In the place of Kama, which is in the centra of the place of Kama and in the middle of Kama, one should fashion a hole. By Kama one should accomplish Kama, and should place Kama within Kama. Having made oneself a lover by Kama, in the place of Kama ne my agitate the world – Vamakeshvarimatam IV, 45-46
The Yogini Tantra is a voluminous work held in high regard by practitiners of Vamachara. It outlines every topic familiar to the Kaula and Vama traditions. This opens with a familiar tantrik scene on Mount Kailasa where Shiva is addressed by Parvati. She says she has heard exposition of tantras before on Shri Shaila mountain, in Varanasi, in Kamarupa and in Nepal. Now she wants to hear more from Shiva, the world guru. In answer, Shiva says he will declare the great Yogini Tantra, the giver of both wealth and liberation. It is to be concealed and is unknown to all the devatas, to the asuras, to the yakshas and others but he will declare it out of love for Parvati.
He starts by eulogising the goddess as the cosmic mother (Vishvamata), dark as a thunderstorm, wearing a garland and waist-band of skulls, with dishevelled hair, completely naked (digambaram). She has a rolling tongue, makes a terrifying roar, three reddened eyes and has a wide open mouth. She wears a moon digit on her forehead, has the corpses of two boys as her earrings and is adorned with various gems, which are of the brightness of the Sun and the Moon.
Laughing loudly, she has two streams of blood pouring from her mouth, while her throat is red with blood. In her four arms she holds cleaver, head and makes mudras dispelling fears and granting boons. She, the supreme Nitya, is seated in reverse (viparita) intercourse with Mahakala upon the crpse of Shiva. After this dhyana of Kali, Shiva begins to outline the tantra, declaring that he is Parvati’s slave.
He starts with the characteristics of the guru, who he describes as the root of all shastra, the root of this world and the very self of Parabrahma and the essence of Shiva. The guru can save a disciple where even gods and goddesses cannot intercede. The guru’s family is to be cnsidered as identical with the guru. There follows a dhyana of guru in the palace of wish-fulfilling gems on Mount Kailasa, surrounded by hosts of Bhairavas. The palace is surrounded by the seven oceans. The guru is one with Mahakala Adinatha and knows all mantras, whether they be Shakta, Vaishnava or Ganapatya. The greatness of the guru is hymned in all the shastras.
In Vedic times, mother goddess was worshipped as Usha and Aranyani in Rigveda and as Shri Gayatri in Yajurveda and Durga in other Vedas and in Upanishads as Uma, Hymavathi, Narasimhi and Tripura. The epic Ramayana of Valmiki has said to be embedded in it Shri Gayatri of twenty-four letters in the twenty-four thousand verses of the epic.
In Puranas, Samhitas, Agamas and Tantras, she is worshipped as Shri Mahakali, Shri Mahatripurasundari and as Shri Rajarajeshwari. Thus from the prehistoric times (2000 BC) upto date there is an unbroken tradition of the God head being worshipped as Mother. Even today it is rare to find a Hindu home where she is not worshipped as Mother Shri Durga, Lakshmi, Kali, Saraswati or at least as Gramadevta i.e a small village deity. In this long line of Shakti worship, two aspects of the goddess can be clearly discerned.
1. The fierce form of the deity that is dreaded.
2. The benign aspect of her love and kindness.
These two broad aspects are common in the concept of God in other religions also. The first one is mre primitive and is an active an violent form – Rajasic or Tamsic persnification of Shakti. Fear is the predominant emotions of the sadhaka in worshipping this aspect, fear of natural calamities, ill health, death, enemies, poverty and even ignorance. Even her form is imagined with many heads and hands each carrying deadly weapons like sword and mace, riding on wild animals like tiger, lion and even corpse.
She usually resides in wild places, lonely forests, hilltops and cremation grounds. She is generally represented with a gesture of allaying fear – Abhayamudra. She is offered sacrifices of living things such as fowls, goats, buffaloes and probably even human beings. Wine is offered in many cases. She is frequently worshipped to gain limited personal objectives, sometimes even of an evil nature.
