compilation on the philosophy, practices and secrets of Sri Vidya, is said to be his work.
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Śrī Vidyāranya Swamy of 14th century AD was a great saint and scholar of Ādi Śankara’s tradition. He gave a commentary on the Veda, along with many other works like Vedānta Pancadāsi. Śrī Vidyārnava, a compilation on the philosophy, practices and secrets of Śrī Vidyā, is said to be his work.
  
Bhaskara Raya from Bijapur area of Karnataka was a great Sri Vidya practitioner in the recent centuries. He belonged to 18th century. He lived in Varanasi for many years, and there are many stories about his devotion and the Mother’s divine grace over him. He was famous as a practitioner and an exponent of Sri Vidya in his times, and later. His name marks a lineage of practice in Sri Vidya. To this date, many generations after his times, Bhaskara Raya lineage is famous. Bhaskara Raya Mandali of Chennai, are among the practitioners of his school. Bhaskararaya’s commentary on Lalita Sahasra nama is said to be one of the greatest commentaries.  
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[[Bhāskara]] Rāya from Bijāpur area of Karnātaka was a great Śrī Vidyā practitioner in the recent centuries. He belonged to 18th century. He lived in Vāranāsi for many years, and there are many stories about his devotion and the Mother’s divine grace over him. He was famous as a practitioner and an exponent of Śrī Vidyā in his times, and later. His name marks a lineage of practice in Śrī Vidyā. To this date, many generations after his times, Bhāskara Rāya lineage is famous. Bhāskara Rāya Mandali of Chennai, are among the practitioners of his school. Bhāskararāya’s commentary on Lalita Sahasra nama is said to be one of the greatest commentaries.  
  
Sri Muthuswamy Dikshitar who lived in 18-19 centuries was another exponent of Sri Vidya tradition. He was a multi-faceted personality, a genius. He was a great musician, a devotee, a Vedantist, expert in Mantra Sastra and a scholar. He belonged to Dakshinamutry tradition of Sri Vidya practice. (There are three main traditions in Sri Vidya, called Dakshinamurty, Ananda Bhairava and Hayagriva traditions.) He called Devi Kamalamba, and composed kritis (songs in Carnatic music) that extol the greatness of Her. Since they follow the progression in the worship of Sri Cakra, they are called as Navavarana Kritis. Kamalamba is the main deity in the temple at Tiruvavur whom he worshiped during his stay there. It was during that time he composed the songs, which expound Sri Vidya Tantra in an unmatched way. The songs that praise the deities in each enclosure of Sri Yantra, are composed in a separate Raga. So nine Ragas were used to compose the songs. Another uniqueness of these hymns is that they have different vibhaktis [Vibhakti is the suffix added to noun, that determines the role and state of noun, such as singular/plural, subject/actor. In Sanskrit, verb/noun is self-sufficient, and does not depend on other words. For instance, Rama, “Rama did”, “By Rama”, “Rama’s”, “to Rama” all these are independent words like Ramah, Ramasya, Ramou, Rame. And these words are formed by appending different vibhaktis to the word-root Rama. There are eight vibhaktis and one common to all. These nine forms are used by Sri Dikshitar in his songs corresponding to the nine enclosures of Sri Yantra].  
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Śrī Muthuswamy Dikshitar who lived in 18-19 centuries was another exponent of Śrī Vidyā tradition. He was a multi-faceted personality, a genius. He was a great musician, a devotee, a Vedāntist, expert in Mantra Śāstra and a scholar. He belonged to Dakśiṇamūrti tradition of Śrī Vidyā practice. (There are three main traditions in Śrī Vidyā, called Dakśiṇamūrti, ānanda [[Bhairava]] and Hayagriva traditions.) He called Devi Kamalāmba, and composed kritis (songs in Carnātic [[music]]) that extol the greatness of Her. Since they follow the progression in the worship of Śrī Cakra, they are called as Navavārana Kritis. Kamalāmba is the main deity in the temple at Tiruvāvur whom he worshiped during his stay there. It was during that time he composed the songs, which expound Śrī Vidyā Tantra in an unmatched way. The songs that praise the deities in each enclosure of Śrī Yantra, are composed in a separate Rāga. So, nine Rāgas were used to compose the songs. Another uniqueness of these hymns is that they have different vibhaktis [Vibhakti is the suffix added to noun, that determines the role and state of noun, such as singular/plural, subject/actor. In Sanskrit, verb/noun is self-sufficient, and does not depend on other words. For instance, Rāma, “Rāma did”, “By Rāma”, “Rāma’s”, “to Rāma” all these are independent words like Rāmah, Rāmasya, Rāmou, Rāme. And these words are formed by appending different vibhaktis to the word-root Rāma. There are eight vibhaktis and one common to all. These nine forms are used by Śrī Dikshitar in his songs corresponding to the nine enclosures of Śrī Yantra].  
  
Another great exponent of Sakta Tantra of the previous century is Kavyakantha Vasistha Ganapati. He is said to have worshiped many forms of Devi, including Sri Vidya, Chinnamasta and Tara. He contributed greatly in spreading and popularizing worship of Devi, initiated thousands of seekers into these schools. His disciples have in turn done that, along with establishing ashramas for the same. He was an associate of Ramana Maharshi of Arunacalam (Tamil Nadu). He produced great literature not only on Sakta but on Vedic knowledge in general. His consort was a teacher herself, and was primarily a Sri Vidya practitioner. Kapali Sastry, a disciple of both Sri Aurobindo and Kavyakantha Vasistha Ganapati, was a Sri Vidya practitioner too. He was the author of Siddhanjana, a commentary on Rigveda.  
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Another great exponent of Śāktā Tantra of the previous century is Kāvyakāntha Vasiśtha Gaṇapati. He is said to have worshiped many forms of Devi, including Śrī Vidyā, Chinnamasta and Tāra. He contributed greatly in spreading and popularizing worship of Devi, initiated thousands of seekers into these schools. His disciples have in turn done that, along with establishing āśramas for the same. He was an associate of Ramana Maharśhi of Arunācalam (Tamil Nadu). He produced great literature not only on Śāktā but on Vedic knowledge in general. His consort was a teacher herself, and was primarily a Śrī Vidyā practitioner. Kapāli Śāstry, a disciple of both Śrī Aurobindo and Kāvyakāntha Vasiśtha Gaṇapati, was a Śrī Vidyā practitioner too. He was the author of Siddhanjana, a commentary on [[Rigveda]].  
  
The previous head of Kanci matha, Late Sri Candra Sekharendra Saraswati, was a great exponent of Sri Vidya. He also gave an elaborate commentary on the Soundarya Lahari hymn.  
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The previous head of Kanci maṭhā, late Śrī [[Candra]] Śekharendra Sarasvati, was a great exponent of Śrī Vidyā. He also gave an elaborate commentary on the [[Soundarya Lahari]] hymn.  
  
There are different levels of practice in Sri Vidya. Usually, practitioners are initiated with Bala mantra first. After some practice, they will be initiated to Pancadasi or Shodasi, and Khadgamala. Khadgamala is the hymn, which is used to worship Sri Cakra. It enumerates the names of deities in each enclosure of the Sri Cakra. They are worshiped in the order they come in the hymn. Beyond, there are different stages like Paduka deeksha (roughly translated as the worship of Devi’s shoes). However, many will be happy in continuing their worship at one of these stages, without necessarily taking the later initiations. There are seers who do Pancadasi, Shodasi, Khadgamala, Paduka deeksha or even Bala alone. Tadepalli Raghava Narayana Sastry and Addanki Krishna Murthy of previous century are examples of people who worshiped Bala. There is also a practice of worshiping Devi with Sri Sukta.  
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There are different levels of practice in Śrī Vidyā. Usually, practitioners are initiated with [[Bala]] mantra first. After some practice, they will be initiated to Pancadāsi or Śodasi, and Khadgamāla. Khadgamāla is the hymn, which is used to worship Śrī Cakra. It enumerates the names of deities in each enclosure of the Śrī Cakra. They are worshiped in the order they come in the hymn. Beyond, there are different stages like Pāduka dīkśa (roughly translated as the worship of Devi’s shoes). However, many will be happy in continuing their worship at one of these stages, without necessarily taking the later initiations. There are seers who do Pancadāsi, Śodasi, Khadgamāla, Pāduka dīkśa or even Bāla alone. Tādepalli Rāghava Nārāyana Śāstry and Addanki [[Krishna]] Murthy of previous century are examples of people who worshiped Bāla. There is also a practice of worshiping Devi with Śrī Sukta.  
  
Worship is done in many modes. Some worship everyday and some do collective worship on occasions. However some serious practitioners follow deeksha, for a certain period of time. During that, they follow severe austerities, worship Devi with red flowers and kunkum (vermilion), wear red clothes during worship and sleep on the floor. Being red in hue Herself, such practice is said to please Devi.  
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Worship is done in many modes. Some worship everyday and some do collective worship on occasions. However some serious practitioners follow dīkśa, for a certain period of time. During that, they follow severe austerities, worship Devi with red flowers and kunkum (vermilion), wear red clothes during worship and sleep on the floor. Being red in hue Herself, such practice is said to please Devi.  
  
In recent years in Andhra Pradesh there started a practice of collective worship of Lalita, chanting and worship with Lalita Sahasra Nama hymn. This is done in various occasions and regularly (weekly) in groups by many. They include Laksha Kunkumarcana, in which a hundred thousand names of the Mother are chanted along with worship with Kunkum. (Sahasra nama hymn having thousand names is chanted hundred times – ten times each by ten persons). While there is a general trend of rise in Sakta practices, most of them follow Sri Vidya. There is also a general practice to worship Lakshmi in Sri Cakra domestically.  
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In recent years in Andhra Pradesh there started a practice of collective worship of Lalita, chanting and worship with Lalita Sahasra Nama hymn. This is done in various occasions and regularly (weekly) in groups by many. They include Lakśa Kunkumārcana, in which a hundred thousand names of the Mother are chanted along with worship with Kunkum. (Sahasra nāma hymn having thousand names is chanted hundred times – ten times each by ten persons). While there is a general trend of rise in Śāktā practices, most of them follow Śrī Vidyā. There is also a general practice to worship Lakśmi in Śrī Cakra domestically.  
  
