Sharade Karunanidhe

Panchamari Yoga - The Elixir of Immortality

Kṛṣṇānanda āgamavāgīśa describes a prayoga, supposedly from Rudrayāmala, called the Pañcāmarī Yoga, which involves the use of five herbs referred to as five ‘amara vastu’ or five ingredients conferring immortality. Consumption of this mixture is said to grant one external purity, as well as correction of various impurities within the body. The deities represented by these five herbs are: Gaṇapati, Sarasvatī, Shiva, Yoginī and Viṣṇu. The mixture is termed as the ‘Elixir of Immortality’.

The five ingredients are:

1. Dūrvā - Cynodon dactylon
2. Vijayā- Cannabis sativa
3. Bilvapatra - Aegle marmelos
4. Nirguṇḍī or Sindhuvāra - Vitex negundo
5. Kṛṣna Tulasī - Ocimum tenuiflorum

Each of these are taken in equal parts, with the exception of Cannabis, which is used in double compared to the other herbs. Chūrṇa is made first individually from each of them while reciting the below mantras:


OM tvaṃ dūrve.amarapūjye tvamamṛtasamudbhave |
amaraṃ mām sadā bhadre kuruṣva nṛharipriye ||


OM saṃvide brahmasaṃbhūte brahmaputri sadā.anaghe |
bhairavāṇāṃ ca tṛptyarthe pavitrā bhava sarvadā ||


OM kāvyasiddhikarī devī bilvapatranivāsini |
amaratvaṃ sadā dehi śivatulyaṃ kuruṣva mām ||


OM nirguṇḍi paramānande yogānāmadhidevate |
rakṣa māmamre devi bhāvasiddhiprade namaḥ ||

Kṛṣṇa Tulasī

OM viṣṇoḥ priye mahāmāye mahākālanivāriṇi |
māṃ sadā rakṣa tulasi māmekamamaraṃ kuru ||

All these are mixed together reciting the below mantra of Amṛteśvarī or Sudhādevī:

OM amṛte amṛtodbhave amṛtavarṣiṇi amṛtamākarṣayākarṣaya siddhiṃ dehi svāhā |

Then one performs namaskāra displaying Dhenu, Yoni and Matsya mudrās. One next energizes the mixture reciting Gurupādukā seven times followed by the iṣṭa mantra, or the mantra that is currently under puraścaraṇa. The elixir is consumed reciting the below mantra:

OM aiṃ vada vada vāgvādini mama jihvāgre sthirībhava sthīrībhava sarvasattvavaśaṅkari śatrukaṇṭhatriśūlini svāhā |

Nannu Brovu Lalita



दूर्वाश्यामं महोग्रं स्फुटजलदधरं सूर्यचन्द्राग्निनेत्रं
चक्रं वज्रं त्रिशूलं शरमुसलगदाशक्त्यभीतीर्वहन्तम् |
शङ्खं खेटं कपालं सधनुहलफणीत्रोटदानानि हस्तैः
सिंहारिं साळुवेशं नमतरिपुजनप्राणसंहारदक्षम् ||

dūrvāśyāmaṃ mahograṃ sphuṭajaladadharaṃ sūryacandrāgninetraṃ
cakraṃ vajraṃ triśūlaṃ śaramusalagadāśaktyabhītīrvahantam |
śaṅkhaṃ kheṭaṃ kapālaṃ sadhanuhalaphaṇītroṭadānāni hastaiḥ
siṃhāriṃ sāḻuveśaṃ namataripujanaprāṇasaṃhāradakṣam ||

While my iṣṭadaiva is Nṛsiṃha in his several forms, I have always had considerable amount of love and dedication for the related form of Sharabheśvara. Our Guru gave me the mantra of this form of Mahāśambhu as uttarāṅga of Mahāvidyā Vanadurgā. For many years, I had a mistaken notion that as an ardent upāsaka of Nṛsiṃha, it was obligatory not to show anything more than customary respect to Sāḻuveśa, restricting my communication with him to minimal japa on special occasions. At the same time however, I spent humongous time reciting the mantras of Shūlinī and Atharvaṇa Bhadrakālī.

But Parāmbā has her ways of correcting our mistaken notions. Out of nowhere, the image of Sharabheśvara constantly began to appear while reciting Mantrarāja and Sudarśana Nṛsiṃha mantras, which are part of our daily practice. I was horrified and almost felt it to be blasphemous to contemplate on Sharabha while reciting the mantra of his fabled ari, Nṛsiṃha. Over a period of time, the truth of a certain sameness in these two forms began to dawn upon me and several intricate aspects of their upāsanā was revealed.

