Sufism - The Real and Violent History

Last weekend, I was speaking at a university on the comparative aspects of Kashmir Shaivism and Dzogchen. I was having a leisurely chat with one of the visiting Lamas, who I have had the privilege to study with, and we ventured towards discussing ISIS and Islamic Terrorism. Suddenly, one of his students brought up the topic of Sufism and pointed us to this article.

Some Muslims have suggested to the Prime Minister of India that Sufism is the solution to all problems created by the adherents of Islam and nothing can be farther to truth than this! We have already written a piece expressing our utter distrust and disgust towards Sufism.

M A Khan, in his book ‘Islamic Jihad - A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery’, talks at length about the real and violent history of the Sufis and here are some excerpts from this book.

The Myth of Peaceful Conversion

Another lofty claim of mythic proportion being perpetuated about conversion to Islam is that a heterodox variety of Muslims, namely the Sufis, had propagated Islam through peaceful missionary activity. British historian Thomas Arnold (1864–1930)—desperate to alter the centuries-old European discourse of Islam as a violent faith—initiated this propaganda in the 1890s, which has been embraced by numerous Muslim and non-Muslim historians and scholars. As summarized by Peter Hardy, the following instances led Arnold to his conclusion: 1878, a settlement report for the Montgomery district in the Panjab quoted Lieutenant Elphistone as follows: ‘It [the town of Pakpattan] contains the tomb of the celebrated saint and martyr Baba Farid, who converted a great part of the Southern Punjab to Muhammadanism, and whose miracles entitle him to a most distinguished place among the pirs (Sufi saints) of that religion.’ The settlement report for the Jhang district makes similar claims for Shaykh Farid al- Din. In the Punjab Census report of 1881, Ibbeston adds the name of Bana al-Huq of Multan to that of Baba Fraid as the two saints to whom ‘the people of western plains very generally attribute their conversion.’ The Bombay Gazetteer for the Cutch, published in 1880, ascribes the conversion of the Cutchi Memons to witnessing the miracles of one Sayyid Yusu al-Din a descendent of Sayyid Abd al-Qadir Jilani. Elsewhere in the Bombay Presidency, Sayyid Muhammad Gesu Daraz is said to have converted Hindu weavers to Islam. In the North-Western Provinces, data in an Azamgarh settlement report, collected in 1868, included a tradition among Muslim zaminders of the district that "the teaching of some Moslem saint" had been responsible for their ancestor’s conversion to Islam. In Bada’un, Shaykh Jalal al-Din Tabrizi, who later went to Bengal, is said with one look to have converted a Hindu milkman. It was from this and much other material that Arnold reached his conclusion that vast number of Indian Muslims are descendent of converts in whose conversion force played no part and in which only the teaching and persuasion of peaceful missionaries were at work.

The major reference, on which Arnold based his conclusion that peaceful conversion by Sufis played major role in conversion to Islam, was a generic reference in the 1884 Bombay Gazetteer that Sufi saint Ma’bari Khandayat (Pir Ma’bari) came to the Deccan in about 1305 as a missionary and converted a large number of Jains to Islam. This document gives no specifics on the means Pir Ma’bari employed in his conversion; the same applies to other claims (these claims are often unsubstantiated and legendary in nature) cited above. However, older documentation on Pir Ma’bari by Muslim chroniclers, as studied by historian Richard Eaton, reveals the measures Pir Ma’bari had applied in converting the infidels. According to Muhammad Ibrahim Zubairi’s Rauzat al-Auliya (1825–26), Pir Ma’bari Khandayat came to the Deccan as a holy warrior:

‘During the period of Ala al-Din Khalaji (Alauddin Khilji, d. 1316), the Shah of Delhi, he (Pir Ma’bari) accompanied the camp of the army of Islam in the year A.H. 710 (A.D. 1310–11) when buried treasures of gold and silver came to the hands of Muslims and the victory of Islam was effected.

A hagiographic record adds:

(Pir Ma’bari) came here and waged Jihad against the rajas and rebels (of Bijapur). And with his iron bar, he broke the heads and necks of many rajas and drove them to the dust of defeat. Many idolaters, who by the will of God had guidance and blessings, repented from their unbelief and error, and by the hands of (Pir Ma’bari) came to Islam.

Another tradition says that Pir Ma’bari had expelled a group of Brahmins from their village in Bijapur. Muslim literatures portray Pir Ma’bari as a fierce wager of Jihad against the infidels wielding an iron bar. This gave him his last name, Khandayat—literally meaning blunted bar.

Eaton has particularly become an influential propagator of the paradigm that Islam was spread peacefully by the Sufis. He says that Islam came to areas, where Muslim powers could not reach, ‘with the appearance of anonymous, itinerant holy men whom the local population might associate with miraculous power.’ Eaton then goes on to describe a popular Muslim folk-story in Bengal that a Muslim pir with occult power appeared in a village, built a mosque, healed sick people with his miraculous power and his fame spread far and wide. Thereupon, hundreds of people came to visit him with ‘presents of rice, fruits and other delicious food, goat, chickens and fowls,’ which he never touched but distributed among the poor. ‘This humane quality of the Sufis,’ asserts Eaton, made the mosque a centre of Islam from where it reached far and wide.

One intriguing thing about Eaton is that his own research of the medieval literatures on Indian Sufis for his Ph.D. thesis, published in Sufis of Bijapur 1300–1700, failed to find any trace of peace in the views and actions of Sufis and in their method of conversion. He found that all the revered Sufis, particularly the earlier ones to arrive at Bijapur, were fierce Jihadis and persecutor of Hindus; an example, that of Pir Ma’bari, is cited above. His research outcome was so damning to his tendentious, love-stricken views about the Sufis that Muslims in India protested against his book leading to its ban in India. But Eaton would not stop spreading his fallacious and unfounded views about Sufis.

For a rational person, the stories of spiritual and occult power of Sufis are nothing but fantastical myths. Such legends, upon thorough research, have indeed been found, according to Prof. Muhammad Habib, to be "latter day fabrication" (see below). Concerning conversion, historical records and circumstantial evidence lend little support to the paradigm that Sufis made great contribution in converting the infidels to Islam peacefully. In India, no historical documents mention that the Sufis converted the Hindus and other infidels to Islam in large numbers through peaceful means. The great liberal Sufi scholar Amir Khasrau (fourteenth century) mentions in his chronicles many incidents of enslavement of the infidels by Muslim rulers in large numbers for their conversion, but makes no mention of any incidence of peaceful preaching by a Sufi saint that drew the Hindus to Islam in significant numbers. The ideology of Indian Sufis and their involvement in the conversion of the infidels will be dealt here in some detail.

Although some Sufis deviated completely from Islam, majority of them remained largely orthodox. Imam Ghazzali enabled Sufism triumph in Muslim societies in the twelfth century. He basically weaved the Islamic orthodoxy into the body of Sufism, expunging deviant ideas and rituals, which made Sufism more acceptable amongst Muslims. Therefore, it is the orthodox strain of Sufism that got acceptance in the Muslim society, thanks to Imam Ghazzali. The deviant beshariyah Sufis often suffered brutal persecution and even death. For example, Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (d. 1388), an austere orthodox believer, records in his memoir that he had put Sufi Shaykh Ruknuddin of Delhi, who called himself a Mahdi (messiah) and ‘led people astray into mystic practices and perverted ideas by maintaining that he was Ruknuddin, the prophet of God.’ People killed Ruknuddin and some of his followers; they ‘tore him into pieces and broke his bones into fragments,’ records the Sultan.

When the central Asian Turks established direct Muslim rule in India (1206), Sufism, the Ghazzalian orthodox Sufism to be accurate, had gained wide acceptance in Muslim societies. Following the trail of Muslim invaders, Sufis poured into India in large number. The great Sufi saints of India—namely Nizamuddin Auliya, Amir Khasrau, Nasiruddin Chiragh, Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti and Jalaluddin et al.— held rather orthodox and intolerant views. They held the Ulema, the orthodox scholars of Islam, in great esteem and advised their disciples to follow their rulings in religious laws and social behavior. Influenced by the unorthodox, controversial doctrines and practices of famous Arab-Spanish Sufi ideologue Ibn Arabi (d. 1240), Moinuddin Chisti and Nizamuddin Auliya were the most unorthodox and liberal amongst India’s Sufis. Annoying the orthodox, they had adopted musical sessions (sama) and dancing (raqs) in their rituals. However, when it came to the real question of Islam, they never took a stand against classical orthodoxy; they always put the Ulema ahead of them in religious matters. To the question of whether dancing and playing of musical instruments, as had been adopted by Sufi dervishes, were permissible, Auliya said, ‘‘What is forbidden by Law (Sharia) is not acceptable.’’ On the question of whether the controversial Sufi devotional practices were permissible or not, he said, ‘‘Concerning this controversy at present, whatever the judge (orthodox Ulema) decrees will be upheld.

The Sufis of India had no contradiction with the Ulema; both had a common goal—the interest of Islam, but to be achieved through different methods. Auliya used to say, ‘What the Ulema seek to achieve through speech, we achieve by our behavior.’ Jamal Qiwamu’d-din, a long-time associate of Auliya, never saw him miss a single Sunnah of the Prophet. Other prominent Sufis held even more orthodox views. The great Sufi saint Nasiruddin Chiragh, for example, purged and purified deviant aspects of the Sufi practices. According to Prof. KA Nizami, he prohibited all deviant (from Sharia) rituals and practices that had entered the Sufi community, saying, ‘‘Whatever Allah and His Prophet have ordered, do it and whatever Allah and His Prophet have forbidden you against, you should not do.’’ Nizami adds: ‘He brought Sufi institution in harmony with Sunnah. Wherever there was a slightest clash, he proclaimed the supremacy of the Sharia Laws.’

Views of Sufis

In this section, the views of prominent Sufis, particularly of India, on infidels and the violent Islamic doctrines, such as Jihad, will be summarized in order to understand their mind and ideology. Ghazzali, the greatest Sufi ideologue, held rather orthodox and violent views on Jihad. He advised fellow Muslims that,

‘ must go on Jihad at least once a year... One may use a catapult against them when they are in a fortress, even if among them are women and children. One may set fire on them and/or drown them... One may cut down their trees... One must destroy their useful book (Bible, Torah etc.). Jihadists may take as booty whatever they decide...’

About the protocol of the payment of jizyah in humiliation by a dhimmi, he wrote:

‘...the Jews, Christians and the Majians must pay the jizyah... On offering up the jizyah, the dhimmi must hang his head while the official takes hold of his beard and hits on the protuberant bone beneath his ear.’

He follows it up with prescribing a number of standard disabilities for dhimmis as enshrined in the Sharia and the Pact of Omar. He wrote:

‘They are not permitted to ostensibly display their wine or church bell... their houses may not be higher than the Muslim’s, no matter how low that is. The dhimmi may not ride an elegant horse r mule; he may ride a donkey only if the saddle is of wood. He may not walk on the good part of the road. They have to wear patches... and even in the public bath, they must hold their tongues...’

The prominent Indian Sufis did not leave behind a comprehensive commentary about their ideas of non- Muslims or on issues, like Jihad. However, their isolated comments on such issues, whenever opportunities arose, give a good deal of idea about their views on these subjects. In general, their views on the infidels and Jihad were of the mould of Ghazzali, the greatest Sufi master.

Nizamuddin Auliya (1238–1325), toeing the orthodox line, condemned the Hindus to the fire of hell, saying: ‘The unbelievers at the time of death will experience punishment. At that moment, they will profess belief (Islam) but it will not be reckoned to them as belief because it will not be faith in the Unseen... the faith of (an) unbeliever at death remains unacceptable.’ He asserted that ‘On the day of Resurrection when unbelievers will face punishment and affliction, they will embrace faith but faith will not benefit them... They will also go to Hell, despite the fact that they will go there as believers.’ In his khutba (sermon), Nizamuddin Auliya condemned the infidels as wicked, saying, ‘He (Allah) has created Paradise and Hell for believers and the infidels (respectively) in order to repay the wicked for what they have done.’

Auliya’s thought on Jihad against non-Muslims can be gleaned from his statement that Surah Fatihah, first chapter of the Quran, did not contain two of the ten cardinal articles of Islam, which were ‘‘warring with the unbelievers and observing the divine statutes...’’ He did not only believe in warring with the unbelievers or Jihad, he came to India with his followers to engage in it. He participated in a holy war commanded by Nasiruddin Qibacha in Multan. When Qibacha’s army was in distress facing defeat, Auliya rushed to him and gave him a magical arrow instructing: ‘‘Shoot this arrow at the direction of the infidel army.’ ...Qibacha did as he was told, and when daybreak came not one of the infidels was to be seen; they all had fled!’ When Qazi Mughisuddin inquired about the prospect of victory in the Jihad launched in South India under the command of Malik Kafur, the Auliya uttered in effusive confidence: ‘What is this victory? I am waiting for further victories.’ The Auliya used to accept large gifts sent by Sultan Alauddin from the spoils plundered in Jihad expeditions and proudly displayed those at his khanqah (lodge).

Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti (1141–1230), probably the second-greatest Sufi saint of India after Nizamuddin Auliya, demonstrated a deep-seated hatred toward Hindu religion and its practices. On his arrival near the Anasagar Lake at Ajmer, he saw many idol-temples and promised to raze them to the ground with the help of Allah and His Prophet. After settling down there, Khwaja’s followers used to bring every day a cow (sacred to Hindus) near a famous temple, where the king and Hindus prayed, slaughter it and cook kebab from its meat—clearly to show his contempt toward Hinduism. ‘In order to prove the majesty of Islam, he is said to have dried the two holy lakes of Anasagar and Pansela (holy to Hindus) by the heat of his spiritual power.’ Chisti also came to India with his disciples to fight Jihad against the infidels and participated in the treacherous holy war of Sultan Muhammad Ghauri in which the kind and chivalrous Hindu King Prithviraj Chauhan was defeated in Ajmer. In his Jihadi zeal, Chisti ascribed the credit for the victory to himself, saying: ‘We have seized Pithaura (Prithviraj) alive and handed him over to the army of Islam.’’

Amir Khasrau (1253–1325), Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya’s exalted disciple, is lauded as the greatest liberal Sufi poet of medieval India. His coming to India, deem many modern historians, as a blessing for the subcontinent. He had the good fortune of working at the royal court of three successive sultans. Regarded as one of India’s greatest poets, he is also credited with being a great contributor to Indian classical music and the creator of Qawwali (Sufi devotional music). The invention of the Tabla (an Indian drum) is usually attributed to him.

