Worship of Mahatripurasundari effects a reconciliation of the paths of work, love and reason. It is in agreement with the findings of the modern science. While the followers of different creeds quarrel among themselves, the SAKTA has no quarrel with any of them. Shankara Bhagavatpada in ancient times and Sri Ramakrishna in modern times have demonstrated through their lives and teachings which they have lived through, that such reconciliation is not only possible but also necessary. They have proved that all paths pursued with devotion and a sense of non-duality lead to the same goal, that Mantras are efficacious, that Devathas and higher powers exist and that step by step the Divine mother Mahatripurasundari leads the sadhaka to higher and higher levels of consciousness till he reaches perfection and becomes one with the supreme reality.
Sri Acharya's Saundaryalahari, Lalita Trishati Bhashyam, Prapanchasara Tantra and various stotras give us a deep insight into the secrets of worship of Chitprasakthi. The TRIPURASUNDARI ASHTAKAM, short and sweet in a mellifluous meter, contains, as if in a nutshell, the entire philosophy of Shakti worship.
Of the thousands and lakhs of epithets of the Devi, Mahatripurasundari is the most wondrous one, declared unanimously by all agamas, Tantras and Vedas. It means she is the belle of all the three worlds, the beauty par excellence in the 'triad'. The term 'Tripura'can be variously interpreted:
1. Three bodied: Paramashiva is the matrix, as it were, of the trinity, Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra. The Kalika Purana says that by the will of Pradhana (the first principle) the body of Shiva became triple: the upper part became Brahma, the middle Vishnu and the lower Rudra. As these three puras (bodies) are in him, he is called Tripura (three bodied) and hence his spouse is called Tripurasundari. In this context it will be of interest to learn about the linga at Gudimallam, a sacred township, about twenty miles from Sri Kalahasti in Andhra Pradesh in India. The lingam here, said to have been installed by Parashurama has its lower part bearing the form of a Gandharva (a musical demi-god). The middle part resembles Parashurama, with a turban and the upper part that of Shiva lingam. Under a curse Brahma once became a Gandharva, Chitrasena by name. The lower pat of the lingam is thus Brahma. Parashurama is an avtar of Vishnu. Thus the form of Shiva here is of Tripura. [From Upadesham of Periyaval of Kanchi Kamakoti Mahapeetham].
2. Resident in the triads: The Devi's mantra consists of three syllables. Her Srividya panchadashi (or sodashi) mantra is composed of three kutas (peaks) Vagbhava, Kamaraja and Sakthi kutas. She resides in these which are her very form (Sukshma form- subtle form). The nadis (psychic nerves) where she resides are three Ida, Sushumna and Pingala. Her Sakthis are three: Iccha(will), Jnana(knowledge) and Kriya(action). The Srichakra, her very form again consists of circles, angles and lines. The worlds which she pervades are three: Heaven, earth and the nether worlds. Every tabernacle wherein she is the immanent self is composed of three frames: Sukshma sarira (subtle body), Sthula sharira (gross body) and Karana Sharira ( causal body). This again has three states of existence: Jagrat (wakeful), Swapna (dream) and Sushupti (deep sleep). The whole universe of which she is the Mulaprakriti (First principle) and which she pervades is a modification of the three modes of energy, Sattva (rhythm), Rajas (mobility) and Tamas (inertia).
3. Tripura also means 'anterior to the trinity, Brahma-Vishnu- Rudra'. Abhiyukta says : 'Because the Devi created the three forms (trimurtis), because she is before all (Purobhava), because she is in the form of the three(Trayeemayee), because even after after dissolution of the three worlds she recreates them again, the Mother's name is appropriately Tripura. [vide commentary of Natanandanatha on Kamakalavilasa]. Lovability and joy are the inherent qualities of beauty. 'A thing of beauty is a joy for ever'(Keats). In a finite thing there is no perfect unalloyed joy. What it gives cannot be abiding. Sruthi says: 'That which is infinite is Bliss- Yo vai Bhoomaa tat sukham; naalpe sukham asti. Bhoomaiva sukham- Chandogya Upanishad). Expalining this text, Simadacharya says: 'in what is finite there is no bliss. Because the finite or the small always gives rise to longing for what is more than that. And longing is a source of pain. And what is a source of pain is never Bliss. Hence it is quite correct to say that there is no Bliss in what is finite. Hence the infinite alone is Bliss, especially because in infinite, there is no possibility of pain like longing and the rest. Beyond the operation of time, space and causation, infinite is free from mutation. It is, therefore, Eternal Truth. Limitless Bliss and Beauty Eternal are the properties of Truth Absolute. This is what Kalidasa says in Kumara Sambhava: 'That is beauty which never fades but renews its freshness at all moments.'