It is this fierce aspect of Shakti which Arjuna sees at the end of Vishwaroopa Darshana and gets frightened. The second form of Shakti is the Satvic one, a latter and sublimer concept that is the product of Upnishadic thought. Here the sadhaka, through greater knowledge and practice largely sheds the fear of the deity and loves her as his own mother. She is generally imagined as seated on a ltus and surrounded by beautiful lakes and gardens. She is worshipped with the object of reaching and realizing higher and higher levels of consciusness and knowledge. But in the various forms of Murtis that are being worshipped as Shakti, these two aspects are intermingled to a more or less degree as can be gathered from the form of Shri Gayatri extolled by the Vedas.
She is contemplated as having five heads, three eyes and also having in her hands a mace, a goad, a skull, two lotuses and Abhayamudra. The sadhaka, as he advances in his discipline, as his practice becmes Satvic and sublimer, finds himself drawn irresistibly drawn towards the secnd oor the Satvic form. This is the form in which Parashakti is worshipped in Dakshinachara or Samayachara. Each ne of the Tantras is an elaborate compendium or a system of philosophy, worship, ritual and a code of conduct suited and prescribed to various individuals and groups,of various capacities.
During the Puranic period, Buddism and Jainism were living religions. Naturally, there was mutual enrichment between the various systems of discipline. The Tantras and Agamas are held in the same high esteem as the Vedas and Upanishads. Upanishads include texts like Brhvaca, Nrisimhatapini, Kena, Brhadaranyaka, Tripuaratapini, Tripura, Bhaavana, Srichakra and other Upanishads. There are Samhitas like Shri Dakshinamurthy Samhita and Bhuvaneshwari Samhita which are almost of the same status as Vedas in authority.
There are Tantras like Mahanirvana and Vamakeshwara extolling the cult of Shakti. There are some Tantras like Rudra Yamala which are said to be older even than Vedas. It may be mentioned here that there is an impression among the common people that Tantra is some form of black magic associated with immoral practices with sex and drink, condemned by Vedas. There appears to be some ground for such an impression. The Vamachara or the leftist path is prbably an echo of the primitive ritual with which the terrible aspect of the mother goddess was worshipped in pre-historic times.
Latterly, it found sanction in some Tantras, which are banned by Vedas. In Vamachar, Rishi is Bahirava and Bhairava-Bhairavi are the deities. The worship of the Shakti component of the Shiva-Shakti one parabrahman, Vamachara generally uses the Panchamakaras. The origin of these can be traced to the evlution of the Saakta path itself. The fierce tribal goddess of Saakta cult was offered meat and toddy or whatever the worshipper wanterd to eat and dreink such as fish and wine. However, the capacity of these ingredients to coarsen the intellectual faculties especially in spiritual pursuit was soon discovered. But if one cannot escape the lure of them, they were permitted as an article of worship by certain classes of people who were used to nothing but this.
This is probably how this has crept into Saakta mode of worship. Some like Vimalanda and others justify Vamachara on the ground that it seeks to sublimate the grosser nature of man through satiation of senses. But this is a very strange argument. Because human nature grosser and grosser as the senses are satisfied further and further. There are some who extol Vamachara as having been practiced by great ones like Shri Ramakrishna.
This argument is actually against Vamachara. It is only highly evolved souls that can withstand its temptations and pitfalls. It is not for ordinary Sadhakas and the evolved souls do not need it. Whatever might be the origin of this Vamachara, it was evolved as a part of Sadhana for certain classes of Hindus and has a place in their spiritual growth, at any rate in the beginning. The Tantras themselves give adequate warning about the pitfalls and prescribe for sadhakas with Pashu Bhava.
