Sri Kamakoti Mandali  
shrImAtre namaH  
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AnandabhairavaM vande sacchidAnandavigraham ||

A long time ago, an article on samudrayAna prAyashchitta was written as a reply to a very technical query by an elderly gentleman, where a lot of basics were ignored owing to the fact that the questioner was very knowledgeable. That piece of article seems to have been picked out of context and reproduced somewhat incorrectly [R, V and others, thank you for pointing that out] leading to many questions that could well have been avoided. When even Vaidy started asking questions [hey, just kidding, no offence], it was time to fix some loose ends and end the confusion.

There are two AchAras to be considered here: smArta and that specific to shrIvidyA. Let us start with smArta. There are some who opine that the shrauta/smArta karmas are useless outside our puNya bhUmi which is incorrect. When performed in the right way, with the right intention, the intended results are surely obtained. The same holds true for shrIvidyA upAsanA as well. The concepts envisioned by the great Vedic seers are well beyond the constraints of time and space. If space were to be a constraint, then I would assume the same with time as well. If that logic were to be true, then there is no use engaging in karmas ordained centuries ago. When most of us talk of karma, it is basically nitya karma and performing nitya karma hardly requires anything special, be it in Dublin or in New Jersey or in India. The shAstras do not award any special fruit for the performance of the nitya karma, but pratyavAya is assured in case of non-performance. This, if you can group under AchAra, is something you cannot skip.

There are other AchAras like parAnna etc., which can be followed anywhere, with a little diligence. Now, my mother has a "same spoon rule". She says, "You go to so many places where they serve veg and non-veg food. I am sure they might have used the same spoon to serve the veggie thing. So where really are you a vegetarian?" Apart from the fact that she is trying to play with me, what she says is sometimes true. Here is what I would reply: "Eating meat may not be wrong, but my practices, tradition and values tell me otherwise. So, to the best possible extent, I shall avoid eating meat. I try earnestly to stick to fruits, salads and sometimes bread to avoid eating things I do not want to eat. If, beyond my control and knowledge, something happens, so be it! It is HER will. It is her responsibility then".

Observe hayagrIvokti:

chaturAshramaniShThaishcha kIrtanIyamidaM sadA |
svadharmasamanuShthAna vaikalya paripUrtaye ||
kalau pApaikabahule dharmAnuShThAnavarjite |
nAmAnukIrtanaM muktvA nR^iNAM nAnyatparAyaNam ||

One can say: "I am a sannyAsi or a bhikShu. Or, I perform nityAgnihotra. Do I need to recite nAma sAhasri or perform the sacred japa of paradevatA?" The answer is Yes. The usefulness of nAmA sAhasri and tadantargata shrI upAsanA for all the four Ashramas is indicated here. It should be noted that even with the best of intentions, kali dharma is such that svadharma can never be followed perfectly. vaikalya in svadharmAnuShThAna cannot be avoided. Thus, this avashyam bhAvi vaiguNya in the anuShthAna of svadharma, which could be related to both smArta and upAsanA dharmas, can be rounded off by nAma smaraNa. Here, nAmasmaraNa is a paryAya for shrIvidyopAsanA itself [shivaH shaktiH kAmaH .... tava janani nAmAvayavatAm]. Please note that bhAskara, who lived years ago when times were supposedly far much more conducive for the AcharaNa of dharma, says:

chaturAshramiNAm yAni yAni karmANi shrutismR^itivihitAni tAni tAni sarvAni sarvA~NgopasamhArasamarthasyaiva phalapradAni | sarvA~NgopasamhArashcha prAyeNa AdhunikAnAm ashakyatamaH ||

"The various karmas ordained in the shruti grant complete and desired fruit when performed with exactitude, complete understanding and without lopadoShas. This is probably not practically possible these days".

When bhAskara, a great smArta himself, commented thus years ago, one can imagine the current plight. But the intention here is not to discourage people from performance of these karmas, which, if done owing to ignorance, can only cause pratyavAya. However, owing to the limitations imposed by yuga dharma, requirement of additional factors such as bhakti and upAsanA are stressed by various Acharyas like Shankara, ramAnuja, bhAskararAya etc. As our context is shrIvidyA, we tend to speak of shrIvidyA or lalitA sahasranAma and the same can be applied to japa of viShNu sahasranAma and mantrarAja nR^ihari. Thus, it is upAsanA [needless to say, bhaktimAnupAsIta] that can convert the unavoidable vaiguNya associated with the vaidika karmas in kali yuga to sAdguNya and grant completeness. This is true for most, if not all. upAsanA need not be tAntrika alone here. One can question: "The shAstras themselves prescribe various prAyashchitta karmas for these lopa doShas. What again is the need for bhakti, upAsanA, shrIvidyA etc.?" Again, these prAyashchitta karmas are also a special type of karmas and the same problem as the first level of karma is applicable here. Performance of these prAyashchitta karmas with completeness and exactitude is not easy either.