When such a blissful beauty takes a form it is Mahatripurasundari. She is beautiful in every limb - sarvangasundariall limbs are in proper proportion having all the qualities of perfection mentioned in Saamudrikaa Shastra. The Devi, the never changing one among the many is therefore called Mahatripurasundari. It is noteworthy that of all the manifestations of the supreme that Sri Ramakrishna Paramahansa had witnessed, that of Sri Rajarajeshwari was the most beautiful to him.
The first verse:
I seek shelter in Mahatripurasundari, Mater Familias of the three eyed one, strolling in the Kadamba forest, who is like a bank of clouds to a galaxy of sages, whose hip excels the mountain, who is served by celestial damsels, whose eyes rival the new-born lotus, And swarthy like the nimbus newly formed!
Kadamba is a kind of tree called Nauclea cadamba. It is said to put forth orange, fragrant buds at the roaring of thunder clouds. A withered relic of the Kadamba tree is preserved in the precincts of the Madurai Sri Minakshi temple. It also means multitude. In that sense, the Kadamba forest stands for the universe that the Devi permeates completely.
As a bank of clouds quenches the thirst of the earth, so does Mahatripurasundari slake the spiritual thirsts of infinite number of sages and divine beings by granting them herself. Muni means silent meditator.
Mother is described as having lovely hips, mainly to facilitate the Saguna Dhyana of the mother by those who cannot contemplate on her formless aspect in the early stages of spiritual evolution. This also confirms by the standards prescribed by Saamudrika Shastra for Sarvaanga Sundari.
Swarthy like the newly formed rain cloud: this indicates the mother's massive grace, ever ready to rain upon her votaries to extinguish the fire of their suffering.
Esoterically, the Devi has her abode in the Sahasrara Chakra, where her mansion is built of Chintamani (a precious stone credited with the capability to grant all desires) and surrounded by Kalpa and Kadamba trees. In the form of Kundalini, the Devi is normally always in a slumber in the Muladhara Chakra. The vital energy i.e Prana directed there by the Yogis, practicing Pranayama, generates enormous heat in Muladhara and it consequently awakens the Kundalini Shakti. She now courses through the Sushumna nadi, piercing all the six charkas, to the Sahasrara chakra to meet her lord there. In union with Parabrahman there, she pours down the nectar of Kulamrita, resembling freshly formed rain clouds, which in turn quenches the heat in Muladhara.
By the word three-eyed one, Paramashiva or Kameshwara is meant here and not Rudra, Maheshwara or Sadashiva.
The second Shloka:
I seek shelter in Mahatripurasundari, Mater familias of the three eyed-one, who is habituating the forest of Kadamba trees, holding a golden Veena, Wearing a necklace of priceless gems, having a face deeply aglow with ambrosia, bestowing prosperity due to her infinite mercy, Clear eyed and Wandering.
Habiting the Kadamba forest means that the Devi is not only transcendent of the universe but also immanent in it. As the soul is in the body, so is she in the universe.
Vina stands for the universe and its music for the orderly behavior of all therein. It is the player who generates music, the instrument in itself is lifeless. In like manner it is Devi who brings about harmony among all the things in the universe. She is the moving spirit in all. But for her, there would be only chaos. This clearly indicates at the mantra from Kathopanishad, Tameva bhaantamanubhaanti etc. The stem of the Vina represents the spine or Merudanda and the Vina's strings represent the nadis that run through the spine.
Also, the very sight of Vina is regarded as a blessing since it is the queen of musical instruments. The stem is regarded as Shiva, strings as Uma, shoulder as Vishnu, tailpiece as Lakshmi, gourd as Brahma, midpoint as Saraswathi and the binding nerve as Adishesha. So the mother's playing on the Vina reminds us that it is SHE who gives energy to all the deities to perform their appointed tasks.
For Mahatripurasundari, the personified universe or Vishwaroopini, the stars are the gems on her necklace. Being the in-dwelling self in all bodies, virtually it is she who is wearing the ornaments of all. Whosoever living beings secure for themselves objects of enjoyment such as ornaments, food etc, she only is adorned with all of them for her pleasure. She is the self in every deity; every ornament offered by the devotees to please their respective deities, they all really adorn her.
Also, it is the custom of the Samayacharins to offer the Great mother, jewels set with gems, while meditating on Her in the Manipuraka chakra. This custom has its genesis in the concept that Sridevi fills the interior of Manipoora with priceless gems of her own light.
Mother is described by Srimadacharya as having a face deeply aglow with Vaaruni or ambrosia. Vaaruni literally means the liquor that issued out during the churning of the milky ocean for nectar. However, varuni here indicates deep intoxication or bliss brought about due to the Kulamrita resulting from the union of Shiva and Shakti in the Sahasrara. Inebriated with the nectarine flow, she displays signs of intoxication like blood shot eyes, red cheeks etc. All these signs may be explained with reference to Vijnaana or the science of descent of Kundalini back to Mooladhaara after the great communion. The exact relevance may be learnt from one's own Guru.