On an examination of the historical evlution of the Tantras, sex as an article of worship seems to have been introduced for the first time in the Guhyasamaja Tantra of Buddhistic origin. In this Tantra, mentin was made of Prajnabhisheka or initiation of a disciple with a woman. There it was said that the Guru takes the hand of a beautiful wman agreeable to the disciple and after citing the Tathagatas as witnesses, places it in the hand of the disciple. Thereafter placing his own and on the head of the disciple, he will say – since Buddhahood is impossible of attainment to you, you should accept this Shakti. Thus, it looks as though this was the result of a reaction to the high moral and monastic ideals of Buddhism and Hinduism. From the name of Tantra itself, it is evident that it advocated secret societies where this cult was practiced.
This is the beginning of what is known as Vajarayana Buddhism. Incidentally these secret societies, where in the name of religion orgies of sex, drink and gluttony were practiced, were mainly held to be responsible in bringing Buddhism into contempt amongst the Hindus and driving it away from the land of its birth. The credit goes to Shri Bhagavatpada Shankaracharya for rescuing these various schools of Hindu religious worship, more especially the Saakta path, form these odious practices and establishing it in its pristine Vedantic purity as Samayamata or Dakshinachara. This Samayachara is the main ritual in the monastic institutions established by Shri Shankara and prescribed to Hindus since his time.
This discipline of Samayamata is called Swatantra Tantra by Acharya in Saundaryalahari. This samayamata is a system integrating within itself the Yogas of Mantra, Laya, Bhakti, Karma and ultimately the desired Jnana. This path harnesses besides our intellect, other faculties of mind such as faith and emotion in our efforts. The Samayachara condemns Vamachara and the worship of Shakti is according to sacred texts called Shubagama Panchaka. Here the Rishi is Dakshinamurthy; Kameshwara-Kameshwari are the deities. The sadhaka has to completely identify himself with Srividya-Srimata-Guru and Srichakra, the puja prescribed here is called Antaryaga.
Depending on the Samskara, capacity, tradition etc of the sadhaka, Tantra Shastra prescribes six ways of worship of the same Parabrahman. These are Shaiva, Vaishnava, Koumara, Ganapatya, Soura and Shaakta. The most expensive of these is Shaakta. The great Parabrahman is here known as Lalita, Paraa or Ahamta etc. the main Upaasya’s or deities worshipped are: Kali, Tara, Shodashi, Bhuvaneshwari, Chinnamasta, Bhairavi, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamala with their respective Shiva’s or Mithuna’s being Mahakala, Akshobhya, Panchavaktra Kameshwara, Tryambaka, kabandha, Dakshinamurthy, Maharudra, Matanga and Sadashiva or Mahavishnu. Dhumavathi is a widow without a Purusha Mithuna.
Other than these Mahavidya Goddess, Navadurgas, Kaamakhya and others in the fifty-one Shakti-Peethas, Mahalakshmi-Mahasaraswati-Mahakali are all indeed forms of the same great mother Mahatripurasundari. Each Vidya has its own Devta, meditation form, Mantra, Yantra, Aavarana, Sadhana, Kavacha, Hridya, Sahasranama etc. There is not a single God or Goddess that is not worshipped in the Srichakra as a part of Srividya. Srividya includes Pratimaa puja, Linga pooja, Yantra pooja, Saligrama puja, Nyasa, Kundalini yoga, Mudra paddhati, Shodasha Samskara, Homa, Bali and Kamakala Dhyana. Upasana is possible in three ways namely:
1. Kaadi vidya-Kali krama or Samyamata or Kundalini yoga.
2. Haadi Vidya-Sundari krama or Hamsavidya or Kaulamata.
3. Saadi Vidya-Tara krama or Samavarodhini vidya or Mishra marga.
The first one is what is also called Dakshinachara. Here Shiva is called Samaya and Shankari as Samayaa. This is the path of pure consciousness leading to sure success in spiritual staircase. The best and the knowledgeable, who are free form most Malas or the impurities except for the most subtle one and also at the same time belonging to the first three Varnas among the four Varnas (which are divided according to Varnashrama Dharma by Manu) are eligible for this path which is unanimously declared to be supreme not only by Samaya Tantras and Agamas but also by VamaShaakha Tantras.