In Biṃbāmbikā Saṃpradāya, the unique aspect is the worship of Svacchanda Bhairava through a complex mantra which includes the mantrarāja of Nṛsiṃha. The recension of Aghora mantra typically used for this purpose by Kashmir Shaivities, on the other hand, is only used along with Mantrarāja for certain specific prayogas. The prayogas of Sharabha are widely used in this sampradāya with various combinations:

Sharabha Kālī: Sharabheśvara and Dakṣiṇā Kālī
Mahāśarabha: Sharabha, Shīlinī and Pratyaṅgirā
Ugraśarabha: Sharabha pañcāśat and Aghora
Sharabhasiṃha: Sharabha, Nṛsiṃha and Sudarśana
Sharabhāveśa: Sharabha and Vīrabhadra
Vaidyarāja: Sharabha pañcākṣara, Amṛtabhairava, Parā etc.

As per the instructions of ur Guru Chinmudrānandanātha, I spent considerable time practicing some of these combinations. Several years later, when I came into contact with Srī Pattu Shāstrigal (Parānandanātha of Guhānanda Maṇḍalī), a śiṣya of Yogānandanātha (the famed astrologer and upāsaka of Ucchiṣṭa Mahāgaṇapati, Srī Kuñcitapādayyar), and a praśiṣya of the incomparable Srī Chidānandanātha. Srī Shāstrigal was one of the most well-known upāsakas of Sharabheśvara in recent times and was a treasurehouse of information regarding every aspect of this upāsanā. He taught me some rare aspects of this form of Rudra, himself being very curious about my practices related to Nṛsiṃha.

Our Guru Srī Chinmudrānātha narrated an interesting experience. Somewhere during the turn of this century, he lived near Lodheshvara Mahādeva temple in Barabanki, at that time immersed in the worship of Parā Sundarī. A certain Aghori who also lived nearby tried to strike a conversation with our Guru, who being the eternal recluse, gave him a cold shoulder. Enraged, the Aghori performed a certain prayoga of his iṣṭa Hanumān, and decided to humiliate our Guru. The next day, when our Guru completed his oblations and was returning to his abode, a few monkeys jumped on him. While they could not get near him, they followed him to his abode and stood outside his door making screeching, menacing noises. Extremely annoyed, our Guru invoked a combined form of Sharabha and Shūlinī, took a few bananas and threw them at the monkeys. The monkeys initially refused to touch the bananas, but slowly were drawn to them and ate them. Within no time, they turned around and chased after the Aghori. The next day, the Aghori was seen leaving the town, horribly disfigured by the monkeys. No one ever saw monkeys in that region again!

It is time to invoke the grace of Mahāśarabha end of this month, on the auspicious occasion of Sharabhāṣṭamī, to rid oneself of enemies both external and internal.



उमा कामा चार्वङ्गी टङ्कधारिणी तारा पार्वती यक्षिणी श्रीशारिका-भगवती श्रीशारदा-भगवती श्रीमहाराज्ञी-भगवती श्रीज्वाला-भगवती व्रीडा-भगवती वैखरी-भगवती वितस्ता-भगवती गङ्गा-भगवती यमुना-भगवती कालिका-भगवती सिद्धिलक्ष्मी महालक्ष्मी महात्रिपिरसुन्दरी सहस्रनाम्नी देवी भवानी सपरिवारा सायुधा साङ्गा प्रीयताम् ||

umā kāmā cārvaṅgī ṭaṅkadhāriṇī tārā pārvatī yakṣiṇī śrīśārikā-bhagavatī śrīśāradā-bhagavatī śrīmahārājñī-bhagavatī śrījvālā-bhagavatī vrīḍā-bhagavatī vaikharī-bhagavatī vitastā-bhagavatī gaṅgā-bhagavatī yamunā-bhagavatī kālikā-bhagavatī siddhilakṣmī mahālakṣmī mahātripirasundarī sahasranāmnī devī bhavānī saparivārā sāyudhā sāṅgā prīyatām ||

Akhanda Mahayoga of Mahamahopadhyaya Gopinath Kaviraja

- Manoranjan Basu

What is Yoga? What is the secret of the great power which is universally attributed to it? What are the natural stages through which the life of a yogin must, of necessity pass, before it can attain to consummation and realize its community with the essence of the universal life and even to transcend it?