There is little doubt about Amir Khasrau’s achievements in music and poetry. But when it came to the fallen infidels and their religion, his bigoted Islamic zeal was very much evident. In describing Muslim victories against the Hindu kings, he mocks their religious traditions, such as "tree" and "stone-idol" worship. Mocking the stone-idols, destroyed by Muslim warriors, he wrote: ‘Praise be to God for his exaltation of the religion of Muhammad. It is not to be doubted that stones are worshipped by the Gabrs (derogatory slang for idolaters), but as stones did no service to them, they only bore to heaven the futility of that worship.’

Amir Khasrau showed delight in describing the barbaric slaughter of Hindu captives by Muslim warriors. Describing Khizr Khan’s order to massacre 30,000 Hindus in the conquest of Chittor in 1303, he gloated: ‘Praise be to God! That he so ordered the massacre of all chiefs of Hind out of the pale of Islam, by his infidel-smiting swords... in the name of this Khalifa of God, that heterodoxy has no rights (in India).’ He took poetic delight in describing Malik Kafur’s destruction of a famous Hindu temple in South India and the grisly slaughter of the Hindus and their priests therein. In describing the slaughter, he wrote, ‘...the heads of brahmans and idolaters danced from their necks and fell to the ground at their feet, and blood flowed in torrents.’ In his bigoted delight at the miserable subjugation of Hindus and the barbarous triumph of Islam in India, he wrote:

The whole country, by means of the sword of our holy warriors, has become like a forest denuded of its thorns by fire? Islam is triumphant, idolatry is subdued. Had not the Law granted exemption from death by the payment of poll-tax, the very name of Hind, root and branch, would have been extinguished.

Amir Khasrau described many instances of barbaric cruelty, often of catastrophic proportions, inflicted by Muslim conquerors upon the Hindus. But nowhere did he show any sign of grief or remorse, but only gloating delight. While describing those acts of barbarism, he invariably expressed gratitude to Allah, and glory to Muhammad, for enabling the Muslim warriors achieve those glorious feats.

Another great Sufi saint to come to India was Shaykh Makhdum Jalal ad-Din bin Mohammed, popularly known as Hazrat Shah Jalal, who had settled in Sylhet, Bengal (discussed later). Apart from these highly revered Sufi saints, there were other great Sufi personalities, namely Shaykh Bahauddin Zakaria, Shaykh Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi, Shaykh Ahmad Sirhindi and Shaykh Shah Walliullah et al., who have often been condemned by some modern historians for their relatively orthodox views. For example, Shaykh Mubarak Ghaznavi—a great Islamic scholar and Sufi saint of the Suhrawardi order—had utter disrespect and violent hatred of non-Muslims (kafirs) and their religion, as he reminded the sultans that ‘‘Kings will not be able to discharge their duty of protecting the Faith unless they overthrow and uproot kufr and kafiri (infidelity), shirk (associating partners to God, polytheism) and the worship of idols, all for the sake of Allah and inspired by a sense of honor for protecting the din of the Prophet of God.’’ However, in case of an impossible situation, he advised, ‘‘...if total extirpation of idolatry is not possible owing to the firm roots of kufr and the large number of kafirs and mushriks, the kings should at least strive to disgrace, dishonor and defame the mushriks and idol-worshipping Hindus, who are the worst enemies of God and His Prophet.’’
Although condemned by modern historians, these Sufi saints were highly popular in their days, respected by the Ulema and especially in ruling circles, thereby wielding critical influence on the formulation of state-policies. Sufi masters Bahauddin Zakaria and Nuruddin Mubarak held the highest Islamic epithet— the Shaykh al-Islam, normally bestowed upon the most learned scholars of Islam. Without going into further detail of the views of those popular but more orthodox Sufis, let us now examine the role, Sufis played, in the propagation of Islam.

Sufis and the Propagation of Islam

Sufis have been credited with converting large masses of infidels to Islam through peaceful missionary activity. But this claim comes with little supporting evidence. Two points must be taken into consideration beforehand in this discussion. First, Sufis became an organized and accepted community in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century. By this time, the peoples of the Middle East, Persia, Egypt and North Africa had become largely Muslim. The Sufis could not have played significant roles in their conversion. In agreement, says Francis Robinson, Sufis played a leading part in ‘the remarkable spread of Islam from the thirteenth century onwards.’ Second, the Sufis almost invariably needed the power and terror of the sword to create the dominance of Islam first before their alleged peaceful mission of propagating Islam could proceed.

The attitude and mindset of the greatest Sufi saints of medieval India, discussed above, were hardly different from those of the orthodox, who advocated for the use of unconditional force in accordance with the Quran, the Sunnah and the Sharia for converting the infidels. The famous Sufis of India invariably supported violent Jihad for making Islam victorious. India’s greatest Sufi saints—Nizamuddin Auliya and Moinuddin Chisti—themselves came to India to participate in holy war against the infidels, which they both did. Auliya had also sent forth Shaykh Shah Jalal, the greatest Sufi saint of Bengal, with 360 disciples to take part in a holy war against King Gaur Govinda of Sylhet (see below). The renowned Sufis of Bijapur also came there as holy warriors for slaughtering the infidels and establishing Islamic rule (noted already).

Conversion by Sufis in Bengal

The claim that Sufis peacefully converted the non-Muslims to Islam in large numbers is not supported by historical records. Furthermore, most Sufis were intolerant, of violent Jihadi mindset, and even, were themselves Jihadis. While discussing these issues in a friendly conversation with two learned secular Bangladeshi scholars, they informed me that, at least in Bangladesh, Sufis had propagated Islam through peaceful means. This agrees with Nehemia Levtzion’s assertion that ‘Sufis were particularly important in achieving the almost total conversion in eastern Bengal.’

An investigation of two greatest Sufi saints of Bengal outlined below will give us an inkling of the roles Sufis played in the proselytization and how peaceful it was. Two Jalaluddins, Shaykh Jalaluddin Tabrizi (d. 1226 or 1244) and Shaykh Shah Jalal (d. 1347), were the greatest Sufi saints of Bengal. Shaykh Jalaluddin Tabrizi came to Bengal after Bakhtiyar Khilji conquered Bengal defeating the Hindu King Lakshman Sena in 1205. He settled in Devtala near Pandua (Maldah, West Bengal). He is said to have "converted large number of Kafirs" to Islam but the method of his conversions is unknown. According to Syed Athar Abbas Rizvi, ‘a kafir (Hindu or Buddhist) had erected a large temple and a well (at Devtala). The Shaikh demolished the temple and constructed a takiya (khanqah)...’ This will give one a good deal of idea about the kind of means this great Sufi saint had employed in converting the kafirs to Islam.

Shaykh Shah Jalal, the other great Sufi saint of Bengal, had settled in Sylhet. He is regarded as a national hero by Bangladeshi Muslims. Shah Jalal and his disciples are credited with converting a large majority of Bengalis to Islam through truly peaceful means.

When Shah Jalal came to settle in Sylhet in East Bengal (now Bangladesh), it was ruled by a Hindu king, named Gaur Govinda. Before his arrival in Bengal, Sultan Shamsuddin Firuz Shah of Gaur had twice attacked Gaur Govinda; these campaigns were led by his nephew, Sikandar Khan Ghazi. On both occasions, the Muslim invaders were defeated. The third assault against Gaur Govinda was commanded by the sultan’s Chief General Nasiruddin. Shaykh Nizamuddin Auliya sent forth his illustrious disciple Shah Jalal with 360 followers to participate in this Jihad campaign. Shah Jalal reached Bengal with his followers and joined the Muslim army. In the fierce battle that ensued, King Gaur Govinda was defeated. According to traditional stories, the credit for the Muslim victory goes to Shah Jalal and his disciples.

As a general rule, every victory in Muslim campaigns brought a great many slaves, often tens to hundreds of thousand, who involuntarily became Muslim. Undoubtedly, on the very first day of Shah Jalal’s arrival in Sylhet, he helped conversion of a large number of kafirs by means of their enslavement at the point of the sword—a very peaceful means of propagating Islam indeed! Ibn Battutah, who paid a visit to Shah Jalal in Sylhet, records that his effort was instrumental in converting the infidels who embraced Islam there. But he gives no detail of the measures the Sufi saint employed in the conversion. One must take into consideration that Shah Jalal ‘came to India with 700 companions to take part in Jihad (holy war)’ and that he fought a bloody Jihad against King Gaur Govinda. These instances give a clear idea of the tools he had applied in converting the Hindus of Sylhet.

In another instance, Sufi saint Nur Qutb-i-Alam played a central role in making a high profile convert in Bengal. In 1414, Ganesha, a Hindu prince, revolted against Muslim rule and captured power in Bengal. The ascension of a Hindu to power created strong revulsion amongst both the Sufis and the Ulema. They repudiated his rule and enlisted help from Muslim rulers outside of Bengal. Responding to their call, Ibrahim Shah Sharqi invaded Bengal and defeated Ganesha. Nur Qutb-i-Alam, the leading Sufi master of Bengal, now stepped in to broker a truce. He forced Ganesha to abdicate and Ganesha’s twelve-year-old son Jadu was converted to Islam and placed on the throne under the name of Sultan Jalaluddin Muhammad. This conversion by a Sufi saint, call it peacefully or at the point of the sword, proved a boon for Islam. The Sufis (also the Ulema) trained the converted young sultan in Islam so well that he became a bloody converter of the infidels to Islam through extreme violence. There took place, says the Cambridge History of India, a wave of conversions in the reign of Jalaluddin Muhammad (1414–31). About Jalaluddin’s distinguished role in converting the Hindus of Bengal to Islam, Dr James Wise wrote in the Journal of the Asiatic Society of

Bengal (1894) that ‘the only condition he offered was the Koran or death... many Hindus fled to Kamrup and the jungles of Assam, but it is nevertheless possible that more Mohammedans were added to Islam during these seventeen years (1414–31) than in the next three hundred years.’

Prof. Ishtiaq Hussain Qureishi makes an interesting observation that the Sufis in Bengal played significant missionary role in converting the Hindus and Buddhists but on an "orthodox" line. This means that the Sufis of Bengal were doctrinally strict; therefore, doctrinal compromise and peaceful persuasion were unlikely part of their methods as orthodoxy demands the use of unconditional force in converting the infidels. Ishtiaq lends credence to the orthodoxy of Bengal Sufis in saying that ‘They established their khanaqahs and shrines at places (i.e., temples) which already had a reputation for sanctity before Islam.’ Ishtiaq wants to tell us that the establishment of their khanqahs at the place of former Hindu or Buddhist temples (after destroying them), a recurring phenomenon amongst Sufis everywhere, facilitated the conversion of the native infidels as Levtzion agreeingly put it, ‘(the Sufis) established their khanaqahs on the sites of Buddhist shrines, and (it) fitted well into the religious situation in Bengal.’

It is incredulous in the highest degree to suggest that the Hindus and Buddhists of Bengal loved it more that the Sufis destroyed their temples and build khanqahs thereon, to which the natives could easily connect. Indeed, India’s history is replete with instances that the Hindus and other non-Muslims always welcomed Muslims when settled among them peacefully, but revolted against them when attacked their religion. The unceasing rebellion and strife that Muslim invaders instigated amongst native Indians were as much political as it was for the invaders’ attacks on their religious institutions and culture—a fact, repeatedly affirmed by Jawaharlal Nehru in his writings. The reigns of liberal Akbar and Zainul Abedin (in Kashmir), who disbanded religious persecutions and allowed religious freedom, were most peaceful and prosperous. This proves that Indians never liked it when Muslims, be it the rulers or the Sufis, defiled their religious symbols. Moreover, the Buddhists, the dominant converts to Islam in Bengal, had earlier embraced Buddhism voluntarily leaving their former Hindu faith, because of the peaceful and non-violent nature of Buddhism. Muslims’ attack on their temples and shrines, and converting those to mosques and khanqahs had undoubtedly created amongst them a greater revulsion, not a favorable impression, toward Islam.

Horrifying Conversion by Sufis in Kashmir

Persian chronicles, Baharistan-i-Shahi and Tarikh-i- Kashmir (1620), give somewhat detailed accounts of the involvement of Sufi saints in the conversion of Hindus of Kashmir to Islam. The greatest Sufi to arrive in Kashmir was Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi. He formed a strong alliance with Malik Musa Raina, who became the administrator of Kashmir in 1501. Earlier Sultan Zainul Abedin (1423–74), the only tolerant and liberal Muslim ruler of Kashmir, had allowed religious freedom enabling the flourishing Hinduism, ‘which had been stamped out in the (earlier) reign of Sikandar the Iconoclast.’ With the patronage and authority of Malik Raina, records Baharistan-i-Shahi, ‘Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad undertook wholesale destruction of all those idol-houses as well as total ruination of the very foundation of infidelity and disbelief. On the site of every idol-house he destroyed, he ordered the construction of a mosque for offering prayers after the Islamic manner.’ Tarikh-i-Kashmir, a historical account of Kashmir written by Haidar Malik Chadurah, who served in Sultan Yusuf Shah’s Court (1579–86), records: ‘Sheikh Shams-ud-Din reached Kashmir. He began destroying the places of worship and the temples of the Hindus and made an effort to achieve the objectives.’ A medieval chronicle, entitled Tohfat-ul-Ahbab, records that ‘on the instance of Shamsud-Din Iraqi, Musa Raina had issued orders that everyday 1,500 to 2,000 infidels be brought to the doorstep of Mir Shamsud-Din by his followers. They would remove their sacred thread (zunnar), administer Kelima (Muslim profession of faith) to them, circumcise them and make them eat beef.’ There they became Muslim. Tarikh-i-Hasan Khuiihami notes of the conversion of Hindus to Islam by Shamsud-Din Iraqi that ‘twenty-four thousand Hindu families were converted to Iraqi’s faith by force and compulsion (qahran wa jabran).’