Though there is a different Yantra for different Sakta deities like Durga and Lakshmi, it came to be a practice that any form of Devi is worshiped in Sri Cakra in Sri Vidya procedure. In some places both Candi Navarna and Sri Vidya procedures are followed, for example Kanci. The main priests of all these temples are usually initiated into Sri Vidya.  
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Though there is a different Yantra for different Śāktā deities like Durga and Lakśmi, it came to be a practice that any form of Devi is worshiped in Śrī Cakra in Śrī Vidyā procedure. In some places both Candi Navarna and Śrī Vidyā procedures are followed, for example Kānci. The main priests of all these temples are usually initiated into Śrī Vidyā.  
  
There are many practitioners of Sri Vidya today. They not only initiate many seekers into the path and guide them, but popularize the school through lucid explanations and popular discourses, collective worship. Some of the famous teachers and practitioners include Dr Sri Veerabhadra Mahadev and Sri Samavedam Shanmukha Sarma. Sri Mahadev is primarily a teacher and practitioner of Sri Vidya. Sri Shanmukha Sarma has reached out to people through his discourses, about the practice of religion. His discourses include praises and expounding the philosophy of all the major schools, Vishnu, Devi and Siva. He is a living example of how, having experienced the deeper reality, one can easily understand and see the same spiritual philosophy in different religions or theistic schools like Vaishnava, Saiva, Sakta. The same holds true in case of many seers – Vasistha Ganapati, Ramana Maharshi, Sri Aurobindo, Kapali Sastry, Candra Sekharendra Saraswati.
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There are many practitioners of Śrī Vidyā today. They not only initiate many seekers into the path and guide them, but popularize the school through lucid explanations and popular discourses, collective worship. Some of the famous teachers and practitioners include Dr Śrī Vīrabhadra Mahādev and Śrī Samavedam Śanmukha Śarma. Śrī Mahādev is primarily a teacher and practitioner of Śrī Vidyā. Śrī Śanmukha Śarma has reached out to people through his discourses, about the practice of religion. His discourses include praises and expounding the philosophy of all the major schools, Viṣṇu, Devi and Śiva. He is a living example of how, having experienced the deeper reality, one can easily understand and see the same spiritual philosophy in different religions or theistic schools like Vaiśṇava, Śaiva, Śāktā. The same holds true in case of many seers – Vasiśṭha Gaṇapati, [[Rama]]ṇa Maharshi, Śrī Aurobindo, Kapāli Śāstry, Candra Śekharendra Sarasvati.
  
== Mantra Vidyas in Sri Vidya ==
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== Mantra Vidyās in Śrī Vidyā ==
  
There are several mantra vidyas that are practiced as part of Sri Vidya worship. Broadly, there are two kinds of mantras – mula vidyas (the central or root vidyas) and anga vidyas (subsidiary vidyas).  
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There are several mantra Vidyās that are practiced as part of Śrī Vidyā worship. Broadly, there are two kinds of mantras – mūla Vidyās (the central or root Vidyās) and anga Vidyās (subsidiary Vidyās).  
  
=== Mula Vidyas ===
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=== Mūla Vidyās ===
  
There are four main or mula vidyas in Sri Vidya
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There are four main or mūla Vidyās in Śrī Vidyā
  
(a) Gayatri: Vedic Gayatri, the primary Vidya that one is initiated into, before the Sri Vidya mantras like Bala or Pancadasi.  
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(a) Gāyatri: Vedic Gāyatri, the primary Vidyā that one is initiated into, before the Śrī Vidyā mantras like Bāla or Pancadāsi.  
  
(b) Bala: The three lettered Vidya. The presiding devata, Bala Maha Tripura Sundari, is a child. Bala is said to be one of the most attractive and wonderful forms of Devi. Holding book and japa mala and sitting in a white flower, She presides over knowledge and bliss, and grants all the boons that the devotees ask for. It is a general practice to initiate Sri Vidya practitioners into Bala before initiating them into Pancadasi. However there are several sadhakas who are happier practicing Bala Vidya alone and have attained salvation. There are multiple Bala mantras, such as the Mala mantra and Bala Hridayam.  
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(b) Bāla: The three lettered Vidyā. The presiding [[devata]], Bāla Mahā Tripura Sundari, is a child. Bāla is said to be one of the most attractive and wonderful forms of Devi. Holding book and [[japa]] mala and sitting in a white flower, She presides over knowledge and bliss, and grants all the boons that the devotees ask for. It is a general practice to initiate Śrī Vidyā practitioners into Bāla before initiating them into Pancadāsi. However there are several sādakās who are happier practicing Bāla Vidyā alone and have attained salvation. There are multiple Bāla mantras, such as the Māla mantra and Bāla Hridayam.  
  
(c) Pancadasi: Pancadasi is the famous fifteen lettered Sri Vidya mantra. Dakshinamurty is said to be the seer of Pancadasi. There are several variations to pancadasi. There are twelve major variations, and are called dwadasa vidyas in Pancadasi. First two of them are the famous “ka-adi” vidya (begininning with ka) and “ha-adi” Vidya (begininning with ha). The remaining ten are said to be practiced by, and hence named after Manu, Candra, Kubera, Agastya, Nandikeswara, Surya, Indra, Vishnu, Sankara and Durvasa.  
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(c) Pancadāsi: Pancadāsi is the famous fifteen lettered Śrī Vidyā mantra. Dakśiṇamūrti is said to be the seer of Pancadāsi. There are several variations to Pancadāsi. There are twelve major variations, and are called dvādasa Vidyās in Pancadāsi. First two of them are the famous “ka-adi” Vidyā (begininning with ka) and “ha-adi” Vidyā (begininning with ha). The remaining ten are said to be practiced by, and hence named after Manu, Candra, Kubera, Agastya, Nandikesvara, Surya, Indra, Viṣṇu, Śankara and Durvāsa.  
  
The Pancadasi is set of three putis or groups of beejas. Each puti is said to represent a level of consicousness, a kuta in mantra Sastra, and a granthi in kundalini yoga and in general a level in sadhana. Each puti ends with Maya or Bhuvaneswari beeja. Symbolically Devi is called Tri-pura Sundari, since there are three Bhuvanas or Puras She is ruling. Presiding Devatas of mantras with Maya beeja are usually pleasant forms, and Tripura Sundari is one of the most pleasant and beautiful forms.  
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The Pancadāsi is set of three putis or groups of bījas. Each puti is said to represent a level of consicousness, a kuta in mantra Śāstra, and a granthi in Kunḍalini yoga and in general a level in sadhana. Each puti ends with Māya or Bhuvanesvari bīja. Symbolically Devi is called Tripura Sundari, since there are three Bhuvanās or Puras She is ruling. Presiding Devatās of mantras with Māya bīja are usually pleasant forms, and Tripura Sundari is one of the most pleasant and beautiful forms.  
  
(d) Shodasi: Shodasi is the sixteen lettered Sri Vidya. Pancadasi with an additional beeja (usually Sri beeja) becomes Shodasi. Tripura Sundari, the presiding Devata is said to be sixteen years old. Practitioners say that there is no form of Devata which is more beautiful and pleasant than Shodasi. The very incarnation of Devi in this form is to restore desire, creation and bliss in the world.
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(d) Śodasi: Śodasi is the sixteen lettered Śrī Vidyā. Pancadāsi with an additional bīja (usually Śrī bīja) becomes Śodasi. Tripura Sundari, the presiding Devata is said to be sixteen years old. Practitioners say that there is no form of Devata which is more beautiful and pleasant than Śodasi. The very incarnation of Devi in this form is to restore desire, creation and bliss in the world.
  
=== Anga Vidyas ===
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=== Anga Vidyās ===
  
The several subsidiary vidyas of SriVidya are arranged into six Amnayas. Amnaya means Veda/Agama, and in Saiva there are five Amnayas. They are represented by the five faces of Siva facing Purva (eastwards), Dakshina(southwards), Pascima (westwards), Uttara (northwards) and Urdhva (upwards). In Sri Vidya there is a sixth Amnaya called Anuttara. Each Amnaya is associated with a guru mandala and several vidyas, astra kamya and para. Besides, all the vidyas are grouped at different levels. Some of the major vidyas are listed below.  
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The several subsidiary Vidyās of ŚrīVidyā are arranged into six Amnayās. Amnayā means Veda/Agama, and in Saiva there are five Amnayās. They are represented by the five faces of Śiva facing Purva (eastwards), Dakṣiṇa(southwards), Pascima (westwards), Uttara (northwards) and Urdhva (upwards). In Śrī Vidyā there is a sixth Amnaya called Anuttara. Each Amnaya is associated with a guru mandala and several Vidyās, [[astra]] kamya and para. Besides, all the Vidyās are grouped at different levels. Some of the major Vidyās are listed below.  
  
