Sri Vidya (श्रीविद्या) – Shri (श्री) acquires its name from the word Shrayane(‘श्रयणे’) which refers to that mula Sakti (root sakti) which is the shelter to all forms of creation. The vedic verse ‘devim maataram shriyam’ (देवीं मातरं श्रियम् ) states that, She is the Mother, who is the shelter to every creation from brahma to the smallest living being in this cosmos. This ‘श्री’ does not infer to any salutation, but refers to the unbridled supreme bliss, kevalananda. ‘Vidya’ infers to the absolute knowledge (jnana-svarupa).
“The Sri Vidya sutram – Sri: Kala Kevala Svaatantrya Garbha cha “(श्री:कला केवला स्वातन्त्र्यगर्भा च ।) refers ‘श्री’ to the mulasakti which expanded creating the Brahman and subsequently the other creations with its ‘svatantrya-sakti’. Svatantrya-sakti also means anandasakti and ‘kala’ signifies the ananda (bliss). Svatantrya-garbha refers to the primordial mulasakti which contains the unbridled ananda within. Kevala-kala denotes the state of absolute and supreme ananda. She is also refered as ‘Lalita’ whose lustruous radiance emanates from her alluring beauty that shines the whole existence and beyond.
‘श्रीविद्या’ is a path to realize this eternal kevalananda-svarupa of श्री’ and culmination of this anandasakti as an experience. Therefore, it certainly becomes essential to understand the principles of creation and their nuances that govern the process from macrocosmic(visvayoni) to the microcosmic being as an experience.
Purpose of Srividya Upasana
An atma keeps taking birth until it attains moksha (self-realization.) It is through human birth that moksha can be attained. Self-realization is the experience of eternal bliss of oneness with the supreme, by transcending the various evolutionary states through the upasana of Mahasakti Lalita. It is accomplished through the system of Srividya which is based on the microcosmic and macrocosmic principles of creation.
For the absolute experience of enjoyment, brahman, which created this cosmos also became part of its own creation (तदनुप्रविश्य) as cit-sakti. A simple illustration of the same can be drawn from the grantha Paratrimsika “Yatha nyagrodhabijastha: shaktirupo mahadrumah | tatha Hridayabijastha Vishwametacharacharam “ .( यथा न्यग्रोधबीजस्थ: शक्तिरूपो महाद्रुम: | तथा हृदयबीजस्थं विश्वमेतच्चराचरम् || (परत्रिंशिका). – means Similar to the seed of a banyan tree that contains the entire life of the tree, the entire cosmos (animate and inanimate) lies within the primordial seed. The case of man is no different from any other creation except that he is endowed with an extra sense. This endowment is primarily to achieve the sense of fulfillment and further strive to attain moksha. The need for SriVidya need not be emphasized more.
Sri Vidya upasana, is the process of evolution leading one to experience the supreme, in stages . It is a way of life to be practiced.The way one leads his life following all the upasaka dharmas and maintains his divinity that arises therein takes him to higher levels of evolved states.
Prerequisites for Srividya Upasana
Vedas, also known as Brahma ब्रह्म, ordain agni-upasana for realizing the cit-sakti as brahman. The initiation of the ‘tripada gayatri’ mantra during the upanayanam, refers to the sivasakti-rupaka-brahman. The turiya-gayatri mantra is also analogous to it. All these are secretively mentioned in the Vedas. One has to pursue his tapas in the form of veda-adhyayana and gayatri upasana (brahma vidya) as part of brahmacarya. It is the first and most essential step for further sadhana towards “garhapatyam” and eventually into the path of realization.
The brahmacarya intended by the sastra-s does not just mean celibacy. As mentioned earlier, brahma is a synonym to vedas and brahmacarya denotes learning vedas. Since control of senses is mandatory during study of vedas, brahmacarya is now wrongly defined as celibacy. brahmacarya is also an important ingredient of the grihasthasrama. The true and sastric form of brahmacarya is regarded as the conjugality of the married couple as stated in the smriti purana as Ritavratausvadareshu Sangatih ya Vidhanatah | Brahmacharyatu Saivokta Grihasthashrama Vasinaam |( ऋतावृतौस्वदारेषु संगति: या विधानत: | ब्रह्मचर्यातु सैवोक्ता गृहस्थाश्रम वसिनां |.)
