The profound Journey of Compassion


GaNAdhinAthaM sharaNaM prapadye

Sri Ucchishta Mahaganapati

वामाङ्कन्यस्तकान्तां कुचतटविलसत् मौक्तिकोद्दामहारां
वामेनालिङ्ग्य दोष्णा चिबुककृतमुखं योनिदेशे च शुण्डाम् |
कृत्वा मत्तेभलीलं करतलविलसत्पानपात्राङ्कुशादिं
वन्दे स्वर्णाभिधानं गणपतिममलं वल्लभोच्छिष्टदेवम् ||

श्वेतार्कमूलसञ्जातमूर्त्यां पूजनतोषितः |
उच्छिष्टगणपो मह्यं मन्त्रसिद्धिं प्रयच्छतु ||

नवाक्षरात्मानमनन्तभूषं
मूनीश्वरैर्भार्गवपूर्वकैश्च |
संसेवितं देवमनाथकल्पं
रूपं मनोज्ञं शरणं प्रपद्ये ||

vāmāṅkanyastakāntāṃ kucataṭavilasat mauktikoddāmahārāṃ
vāmenāliṅgya doṣṇā cibukakṛtamukhaṃ yonideśe ca śuṇḍām |
kṛtvā mattebhalīlaṃ karatalavilasatpānapātrāṅkuśādiṃ
vande svarṇābhidhānaṃ gaṇapatimamalaṃ vallabhocchiṣṭadevam ||

śvetārkamūlasañjātamūrtyāṃ pūjanatoṣitaḥ |
ucchiṣṭagaṇapo mahyaṃ mantrasiddhiṃ prayacchatu ||

navākṣarātmānamanantabhūṣaṃ
mūnīśvarairbhārgavapūrvakaiśca |
saṃsevitaṃ devamanāthakalpaṃ
rūpaṃ manojñaṃ śaraṇaṃ prapadye ||

Vedanta and Agama

- Sri L N Sharma

The two approaches, Vedānta and Agama, might be described as the two paths: the right path and the left path (vāma and dakṣiṇa), the path of knowledge and bliss (jñāna and ānanda). Left path is the path to utilize all the human potencies, faculties etc., and maintain the state of bliss and thus to liberate oneself. The Right path, on the other hand, is to use these potencies and live discriminatively in order to attain liberation. The Vedānta approach regards knowledge as more fundamental; knowledge is sui generis for it. Will and feeling presuppose knowledge. These elements depend upon knowledge for their very existence. But knowledge need not depend upon them. In the Agama tradition, will is accepted as more fundamental than knowledge. Knowledge is generated by will, as is observed in our everyday life.

The concept of Freedom or Perfection is fundamental to the approach of the āgamas. Although freedom and perfection have been attributed to Brahman in the Vedānta tradition also, yet this approach is more or less negative. Perfection or Pūrṇatva essentially means the purity of Being in the Vedānta. Perfection of Brahman denotes its freedom from all becoming. To the followers of the āgamas, the exclusive separation between the spirit and the world by the Vedāntin does not appear to be consistent with the notion of Perfection, which consists essentially in omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence etc. This is why the absolutism of Vedānta is no considered all-inclusive by the āgamikas. As there is hesitation in regarding māyā as real, the Advaita Vedānta is exclusive and is based upon renunciation or elimination, it is thus not all embracing. Generally speaking, there are two ways in which the term ‘freedom’ might be used; it might be referred to as ‘freedom from’ if used in a negative sense, and as ‘freedom to’ when used in a positive sense. ‘Freedom to’ is a positive description of the capacity of something to bring about the occurrence or non-occurrence of certain events. On the other hand, ‘freedom from’ denotes the purity or transcendence of a thing from the others. Absolute freedom can be explained as the stage where one is ‘free to’ and ‘free from’ with respect to every occurrence or non-occurrence.

