Nrsimha and Kali

As we have stated many times before, the upāsanā of Nṛsiṃha is of special significance in Bimbāmbikā sampradāya. Here, Nṛsiṃha is not merely an incarnation of Mahāviṣṇu, but is a complex and esoteric form of Svacchanda Bhairava, the primary Guru of Nirvāṇasundarī Krama. There are two approaches here, one based on the Navātmeśvara krama of Paścimāmnāya, and the other is based on Mahāmanthāna Bhairava mata of Uttarāmnāya. As our chosen path of sadhana is the second, details presented here reflect the mata of Uttarāmnāya.

Like in the case of Srīvidyā where the Pañcapañcikā are invoked as states leading to nirbīja samādhi within the Bindu chakra, a peculiar worship involving twenty-five forms of Nṛsiṃhas who are in yuganaddha posture with twenty-five forms of Kālī-s is practiced just before the ūrdhvāmnāya krama. This procedure enables the sādhaka to pierce through the Bindu and reach the states leading upto the Mahābindu. This worship invokes the Tirodhāna chakra which is under the control of Bhagavatī Guhyakālī without whose grace, her aspect as Raktā or Kāmakalākālī is near impossible to attain.

The twenty-five mithunas are invoked through their corresponding fifty mantras (one each for twenty-five Nṛsiṃhas and Kālīs) representing the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet.

1 Jvālāmālī Nṛsiṃha and Dhūmakālī
2 Kṣobhaṇa Nṛsiṃha and Ghoranādakālī
3 Aparājita Nṛsiṃha and Jvālākālī
4 Sthiti Nṛsiṃha and Kalpāntakālī
5 Kalpānta Nṛsiṃha and Vetālakālī
6 Ananta Nṛsiṃha and Kaṅkālakālī
7 Parāpara Nṛsiṃha and Durjayakālī
8 Viśvamardana Nṛsiṃha and Samhārakālī
9 Bhadra Nṛsiṃha and Raudrakālī
10 Sahasrabhuja Nṛsiṃha and Kṛtāntakālī
11 Vidyujjihva Nṛsiṃha and Mahārātrikālī
12 Ghoradaṃṣṭra Nṛsiṃha and Saṃgrāmakālī
13 Mahākālāgni Nṛsiṃha and Bhīmakālī
14 Meghanāda Nṛsiṃha and Shavakālī
15 Vikaṭa Nṛsiṃha and Chaṇḍakālī
16 Piṅgasaṭa Nṛsiṃha and Raktakālī
17 Pradīpta Nṛsiṃha and Ghorakālī
18 Viśvarūpa Nṛsiṃha and Sumahattarīkālī
19 Vidyuddaśana Nṛsiṃha and Santrāsakālī
20 Lakṣmī Nṛsiṃha and Kāmakalākālī
21 Vidrāvaṇa Nṛsiṃha and Dakṣiṇākālī
22 Kṛtānta Nṛsiṃha and Bhadrakālī
23 Bhrāmaka Nṛsiṃha and Shmaśānakālī
24 Pratapta Nṛsiṃha and Siddhikālī
25 Sarvatejomaya Nṛsiṃha and Unmattakālī

Late Mahāmahopādhyāya Rājeśvara Mishra of Prayāga had an image of Pratāpa Nṛsiṃha and Siddhikālī in his worship, which was handed down to him by an upāsaka in Nepal. Mishraji personally mentioned to me that this idol would change position in his pūjāgṛha by itself and that raktacandana would appear on it every night. I was blessed with the opportunity of offering worship to this striking idol.

Prabho Shambho


उररीकृतकाञ्चिपुरीमुपनिषदरविन्दकुहरमधुधाराम् |
उन्नम्रस्तनकलशीमुत्स्वलहरीमुपास्महे शम्भोः ||

The verse ‘Prabho Shambho’ was composed by Acārya Amṛtavāgbhava, the great philosopher of Kashmir Shaivism and an ardent upāsaka of Srīvidyā. He composed this verse with a heart filled with devotion on one evening during the month of Vaiśākha, and then began to further contemplate on this composition, wondering about it its grammar and meaning. At that time, Lord Svacchanda Bhairava appeared in the from of a sage and clarified all his doubts. Thereafter, Acārya gave this verse to several people who were afflicted by various physical, mental and spiritual troubles and all of them miraculously were freed of their afflictions by the grace of Paramaśiva experienced through the recital of this verse.