Later on in 1519, Malik Kaji Chak rose to the rank of military commander under Sultan Muhammad Shah. And ‘one of the major commands of Amir Shamsud-Din Muhammad Iraqi carried out by him (Kaji Chak) was the massacre of the infidels and polytheists of this land,’ says Baharistan-i-Shahi. Many of those, converted to Islam by force during the reign of Malik Raina, later reverted to polytheism (Hinduism). A rumor was spread that these apostates ‘had placed a copy of the holy Quran under their haunches to make a seat to sit upon.’ Upon hearing this, the enraged Sufi saint protested to Malik Kaji Chak that,

‘This community of idolaters has, after embracing and submitting to the Islamic faith, now gone back to defiance and apostasy. If you find yourself unable to inflict punishment upon them in accordance with the provisions of Sharia (which is death for apostasy) and take disciplinary action against them, it will become necessary and incumbent upon me to proceed on a self- imposed exile.’

It must be noted that Shaykh Iraqi’s complaint does not mention the alleged disrespect of the Quran but simply emphasize the Hindus’ abandonment of Islam after accepting it. In order to appease the great Sufi saint, Kaji Chak ‘decided upon carrying out wholesale massacre of the infidels,’ notes Baharistan-i-Shahi. Their massacre was scheduled to be carried out on the holy festival day of Ashura (Muharram, 1518 CE) and ‘about seven to eight hundred infidels were put to death. Those killed were the leading personalities of the community of infidels at that time.’ Thereupon, ‘the entire community of infidels and polytheists in Kashmir was coerced into conversion to Islam at the point of the sword. This is one of the major achievements of Malik Kaji Chak,’ records Baharistan-i-Shahi. This horrifying action, of course, was order by the great Sufi saint.

Sayyid Ali Hamdani was another famous Sufi saint, who had arrived in Kashmir earlier in 1371 or 1381. The first thing he did was to build his khanqah on the site of ‘a small temple which was demolished...’ Before his coming to Kashmir, the reigning Sultan Qutbud-Din paid little attention to enforcing religious laws. Muslims at all levels of the society, including the Qazis and theologians of those days, paid scant attention to things permitted or prohibited in Islam. The Muslim rulers, theologians and commoners had tolerantly and comfortably submerged themselves in Hindu tradition. Horrified by the un- Islamic practices of Kashmiri Muslims, Sayyid Hamdani forbade this laxity and tried to revive orthodoxy. Sultan Qutbud-Din tried to adopt the orthodox way of Islam in his personal life but ‘failed to propagate Islam in accordance with the wishes and aspirations of Amir Sayyid Ali Hamdani.’ Reluctant to live in a land dominated by the infidel culture, customs and religion, the Sufi saint left Kashmir in protest. Later on, his son Amir Sayyid Muhammad, another great Sufi saint of Kashmir, came during the reign of Sikandar the idol- breaker. The partnership of holy Sayyid Muhammad and Sikandar the Iconoclast succeeded in wiping out idolatry from Kashmir as discussed above. And ‘the credit of wiping out the vestiges of infidelity and heresy from the mirror of the conscience of the dwellers of these lands,’ goes to the holy Sufi saint Sayyid Muhammad, notes Baharistan-i-Shahi.

Conversions by Sufis in Gujarat

Sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq (r. 1351–88) had appointed Furhut-ul- Mulk as the governor of Gujarat. Undertaking tolerant policies toward Hindus, notes Ferishtah, Furhut-ul- Mulk ‘encouraged the Hindu religion, and thus rather promoted than suppressed the worship of idols.’ As usual, this caused revulsion among ‘the learned (Sufis) and orthodox (Ulema) Mahomedans of Guzerat, fearing lest this conduct should be the means of eventually superseding the true faith (Islam) in those parts.’ They addressed the Delhi Sultan explaining the liberal Muslim governor’s political views and ‘the danger (it posed) to the true faith, if he were permitted to retain his government.’ After receiving the complaint, Sultan Firoz Shah ‘convened a meeting of the holy men (Sufi saints) at Dehly and in conjunction with them appointed Zuffur (Moozuffur Khan)’ as the viceroy of Gujarat.

This Moozuffur Khan—requested as well as chosen by the Sufi saints—soon ousted tolerant Furhut- ul-Mulk from Gujarat and unleashed brutal terror against Hindus, including their forced conversion and general destruction of their temples. In 1395, ‘He proceeded to Somnath, where having destroyed all the Hindoo temples which he found standing; he built mosques in their stead and left the learned men (Sufis) for the propagation of the faith and his officers to govern the country.’

This example once again proves that the Sufis were generally intolerant of any tolerance certain kind-hearted and liberal Muslim rulers accorded to non-Muslims. The question further arises: how did the Sufis, left behind by Moozuffur Khan in Somnath, propagate Islam among the terror-stricken Hindus after all their temples had been destroyed?

The Sufis of Gujarat and Delhi wanted the ouster of tolerant governor Furhut-ul-Mulk from Gujarat for not suppressing idol-worship (i.e., Hindu religion). It should, therefore, leave one with no doubt that the Sufis, left behind by Moozuffur Khan, meticulously worked in conjunction with the Muslim officers on enforcing the writ of Islamic laws and suppressing the Hindu religion. That means, the Sufis made it sure that the destroyed temples were not rebuilt and that the Hindu religion was not practised to ensure the suppression of idol-worship. Of course, they might have acted like Sufi saint Shamsud-Din Iraqi of Kashmir—whose followers, aided by Muslim soldiers—brought 1,500–2,000 infidels to his khanqah everyday and forcibly converted them to Islam.

The Real Truth about Sufis and Conversion

If Sufis were to play a major role in the propagation of Islam as popular notion goes, it must have happened in India; because, the Islamic conquest of India started in real earnest right at the time, when Sufism had become properly organized and widely accepted in Muslim societies for the first time. It has been noted that Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti came to Ajmer with Sultan Muhammad Ghauri’s army just when Muslim conquest was making a hold in Northern India. As accounted above, none of the greatest Indian Sufis had a mentality needed for the peaceful propagation of Islam. Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti, Nizamuddin Auliya and Shaykh Shah Jalal came to engage in holy war in India and, indeed, participated in Jihadi wars involving slaughter and enslavement of the Hindus. Nizamuddin Auliya encouraged Sultan Alauddin’s barbaric holy wars, and expressed obvious delight at victories in his blood- letting Jihad campaigns, and delightfully accepted large gifts from his plundered booty.

These are only the stories of the most revered and tolerant Sufi saints of medieval India. All indications suggest that, instead of taking on a missionary profession for propagating Islam through peaceful means, the Sufis were invariably the spiritual and moral supporter of bloody holy wars that were waged by Muslim rulers. They were even prominent participants in them. In Kashmir, it is the Sufis, who inspired bloody Jihad that involved whole-sale destruction of Hindu temples and idols, slaughter of Hindus and their forced conversion to Islam. The mentality, attitude and actions of these illustrious Sufis saints of medieval India—whether in Ajmer, Bengal, Bijapur, Delhi or Kashmir—differed very little. Hence, the role Sufis played in conversion all over India may not have been very different from the one, they played in Kashmir.

It should be noted that the Muslim rulers of India were incessantly undertaking holy wars against the multitude of Hindus. Many of these wars involved mass slaughter of the vanquished and enslavement of tens to hundreds of thousands of women and children for their conversion to Islam. Not a single famous Sufi saint ever objected to this cruel and barbaric practice and means of converting the infidels en masse to Islam. No great Sufi saint of India ever made a statement, condemning these barbaric acts. They never asked the rulers to stop their barbaric expeditions and means of conversion on the pain of death. None of them ever said: ‘Do not capture the Hindus for conversion to Islam in this cruel manner. Leave the job to us. That’s our mission to be achieved thorough peaceful persuasion.’ Instead, they offered unstinted support, indeed encouragement; and even, eager participation, in those barbaric wars.

The instances of Sufis’ involvement in converting the Hindus in Kashmir, Gujarat and Bengal gives clear idea about the means they applied in perfect harmony with their deranged ideology and attitude toward non-Muslims and their creeds. In Kashmir, they were the ones to inspire the rulers to unleash brutality against the Hindus and their forced conversion. There is no evidence to support the claim that they converted non- Muslims through peaceful means in large numbers. If such conversions ever took place—those, at best, played a peripheral role in the overall conversion in medieval India. Their role elsewhere was, likely, even less prominent.

Muslim historians have left piles of documentation of the infidels being forced to convert in the battlefields and through enslavement in large numbers in the course of ceaseless Muslim expeditions to all corners of medieval India. Not a single document makes mention of an occasion, in which a Sufi converted the Hindus to Islam in significant numbers through nonviolent means.

Sultan Mahmud enslaved 500,000 Hindus in his first expedition to India, who instantly became incorporated into Islam. Shams Shiraj Afif records that Sultan Firoz Tughlaq converted a great number of Hindus to Islam by offering them relief from the oppressive and humiliating jizyah and other onerous taxes, which is also claimed by the sultan himself (discussed above). According to Afif, he had collected 180,000 Hindus boys as slaves; ‘Some of the slaves spent their time in reading and committing to memory the holy book, others in religious studies, others in copying books.’ Even during the rule of enlightened Akbar, who had prohibited enslavement and forced conversion, his not-so-illustrious General Abdulla Khan Uzbeg, who ruled Malwa for only about two years, had converted 500,000 infidels to Islam through enslavement. The forefathers of today’s Muslims of North West Provinces converted to Islam mostly during the reign of fanatic Aurangzeb in order to avoid persecution, attain privileged rights, and to be relieved of the burdensome discriminatory taxes.

In the midst of this dominant coercive mode of conversion, there exists few evidence or record that the Sufis made significant contributions to proselytization. Based on historical investigation of conversion in medieval India, noted Habib, ‘The Musalmans have no missionary labor to record... We find no trace of missionary movement for converting non-Muslims.’ He added that medieval Islam ‘failed to develop any missionary activity;’ and that, in India, ‘we have to confess frankly that no trace of a missionary movement for the conversion of the non-Muslims has yet been discovered.’ He further added: ‘Some cheap mystic books now current attribute conversions to Muslim mystics on the basis of miracles they performed... But all such books will be found on examination to be latter-day fabrication.’ Rizvi’s investigation on the Sufi mystics of medieval India also led him to conclude that ‘the early mystic records (Malfuzat & Maktubat) contain no mention of conversion of the people to Islam by these Saints.’ Nizamuddin Auliya was India’s greatest Sufi saint. But his biographical memoir Fawaid-ul-Fuad records the conversion of only two Hindu card-sellers by him.

In instances of large-scale conversion, in which Sufis were involved, their roles were to incite the rulers into unleashing violence and cruelty on non-Muslims leading up to those conversions. The evidence recounted above makes it overwhelmingly clear that the Sufi mystics took little interest or initiative in peaceful missionary activity. Indeed, they were opposed to such engagements. For example, when the zealous proselytizer, Sultan Muhammad Shah Tughlaq, wanted to employ the Sufis for missionary work, notes Mahdi Hussain, it faced strong opposition from the Sufi community. Whenever Sufis were involved in the conversion, their method was obviously not peaceful.

Moreover, most of the Indian Sufis, who came from Persia and the Middle East, did not speak Indian languages to transmit Islam’s messages to ordinary people effectively. They never learned the hated jahiliyah Indian languages, while masses of Indian natives were illiterate; they rarely learned Arabic or Persian. Finally, the Hindus of our time, particularly those of the lower caste, are much better able to judge the superior message of equality, peace and social justice, allegedly contained in Islam. Today, the message of Islam is reaching to every corner of India in well-expounded and clear language through so many easily accessible and innovative means. If it was the greatness of Islam’s message, which impressed tens of millions of Indian infidels to embrace Islam during the Muslim rule, the rate of their conversion to Islam should be greater today than at any previous time.


सञ्चरदधरसुधामधुरध्वनिमुखरितमोहनवंशम् |
वलितदृगञ्चलचञ्चलमौलिकपोलविलोलवतंसम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

चन्द्रकचारुमयूरशिखण्डकमण्डलवलयितकेशम् |
प्रचुरपुरन्दरधनुरनुरञ्जितमेदुरमुदिरसुवेशम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

गोपकदम्बनितम्बवतीमुखचुम्बनलम्भितलोभम् |
बन्धुजीवमधुराधरपल्लवमुल्लसितस्मितशोभम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

विपुलपुलकभुजपल्लववलयितबल्लवयुवतिसहस्रम् |
करचरणोरसि मणिगणभूषणकिरणविभिन्नतमिस्रम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

जलदपटलवलदिन्दुविनिन्दकचन्दनतिलकललाटम् |
पीनपयोधरपरिसरमर्दननिर्दयहृदयकवाटम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

मणिमयमकरमनोहरकुण्डलमण्डितगण्डमुदारम् |
पीतवसनमनुगतमुनिमनुजसुरासुरवरपरिवारम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

विशदकदम्बतले मिलितं कलिकलुषभयं शमयन्तम् |
मामपि किमपि तरङ्ग़दनङ्ग़दृशा मनसा रमयन्तम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

श्रीजयदेवभणितमतिसुन्दरमोहनमधुरिपुरूपम् |
हरिचरणस्मरणं प्रति सम्प्रति पुण्यवतामनुरूपम् ||
रासे हरिमिह विहितविलासम् |
स्मरति मनो मम कृतपरिहासम् ||

sañcaradadharasudhāmadhuradhvanimukharitamohanavaṃśam |
valitadṛgañcalacañcalamaulikapolavilolavataṃsam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

candrakacārumayūraśikhaṇḍakamaṇḍalavalayitakeśam |
pracurapurandaradhanuranurañjitameduramudirasuveśam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

gopakadambanitambavatīmukhacumbanalambhitalobham |
bandhujīvamadhurādharapallavamullasitasmitaśobham ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

vipulapulakabhujapallavavalayitaballavayuvatisahasram |
karacaraṇorasi maṇigaṇabhūṣaṇakiraṇavibhinnatamisram ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

jaladapaṭalavaladinduvinindakacandanatilakalalāṭam |
pīnapayodharaparisaramardananirdayahṛdayakavāṭam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

maṇimayamakaramanoharakuṇḍalamaṇḍitagaṇḍamudāram |
pītavasanamanugatamunimanujasurāsuravaraparivāram ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

viśadakadambatale militaṃ kalikaluṣabhayaṃ śamayantam |
māmapi kimapi taraṅGadanaṅGadṛśā manasā ramayantam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

śrījayadevabhaṇitamatisundaramohanamadhuripurūpam |
haricaraṇasmaraṇaṃ prati samprati puṇyavatāmanurūpam ||
rāse harimiha vihitavilāsam |
smarati mano mama kṛtaparihāsam ||

Examining the Guru

These days, it is the unfortunate truth that a lot of deceit happens in the name of Spirituality, especially Tantra. The seat of Guru is oft abused by those in pursuit of money, fame, pleasures etc. A true Guru should not only have a strong footing of the study of the Shastras under a Sampradayavit Guru, but also should have validated the truth of those Shastras by his experience through Upasana. Alternatively, his experiences from rigorous Sadhana should be interpreted through the perceptive lens of the Shastras. It is easy to note that neither is true with Charlatans who pose as Gurus and bring disrepute to Tantra. But the fault of those who undergo abuse from such ‘Gurus’ lies not merely with the charlatan but also with the victims who surrender to him blindly. Every Tantra stresses on the need for the Guru to be examined critically by the disciple, before accepting and surrendering to him. And this requires for the student to have already done his ground work to be able to evaluate the teacher.