There are certain fundamental differences between the two approaches. Firstly, the Vedānta tradition seems to be based upon an exclusive or absolute separation of the Real and the Unreal. The distinction between the Real and the and the illusory is the very presupposition of spiritual awakening. Illusion is the datum for philosophy according to the Vedānta. The experience of illusion provides the criterion of the Real as non-cancellable (abādhya) and the illusory as cancellable (bādhya). It is significant to note in this context that Shaṅkarācārya not only begins his commentary of the Brahma Sūtra with an analysis of illusion but also insists upon certain essential requirements for spiritual realization. The first and the foremost essential qualification of seeker of truth is to have the sense of discrimination between the real and the unreal, the eternal and the false (nitya anitya viveka). The emphasis upon this qualification brings out clearly the difference of the Vedānta with the non-eternalists (the Buddhists), on the one hand, and the followers of Tantra, on the other. While nothing is eternal or permanent for the Buddhists, everything is real for the Tāntric integralists, even the unreal is real for them. The Tāntrikaa who has attained liberation in life sees the entire World as his own Self. He develops an x-ray vision in which the phenomenal events appear to be mere sport of his own conscious energy (citśakti). Doubts do not trouble him any more; for he realizes the identity between the ‘internal’ and the ‘external’. Both internal and external are aspects of one and the same process. The realization of this identity is itself regarded as the attainment of the highest bliss, the unity of sāmarasya of Shiva and Shakti. In the world whatever enters into consciousness is a manifestation of the Self. And the reality of whatever enters into consciousness cannot be denied. The objects shine, they do not cease to be by a mere emphatic denial. As opposed to this, one does not deserve to be taught about Brahman, in the Vedānta approach, unless one possesses the powers of discrimination etc. To understand the real import of the Vedānta, one must have the consciousness of the illusoriness of the world. If this consciousness of illusoriness of the world be not in him, the meaning of the teachings about Brahman would not be clear to the student of Vedānta.

Secondly, the Vedānta tradition presupposes opposition between knowledge and ignorance. According to it, knowledge and ignorance are opposed to each other like light and darkness. The concept of ignorance or avidyā is of fundamental importance for the spiritual discipline prescribed in the Vedānta. If something like avidyā, which is negated at the dawn of right knowledge, be not admitted, there would be no possibility of freedom. Final emancipation is possible only if the bondage of the soul is due to nescience. For, if the soul is really and truly bound, its real bondage cannot be done away with and, consequently, the scriptural doctrine of final freedom would become absurd. In fact, truth and falsity are qualitatively different and absolutely opposed to each other. The transition from error to truth is like transition from darkness to light. Knowledge and ignorance cannot exist simultaneously; with the dawn of knowledge ignorance disappears altogether.

In Tantra, on the other hand, knowledge and ignorance are not accepted as absolutely separate. According to the Agama, knowledge is ignorance self-revealed and ignorance is knowledge self-concealed. Since the Supreme Self is of the nature of pure consciousness, what differentiates it from matter is its self-awareness which consists in freedom through which ignorance is manifest, and through ignorance is manifest the world. Ignorance is, thus, a manifestation of divine freedom itself. The principle of ignorance lies midway between the supreme consciousness and the total inconscience. But ignorance and inconscience are the exclusive and separative movements of the same Conscious Force which assumes these apparently opposite and contradictory forms in order to proceed with the work of creation. Ignorance is a manifestation of the power of the freedom of Self. It is the light which gives rise to darkness through self-friction. Ignorance is nothing but a self-limitation or self-concentration of consciousness or knowledge.

Thirdly, in the sphere of sādhanā or spiritual discipline also there is a great difference in the outlook of the two approaches. The distinction between the pure and the impure and the emphasis upon the pure (means) constitute a conspicuous feature of the Vedānta. Through the Vedānta, there is present a highly contemptuous attitude towards the impure. On the other hand, there is not only a lack of enthusiasm to draw any distinction between the pure and impure in the āgama tradition, but there are positive suggestions and directions not to distinguish the two. The devotee is repeatedly asked to develop the attitude to regard everything as pure. Self-realization is possible only if the sādhaka is able to accept everything, including the impure, as a real manifestation of the divinity. The follower of the Tantra goes directly through the sphere of greatest danger. By breaking within himself the tension of the ‘forbidden’, the Tantra practitioner resolves everything in light. The uniqueness of the Tāntric tradition lies in the fact that while the followers of other traditions, especially the followers of the Vedānta, try to attain liberation by avoiding what they regard as impure, the Tāntric gains emancipation through enjoyment or realization of the so-called impurity.

This gives rise to another point of difference between the two traditions. Bhoga and Yoga, sensuous joy and union with the Divine, are taken to be identical in the Tāntric approach. On this point the Tantra discipline differs radically from other spiritual disciplines. Through proper discipline, Bhoga itself is transformed into Yoga. Tantra, thus, represents a stupendous Dionysian affirmation in Indian culture. It is an erotic life philosophy, precisely the opposite and exactly complement of sterilizing, stern, sublime, ascetic thinking of the Vedānta tradition.