 
==== Purvamnaya ====
 
==== Purvamnaya ====
  
The Purvamnaya contains vidyas for  
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The Purvamnaya contains Vidyās for  
  
 
* three gurus sva-guru, parama guru and paramesthi guru  
 
* three gurus sva-guru, parama guru and paramesthi guru  
* four peethas or seats of Devi, called Kamagiri, Purnagiri, Jalandhara and Odyana  
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* four peethas or seats of Devi, called Kāmagiri, Purnagiri, Jalandhara and Odyana  
* Ganapati , various forms of Syamala, Mrityunjaya, Pratyangira  
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* Gaṇapati , various forms of Śyāmala, Mrityunjaya, Pratyangira  
  
==== Dakshinamnaya ====
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==== Dakṣiṇamnaya ====
  
Dakshinamnaya contains vidyas for  
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Dakṣiṇamnaya contains Vidyās for  
  
 
* eight Bhairavas  
 
* eight Bhairavas  
* nine Siddhas
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* nine Siddhās
* three Vatukas (celibates)  
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* three Vatukās (celibates)  
* the two feet of Devi, the prakasha and vimarsa
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* the two feet of Devi, the prakāśa and vimarśa
* forms of Bagala, Varahi, Dakshinamurty and Pasupata
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* forms of Bagala, Vārāhi, Dakśiṇamūrti and Paśupata
  
 
==== Pascimamnaya ====
 
==== Pascimamnaya ====
  
Pascimamnaya contains vidyas for  
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Pascimamnaya contains Vidyās for  
  
* ten Duti Devatas (messenger Devatas)  
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* ten Duti Devatās (messenger Devatās)  
* three mandalas (the Agni-Surya-Soma mandalas representing three putis of Sri Vidya)  
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* three mandalās (the Agni-Surya-Soma mandalās representing three putis of Śrī Vidyā)  
* ten veera Bhairavas or warriors  
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* ten vīra Bhairavās or warriors  
 
* sixty four siddhas  
 
* sixty four siddhas  
* forms and associate Devatas of Vishnu
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* forms and associate Devatās of Viṣṇu
* nine grahas
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* nine grahās
* Sura mantras or mantras for Devatas like Indra  
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* Sura mantras or mantras for Devatās like Indra  
  
 
==== Uttaramnaya ====
 
==== Uttaramnaya ====
  
Uttaramnaya contains vidyas for  
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Uttaramnaya contains Vidyās for  
  
* Mudra Navakam or mantras for nine mudras
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* Mudra Navakam or mantras for nine mudrās
* Viravali or the five presiding Devatas of the universe (Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, Isvara and Sadasiva)  
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* Viravāli or the five presiding Devatās of the universe (Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Īśvara and SadaŚiva)  
* Forms of Durga, Candi, Kali etc.  
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* Forms of Durga, Candi, Kāli etc.  
  
 
==== Urdhvamnaya ====
 
==== Urdhvamnaya ====
  
Urdhvamnaya has vidyas for  
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Urdhvamnaya has Vidyās for  
  
* Malini or Matrika varna mala (the alphabet mantras)  
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* Mālini or Mātrika varna māla (the alphabet mantras)  
 
* Guru Mandala  
 
* Guru Mandala  
* Para Vidyas like Para Sambhavi, Paramba, Para Shodasi, Khecari, Ajapa, Tarakamba, Nishkala
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* Para Vidyās like Para Sāmbhavi, Paramba, Para Śodasi, Khecari, Ajapa, Tvrakāmba, Niśkala
  
 
==== Anuttaramnaya ====
 
==== Anuttaramnaya ====
  
Anuttaramnaya has vidyas for  
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Anuttaramnaya has Vidyās for  
  
* Catushpaat or Gayatri of four feet  
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* Catuśpāt or Gāyatri of four feet  
* Shodasi
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* Śodasi
* Various forms of nyasa, sankalpa and paduka vidyas
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* Various forms of nyāsa, sankalpa and pāduka Vidyās
  
==== Nitya Devatas ====
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==== Nitya Devatās ====
  
There are fifteen Nitya Devatas who preside over each day between a full moon and a new moon day. Each Nitya Devata is worshiped through a Vidya named after Her. They are  
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There are fifteen Nitya Devatās who preside over each day between a full moon and a new moon day. Each Nitya Devata is worshiped through a Vidyā named after Her. They are  
  
* Kameswari
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* Kāmeśvari
* Bhagamalini
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* Bhāgamālini
 
* Nityaklinna  
 
* Nityaklinna  
 
* Bherunda  
 
* Bherunda  
* Vahnivasini
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* Vahnivāsini
* Mahavidyeswari
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* Mahāvidyeśvari
* Sivaduti
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* Śivaduti
 
* Tvarita  
 
* Tvarita  
 
* Kula Sundari  
 
* Kula Sundari  
 
* Nitya  
 
* Nitya  
* Neela Pataka
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* Nīla Pātaka
 
* Vijaya  
 
* Vijaya  
 
* Sarva Mangala  
 
* Sarva Mangala  
* Jvala Malini
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* Jvāla Mālini
 
* Vicitra
 
* Vicitra
  
 
== Texts ==
 
== Texts ==
  
The Tantric texts like Rudra Yamala expound Sri Vidya. Khadgamala Stotra, is the map and worship of Sri Cakra. Besides there are several Sri Kula texts in the oral traditions, either as compilations or as part of the mantra sastra texts like Mantra Mahodadhi, Mantra Maharnava and sakta texts.  A few of these texts are listed below -  
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The Tantric texts like Rudra Yamala expound Śrī Vidyā. Khadgamāla [[Stotra]], is the map and worship of Śrī Cakra. Besides there are several Śrī Kula texts in the oral traditions, either as compilations or as part of the mantra Śāstra texts like Mantra Mahodādhi, Mantra Mahārnava and Śāktā texts.  A few of these texts are listed below -  
* Kamakala vilasa
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* Kāmakala vilāsa
* Tantraraja tantra  
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* Tantrarāja tantra  
* Tripurarnava tantra  
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* Tripurārnava tantra  
* Sri Vidyarnava tantra  
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* Śrī Vidyārnava tantra  
* Jnanarnava tantra  
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* Jnanārnava tantra  
* Dakshinamurti samhita  
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* Dakṣiṇamurti samhita  
 
* Gandharva tantra  
 
* Gandharva tantra  
 
* Nitya shodashikarnava  
 
* Nitya shodashikarnava  
 
* Yogini hridaya.  
 
* Yogini hridaya.  
  
Brahmanda Purana has the story of Lalita slaying Bhandasura. The Lalita Sahasra Nama in Brahmanda Purana expounds Sri Vidya. Bhaskara Raya's Varivasya Rahasya, a commentary on the Sahasra nama is a comprehensive text on Sri Vidya. Lalita Trisati, which is also found in the same Purana, is the hymn form of Pancadasi Mantra. Sri Sukta, a hymn of Rig Veda found in its Khila part is also used in Sri Vidya worship. In fact Tripura Tapini Upanishad, an entire Upanishad is dedicated to Her. Adi Sankara's prapanca sara tantra mentions some of the Sri Vidya mantras. Devi Bhagavata describes Mani dwipa, which according to Sri Vidya is the Mother's abode.
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Brahmānda Purāṇā has the story of Lalita slaying Bhanḍāsura. The Lalita Sahasra Nama in Brahmānda Purāṇā expounds Śrī Vidyā. [[Bhāskara]] Rvya's Varivāsya Rahasya, a commentary on the Sahasra nvma is a comprehensive text on Śrī Vidyā. Lalita Trisati, which is also found in the same Purāṇā, is the hymn form of Pancadāsi Mantra. Śrī Sukta, a hymn of [[Rig Veda]] found in its Khila part is also used in Śrī Vidyā worship. In fact Tripura Tapini [[Upanishad]], an entire Upanishad is dedicated to Her. Ādi Śankara's prapanca sāra tantra mentions some of the Śrī Vidyā mantras. Devi [[Bhāgavata]] describes Mani [[dvīpa]], which according to Śrī Vidyā is the Mother's abode.
  
 
==Notes==
 
==Notes==
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== Bibliographies ==
 
== Bibliographies ==
  
# Sri Lalita Devi Caritra by Jagadguru Sri Siddheswarananda Swami, Published in Telugu by Swayamsiddha Kali Peetham, Guntur  
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# Śrī Lalita Devi [[Caritra]] by Jagadguru Śrī Siddheswarananda Swami, Published in Telugu by Swayamsiddha Kali Peetham, Guntur  
# Sri Guru Samsmarana, The Souvenir on Centenary of Sri C V Swami Sastriji
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# Śrī Guru Samsmarana, The Souvenir on Centenary of Śrī C V Swami Sastriji

Revision as of 15:43, 28 November 2012

Śrī Vidyā is one of the most comprehensive and popular Vidyās in Śāktā. In the context of Hindu spiritual practices, a Vidyā can be defined as the worship of a God/Goddess. Literally Vidyā means learning; it is from the word-root “vid” - to know. Knowledge is called Veda, and learning is called Vidyā. This includes the knowledge to be gained, different stages in the process of gaining such knowledge, the purpose of such knowledge, the procedure and practices for learning, pitfalls and corrective measures and so on. Worship of a God is the gradual process of elevating the level of consciousness of the worshipper into that of the God, realizing the God and His nature. Therefore the knowledge and worship of each God is called a Vidyā. Thus Śrī Vidyā is the knowledge and worship of Mother Goddess Śrī Devi. She is also called Śrī Māta (Mother Śrī), Tripura sundari.

“Śrī” means prosperity, auspiciousness, divinity. Śrī Devi is the Divine Mother who bestows bliss and plentitude on Her devotees. In Veda, She is praised as Śrī. Vedic knowledge diversified and developed into different schools like śmarta (following śmritis like Dharma Śāstras), Śrauta (studying śruti or Veda), Paurānika (following śmritis like Purāṇās) and so on. Tantra is another school of practices that combines methods of worship with philosophy and theology. With these developments, Śrī Devi came to be known and worshiped in different forms. In Purāṇās, Śrī is called Laksmi, the Goddess of wealth and prosperity. The worship of Śrī Māta or Tripura sundari, developed as Śrī Vidyā, one of the major cults in Śāktā Tantras. The kaula-practitioners of Śrī Vidyā differentiate it as Śrī Kula Tantra, while Śrī Vidyā Tantra is the general name used by all the Śrī Vidyā practitioners.

Tripura sundari literally means the most beautiful lady of three worlds. Mother Śrī is said to be the most beautiful Goddess among all God-forms. Tripura sundari is worshiped in different names and forms, like Lalita, Bāla, Rāja Rājeswari.


Lalita Upakhyāna – The Story of Lalita Tripura sundari

In Brahmānda Purāṇā, the story of Lalita Tripura sundari is narrated by Lord Hayagrīva (the horse-headed form of Lord Viṣṇu) to the great seer Agastya. Here is a brief of it.

There is a popular story in which Manmatha, the presiding deity of desire, is turned into ashes by the fire of Lord Śiva’s third eye. From those ashes, a demon by the name Bhanḍāsura emerges. He acquires many powers through penance and defeats the army of Gods. He lived in his capital Śūnyaka, constructed for him by Māyāśura, the architect of demons.