Below is an excerpt from Patrul Rinpoche’s ‘Words of My Perfect Teacher’ (translated by Padmakara Foundation) which eloquently explains the stand of Buddhist Tantra on this topic.

In the sandalwood forests of the Malaya mountains, when an ordinary tree falls, its wood is gradually impregnated with the sweet perfume of the sandal. After some years that ordinary wood comes to smell as sweet as the sandal trees around it. In just the same way, if you live and study with a perfect teacher full of good qualities, you will be permeated by the perfume of those qualities and in everything you do you will come to resemble him.

As times have degenerated, nowadays it is difficult to find a teacher who has every one of the qualities described in the precious Tantras. However, it is indispensable that the teacher we follow should possess at least the following qualities.

He should be pure, never having contravened any of the commitments or prohibitons related to the three types of vow - the external vows of the Pratimoksha, the inner vows of the Bodhisattva and the secret vows of the Mantrayana. He should be learned, and not lacking in knowledge of the Tantras, Sutras and Shastras. Towards the vast multitude of beings, his heart should be so suffused with compassion that he loves each one. He should be well-versed in ritual practices outwardly, and inwardly, of the four sections of Tantras. By putting into practice the meaning of the teachings, he should have actualized in himself all the extraordinary achievements of riddance and realization. He should be generous, his language should be pleasant, he should teach each individual according to that person’s needs and he should act in conformity with what he teaches.

More particularly, for teachings on the profound essence of the Mantra Vajrayana pith-instructions, the kind of master upon whom one should rely is as follows. As set out in the precious Tantras, he should have been brought to maturity by a stream of ripening empowerments flowing down to him through a continuos unbroken lineage. He should not have transgressed the samayas and vows to which he committed himself at the time of empowerment. Now having many disturbing negative emotions and thoughts, he should be calm and disciplined. He should have mastered the meaning of the ground, path and result Tantras of the secret Mantra Vajrayana. He should have attained all signs of success in the approach and accomplishment phases of the practice, such as seeing visions of the yidam. The well-being of others should be his sole concern, his heart full of compassion. He should be skilled at caring for his disciples and should use appropriate method for each of them. Having fulfilled all his teacher’s commands, he should hold the blessings of the lineage.

On the other hand, there are certain kinds of teachers we should avoid.

Teachers like a millstone made of wood - These teachers have no trace of the qualities arising from study, reflection and meditation. Thinking that as the sublime son or nephew of such and such Lama, they and their descendants must be superior to anyone else. Even if they have studied, reflected and meditated a little, they did so not with any pure intention of working for future lives but for more mundane reasons - like preventing the priestly fiefs of which they are the incumbents, from falling into decay. As for training disciples, they are about as well suited to fulfilling their proper function as a millstone made of wood.

Teachers like the frog that lived in a well - Teachers of this kind lack any special qualities that might distinguish them from ordinary people. But other people put them up on a pedestal in blind faith, without examining them at all. Puffed up with pride by the profits and honors they receive, they are themselves quite unaware of the true qualities of great teachers. They are like the frog that lived in a well.

Mad Guides - These are teachers who have very little knowledge, having made the effort to follow a learned master and train in the Sutras and Tantras. Their strong negative emotions together with their weak mindfulness make them lax in their vows and samayas. Though of lower mentality than ordinary people, they ape the Siddhas and behave as if their actions were higher than the sky. Such teachers are called mad guides, and lead anyone who follows them down wrong paths.

Blind guides - In particular, a teacher whose qualities are in no way superior to your own and who lack Bodhichitta will never be able to open your eyes to what should and should not be done. Teachers like this are called blind guides.

The Great Master of Oddiyana warns:

Not to examine the teacher
Is like drinking poison;
Not to examine the disciple
Is like leaping from a precipice.

You place your trust in your spiritual teacher for all your future lives. It is he who will teach you what to do and what not to do. If you encounter a false spiritual teacher without examining him properly, you will be throwing away the possibility a person with faith has to accumulate merits for a whole lifetime, and the freedoms and advantages of the human existence you have now obtained will be wasted. It is like being killed by a venomous serpent coiled beneath a tree that you approached, thinking what you saw was just the tree’s cool shadow.

By not examining a teacher with great care
The faithful waste their gathered merit.
Like taking for the shadow of a tree a vicious snake,
Beguiled, they lose the freedom they at last had found.

After examining him carefully and making an unmistaken assessment, from the moment you find that a teacher has all the positive qualities mentioned you should never cease to consider him to be the Buddha in person.

The Tantras of Guhyakali

Guhyakali Siddhikarali

In Tantra, the various Mantras from the five, six or ten āmnāyas are considered to originate from the different faces of Paramashiva.

In general, the six faces of Paramashiva and the corresponding āmnāyas that originate from those faces are:

1. Tatpuruṣa- Pūrvāmnāya
2. Aghora - Dakṣiṇāmnāya
3. Sadyojāta- Paścimāmnāya
4. Vāmadeva- Uttarāmnāya
5. Iṣāna- ūrdhvāmnāya
6. Svacchanda- Anuttarāmnāya

However, in the case of Srīkula Tantra, the six āmnāyas originate from the following six faces of the Lord, who receives the sacred knowledge of these recessions from Mahātripurasundarī Herself:

Ananda Bhairava, Dakṣiṇāmūrti, Virūpākṣa, Rājarājeśvara, Sadāśiva and Saṃvarteśvara.

Even in the case of Mahāvidyā Kālī, the mantras originate from the same faces. However, the scheme is completely different in the specific case of Guhyakālī and Kāmakalā Kālī. While the eighteen lettered mantra of the latter follows the earlier scheme, the twenty-eight lettered mantra which attains tādātmya with Tripurasundarī follows the below discussed scheme specific to Guhyakālī. All these Mantras originate from the lotus faces of Bhagavatī Guhyakālī.

- The ūrdhvavaktra of the Great Goddess is called Dīpaka and from this face twenty Tantras originate. The deity of this āmnāya is Chaṇḍayogīśvarī.

- Below that is the lion face (siṃhavaktra) from which ten Tantras emanate. The deity of this face is Siddhakālikā.

- Below this face is the jackal face, which is dark in color and giving rise to thirteen Tantras. The deity of this face is Mahāsaṅkarṣaṇa.

- To the left is the monkey face called Kapīndra-vaktra, from which twenty-five Tantras originate. The deity of this face is Kubjikā.

- On the right is the boar face (sūkaravaktra), called Trailokyaḍāmara, and from this face originate eight Tantras.

- Further left is the face resembling the Garuḍa, represented by Sundarī, giving rise to sixty-four Tantras.

- On the right is the yellow-hued crocodile face from which sixty-four Tantras originate. The deity of this face is Mahāsaṃhāriṇī.

- To further left is the crystalline elephant face giving rise to nine Tantras. This face is represented by Pratyaṅgirā.

- On the right is the dark horse face (hayāsya), presided over by Siddhayogīśvarī. From this face, thirty-six Tantras originate.

- Finally, from the secretive faced named Siddhikarālī, sixty-four Tantras emanate.

Thus, eight faces of the Great Goddess represent the āmnāyas of the eight directions and the other two faces give rise to Tantras and Mantras of ūrdhva and Pātāla āmnāyas.

Kadi - Hadi - Sadi Amnaya Krama

Urdhvamnaya Kali


gāyatrī, aindrī, sauravidyā, brahmavidyā, turīyā gāyatrī, cakṣuṣmatī, gandharvarāja, paṭhiṣad rudra, jalāpacchamanī tārā, nāmatrayī, mahāgaṇapati, ardhanārīśvara, mṛtyuñjaya, śrutidhāriṇī, mātṛkā, saṃpatsarasvatī, caṇḍayogeśvarī, śāmbhavī, parā, bālā, annapūrṇā, aśvārūḍhā, śrīpādukā, kāmarāja vidyā, tripurabhairavī, caitanyabhairavī, kāmeśvarī bhairavī, mahātripurabhairavī, aghorabhairavī, tripurakṛntanabhairavī, ṣaṭkūṭā bhairavī, nikṛnata bhairavī, bhuvaneśvarī bhairavī, annapūrṇā bhairavī, kukkuṭī, trikaṇṭakī, bhogavatī

nityaklinnā, tvaritā, māyā, māyāvatī, ramā, dhanadā, śabarī, durgā, reṇukā, kularañjinī

navakoṭikubjikā, saṅkarṣiṇī, kriyāsaṅkarṣiṇī, kālasaṅkarṣiṇī, vanadurgā, śūlinī, parighāstrā, mādhavī

caṇḍayogeśvarī, cāmuḍā, aṇimādyaṣṭakaṃ, ratnavidyā, siddhavidyā

sāmrājyasundarī, rājarājeśvarī, mahāsāmrājya vidyā

yakṣiṇī, kinnarī, siddhī, pūtanā, kavacā, kūṣmāṇḍinī


lopāmudrā vidyā, agastya vidyā, dvitīyāgastya vidyā, candravidyā, tṛtīyāgastya vidyā, nandividyā, sūrya vidyā, śāṅkarī vidyā, vaiṣṇavī vidyā, durvāsopāsitā vidyā

vāgvādinī, ucchiṣṭa cāṇḍālī, sumukhī, māta~ṅgī, annapūrṇā

rājamātaṅgī, laghuvārāhī, tiraskariṇī, svapnavārāhī, pādukā, jambukī, kiṣkikā, śukī, vāgīśvarī, śukatuṇḍā, mohinī, kirātinī, kṣemaṅkarī

śrīpūrtipādukā, vārtālī, mahāgurupādukā, mahātimirāvatī, kālamāyā, cāmuṇḍā

ṣoḍaśī, parā, caraṇavidyā, ṣaṭ śāmbhavaṃ

ceṭakādi vidyāḥ


śrīvidyā, bālā, tripurabhairavī, bhuvaneśvarī, annapūrṇā

bagalāmukhī, vaśinī, tvaritā, kuleśvarī, mahiṣamardinī, mahālakṣmī

mahāsarasvatī, vāgvādinī, pratyaṅgirā, bhavānī

kālikā, tārā, mātaṅgī, bhairavī, chinnamastā, dhūmāvatī

parāprāsāda vidyā

nāgaśaktyādayo vidyāḥ


bālā, pañcadaśī, ṣoḍaśī

parāprāsāda, prāsādaparā, parā

caraṇavidyā, nirvāṇa caraṇa

śāmbhavacaraṇa, ṣaṭ śāmbhavaṃ

medhā, sāmrājyamedhā, sarvasāmrājyamedhā, divyasāmrājyamedhā


bhuvaneśvarī, mahālakṣmī

tripurā, tripuṭā, bālā, viśālākṣī, annapūrṇā

bagalā, mātaṅgī, siddhalakṣmī, arundhatī

tārā, chinnamastā, sumukhī, dhūmāvatī

kālikā daśabhedasahitā


cintāmaṇi, sparśamaṇi, kalpataru, kāmadhenu

siddhakālī, ṣoḍaśī, kālikā daśabheda sahitā


kāmakalā kālī, guhyakālī



haṃsakālī, caṇḍakālī

bhadrakālī, śmaśānakālī

guhyakālī, kāmakalā kālī

dhanakālī, siddhakālī, cāmuṇḍā



lakṣmī, mahālakṣmī, kośavidyā, praṇava, parā, niṣkalā śāmbhavī, ajapā, mātṛkā, tripureśvarī, ūrmiṇī

lalitā, kāmeśī, raknetrā bhairavī, parā

sañjīvinī, mṛtyusañjīvinī, vajraprastāriṇī, bhairavī

saṃhāra bhairavī, ḍāmara bhairavī, caitanya bhairavī, ṣaṭkūṭā bhairavī, nityā bhairavī, bhayavidhvamsinī bhairavī, bhīmabhairavī, aghorabhairavī, kālikā bhairavī, sampatpradā bhairavī

pañcamī, sundarī, pārijāteśvarī, pañcabāṇeśvarī, pañcakāmeśvarī, annapūrṇā, mātaṅgī, bhuvaneśvarī, ṣoḍaśī bhedasahitā


mahālakṣmī, vāgīśvarī, aśvārūḍhā, mātaṅgī, nityaklinnā, bhuvaneśvarī, ucchiṣṭacāṇḍālī, bhairavī, śūlinī, vanadurgā, tripurā, tvaritā, aghorā

jayalakṣmī, vajraprastāriṇī, dhūmāvatī, annapūrṇā, kālasaṅkarṣiṇī, dhanadā, kukkuṭī, bhogavatī, śabarī, kubjikā, siddhilakṣmī, bālā tripurā

nīlapatākā, caṇḍaghaṇṭā, trikaṇṭakī, caṇḍeśvarī, bhadrakālī, guhyakālī, anaṅgamālā, cāmuṇḍā, vārāhī, bagalāmukhī, jayadurgā, nārasiṃhī

saptamātṛkā, harasiddhā, phetkārī, nakulī, mṛtyuñjayā, cintāmaṇi, nṛsiṃha, hayagrīva, bhairava, caraṇāyudha, kṣetrapāla, mahākāla, trijaṭā, ekajaṭā, mahogratārā, mahocchuṣmā, nīlasarasvatī, vāmā, maholkā, mahākālasundarī, cāṇḍālī, vasundharā, brahmatārā, śyāmā kālī, pralayatripurā, sundarī, raktacāṇḍālinī

kālī, tārā, chinnamastā, kāmakalā, mahāṣoḍaśī

śābara vidyāḥ, aghora mantrāḥ, cīnāgamāḥ, bauddhāgamāḥ, jaināgamāḥ, ceṭakādayaḥ, pitṛbhūvāsinī, caṇḍakātyāyanī, mahāmaṇḍalayugmaṃ, yakṣiṇyaṣṭakaṃ, sarpāḥ, kinnaryaḥ








Kundalini Yoga of the Tantra

- Dr. Motilal Pandit

Whatever the philosophical orientation of a Yogic school may be, the cultivation of the preliminary steps, as envisaged by the classical Yoga School of Patanjali, constitutes the basic foundation of every kind of yogic praxis. The steps are so envisaged as would enable the practitioner to realize the soteriological goal of freedom. The freedom that is sought concerns existence in the world itself. All Indian schools of thought, whether orthodox or heterodox, are of the view that man will experience suffering to the extent he is not free, and this freedom is the ultimate goal of every yogic school. Each yogic school, however, has its own understanding as to the nature of this freedom. There, this, are different interpretations with regard to the nature of soteric freedom. Whatever be the interpretation concerning the nature of soteric freedom, all yogic schools agree that this transcendental freedom can be achieved only when consciousness is completely introverted. In other words, it is in and through the process of introversion of consciousness that embodied existence is transcended and this transcendence is equated with the autonomy of the Self. In order to facilitate the transcendence of empirical existence, the classical School of Yoga of Patanjali has devised certain practical techniques by the use of which the ladder of transcendence can be successfully ascended. The yogic discipline of Patanjali consists of eight steps, and upon perfecting a particular step one automatically steps into the succeeding step. This discipline of Patanjali with slight alterations, has been accepted by all yogic schools as the most appropriate method of enabling the adept of gaining control over the senses. Once control over the senses has been gained, it is not difficult for the yogi to reach his real goal, which is that of introversion of consciousness.