In conformity with these differences there is further difference in the two approaches as regards the admissibility of an individual for initiation. While the Vedānta tradition is open only to the Dvijas or twice-born, Tantra insists upon the eligibility of a persons, castes and sexes for spiritual realization.

yasya kasyacijjantoriti nātra jātyādyapekṣā kācit | (īśvarapratyabhijñāvimarśinī 4-1-18)

Precise knowledge of the origin and mutual relationship between the two traditions lies buried in the depths of antiquity. It is now generally recognized that the origin of these traditions is much older than was formerly supposed. Shiva and Shakti worship has been traced to the Mohanjodaro and Harappan age. According to H. Zimmer, the antiquity of the concept of Shiva Paśupati and Shiva Naṭarāja can be traced at least till Indus Valley civilization. Efforts have also been made to trace Shaiva worship in the Vedas (śiśnadevaḥ etc.) It has been suggested that among the ancient gods the Vedic Rudra might be regarded as the original form of Shiva.

There are two kinds of attitudes towards the Vedas in the āgamas: attitude of antagonism and attitude of allegiance. Appayya Dīkṣita and some other scholars divide the āgamas into two classes, those which are in agreement with the Vedas and those opposed to the Vedas. Antagonism is clearly noticeable in those āgamic passages in which the Veda or Vedānta have been frequently criticized. On the other hand, there are many passages in the āgamas which give the impression that the āgamas might have been derived from the Vedas.

It may be thought that though the āgamas were originally based upon the Vedas, they have developed independently of the latter. They have branched out from the same stem of the Vedic tree which produced the earlier Upaniṣadas. According to the Tantras, the āgamas constitute truest exegesis of the Vedas and their origin is certainly as ancient as some of the classical Upaniṣadas. Both the Vedas and the āgamas belong to the same Hindu culture and both have the same root. Their differences are confined only to certain points. According to some āgamas, while the Vedas have been issued forth from four, out of five mouths of Shiva, the Tantras of the higher tradition issued forth from his central or fifth mouth. Thus, śāstras are classified into śruti, smṛti, purāṇa and Tantra. The last three assume the first as their base and are in fact merely special presentment of it for their respective ages. The relation of the Vedas and āgamas is sometimes compared with that of jīvātman and Paramātman; the Tantra is said to represent the inner core of the former. The main purport of the āgamas is to represent the Veda correctly. They deal also with subjects which are not dealt in the Vedas. While the Vedas represent the ‘quest’, the āgamas stand for the ‘attainment’. The āgamas also deal with the fifty state of Turyātīta, in addition to the other four states of experience, viz. Waking, dreaming, deep sleep and the fourth.

Saint Tirumūlas holds that the Vedas and āgamas are both true, as both are divine revelations. The only difference between them is that while the Vedas are general, the agamas are special. According to Srīkaṇṭha, though both of them are of equal authority, the Vedas are to be studied only by the Dvijas. The āgamas, on the other hand, are open for study by all castes. He states that he does not see any difference between the Veda and the āgama, and in fact sees Veda itself as an āgama due to its origin in Shiva. The only difference, according to him, is that the former is for Dvijas, while the latter is for all.

The other view may be that both Vedas and āgamas have entirely different roots and traditions and have nothing in common between them. The āgamas represent the essence of the Dravidian culture and the Vedas, on the other hand, originate from and represent the Aryan culture. However, this view is based upon the much disputed theory of two different races. The theory involves many unsound and absurd assumptions.

In the absence of any definite historical data, it would be safer to regard both Vedas and āgamas as belonging to the same Indian roots. Both currents of though appear to have been running parallel to each other since ancient days. Although sometimes they appear to be antagonistic to each other, on the whole there prevails the spirit of harmony and regard between them.

Kashmira, Kerala and Gauda Sampradaya

There are three specific sampradāyas of Srīvidyā: Kāśmīra, Kerala and Gauḍa.