The dictionary meaning of the term ‘yoga’ is union, the state of togetherness; spiritually and especially from Advaita point of view it means the establishment of identity, at least communion between the individual self (jīvātmā) and the universal self (Paramātmā). Such a union necessarily presupposes a corresponding relation on the lower planes of existence, viz between the mind and the individual self, between the senses and the mind, and between the object and senses. It should be noted here that the individual cannot realize its eternal affinity with the universal and merge itself in it, unless it can get over the influence of the mind with which it falsely identifies itself. Even when mind ceases to be active by the suspension of the vṛttis and the distinctness as an entity vanishes altogether, the culminating perfection of Yoga does not manifest itself at that stage, for, with the individual left as separate from the universal and the supreme, the higher function of Yoga cannot be stated to have been fulfilled.

To quote the great savant Mahāmahopādhyāya Pandit Gopinath Kaviraj: “As soon as the artificial barrier raised between the higher and lower self is demolished, the pure self emerges as a radiant and eternally self-aware existence of joy in which the two aspects of its being appear as united in an eternal embrace and ineffable sweetness. This is Yoga in the truest sense of the term”. He further says: “Yoga is really the paramount power which leads us not only to a knowledge of the higher life, which is spiritual, but also to its practical realization by the self. It is exclusively in Yoga that one can find the key to solution of all the problems of life and mind as well as to the realization of the supreme end of existence”.

In the lowest stage of spiritual perfection, yoga may be described as withdrawal of senses from the external world and their convergence in the mind. The stage which finds its achievement in abstraction of the senses from their object is really the viewpoint of Haṭha Yoga proper. The perfection which is achieved in the first stage is the perfection of the body. It should be noted here that Yoga is not a matter of psycho-physical discipline, which in itself represents a fragment of the way to yoga proper.

From advaita point of view the vision of an external world as other than the supreme self is, in fact, a magic show of illusive character devoid of all reality. It is the action of vāsanā on the sensory mechanism of organic existence which projects before it a world of illusion. The discipline of the first stage consists in the removal of this illusion. The control of Vayu, at which all the processes of Haṭha Yoga aim, end in securing a relative steadiness and therewith a comparative detachment from the world outside. This is an indispensable preliminary to the success of the mental culture towards which the discipline of the next higher stage is directed.

As soon as the common outer sense disappears what is left behind is a state of concentration. As this concentration matures and gathers strength, various degrees of ecstatic intuition manifest themselves, as a result of a continued process of meditation. The rise of prajñā is consequent on the attainment of samādhi of the mind. In the state of samādhi, the self behind the mind shines on as a silent witness. ‘It looks on as a transcendent observer towards the mind which having already been purged, now appears in the object concentrated’. Before achieving samādhi, the mind in a state of concentration experiences many super-normal things such as reading thoughts of other minds, sensing distant objects as if they were near, direct knowledge of the past and the future as well as that of the present and similar other things.

As the sādhaka advances further, he gains clarified intuition called Rtambhara Prajna by the help of which he gets vision of pure truth and is never touched by error. This intuition cannot originate so long as the objective is not perfected.
The next stage called Prāṇa Jyoti marks the fullest mastery of the elements and the senses, a mastery which affords him control over the forces of nature, creative, presentative and destructive. The conquest of the five primordial elements and ability to use them at will give rise in the mind to the eight great powers called aṣṭa siddhi, and also tends to produce a beautiful and durable body.

The highest siddhi of a Yogin, called Viśoka, which consists in omniscience and universal mastery remains yet to be achieved. When the mind realizes the greatest purity and steadiness, it comes under the fullest control of sādhaka, who’s then fixed in the knowledge of distinction between the mind and the self and becomes truly a master. Thus the supreme power of a man comes from a control of the mind.

The next stage marks the transcendence of even the supreme viśoka power. The sādhaka realizes that even this power - greatest though it is, in the state of outer consciousness (vyutthāna), is yet a foreign element and has to be eliminated. The acquisition of the supreme power is the first result of viveka khyāti and non-attachment to this power ending in the nirodha proper. After the supreme non-attachment, the next stage commences and continues so long as mind exists. This is Jīvanmukti proper from the point of Pātañjala school of Yoga. This is the final stage of Samprajñāta Samādhi. The Asamprajñāta stage comes when the light of mind disappears and the self alone shines.

The above discussion of Pātañjala system of Yoga is mainly from Advaita point of view which, according to Mahāmahopādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraja forms part of the sādhanā, or in other words may be said to be as preparatory ground on Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga.