In the vama modes of worship, Devi is propitiated with Panchamakaras namely Madya Maamsa etc. as detailed in raurava tantras like Kali vilasa tantra. Esoterically, spiritual liquor is indeed the divine Kulamrita. It is unfortunate that most Vamamarga Sadhakas indulge in sex and wine without proper understanding of the underlying esoteric significance. They, thus get more and more entangled in samsara. This is the very reason why Srimadacharya banned Vamamarga as not being suitable to all. Tantras themselves have declared that Vama marga is for Pashu Bhaava sadhakas. Even Abhinavagupta of Assam, though a very great Tantric scholar and a follower of Vamamarga, was defeated comfortably by Acharya in a debate. His Abhichara prayoga (some say kritya) on Acharya was reversed back to him by Sri Lakshmi Narasimha.
By the way of refinement, the poorva Kaulas offer consecrated coconut water as a substitute to liquor. Samayins have no need for all these external symbolism.
Vaaruni also means the juice extracted from the dates, said to be a favorite drink of lord Varuna. This is nothing but a type of wine again. Every variety of wine is called by distinctive names, Sura is the wine extracted from rice, Kohala from barley, Madhulika from wheat etc.
Vibhava means both wealth and final beatitude. While the former is necessary for a comfortable living in the material world, the latter is the final goal. Mahatripurasundari is one who bestows enjoyment and liberation as well. Srimadacharya is rightly full of praise of her grace, for it confers prosperity for the life here and the final beatitude for the life hereafter. Hence it is said 'Sri sundari sadhaka pungavaanaam bhogam cha moksham cha karastha eva'. Different deities grant different boons. However no other deity, not even any of the other Mahavidya goddesses is credited with this rare combination of both worldly enjoyment and liberation. This indeed is the uniqueness of Mahatripurasundari, which has earned her the epithet, Rajarajeshwari, not applicable to her any other form.
Mother is said to be clear eyed since she remains as an unattached spectator. Unruffled by any experience, bitter or pleasant, she is ever serene with her eyes tranquil. She is also called wandering since , even though she is the moving spirit in every being, she has no desire whatsoever. Residing in all bodies, her moving about is therefore carefree wandering.
"Arrayed we be in the panoply, by her Kadamba forest abode, by the garland gracing her massive bosom, by her bosom rivaling mountains, by the splendid flow of her surpassing grace in the form of Guru's grace, by her cheeks ruddied by wine, by her melodious musical voice, by her cloud-like blue, by her inscrutable play ".
Here, Acharya invokes the Devi's abode, garland, breasts and dark blue complexion that they shall shield us from every evil. Once Her grace descends upon us, no evil will befall us.
Once again, Kadamba forest abode signifies the entire universe in the macrocosm or the sahasraara chakra in the microcosm. Or it simply means the hearts of the devotees.
Garland is a symbol of auspiciousness. She is hence ever auspicious. Also mantra is something that protects the chanter. Now devi's garland is nothing but the varnamaala or the alphabet from which all sounds and mantras arise. She is thus sarvamantrasvaroopini and who better can ward off evil than her?
The Devi is the mother of all. In the form of Annapoorna, she gives food, spiritual as well as physical, to all her children. Instances are many of her suckling small children and of their blossoming into spiritual giants. Eg. Tirujnanasambandhar who was fed by Amba Abhiraami. Her massive mountain like breasts represent her cosmic motherhood and her eagerness to nourish the entire creation.
Now, Srimadacharya also speaks of her surpassing grace. Of all kinds of love, the mother's love is so well known to be the best that any further explanation will be redundant. For the spiritually less evolved, it is through Her grace that the noumenal incorpo-real Brahman becomes phenomenal corporeal Ishwara. It is she who shows up and brings the quality-less Supreme Being within our reach as the mortal mother shows first her child its father. The great mother Mahatripurasundari blesses us not only with enjoyments but also with Moksha. No doubt thus, that her grace is peerless, surpassing. It is splendid for it dispels our ignorance and brings us enlightenment. The word Guru here means heavy or abundance. Her grace is heavy and abundant.
Guru also means spiritual preceptor and gurukripa, his grace. It is known to samayacharins that through Sadguru's grace (in the form of sambhava mahavedha ), Paraamba suddenly appears in the Manipuraka from where she has to be lead to the crown. Without the Gurupaaduka mantra, it is said that srividya gives no results at all, on the contrary, it leads to Yogini Shaapa. This clearly points to the absolute necessity of Guru's guidance. However, I would also like to tell here that in Rudrayamala, Bhagvathi assures that she herself will be the preceptor to the sincere and devoted sadhaka par excellence. Since Aatma-Guru-Srichakra-Srividya-Sridevi are all one without an iota of duality, grace is all the same whether we say Gurukripa or Devi's grace. In satashloki, the great Acharya brings out the uniqueness of Guru's grace by drawing a parallel between it and the philosophers stone. He says `For the venerable preceptor who bestows the liberating knowledge, there is no known comparison in the three worlds. Even the philosopher's stone, can only turn iron into gold; it cannot transmute it into another philosopher’s stone. On the contrary, the venerable guru makes his disciple who has taken refuge at his feet, his own equal. Peerless nay, transcendent is He!"