Traditionally, one is advised to start the reciting of this verse from a Monday or an auspicious day such as Mahāśivarātri, on which the aspirant should visit a temple of Lord Mahādeva and accept the verse as though initiated directly by the Lord. He should then recite the verse with full contemplation on its meaning, thrice. Thereafter, the verse should be recited first thing upon waking up from sleep, and the last thing before sleeping in the night, thrice. For accomplishing other purposes, one should recite it more number of times.

Acārya himself describes the background of this verse thus:

“The desire of Lord Paramaśiva manifested as his Grace has imparted the power of Siddha Mahāmantra to the verse ‘Prabho Shambho’ composed by me, by which one can attain the desired fruits. For the benefit of the devotees, I now offer my salutations to His lotus feet and narrate the astonishing anecdote associated with this verse.

One evening, having completed my sandhyā, I sat on my āsana within the place of worship, enveloped in darkness. I was wondering about a possible mistake in the verse ‘Prabho Shambho’ composed by me the earlier the same morning. Suddenly, a divine form appeared before me.

The form of the Siddha that appeared before me wore rags hanging till his knees, had pointed long ears covered in hair and was resplendent like the full moon. His entire body was covered by curly hair and his eye shone with the brilliance of lightening. With his forefinger held high, he spoke to me in a thundering voice:

O wise one, this verse is not impure, do not make any changes to it. The way the samāsa is formed, there is nothing wrong with the use of the word ‘baddhādarakaraṃ’.

Having clarified thus, the Siddha vanished immediately. This incident occurred in the month of Vaiśākha in Samvat 1990, at Nalagadh in Himachal Pradesh within Dharmasabha Bhavan”.

The verse is as below:

प्रभो शम्भो दीनं विहितशरणं त्वच्चरणयोः
भवारण्यादस्माद्विषमविषयाशीविषवृतात् |
समुद्धृत्य श्रद्धाविधुरमपि बद्धादरकरं
दयादृष्ट्या पश्यन्निजतनयमात्मीकुरु शिव ||

prabho śambho dīnaṃ vihitaśaraṇaṃ tvaccaraṇayoḥ
bhavāraṇyādasmādviṣamaviṣayāśīviṣavṛtāt |
samuddhṛtya śraddhāvidhuramapi baddhādarakaraṃ
dayādṛṣṭyā paśyannijatanayamātmīkuru śiva ||

'O Lord Shiva, this forest named samsāra is filled with venomous serpents that are the sensory objects. To escape from them, I take refuge most humbly in your lotus feet.

O all powerful Shambhu, please take me out of this forest even if I lack faith and devotion, for I am after all your son and I have sought refuge in you with folded hands.

Please cast your merciful glance of grace on me and take me into your fold, accepting me as your very own'.

Shivakamasundari Ashtakam

नृत्तराजसहधर्मचारिणीम् |
अद्रिराजतनयां दिने दिने
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || १ ||

बाहुपद्म शुकवत्सशोभिताम् |
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || २ ||

वाञ्छितार्थफलदानतत्पराम् |
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || ३ ||

देवराजमहिलादि संवृताम् |
दानवारिसहजां दयानिधिं
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || ४ ||

पञ्चबाणनिचयोद्भवेक्षणाम् |
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || ५ ||

वाग्विलासफलदां विचक्षणाम् |
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || ६ ||

नाममन्त्रजपकृत् सुखप्रदाम् |
नाशहीनपददां नटेश्वरीं
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || ७ ||