It should be noted here that Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga is still an ideal state yet to be realized. It is meant for yogis who have not only transcended the spatio-temporal world leading to cidākaśa, but also piercing through sūrya maṇḍala experienced the grand presence (sanniveśa) of Shiva-Shakti in perfect unison. This is the region of rahasya, the penultimate source of all possible creativity. This is ineffable and beyond tattvas and no words can express it.

It should further be noted here that from the point of objective, yogis are boradly divided into two classes: khaṇḍa yogis and akhaṇḍa yogis. Khaṇḍa yogis are also of two types - Khaṇḍa and Mahākhaṇḍa. There is no qualitative difference between these two classes. They differ in so far as each of their respective competencies and achievements. The difference lies in the fact that the later while transcending the state of Mahābhāva becomes one and identical to the universal consciousness as power, called the great matrix of the universe, whereas Khaṇḍa yogis reach the state of Mahābhāva.

In the cidākāśa, the abode of all sādhakas, there are two paths - svabhāva and abhāva. The yogis always prefer the latter. In the present time, the great savant Mahāmahopādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraja by visualizing and following the principles of akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga sacrificed his life to find out a solution of that mysterious riddle called suffering humanity.
The essence of Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga has been explained by Mahāmahopādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraja in the tāntrika technical terms and symbolic expressions for, ordinary terms and expressions are not adequate to explain the subtle spiritual experiences of the highest order of yogis. Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga may be compared to the construction of a temple having six main systems of Indian Philosophy as its pillars, and Shākta, Shaiva, Bauddha and Vaiṣṇava are like its walls. Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga is as if, the deity installed in the temple consecrated by the super-sensuous experiences of yoga.
There is no doubt that individual sādhanā or vyaṣṭi sādhanā is very essential. The ultimate goal of individual life is liberation. Later on, in the Tantras the thought of collective liberation took place. Spiritual preceptor could only initiate this and he could impart his spiritual knowledge and experience among his disciples. Consequently the true conception of Guru Maṇḍala came into practice. There are many Siddha Puruṣas who formed their siddha maṇḍalaS, such as the maṇḍala of Pañcamukha Gaṇādhīśvara, maṇḍala of Jñānaganja, and the Buddhist maṇḍalas of Maurya and Maitra. The Buddhist Siddhas are very popular. All these siddhas could not conquer death at their physical level but they could remain in their baindava and śākta deha and help their disciples belonging to a group.

The concept of Jñāna ganja is just like what we call Dhruvaloka, Goloka and Sukhavati. The first has come into being as a result of severe penances done by an individual sādhaka, and the second and third are associated with the names of Srī Kṛṣṇa and Amitābha Buddha respectively. Jñānaganja is established by the supersensuous experience of a very great Yogi. Srīmandira, Rājarājeśvarī Maṭha and Jñānaganja are in tune with the same yogic order - Srīmandira being at the top and Jñānaganja at the bottom. The earthly Jñānaganja is a secret place located on the top of the Himalayas towards the border line of Tibet. It is created by the intense penances of a Siddha Yogi for the good of the universe, as we have already mentioned. According to the yogic vision of Jñānaganja, there are three planes or states of spiritual experience. The first goes up to Mahābhāva as its objective and khaṇḍa yogis reach this state. The second stage is beyond mahābhāva and above sūrya maṇḍala. Mahākhaṇḍa yogis by completing their spiritual practice receive vibration from Jñānaganja directly. The third and the final stage is not yet fully drawn, it is still an ideal stage, yet to be realized.

In the context of Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga, a distinction is made between a sādhaka and a yogi - a yogi is necessarily a sādhaka but a sādhaka can never be a yogi. A sādhaka never questions the existing order of things, he tries to find out the innermost essence of the universe otherwise called self by realizing which he can go beyond the cycle of karman and rebirth. He is more concerned to be free from his own individual maladies of life. But the attitude of a yogi both ordinary and darpi is diametrically opposite to a sādhaka. The yogi starts from an universal attitude of eradicating sufferings of others and finds peace in disinterested service to suffering humanity. He tries to change for the better the existing order of the universe by making mahāpralaya to happen quicker through the control of the perennial source of creation related to Mahākāla. Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga while covering different types of yoga such as yogas between jīvātmā and paramātmā, lokas and beyond lokas, self and mahāśakti and finally between paraśiva and parāśakti, goes beyond them. Mahāmahopādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraja was essentially a practicing yogi of a high order and a great synthesizer of different systems of yoga. He was truly a Shākta Tāntrika and he did not believe in the principle of withdrawal from the world affairs.

Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga is not a speculative philosophy. It is not based on spiritual samskāras, but is a real experience of truth. One cannot realize this through the lower intellect. According to Achārya Gopinath Kaviraja, Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga can be realized through divine intuition (divyabodha). There are two approaches of yoga, individual or vyaṣṭi approach and collective or samaṣṭi approach. Yoga means union or mutation in all levels of consciousness (chaitanya), to transcend time and space or to become one with Supreme or to identify with saccidānanda or to become free from prakṛti. This is khaṇḍayoga and it is possible for a sādhaka to accomplish it through self-efforts. Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga is not merely union between jīvātmā and paramātmā but it is an eternal unity of total humanity (samaṣṭi jīva) with the Absolute in time and space of the universe. This is not for individual liberation or Siddhi but for the descent of Mahāśakti for divine illumination in this physical world.

In the traditional Kuṇḍalinī Yoga, the path of ṣaṭcakra is followed. By piercing through these chakras, the sādhaka reaches the thousand-petalled lotus called Sahasrāra and the unfoldment is complete. This is the first way of awakening Kuṇḍalinī śakti. The other way way is that of a Guru, who has acquired icchā, jñāna and kriyā śakti and he takes his disciple upto sahasrāra. In this case the disciple need not put forth his self efforts to go up to the desired end. There is a third kind in which the spiritual preceptor initiates the disciple and blesses him through touch on his head, immediately the disciple feels the upward current (spanda) and moves towards the lotus (śatadala), the center of sahasrāra. A great yogi who has achieved complete grace of Mahāśakti finds all centers of the above chakras transformed into lotus, he is called Karuṇa Puṇḍarīka.

Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga starts from the śatabheda kriyā and it takes the path of sahasrāra. There are some spiritual adepts who could reach upto the dala (petals), they are called Rudras, and those who could reach the center of the lotus are characterized as Shiva-yogins. Generally a yogi who achieves such a position is tuned with the ultimate reality and he is immuned from any downfall from his spiritual height, for nirodhikā śakti supports him all through.

In the ascending order of yoga there is samanā level and finally there is unmanā stage. There are certain special grades of yogis who could reach this unmanā stage. If any yogi is blessed with the grace of the Divine Mother or Guru, he obtains śākta body and achieves Mahāśakti. When a yogi is not satisfied with his individual attainment, he receives special grace from the Divine Mother. He is bestowed with the realization of collective body (samaṣṭi śarīra bodha). Navamuṇdi āsana installed by Swami Viśuddhānanda Paramahamsa, the spiritual preceptor of Mahāmahopādhyāya Gopinath Kaviraja, is the base of Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga. At this level guru śakti, iṣṭa śakti and svarūpa śakti all meet together. Here the sādhaka’s inner urge for humanity is felt. He is not ready to accept anything individual, on the contrary he surrenders everything belonging to him at the feet of Mahāśakti. He identifies himself with samaṣṭi jīvabhāva.

The mystic experience gained through such a state may be explained in a symbolic way. A triangle is conceived there as having sat, chit, ānanda as its three sides with mahāśakti in the center. The purpose of the triangle is to meet samaṣṭi jīva bindu. There is a downward triangle contending aspiration, urge and firm faith. When it gets the touch of Mahāśakti, it moves upward (ūrdhvamukha). Thus by the drawing influence of Mahāśakti when both the triangles meet together in the center of time, that is called divine descent. One should keep in mind that this action takes place in the central bindu within the circle. This is Guru Maṇḍala in the center of kāla where the whole universe gets transformed. This Guru Maṇḍala is just like a lotus and this consists of dynamic eternal Mahāprakāśa.

To practice Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga, kṛpāśūnya kriyā is necessary. The spiritual adept must have to concentrate all his energies towards only one great resolve (mahāsaṅkalpa), that is the divine illumination in the earth consciousness. Mahāśakti herslef embraces the adept and becomes very active in him. Divine Mother completes her ekamukhī, dvimukhī and sarvamukhī kriyā and gives him premasvarūpa darśana. As a result, sahaja kriyā starts functioning in him. When triple śaktis such as premakumārī svarūpa, mahāśakti and svātmasvarūpā śakti unite together, the action of total transformation of the world, the aim of Akhaṇḍa Mahāyoga starts to get it realized in the earth consciousness. The total transformation of the world is, as a matter of necessity, inevitable and that would take place in mahāniśā through the Divine Mother’s grace to humanity.