For everyone, the very first Guru is one's own mother. The Devi , the mother of infinite number of worlds is indeed the foremost Guru. In the form Uma, she cleansed Indra of his pride and arrogance and taught him the knowledge of the Absolute as explained by Kena Upanishad. The tantras define Nigama as the tantra which emanated from the mouth of Girija, which was listened to by Maheshwara and approved by Vasudeva. From this it follows that she has been guru to even her cosmic consort Kameshwara. It is this great Vimarsha Shakti that gives a sense of "I" ness or identity to the attribute less Paramashiva. He sees himself only through Her and hence she is undoubtedly the Guru of the best of the Gurus. Bhattanaarayana comments on the name "Nijaagnaaroopanigamaa'in the Lalita Sahasranama that the Nigamas (by which he means the Vedas since generally agamas mean Tantra and nigamas refer to Sruti) are the expressions of her eternal command. Here guru's grace, may also mean Srividya mantra itself which is obtainable only by the highest grace of the divine mother (this interpretation was by H.H. Sri Srimad Chandrashekhara Bharati Mahaswamigal, of Sringeri Sharada Peetham, the greatest of yogis in the recent times). Srividya means as much the path to the Divine knowledge as the Divine Knowledge itself. She is not only the Divine Knowledge but also the great path of Srividya leading up to it i.e. herself.
Further, Mahatripurasundari is also the spouse of world Guru Dakshinamurti and due to the fivefold identity that exist between her and The lord ( explained in the commentary to the last verse of Anandalahari, the first half of Saundaryalahari and also in Agamachandrika), Guru epithet is naturally applicable to Her.
Why is her grace like flow? For like water it flows down from a higher level to a lower level. Even a tiny crack in the devotee's heart will do for Her grace to rush in. This word kripaa is very significant. Love for equals is Maitri, love for superiors is Bhakti and love for inferiors is Kripa. Grace is absolutely necessary for the less evolved to get rid of all earthy shackles and to embrace the magnificent infinite.
Melodious voice - Needless to say a mother talks to her children sweetly. Towards their little ones even the ferocious animals give up the ferocity. What to say of Bhagavati who is the highest water-mark of grace. Moreover bliss or ananda is her very nature. As Shyamala, she is the mother of all fine arts including music. Shyamala is of various forms like Saahitya shyamala, Venu Shyamala, Shuka shyamala, Shaarikaa Shyamala etc. it is said by Narayana in Tripura Bhairavi Stotra in Jayadrathayamala that goddesses Saraswati gets all her poetic and musical capabilities by drinking the water that is used to wash the Sri Paduka of Mahatripurasundari.
Anything vast partakes the color of blue e.g. the sky, the ocean etc. The Devi is vast in as much as she is pervasive of the entire universe. She is therefore described as Blue. She is also a bank of clouds to the parched world. She is called blue (though the traditional Dhyana on Mahatripurasundari prescribes a ruddy complexion (arunaa) to her) to indicate that she is the nectarine cloud that showers the Kulamrita.
Her inscrutable play is the act of projecting-sustaining-withdrawing the universe. As Taittareya sruthi says ` Yato bhootani jaayanthe etc. `, the entire phenomenal world has its genesis in, stays on and dissolutes into Brahman. How the finite arises from out of the infinite is an incomprehensible mystery, called Maya. It is absolutely wrong to say that Brahman has transformed into universe. For Brahman is infinite and infinite is devoid of parts. Also immutability is the essential quality of the infinite. This completely refutes the theories of Gaudiyas and other sects with concepts like sukshmanu paramanu etc. the phenomena of the universe is therefore past reasoning. It is Devi's play or Lila.
For the ordinary mortals it is well nigh impossible to meditate upon and realize the supreme Parabrahman. For them this maya of Devi is of immense help in bringing the formless attributeless Brahman within their reach by investing it with a form and attributes, which does cause limitation, but the mother's divine grace helps one to evolve spiritually so as to transcend it. Karanaagama says " for helping ascetics, ritualistic worshippers, yogis, to do meditation and Puja, the supreme Brahman assumes a form playfully'. Thus it would indeed be foolish to argue whether Kali is better than Lalita or Tara is the best among the two. It is very sad to see that the so-called illumined saints of the various dualistic Vaishnavite sects have argued (and continue to argue) that Krishna is the best and the only from of the great lord. Now, any form with attributes can never ever be without limitations. One has to, at some point of time cross over to the formless supreme, which indeed happens by divine grace.
Beyond the operation of Maya, the ways in which the Devi bestows Her grace upon and blesses her devotees are mysterious. To quote some of the innumerable instances:
1. The moment Devi scribed Bijaksharas on the tongue, Kalidasa, the dunce, was transformed into Kalidasa, the great poet.
