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.


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.