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Saundaryalahari - Verse 9


"Having penetrated the Prithvi (Earth) element in the Moolaadhaara, the Jala (Water) element in the Manipooraka, the Agni (Fire) element in the Swadhishthana, the Vayu (Air) element in the Anahata, the Akasha (Ether) element in the Visuddhi and Manas (Mind) in the Ajna Chakra, Thou, ascending through the Kula path of Sushumna, sportest with Thy Consort in the solitude of Sahasrara, the thousand-petalled lotus" - 9

This stanza contains in a nutshell the quintessence of the sublimest truths of the Vedanta and the Yoga systems in harmonious combination, in relation to the worship of Sridevi as the Kundalini Shakti of the Pindanda (microcosm) and as the Mahatripurasundari of the Brahmanda (macrocosm). In this verse, the meditation on Sridevi in her subtlest form as the Kundalini is described. Kundalini Shakti sleeps in the form of a serpent, in three coils and a half, resting in the psychic center of Moolaadhaara. She is awakened by the yogi, led through the six Chakras, made to pierce the three knots and through the Sushumna channel, led to the Chit Chandra mandala (the region of the ever-shining moon of consciousness) in the Sahasrara (thousand-petalled lotus) in the center of the head, below the skull. The six lotuses along the Sushumna are collectively called `Kulapatha' – the path of Kula, representing the five elements constituting the human body in the microcosm as also the universe in the macrocosm. Let's see some details about the Chakras:

Chakra - Moolaadhaara

Position in the Body - Two inches above the anus

Number of Petals - 4 Red petals

Tanmatra - Smell

Presiding Deity and Shakti - Ganesha and Sakini

Tatva - Earth

Khanda or Region - Agni Mandala

Chakra - Swadhishthana

Position in the Body - Root of the genitals

Number of Petals - 6 Vermilion petals

Tanmatra - Color or perception

Presiding Deity and Shakti - Brahma and Kakini

Tatva - Fire

Khanda or Region - Brahma Granthi

Chakra - Manipooraka

Position in the Body - Navel

Number of Petals - 10 petals, which are blue, like the rain-clouds

Tanmatra - Taste

Presiding Deity and Shakti - Vishnu and Lakini

Tatva - Water

Khanda or Region - Surya Mandala

Chakra - Anahata

Position in the Body - Heart

Number of Petals - 12 Vermilion petals

Tanmatra - Touch

Presiding Deity and Shakti - Rudra and Rakini

Tatva - Air

Khanda or Region - Vishnu Granthi

Chakra - Visuddhi

Position in the Body - Neck

Number of Petals - 16 petals of the smoky purple color

Tanmatra - Sound

Presiding Deity and Shakti - Jivatman and Dakini

Tatva - Ether

Khanda or Region - Chandra Mandala

Chakra - Ajna

Position in the Body - Eyebrow center

Number of Petals - 2 white petals

Tanmatra - Senses and Mind

Presiding Deity and Shakti - Parameshwara and Hakini

Tatva - Mind

Khanda or Region - Rudra Granthi

While breaking through these Chakras, the yogi gains mastery over the lements of the respective Chakras. He walks on water, flies through distances in a very short time, darts into ether and moves like the mind to any place he desires, and finally, by union with Shiva, becomes Shiva himself. Awakening of Kundalini, breaking through the Chakras and entering the Sahasrara may be practiced by Hatha Yoga, Bhavana or Dhyana. Awakened by the yogi through Pranayama or control of the vital airs, Kundalini pierces through the six Chakras and three intermediate Granthis or knots. While in the last Chakra i.e. Ajna, she moves very quickly just as a stroke of lightening, except in the case of great Yogis.

The Kundalini, when allowed to sleep without being awakened keeps one in bondage, but when awakened, she leads him to the great liberation. He who leads the Kundalini to the Sahasrara gets his ignorance of the true nature of the self, dispelled. This mode of worship, called Antaryaga by Kaulas and Shatchakrabhedana by samayins, is an essential and an integral part of Srividya Upasana. The Tatvas of the Samayins are reckoned as twenty-five. They are the five Tanmatras or subtle elements, five Bhootas or gross elements, five organs of knowledge – touch, sight, hearing, taste and smell, five organs of action – mouth, legs, hands, anus and the genital organ, the mind, Maya, Suddha Vidya, Maheshwara and Sadashiva. Breaking the six Chakras, conquering the twenty-five Tatvas, the Kundalini reaches the Sahasrara and unites there with the Sadashiva Tatva. This fusion is considered as a separate twenty-sixth Tatva called `Sadakhya' – the Parabrahman – because of the complete Tadatmya or identity between Sridevi and Sadashiva.