सोमसूर्यहुतभुक् त्रिलोचनां
शर्वमोहनकरीं सुधीडिताम् |
सत् त्रिवर्ग परमात्मसौखदां
चिन्तयामि शिवकामसुन्दरीम् || ८ ||

nṛttarājasahadharmacāriṇīm |
adrirājatanayāṃ dine dine
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 1 ||

bāhupadma śukavatsaśobhitām |
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 2 ||

vāñchitārthaphaladānatatparām |
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 3 ||

devarājamahilādi saṃvṛtām |
dānavārisahajāṃ dayānidhiṃ
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 4 ||

pañcabāṇanicayodbhavekṣaṇām |
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 5 ||

vāgvilāsaphaladāṃ vicakṣaṇām |
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 6 ||

nāmamantrajapakṛt sukhapradām |
nāśahīnapadadāṃ naṭeśvarīṃ
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 7 ||

somasūryahutabhuk trilocanāṃ
śarvamohanakarīṃ sudhīḍitām |
sat trivarga paramātmasaukhadāṃ
cintayāmi śivakāmasundarīm || 8 ||

Understanding Death

Tutelary Avaranas worshiped in Srichakra

In our lineage, Srīcakrārcana involves āvaraṇa pūjā for various other deities.

After the completion of the first half of Srīkrama, one begins with Caturāvṛtti tarpaṇa of Mahāgaṇapati, followed by his pañcāvaraṇa krama. This is followed by the rasāvaraṇa pūjā of Bālā Tripurasundarī. While some worship nine āvaraṇas of Bālā, that is not appropriate here as the deity worshiped here is not Yogabālā (uttarāṅga of Lalitā), but instead is Shaḍakṣarī Bālā, a pūrvāṅga vidyā of Lalitā.

Then the Caturāyatana āvaraṇas are worshiped for Prāsāda Shambhu, Nṛsiṃha and Mārtāṇḍa Bhairava.

This is followed by the Pañcāvaraṇa Krama of Medhā Dakṣiṇāmūrti and the Saptāvaraṇa Krama of Svacchanda Bhairava. The Gurumaṇḍala of Kādi Srīvidyā is next propitiated.

One then worships the standard ten or sixteen āvaraṇas of Mahātripurasundarī.

The deities worshiped next are the Pañcapañcikās, four Samayā deities, and the sixty-four deities of the six āmnāyas. The next set of deities worshiped are: ṣoḍaśa-mūlavidyā, ṣaḍādhāra, ṣaḍdarśana vidyā, ṣaḍadhva vidyā, saptaviṃśati rahasya etc.

Before beginning the worship of ūrdhvāmnāya, one completes the āvaraṇas for Rājaśyāmalā, Mahāvārāhī and Parā Bhattārikā.

The first activity of ūrdhvāmnāya krama is the worship of the 360 raśmis of Shaḍanvaya Mahāśāmbhava krama. This is followed by the single āvaraṇa for Kāmakalā. Next in line is the worship of the six āvaraṇas of ūrdhvāmnāya proper that follow the order of Mahāṣodhā nyāsa. Based on the day of the week, this āvaraṇa can be that of Ugratārā, Bhuvaneśvarī, Dakṣiṇā Kālī, Navaratna Kubjikā, Pañcakrama Guhyakālikā, Shoḍaśī and Mahāṣoḍaśī.

The final three āvaraṇas are for Subrahmaṇya (six for saguṇa Subrahmaṇya and six for nirguṇa Brahmaṇya), Ucchiṣṭa Mahāgaṇapati - Nīlasarasvatī and finally Triśakti Chāmuṇḍā. No other āvaraṇas are worshiped after Chaṇḍī as she marks the grand culmination of Saparyā.

If time and inclinations permit, one can also include the āvaraṇas for the guardian deities of the ten directions, after the worship of Mahāgaṇapati and Bālā: Sudarśana Nṛsiṃha, Mahāsudarśana, Kārtavīryārjuna, Svarṇākarṣaṇa Bhairava, Aghora, Pāśupatāstra, Sharabheśvara, Vanadurgā, Shūlinī and Pratyaṅgirā.

This elaborate procedure is too lengthy for everyday execution, but the upāsaka is advised to practice them at least during the Pañca parvas.