Agni upasana is an essential and integral part of every ritual. It is a vital ingredient to understand the basic structure and co-relation of every creation. The agni of the pancamahabhuta is the physical representation of “citagni” which is inherently present in every being. Agni upasana has a larger connotation to stri-sristi and hence one cannot attain fulfillment in srividya without the garhapatya. More such esoteric concepts have been revealed in the vedas and tantras which facilitate the upasaka-s to the path of realization. The following quote also enunciates the entitlement of entry into srividya upasana, Kriyavanta: Brahmanishtaa: Shrotriya: Swayam Juhvanta: Teshamevaitam Srividya Vadeta (क्रियावन्त: ब्रह्मनिष्ठा: श्रोत्रिय: स्वयं जुह्वन्त: तेषामेवैताम श्रीविद्या वदेत |) Srividya is applicable only for those who are performers of vedic karmas, one who is absorbed in the supreme (‘brahman’), having vedic knowledge (sruti) and performing agni upasana (aupasana, etc.)
Srividya upasana is envisaged only after the experience of sat and cit aspects of brahman. The fructification of veda-adhyayana and Gayatri upasana referred above are the sat aspects of Brahman (Brahma Jijnasa). The cit aspect of the brahman is experienced by sakti-jnana. The cognition of brahman in the very form of ‘siva-sakti’ is sakti-jnana. sakti-jnana is acquired after marriage with agni upasana and by knowing the srishti rahasya (secrets of creation). The ananda aspect of the brahman is experienced through Srividya and the innate urge to experience this ananda-amsa of brahman is ananda-jijnasa. Individuals who have truly obtained the wisdom of sakti jnana, having the urge and desire to experience the anandamsa of brahman are alone eligible for Srividya upasana.
The main constituent of srividyopasana is the “yaga” performed to Mahasakti Lalita. The yaga is done using the five tattvas and in the order in which this macrocosmic and microcosmic creation has taken place. The sadhaka experiences the paracidagni i.e. ‘Mahasakti’ by performance of this yaga in his cidagni called ‘cidagni havanam’. She is also often referred as parabrahman or kevalabrahman. When her svarupa is srishti predominant, she is Lalita Mahatripurasundari, also refered to as parabrahman. The state of ananda that arises out of laya is kevalabrahman, shodasi. This marga has been in practice by maharishis since the vedic times to realize the ananda-svarupa which is the purpose of our creation. The intricacies and secrets of the sastra will be acquainted to the deserving by the grace of Devi who is in the form of Sri-Guru.
Srividya upasana is primarily meant for devatatma-s (divine-beings), as the system contains many secretive srishti-laya principles. It is essential for an upasaka to maintain utmost discretion while performing Srividya sadhana. These verses from Brhat-nila-tantra explains the importance of performing the sadhana in utmost discretion due to the esoteric nuances involved in puja, krama, japa, etc. Anyone who exhibits this tantra is said to lose his siddhi. Guhyat Guhyataram Tantram Na Prakashyam Kadachana. Tantrasya prakashash siddhihaani na Samshaya |Devi Swayoniriv Parvati | Guptpuja Guptmantra tatha Guptjapakramam (गुह्यात् गुह्यतरं तन्त्रं न प्रकाश्यं कदाचन| तन्त्रसस्य प्रकाशश्च सिद्धिहानि न संशय|| देवी स्वयोनिरिव पार्वति| गुप्तपूजा गुप्तमन्त्रं तथा गुप्तजपक्रमम् ||)
Srividya-sastra contains many auspicious practices and anushtanas. The verse, from the kularnava tantra Kripandhargamanad vyaghrakantavalambanat | bhujangadharana noonamsakyam kulasevanam ,कृपाणधारगमनाद् व्याघ्रकण्ठावलम्बनात् | भुजङ्गधारणान्नूनमशक्यं कुलसेवनम् ||, describes the kaula-marga as arduous and difficult, than walking on the edge of a sword, embracing a tiger or wearing garland of snakes. The verse कौलोधर्म: परमगहन: योगिनामप्यगम्य: | Kaulodharma: Paramagahana: Yoginamapyagamya: compares this sastra to a dense forest, which is difficult to comprehend even for the yogis. The true knowledge about the intricacies in this sastra ‘kaula jnana’ or ‘chakrapravesa’ is possible only by the grace of the bliss incarnate anandavalli in the form of Sriguru and not by mechanical chanting of mantras or yantra aradhana in gold or silver. Kalidasa mentions samarasya rasadohini shive सामरस्य रसदोहिनी शिवे | meaning that one has to perceive Devi as omnipresent and all pervading, be it in one’s self or in murti, yantra, etc. Srividya includes various anushtana-s involving union of siva-sakti and absorption of siva in sakti. This marga is therefore established for siva and sakti and for those who have absolute identity as siva-sakti and hence known as “Paramesvara Sastra”.