2. There is a township, Kadiramangalam by name in TamilNadu. On a certain day there was a heavy downpour in this place. In the rainstorm a good number of leaves flew from the thatch of the hut occupied by Kamban, the Tamil poet. The roof started leaking and the poet became worried that his poetical works would be destroyed. He however fell asleep. When he woke up in the morning, he noticed to his surprise, that the roof of his hut had been newly thatched with the eyes of the paddy. He was filled with devotion towards his beloved deity Durga. After this event, the entire township was called Kadirveyndamangalam, kadir meaning the eyes of paddy and veynda woven. He is the author of the masterpiece Kambaramayanam.
3. Rous Peter, a Briton, was the collector of Madurai in 1812. it was his routine to go round the Minakshi temple every day on horseback before setting about his daily duties. One night, it was raining very heavily, accompanied by thunder and lightening. Rous Peter was fast asleep in his apartment. He was suddenly woken up by a small girl, unseen before, and beckoned by her to get out. So he did implicitly. Hardly had he left his chamber, before the entire structure came down, struck by lightening. The girl vanished right before his eyes. He realizes that his escape was providential- due to the grace of the supreme mother Minakshi.
The fourth verse:
"Seek I shelter in Mahatripurasundari , mater familias of the three-eyed lord, who is in the middle of Kadamba forest, seated on the golden disc, who resides in six lotuses, who is like a constant lightening to the siddhas, splendorously mocking scarlet Hibiscus, with cloudless moon for her crest jewel".
As the spider remains in the center of the web ejected out of its own person, Mahatripurasundari stays as the pivot of the universe (Kadamba forest) projected from her own person.
In this line there is an allusion to Kanchi Kamakshi who is none other than Mahatripurasundari. Among the four major Shakti peethams, the supreme-most is the oddiyana Peetham or the Bhuvah puram which is situated in Kanchipuram. It is the Bindu sthana of Srichakra. Lalita Mahatripurasundari has gross – subtle - more subtle - and most subtle forms which are respectively Lalita Mahatripurasundari as Kamakshi in Kanchipuram, Srichakra, Srividya and as Paraakundalini (refer subhagodaya stuti and kanchi mahatmya varnanam for more reading on this topic). Thus, Mahatripurasundari Rajarajeshwari exists in stoola roopa only in Kanchi Kamakshi temple, which has no separate shrine for Paramashiva indicating that Kamakshi, unlike deities in various Shakti peethams, is not Shakti but Shiva-Shakti ONE, non-dual Parabrahman. The Kanchi Maahaatmya and Kamakalavilasa speak of Kanchi as the navel of the world. Just as the navel is the center of the body from which all the 72000 nerves proceed full-fledged fashion, so Kanchi, the seat of Kamakshi, the only gross prototype of Parabrahman, is the navel of the world from where her grace radiates.
Of all the manifested sources of energy, the sun is the most potent. With his rising, the entire world becomes active. It follows that Mahatripurasundari reveals herself through the living God, Sun. This also refers to the form of the goddess residing in the solar disc namely Gayatri. Indeed srividya is the third and the most secretive form of Gayatri. Bhasuranandanatha proves this beyond doubt in Varivasyarahasya. This is also explained in Tripuratapini Upanishad and also in texts like Yoginihridaya.
This also refers to the Devi radiating in the Anahata chakra, a twelve-petalled lotus in the region of heart.as fire shines in Muladhara, moon in sahasrara, so the sun shines in Anahata. As Kundalini, she abides in the six lotuses on the way to Sahasraara. As swami shivananda says, Kundalini can be aroused from any Chakra, though the simplest is to do so from Muladhara. The great occultist Swami Punyananda meditated on the Devi directly in Sahasraara and achieved Siddhi. However this may not be possible to all. So lets stick to Muladhara, for which the place of concentration is actually the sthanam or kshetram of Ajna.
Saudaamini means lightening. On her way to Sahasrara, the Devi stays for a while at Aajnaa Chakra, manifesting herself in the form of a streak of lightening whereby the Yogi's eyes close to all outer dualities and the inner eyes open up to the greater truths, making him eligible to enter the higher realms of Lalaata and other Chakras.
Also, in Manipuraka chakra, Sadashiva manifests as a winter cloud, in company with his spouse in the guise of lightening. They are called Megheshwara and Saudamini. Mahattarayonitantra names the cosmic couple differently as Amriteshwara and Amriteshwari. She is also like a lightening to the Siddhas who are accomplished beings. Now, the siddhis are ten namely: anima, laghima, mahima, ishitva, vashitva, praakaamya, bhukti, icchaa, prapti and sarvakaamasiddhi. (Some include garima siddhi also, but none of the Classic Tantras explain as to how this extra Siddhi can be accommodated in Trailokyamohana Chakra. Chatuhsshati Shastra clearly objects the use of Garimaa Siddhi. Some versions that I have seen on the net have included Garima siddhi in the Khadgamala mantra, which I think is a mistake. Rudra yamala's mala mantroddhaara chapter, Vamakeshwara tantra, Tripurarnava Tantra, Prapancha saara saara samgraha, all these granthas have omitted Garima Siddhi. Though a scholar tried to argue about its correctness saying some sampradayas do include garimaa, he was unable to justify his stand.