Unable to withstand the might of Bhanḍāsura, the gods had nowhere to go. Nārada advises them to worship Śakti, the divine Mother. The gods worship the mother and perform a sacrifice to propitiate Her. The Mother emerges from the fire altar to fulfill the wishes of the gods and to dispel their fear. Since She emerged from the fire altar, She is called Agni Kunḍa Samudbhava. As She emerged to protect the gods and to fulfill their aspirations, She is called deva kārya samudyata. She is red in hue, the most beautiful Goddess. Lord Śiva assumes the form of Kāmeśvara , and takes Her as His consort.

She then set out for destroying Bhanḍa and his armies. She is accompanied by Rāja Mātangi, Her minister on the one side. Rāja Mātangi is also called Rāja Śyāmala, Mantriṇī and Nakuli. On the other side Vārāhi accompanied Her, the general of the Mother’s armies. Vārāhi is also called Dandanāta. They were followed by the gods and their armies.

They announced war on Bhanḍāsura’s capital, Śūnyaka, and there was a fierce battle. Vārāhi and Śyāmala started demolishing the armies of Bhanḍa and killing his generals. Bhanḍa sent his sons to arrest the attack of the divine armies, the eldest of them being Caturbāhu (having four hands). Bāla Mahā Tripura sundari, the child-form of the Mother, volunteered to fight Bhanḍa’s sons and killed them.

After this, Bhanḍa’s brothers Viṣañga and Viśukra, who were earlier vanquished and fled from the field, came back to fight Śrī Devi’s armies. Bhanḍa also applied a mystical contrivance to obstruct the march of Devi’s armies, called vighna yantra (literally the machine of obstacles). When the Mother was merely glanced with love by the Lord Kāmeśvara , She gave birth to Gaṇeśa (this is described as Kāmeśvara mukhāloka kalpita Śrī Gaṇeśvarā). Gaṇeśa destroyed the vighna yantra much to the happiness of the divine armies. Then Bhanḍa inspired demon Gajāśura to fight Gaṇeśa, who was also killed by Him. The divine armies of Śrī Devi marched forward and Viṣañga was slain in this encounter by Mother Mantriṇī and Viśukra by Vārāhi.

Bhanḍa faced the Mother directly, attacking Her with weapons inspired by mystical powers. Śrī Devi destroyed his weapons with weapons inspired by the ten forms of Mahā Viṣṇu, that emerged instantly from the ten nails of Her hands. Weapon inspired by Pasupati (a form of Lord Śiva) demolished the demonic armies. Finally the weapon inspired by Mahā Kāmeśvara , destroyed Bhanḍāsura along with his capital Śūnyaka.

The Mother was applauded and worshiped along with Lord Kāmeśvara .

Description of the Mother and Her Abode

The Mother is said to be red in hue (Aruna). Her abode is Manidwīpa, the island of gems and pearls. It is also called Śrī Nagara. It is not reachable even for Gods like Indra. It is through Her grace alone, that one can reach Her abode. She, along with Lord Kāmeswara, is worshiped there by lakhs of Her attendant deities. She is called Kāmakalā, the manifestation of desire. Out of desire for cosmic sport She acts. Out of desire for pleasing the Lord, and union with the Lord She plays. Ever smiling, blissful and granting the boons of Her devotees, She is praised as personification of grace, bliss and mercy. She rules the universe and all aspects are Hers. All the beings, including the gods, act by Her inspiration and mercy.

In a verse meant for meditation on the Mother, She is described as:

sindūrāruṇa vigrahām trinayanām māṇikya mauLisphurat tārā nāyaka śekharām smita mukhīm āpīna vakṣoruhām pāṇibyām aLi pūrṇa ratna caṣakam raktotpalam bibhratīm soumyām ratna ghaṭastha rakta caraṇām dhyāyet parām ambikām

Meaning the seeker meditates on the Mother (ambika), who is eternal (para), saffron-red in hue (Sindhūrāruna vigrahā), having crown embedded with gems (mānikya mauli), with Moon as an adornment over the head (tāra nāyaka sekharā), three eyed (trinayanā), ever smiling (śmita mukhi), having high breasts (āpīna vakshoruhā), with hands holding jeweled wine cup and red flowers (PāNibyam aLi pūrna ratna casakam raktotpalam bibratī), ever soft and peaceful (soumyā), with Her red lotus feet rested on a gem-decked pedestal (ratna ghataśta rakta caranā).

Arunām karunā tarangitākshīm dhruta pasa ankusa puspa bāna cāpām aNimādibhirāvrutām mayūkhaiH ahamityeva vibhāvaye bhavanīm

Meaning the seeker is meditating on the Mother, red in hue, colored and shining as Sun God, whose looks shower waves of grace and mercy, with hands holding noose, goad and cane-bow that shoots flower-arrows, with Goddesses with mystical powers in the outer rungs of Her palace-city.

The first verse meditates on the Mother from head to feet. It is a general practice to meditate, describe and worship male forms or deities from feet to head upwards, and female forms or deities from head to feet downwards. Also, the Mother’s feet are said to be the abode of devotee, his ultimate destination. The second verse is about the aspects of Śrī Vidyā, which are explained through the powers of Goddesses, the weapons held.

The Origin and Philosophy of Śrī Vidyā

Lalita Sahasra nāma in Brahmānda Purāṇā, the hymn that praises the Mother with Her 1000 names, gives comprehensive description of Śrī Vidyā, its philosophy and methods. Besides, it is called yoga sahasra, which explains the secrets of all forms of yoga, and consciousness studies.

Śrī Vidyā is a well developed form of Śāktā Tantra. The various constituent Vidyās are well organized and arranged in a more systematic hierarchy compared to other sampradāyas. śaundarya Lahari, a hymn composed in praise of the Mother in a hundred verses, is said to be one of the most beautiful and profound explanations of Śrī Vidyā. Śrī Vidyā is followed by śmārta as well as Tantric schools. There is no clear separation between them. śmriti followers are said to be śmārtas. They follow elements of tantra to the extent that they do not contradict śmritis.

Śrī Vidyā is found in the Rig Veda as Śrī Sukta, the hymn with 15 verses. It is said that this is fashioned after pancadāśi, the central Mantra of Śrī Vidyā. Śrī Sukta, with its application of single-syllable bījas (like īm, kām, srīm), appears more in line with the Śāktā Mantra Śāstra than the classical Rig Vedic Mantra Śāstra.

Śrī Vidyā tantra has two major Vidyās, pancadāśi and Shodaśi. Pancadāśi is the mantra with 15 syllables. Shodaśi is the mantra with 16 syllables. Shodaśi is one of the 10 disciplines of Śāktā tantra, called dasa mahā Vidyās. The Vidyā is called triputi, having three parts. They are Agni (fire), Surya (sun) and Candra (moon) khāndas (parts). The Mother is said to shine in these three worlds.

Also, Lalita, Śyāmala and Vārāhi symbolize the powers of Śrī Devi’s divine will (icchā śakti), knowledge (jnāna śakti) and action (kriyā śakti). Lalita Herself is the power of divine will, her associates Mātangi and Vārāhi represent the powers of knowledge and action respectively. This is evident from their roles – Lalita is the ruler, Matāngi the minister and Vārāhi the general.

Śrī Sukta, for the same reason, praises the Mother as Suryā (Sun) and Candrā (Moon). It does not praise Her as Agni, but the Sukta itself is addressed to Agni.

Vedic and Paurānic Concept

In the Vedic theology, there are two main deities that we find: Agni and Indra. Agni is the central deity of the Veda, and Indra is the head-deity. Agni is the face of Gods, and all Vedic worship is offered to various Gods through Agni. Thus Agni is central. And the Lord of all deities is Indra, thus Indra is the head-deity or the Godhead.

We can compare this, to the way in a family the husband is head of the family and the wife is the center of the family connecting and managing the entire family.

In Saiva - Śāktā parlance, we find Śiva-Śakti dual to be similar to this. Śiva is Īśvara, the Lord. He is the guiding principle. Śakti is pervading, the principle of manifestation, causing creation, sustaining and dissolving it. She does it, inspired by and for the Lord. Vedic Indra can be seen as Īśvara and Vedic Agni, the divine will, can be seen as Śakti in Saiva - Śāktā parlance. The close association of the Mother with Vedic Agni is further explained through Her epithets like Agni Kunḍa samudbhava (discussed above), Agni Sikha (having fire for Her hair). The symbolism of Lalita Herself assuming the form of the power of divine will reinforces this idea.

Further, triputi is directly related to the Vedic theology. In the Paurānic trimurty concept, Brahma, Viṣṇu and Rudra preside over creation, sustenance and dissolution functions. They are representatives of Śatva, Rajas and Tamas. According to Yaksa, they derive from the Vedic triplet Agni (Fire God), Āditya (Sun God) and Vāyu (Air God). The older Śāktā schools like Candi (Mother Durga) speak of this triplet. In the more recent Śrī Vidyā, the corresponding aspect of Vāyu finds a replacement with Śoma (Moon God). Both Vāyu and Soma are aspects of Rudra. However Vāyu signifies strength while Śoma bliss, and therefore the corresponding God/Goddess being worshiped have these qualities too. Thus, while Candi is representative of power and anger, Lalita is a pleasant form.

The three functions of creation, sustenance and dissolution, are further expanded into five functions. They are srusti (creation), śtiti (sustenance), laya (dissolution), tirodana (veiling of individual consciousness through māya) and anugraha (unveiling, making the individual realize the Truth beyond Māya). The Mother presides over these five functions, and hence is called Pancha Krtya Pārāyana. The representatives of these five functions are Brahma (creation), Viṣṇu (sustenance), Rudra (dissolution), Īśvara (veiling) and ŚadāŚiva (unveiling, absolute truth). All these five derive their life force, the strength to act, from the Mother. These five deities are said to form her royal chair, with Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra and Īśvara forming four legs and ŚadāŚiva forming the plank. Hence the Mother is called Pancha Brahmāsanāsīna. Pancha is five, āsana is seat, asīna is having sit on the seat. The five Brahmas are the five deities mentioned.