Throat Singing

Raga Durga

Women and Sannyasa: Two Anecdotes

The below excerpts are from Sri Harshaji’s talk at a private gathering in Berlin last month - Aileen

We started talking about Tīvra-Madhya Shaktipāta, and then Shen-Gong and Fa-Shen and now seem to have gotten into discussing women and sannyāsa! Anyway, I frankly have no personal opinion on this topic, as it does not mean much to me, one way or another, but can provide two tales, which can be considered as anecdotal evidences.

One of my dear friends told me about an accomplished Yoginī named Srī Chanḍikānanda Bhāratī from āndhra deśa. Reportedly an expert at kāyākalpa, she had received sannyāsa from none other than H H Srī Saccidānanda Shivābhinava Nṛsiṃha Bhāratī and was a sannyāsinī in the traditional sense, sporting a daṇḍa in her hand. She kept the daṇḍa away during those three days of the month but performed her anuṣṭhāna as any other daṇḍī sannyāsin would do. She was an adept in Mantra śāstra and Yogic discipline.

It is said that she initially lived in Sringeī but it caused the usual commotion and politics on account of a woman living within an orthodox maṭha of celibate monks. As per her Guru’s instruction, she left the maṭha, and spent much time in caves in Guntur perfecting her upāsanā. She then proceeded to the north and spent several decades in the Himalayas, and finally appeared in Bengal with a broken bone, owing to her unfinished karma. She somehow was brought back to āndhra deśa and spent the full period of a caturmāsya in my friend’s residence. Her siddhis were evident from the many things that occurred in her presence. She is known to have discarded her body at some point, after her goal of exhausting karma was met. So this is the tale I’ve heard about a lady initiated into sannyāsa by none other than the great pontiff of Sringerī. I must also mention, for the sake of completeness, that when I once conversed on this topic with the current pontiff of the maṭha, the response was a dismissive smile; but that really should not negate the possibility of this incident having occurred as neither Yoga nor Tantra are areas of expertise or even interest for the current ācārya, unlike his predecessors.

And the second person I remember is someone we called Bhairavī Amma, the most influential woman teacher in my life after Suri Mami. She was a disciple of our Guru Nambudiri Appa (Srī Chinmudrānandanātha), and obviously her name was not Bhairavī, she had so assumed that title on account of her practices. She spoke no South Indian languages, conversed in chaste Hindi, English and Sanskrit and appeared to be familiar with Bengali. While we called our Guru Nambudari 'Appa', she was called Bhairavī 'Amma', and that probably indicated how she was related to our Guru. Our Guru spoke very less verbally, and most of his instructions came through wordless speech. But Amma was a great communicator and often acted as his medium of instruction. She appeared to be about seventy or eighty by the time I got acquainted with her, seemingly older by several decades than our Guru, who in actuality was older than her by god knows what number! Her diet was strange - peanuts, banana, water with lemon and ginger and another fruit I did not really recognize at that point. If my trainer ever heard of it, he would probably think she was on an Atkins diet! Her chosen deity was Chinnamastā, who she unfailingly referred to as Pracaṇḍa Chaṇḍikā and held a worldview close to Trika and Spanda, but not exactly the same.

She would randomly show up at the residence of a former Chief Justice of India, who was also devoted (albeit not a disciple) to our Guru and stay in his home for a week or two. She taught me very many things, in fact more things verbally than my Guru such as several forms of Prāṇāyāma, certain secretive aspects that form the crux of śākta yoga, several prayogas for Bagalāmukhī, Chinnamastā and Vajravārāhī. She was extremely well-versed in Buddhist Mahāmudrā and displayed a very vocal inclination towards the Shentong view. She had studied under several Dzogchen teachers that included accomplished students of Khenpo Ngawang Palzang and Gyurme Pema Namgyal. She was indeed my first Buddhist teacher for Mahāmudrā though rDzogchen is my currently preferred school for various reasons. She had lived in Nepal for quite a while and had been closely acquainted with Dhana Shamsher Ranaji (who was a disciple of our Guru for sometime), and was instrumental in my accessing several manuscripts belonging to our Sampradāya from Nepal. One of my students who visited Nepal last year tells me that the priest in the temple of Guhyeśvarī recognizes her.

Anyway, she told me that she had been initiated into sannyāsa by the pontiff of Sumeru maṭha (I assume this is the same as the one in Kashi) along with daṇḍa etc., and had performed several cāturmāsya vratas before discarding the daṇḍa and entering the avadhūtāśrama, typical of Krama Diksha. Her remark was, ‘I have lost my muṇḍa (hinting at a certain practice of extreme nature associated with Chinnamastā), what use I have for a daṇḍa?’ I have no reason to disbelieve her narration and do think she was indeed given sannyāsa the traditional way.