All creations, be it unmanifested divine creations (अप्राकृत-तेजोमयसृष्टि) (Aprakrita-Tejomayasrishti) or the manifested creations constituted by the five elements (पाञ्चभौतिक-प्रकृतिपुरुषात्मकसृष्टि) (Panchabhautika-Prakritipurushasrishti),permeates and exists in the form of male and female. Esoteric principles of creation (srishti rahasya) are ordered into sat-amsa, cit-amsa and ananda-amsa of Siva-sakti. Anandamsa exist unconcealed as mentioned in Yajurveda – “ययोरिदं विश्वं भुवनमावीवेश| ययोरानन्दो निहितोमहश्च” Yyoridam Vishwam Bhuvanamavivesha. Yoranando Nihitomahascha”and in its complete form in the sukharupa-cit (सुखात्मकचिन्मयमध्ये) which is also known as ‘Parananda’. Vedic hymns like Anando brahmetivyajnat. Anandadhayeva Khalvimani Bhutani Jayante (“आनन्दो ब्रह्मेतिव्यजनात्| आनन्दाध्येव खल्विमानि भूतानि जायन्ते ।“) infer this parananda sakti as brahman and there is neither laya nor srishti devoid of this sakti. (ब्रह्मजननी, ब्रह्मदेवानजनयत्, आनन्दो ब्रह्मयोनि:,) Brahmajanani, Brahmadevanjanayat, Anando Brahmayoni:, are other vedic verses which convey that the brahman is created from this anandasakti. The term Brahma Janani (ब्रह्मजननी) refers to the origin (utpatti) of brahman and not the mother in a literal sense.
Upasana in other sastras are dependent on the attribute of entities being worshipped which is often dependent on external paraphernalia. In Srividya, upasana is bhavapradhana, Upasana Bhavana (उपासना भावना- श्री.सू 1/5), which gives importance to an upasaka’s ideologies and attitude. The fructification of the experience of sivasakti-svarupanubhava depends on the inclination of one with the sastra and sriguru.
The dampatya of a couple exists in three stages- kama-bhumika, préma-bhumika and vidya-bhumika representing the gross, subtle and the causal planes respectively. Srividya sastra is meant for the couple who have transcended to the state of vidyabhumika of dampatya who are classified as uttamadhikari. The Uttara-dampatya is the dampatya of siva and sakti which involves similitude agni upasana as the former, but the agni here is the ‘cit-agni’ also known as ‘sivagni’. (“शिवाग्निसहस्रांशात् गार्हपत्यस्तु जायते |” ) shivagnishasramshat garhapatyastu jayate – A fraction of a thousandth of sivagni manifests as garhapatyagni, which conveys the vastness (akhandatva) of Sivagni. The methodologies and spirituous substance of oblation (homa) differs for sivagni and the yaga performed in this sivagni is the ‘Mahathee yaga’.
Upasana-Bhumika (Stages of upasana)
The upasana in Srividya is classified into seven broad stages (bhumika)- arambha (bala), taruna, youvana, prouda, proudanta, manonmana and anavastha. Of these the Arambha to Proudanta are purva-bhumika and the manonmana, anavastha are Uttara-bhumika.
Bala: The first phase for beginners where one does Japa, sadhana and starts learning about tantra-agamas; Taruna: The stage when one finds a guru and acquires deeksha; Youvana: The phase after deeksha when one starts acquiring further knowledge & begins to perform devi-yaga and anushtanam; Prouda: The Phase in which one develops deeper contemplation of the sastra and becomes an intense upasaka; Proudanta: A stage where an upasaka is able to evolve and retain to the state of being ‘Siva’ (सततं शिवतासमावेश:). Samaya refers to convention. “प्रौढान्तं समय:|” in parasurama kalpasutram highlight that sadhakas in the purva-kaula-bhumika till proudanta follow the conventions in that order and evolve to uttara-kaula-bhumika.
The uttara-bhumika constitutes the avastha of manonmana and anavastha. Both are transcendental states beyond the mind where one loses cognition of time & space.
Sri-Vidya is a mystical path promulgated by various tantras and Vedas. One can understand the divine secrets of creation and the sastra only through a Guru.