Shaktisangama Tantra divides the entire Indian sub-continent into 56 regions based on either Kādi or Hādi classification. The land between Tibet and Neplāla encompassing the entire Himalayan region is said to belong to Kāśmīra Sampradāya. In this school, Tripurā is worshiped based on Hādimata and Ugratārā based on Kādimata. The chief characteristic of this school is the Dīkṣā into ūrdhvāmnāya accomplished mainly through Shaktipāta. There seem to be two schemes of sub-categorization within this school, each with a specific set of Tantras:

The first categorization is quasi-Vedic:

1. Rk-kāśmīra
2. YajuHkāśmīra
3. Sāmakāśmīra
4. Atharvakāśmīra

The worship of Tripurā is specific to the first two, while Tārā and to an extent Kālī are important to the latter two schools.

There is yet another categorization:

1. Shaiva kāśmīra or Shuddha-mata
2. Shākta kāśmīra or Ugra-mata
3. Shiva-Shakti kāśmīra or Gupta-mata

I have my own theory about mapping these to Spanda, Krama, Kula etc., but that is a different topic.

Kerala Sampradāya is valid from Angadeśa all the way till Mālava. Here, Tripurā is worshiped based on Kādimata and Kālikā based on Hādimata. The peculiarity of this Sampradāya is Shaṭśāmbhava paddhati, and the sādhaka goes through various levels of dīkṣā up to Medhā. tThere are various sub-schools, more or so heterogeneous, such as: Bhavasiddha, Harasiddha, Kalhāṭa, Gomukha, Vijnānī, Pūrvakerala, Uttarakerala, Divya, Satya, Chaitanya, Chidghana, Sarvajña, Isha, Māheśvara, Vishvarūpa, Venkaṭeśākhya etc. Obviously, this classification is not based on one single criterion. Some are based on specific teachers, some others on region, and yet others are centered around deities such as Venkaṭeśvara. It is stressed that though Divya, Mishra and Kaula are all followed in this school, the core method is that of Dakṣiṇācāra and Vedic sanction is critical to this school in terms of rituals, owing to a strong Smārta influence.

Gauḍa Sampradāya is prevalent between Silahaṭṭā to Sindhudeśa. Here, Tārā is worshiped based on Hādimata and Kālikā based on Kādimata. Pūrṇābhiṣeka is of highest significance to this school. This school is also categorized into Shuddha, Ugra and Gupta. While both Dakṣiṇācāra and Vāmācāra are taught in this school, importance is greatly laid upon Vāma. While the other schools are quasi-Vedic, this particular school proudly declares itself as purely Tāntric in nature.

Brovavamma


Mukambika


Mishra Shaiva origins of Panchayatana Worship

- Govinda Chandra Pandey

The tendency of rapprochement in orthodox religious sphere in pañcadevopāsanā i.e., the worship of five deities as advocated by the Smārtas. Though the movement was started early on, it could take a definite form only towards its conclusion in eleventh century A.D.

The Smārta system of the Pentad was initiated by āgamika Shaivas as well as Vaiṣṇavas. The Shaiva Pentad had different varieties and they came into vogue by 11-12th century A.D.

The worship of Shiva with Sun, Shakti, Gaṇeśa and Viṣṇu was performed in the Miśra Pāśupata school. This is the same as Smārta Pañcadevopāsanā:

रविं शम्भुं तथा शक्तिं विघ्नेशं च जनार्दनम् |
यजन्ति समभावेन मिश्रपाशुपतं हि तत् ||

The later Smārta treatises such as as Smṛtimuktāphala prescribe the daily worship of these five deities for a householder:

आदित्यमम्बिकां विष्णुं गणनाथं महेश्वरम् |
पञ्चयज्ञपरो नित्यं गृहस्थः पञ्च पूजयेत् ||

It is sometimes stated that the system in this form was popularized by the Advaita teacher Shaṅkara but it is extremely doubtful.

The first stage in the development of the pentad cult was the evolution of trinity composed of Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Shiva.

The Trinity (Trideva):

(a) Association of Shiva and Viṣṇu: In the beginning we find the forming of an association of two great gods, Shiva and Viṣṇu, who came to be worshiped together. A late inscription from Kāmarūpa, describing the kind as a devout worshiper of both Shiva and Viṣṇu seems to have preserved an echo of earlier times. A wish has been expressed in a Chamba inscription that the dedicator of a fountain-slab may attain the regions of both Shiva and Viṣṇu. The Bhandaka Cp. of Kṛṣṇarāja (674 - 772 A.D.) is the earliest in the series to invoke Shiva and Viṣṇu in a single verse by way of benediction. The Nagpur Ins. V. S (1161-1104 A.D.) addresses Shiva and Viṣṇu together in an interesting way:

वैराग्यं च सरागतां च नृशिरोमालां च माल्यानि च |
व्याघ्रानेकपचर्मणी च वसनं चाहींश्च हारादि च ||
यद्भूतिं च विलेपनं च भजते भीमं च भव्यं च यद् |
तद्दिश्याद्रूपमुमारमारमणयोर्मुक्तिं च भुक्तिं च वः ||

‘Shiva and Viṣṇu form a peculiar combination’, the inscription says, ‘as they are passionless and passionate, clad in tigerskin and grand garments, garlended with the strings of human skulls and flower wreaths, decked with serpents and pearl strings, and smeared with ashes and anointed with perfumes’. The Madhainagar Cp. of Lakṣmaṇasena prays, ‘Shiva who sustained Hari in his most peculiar body’.

Syncretic form composed by combining Shiva and Viṣṇu in one image called Harihara or Kṛṣṇa-Shaṅkara also indicates the fusion. Several such images have been found.

A further development of this Harihara form is the Pradyumneśvara motif in which Shiva, Pārvatī, Lakṣmī and Nārāyaṇa are carved on both the sides of statue to combine Harihara, Lakṣmīnārāyaṇa and Umāmaheśvara forms. We know that such a syncretic image was installed in the sanctum of the Pradyumneśvara temple built by Vijayasena of Bengal.

(b) Viṣṇu and Brahmā: The Kacchapaghāṭa king Vīrasiṃha is styled as a devout worshiper of Viṣṇu and a great Brahmaṇya. This association is attested by a peculiar image representing Brahmā and Viṣṇu together having one body.

(c) Shiva and Brahmā: Similarly, titles like Parama-Brahmaṇya-Parama-Māheśvara i.e., a devout worshiper of both Shiva and Brahmā, Parama-māheśvara Mahā-brahmaṇya etc., indicate worshipers of both deities. The Rewa Ins. of Malayasimha reveals the existence of a sect which was devoted to worship of Shiva and Brahmā together. Some Chedi inscriptions salute Brahmā in the beginning immediately followed by an invocation to Shiva while others invoke Shiva in the form of Brahmā as the creator of the universe and the reciter of the Vedas. This will collaborate the above conclusion.

(d) Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Shiva: The Karitalai Ins. of Lakṣmaṇarāja K. S 593 opens with an invocation to Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Shiva. The Kulait Cp. Ins of Somavarman describes the king Shālavāhana as a devout worshiper of the trinity. The Māndhātā Cp. of Devapāla Paramara V. S. 1255 invokes the trinity as Kaiśa i.e., Brahmā prajāpati, Shiva and Viṣṇu combined. Ka is Brahmā, E is Viṣṇu and Iśa is Shiva, forming the word Kaiśawho is described as ‘resembling the waterlily, the blackbee and the Kāśa grass; having respectively for weapons a menacing utterance (huṃkāra), a discus and the pināka; moving on a swan, a Garuḍa and bull and residing in a lotus, water and mountain’. Such combined images in the Harihara-Pitāmaha, Dattātreya and Kaiṣa forms are discovered in large numbers.

The temple with three sancta for the trinity - Shiva, Viṣṇu and Brahmā like the one at Kesari in Gujarat displays the close association of the three gods. The inscriptions mention the construction of similar temples in other parts of the country.

(e) Sūrya, Brahmā and Viṣṇu formed another triad. The copper plates of Viśvarūpasena who was devout worshiper of Sūrya open with a salutation to Nārāyaṇa followed by an invocation to Sūrya. It was authenticated by Sadāśivamudrā. The Gadwal inscriptions record the worship of this triad at the ceremony of gifts (सूर्यभट्टारकं संपूज्य भगवन्तं महेश्वरमभ्यर्च्य विश्वाधारं वासुदेवं समाराध्य). A temple for the joint worship of Shiva, Viṣṇu and Bhāskara existed at Kargudri in Deccan.

The Quadrumvarate

The inclusion of Sūrya in the trinity formed this quadrumvarate. Images combining Shiva, Viṣṇu, Brahmā and Sūrya in one body have been found at Kiradu, Pavagarh, Khajuraho, Gujarat, Kalanjara and elsewhere. But it may be noted that no temple in India dedicated to the worship of these four deities together have been found.