Manidvipa Sandarshanam

Navapashanam and Rasamani

Interestingly there is a case study where a group of scientists examined a supposed Navapashana statue, which can be accessed here.



Siddhas who are familiar with the secrets of upāsanā of Bhagavatī Durgā, point out the presence of navārṇa in two places within the Durgā Saptaśatī.

The name Chāmunḍā is of great significance, as is evident by it’s central position occupied within the famous Navārṇa mantra.

यस्माच्चण्डं च मुण्डं च गृहीत्वा त्वमुपागता |
चामुण्डेति ततो लोके ख्याता देवि भविष्यति ||

The word ‘cāmuṇḍāyai’ is composed of nine letters - च्, म्, ण्, ड्, य् and आ, उ, आ, ऐ - and hence is nāvākṣarī in its own right. This very name is considered very powerful and a mantra in itself.

There is yet another powerhouse verse in Saptaśatī that is described as nāvārṇa by Siddhas of the yore:

शूलेन पाहि नो देवि पाहि खड्गेन चाम्बिके |
घण्टास्वनेन नः पाहि चापज्यानिःस्वनेन च ||

If one carefully observes, this verse contains the letter ‘na’ (न) nine times.

Advaita Vedanta and Kashmir Shaivism

- Nṛsiṃhacaraṇa Paṇḍā

Gauḍapāda holds that the world-appearance is due to the vibration of prāṇa or chitta or vijñāna. Shabdabrahman is a synonym of Prakṛti or Māyā. The concept of Vibration or Spanda is implied in this word. The world of diversity and multiplicity is produced as a result of the vibration of the Māyā śakti, the power of Brahman. The Upaniṣads use the term Sūtrātman for Brahman. The whole universe is the vibration of the single string (sūtra), the Self of which is Brahman. The Brahmasūtra traces the manifestation (vyakta) of the unmanifest (avyakta or Mayā) to the origination of prāṇa and its subsequent vibrations (kampana). Thus the Shaiva Doctrine of Vibration gets support from the Vedāntic scriptures.

But there are some salient points of differences between Kashmir Shaivism and the Vedāntic non-dualism. Brahman is Advaita Vedānta is motionless and actionless. According to the logic of Advaita Vedānta motion is an activity and any activity necessitates an expenditure of energy. If Brahman has activity, it cannot be permanent and unmodifiable. Hence, says Advaita Vedānta, Brahman, the Absolute Being, is devoid of becoming. Its power (Māyāśakti) which is indescribable (anivarcanīya) has attributes and activity. The three strings (sattva, rajas and tamas) produce the empirical universe. Vedānta holds that Māyāśakti vibrates whereas Brahman is completely unmoving (niḥspanda). In the process of the activity of Māyāśakti, there is a perpetual degradation (entropy) of energy. Hence, in order that the available energy of Māyāśakti is not rendered zero and the cosmic process is not brought to a stand-still condition, the world energy is recycled through the process of pralaya (dissolution). The totality of the manifest universe is dissolved in Māyā, to be manifested in the next cycle of emanation, maintenance and dissolution.

In the Shaiva view, a pulsation (spanda) consisting of two phases - a phase of expansion and another phase of contraction - is not a motion. Of course, it is not a motion in the sense of change of position, movement from position P1 to P2. But it cannot be denied that pulsation is a movement. Any movement needs expenditure of energy and pulsation (vibration) is not possible without expenditure of energy.

By “pulsation”, we refer to the cosmic cycles of emanation, sustenance and dissolution and also the perpetual pulsations with regard to the sustenance of the universe. The atoms, the molecules, the galaxies and the super-galaxies are all products of the pulsations of the second type. There is no loss of energy is any pulsation; there is, however, degradation of energy (conversion of utilizable to non-utilizable) in the second type. The existence and the activities of the universe necessarily involve degradation of energy. The degraded energy is reconverted to utilizable energy in the process of cosmic dissolution (pralaya). If considered from this point of view, the Doctrine of Vibration is free from any conceptual defect.