Dzogchen: Attainments of Fruition at Death

- Tulku Thondup

Generally, life is a chain of births and deaths since every moment of life is the birth of a new moment and the death of a preceding moment. But conventionally, birth relates to the beginning of life and death to its end. As we have already taken birth in this life, the important thing for us to deal with is death. According to Buddhism, even for an unrealized person, if one can deal properly with the circumstances of the time of death, one’s next rebirth results in a pleasant life since everything functions through interdependent causation. A person who is an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo trainee may attain the accomplishments at the time of death, in the intermediate state, or in the next rebirth. Accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo meditators are the most important amazing adepts of Tibet, for they die displaying the wondrous signs of achievement of enlightenment. They display numerous signs of attainments as a result of the training they have been pursuing.

Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa summarizes the significance of the signs divided into two categories:

As a result of the speed of attaining liberation, there are two types of (attainment at death).
(a) In (Dzogpa Chenpo), in order to attain the cessation of sorrow, the primordial nature, and the city of sacred peace, one exhausts the contaminated (elements of the mortal) body. The result is called the Fully Enlightened One (Samyaksambuddha).
(b) Death with display of five signs: the lights, sounds, images of peaceful and wrathful deities in bones, gDung (various colors which are indestructible; the white ones are the size of a pea, and the colored ones vary in size from a pea to a mustard seed. Ring-bSrel are white, destructible and vary in size from a sesame seed to an atom), and earth temblings. It is called the attainment of Manifesting Enlightenment (mNgon-ParSangs-rGyas-Pa, Abhibuddha).

Jigmed Tenpa’s Nyima explains the distinctions between the basis and the result:

If one does not recognize the single luminous innate mind, that is the basis of delusion. If one realizes and stabilizes it, that is the state of liberation. The first case is the basis and the second is the result. The Omniscient One (Long-chen Rabjam) has rejected the interpretation that they are the same. For the basis, a complete luminous absorption arises at each time of death, but by not realizing it, one returns to the delusory movements (Yo-Lang) of apprehended and apprehender. When one reaches the result, as one attains one’s own true essence, one will not return to delusion. So that is the difference between the basis and the result.

The most exceptional sign of Dzogpa Chenpo at death is the dissolving or transforming of the mortal body. As stated before, there are two main forms of dissolution of the mortal body:

(a) The attainment of the dissolution of the atoms or the most subtle particles (total dissolution) of the mortal body, popularly known as the attainment of Rainbow Body (’Ja-Lus), through training in Thregchod (Cutting Through)
(b) the attainment of the Light Body (A’od-Lus) or the Great Transformation (‘Pho-Ba Ch’en-Po) through training in Thodgal (Direct Approach).

Longchen Rabjam distinguishes these two attainments:

The cessation (or dissolution) of the elements at the time of perfection (of the attainment of) the meaning of primordial purity (Ka-Dag) (through the training of) Thregchod, and the exhaustion of elements by perfecting the spontaneous accomplishment (through the training of) Thodgal are similar in just having purified the internal and external gross elements. But in Thregchod, at the very instant of dissolving the partless particles, one attains liberation in the primordial purity, and there is no manifestation of Light Body. In Thodgal, with (the attainment of) Light Body one accomplishes the Great Transformation. So their difference lies in whether or not they have the Light Body in the attainment of liberation in the state of primordial purity.

Some Dzogpa Chenpo tantras, however, distinguish four forms of dissolution. The Nyida Khajor tantra says:

(a) The way of death of the Dakinis
(b) The way of death of the knowledge-holders
(c) Self-consuming like a fire, and
Invisible like space

In all of them, they exhaust their mortal elements of the body and become invisible and do not take any elemental form. This is what the supreme yogis enjoy.

Kunkhyen Jigmed Lingpa elaborates on the four ways of dissolution:

In the supreme way (of death), one dissolves one’s mortal body (in two ways): In Thregchod, one dissolves (the body as it is called) like space and like the way of death of the Dakinis. In the Thodgal, one dissolves (the body as it is called) like fire and like the way of death of a knowledge-holder. These are the four ways of dying for an accomplished Dzogpa Chenpo yogi.