Without Her, they are lifeless corpses. That is why the Mother is also called Pancha Pretāsanāsīna or seated on the seat of five corpses. Preta means corpse.

Advaita Philosophy

While Śāktā is Advaitic in nature, there is a difference between Śankara Advaita and Advaita of Śāktā Tantra.

There are three main schools that explain the relation between universe and Brahman. One is āramba vada, which says universe has a beginning and an end. Nyāya and Vaisesica follow this. The other schools hold that universe is eternal, its dissolution and next cycle of creation are linked with the continuity of the seed of creation. The second school is Parināma Vāda, which says that the universe is a transformation of Brahman, emerges and dissolves in Brahman. The way a spider’s web comes from it, the universe comes from Brahman. Brahman is the essential substantial (upādana) cause for the universe. Śānkhya, Yoga, Karma Mimāmsa follow this. The third is Vivarta vāda, which says that universe is a manifestation, an appearance over Brahman. Śankara Advaita comes under this. According to him, Brahman is the nominal (nimitta), substantial (upādana) and undifferentiated (abhinna) cause for the world. Śankara Advaita holds that Māya bounds and releases the being. World as it appears, appears because of Māya, and it is not what the world really is. The world, in reality, is Brahman only. Thus when one realizes Brahman and gets beyond the veil of Māya, then only Brahman remains, not the world. Śāktā Tantra holds that Ātman is same as Brahman, like other versions of Advaita, but the universe is real and eternal. It is not just an appearance that gets dissolved with realization. The Mother is primal rhythmic energy, Śakti and not Māya.

Śrī Vidyā is popularized by Śankara. The Vedic followers (who follow śmritis and dharma sāstras) of Śrī Vidyā go by Śankara Advaita. Ātman is always liberated, but appears to be bound because of ignorance caused by Māya over the individual soul. Here Ātman is to be called self. Soul is actually the subtle body that is constituted of subtle senses, mind and intellect. The Causal being of the universe, Īśvara, associated with His consort Māya, rules the universe. The veil of Māya is lifted through the grace of ŚādaŚiva – and the individual being identifies its oneness with Ātman which is beyond Māya.

Sublimation and Consecration

The primary difference between Vedic and Śāktā Tantra philosophies lies in the fact that in Vedic philosophy desire is seen to be transcended. Though desire is not sought to be suppressed by force, it is not seen as a means to transcendence – it is sees as something that is to be grown over.

In Śāktā, Nature, whether it is desire or natural tendency or instinct, is seen as a divine manifestation of the Mother Śakti. It is through fulfillment of it, with the sense that it is divine, as a form of worship of the Mother, that one seeks to please the Mother.

The Vedic practitioners of Śāktā Tantra take a middle path, by praising the Mother as Māya who creates these tendencies to bind the being, seek to be liberated from these by Her grace.

Aspects of Agama

There are two major schools of literature in Hinduism. One is the Vedic literature, consisting of Vedas, various subjects that the Vedas deal with, Purāṇās, Dharma Sāstrās and so on. They deal with theology, spiritual philosophy, procedure and philosophy of rituals, various paths to salvation, code of conduct and righteousness, world views, the subjects one needs to learn to be able to understand such as the science of chanting, grammar, etymology, astronomy and so on. There is another stream of literature that deals primarily with the methods of worship. Though some of these are found in the Brāhmana and Aranyaka portion of the Veda, Mimāmsa (inquiry into the message of Veda), Kalpa Sutrās (code and procedure for rituals), most of the elements practiced in popular Hinduism are from Agamas.

Agamas expound many aspects, including personal worship, temple construction and architecture, Iconography, worship in temple, Vāstu and so on. It is not an exaggeration to say that most of the popular aspects of Hinduism are found in Purānic and Agamic literature. Primarily Agamas are of three schools – Vaishnava, Saiva and Śāktā. They are followed by Vaishnavites, Saivaites and Śāktās respectively. Agama has three parts, Mantra, Tantra and Yantra.

Mantra is a divine word which is chanted repeatedly as part of worship. Yantra in general, is a contrivance inspired by the power of a mantra. In many cases it is a geometric shape, carved on a metal plate or stone or crystal or floor. In case of Śrī Vidyā, it is Śrī Cakra. Tantra is the entire philosophy and procedure of worship. The Tantra expounding Śrī Vidyā is called Śrī Vidyā Tantra, and is found in many Śāktā texts like Prapancha sāra and Rudra Yamala.

Uniquely to Śrī Vidyā, the name of the Vidyā or the Goddess or Yantra does not have a separate name. It is not popularly called Lalita Vidyā or Tripura Sundari Vidyā. The tantra is called Śrī Vidyā, the Yantra Śrī Yantra, the city of the Mother’s residence is called Śrī Nagara. However “Śrī” as we saw means divine and it is like saying divine Yantra, divine city and divine Vidyā, without a specific name of the deity. Every other Vidyā, is explicitly referred to, with the name of its presiding deity, Candi or Viṣṇu or Gaṇapati.

Yoga and Śrī Vidyā Tantra

Though Yoga is a very technical subject and its discussion is mostly restricted to teacher-student disciplines, any introduction to Tantra without the mention of Yoga is incomplete.

There are three major forms of Yoga, Mantra yoga, Laya yoga and Kunḍalini yoga. The aim of all the three is the same, though the methods vary slightly. Śrī Vidyā tantra involves all these three forms of yoga and integrates them.

Mantra Yoga

Sound is produced through contact, vibration and obstruction. This is called āhata. However cosmic hiss if one can hear is eternal and existent. This is called Anāhata. It is not produced by us but only heard. A yogi can hear this. In sādhana one makes the sound oneself (by doing mantra japa), in a rhythm, resonant with the vibrations of his nādis and his breath. Through this one will be able to discover the deeper vibration. This way of merging individual with cosmic is called mantra yoga.

Mantra is said to be the sound-form of Devata (god-form). One realizes Devata through the chanting of mantra in mantra yoga. Mantra yoga concentrates on nada (sound) to strike rhythm between individual and cosmic vibration, to activate the right nādis, to expose one into the cidākāsa or daharākāsa (causal space). Śabda (sound) is the tanmatra (subtle attribute) of mahābhuta (primal element) ākasa (space). And through śabda one tries to turn his vision inwards from ākasa to daharākāsa, through chanting the mantra, by producing sound to slowly listening the anāhata sound without producing it. Eventually when mantra yoga is achieved, one achieves laya yoga also, since his consciousness is directed to daharākāsa where his devata resides.

Pancadāsi, the root mantra of Śrī Vidyā is said to be the sound-form of the Mother. The mantra is divided into three kūtas or parts with five syllables each. The first is called Vāgbhava Kuta, the Mother’s head. The second is called Madhya Kūta, the trunk – from neck to navel. The third is Śakti Kūta, the part below navel.

Saraswati Sūkta of the Rigveda says that Vāk or word is of four forms – Para (eternal), pasyanti (experienced by seer in a state of deep consciousness), madhyama (when it translates as idea in the intellect) and vaikhāri (when it is verbally expressed). Realizing Para Vāk or Nāda Brahman through a regulated chanting of mantra, first externally then mentally and then finally without producing it, is mantra yoga.

Laya Yoga

Meditation is the means in laya yoga. One controls mind through the control of breath, so that full concentration is possible in meditation. Through meditation, one’s consciousness merges in the object of meditation and one realizes Atman. The state, in which the difference between the one who meditates the act of meditation and the object of meditation dissolves, is called samādhi or sāyujya.

One also observes during meditation one’s own being, the different sheaths of consciousness. There are five kosas or sheaths of consciousness of being - annaMāya (physical), prānaMāya (vital-life), manoMāya (mental), vijnānaMāya (intellect-knowledge) and ānandaMāya (causal - blissful). The first is gross, next three constitute subtle and the fifth causal being. The causal being is Īśvara who resides in all beings, along with Māya His consort. She veils the unmanifest form of the divine, Brahman. The Mother is Mahā Māya, who covers the world with veil of ignorance and lifts the veil out of grace, causing the entire play of creation. This is the cosmic sport She does for the Lord, Her līla. Her play, action can be seen in karanākāsa the causal space. She is the moon of that space, and is called Cidākāsa candrika.

Gross (sthula), subtle (sūkshma), causal (kārana) and absolute (turiya) are the four states in which Brāhman manifests. Realizing eternal through meditation is laya yoga. In Laya yoga one, through meditation, identifies himself progressively with the inner sheaths, and finally with the inner most being – ātman. The Mother is said to reside in and beyond the five sheaths – Panca kosāntara sthita. Thus the seeker achieves oneness with the Mother through laya yoga.

Kunḍalini Yoga

In Kunḍalini yoga, one realizes divine consciousness through the activation of the hidden energy of Kunḍalini. There are six centers (cakras) in the spinal channel. Kunḍalini is said to be initially coiled up at mulādhara. She is the Mother. She passes through these six from mulādhara at the bottom of spine to ajna at the forehead, then to the crown of the head (sahasrāra) where individual consciousness fully unites with cosmic consciousness. There, the Mother is said to unite with the Lord. This involves the opening of three knots or granthis in the path, called Brahma granthi, Viṣṇu granthi and Rudra granthi. There is one granthi per two cakras. Mulādhara (pelvic) and swadhisthāna (navel) associate with Brahma granthi, manipura (heart center) and anāhata (midway between neck and solar plexus) associate with Viṣṇu granthi, visuddha (throat) and ajna (center of forehead) associate with Rudra granthi. These three are the triputi discussed above.

The worship of Śrī Cakra with nine levels is also a means to this in Śrī Vidyā. Kunḍalini is said to be completely activated, with the Mother uniting with the Lord at Sahasrāra, when the devotee reaches the bindu of Śrī Cakra.

The union of Mother Kunḍalini with the Lord is the liberation of seeker from Māya. This is possible with anugraha or grace as discussed above, and completes the cycle of births. This is the same as realizing Nada Brahman in mantra yoga, and sāyujya of laya yoga.