The first two steps of the yogic discipline - Yama and Niyama are of ethical nature, and so are of general import. The thrust of these two steps is to enable the adept to attain inner purity whereby the control of the mind may be facilitated. It is upon interiorizing the essential ethical principles that the mind becomes one-pointed, which means consciousness is saved from diffusion.

The real yogic discipline begins from the third step, which is that of ‘posture’ (āsana). For a Tāntrika, a posture does not simply signify as to what kind of bodily position the practitioner of meditation should make us of while meditating. For him posture has a broader significance and meaning than what occurs in the classical Yoga of Patanjali. For a Tāntrika, it is essential to interiorize the physical posture. Upon interiorizing the posture, a Tāntrika directs his attention upon the “central point” (madhyamā) that exists between the exhaling and inhaling breaths, between two thoughts, or between two actions. This focusing of attention upon the central point results in the emergence of what the Tantra calls inner posture. It becomes abundantly clear that Tantra is not so much concerned with the external aspects of Yogic techniques as much as with their inner essence. It is for this reason that great emphasis has been laid upon the interiorization of techniques. This practice of fixing attention upon the central point corresponds to the Buddhist practice of mindfulness (smṛti). While laying emphasis upon the essence of techniques, Tantra does not neglect the external aspects of Yogic methods. It recognizes the fact that interiorization of posture is not possible unless the art of physical posture is perfected.

It is upon gaining perfection in the external aspect of the posture that a Tāntrika attempts at internalizing it. The interiorization of the posture (āntarika āsana) is accomplished by fixing awareness upon the middle point of two breaths, or two thoughts or two actions. It is upon the pathway of the breath that a Tāntrika is asked to maintain a continuous awareness on and in the center of the inhaling and exhaling breaths. It is this process of fixing awareness on the central point that is really called the internal posture.

For a Tāntrika the idea of “central point” fundamentally denotes the ‘point of conjunction’ or ‘meeting’ (samādhi). The interiorization of the posture is completely dependent to what extent awareness upon the central point has continuously been maintained and fixed. Insofar as the fixing of attention is concerned, it has to ensure from the beginning to the end of two breaths. A Tāntrika is however warned not to engage in this practice either during the night or day. The suitable time for this practice is that of twilight, which is that of dawn or dusk. It is upon gaining perfection in internalizing posture that a Tāntrika steps into the fourth limb (aṅga) of Yogic discipline, which is that of Prāṇāyāma or breath control.

The leap from the physical posture to that of breath control is gained the moment the Tāntrika succeeds in maintaining a continuous awareness of the central point of incoming and outgoing breaths. It is by fixing awareness on the central point that the breath of the adept becomes, progressively and spontaneously, refined. It is the refinement of breath that elevates the adept to another world, which is that of Prāṇāyāma. As to how to be established gainfully in the state of Prāṇāyāma, Tantra has devised two methods namely Ajapā Gāyatrī and that of Chakrodaya. The adept, while engaged in the practice of the former method, is asked to remain aware on the points where the outgoing and incoming breaths begin and end. The awareness has to be continuous and unbroken. Tantra, however, recognizes that this method is difficult to practice as very few adepts succeed in perfecting the art of maintaining an unbroken chain of awareness concerning the central point. As this method is difficult to practice, so a Tāntrika is asked to practice another method, which is that of Chakrodaya or the method of ‘the emergence of the wheel’. Being less cumbersome and difficult, a Tāntrika adept finds it easier to practice. While practicing this method, the adept is asked to cultivate awareness in such a manner as would not result in external or internal exertion. The awareness has to be such a kind that would emerge by itself spontaneously from the center from where the two breaths begin and end.

Our normal breathing is always coarse, rough and irregular. The adept, on account of the coarseness of breaths, is unable to maintain continuous awareness upon the central point of breaths. It is the refinement of breath that is seen by the Tāntrika as the only means of enabling the adept to fix his attention upon the central point of breaths. It is in and through the practice of Chakrodaya that a Tāntrika expects to effect refinement in the process of his breathing. The scale of refinement in breathing is realized to what extent the span of breaths have been lengthened. And the lengthening of breaths is dependent upon Prāṇāyāma. According to Tantra, a lengthened inhalation or exhalation occupies less space, whereas the shorter ones are believed to be occupying more space. The purpose of refining the breaths as well as of fixing attention upon the central point is to effect introversion of consciousness. The Tāntrika attains the powers of omnipotence and of omnipresence when one has arrived at the condition whereby the space of breaths is reduced by one tuṭi. It is through the practice of Chakrodaya that the movement of breath is lengthened and thereby is reduced the space that short breaths occupy. Further the practitioner of Chakrodaya is asked that, while lengthening the span of breaths, he must inhale and exhale in such a manner as would result in the audibility of the emerging sound, which means that the internal sound should be audible to those who may be sitting nearby.

Insofar as the commencement of ascendent and descendent breaths is concerned, there are differing views among the practitioners of Tantra. One school of thought is of the view that “heart” should conduct the incoming and outgoing breaths. The other school of thought thinks that it should be the “throat” from where the breaths should commence. Most followers of Tantra think that it is very dangerous to engage in such a practice that allows the breath to originate from the heart. Experts in the art of Tantric praxis believe that this practice terminates in the emergence of heat in the heart. The heat not only damages the heart, but also leads to mental derangement. Even there is the danger of death for the one who does not handle this practice with care. The Tāntrika thus is advised to abandon such practices that can be fatal and dangerous. Most of the Tāntrikasa, therefore, prefer the least harmful practices which in the present context means that it should be the throat that should conduct or control breathing.

Upon deepening the introversion of consciousness through the process of inhalation and exhalation in terms of fixing awareness upon the central point, the adept thereby is in a position of abandoning the normal states of consciousness namely, the states of waking (jāgrat), deep sleep (suṣupti) and dreaming (svapna). Upon the abandonment of the normal or empirical modes of consciousness, the adept steps into what is called the Fourth (turīya). The Fourth is a state of consciousness that emerges at the conjunction of empirical states of consciousness.

Once the proficiency and expertise in the technique of breath control is gained, the adept thereby is ready to move onto the next yogic disciplinary step, which is that of mental abstraction or Pratyāhāra. The deepening of introversion of consciousness is made effective to the extent the technique of mental abstraction is cultivated intensely. There is, thus a direct link between the introversion of consciousness and mental abstraction. There is all the possibility of experiencing giddiness or sleep at the level of Prāṇāyāma, but such type of experiences do not occur at the level of mental abstraction. Instead of sleep or giddiness, the adept may experience a kind of inertia seeping into this organs of action (karmendriya). The inertia could be of such a nature that the organs of action might become lifeless, that is, totally dead to the external stimulus. The organs of action thus lose the capacity of initiating any form of action. Insofar as the organs of perception (jñānendriya) are concerned, they too lose their capacity of functioning in a normal way. Whatever one sees or hears or touches is indistinct and hazy. The mind goes blank, which means it loses the capacity of making any kind of judgement or of making use of the will. This state may be compared to the one which sleepwalking represents. All these experiences indicate that the adept is calling off himself from his immediate environment. It also means that consciousness, by turning upon itself, sinks into its own abyss. These experiences also indicate that the adept is ready to step into the state of the Fourth or Turīya. Upon gaining entrance into the Fourth state, the adept thereby loses complete interest in what is out there. This lack of interest in the outside world is the sign of inward journey. It is in terms of the inward journey that the adept attempts to explore the inner realms of consciousness.

The adept upon the commencement of interior journey, is given the opportunity of gaining access to such experiences that are free from the coarseness of empirical experiences. Since the inward experiences are of subtle nature, so it means that no coarse element exists in it. It is the subtlest aspect (tanmātra) of the five elements that the adept is enabled to have experience of. To have the experience of the subtle aspects of the elements means that consciousness has achieved the highest degree of purity and refinement. This refinement is directly linked to what degree consciousness has been, in the ascetic furnace of interior meditation, purified. The purity of consciousness empowers the adept to have the experience even of the subtle aspects of sound, smell and touch. To arrive at the subtle aspect of an element, within the yogic parlance, denotes that the experience is of the nature of delight. The experience is as delightful as occurs at the height of sexual orgasm. Although permeated by the flavor (rasa) of delight, such experiences are not seen as the sure signs of spiritual advancement. They are, instead, viewed as impediments in the way of spiritual progress, because they distract the adept from the goal towards which he is expected to move. The adept subsequently goes astray and engages in such activities that terminate in the birth of non-freedom, that is bondage. The adept is hence warned not to seek or run after these experiences of delight. The access to the state that is mental is opened up the moment the subtleness of elements is internally produced, and as a consequence of this the unwinding of the mind occurs with great awareness. Accordingly the adept enters the state of Supreme Consciousness. Thus is facilitated the emergence of the state of mental repose or Pratyāhāra.

The adept sinks into the interior repose of consciousness to the measure he successfully overcomes the impediments that come to be due to the delightful experiences. The very turning away from experiences that are delightful in nature empowers the adept of sundering even the subtlest links with the world. Accordingly, Pratyāhāra, both as a state and as a technique, has been defined as that process whereby one efficaciously actualizes the sundering of bondage with saṃsāra. The delinking of consciousness from the external world also means that consciousness is completely emptied of contents of empirical knowledge. The absence of external content in consciousness facilitates the passage for the arising of knowledge that is true (ṛtambharā), which means that the adept now knows the real as it is in itself. At this point of introversion or inwardness the movement of breath slows down to the minimum, and consequently the state of complete abstraction or Dhyāna is entered.

Prior to stepping into the state of dhyāna, the movement of breath enters the central mystical channel of Suṣumnā nāḍī and from there the breath rushes downward to the root Mūlādhāra chakra where the Kuṇḍalinī is supposed to be lying in the state of inertia or sleep. It is in the state of dhyāna in which the arousal of the Kuṇḍalinī is initiated. The awakening of the Kuṇḍalinī is not possible unless all the yogic steps are traversed successfully. At the same time complete expertise in the yogic techniques has to be gained before the breath enters the central channel. The state of dhyāna thus corresponds to the awakening of Kuṇḍalinī itself. In the Spandakārikā (1.2.24) of Kallaṭa the equating of dhyāna with the entrance of breath into the central channel is described thus: “When the Yogi confirms internally that he will do whatever the state of Supreme Consciousness wills, and when he takes hold of the sound element (spanda tattva), his breathing enters the central channel and rises again in the upward path (ūrdhvamārga) as Kuṇḍalinī.”

Upon attaining the state of Dhyāna, the adept, for all practical purposes, transcends the normal, or what we may call empirical mode of perception. Transcendence of normal cognition denotes that one loses the sense of one’s identity. At this meditative level, the process of visualization as well as of breathing comes to complete standstill. The meditative absorption is no more dependent upon the focusing of attention upon the central point. The adept has gained such meditative dexterity that absorption occurs spontaneously. Also the absorption is so deep that every form of mental process ceases to function. As a result of the cessation of mental processes the adept’s body is charged with an electric like current. Such charging of the body results in the emergence of such an experience that is characterized by the shock of wonder (camatkāra). The experience of bliss, of joy, of wonder in the form of shock, is termed as the initiation of penetration (videha dīkṣā). We shall explain as to what this initiation denotes while discussing the arousal of Prāṇa Kuṇḍalinī.

The initiation of penetration is of six types. The seventh one is the final one. When the adept reaches the final initiation of penetration, it means that the Kuṇḍalinī has reached her final destination, which is the top of the skull, and which is the abode of Shiva. Once Kuṇḍalinī reaches the top of the head, the adept thereby steps from dhyāna into the next limb of Yoga, which is that of Dhāraṇā. Dhāraṇā is that absorptive state in which the mind establishes itself firmly in the internal reality of Supreme Consciousness. At this level, the practitioner of meditation is asked to adjust to the new situation which has emerged on account of trans-empirical cognition. This cognition results in the monistic view of reality that asserts the essential correspondence between the microcosm and the macrocosm, between the universal and the individual, between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. For a tāntrika yogi, it means that the phenomenal world, prior to its emanation or manifestation, exists as a latent seed in the Absolute, and the Absolute is nothing else but Shiva, or what in philosophical language is called as I-Consciousness.

The body of the adept, at this point of experience, is charged with energy. The process of breathing, too, regains life. All this indicates that the adept has become proficient in the art of absorption. No exertion of any kind is involved in reaching the state of absorption. It is spontaneous. While externalizing his awareness, the adept thereby does not abrogate awareness. In whatever condition he may be, he is always in the state of absorption. Whether eating, sleeping or walking, the adept remains constantly in the state of the Fourth or the Turīya. Accordingly this state is referred to as that of bliss that is cosmic in nature (Jagadānanda).