A `Tatva' may be defined as that which gives scope for functioning to all orders of creation, till their final dissolution. Some tantras classify the eternal Tatvas into three groups: the Atma Tatvas, the Vidya Tatvas and the Shiva Tatvas. Those comprised under the first are characterized by Jadatva – non-sentience; those of the second partake both sentience and non-sentience; and those of the third group are characterized by Prakashatva – pure and simple sentience, with absolute consciousness standing above them all. According to the Kalpasutras, twenty-four fall under the first group, seven under the second and five under the third. They are:

1. Prithvi – Earth, possessed of solidity.

2. Ap – Water, possessed of liquidity.

3. Tejas – Fire, possessed of heat.

4. Vayu – Air, of the character of perpetual motion.

5. Akasha – Ether, of the character of Space.

6. Gandha Tanmatra – Smell, in the form of subtle Earth element.

7. Rasa Tanmatra – Taste, in the form of Subtle Water.

8. Rupa Tanmatra – Form, sight or perception, in the form of subtle Fire.

9. Sparsha Tanmatra – Touch, in the form of subtle Air.

10. Shabda Tanmatra – sound, in the form of subtle Ether.

11. Shrotra – the auditory sense that perceives Sound.

12. Tvac – the tactile sense that perceives Touch.

13. Chakshus – the optic sense that perceives Form.

14. Jihva – the gustatory sense that perceives Taste.

15. Ghrana – the olfactory sense that perceives Smell.

16. Vac – Speech, the motor organ of articulate expression.

17. Pani – hand, the motor organ of grasping and leaving.

18. Pada – the foot, the motor organ of locomotion.

19. Payu – Anus, the motor organ of evacuation.

20. Upashtha – Genitals, the motor organs of generation and carnal pleasure.

21. Manas – the Mind, the inner sense that is attained when Rajas (mobility of misery) predominates over Satva and Tamas. This is the root of all volition.

22. Buddhi – the Intellect, the inner sense that is attained when Satva (rhythm of happiness) preponderates over Tamas and rajas. This is the root of all conviction.

23. Ahamkara – Egoism, the inner sense that is attained when Tamas (inertia of delusion) preponderates over Satva and Rajas. This is the root of all fancy, converging towards the limited self.

24. Prakriti – also known as Chitta, is an inner state attained by an equipoise of Satva, Rajas and Tamas.

25. Purusha or Jiva – which, though full and complete in itself, commands only to a limited extent the five powers detailed below.

26. Kalaa – the Kriya Shakti, the power to do all things, but to a limited extent, inhering in the Jiva.

27. Avidya – the Jnana Shakti in a veiled form in the Jiva and thus limited in its operation.

28. Raga – the Iccha Shakti, perpetual satisfaction, which operates only partially and therefore is limited in extent, inherent in Jiva.

29. Chit Shakti – perpetually inherent in Jiva, limited by the operation of six changes denoted by `exists, takes birth, grows, ripens, wanes and perishes'.

30. Niyati – that which causes Avidya to veil the Ananda Shakti, absolute independence, inherent in the Jiva.

31. Maya – the condition operating upon the Ishwara, causing it to look upon the phenomenal world as `this' i.e. as an entity separate from itself.

32. Suddha Vidya – the condition operating upon Sadashiva, causing it to identify itself with the phenomenal world with the impression - `I am this'.