In Advaita Vedānta, Brahman is functionless and Māyā is active. This is however not the case in Kashmir Shaivism, in which Paramaśiva, the Universal Consciousness, is ever active. He is self-luminous light (Prakāśa); He is also the self-conscious and active agent. He is the Svātantrya śakti (the Absolute Freedom of the Divine), otherwise known as Vimarśa, appearing as the Power of Will (Iccāśakti), the Power of Action (Kriyāśakti) and the Power of Knowledge (Jñānaśakti).

In reality, Shakti is one, although Her manifestations are many. The Shaiva holds that the power (śakti) is non-different from the possessor of the power - śaktiśaktimatorabhedaḥ. There is no Shiva without Shakti nor is Shakti without Shiva. Like fire and heat, Shiva and Shakti are ever non-different. Prakāśa is the Shiva polarity and Vimarśa is the Shakti polarity of the undivided unity of the Universal Consciousness. In fact, Shakti vibrates, but the agency of the vibration is attributed to Paramaśiva Who is free from duality. Thus both in Advaita Vedānta and the Spanda philosophy, it is Shakti that vibrates. The details of the concepts of Māyā and Shakti in the two systems are not identical; there are subtle differences which are not insignificant. But, at least on the surface, the one common factor that needs emphasis here is that the active agent is Shakti, named as Vimarśa or Māyā. Even though the Pratyabhijñā and Spanda philosophy is monistic, the Spandaśakti (the Energy of Creative Pulsation) has been termed as śāṅkarī (of śaṅkara or Maheśvara) in Kṣemarāja’s propitiatory verses in his Spandanirṇaya. Vasugupta, in his Shivasūtra, has prayed to Shankara in the first verse and has used the term śāṅkaraṃ caitanyam for the same Svātantrya śakti. Thus, as Māyā is the power of Brahman, so also is Shakti, the power of Maheśvara.

There is both idealism and realism in Pratyabhijñā philosophy. Reality is Universal Consciousness. Without undergoing any change and affecting its undivided, unitary existence, it manifests as the world of diversity and multiplicity. It reflects on its own mirror. This is the doctrine of appearance (ābhāsavāda) in the Pratyabhijñā philosophy. But, in spite of this concept of ābhāsa (appearance), the world is real in this system.

Advaita Vedānta is absolute idealism. Brahman is Pure Consciousness and is the Reality. The world is an illusion; it is not real although not non-existent. A rope is mistaken, due to ignorance, as a snake. In this case, the rope is the substratum (adhiṣṭhāna) and the snake is the illusory appearance. And so is the world which is the illusory appearance of the substratum, Brahman. The whole cosmos is ever-changing. But all these changes are apparent only. Any change is not real since there is nothing other than Brahman that does not change. As gold takes forms of a ring, a necklace, a bangle and still remains as the same gold, the change being in the form and name (ṇāma rūpa) only without changes in the substance, so does Brahman appear as the manifold world of names and forms without undergoing any modification. This is the vivartavāda (doctrine of apparent change) of Advaita Vedānta. There is pratibimbavāda (doctrine of reflection) in Advaita Vedānta. According to this doctrine, the one Brahman (Self or Consciousness) is reflected on its power, Māyā and also on the empirical subtle bodies (liṅgaśarīras). The former reflected image is īśvara (god) and latter reflected images are the empirical selves (jīvas). Although the source of the reflected images (jīvas) is one Brahman only, each jīva is different from the others. One Sun is reflected on many water-reservoirs to appear as many Suns and so is Brahman.