Geometry and Worship of Śrī Cakra

Śrī Cakra is worshiped as the Mother Herself. In Śrī Vidyā, there is usually no other idol worshiped other than Śrī Cakra. Even if an idol is worshiped, Śrī Cakra is worshiped along with idol. All the upacāras or offerings are done to the Śrī Cakra.

The worship of Śrī Cakra is done through Devi Khaḍgamāla (literally garland of swords, indicating energy) hymn, which enumerates the deities in each level. In an elaborate worship of Śrī Cakra, each deity at each level is invoked, worshiped and offered oblations. However in a regular worship, it can be done in a much abridged way and Goddesses at each level are worshiped together.

Śrī Cakra is a model of universe, which represents a Śāktā world view. Śrī Cakra or Śrī Nagara is said to be the abode of the Mother, and She is its ruler. It has nine levels called āvaranās. The nine levels are said to be nine levels in evolution of the seeker, beginning from the outer most to the inner most where the Mother resides. Śrī Vidyā tantra explains the Goddesses at each level (or the epithets or aspects of Mother at each level), the method of worship, and the mystical powers one attains through their worship. In the inner most level called bindu resides the Mother with Lord Kāmeśvara . The various petals or lines and their number in each āvarana signify the number of Goddesses worshiped.

Śrī Cakra is worshiped in two and three dimensional forms. Planar Śrī Cakra is called Bhu prastāra (bhu – earth, meaning flat). Three dimensional Śrī Cakra, where the outer most level is the base and each inner level is in elevation over the outer one, with bindu (the inner most triangle) as the peak, as if forming a cone, is called meru prastāra (meru is a mountain, and the name indicates that the figure is similar to a mountain/cone). In an ardha meru or half meru, some of the nine levels are depicted in the same altitude.

Further, the nine are divided into three levels of three enclosures each. The outer most three comprise śrushti Cakra (the orbit of creation). The next three comprise Sthiti Cakra (the orbit of sustenance). The inner most three comprise Samhāra Cakra (the orbit of dissolution).

The geometry and worship of Śrī Cakra is comprehensive and exhaustive. It explains the entire Śāktā world view, its enumeration of the world, its philosophy and practice. Therefore we can only give a cursory glance at it, because otherwise it would become a book by itself.

The outer most level of Śrī Cakra is square shaped, with three concentric squares and four gates on four sides. The next two levels are lotus petals, with sixteen and eight petals respectively. The next five levels are basically nine triangles drawn into each other, producing a total of forty three. These are seen as five levels of 14, 10, 10, 8, 1 triangles as we move inwards. The inner most or ninth level is bindu or a dot. This is also counted as a triangle, making the total count 44.

In each level, the Mother is described as causing those tendencies that bind beings at that level. If one successfully transcends the binding at one level, that is, when he seeks to proceed further without limiting oneself to the powers he gets at that level, then he will move to an inner level. Though all the levels of Śrī Cakra are worshiped every time, one actually transcends or gets elevated to these levels gradually.

Trailokya Mohana

This is the outermost enclosure and has three concentric squares, with four gates on four sides. It is called so because most of the apparently mystic powers can be got here. It is said that even the Gods stop here without proceeding inwards, because their desires are fulfilled by the powers achieved at this level.

The three lines represent ten Mudra, Matrika and Siddhis (mystical powers).

Mudrās are gestures, positions of fingers and hands, which are used for expressing various experiences. In case of worship, they are used as part of worship, to invoke certain experiences. The Mother is called dasa mudra samārādhya in Lalita Sahasra nāma, meaning She is worshiped through ten mudrās. They are Sarva Sankśobhini, Sarva Vidrāvini, Sarva ākarśini, Sarva Vāsankari, Sarva Unmādini, Sarva Mahānkuśa, Sarva Kecāri, Sarva Bīja, Sarva Yoni and Sarva Trikhanda.

Matrikas are the seven primordial forms of the Mother, from which all the sound forms originate. They are Brāhmi, Vaiṣnavi, Maheṣvari, Aindri, Kaumāri, Vārāhi and Cāmundi.

There are ten mystical powers of the Mother which are personified as Goddesses. They are Anima, Laghima, Mahima, Isitva, Vasitva, Prakamya, Bhukti, Iccha, Prāpti and Sarva kāma siddhis. They include small powers like victory over hunger and sleep, to great ones like getting every wish granted, knowing things far off in distance and time.

This enclosure is also called bhupura or earthly (physical).

Sarvasa Paripūraka

This āvarana is called so, because at this level every desire of the devotee is fulfilled. This level of Śrī Cakra has sixteen lotus petals. Correspondingly as this enclosure belongs to desire and their fulfillment, the Mother is praised as the one who attracts through the primal natural tendencies. The sixteen forms of desire are enumerated here. Praising the Mother as ākarṣini (one who attracts). This is where the effect of the Mother Māya is seen, as She attracts the beings with desire – making them bound with their senses, and other faculties. The sixteen forms are Kāma (desire in general, but specifically sexual), Buddhi (intellect), Ahankāra (ego), Śabda (sound - hearing), Sparṣa (touch), Rūpa (form - vision), Rasa (feel), Gandha (odor), Citta (impression), Dhairya (courage), Smriti (memory), Nāma (name), Bīja (seed), ātma (self), Amrita (immortality), Sharīra (body).

Desire is the primary obstacle in detachment and liberation of being. While the smārta way is to transcend desire, the Śāktā way is to fulfill it and consecrate it as a form of worship. Thus, fulfillment of desire is seen not only not negatively but rather positively in Śāktā.

Sarva Sankśobana

This āvarana is named SankŚobana because the Mother here is praised as the one who causes agitation, instability, commotion. This enclosure has eight lotus petals, named Ananga kusuma, Ananga mekhala, Ananga Madana, Ananga Madanātura, Ananga rekha, Ananga vegini, Ananga ankuṣa and Ananga mālini. It is Ananga (Cupid or Manmatha), the God of love, who agitates creatures in these ways.

This is the enclosure of mind.

Sarva Saubhāgya dāyaka

In the fourth enclosure, Śakti is worshiped as the granter of all kinds of prosperity. This level of Śrī Cakra has fourteen trangles. The Goddesses or the forms of Mother in this enclosure are Sarva Sankśobhini (agitator of all), Sarva Vidravini (slayer or the one who dissolves), Sarvākarśini (one who attracts), Sarva Ahlādini (one who refreshes), Sarva Sammohini (one who mesmerizes), Sarva Stambhini (one who immobilizes), Sarva Jrumbhini (one who causes growth and expansion), Sarva Vāsankari (one who controls all actions), Sarva Ranjini (one who pleases), Sarva Unmādini (one who intoxicates), Sarvārtha sādini (one who fulfills all needs and desires), Sarva sampatti purāni (granter of all kinds of prosperity), Sarva mantra mayi (one whose forms are all mantras), Sarva dvandva kṣayankari (one in who all dualities dissolve into oneness).

Sarvārtha sādhaka

In the fifth enclosure, the Mother is worshiped as the one who grants all whishes. In fact “artha” is not just a desire but a purpose. Thus the Mother grants all that we want, we need, and we need to fulfill. This level in Śrī Cakra has ten triangles. The ten corresponding forms in which the Mother is worshiped here are Sarvasiddhi prada (granter of all powers), Sarva sampat prada (granter of all kinds of wealth), Sarva priyankari (one who grants all that pleases), Sarva Mangala kāri (one who grants all kinds of auspiciousness), Sarva Kāma prada (granter of all wishes), Sarva dukha vimocani (absolver from all kinds of sorrow and unhappiness), Sarvāmrutyu prasamani (one who prevents all kinds of (untimely) death), Sarva vighna nivārini (one who prevents all obstacles), Sarvānga Sundari (one who is beauty personified, with each limb being perfect), Sarva Saubhagya dāyini (granter of prosperity and well-being).

Sarva raksha kara

In this enclosure, the Mother is called the protector. It has eight triangles. The corresponding forms of Devi are Sarvājna (one who knows everything), Sarva Śakti (one who is all powerful), Sarvaīśvarya prada (one who grants all worldly possessions and occult powers), Sarva jnāna mayi (one who is knowledge personified), Sarva vyādhi vināṣini (one who prevents all kinds of ailments), Sarva ādhāra swarupa (one on who rests the entire universe), Sarva pāpa hāri (one who cleanses and absolves from all kinds of sins), Sarva ānanda mayi (one who is bliss personified), Sarva rakśa svarūpini (the protector), Sarvepsita phala prade (granter of all desires, granter of the fruits of all deeds/worship/sacrifice).

Sarva Roga hara

The seventh enclosure has eight triangles, and Śakti is worshiped as the one who removes all kinds of ailment. Ailment can be biological, but in Vedanta, the cycle of transmigration itself is called an ailment. The Mother, as She is called Bhava Tārini, makes one easily cross the sea of phenomenal existence, its ups and downs. The eight deities of this level are called Vāg-Devatās, who preside over speech. They are Vāsini, Kāmeśvari, Modini, Vimala, Aruna, Jayini, Sarve śvari and Kaulini.

Sarva siddhi Māya

The eighth enclosure is a triangle. Here the Mother is called Kāmakala, the personification of fulfillment. She signifies the desire of Īśvara for cosmic sport. She is worshiped in eight forms in this level, with the names Banini, Capini, Paśini, Ankuini, Mahā Kāmeśvari, Mahā Vajreśvari, Mahā Bhāgamālini and Mahā Śrī Sundari.

Sarva ānanda Māya

The ninth or inner most enclosure is the bindu. It is called a dot, and also a minute triangle with edges almost falling into each other. The Mother resides here, united with Lord Kāmeśvara , and is called Śiva-Śakti-eka-rupini. Here Śiva and Śakti are united, and are undifferentiated.

She is worshiped with nine names in the bindu, Tripura, Tripureśi, Tripura Sundari, Tripura Vāsini, Tripura Śrī, Tripura Mālini, Tripura Siddhi, Tripurāmba and Mahā Tripura Sundari.