From the state of Dhāraṇā the adept enters, without any effort or impediment into the final meditative state, which is of indeterminate nature. This meditative indeterminate state of consciousness is technically called the Nirvikalpa Samādhi. It is so spoken because no content is to be found in consciousness. For this reason, this state is also spoken of as a state in which the process of thinking is completely absent. It is upon reaching this indeterminate state of consciousness that the adept experiences the merger of the Kuṇḍalinī with Shiva. This merger of the Kuṇḍalinī with Shiva empowers the adept to have the taste of the immortal nectar. Upon tasting the immortal nectar the adept attains the deathless state, a state that results in the experience of the dissolution of the cosmos into what is called I-Consciousness.

The ascent of Kuṇḍalinī thus corresponds to the deepening of consciousness through meditative absorption into oneself. This sinking of consciousness into oneself terminates in the termination of all links with the outside world. The merger of the Kuṇḍalinī into Shiva signifies for a Tāntrika, at the level of experience, the dissolution of the universe in terms of which resorptive movement, in contrast to the emissional one, is actualized by Shiva.

Tantra has made a tripartite division of the Kuṇḍalinī. This division corresponds to the three levels of manifestation as well as well as to the three aspects of the Ultimate Reality. The three aspects of the Kuṇḍalinī are known as the Parā Kuṇḍalinī, the Chit Kuṇḍalinī and the Shakti Kuṇḍalinī. Kuṇḍalinī is the innate power responsible for giving rise to the manifest realm by atomizing Shiva into a multitude of entities. While atomizing Shiva, Kuṇḍalinī itself gets atomized. The Parā Kuṇḍalinī represents the transcendent state of Reality, and this state is characterized by non-differentiation. It is a state of non-difference and so no bifurcation exists, at this level, in Being. As the innate power of Shiva, Parā Kuṇḍalinī is that energy of Shiva through which the manifestation of emission (Visarga) occurs. Symbolically, this state is represented by by the two dots one upon the other (:), denoting thereby the Divine Couple as Shiva and Shakti. The esoteric significance of the two dots indicates the revealing and concealing powers of the Divine.

The Parā Kuṇḍalinī as the absolute creatrix, gives rise to the objective world not because of external compulsion or internal necessity, but because of her sovereign freedom and will. As sovereign, She can equally choose or not choose to emit the universe out of Herself. Prior to the actual projection or manifestation of the universe, the innate sovereign freedom (svātantrya) of the Parā Kuṇḍalinī is so externalized as would make it possible for the ejection of the sprout of a fertilized seed. This process of externalization of creative freedom of the Goddess as Kuṇḍalinī may be termed as the first phase of creational manifestation. It is in the second phase of the creative activity of the Goddess that the emission of the objective universe is initiated. In the third phase emission of the universe is actualized at the point when the absolute power and freedom of the Goddess are objectified. It is the innate power of the Parā Kuṇḍalinī as the Goddess which the Tāntrikas consider as the basic cause for the emanation of the objectified universe.

The Goddess as Parā Kuṇḍalinī constitutes the absolute freedom as well as will (icchā) of Shiva. It is the absolute will of Shiva which, while responsible for initiating the process of the universe, is spoken of as Shakti. The Parā Kuṇḍalinī at the metaphysical level, is the embodiment of absolute freedom and will, and so is accordingly seen as representing the essential nature of Shiva. The Parā Kuṇḍalinī, upon the manifestation of universe, atomizes herself as the sleeping energy, of which the coiled snake is the symbol. It is this atomic aspect of Parā Kuṇḍalinī that is known as the Shakti Kuṇḍalinī. It is as Shakti Kuṇḍalinī that the Parā Kuṇḍalinī is thought to be source of light (prakāśa) of consciousness (chit). As and when the term ‘light’ is made use of, it denotes that power by which consciousness is enabled to have the knowledge of itself as well as of what is out there. It is as light that knowledge expresses itself through five forms of sound, touch, form, taste and smell. These five modes of apprehending knowledge correspond to the five sensations of seeing, touch, hearing, taste and smell. The Shakti Kuṇḍalinī represents the creative aspect of the Parā Kuṇḍalinī and accordingly is considered to the seventeenth kalā of the supreme nectar.

The infinitude of Parā Kuṇḍalinī cannot be experienced by the adept on account of him being subject to the limitations of embodied existence. That which consists of body suffers continuously from the temporal succession of change. The body of the adept too, is subject to temporal change, which means that it is as finite as any other material entity. It is impossible for the finite entity to comprehend or experience that which is infinite, beyond the temporal succession of change and unlimited. The limited body of the adept has no capacity or power of experiencing the infinite. The adept has the possibility of experiencing the infinitude of the Parā Kuṇḍalinī at the time of death, that is, at the time when he is in the process of discarding his embodied existence. As and when the adept has the experience of the Parā Kuṇḍalinī his experience of her is in terms of what the tāntrikas call internal samādhi. The experience that the adept has of Parā Kuṇḍalinī is in terms of unity of Being, that is, the macrocosm and the microcosm are experienced as being identical. This experience of identity or unity is technically called the Krama Mudrā. The bliss that results from this experience is of cosmic nature.

The difference between the experience of the Parā Kuṇḍalinī, the Shakti Kuṇḍalinī, the Chit Kuṇḍalinī and the Prāṇa Kuṇḍalinī is in the following. Upon the awakening of Shakti Kuṇḍalinī the energy of breath that enters the central channel does not touch the spinal cord. It goes, rather, upward without any impediment or interruption. In the case of Chit Kuṇḍalinī or Prāṇā Kuṇḍalinī the energy of (prāṇa śakti) has to penetrate the Chakras along the spinal cord. It is upon the penetration of the Chakras that the path for Kuṇḍalinī is cleared from all obstructions. Once the path is cleared of all obstruction, the Kuṇḍalinī ascends, with ease, upward till it reaches the top of head where She merges in Shiva.

Next to the Parā Kuṇḍalinī is the Chit Kuṇḍalinī which, as the embodiment of energy, empowers individual beings with the power of awareness. An adept gains the capacity of experiencing the Chit Kuṇḍalinī by employing the various Yogic techniques and one of them is that of the Chakrodaya. This technique consists of focusing the attention on the central point, or what is called the point of conjunction. This point is one where two breaths, two thoughts or two actions meet and conjugate. The point of conjunction (madhyama) is equated with the void (śūnya) of space. The concept of void or śūnya is considered by the tāntrikas as the symbol of unimpeded freedom. Since the void of space and the point of conjunction are identical, so it means that the latter too, represents absolute freedom of Shiva. It is by meditating on this central point that the adept by going inward, gains the necessary power of interiorizing the extroverted consciousness. Upon having sufficiently turned consciousness inward, the adept thereby is in a position of experiencing the Chit Kuṇḍalinī. The process of interiorizing of consciousness begins in the following way. An adept, through a focused and deep concentration, enters the point of conjunction. With the deepening of interiority of consciousness there occurs the slow pace of pulse, of the circulation of blood, and of the breath movement. There also arises within the crawling sensation as well as the humming sound of a bee. This experience results in the rise of intense delight.

In addition to Chakrodaya, there is another method which consists of pushing the incoming and outgoing breaths into the central channel. At the initial stage the breaths may be allowed to descend a little downward. Upon gaining mastery over this technique, the adept is asked to collect the breaths at that point where they may slip down to the Mūlādhāra Chakra. The point at which the breaths are collected or unified is known as the point of Laṃbikā. When the breaths are unified and are ready to descend downward, there occurs the cessation of breathing, which results in the experiencing of choking sensation. At this point of experience the right side of Laṃbikā opens up, which facilitates the breaths to descend downward. The normal breathing on the right side of Laṃbikā remains blocked. The passage to the right side of Laṃbikā is opened up through the practice of refined deep concentration. As a consequence of intense concentration the breaths are unified, and accordingly are allowed to reach the Mūlādhāra Chakra.

Once the collected breaths enter, through the right side passage of Laṃbikā, into the central channel, there emerges such a type of vibration that is experienced upon the closure of the opening of ears. The breaths, once in the Mūlādhāra Chakra, arouse the Kuṇḍalinī from her sleep. The awakening of Kuṇḍalinī results in the penetration of the Mūlādhāra Chakra. Once penetrated by Kuṇḍalinī it begins to revolve clockwise at an unimaginable speed. It is the first authentic experience that a practitioner experiences upon the arousal of Kuṇḍalinī.

The breaths as a unified whole become one with the Kuṇḍalinī upon reaching the lowest Chakra. Once in this Chakra, they facilitate the arousal of Kuṇḍalinī from the state of sleep in which she finds herself upon becoming atomized by reducing herself to the manifest categories or Tattvas. The Kuṇḍalinī, upon arousal moves upwards from the lowest Chakra towards the navel or Nābhi Chakra. Once here, the Kuṇḍalinī penetrates it and consequently makes it rotate like a wheel. At the same time the Yogi experiences as if both the Mūlādhāra Chakra and the Maṇipūraka Chakra are revolving simultaneously and together. While both the wheels revolve, they produce such vibratory sounds that are so pleasing that they enrapture the mind.

From the navel wheel the Kuṇḍalinī moves onto the next Chakra, which is known as the heart or Hṛt Chakra. While penetrating this wheel of energy, the Kuṇḍalinī makes it revolve along with the other two wheels that lie below it. The experience that the Yogi has is that of rotating movement of all the three Chakras or wheels. The Yogi even experiences the presence of the spokes of the wheels. From this wheel of energy the Kuṇḍalinī moves onto the next Chakra, which lies n the throat and is accordingly known as the Kaṇṭha Chakra. From the throat wheel, She moves onto the wheel of energy that lies between the two eyebrows (bhrūmadhya). The Kuṇḍalinī does not move any further for such practitioners who are solely interested in worldly pleasures, that is, in the attainment of Siddhis etc. In case of such practitioners who are desirous of liberation from human bondage, the Kuṇḍalinī however, moves towards the top of the head. Upon reaching the top of the head, the Kuṇḍalinī no more has an atomized existence. By merging in the Supreme Consciousness, which is Paramashiva, she attains the undifferentiated condition, which for the yogi means that he no more experiences himself to be separate from his ontological ground. This merger, at the anthropomorphic level, is seen as the unification of the Divine Couple, that is, of Shiva and Shakti. Also this unification is equated with the experience of unity that occurs between male and female when engaged in sexual intercourse. The resultant orgasmic like delight is termed as ‘the celebration of supreme union’ (Mahāmelāpa). This pleasurable experience is said to be of the nature of nectar. Upon drinking the immortal nectar of bliss, the yogi thereby has the experience of the soteric bliss, or the bliss that emerges upon attaining the state of liberation.

The Yogi, while engaged in the practice of the arousal of Kuṇḍalinī from her state of dormancy, should remain cautious of the fact that the arousal must not take place in the reverse order. Such an arousal is said to be of ghostly nature (piśācāveśa). If the arousal occurs in a reverse order, then the Kuṇḍalinī does not move upward from the Mūlādhāra Chakra to the top of head. Rather the movement of the energy of the breath is downward from the middle of the eyebrows to the Mūlādhāra Chakra. Such an arousal is not at all beneficial. It may prove fatal to the well-being of the Yogi.

Once awakened, Kuṇḍalinī moves upward. In her upward journey she penetrates all the Chakras that are located along the spinal cord. This process of penetration of wheels of energy is known as the piercing initiation of Vedha Dīkṣā. The penetration that occurs is dependent upon the inner dispositions of the Yogi that he may be having at the time of the penetration. Abhinavagupta describes this process of penetration in the following words: “This initiation of penetration is described in different ways in the Tantras. Here the Yogi has to experience the initiation of penetration whereby he rises from one Chakra to another. As a consequence of this, he simultaneously experiences the Chakras in motion. Subsequently, on account of this penetration, possesses the eight powers.”

The nuber of penetrations corresponds to the number of wheels of energy, which are said to be six. Each penetration gives rise to an experience that is appropriate to it. The first penetration is known as Mantra Vedha. This penetration occurs in Yogi of such type who is desirous of experiencing the fullness of I-Consciousness. As a consequence of Mantra Vedha, the Yogi has the experience of the rising of Prāṇa Kuṇḍalinī in the form of Mantra. Upon the emergence of Kuṇḍalinī in the form of Mantra, there occurs the experience that is joyful and full of delight. The breath of joy, upon its emergence, penetrates all the Chakras from the Mūlādhāra to the Sahasrāra.

The second kind of penetration is called Nāda Vedha or the penetration by Sound. This kind of penetration occurs in such a Yogi who is desirous of leading people to the soteriological goal of liberation. Insofar as the arousal of Kuṇḍalinī is concerned, it takes place in the form of Nāda or Sound. As the sound is constitutive of speech, so it is through the spoken word (Mantra) that the Yogi is empowered to explain and describe the nature of the Absolute.

The third penetration is known as Bindu Vedha. This penetration is actualized in Yogis of such type who seek sensual pleasures and occult powers. In Yogis of this type the joyful breath is transformed into semen (vīrya). The Yogi of this type, upon the arousal of Prāṇa Kuṇḍalinī, experiences the pervasion of semen from the bottom Chakra to the top one. The ecstatic delight that occurs on account of the presence of semen is equated with the delight that one experiences at the height of sexual orgasm.

The fourth penetration is called śākta vedha or energetic penetration. This penetrative initiation occurs in Yogis who want to be strong both physically and mentally. The Yogi of this type experiences the upward movement of the Kuṇḍalinī to be like that of an ant. Also he experiences the transformation of breath into pure energy. As a consequence of this experience, he thinks of himself as the embodiment of pure energy. Even the sound that emerges upon the arousal of Kuṇḍalinī is of the nature of an electric current.

The fifth penetration is known as Bhujaṅga Vedha or the snake-life penetration. This type of penetration is actualized in such Yogis who visualize Kuṇḍalinī in the form of a snake. The arousal of Kuṇḍalinī in Yogis of such type occurs in the form of a snake. Upon its arousal, the Kuṇḍalinī as snake, when stretching upwards, keeps its tail in the lowest Chakra.

The last penetrative initiation is known as Parā Vedha or transcendental penetration. This penetration is for the Yogi who is desirous of nothing else than to have the experience of the presence of Shiva. The Yogi who has this penetration sinks into the repose of all pervasive I-Consciousness which is nothing else by Shiva itself.


An alternate version from Balamuralikrishna can be heard here.