If the fundamentality of the ābhāsavāda of Pratyabhijñā and the pratibimbavāda of Advaita Vedānta is considered at the exclusion of the minute details of the two systems, there seems to be more commonness and less distinctions. Realism, in its rigorous form, does not operate in the Spanda philosophy. Reality (the Universal Consciousness) is one and one only. Due to the vibration or pulsation of one of its bipoles, the world of diversity and multiplicity appears. As different musical tones are produced by the vibration of the string of the violin, so appears the manifold world as a result of the vibration of the Shakti of the Self. This is the essence of the Spanda philosophy. It does not stand the rigors of strict realism. Thus it is not much meaningful to say that Advaita Vedānta is illusionistic and Spanda philosophy is realistic. There has been much confusion over the use of the word “illusion”. Saaṅkarācārya does not deny the existence of the world. He recognizes the absolute existence of Brahman and refutes the absoluteness of the existence of the world. And so is Shaiva monism that recognizes Paramaśiva as the Absolute Universal Consciousness and the world with its phases of manifestation, sustenance and dissolution as the reflection of the Consciousness. Gauḍapāda contends that the prāṇaśakti vibrates. The Shaiva monism maintains that the spandaśakti vibrates. Except the difference in the philosophical jargons, basically the concept seems to be one and the same.

The tāṇḍava dance of Shiva is a symbolic expression of the creative pulsation (spanda). The beating of His drum (damaru) is the further confirmation of the doctrine of vibration. The image of Naṭarāja is a symbolic exhibition of the vigorous steps of the divine dance with the vibrating sounds of the drum. The cosmic creative pulsation comes into being as an external manifestation of the supernal creative joy (ānanda) of Paramaśiva. The ānanda wells up from the Universal Consciousness and vibrates rhythmically to be manifested as the universe.


There were several queries received about Pūrṇadīkṣā and there is no one standard answer for them really. Every Guru Sampradāya has its own technicalities and peculiarities derived from different pramāṇa granthas.

In most South-Indian lineages (obviously of Srīvidyā), Paraśurāma Kalpasūtra is the primary pramāṇa but this work really does not get into the specifics in terms of which mantra is considered as conferring pūrṇadīkṣā. In practice, Mahāṣoḍaśī and Mahāpādukā are generally considered as constituting the Pūrṇābhiṣeka.

Things are slightly different in the case of Krama Dīkṣā where a lot more technicalities are discussed. This does not mean that the Dākṣiṇātya Sampradāya of Srīvidyā is not a Krama system - even there one progresses through different steps such as Mahāgaṇapati, Bālā, Shyāmalā, Vārāhī, Pañcadaśī, Shoḍaśī, Parā etc. However, in the complex and syncretistic Krama system of the east, each step is greatly delineated. In the case of Pūrṇadīkṣā, which is obtained for all three Mahāvidyās, is the starting point to higher initiations.

The pramāṇa clearly states:

पूर्णाभिषेकः सुन्दर्यां षोडश्यामेव कीर्तितः |
अभावे लघुषोडश्यां अक्षरत्रितयेऽपि च ||

In the case of Tripurasundarī, pūrṇadīkṣā is always accomplished through Shoḍaśī. When this is unavailable, one will have to use Laghuṣoḍaśī (adhama pakṣa) or Saubhāgya ṣoḍaśī (madhyama pakṣa). By this statement, it becomes evident that uttama pakṣa is clearly Mahāṣoḍaśī.

Elsewhere it is said:

राजराजेश्वरी विद्या पञ्चमी परसुन्दरी |
श्रीमहाषोडशी पूर्णा पूर्णदीक्षितपूर्तिदा ||

Pūrṇadīkṣā is attained through:

(a) Rājarājeśvarī (aṣṭādaśī)
(b) Pañcamī
(c) Parāṣoḍaśī
(d) Mahāṣoḍaśī

In the case of Dakśiṇā Kālī, the pūrṇadīkṣā is always through Kāmakalā Kālī of Uttarāmnāya:

तथा कामकला काली दक्षिणायामपि स्मृता |

That said, for every form of Kālī, the final dīkṣā is indeed through Guhyakālī who encompasses both Uttara and ūrdhvāmnāyas:

गुह्यकाली सैव विद्या तत्त्वानां नवकैर्युता |
सप्तप्रेतसमासीना महागुह्येश्वरी तथा ||

Generally, the dīkṣā is obtained through Rāmopāsitā and Bharatopāsitā forms, who is Daśavaktrā. Some advanced and fearless upāsakas also venture into shatavaktrā Guhyakālī but those are rare to find.

Again, there is no single standard answer here, one simply needs to follow the valid pramāṇa adopted by one’s lineage.