In the course of yoga practice, when Kundalini courses up to Sahasrara, the yogi acquires these supernormal powers. Being latent in the body, these siddhis are instantly brought to light by Kundalini like a flash of lightening. Also the place of meditation for Chinnamasta is Ajna chakra. Chinnamasta is actually the goddess of the siddhamandala. Sadhakas of Chinnamasta experience the opening of their consciousness to various lokas of siddhas and other higher beings to a large extent. Hence among the Mahavidyas, (which are all present in the Avarana of Mahatripurasundari's Srichakra) Chinna is placed as the Anuttara samayaambaa or the attendant to Srimata in the Anuttara quarter referring to Ajna Chakra again.
There could be yet another interpretation. She reveals to those who are in persuit of the Siddhis that compared with the ultimate realization of the self as Mahatripurasundari, these siddhis are as ephemeral as a lightening. However, a second's foolish indulgence in these may cause irreparable damage just like blinding after being struck by lightening.
Mother is also described as having a red complexion that puts Hibiscus flower to shame. Red signifies activity. It is the color of Rajo guna. Here Mahatripurasundari is described as reddish to speak of her Kriya Shakti and to indicate that she is the source of the entire dynamic quality of the universe. Furthermore, she is that primordial power which activated the qualitiless unmanifest Brahman, resulting in the appearance of this universe. Also scarlet Hibiscus flower is considered very sacred to the Devi in Agamas and Tantras.
She also has a cloudless moon as her crest jewel. Moon is the sign of immortality or Amrita in tantric terminology. In the middle of Sahasraara there is the lunar disc from which Amrita, the elixir of life flows. Devi is not only immortal herself, but also the source of deathlessness for others. The serene moon represents that especial prerogative of hers. Now, does not this make mother much superior to a philosopher's stone that we spoke about in the previous verse?
The fifth Shloka:
"Seek I shelter in sage Matanga's daughter, Mellifluously conversing, vina gracing the bosom, adorned with curly tresses, residing in the lotus, scorning the evil-minded, Reddish-eyed due to nectar and captivating Cupid's enemy".
Matanga was a great sage and a maestro of music. In deference to his prayer Mahatripurasundari took birth as his daughter. This is what earns her the title `Matangi `. Rajamatangi or Shyamala is the minister to Mahatripurasundari and she shines as Minakshi in Madurai.
Bliss is her nature, so her speaking is soft, sweet and pleasant. That is why she is called Kalaalaapaa in the Sarvasampoortikarii stava i.e the Trishati. Acharya comments on this name as follows: ` Kalaa means purposeful and indescribably sweet. Aalaapaaa means conversation. According to the saying, "Avyakta bhaaratee tathaa", it is the mark of the great to have exquisitely sweet speech.
Music has the irresistible force to spellbind every being. "Music is " says Longfellow, "The universal language of mankind. " Vina is symbolic of the cosmic harmony she brings about, both in the micro and macrocosms.
Mother has lovely curly tresses. Graying or falling of hair is the sign of senescence. For Parashakti, the embodiment of cosmic energy, there is no aging. She is ever youthful and free of senility. This is mentioned as Nithyayouvanashaalini and Vayaovasthaavivarjitaa. The totality of cosmic energy remains constant. In it there is no increase or decrease at any time.
She resides in lotus. Esoterically it means the heart where the Devi resides. Same thing is said by Sri Ramana, “It is the center of the self. The self is the physical center". It also means Sahasrara where Mahatripurasundari has her abode and also the Muladhara Chakra where she resides as Tripura Bhairavi.
Popularly the epithet `Lotus resident` refers to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth who is one of the many emanations of the primordial Shakti. This is why Parashakti is called Ramaa in ahasyanaamasaahasra. I have tried to explain the significance of the Srisukta in light of Srividya in a previous post.
Skanda Purana narrates two versions of the birth of Devi in a lotus:
1. Shiva had given a boon to Daksha that Devi would be born to him. In its fulfillment, the Devi came down to river Yamuna, assumed the form of a white conch, settled herself on a lotus in the river and commenced doing penance. In the course of time, on a certain day Daksha came to the river for his morning ablution. Espying the pretty conch, he took it in his hands, and it directly became a girl.
2. Devi wanted to get rid of the body fostered by Daksha, for he had turned Shiva-hater. To do so, she got permission from Shiva and came down to a lotus tank called Padmaa and took the form of a child. Himavan, who was doing a penance nearby chanced upon it and took her home happily.