Practical side of Śrī Vidyā

Śrī Vidyā is most popular in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, two of the major states in south India. There are two major schools in Śāktā, Candi and Lalita. The Mother is worshiped as Durga, Candi, Camundi in Candi tradition, and as Lalita, Bāla, Rajarajeswari in Lalita tradition.

There are many common aspects in both the traditions, with minor variations. Both are navarna, worshiped in nine levels. There are nine forms of Durga and She is worshiped in those nine forms in the navratri before Vijaya Daśami (Dussera festival). In fact, Candi Vidyā itself is navarna, in the sense that the two main mantras have nine letters. The concept of nine levels of worship in Lalita tradition is visible in the nine levels of Śrī Cakra.

It can be said that Candi is an older tradition, and Śrī Vidyā is a more recent and refined form. Tantric practices were extreme in India, with animal sacrifices and similar practices. Ādi Śankara is said to have pacified those deities by installing Śrī Cakra in famous Śāktā temples through out the country, and prohibiting animal sacrifices in those places[1]. These include Śakti pīṭhas like Kāmakhya (Guwahati, Assam) and Jogulamba (Alampuram, Andhra Pradesh) where such practices were rampant[2]. Apart from these, he visited and installed Śrī Cakra in many other temples like Śrī Śailam, Kāncipuram, Kanyā Kumāri, Kashmir and so on.

Though Śrī Vidyā was an older school, it gained popularity with Ādi Śankara and Advaita philosophy. Today Śrī Vidyā followers go by Śankara’s Advaita[3].

Śrī Vidyā and other Devatās

Though Tripura Sundari is the deity of Śrī Vidyā, most of the Goddesses like Lakśmi, Durga, Pārvati are worshiped in Śrī Cakra. Not only forms of Devi, but in general any God can be worshiped in Śrī Cakra. Besides, there are Śrī Vidyā samputikaranas (compositions of verses/mantras) for different Gods. For example, when Gaṇeśa and Dakśiṇamūrti are worshiped in Śrī Vidyā tradition, they come to be known as Śrī Vidyā Gaṇeśa and Śrī Vidyā Dakśiṇamūrti respectively.

In case of a Goddess, this difference is not usually maintained. That is to say, Lakśmi is worshiped in Śrī Cakra but not called Śrī Vidyā Lakśmi. Durga is not called Śrī Vidyā Durga or Candi-Durga when She is worshiped in Śrī Vidyā or Candi traditions. This is because, She is either worshiped with the same verses meant for Śrī Cakra worship or with Lakśmi hymns, and not with separate verses. In case of Śrī Vidyā Gaṇeśa, the worship is done with verses which are a combination of Śrī Vidyā and Gaṇeśa Vidyā. Same is the case with Śrī Vidyā Dakśiṇamūrti.

Though these are mainly schools of sādana, there are temples too, where those forms are primary deities. There is a temple for Śrī Vidyā Gaṇeśa in Bangalore. There is another installation of Śrī Vidyā Gaṇapati in śveta Śrīngāchalam.

Śrī Vidyā, Śāktā and Mantra Śāstra

Most traditions in Śāktā overlap, and Śrī Vidyā shares several mantras with other Śāktā traditions. Bhuvanesvari, Candi, Kāli, Mātangi mantras are found in Śrī Vidyā, and are independent Vidyās. Similarly Śrī Vidyā mantras are found as part of other traditions like Candi. Śrī Vidyā mantras are based on and are part of the Śāktā mantra Śāstra, its bījas and mātrikas. In turn, the Śāktā mantra Śāstra is based on and is part of the broader understanding of mantra Śāstra that is common to all the traditions including Vaiśnava, śaiva, Śrauta and Bauddha. Śāktā's contribution to mantra Śāstra is not only the variety of mātras but the foundational mātrikas.

Some Śrī Vidyā Practitioners and Lineages

Śrī Vidyā is practiced by many great seers. The Purānic seers like Agastya, Durvāsa and Lopamudra (the wife of Agastya) followed Śrī Vidyā. Ādi Śankara was a great exponent of Śrī Vidyā. The Soundarya Lahari hymn composed by him, is famous and chanted even today by many devotees – both practitioners of Mantra Śāstra and followers of popular religion. There are many commentaries and translations of Soundarya Lahari, a few authors to mention - Lakśmi dhāra pandita, Kaivalyāśrama Svāmi, Acyutānanda Svāmi, Viṣṇu Tīrtha and Narasimha Ṭhākur. Practice of Śrī Vidyā is coming down for centuries, in teacher-disciple tradition. In some cases it is imparted from parent to the eldest offspring, in others it is from another teacher. Ādi Śankara also gave a commentary on Lalita Trisati, the hymn-form of Pancadāsi.

Kālidāsa, a renowned poet and devotee of Devi, is said to have primarily worshiped Kāli and Mātangi. However his praises of the Mother include multiple forms, including Tripura Sundari – he calls Her Aruna (red in Hue, Lalita) and also Kāli (black).

Ādi Śankara established four monasteries in India, called Amnaya maṭhās (Amnaya means Veda, and maṭhā in this context is monastery). Each of these specializes in one of the four Vedas. He also installed Devi in different forms, apart from Lord Śiva in these maṭhās. To this day, all these are worshiped according to Śrī Vidyā. Apart from these, he established many other monasteries like Kanci maṭhā. Devi is worshiped according to Śrī Vidyā School, in all these. For example, Śāradāmba is worshiped in Śrīngeri maṭhā. Kāmakśi is worshiped in Kanci maṭhā. Besides, there are many other āśramas like Siddhesvari Pīṭha of Kurtalam (a monastery), Kailāsa āśram of Hrishikesh, Lalita Pīṭha, Śrī Vidyā Vimarsana Pīṭha and innumerable local āśramas that primarily worship according to Śrī Vidyā discipline.

Śrī Vidyāranya Swamy of 14th century AD was a great saint and scholar of Ādi Śankara’s tradition. He gave a commentary on the Veda, along with many other works like Vedānta Pancadāsi. Śrī Vidyārnava, a compilation on the philosophy, practices and secrets of Śrī Vidyā, is said to be his work.

Bhāskara Rāya from Bijāpur area of Karnātaka was a great Śrī Vidyā practitioner in the recent centuries. He belonged to 18th century. He lived in Vāranāsi for many years, and there are many stories about his devotion and the Mother’s divine grace over him. He was famous as a practitioner and an exponent of Śrī Vidyā in his times, and later. His name marks a lineage of practice in Śrī Vidyā. To this date, many generations after his times, Bhāskara Rāya lineage is famous. Bhāskara Rāya Mandali of Chennai, are among the practitioners of his school. Bhāskararāya’s commentary on Lalita Sahasra nama is said to be one of the greatest commentaries.

Śrī Muthuswamy Dikshitar who lived in 18-19 centuries was another exponent of Śrī Vidyā tradition. He was a multi-faceted personality, a genius. He was a great musician, a devotee, a Vedāntist, expert in Mantra Śāstra and a scholar. He belonged to Dakśiṇamūrti tradition of Śrī Vidyā practice. (There are three main traditions in Śrī Vidyā, called Dakśiṇamūrti, ānanda Bhairava and Hayagriva traditions.) He called Devi Kamalāmba, and composed kritis (songs in Carnātic music) that extol the greatness of Her. Since they follow the progression in the worship of Śrī Cakra, they are called as Navavārana Kritis. Kamalāmba is the main deity in the temple at Tiruvāvur whom he worshiped during his stay there. It was during that time he composed the songs, which expound Śrī Vidyā Tantra in an unmatched way. The songs that praise the deities in each enclosure of Śrī Yantra, are composed in a separate Rāga. So, nine Rāgas were used to compose the songs. Another uniqueness of these hymns is that they have different vibhaktis [Vibhakti is the suffix added to noun, that determines the role and state of noun, such as singular/plural, subject/actor. In Sanskrit, verb/noun is self-sufficient, and does not depend on other words. For instance, Rāma, “Rāma did”, “By Rāma”, “Rāma’s”, “to Rāma” all these are independent words like Rāmah, Rāmasya, Rāmou, Rāme. And these words are formed by appending different vibhaktis to the word-root Rāma. There are eight vibhaktis and one common to all. These nine forms are used by Śrī Dikshitar in his songs corresponding to the nine enclosures of Śrī Yantra].

Another great exponent of Śāktā Tantra of the previous century is Kāvyakāntha Vasiśtha Gaṇapati. He is said to have worshiped many forms of Devi, including Śrī Vidyā, Chinnamasta and Tāra. He contributed greatly in spreading and popularizing worship of Devi, initiated thousands of seekers into these schools. His disciples have in turn done that, along with establishing āśramas for the same. He was an associate of Ramana Maharśhi of Arunācalam (Tamil Nadu). He produced great literature not only on Śāktā but on Vedic knowledge in general. His consort was a teacher herself, and was primarily a Śrī Vidyā practitioner. Kapāli Śāstry, a disciple of both Śrī Aurobindo and Kāvyakāntha Vasiśtha Gaṇapati, was a Śrī Vidyā practitioner too. He was the author of Siddhanjana, a commentary on Rigveda.

The previous head of Kanci maṭhā, late Śrī Candra Śekharendra Sarasvati, was a great exponent of Śrī Vidyā. He also gave an elaborate commentary on the Soundarya Lahari hymn.

There are different levels of practice in Śrī Vidyā. Usually, practitioners are initiated with Bala mantra first. After some practice, they will be initiated to Pancadāsi or Śodasi, and Khadgamāla. Khadgamāla is the hymn, which is used to worship Śrī Cakra. It enumerates the names of deities in each enclosure of the Śrī Cakra. They are worshiped in the order they come in the hymn. Beyond, there are different stages like Pāduka dīkśa (roughly translated as the worship of Devi’s shoes). However, many will be happy in continuing their worship at one of these stages, without necessarily taking the later initiations. There are seers who do Pancadāsi, Śodasi, Khadgamāla, Pāduka dīkśa or even Bāla alone. Tādepalli Rāghava Nārāyana Śāstry and Addanki Krishna Murthy of previous century are examples of people who worshiped Bāla. There is also a practice of worshiping Devi with Śrī Sukta.