The worship here is in the Daharakasha and only internal. For those sadhakas who are not capable of complete internal worship in the initial stages may begin with worship in the Bahyakasha as laid out in the Kalpasutras. Though Saundaryalahari has been interpreted to be the source Tantra for both Vama and Dakshina Tantric concepts by venerable commentators, there is no doubt that Acharya has clearly explained Samayachara practice to be adopted rather than its counterpart.
With every verse dealing with Vaama concepts, there is also a hidden warning about its various pitfalls, which are much greater than the benefits it offers, if at all any. Saundaryalahari is surely inspired by Subhagodaya and Srividyaratnasutras of Sri Srimadgoudapaadaacharya, Paramaguru of Srimadacharya which are classic texts of Samayamata. Dakshinachara aims at reaching beyond the three Gunas beginning with Satwa. Vaama is Tamasic where as Mishra is Rajasic.
Though most commentators on Saundaryalahari have criticized Lakshmidharacharya for regarding Vamachara, he is correct in most of the places. As he says, most of the Vama Tantras deal only with Mooladhara Chakra and awakening Kundalini. Panchamakara practice is literal in Uttarakaulas whereas symbolic substitutes are used by the Purva Kaulas. Purva kaulas actually have some concept of Mithuna or Bhairavi and Bhairava but in the pose of Pradhana and Apradhana.
However, the Uttarakaulas do not recognize Shiva tatwa at all. Shakti is said to be Upadana Karana and sadhana involves just the waking up of kundalini with Yoni puja , Chakra puja etc. the siddhi obtained in this path is called Kshana mukti. This is because just awakening Kundalini is said to be Moksha here. There are various sects under Vamachara. Kapalikas follow Chandrajnana, Hridbheda, Bhairavashtaka, Panchamrita, Sarvajnanottara, Mahakalimata, Arunesha, Medinisha, Vikuntakeshava and other Tantras.
Vamacharis, in the strict sense follow Vamajushta, Mahadeva, Veena, Kalasana, Sambhoga Yakhsini, Kubjika and other Tantras. Kshapanikas and Digambaras follow Purava-Daksha-Uttara-niruttara-vimala-vimalottara-devimata and other Tantras. These Tantras expound some practices which are obscene, degenerating and are codemned by the Vedas. Saadi Vidya, also called Mishra Vidya, mainly relies on concepts of Samayamata, though some beneficial practices and some deities are borrowed here from Haadi krama. The Tantra followed here is mainly Chandrakalashtaka.
As far as Srividya is concerned, the three traditions are Dakshinamurthy-Hayagriva-Anandabhairava. These respectively relate to kai-Hadi-Sadi karmas. Dattatreya Sampradaya actually is a mixture of these three main sampradayas and as such the Tantras do not recognize it as a primary tradition of Srividya. These Sampradayas are not contradictory to each other but instead are complimentary. The main differences are in the construction of Srichakra, Guru Mandala, Patra Sthapana in Srikrama etc. Srividya is the combination or essence of sixty-crore mantras. Again this credit is not given to any other Mantra by any of the Tantras.