Ancient temples which are termed as Pañcāyatana really group the shrines for four gods - Shiva, Viṣṇu, Shakti and Sūrya. The Rewa Ins. Of Vappulaka records the construction of a Shiva Pañcāyatana form of temple in which four shrines were built for four gods on the sides. The record, however, is mutilated and gives the name of Viṣṇu alone who was installed n a subsidiary shrine as Lakṣmīnārāyaṇa. The Brahmeśvara temple Ins. of Kolavati likewise mentions the construction of four subsidiary shrines by the side of the main temple. It however does not describe the gods in subsidiary shrines.

Pañcāyatana temples of early medieval period have been found at Osia, Khajuraho, Bhuvaneshvar and Kashmir. The Viṣṇu Pañcāyatana temples at Khajuraho and Osia have Shiva, Shakti, Sūrya and Viṣṇu in the four subsidiary shrines grouped around the main shrine.

Thus, this was another form of quadrumvarate formed by the substitution of Brahmā by Shakti.

Pañcadevopāsanā

The Kilait Cp. of Somavarman in the middle of eleventh century A.D. invokes five deities, Brahmā, Gaṇapati, Viṣṇu, Shakti and Shiva. But this pentad is not of the Smārta variety as Sūrya has been substituted here by Brahmā.

The evidence for the Smārta group of the five deities comes from the lingas of 11th century A.D. Representing the four sectarian deities - Viṣṇu, Shakti, Gaṇeśa and Sūrya on four sides. Similarly, the miniature shrines representing these five sectarian deities in sancta and around furnish the testimony for the prevalence of this cult in early and late medieval period.

It may, therefore, be concluded that the system of five deities as envisaged by the Smārtas came into vogue by eleventh century A.D. and that it indicates the rapprochment of the Vedic and āgamic tendencies. The views that Pañcadevopāsanā was introduced by Shaṅkarācārya is evidently incorrect.

Lākulīśa Pañcadevatā

Besides this Smārta variety, there were several āgamic forms of Shaiva Pañcāyatana group. Four disciples of Lakulīśa namely Kuśika, Gārgya, Maitreya and Kāruka along with Patanjali formed one group. This variety was transported to Indonesia where it survived for a very long time although literature and epigraphy in India do not contain any reference to it. The Cintrā Praśasti records another form. Gaṇḍa Tripurāntaka, a Pāśupata of Lākulīśa school, constructed a temple of Shiva surrounded by five sanctuaries of Gorakṣa, Bhairava, Hanumāna, Sarasvatī and Vināyaka.

गोरक्षकं भैरवमाञ्जनेयं
सरस्वतीं सिद्धिविनायकं च |
चकार पञ्चायतनान्तराले
बालेन्दुमौळिस्थितिमानसो यः ||

The epigraph explicitly describes it as Pañcāyatana. Both these varieties are of the Lākulīśa Pāśupata school.

Siddānta Pañcadevatā

The Shaiva Sidhānta ascetic Prabodhaśiva, on the other hand, set up five deities around the sanctum. They were Shiva, Shakti, Kārtikeya, Sarasvatī and Gaṇeśa.

यः प्रत्यतिष्टिपदुमामुमया च मिश्र-
मीशं षडाननमथ प्रथितोरुकीर्तिः |
प्रासादसन्निहितदेवगृहेषु विद्वान्
द्वारे तथा गणपतिं च सरस्वतीं च ||

As the daily worship of these deities have been enjoined upon devotees in the Iśāna śiva guru paddhati, it seems that this form of pañcadevopāsanā was accepted in the Sidhānta school.

Shurangama Mantra


The Tale of an 'Upasaka'

On the way to Vancouver, I ran into a younger gentleman who was in the same flight as I, and he hesitantly came and greeted me. It turned out that his grandfather was an acquaintance of mine. Meeting him brought back some old memories.

Having been associated with Sringeri Mutt, many of my acquaintances are from Andhra Desha. And the trend therein is for everyone to be an upāsaka of Srīvidyā. Most of them, while being ignorant of the basic philosophical roots of Srīvidyā, juxtapose Vedānta characterized by Vivartavāda in their own superstitious way with Srīvidyā, refusing to even accept it as Tantra, at the same time performing numerous heterogenous rituals infused with heavy loads of anecdotal folk tales and a sense of self-righteous pride.