Worship is done in many modes. Some worship everyday and some do collective worship on occasions. However some serious practitioners follow dīkśa, for a certain period of time. During that, they follow severe austerities, worship Devi with red flowers and kunkum (vermilion), wear red clothes during worship and sleep on the floor. Being red in hue Herself, such practice is said to please Devi.

In recent years in Andhra Pradesh there started a practice of collective worship of Lalita, chanting and worship with Lalita Sahasra Nama hymn. This is done in various occasions and regularly (weekly) in groups by many. They include Lakśa Kunkumārcana, in which a hundred thousand names of the Mother are chanted along with worship with Kunkum. (Sahasra nāma hymn having thousand names is chanted hundred times – ten times each by ten persons). While there is a general trend of rise in Śāktā practices, most of them follow Śrī Vidyā. There is also a general practice to worship Lakśmi in Śrī Cakra domestically.

Though there is a different Yantra for different Śāktā deities like Durga and Lakśmi, it came to be a practice that any form of Devi is worshiped in Śrī Cakra in Śrī Vidyā procedure. In some places both Candi Navarna and Śrī Vidyā procedures are followed, for example Kānci. The main priests of all these temples are usually initiated into Śrī Vidyā.

There are many practitioners of Śrī Vidyā today. They not only initiate many seekers into the path and guide them, but popularize the school through lucid explanations and popular discourses, collective worship. Some of the famous teachers and practitioners include Dr Śrī Vīrabhadra Mahādev and Śrī Samavedam Śanmukha Śarma. Śrī Mahādev is primarily a teacher and practitioner of Śrī Vidyā. Śrī Śanmukha Śarma has reached out to people through his discourses, about the practice of religion. His discourses include praises and expounding the philosophy of all the major schools, Viṣṇu, Devi and Śiva. He is a living example of how, having experienced the deeper reality, one can easily understand and see the same spiritual philosophy in different religions or theistic schools like Vaiśṇava, Śaiva, Śāktā. The same holds true in case of many seers – Vasiśṭha Gaṇapati, Ramaṇa Maharshi, Śrī Aurobindo, Kapāli Śāstry, Candra Śekharendra Sarasvati.

Mantra Vidyās in Śrī Vidyā

There are several mantra Vidyās that are practiced as part of Śrī Vidyā worship. Broadly, there are two kinds of mantras – mūla Vidyās (the central or root Vidyās) and anga Vidyās (subsidiary Vidyās).

Mūla Vidyās

There are four main or mūla Vidyās in Śrī Vidyā

(a) Gāyatri: Vedic Gāyatri, the primary Vidyā that one is initiated into, before the Śrī Vidyā mantras like Bāla or Pancadāsi.

(b) Bāla: The three lettered Vidyā. The presiding devata, Bāla Mahā Tripura Sundari, is a child. Bāla is said to be one of the most attractive and wonderful forms of Devi. Holding book and japa mala and sitting in a white flower, She presides over knowledge and bliss, and grants all the boons that the devotees ask for. It is a general practice to initiate Śrī Vidyā practitioners into Bāla before initiating them into Pancadāsi. However there are several sādakās who are happier practicing Bāla Vidyā alone and have attained salvation. There are multiple Bāla mantras, such as the Māla mantra and Bāla Hridayam.

(c) Pancadāsi: Pancadāsi is the famous fifteen lettered Śrī Vidyā mantra. Dakśiṇamūrti is said to be the seer of Pancadāsi. There are several variations to Pancadāsi. There are twelve major variations, and are called dvādasa Vidyās in Pancadāsi. First two of them are the famous “ka-adi” Vidyā (begininning with ka) and “ha-adi” Vidyā (begininning with ha). The remaining ten are said to be practiced by, and hence named after Manu, Candra, Kubera, Agastya, Nandikesvara, Surya, Indra, Viṣṇu, Śankara and Durvāsa.

The Pancadāsi is set of three putis or groups of bījas. Each puti is said to represent a level of consicousness, a kuta in mantra Śāstra, and a granthi in Kunḍalini yoga and in general a level in sadhana. Each puti ends with Māya or Bhuvanesvari bīja. Symbolically Devi is called Tripura Sundari, since there are three Bhuvanās or Puras She is ruling. Presiding Devatās of mantras with Māya bīja are usually pleasant forms, and Tripura Sundari is one of the most pleasant and beautiful forms.

(d) Śodasi: Śodasi is the sixteen lettered Śrī Vidyā. Pancadāsi with an additional bīja (usually Śrī bīja) becomes Śodasi. Tripura Sundari, the presiding Devata is said to be sixteen years old. Practitioners say that there is no form of Devata which is more beautiful and pleasant than Śodasi. The very incarnation of Devi in this form is to restore desire, creation and bliss in the world.

Anga Vidyās

The several subsidiary Vidyās of ŚrīVidyā are arranged into six Amnayās. Amnayā means Veda/Agama, and in Saiva there are five Amnayās. They are represented by the five faces of Śiva facing Purva (eastwards), Dakṣiṇa(southwards), Pascima (westwards), Uttara (northwards) and Urdhva (upwards). In Śrī Vidyā there is a sixth Amnaya called Anuttara. Each Amnaya is associated with a guru mandala and several Vidyās, astra kamya and para. Besides, all the Vidyās are grouped at different levels. Some of the major Vidyās are listed below.

Purvamnaya

The Purvamnaya contains Vidyās for

  • three gurus sva-guru, parama guru and paramesthi guru
  • four peethas or seats of Devi, called Kāmagiri, Purnagiri, Jalandhara and Odyana
  • Gaṇapati , various forms of Śyāmala, Mrityunjaya, Pratyangira

Dakṣiṇamnaya

Dakṣiṇamnaya contains Vidyās for

  • eight Bhairavas
  • nine Siddhās
  • three Vatukās (celibates)
  • the two feet of Devi, the prakāśa and vimarśa
  • forms of Bagala, Vārāhi, Dakśiṇamūrti and Paśupata

Pascimamnaya

Pascimamnaya contains Vidyās for

  • ten Duti Devatās (messenger Devatās)
  • three mandalās (the Agni-Surya-Soma mandalās representing three putis of Śrī Vidyā)
  • ten vīra Bhairavās or warriors
  • sixty four siddhas
  • forms and associate Devatās of Viṣṇu
  • nine grahās
  • Sura mantras or mantras for Devatās like Indra

Uttaramnaya

Uttaramnaya contains Vidyās for

  • Mudra Navakam or mantras for nine mudrās
  • Viravāli or the five presiding Devatās of the universe (Brahma, Viṣṇu, Rudra, Īśvara and SadaŚiva)
  • Forms of Durga, Candi, Kāli etc.

Urdhvamnaya

Urdhvamnaya has Vidyās for

  • Mālini or Mātrika varna māla (the alphabet mantras)
  • Guru Mandala
  • Para Vidyās like Para Sāmbhavi, Paramba, Para Śodasi, Khecari, Ajapa, Tvrakāmba, Niśkala

Anuttaramnaya

Anuttaramnaya has Vidyās for

  • Catuśpāt or Gāyatri of four feet
  • Śodasi
  • Various forms of nyāsa, sankalpa and pāduka Vidyās

Nitya Devatās

There are fifteen Nitya Devatās who preside over each day between a full moon and a new moon day. Each Nitya Devata is worshiped through a Vidyā named after Her. They are

  • Kāmeśvari
  • Bhāgamālini
  • Nityaklinna
  • Bherunda
  • Vahnivāsini
  • Mahāvidyeśvari
  • Śivaduti
  • Tvarita
  • Kula Sundari
  • Nitya
  • Nīla Pātaka
  • Vijaya
  • Sarva Mangala
  • Jvāla Mālini
  • Vicitra

Texts

The Tantric texts like Rudra Yamala expound Śrī Vidyā. Khadgamāla Stotra, is the map and worship of Śrī Cakra. Besides there are several Śrī Kula texts in the oral traditions, either as compilations or as part of the mantra Śāstra texts like Mantra Mahodādhi, Mantra Mahārnava and Śāktā texts. A few of these texts are listed below -

  • Kāmakala vilāsa
  • Tantrarāja tantra
  • Tripurārnava tantra
  • Śrī Vidyārnava tantra
  • Jnanārnava tantra
  • Dakṣiṇamurti samhita
  • Gandharva tantra
  • Nitya shodashikarnava
  • Yogini hridaya.

Brahmānda Purāṇā has the story of Lalita slaying Bhanḍāsura. The Lalita Sahasra Nama in Brahmānda Purāṇā expounds Śrī Vidyā. Bhāskara Rvya's Varivāsya Rahasya, a commentary on the Sahasra nvma is a comprehensive text on Śrī Vidyā. Lalita Trisati, which is also found in the same Purāṇā, is the hymn form of Pancadāsi Mantra. Śrī Sukta, a hymn of Rig Veda found in its Khila part is also used in Śrī Vidyā worship. In fact Tripura Tapini Upanishad, an entire Upanishad is dedicated to Her. Ādi Śankara's prapanca sāra tantra mentions some of the Śrī Vidyā mantras. Devi Bhāgavata describes Mani dvīpa, which according to Śrī Vidyā is the Mother's abode.

Notes

  1. There is no direct relation between elimination of animal sacrifice and Śrī Vidyā. However, it became a general smārta practice to worship Śrī Vidyā, and also discourage animal sacrifices.
  2. This is known from the Sthala Purāṇās of these shrines.
  3. There is a historic debate about Śankara's relation to Śrī Vidyā, and it is said that Saundarya Lahari, TriSati Bhaṣya are not originally authored by Śankara. It is also said that the Śankara lineages worshiping Śrī Vidyā is a practice later than Śankara himself. However, the Śankara lineages and smārtas in general do worship Śrī Vidyā.

Bibliographies

  1. Śrī Lalita Devi Caritra by Jagadguru Śrī Siddheswarananda Swami, Published in Telugu by Swayamsiddha Kali Peetham, Guntur
  2. Śrī Guru Samsmarana, The Souvenir on Centenary of Śrī C V Swami Sastriji