Some important texts of Srividya are: Vamakeshwara Tantra, Chatuhshatee, Rudrayamala Tantra, Shubhagama Panchaka, Chandrakalashtaka Tantra, Tantraraja Tantra, Srividyarnava, Jnanarnava, Tripurarnava, Tripurasarasarvasva, Prapanchasara, Kularnava, Yogini Hridaya, Nithya shodashikarnava, Sanatkumara Samhita, Daksinamurthy Samhita, Parashurarama Kalpasutras, Subhagodaya, Srividyaratnasutras, Anandalahari, agamakalpadruma, Tantrachudamani, Tripuurasarasamuchaya, Trikandasarathabodhini, Dakshinamurthykalpa, Paraapanchaashika, Shatchakranirupana, Sharadatilaka, Brihat shreekrama, Lalitha Rahsya, Lalitopakhyana, Malamantras, Shaktanandatarangini, Shreekrama, Shreemata, Shreetatwachintamani, Shreetatwanidhi, Shree vidyaratnakara, Sanketapaddhti, Swacchandasamgraha, Kamakalavilasa, Kalika purana and other Puranas, Varivaysa Rahasya, Saubhagyabhaskaar, Saubhagyasetu, Saubhagyaratnakara, Kundalini kalpataru, Devyupanishad which are around 24 in number, Nrisimhatapini, Prayogasara, Bhairavayamala, Matrikabheda, Rahsayagama, Deviyamala, Mahaniravana Tantra, Balavilasa Tantra, Kulachudamani Tantra, Todala Tantra, Vishwasara Tantra, Parananda Tantra, Kankalamalini, Malinivijayottara Tantra, Gandharva Tantra, Gauthameeya Tantra, Lalita Tantra, sammohana Tantra, etc. to name a few.
The power of will, the great Parashakti of the form of devoted mind; Kameshwara, the complete solidified sate of truth and bliss, these in union is the deity of meditation and worship in Samayachara. The truth that brings forth peace is offered as oblation to the deity. The power of discrimination between good and evil is offered as service to her. The unity between the existent and the non-existent is offered as various items of service to her. The capacity of the various instruments of knowledge, both internal and external, to perceive the before-said unity in everything is offered as Avahana or invocation to her.
The perception of such unity outside, inside and everywhere is offered as Asana or seat to her. The unity of Shiva (Prakasha) ans Shakti (Vimarsha) is offered as Padya or water to wash her lovely feet. The brilliant experience of bliss from the before said union is offered as Achamana to her, to her hands and face. The experience of the crystal clear state of reality i.e Kameshwara’s Sat aspect is offered as Snana or water to bathe her. The descent of the great Brahma or Paramashiva consciousness i.e. the Chit aspect of Kameshwara to each and every organ is offered as Panchamrita for her beauty bath.
The power of ultimate bliss appearing as fire of i.e. the Ananda aspect of Kameshwara is ffered as Vastra or raiment to Bhagavati. A sacred thread, Upaveetha is offered to her consisting of 27 individual strands representing bliss, wealth, knowledge, action etc. this signifies Brahamnadi or the spinal cord. Non-involvement in one’s own and others worldly affairs is offered as ornaments to her.
Firmness of mind and complete control of mind in every act is offered as flowers to her. The continuous experience of all those previously said acts and their resulting state of high consciousness is offered as Dhupa or incense to her. The control of breath and the consequent perception of flashes of light in the field of consciousness is offered as light to her. The stoppage of incoming and outgoing breath is offered as food or Naivedya to her. The unitary experience f the three states of Jagrat, Swapna and Sushupti of the consciousness is offered as Betel or Tambula to her.
The movement of Prana from Brahmarandhra to Muladhara and back is offered as going round or Pradakshina to her. The fourth state beyond the three states of consciousness is offered as salutation or Namaskar to her. The complete immersion in the self with notion that the external body is non-existent is offered as Sacrifice or Bali to her. Always presenting to the ultimate that truth alone exists and being unconcerned about any act to be done or not to be done is offered as sacrificial fire or Homa. Loosing oneself in her sacred feet is offered as Dhyana or meditation.
This method of worship, called Antaryaga as prescribed by Bhvanopanishad, when performed for three muhurtha, grants complete liberation to the sadhaka and he becomes Paramashiva or Mahatripurasundari. Antaryaga as prescribed in Vamakeshwara Tantra, Rudrayamala and other texts actually involve Kundalini Yoga and the different indentification procedures with Srimata-Srividya-Srichakra and the deities of the nine Avaranas. It also involves internal chakra Dharana in the light of the avaranas of the Srichakra and the ascent of Kundalini to Sahasrara and back.
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