33. Maheshwara – that which is operated upon by Maya.

34. Sadashiva – that which is operated upon by Suddha Vidya.

35. Shakti – the desire, which is but the impression of the world to be created.

36. Shiva – the absolute non-differentiated existence, when conditioned by Shakti.

Some votaries add fifteen more Tatvas by a process of further elaboration, thus making fifty-one in all, answering to the fifty-one letters in the Sanskrit alphabet. The other fifteen are the seven Dhatus:

1. Tvac – the external sheath of organs.

2. Asrj – Blood.

3. Mamsa – flesh.

4. Medas – fat.

5. Asthi – bone.

6. Majaj – marrow.

7. Shukla – semen.

8. Prana

9. Apana

10. Udana

11. Samana

12. Vyana

13. Satva

14. Rajas and

15. Tamas.

The five elements, the five Tanmatras, the five organs of perception, the five organs of motor action, the Mind, the Maya, the Suddha Vidya, the Maheshwara and Sadashiva are the twenty-five Tatvas from the Vedic standpoint and also that of Samayachara, while the extra Tatvas enumerated by Kaulas are capable of being included in the twenty-five.

In this verse of Saundaryalahari, the Devi of the macrocosm, in the form of her exact prototype – the Kundalini of the microcosm, is represented as having broken through the entire Kula path containing the six Chakras of psychic energy, indicative of the twenty-one Tatvas, to reach Sadashiva in the Sahasrara, the habitat of the remaining four sentient Tatvas, there to divert herself in secrecy with her Lord. Even as Paramashiva, in the absence of his conjunction with Parashakti Tripurasundari, is powerless, so also the Jiva, without the operation of the Kundalini, will be very much the same as the corpse. The vital force called Prana, which is inherent in every limb, muscle, nerve-center and other physiological organs and which causes the entire frame to function, is but one aspect of the Kundalini. It is the self-same vital force that is the root cause of the functioning of the entire phenomenal world and could be comprehended only by those rare mortals who have gained mastery over it. It is upon this fundamental fact that the system of yoga is based, as the Pranayama, or the control of this vital force, forms the bedrock of that system. If only any person should master the secret of control of this vital force and the psychic force of the human mind, he may be said to have conquered the entire phenomenal world. No wonder the Yogi takes his stand upon the Pranayama and Manolaya for the successful accomplishment of the state of Samadhi, his goal. It is with end in view that the Yogi concentrates his mind, controls the Prana and projects them towards the Moolaadhaara, the first psychic center of energy, which results in the rousing of the Kundalini, dormant with its form of three and a half spirals coiled therein.

Those that are proficient in the Yoga Shastra hold that this machine of the human frame, which is controlled by the Kundalini, contains seventy-two thousand Nadis, the main ones among them (E.g. Ida, Pingala and Sushumna) having distinct functions connected with the respiratory system allotted to them, and the other important Nadis controlling the sensory and motor organs. The psychic energy requisite to control the various organs is said to abide in the six Chakras of the Sushumna path, provided with the three stats known as the Rudra, Vishnu and Brahma Granthis or knots, which are respectively the regions of the Moon, the Sun and the Fire, each of them situated at the end of a pair of these Chakras. In the case of ordinary mortals, their vital energy or prana is wasted through Ida and Pingala, but in the case of the initiated, it is regulated in such a way that the prana, coursing through the Ida and the Pingala, and also the apana, are made to conserve for the purpose of rousing Kundalini and sending her upto Brahmarandhra.

All impulses, psychic and organic, may be classified as volitional, cognitional and actional, corresponding to the Iccha, Jnana and Kriya Shaktis of Sridevi. These, when pertaining to the body, are attributable to the Kundalini, while the corresponding cosmic impulses are attributable to Sri Mahatripurasundari.

This, the correspondence indicated in this Shloka is like this: Mahatripurasundari in the macrocosm and Kundalini in the microcosm as also Sadashiva of the macrocosm and Jiva of the microcosm but bereft of Maya. The thousand-petalled lotus of Sahasrara is no other than the upper Srichakra, the bindu of which represents the Shiva and Shiva, bereft of Maya, as the case may be. This is final resort, the nirvana of the accomplished seeker, lying beyond the Kula path of the Sushumna (the Kula path contains the six Chakras in the ascending order of subtlety with the three Granthis in their appropriate places). The Sahasrara is the inner Srichakra to be meditated upon with all the fifty-one letters of the Sanskrit alphabet.