Worship of Women
Vedas and tantras regard the worship of anandatmaka-brahman in the form of women. This cosmos was created by Mahasakti, the mother creatrix who is also known as brahma-mata. The state of womanhood and motherhood are not the same. Worship of Mahasakti and brahman as the mother implies their inherent female attribute (streetvam). The worship of the primordial principles in the form of a woman are enunciated in the Shrutis as – Sachchinmay: Shiva: Sakshattasya Anandmayi Shiva,(सच्चिन्मय: शिव: साक्षात्तस्य आनन्दमयी शिवा | )
It is pertinent to note that Lalita Sahasranama that brims with secret tattvas, interpret the anandamaya-brahman as ‘Sri Matha’‘श्रीमाता’ and completes the sahasranama stotra with the nama Sivashaktyakyarupini – Lalitambika ‘शिवशक्त्यैक्यरूपिणी-ललिताम्बिका’ thereby ascribing the brahman in feminine form. Acknowledging that the universal motherhood is no different from the anandamaya-brahman, our sastras bestow special respectful status on the womanhood. Despite both the parents being responsible for our birth, mother plays a dominant role in the process of creation. We can understand this by proper conception of the fact that, the sristi-sakti of a man manifests from the sristi-sakti of his consort. Many such secrets of creative principles can be understood from Sri-Guru.
Guru in Sri Vidya
In all philosophical and spiritual systems, Guru is a facilitator who is instrumental in his disciple’s physical, mental and spiritual progress. In Srividya, a Guru is the mean (sadhana) and the destination (sadhya) of the spiritual progress of the upasaka. Guru is often referred as SriGuru or Srinatha. Guru in Srividya always exists in the eternal state of Mahakamesvara and bestows the experiential knowledge of Srividya to a sishya. The role of a Guru in Srividya is very unique. ‘Diksitsyavadhikarosti pujas chaiva nishyam|gurutva tasya kutrapi nadhikarah: kathachana ‘ ‘दीक्षितस्यैवाधिकारोऽस्ति पूजायां चैव निश्चितम्|गुरुत्वे तस्य कुत्रापि नाधिकारः कथञ्चन॥ Sastras ordain that not all dikshita-s can be a Guru and there are special anushtana-s for the gurutva. Deeksha gives one the right to perform only puja. It does not give the authority to become a guru. There are numerous attributes given for guru lakshana-s in various tantras.
Ekaguru-Upasti – एकगुरुपास्तिरसंशय: (Ekaguru-Upastirasamsaya:- Parasurama Kalpasutram) In Srividya sastra it is obligatory to have only one ‘Sriguru’, attaining whom is the objective of the sastra. The process of diksha, is very much similar to the creation of an embryo. The sambhava-sariram is created with the rakta-suklacarana-s of SriGuru which sets an opening for the sishya to expound his way to higher levels of sadhana. It is therefore not possible to have multiple Guru-s similar to how one can have only one biological parent.
There are Six Pranavas, sat-taras (form of sivasakti) which are the basis for all mantras. The Paduka given with these pranavas is the sripaduka given after poornabhiseka-deeksha. Following or worshipping anyone other than Sriguru after receiving poornabhisekam is prohibited in the sastra. It is said that of all mantras, shodasi in Srividya, Sat-tarayukta-paduka among padukas, Kevalanandavalli-Mahasakti among devatas and poornabisheka Guru among all Gurus are the supreme and the ultimate.
Learning various subjects or getting upadesa from many may be common before getting deeksha. But it is not permissible after poornabhiseka. Veda also emphasizes, upasana with one Guru as ‘Ekrishradhyantah yathaikarshivijanante ‘ “एकर्षिश्रद्धयन्तः यथैकर्षिविजानन्ते” Any different opinion about Sastra or practices from the upadesa of one’s Guru is considered as a betrayal of SriGuru. Guru-Sishya acharas are harder to adhere than performing the yaga. Few of the qualities that are mentioned for a sishya are, one who possesses good qualities and character, who is wise, who maintains cleanliness, who possesses righteous thoughts, who is adept and skillful, etc. A sishya follows a way of conduct towards his Guru in other paths. In the case of Sri Guru referred above, the conduct of a sishya is one of the main acharas in srividya sastra. One who does not follow such rules (acharas) becomes a sinner (Pathitha).A disciple should often stay with his Guru and serve him with devotion. He should also get clarity about secrets of sastras through his precious upadesas.