Anyway, one such acquaintance of mine had been the grandfather of this young chap, who was a scholar of Nyāya at Tirupati. Again, as per the ‘Andhra fashion’, he was also initiated into Srīvidyā, and he frequently spent time expounding how Bhāskararāya was incorrect in his interpretation of the name Mithyājagadadhiṣṭhānā. As with most of his co-ethnics, Srīvidyā to him meant Japa and a cursory simplified Navāvaraṇa pūjā, apart from a lot of skullduggery involving quotations from prasthānatrayī and Adhyātma Rāmāyaṇa. Needless to say, his experience with practical upāsanā was minimal. Nevertheless, he was a decent gentleman, albeit pompous, but so are many folks from Andhra deśa :-)

One fine day, during the days of my youth, he mentioned that he wanted to bring a certain ‘friend’ of his to meet me. This guy was also a Srīvidyā upāsaka, and he whispered, ‘but he is a Kaula! So I will not be here when you guys talk’. I chuckled at his fear and decided to meet his friend. A week later, the other gentleman showed up at my door, having traveled all the way from Vizag.

He was a rather obnoxious person, who upon arriving, immediately walked to our pūjā mandira, sniffed around like a trained canine and said, “Ammavaru says she likes your house”. Well, how nice to get a certificate from Her Highness Herself! And then he spoke at length describing his lineage, which he traced to Bengal, but based in Godavari basin for the last few generations. He was initiated at the age of thirty-five, and had performed upāsanā for two decades. He began to worship Devī as Bālā and then as Sundarī. I was told that Devī had confided in him that he was Kāmeśvara and that the only right way to worship her would be as his svastrī. He ridiculed my upāsanā as paśubhāva several times, explaining how the image of Goddess as ‘mother’ was for the weak-hearted. Tired of listening to his long monologue, I was making every attempt to send him on his way so I can catch a well deserved nap.

He mentioned that Devī would sit on his left lap everyday while he ate food and fanned him. He also mentioned that she pressed his foot every night and he ordered her around like his wife. Having grown up in a household where women were respected as equals and not ordered around, it was quite inconceivable as to how he could treat Devī like his maid. Such archaic ideas sounded regressive even for a normal, human lady. It was quite obvious that he had not studied in true spirit any śāstras of Kulāmnāya which accord great respect to women. As a final act of arrogance, he stepped right into our pījāmandira and began to open the sampuṭa to dish out the Meru. The Meru in our pūjā is ancient and is rumored to have been worshiped by Vidyāraṇya and has received worship by several great men in the past. It was handed down to me through an elderly gentleman associated with the Matha at Sringeri; his grandfather was a famed Vedāntin who was conferred sannyāsa by none other than Srī Saccidānanda Shivābhinava Nṛsiṃha Bhāratī. The minute he went close to the Meru, one of the several lamps lit there fell on him and he suffered a burn. He backed away at that point and left my place.

Ten months later, he visited my place again, but this time, he was a defeated man. There had been a robbery at his house which had left him with nothing. His wife decided to move back to her parents residence. He was caught messing with numbers at work (he was an accountant) and was temporarily suspended while being investigated. At the same time, he has angered a local upāsaka of Bhadrakālī from Cheradeśa and earned his wrath. A prayoga had been performed on him which had severely affected the excretory functions in his body.

He stood at my doorstep seeking assistance. My first question to him was, “But Devī sits on your lap and presses your feet! How then could all this happen to you?” He sheepishly apologized and pleaded for help. I directed him to one of my ācāryas, a learned Nambudari who was my Guru for the mantras of Shūlinī, Vanadurgā, Pratyaṅgirā and Sharabheśvara. I later got to know that the great man had used the mantra of Viparīta Pratyaṅgirā Bhadrakālī to rid him of his affliction. This Mahāvidyā is the crown jewel of Uttarāmnāya, and along with Mohinī Mātaṅgī of Paścimāmnāya, she manifests as Aṣṭabhujī Mahāsarasvatī of Vāyavyāmnāya.

After this incident, we did not hear much from this gentleman. He had quite given up on Srīvidyā and had taken to lecturing on ‘deeper philosophical aspects’ of Vālmīki Rāmāyaṇa. It is not clear if he had ever attained some kind of Mantra-siddhi, but his attitude towards the upāsya devatā had certainly not helped him. He had learned the hard way, the futility of attempting to control a cosmic power, far greater than anything known, and inconceivable by all minds on earth put together, in a rather juvenile way.

Annapoorani