Some take the view that the Bindu has its position in the bindu of the Chakra and the other fifty letters are to be arranged consecutively over the thousand petals twenty times. Suddha Vidya in coalescence with Sadashiva is known as the Sadakhya or the Paramatman, which may be characterized as the twenty-sixth Tatva, on the attainment of which is experienced nirvana or Jivanmukti. It is this aspect that is referred to in this Shloka as the diversion of Sridevi in secrecy with her Lord. The Moolaadhaara Chakra is no other than the Trikona of the Srichakra. Piercing through this Chakra means conquering the element of Earth. The Yogi who does so is said to attain the power of penetration through massive stonewalls etc. in the case of Manipooraka Chakra, it is believed that Sridevi fills the interior of this Chakra with gems; hence the practice among the samayins of offering of jewels studded with various kinds of gems, while meditating on her in this Chakra. Although Manipooraka is the third in the order of the Chakras, it has been given the second place in this Shloka by Srimadacharya to suit the order of the elements. This Chakra represents water in its Rasa (taste) form. Conquest of this by the Yogi is said to confer on him the next higher power of mastery, such as floating and walking over water. This inner Dashara of the Srichakra indicates this.

The Swadhishthana is the place Sridevi is said to take her stand in the form of Kundalini. The fire is in the form of Rupa (vision or form) Tanmatra in this Chakra. The conquest of this by the Yogi is credited with the bestowal of powers fire-walking etc. The Ashtakona of the Srichakra indicates this Chakra. The Air is in the form of Sparsha (touch) Tanmatra in Anahata Chakra. The word `Anahata' means the nada, sound, produced without impact in the recess of heart; hence the name of the Chakra. The outer Dashara of the Srichakra indicates Anahata. By the conquest of this Chakra and thereby that of the Element Air, the Yogi attains the fleetness of wind, buoyancy etc. The Ether is in the form of Shabda (sound) Tanmatra in Visuddhi Chakra.

The Chaturdashara of the Srichakra indicates this Chakra. By the conquest of this, the Yogi attains the power of traversing the ethereal regions. Manas, which embraces in itself the five senses of perception and the five senses of motor action, i.e. in all, eleven Tatvas, is the Element present in the Ajna Chakra. This Chakra is so called because it is at this stage that a speck of knowledge about Sridevi dawns. She remains here only for a trice, on the way to Sahasrara, manifesting herself in the form of a streak of lightening. The Chatushkona or the Bhugriha of the Srichakra indicates Ajna Chakra. By conquering the mind, the Yogi attains mystic powers like clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy etc. The mystic powers ascribed above, as resulting from the mastery of these Chakras at the various stages, are really so many pitfalls to be avoided by the practitioner, as they are likely to lead them astray from his final goal of Nirvana.

These six Chakras are but temporary stages or planes wherein Kundalini rests awhile, avowedly for mastering them, while the Sahasrara is her permanent abode, whence the practitioner should not lose sight of his final goal, Nirvana, beguiled by the temptations offered by the psychic powers attainable at the lower centers, but should lead the Kundalini on to the Sahasrara, there to effect her union with her Lord. Up to the moment of such blending, the practitioner retains his individual consciousness and thereafter enters on the blissful state of Nirvana as long as the Kundalini rests in the Sahasrara prior to her descent therefrom. The duration of her stay there depends on the strength of the practice and the previous experience of the practitioner. The twenty-one Tatvas from Prithvi to manas, and the six Chakras, from Moolaadhaara to Ajna, form the lower Srichakra.

It may be noted that Purnananda Swamin, the author of Shatchakranirupana and other Tantrikas are of the view that the elements, earth, water, fire, air and ether have, as their corresponding Chakras, the Moolaadhaara, the Swadhishthana, the Manipooraka, the Anahata, the Visuddhi and the Ajna, which, as will be seen from this Shloka, is at variance with the view of Srimadacharya, who here has, in this respect, the support of the Vamakeshwara Tantra in his favor, as explained by Bhaskararaya in his Setubandha. Further, the letters indicated by the Maheshwara Sutras – `ha ya va raT' and `laN', which enumerate the Bijas of the five elements in the order in which they were revealed by Maheshwara's Damaru, when placed in juxtaposition with the names of the five elements corresponding to the respective Bijas, as also the names of the parts of the Srichakra which they indicate, in the Samhara Karmas, bear out, beyond doubt, the correctness of the author's view.