The devi scorns the evil minded. She is not accessible to the evil-minded, dishonest and the like. The Prashna Upanishad says: "For them is that taintless world of Brahman, in whom there is no crookedness, no falsehood, and no dissimulation. Mundaka upanisd also says: “The self is attainable through truth". The way to spiritual realization is through ethical purity. The evil-minded have a tendency to bring about disharmony in public life and damage the moral fabric of the society. Whenever such demons gain upper hand, the Devi embodies Herself and destroys them.
Captivating Cupids enemy alludes to the legend that when Kama, the god of love , at the behest of Indra, shot an arrow of desire at Shiva, Shiva opened his third eye, the eye of wisdom and reduced kama to ashes by a mere glance. The self-same Shiva was, however charmed into matrimony by the Devi.
The nativity of Kama or Manmatha is narrated in the Rudrasamhita of Shiva Purana. After Brahma had created Marichi, Atri, Pulaha, Pulastya, Angirasa, Kratu, Vasistha, Narada, Daksha and Bhrigu, his mental sons of lordly stature, a beautiful woman of comely features was born of his mind. She was called Sandhya. On beholding her, Brahma and others involuntarily got up, impelled by passion. Just then, Brahma noticed another son much more beautiful, handsome and comely had appeared as his mental creation. His very appearance was enough to set his heart aflame with love for Sandhya. Hence when Kaama asked of Brahma about his function the latter assigned to him the same work, to arouse passion in the hearts of beings. To test how far he could succeed in this task, Kaama at once aimed his flower-arrow at Brahma, his father himself. Lo! The poor Brahma could not control his passion. Ever since, kama has been setting the hearths of beings aflame with love.
Kaama means desire and love. Kaama is only a personification of desire. He is portrayed as carrying a sugarcane bow, representing the mind, and five flower arrows representing the five sense perceptions. The external world becomes knowledgeable to us only when the mind is conjoined to the sense organs and directed to the sense objects.
Manas (mind) is so called since its function is manana or thinking. The nativity of Kaama from Brahma's mind illustrates that all desires have their origin in the mind. The whole world is nothing but a projection of mind. As one in dream experiences many things in his dream world and all such things appear to be real during the dream, so one in Maya experiences many things in the world and all such things appear to be real as long as he is under the spell of Maya. But the moment the dreamer wakes up he realizes whatever he has experienced in his dream world are false as compared with the things that he experiences when awake. Even so, the moment he wakes from Maya into Brahman consciousness, he realizes that the falsehood of the external world. As the dream world is projected by the mind when it stays in Manomaya Kosha (psychological sheath), so the material world about us is projected by the mind when it stays at Annamaya kosha (anatomical sheath). It, therefore follows that all the objects around that are experienced are mere products of mind. Kaama is only a personification of these objects born of mind.
The sixth Shloka:
"Seek I shelter in Mahatripurasundari, Mater familias of the three eyed-one, who bears the first flower of Manmatha, clad in blue garments, spotted sanguine, holding a liquor bowl, with eyes inebriated languishing at the ends, close set bosoms heavy and high, the swarthy one with locks disheveled!"
Manmatha the god of love carries sugarcane for bow and five different flowers for arrows. Of them, the first is the lotus. Mahatripurasundari in one of her meditation forms holds a lotus in her hand. According to tantras like Rahasya Agama, the lotus is emblematic of the universe. Pushpa means flower as well as menstrual flow, and a woman in her period is called pushpini. " Prathama pushpini" means a woman in her first periods. Of the pancha makaras, the last is maithuna or sexual coupling. Esoterically, it means the union of Kundalini with Shiva or the individual consciousness with the universal consciousness, and that is the culmination of the entire Tantric practice.
Muladhara, where Devi is ever in slumber, is a region of total darkness. Awakening her, yogi leads her up to her spouse Siva's abode in the Sahasrara. As the mortal parents give their nubile daughter in marriage to a worthy groom and leave her in his charge, so the yogi leads the ever youthful Kundalini to Paramashiva, her groom and leaves her with him in the bridal chamber in Sahasrara. Physical union is possible only after one has attained puberty. So, endeavoring to rouse the sleeping Kundalini in him for leading her to lord, the yogi meditates upon and worships her as if she has just attained puberty and become fit for congress. The divine mother in first periods is the personification of the Red bindu that I have spoken about in my post Srichakra.
The Devi is described as being habited in a blue sari with red spots. As the first menstrual flow shows itself when a woman is ready to bear, so on the blue welkin, the Devi's raiment, signs appear, heralding creation. In a Bhagavati temple in Kerala as well as in the Kamakhya temple, red spots appear once a year in the robes of the goddess to this day.
Mother also carries a bowl of wine of Maya. Madhu not only means liquor but also honey and spring season. It is a common experience that passion gains in strength in spring. Being of a similar quality, liquor also whets ones passion.