Shirdi Sai Baba - The 'Hinduization' of a Moslem Fakir

- Kevin Shepherd

Shirdi Sai Baba was an Urdu-speaker. He adapted to Marathi, but his basic linguistic and cultural affiliations reveal him as a Muslim, and more specifically as a Sufi of the liberal and unorthodox variety.

One of his early Muslim disciples kept a notebook in Urdu which has permitted a strong insight into the Sufi orientation of the Shirdi Sai Baba

The Muslim disciple Abdul Baba was a close servitor of the Shirdi Sai Baba for almost thirty years until the latter’s death. Thus, we know that the Sufism exposited by Shirdi Sai was in evidence from 1889 until his last years. Abdul would read the Quran in the presence of the Sai Baba, and at the latter’s behest. Sai Baba would make diverse utterances, and these were recorded in the notebook. Abdul's Urdu manuscript was unpublished until very recently. The basic and underlying significances had passed into oblivion.

Dr. Marianne Warren observed that:

“the manuscript largely pertains to Muslim and Sufi material in Deccani Urdu; there are a number of quotations in Arabic included from the Quran and hadith [traditions of the Prophet].... the fact that the manuscript’s Islamic nature does not fit in with the accepted Hindu interpretation and presentation of Sai Baba may explain why it has remained unpublished.”

The major devotional biography, written in Marathi, likewise confirms the Muslim background. Unfortunately for popular assimilation, this book by Govind R. Dabholkar (alias Hemadpant) gained a very misleading English adaptation that seems to have been more widely read than the original.

The Marathi biography, entitled Shri Sai Satcharita, was composed by an early brahman devotee who repeatedly acknowledged and indicated the Muslim faqir identity. Yet the English adaptation by N. V. Gunaji involved an attempt to omit the Muslim context, instead improvising a Vedantic complexion to the subject. For instance, Gunaji ignored the frequent use of Urdu by Shirdi Sai, and omitted sections of Dabholkar which referred to Muslims, Muslim practices, and Sufi teachings. Gunaji deleted reference to the Islamic ritual of goat slaughter (takkya). However, Dabholkar duly reported that Sai Baba would occasionally undertake this ritual so abhorrent to Hindus.

The name (or rather title) of Sai Baba is evocative of Muslim origins. The word Sai appears to be derived from the Arabic sa’ih - a term used to designate itinerant ascetics in the Islamic world. The word Baba is sometimes given a Hindu context, but that is only partially correct. Baba is a common Marathi expression meaning “father,” though it was also employed in the medieval Indian Sufi tradition. Baba is a Turkish word that referred to diverse preachers and shaikhs, having an origin in the itinerant babas from Central Asia.

The Shirdi Sufi was later believed to possess an intimate knowledge of the Sanskrit language, which was the medium for Hindu scriptures. The attribution was based on his explanation of a verse in the Bhagavad-Gita, a classic text associated with Vedanta. That explanation was imparted to a Hindu devotee. Subsequent analysis has strongly contested the "Sanskrit" attribution, favored by B. V. Narasimhaswami, who was writing many years after Sai Baba’s death. “That interpretation was followed by other writers, and served to strengthen the tendency to portray Sai Baba in a Hinduized manner.”

Sai Baba's explanation of the Gita verse has been described as “totally different” to the version of Shankara and other canonical Hindu commentators. According to recent scholarship, the dialogue does not in fact prove that Sai Baba knew the Gita or even Sanskrit, his emphasis being Sufistic. The very convincing version of Dr. Marianne Warren stresses that he gave a unique interpretation, and did not need to know the text at all, as the verse was read out to him along with a statement of grammatical meanings. This was done at his own request. “Sai Baba had all the raw material of the verse given to him, so there is no basis to the supposition that he in fact ‘knew’ Sanskrit or even the Bhagavad-Gita."

During his lifetime, Sai Baba was generally regarded as a Muslim faqir, with Sufi associations not in general well understood. His white robe (kafni) and headgear were clearly Muslim. He used the Islamic name for God, and repeated Islamic sacred phrases, not Hindu mantras. He even had a habit of referring to God as the Faqir.

The influx of urban Hindus from Bombay in the last years of Sai Baba made the Hindus a clear majority in his following, and tendencies to Hinduization appeared in the later reports culled from devotees who were interviewed by Narasimhaswami in 1936. Nearly eighty devotees were then interviewed, though only 51 have a clear religious identity. No less than 43 of those were Hindu, and 26 of that contingent were members of the elite brahman caste. Only four were Muslims, and there were also two Parsi Zoroastrians and two Christians.

A revealing factor emerges. Narasimhaswami asked all the devotees he interviewed a rather pointed question. Did they think that Sai Baba taught Vedanta? “In all cases they said he did not.” It therefore seems the more anomalous that Narasimhaswami improvised his theme of the Sanskrit expert. In the 1940s, Gunaji was giving an erroneous impression via his Vedantic interpretations of Shirdi Sai Baba, which cannot be found in the original work by Dabholkar that Gunaji was rendering.

Narasimhaswami had never met Sai Baba, and arrived at Shirdi nearly twenty years after his demise. He was not familiar with either Marathi or Urdu. Yet his books on the subject became very influential amongst Hindus. He rather reluctantly referred to Sai Baba as a Muslim, and one whose teachings were indistinguishable from Sufism. He nevertheless admitted to knowing little about Sufism, and himself clearly preferred the bhakti (devotion) approach of Hinduism. Narasimhaswami constantly tended to project that conceptualism onto Shirdi Sai Baba. He had initially been repelled by the Muslim identity, and it is evident that this writer would never have become enthusiastic about the subject without the latitude for Hindu associations in reports he edited.

Narasimhaswami could reason that Sai Baba was apparently a Muslim because he lived in a mosque, although the former was very partial to one report (of Mhalsapati) which claimed that he was a Brahman by birth. The Narasimhaswami version basically wishes to regard the subject as a Hindu, not as a Muslim.

The influential testimonies provided by Narasimhaswami were strongly in the direction of hagiology. That enthusiastic promoter of the “Shirdi revival” produced a work entitled Devotees’ Experiences of Sai Baba (1942). This has been described by a recent assessor as:

“a detailed presentation of alleged miraculous phenomena.... the intent of the work is clearly hagiographic, aiming at the expansion of Sai Baba’s popularity among the public at large.”

Discrepancies in reporting apply to many stories as the alleged wrestling match of Sai Baba in Shirdi with Mohidden Tamboli, evidently a Muslim. According to Gunaji, Sai Baba lost this contest, and thereafter changed his apparel to the kafni of faqirs. The dating is obscure. It has been pointed out that this report is in contradiction to Gunaji's own statement that Sai Baba had been wearing faqir garb from the outset of his arrival at Shirdi. Furthermore, the Hindu informant Ramgiri Bua emphasized that Sai Baba did not wrestle, but instead had a disagreement with the son-in-law of Tamboli, as a consequence of which he retreated to the nearby jungle. This obscure episode has been tentatively dated to the 1880s.

The popular theme that Sai Baba was a miracle worker may be regarded as a devotional distraction culminating in the Shirdi revival of the 1930s. He did not perform “miracle” stunts, and was merely in the habit of giving sacred ash (udi) from his dhuni fire as a token of blessing. The ash became credited with healing properties. Devotees like Dabholkar did strongly credit him with miracles, generally of the minor variety, a major preoccupation being the birth of a child.

Writers who followed in the wake of Gunaji and Narasimhaswami produced diversions. They were strongly influenced by the Hinduization tendency. A Parsi writer composed a chapter entitled “What the Master Taught.” There is not a single reference to Sufism, but instead many to Hindu bhakti, and also one or two that can be interpreted in terms of a simplified Vedanta. Furthermore, another chapter includes the statement:

“The saint of Shirdi baffled his admirers ! No one knew whether he was a Hindu or a Muslim. He dressed like a Muslim and bore the caste marks of a Hindu !”

The equivocal theme of “Hindu or Muslim” had replaced the earlier awareness that the revered entity was a faqir, meaning an alien to Hinduism. The reference to caste marks is superficial, arising from hagiological tendencies.

What did Sai Baba actually teach? The original Hindu devotees like Dabholkar testify that he was constantly uttering Islamic sacred phrases such as “Allah malik” (God is the only ruler). Vedanta is not here evident, but rather a version of the Sufi theme tauhid (unity, oneness of God). There were also many parables and enigmatic statements, plus gnostic assertions in the radical Sufi idiom.

These subjects are not the easiest to penetrate, and certainly cannot be brought under any simplified heading such as bhakti or devotion. However, that is what too many writers have done with the mutated legacy of a radical Muslim Sufi.

Strong tendencies to Hinduize the subject influenced writers like Arthur Osborne into making Shirdi Sai Baba a subject of equivocal affiliation. According to Osborne, Sai Baba “did not fully conform to either” religion, meaning Islam and Hinduism. The primary reasons given for this rather deceptive view are that Sai Baba was a vegetarian and was worshipped in Hindu fashion. The vegetarian theory has since been exposed as a myth, one which inadvertently sides with the Gunaji excision of Dabholkar's reference to the Islamic ritual involving goat slaughter. The fact of Hindu worship, in the unusual circumstances prevailing (in a rural mosque), in no way proves an offsetting Hindu identity.

It is relevant to focus here upon the first major account of Sai Baba, and one that has an elite reputation amongst Hindu devotees. I have referred above to Hemadpant, which was the name bestowed by Sai Baba upon his brahman devotee Govind Raghunath Dabholkar. The contact of Dabholkar with Ssi Baba commenced in 1910, and resulted in the devotional biography known as Sri Sai Satcharita. This was written in Marathi verse, and published in 1929. Dabholkar was here following a long Hindu tradition of writing saintly biographies in verse format.

Dabholkar was concerned to describe miracles, and the hagiological tendency is evident. Legendary details and actual events have been discerned to overlap, requiring careful analysis. Another realistic assessment about the verse of Dabholkar is that “when he did not understand the enigmatic mystic, he would rationalize sayings and events in conformity with his own religious background.”

Dabholkar’s poetic biography assimilated the devotional tendency to identify Sai Baba with the god Dattatreya, who is often depicted as an ascetic or yogi. This Hindu deity is associated with the syncretism of Hinduism and Islamic Sufism that has been traced in Maharashtra. The association is said to date back to the fourteenth century, and was revived in the case of Sai Baba circa 1910. Various Hindu gurus gained repute in the nineteenth century as incarnations of the ascetic deity Dattatreya, and most of these figures (and likewise Sai Baba) were reticent about revealing their personal histories.

A well known instance of Dattatreya association is Swami Samarth of Akalkot (d.1878), who was in affinity with Muslims. A subsequent “Dattatreya guru” representing a Hindu context was Narayan Maharaj of Kedgaon (1885-1945), an ascetic who favoured an opulent lifestyle in his later years while acting as a patron of Dattatreya worship at his ashram.

At the beginning of each chapter, Dabholkar extols Sai Baba. The purpose was evidently to link the Shirdi entity with the Maharashtrian Hindu bhakti tradition of saints who also figure as poets. It is obvious that Dabholkar “tried to accommodate the Muslim Sai Baba within the Maharashtrian Hindu milieu for his readers.”

The reported statement of Sai Baba that “I am of the Muslim caste” is significant. Yet in passing from Dabholkar to the adaptation of Gunaji, we here find a serious case of contraction and omission. Gunaji neglected to include the statement about Muslim caste. He even attempted to deny the possibility Sai Baba could have been a Muslim. In a controversial passage, Gunaji poses the question: if Sai Baba was a Muslim, how could he keep a dhuni fire burning in his mosque, and how could he keep a sacred tulsi plant in the yard outside, and how could he permit Hindu music, and how could he have pierced ears, and how could he have donated money to repair Hindu temples? This is more or less the credo of the “Hindu identity” suggestion that became widespread.

The insular thinking can be contradicted. The sacred fires known as dhuni were also favoured by Muslim faqirs. The tolerance of Sai Baba in relation to Hindu ceremonial adjuncts should not be made antithetical to his own excised statement that he was a Muslim. The issue of pierced ears is not definitive. Many Hindus gained pierced ears at birth. Hindu biographers have urged that the he had pierced ears. Against this must be set an assertion of the Hindu devotee Das Ganu, in a well known poem which states that Sai Baba can be called a Muslim because of such characteristics as his ears not being pierced. Das Ganu added his own conclusion that Sai Baba was a Hindu, adducing the dhuni fire as support. Dabholkar is also contradictory, favoring pierced ears but indicating that Sai Baba was circumcised.

The sectarian attitude frequently contradicts a due perspective. In 1930, a foreword was added to the Dabholkar book in Marathi by Hari Sitaram Dixit. This was the same prominent Hindu devotee who had ousted Abdul Baba from the role of tomb custodian nearly a decade before. Dixit always referred to Sai Baba as Sai Maharaj, that title conveying a distinctly Hindu flavor. Dixit had evolved an interpretation of Sai Baba that is considered idiosyncratic in some sectors. He now declared Sai Baba to have been born ayoniya, which literally means without a womb, i.e., without a human mother.

This new concept avoided the issue of whether he was born a Muslim or a Hindu. Yet the innovation was closely linked to an interpretation of divine incarnations in the Hindu tradition, entities who were all considered to be the products of a virgin birth. The Shirdi Sufi had now effectively become a divine incarnation of Hindu association.

Nilataradhipataye Namah

Shadanvaya Shambhava Krama of Pashchimamnaya


Srī Shaṅkara Bhagavatpāda, in his Saundaryalaharī, espouses the advanced practice of Shaḍanvaya Shāmbhava Krama through the verse (14): kṣitau ṣaṭ pañcāśat:

क्षितौ षट्पञ्चाशत् द्विसमधिकपञ्चाशदुदके
हुताशे द्वाषष्टिश्चतुरधिकपञ्चाशदनिले |
दिवि द्विष्षट्त्रिंशन्मनसि च चतुष्षष्टिरिति ये
मयूखास्तेषामप्युपरि तव पादाम्बुजयुगम् ||

From the Mahāpādukā of Parāśakti situated in Sahasrāra, rays of six kinds originate, corresponding to the different elements and Cakras in the astral body.