First: Having purified (down to) the subtlest defilements of air/energy and mind which obscure the ultimate sphere, one attains the exhaustion of (phenomena into) the inner ultimat sphere (Nang-dByings), and thereby the external body dissolves into atoms [total dissolution]. At that very moment, the suchness of (one’s) intrinsic awareness, which was based in the (mortal) body, unites with the natural ultimate sphere (Rang-bZhin Ch’os-Kyi dByings), as the space in a vase merges with the outer space when the vase is broken. Then, having united the ultimate sphere and the intrinsic awareness in the (state of) equalness purity without separation, one becomes enlightened.

Second: It is the union of the body, the basis, and the intrinsic awareness, the based. The atoms of the body (of Dzogpa Chenpo adepts) are present (in one moment) but (in the next moment) they dissolve into the invisible (nature). At that very moment the intrinsic awareness dissolves into the ultimate sphere without return, like an arrow shot by a skilled archer. It is similar to the way that Dakinis or beings who have been born by miraculous birth die, their bodies (suddenly) becoming invisible. As stated before, it is the same as the manner in which Pang Sangye Gonpo, a direct disciple of Vairochana, died at Tragmar Gon of Tod Khung-rong and in which three followers of their lineage died in a single snake year, one after another, at Wa Senge Trag.

Third: The way of dissolving the intrinsic awareness after purifying he defilements of the air/energy and mind, as well as the ultimate sphere, the place where one attains liberation, are the same (as in the previous two cases). But (in this case), as the inner elements are exhausted, the physical mortal body dissolves into a light body (A’od-Phung). It is as when the fuel of a fire is burned, there is no more fuel for the fire to continue. For example, two disciples of Kyergom Zhigpo attained light bodies and disappeared into the sky in the cave of Dotshen.

Fourth: One dissolves his mortal body - created by the maturation (of karma and habituation) - into the light body and becomes visible to other beings in order to lead them to the doctrine. It is as when the knowledge-holders progress from one stage to another, they travel through the sky to other Buddha-fields with sounds and lights and serve the needs of others. And it is like Chetsun Senge Wang-chug, the lord of yogis, whose mortal body dissolved into light body with lights and sounds in the sky at Oyug Chikong.

The bodies of Dzogpa Chenpo meditators who still have residues of karmic maturations do not dissolve at death, and there are some whose accomplishments are fully perfected, but who, instead of dissolving their mortal bodies, leave them with gDung and Ringsel (relics) as objects of devotion for devotees. Also, some adepts leave their bodies with or without any sings because of various circumstances or purposes. Sogpo Tentar says:

Even if (a Dzogpa Chenpo adept) possesses the capacity to dissolve (the mortal body) through (his realization of the) view and meditation, he does not exhaust his Karmic energies (of remaining in the mortal form) but accepts (the responsibility of) the wheel of activities for the sake of the doctrine and beings. Even in their order to help beings with (the remains of their) gDung and Ring-sel, they (attain the accomplishment) in the manner of the state of Knowledge-holder with residues. This is like Jigmed Thrinle Odzer Palbar (1745-1821), the lord of the sages and the master of hundred Buddha families, and the illusory manifestation of the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra for the perception of the disciples.

Note: It is most common for us to interpret the term Dākinī to mean harmful spirits, but it means something else in the current Buddhist context. It normally refers to the feminine aspect of Enlightenment in Mantrayāna. In practice, this term also refers to enlightened women adepts who are also consorts (Karmamudrā) of adepts or Siddhas. A Dākinī represents various things at various levels. At the subtle most level, she represents the greatest insights regarding the phenomena and mind. In the next aspect, she symbolizes the pure wisdom-nature of the mind. At a grosser level, she is a deity or Yidam propitiated through rituals. At the outer most level, she is a woman who is a practitioner, a teacher, a consort to a Siddha or all of them. Similar to our concept of seeing all women as Shakti, there is the practice by Tantric Buddhists to see all women as sacred manifestations of the Dākinī. Of course, it is pointed out by several experts that the wrathful spirits (usually traveling in the sky) known as maleficent to Hindu Tantras were later adopted by the Buddhists and their image transformed to represent an altogether different concept. The wrathfulness of the earlier Dākinī was replaced by a more sensual and playful image, and this is true even within Hindu Tantra in several other cases. A typical Buddhist example is that of Vajrayoginī who exhibits both the older and later transformed aspects of the Dākinī. There is also a distinction made between laukika and lokottara categories of the Dākinī, the maleficent ones exclusively belonging to the former category. Then there is also an influence of the Iranian Peri on the formulation of the Tibetan Dākinī. Anyway, coming back to the topic, Dākinī here refers only to the feminine aspect of Enlightenment or to a female adept representing such an attainment - Harsha