With great compassion for her children, who are facing such dilemma, bhagavati herself has declared in devI bhAgavata mahApurANa:

aspaShTamapi yannAma prasa~NgenApi bhAShitam |
dadAti vA~NchitAnarthAn durlabhAnapi sarvathA ||

madAt pramAdAt unmAdAt duHsvapnAt skhalanAdapi |
kathitaM nAma te gauri nR^iNAM pApApanuttaye ||

Now since vaikalya is definite in kali yuga for most karmas and the associated prAyashcitta karmas, should one give up these ordained karmas and indulge in shrIvidyA japarUpopAsti alone? That never is the intention of hayagrIva or bhAskara. It is said in shiva stava:

brahmA describes various sins in the scriptures. He also has described various prAyashchitta karmas to overcome the effects of these sins. There are more prAyashchittas to overcome the lopadoShas in these karmas as well. Most of these karmas are possible only by the rich [in terms of wealth and knowledge]. pUrNAhuti is performed for the sake of completeness of a yajna. But is it right to offer pUrNAhuti with a lot of ghee, skip the actual yajna itself and hope to attain the benefit of the yajna? No, both are necessary. Hence the ukti:

kR^itvA karma mahesha tatpratisamAdhAnAya chettvatsmr^itiH ||

When we speak to svadharma here, though we stress on vaidika dharma like nitya karma etc., it is also inclusive of visheSha dharma that becomes applicable owing to dIkShA or upAsanA. There are obligatory duties for a shrIvidyA upAsaka as well like nitya japa etc., which, when not followed, lead to pratyavAya. The need for nAmasmaraNa in this case is to be noted as well, not as a substitute, but in the same spirit as described above. And most of the times, when we speak of dharma, we speak of uddharaNi and arghya pAtra and forget the very basic: mAnava dharma or humanity. What about basic virtues such as compassion, non-injury by words, thoughts and action etc.? If these sadguNas are not resulting even after the performance of various karmas and upAsanA, one can hardly hope for brahma jnAna through such performances! Moreover, a lot of all this depends on what one aims for. These days, Acharyas prescribe rAma nAma japa and sandhyA as more than sufficient for many. While this is also true, this also highlights other aspects that need to be observed carefully. There is a certain adhikAra required for upasanas like lalitA or tArA which are not possessed by all. Moreover, these days when performance of a simple nitya karma is a rarity, how does one advice someone to take up a meticulous path like the worship of navaratneshvarI? It is with the intent of setting at least the basic stuff right that the great men advice on these lines and this in no way negates the need for the "non-basic" modes of spiritual practices. Again, adhikAra and goal are important criteria. For someone who wants to lead a healthy life filled with prosperity, the least required is nitya karmAnuShThAna. What would be the need for such a person to unnecessarily take up upAsanA of kAmakalA kAli, which requires dhR^idha vairAgya, nirbhayatva and a thorough knowledge of mantra shAstra? Or to take up upAsanA of bAla gopAla and practice dasha vidha bhakti?

A true shAkta is similar to a true bhAgavata in many respects. He performs various ordained karmas not with the fear of pratyavAya or with an explicit aim for chitta shuddhi but with nirbhayatA sarvatra and as a loving offering to the beloved. When there is no room for any other thought apart from overflowing love for shrImAtA, where is the question of pApa bhIti? lalitA is bliss personified and every aspect of her upAsanA is only bliss. My master nambUdari appa once said: "If, after reciting all these hoary mantras hundreds of times, if you still think of pApa, prAyashchitta etc., it means you are unfit for upAsanA. You do not have faith in guru maNDala, in the efficacy of mantras and of paradevatA, in guru vAkya and more importantly, in your own upAsanA and self".

One who follows svadharma to the best possible extent and practices gurUpadiShTa upAsanA sincerely, is considered, in shrIvidyA mArga, to be nitya shuddha and free from all blemishes.

kAshyAM nipAtaya vapuH shvapachAlaye vA
svargaM naya tvamapavargamadhogatiM vA |
adyaiva vA kuru dayAM punar Ayatau vA
kaH sambhramo mama dhane dhaninaH pramaaNam ||