The intoxicated eyes of Devi are an external sign, which shows the depth of the divine bliss the Devi has had from the company of her lord in Sahasrara. As wine makes the drinker oblivious of his environs, so does the divine ecstasy. God-intoxicated, a Yogi develops irresistible craving for the divine bliss of the Brahman, just as a drunkard is ever after his liquor bowl.
The disheveled locks of Sridevi indicate that she is ever free from formalities such as arranging the hair etc. This hints at the vishwottheerna form of Parabrahman.
The seventh shloka:
"In Japa I remember the mother, smeared with vermilion, forelocks grazing the dot of musk, looks soft and smiling, bearing arrows, bow, snare and goad, deluding all people, in red garland, apparel and jewels, having the splendor of scarlet Hibiscus".
Here Mahatripurasundari is described as red. She is the prime desire of the supreme Brahman to multiply into many. Red is also the color of dawn indicating the light that dispels darkness. She is at one point of time causing Maya (Mohini ) and lyet again she is the one who destroys Maya (Mohanashini). Moha means delusion of mind which prevents one from discerning the truth and makes one believe in the reality of worldly objects and to be addicted to the gratification of sensual pleasures.
Sridevi wields in her four hands five-flower arrows, the sugarcane bow, the snare and the goad. The five flower arrows - lotus, Asoka, mango blossom, jasmine and blue lotus are the five rudimentary subtle elements viz. sound, touch, form, taste and smell. The sugarcane bow is the mind. The snare is the desire and attachment and goad is wrath. ATTRACTION AND REPULSION ARE THE REACTIONS OF THE MIND TO THE SENSE OBJECTS. The whole universe is an expression of the compound of the five rudimentary subtle elements. Mind is the force that activates the sense organs. And the sense objects are experienced. The Vedas say, from the Brahman first arose Mahat, and it was followed by the five subtle cosmic elements. Combination of these elements has given birth to the universe. The Devi wielding the cosmic mind in the form of the sugarcane bow and the five subtle rudimentary elements in the form of five flower arrows symbolizes this. She is manipulating these and bringing the universe into being. Being the only empress of the entire cosmos, Rajarajeshwari, she has to have the well being of people at heart. The Paasha, love, by which she binds the subjects to her, represents this. She also upholds justice, which is represented by the goad of wrath indicating policing. In short she brings universe into existence and reigns over it. Yogini Hridaya identifies snare, goad and arrows with Icchaa, Jnana and Kriya shaktis respectively. The bow makes these effulgent.
The Final Shloka:
"I salute the mother of the world entire, who has the celestial queen for plaiting the tresses, Brahma's consort for anointing sandal paste, Vishnu's spouse for adorning with lustrous gems, and heavenly damsels for servant maids".
The Brahmanda Mahapurana has it that the goddess Lalita Mahatripurasundari rules over the entire universe from Sripura or Srinagara. She is the supreme empress and Brahma-Vishnu-Rudra are mere functionaries in her empire. The Rahasyanaamasaahasra portrays that Lakshmi and Saraswathi attend the Devi on either sides bearing flywhisks or Chaamaras.
According to Mantra Shastra, Kameshwara who transcends the Trinity Brahma-Vishnu-Rudra, is action less and unattached. His form is that of a pure colorless crystal which becomes invisible when immersed in water. Vishnu and Parvathi, both dark blue, are twin manifestations, as also Shiva and Saraswati, both white and Brahma and Lakshmi, both golden yellow. Daylight is colorless, yet it contains all the colors. If one of the colors is separated from the colorless light, the rest of the colors reveal themselves. Under the influence of the Red Paraamba, the colorless Parabrahman Kameshwara manifests himself as the trinity and their consorts.
Srimadacharya says in his divine composition Saundaryalahari (which is unexceeded in lyrical beauty, grammatical aspects and from the point of view of Yoga or Mantra shastra), "these three divinities Brahma - Vishnu -Rudra, start their cosmic process when the Supreme Mother knits her brow for a fraction of a second. She stands beyond them all and her red splendor stimulates them all to perform their respective functions, by here very presence".
The lesson we have to draw from the foregoing is that the same Supreme Being appears in diverse forms as we conceive. It is to shower its grace in the manner whereby we invoke it. Now what can be said of fools who argue that Krishna is much superior to Shiva whereas the rest are demigods and vice versa? I feel this is what earns Srimadacharya the tile of "Jagadguru” since he was not a cultist and his teachings are universal beyond space and time. How can any other sectist guru be termed a Jagadguru for all they did was to advocate a cult practice, be it the Gaudiyas or the southern Shaivaites, shunning the other forms of lord as inferior to their own chosen deity.
It follows that the energies manifested for the purpose of creation, maintenance and destruction are lower than and subservient to the primordial total unmanifested cosmic energy. This idea is expressed here poetically portraying the total cosmic energy as the Supreme Empress Rajarajeshwari and the manifested energies as maids. All are, however, different of the one and the same Paramount Parashakti.
namo namaste shiva kAmakoTi