- Fifty-six rays of the nature of Earth (pārthiva raśmi) in Mūlādhāra
- Fifty-two rays of the nature of Water (vāruṇa raśmi) in Maṇipūraka
- Sixty-two rays of the nature of Fire (taijasa raśmi) in Svādhiṣṭhāna
- Fifty-four rays of the nature of Air (samīra raśmi) in Anāhata
- Seventy-two rays of the nature of Space (nābhasa raśmi) in Viśuddhi
- Sixty-four rays of the nature of Mind (mānasa raśmi) in Ajñā

Srīcakra, which subtly represents the microcosm (consisting of the six chakras within one’s astral body), is three-fold in nature: soma (moon), sūrya (sun) and anala (fire).

- Mūlādhāra and Svādhiṣṭhāna form a group (khaṇḍa) and above this group is situated the Rudragranthi, which is of the nature of Fire.
- Maṇipūraka and Anāhata form the second group and above this group is situated the Viṣṇugranthi which is of the nature of Sun.
- Viśuddhi and Ajñā form the third group and above this group is situated the Brahmagranthi which is of the nature of Moon.

The rays of Fire pervade the first khaṇḍa. Mūlādhāra, which is the seat of element Earth, is encompassed by fifty-six rays (or flames) of Fire, and Maṇipūraka, which is of the nature of the element Water, by fifty-two rays of Fire. Thus, a total of 108 rays of Fire is accounted for.

Svādhiṣṭhāna, the seat of element Fire, is encompassed by sixty-two rays of the Sun, and Anāhata, which is of the nature of Air, by fifty-four rays of Sun. Now, Sun is situated between Maṇipūraka and Viśuddhi - as the Viṣṇugranthi, but here, the rays of sun are described as pervading Svādhiṣthāna instead of Maṇipūraka! Why is that? The reason is due to the sameness in nature of both the Sun and the Fire, and because of the origination of Fire within the Sun. One can refer to the verse 'taṭitvantaṃ śaktyā' and the various commentaries on it to understand this concept in greater depth. And thus,
116 rays of Sun are accounted for.

Seventy-two rays of Moon pervade Viśuddhi, which is the seat of the element Space; and sixty-four lunar rays pervade the Ajñā, which is of the nature of Mind. Thus, 136 lunar rays are accounted for.

Thus, the Fire, Sun and Moon are present in gross form in the macrocosm (external universe) and in subtle form in the microcosm (within the astral body). This is explained in his Subhagodaya Stuti by Gauḍapādācārya:

त्रिखण्डं ते चक्रं शुचिरविशशाङ्कात्मकतया
मयूखैः षट्त्रिंशद्दशयुततया खण्डकलितैः |
पृथिव्यादौ तत्त्वे पृथगुदितवद्भिः परिवृतं
भवेन्मूलाधारात् प्रभृति तव षट्चक्रसदनम् ||

शतं चाष्टौ वह्नेः शतमपि कलाः षोडश रवेः
शतं षट् च त्रिंशत् सितमयमयूखाश्चरणजाः |
य एते षष्टिश्च त्रिशतमभवंस्त्वच्चरणजा
महाकौलैस्तस्मान्न हि तव शिवे कालकलना ||

These different rays form a sum total of 360. These represent the days in a year and hence the concept of Time. They also represent 360 degrees of Space. Thus, they together account for the wholeness of both Time and Space. These 360 rays represent both the microcosm and the macrocosmic universe. Every of the myriad universes in the infinite creation of Parāmbā constitutes of these 360 rays (marīci). Above and beyond myriad universes of the composite nature of sun, moon and fire lies the Cicchandra maṇḍala, the luminous region of the moon without waxing and waning. This is the seat of the Mahāpādukā of Rājarājeśvarī, which is the origin for all rays that result in infinite number of universes. This is represented in the microcosm as Baindava within the Sahasrāra.

It should be noted that the feet of Parāmbā represent both Shiva and Shakti. What is related to Shiva is called śaiva, and that related to Shakti is called śākta. As these rays (and the deities personified by these rays) originate from the lotus feet of Mahātripurasundarī which is śivaśaktyātmaka, they are said to be śāmbhava. And because they are classified sixfold (in the six chakras), we refer to this scheme as Shaḍanvaya Shāmbhava Krama.

The Shāmbhavāmnāya can be entered through different means. When entered through Dakṣiṇāmnāya or Saubhāgyasundarī Krama, one invokes the 360 rays which manifest as eighteen Nityās, the fifty-letters (mātṛkā) and 292 rays of the Mahāṣoḍaśī mantra. This is the fastest way to enter Shāmbhavāmnāya and is referred to as Devayāna (vehicle of the Gods).

The second option is to enter it through the Siddhayāna or the path of the Siddhas (adpets). Here, the entrance is through the Uttarāmnāya. One contemplates on 36 raśmis of Kāmakalākālī (18X2), 88 raśmis of Aniruddha Sarasvatī (22X4) and 64 raśmis of Mahāsiddhikarālī (16X4). These 188 raśmis, are doubled to represent prakāśa and vimarśa, and the corresponding deities are meditated upon as male, female and in conjugal union based on the time of the day and the specific intent. Thus, 376 raśmis result here. The significance of the excessive 16 count should be understood from an adept Guru, it would suffice here to hint that it represents Tripurasundarī.

The third and the popular option is called Manuṣyayāna or the vehicle of the men. This is entered through the Paścimāmnāya of Navaratna Kubjikā. While the first two are held secretive and should be learned by qualified students from their Guru, we can discuss the third yāna in some detail as Acharya has already dealt with it in his hymn.

One who is initiated into ūrdhvāmnāya, visualizes six hexagons (ṣaṭkoṇa) in six directions within the Mahābindu of the Srīcakra. In the center of the Bindu, Parāmbā is meditated upon in her Ardhanārīsvara svarūpa, and worshiped through śukla, rakta, miśra and nirvāṇa caraṇa vidyā. The procedure outlined below follows sṛṣṭi krama of Dakṣiṇāmūrti sampradāya. In Anandabhairava sampradāya, saṃhāra krama is followed. There is yet another method involving sthiti krama followed by the Gurajaras, which I am only theoretically familiar with and hence will not touch upon here.

In the hexagon visualized in the south-western part of the Bindu, Pareśvara and Pareśvarī are worshiped through their Kubjikāmnāya mantras along with sixty-four rays of the nature of Mind. These rays are invoked as thirty-two couples (mithunas) of Shiva and Shakti, starting with Parānandanātha and Parā parāmbā, till Mantravigrahānandanātha and Mantravigrahā parāmbā.

The Bījakūṭa of Pareśvara śāmbhava is meditated upon as lustrous with a ruddy hue. Pareśvara is six-faced and seated on Sadāśiva, while Pareśvarī, who arises from the vāgbhava bīja of Paścimāmnāya, is seated on a fifty-hooded serpent.

The āvaraṇa devatā raśmis worshiped here are sixty-four - from Sarvarogaharacakrasvāmin to Mahāmahāśayā.

In the hexagon visualized in the western part of the Bindu, Vicceśvara and Vicceśvarī are worshiped through their Kubjikāmnāya mantras along with seventy-two rays of the nature of Space. These rays are invoked as thirty-six couples (mithunas) of Shiva and Shakti, starting with Hṛdayānandanātha and Kaulinī parāmbā, till Parānandanātha and Citparāmbā.

The Bījakūṭa of Vicceśvara śāmbhava is meditated upon as lustrous like a clear quartz crystal. Pareśvara is six-faced and sports twelve hands bearing śūla, cakra, aṅkuśa, śara, vara, śaṅkha, dhvaja, sarpa, nṛkapāla, cāpa and abhaya. Vicceśvarī is similar in form to her consort and is seated on Sadāśiva mahāpretāsana.

The āvaraṇa devatā raśmis worshiped here are seventy-two - from Sarvamantramaya to Kaulinī. The reason for the reversal in the order of male and female forms should be learned from Sadguru.

In the hexagon visualized in the north-western part of the Bindu, Hamseśvara and Hamseśvarī are worshiped through their Kubjikāmnāya mantras along with fifty-four rays of the nature of Air. These rays are invoked as twenty-seven couples (mithunas) of Shiva and Shakti, starting with Khageśvarānandanātha and Bhadrā parāmbā, till Pūjyagurvānandanātha and Rāmā parāmbā.

The Bījakūṭa of Hamseśvara śāmbhava is meditated upon as lustrous with a smoky hue. Hamseśvara is six-faced, of a smoky complexion, sports twelve hands bearing svarṇapātra, śūla, cakra, aṅkuśa, bāṇa, vara, śaṅkha, dhvaja, sarpa, nṛśira, cāpa and abhaya. He is resplendent with twelve lotus feet. Hamseśvarī is similar in form to her consort and they are seated on īśvara pretāsana.

The āvaraṇa devatā raśmis worshiped here are fifty-four- from ātmākarṣiṇī to Sarvasaṃpattipūraṇa.

In the hexagon visualized in the north-eastern part of the Bindu, Samvarteśvara and Samvarteśvarī are worshiped through their Kubjikāmnāya mantras along with sixty-two rays of the nature of Fire. These rays are invoked as thirty-one couples (mithunas) of Shiva and Shakti, starting with Parāparānandanātha and Caṇḍeśvarī parāmbā, till Samayagurvānandanātha and Nivṛtti parāmbā.

The Bījakūṭa of Samvarteśvara śāmbhava is meditated upon as lustrous with a ruddy hue. Samvarteśvara is five-faced, fifteen-eyed, sports ten hands bearing śūla, cakra, dhvaja, brahmakapāla, pārijāta, japamālā, pustaka, abhaya and ṭaṅka. He is resplendent with ten lotus feet, tied hair and protruding sharp teeth. He is eternally sixteen and is decorated with precious gems and bones of nine great snakes. He stands on a single foot atop Rudra pretāsana, with a muṇḍamālā adorning his neck. Samvarteśvarī is similar in form to her consort. During this vidhi, it is the practice to perform ekavaktra, daśavaktra, viṃśativaktra, śatavaktra and śakti nyāsas.

The āvaraṇa devatā raśmis worshiped here are sixty-two - from Kaumārī to Bījākarṣaṇa.

In the hexagon visualized in the eastern part of the Bindu, Dvīpeśvara and Dvīpeśvarī are worshiped through their Kubjikāmnāya mantras along with twenty-six rays of the nature of Water. These rays are invoked as thirty-one couples (mithunas) of Shiva and Shakti, starting with Sadyojātānandanātha and Māyā parāmbā, till Sarveśvarānandanātha and Sarvamayī parāmbā.

The Bījakūṭa of Dvīpeśvara śāmbhava is meditated upon as lustrous with a bright white hue. Dvīpeśvara is meditated upon as dark complexioned and sporting in his twelve hands śūla, cakra, khaḍga, aṅkuśa, vara, khaṭvāṅga, paraśu, gadā, pāśa, gajacarma and abhaya. He is resplendent with protruding sharp teeth. Dvīpeśvarī is also dark complexioned, seated on Viṣṇu pretāsana, and sports in her eight hands śaṅkha, cakra, gadā, padma, śūla, pāśa, vara, abhaya.

The āvaraṇa devatā raśmis worshiped here are fifty-two - from Lopāmudrāmayī to Māheśvara.

In the hexagon visualized in the south-eastern part of the Bindu, Navātmeśvara and Navātmeśvarī are worshiped through their Kubjikāmnāya mantras along with fifty-six rays of the nature of Earth. These rays are invoked as twenty-eight couples (mithunas) of Shiva and Shakti, starting with Uḍḍīśvarānandanātha and Uḍḍīśvarī parāmbā, till Charyādhīśānandanātha and Kulajā parāmbā.

The Bījakūṭa of Navātmeśvara is contemplated on as lustrous with a bright red hue. Navātmeśvara is meditated upon as dark complexioned like the dye of the eye, five faced, fifteen-eyed and sporting in his ten hands śūla, cakra, dhvaja, vara, brahmakapāla, pārijāta, japamālā, pustaka, abhayaand ṭaṅka. He is resplendent with protruding sharp teeth and ten feet. Dvīpeśvarī is dark blue complexioned, seated on Brahma pretāsana, six-faced, of the very form of the great Paścimāmnāyeśvarī Kubjikā, and sports in her twelve hands śūla, cakra, vajra, aṅkuśa, śara, kartarī, padma, nīlotpala, muṇḍa, khaṭvāṅga, ghaṇṭā, pustaka, cāpa, kapāla. She is of a fearful countenance, with each face resplendent with sharp protruding teeth. She is of twenty-eight years age, hair matted into an upward bun, decorated with bones of serpents and nāgamaṇi, and is draped in lion skin.

The āvaraṇa devatā raśmis worshiped here are fifty-six - from Tripurasundarī to Charyānandanāthamaya.

Finally, in Sahasrāra, Mahāpādukā, ūrdhva pāśupata, Nirvāṇa caraṇa are worshiped along with the Mūlamantra and two raśmis: Mahāmahāśrīcakranagarasaṃrāṭ and Mahāmahāśrīcakranagarasāmrājyalakṣmī.

While the ignorant and the uninitiated claim otherwise, an advanced procedure such as this should not be considered lightly or taken up for daily practice without the proper guidance of Guru. Brahmasri Chidānandanātha warned his students to follow this procedure only on Pancha Parvas, till the Rudragranthi is pierced and Kuṇḍalinī ascends past the tāmisra cakras. Also, without a solid foundation of Japa of Prāsāda, Parā, Parāprāsāda, Prāsādaparā and Shambhava mantras, followed by a dedicated daily practice of Mahāṣoḍhā nyāsa for 360X3 days, practices such as these may result in great harm to the upāsaka on account of his unpreparedness. Also, as the entry point to Shāmbhavāmnāya here is through the western quarter, a puraścaraṇa of Kubjikā mantra with dāśāmśa japa of Navātman is considered important.

If duly performed, this practice leads one to the state of not only Jīvanmukti, but also the attainment of Shāmbhava śarīra.

In essence, it is really Kubjikā and Navātman who assume the six variant forms and the underlying mithunas. In case of Srīvidyā, they are appropriated to represent Kāmeśvarī and Kāmeśvara. This characteristic Yoga of Kubjikā and Tripurasundarī sets these schools apart from not only older Trika and Kaula, but various other śaiva schools of the yore. Some of the important works dealing with this subject include Maheśvarataijasānandanātha’s Anandakalpalatikā, Shaḍanvayamahāratna, Shaḍanvayamahākrama of Umākānta and Guhyakālī Krama of Pratāpacandra.