Bija - Ham

Element - Ether

Chakra - Vishuddhi

Part of Srichakra - Chaturdashara

Bija - Yam

Element - Air

Chakra - Anahata

Part of Srichakra - Bahirdashara

Bija - Vam

Element - Water

Chakra - Manipuraka

Part of Srichakra - Antardashara

Bija - Ram

Element - Fire

Chakra - Swadhishthana

Part of Srichakra - Ashtakona

Bija - Lam

Element - Earth

Chakra - Muladhara

Part of Srichakra - Trikona

Kundalini yoga, though the fastest, is not the only path available to the seeker. Any path, when sincerely adhered to with sincerity and one-pointedness, shall give wonderful results. As you advance to a high state on any path, your breathing will change automatically and it will be similar to that of one practicing yoga. When we go higher on our path, we will breathe through both nostrils and when we go still higher, we will stop breathing. This is what is termed as `Kevala Kumbhaka'. Finally, in the state before the realization of Advaita, the movement of breath will impinge on the nerves in the roof of our head and touching the feet of Amba, create a flow of ambrosia. Even in worldly life, when we are in ecstasy of delight, our breathing stops and we faint. In this, there is a reflection of the emotion experienced by us during Kumbhaka. The cool feeling in the head indicates that a tiny droplet of the ambrosia has trickled down on the nerves in the crown of the head. Thus, even by following the path of devotion, you can have the inward experience of a sublime nature.

Iccha Shakti, the power of desire, which underlies the basic concept of Kameshwara and Kameshwari, belongs to the realms of Sringara or love that is pure and subtle in nature. If in the evolution of the root principle (the Brahman) there appears Iccha or desire during the stage of involution (the individual self becoming the Brahman), many great men, before becoming one with the Brahman, have experienced Nayika Bhava – the seeker regards himself as the bride of the deity. In this stage of involution, one is united with Shakti. Then there is the burning desire to become one with the Nayaka that is Shiva. In that desire, in the intensity of that feeling, the seeker surrenders to the Nayaka, that is Shiva, telling himself, "I have nothing to do on my own. It is all your wish". Later, even this desire to become united with Shiva ceases and there remains only the Iccha of Shiva alone. This means, the involution accomplished by the seeker through his efforts merges in the first stage of Shiva's evolution. In that moment, as far as the seeker is concerned, Shiva, instead of unfolding himself in evolution, receives him within himself in an act of involution.

Ordinarily if you throw an object into a stream, it is, in the course of its flow, cast ashore. But if there is an undercurrent in the stream, it will draw the object in. the latter is the case with the individual Self referred to above. The initial desire of the Shiva, the final desire of the seeker: the two take the symbolic form of Sringara. Though Iccha or desire spoken of here is that of Shiva and that of the seeker, the one who causes the pulsation of the consciousness to cause the desire is Amba. The fact of Shiva drawing the individual Self unto himself is also her act.

In devotion itself, one obtains the same experience as that of yoga, an experience of lofty nature. Instead of seeking accomplishment through yoga and Tantra, it would be enough if we, realizing that such are beyond our capacity, become engaged in devotion with love, telling ourselves, "Let us surrender to Parashakti. She is our only refuge", there would then be no room for Self-pride arising from the feeling that "we are engaged in a great Sadhana". Amba herself will lift us up to experience the highest bliss. It would be enough if we keep thinking of Amba's face, which is like the full moon. It would be enough if we think of the nectar flowing from her sidelong glance and her gentle smile. What we keep thinking about, she would make a reality and she would bring us realization of the inner moon and the inner flow of nectar. Those who have the strength and the capacity for it, let them take to Kundalini yoga. For the rest, there is the easy way to devotion, with unflinching faith in the mother. She will afford us all the blessings and after a stage, even take us to the way of Kundalini yoga and bless us with its rewards. On the other hand, she may push aside those engaged in arduous yoga and Kaula Tantra, telling them, "Enough of all this", and bid them to surrender to her.

Srimadacharya, who speaks of the seeker having the near Advaita experience of tasting the ambrosia, refers at the same time to Amba making a sudden descent into the form of a sleeping serpent, denoting our state of being unwise and uncultivated. This indicates that she may push down Yogis, who have tasted a few drops of ambrosia but are boastful of their great yogic prowess. So, even for those who practice Kundalini yoga and Srividya Tantra, the ultimate key to the door of liberation is surrender, the humility that comes of the realization, "Not I, but you".