There was a query from a learned friend whether pUrvA~Nga of mUla vidyA is ShaDakSharI bAlA or tryakSharI?
One can see the following statement in the kalpasUtra:
dakShiNakarNe bAlAmupadishya pashchAdiShTamanuM vadet |
1. Some here (like gopAla sUrin or subhagAnandanAtha) insist on the use of navAkSharI bAlA due to the sUtrAnuktatva of either ShaDakSharI or tryakSharI. rAmeshvara refutes this claim and insists on the use of tryakSharI bAlA as navArNa vidyA of bAlA is termed as yogabAlA which is explicitly declared in sarvasAdhAraNa krama as "shriyo.a~NgaM" by bhArgavarAma. The former vidyA of three letters is known as bAlA, shuddhabAlA or kumArI.
2. During the prakAsha of the mantras for the fifteen nityA-s, the sUtra says: kumArI kulasundarI. The commentary on this sUtra refers to tryakSharI bAlA and not navAkSharI as evident from tantrAntara and sampradAya. Thus, though there is no explicit uddhAra of tryakSharI in the kalpasUtra, the intent of the sUtrakAra seems clear: refer to other relevant tantras. The following clause will thus not come into effect (sUtrAnuktatvAt):
svashAstre vartamAno yaH parashAstreNa vartate |
bhrUNahatyAsamaM tasya svashAstramavamanyataH ||
3. There is a reference to bAlA in shrIkrama: bAlAdvirAvR^ittyA klR^iptaShaDa~NgaH. It is quite obvious that the reference here is to tryakSharI again.
Based on these interpretations, some are of the opinion that the pUrvA~Nga vidyA of pa~nchadashI should be tryakSharI bAlA. Support for this assumption also comes from paramAnanda tantra, used almost universally to compliment the content of the kalpasUtra:
sA tu tridhA sthitA devi tatrAdyA tryakSharI smR^itA |
dvitIyA pa~nchadashyuktA tR^itIyA ShoDashI bhavet ||
tantrarAja, incorrectly identified by some as a part of shaktisa~Ngama tantra, again does the uddhAra of tryakSharI and not ShaDakSharI:
shuchiH svena yutastvAdyo rasAvahnisamanvitaH |
prANo dvitIyaH svayuto vanahR^icChaktibhiH paraH |
itIritA tryakSharI syAdityAdi ||
A manuscript dealing with the details of pUrNAbhiSheka, supposedly a part of kahAdi mata (of the kAdi, hAdi, kahAdi group; some like maheshAnandanAtha replace kahAdi by sAdi and explicitly state: sAdimate uktatvAt etc.) speaks of the upadesha of gaNapati, bAlA and laghu pAdukA before mUlavidyopadesha. Lord reminds bhagavatI of an earlier chapter dealing with kulasundarI where bAlA tryakSharI vidyA was already revealed (probably referring to the tR^itIya paTala of kAdi mata or tantrarAja as it is available today).
j~nAnArNava, accepted as the svanatra tantra (indicated by AchArya bhagavatpAda in saundaryalaharI) by some authorities, again does the uddhAra of tryakSharI alone:
tripurA trividhA devi bAlAM tu prathamaM shR^iNu |
yasyA vij~nAnamAtreNa sAkShAtsuragururbhavet ||
sUryasvaraM samucchArya bindunAdakalAnvitam |
svarAntaM pR^ithivIyuktaM tUryasvaravibhUShitam ||
bindunAdakalAkrAntaM saragavAn bhR^iguravyayaH |
shakrasvarasamopeto vidyeyaM tryakSharI matA ||
nAgabhaTTa who represents a prevalent and flourishing sampradAya at some point in time, speaks of tryakSharI again in his tripurAsArasamucchaya:
vakShyAmi bIjatrayamambikAyAH |
amuShya hetornijasiddhaye cha ||
dakShiNAmUrti saMhitA again does the uddhAra of tryakSharI as the mukhya vidyA of bAlA:
vAgbhavaM prathamaM proktaM dvitIyaM kAmarAjakam |
tR^itIyaM shaktibIjaM cha mantroddhAraH prakIrtitaH ||
The ShaDakSharI is discussed only as one of the thirteen prastAra bhedas of the mukhya vidyA:
anulomavilomAbhyAM bAlAmantraH ShadakSharaH ||
rudrayAmaLa, while describing pa~ncharatneshvarI vidhi for mahAShoDashI, again talks of tryakSharI followed by sambuddhi.
shR^iNu devi pravakShyAmi pa~ncharatneshvarI manum |
yaM japtvA sAdhakaH kShipraM vicharedbhairavo yathA ||
trikUTA ShoDashI chaiva bAlikA sumukhI tathA |
tAriNI pa~nchamI devi pa~ncharatneshvarI smR^itA |
vAgbhavaM shaktibIjaM cha kAmarAjaM tR^itIyakam || etc.
bhAskararAya identifies the name tryakSharI as referring to bAlA in saubhagyabhAskara. gauDapAdIya sUtra states the same thus: kumarI varNatrayavishiShTA. Most tantras thus seem to give greater importance to tryakSharI. Even the uddhAra of ShaDakSharI is seen only in a few tantras.
But it is incorrect to assume that there is no pramANa (one is listed below) for the use of ShaDakSharI bAlA. The question though is whether its use is more appropriate in the case of mukhyopAsyatva of bAlA rather than as pUrvA~Nga of lalitAmbikA.
A chief tantra of shrIkula is the parA tantra which deals with bAlA, panchadashI and ShoDashI. The following is a statement from this tantra:
kulaj~naH kashchidyo yajati kulapuShpaiH kulavidhau
kulAgAre dhyAyan kulajanani te manmathakalAm |
ShaDarNaM pUrvoktaM japati kulamantraM tava shive
sa jIvanmuktaH syAdakulakulapa~Nkeruhagate ||
The reference here is clearly to ShaDakSharI bAlA and not tryakSharI. The same tantra also prescribes initiation into the kramotkrama vidyA of bAlA before panchadashI. Thus, though it seems that there is much more pramANa for the use of tryakSharI as pUrvA~Nga of brahmavidyA, the following needs to be considered:
1. There are also pramANas (like from parA tantra) which prescribe the use of ShaDakSharI vidyA.
2. Most living sampradAyas today that I have interacted with seem to use ShaDakSharI bAlA along with mahAgaNapati as pUrvA~Nga vidyA of lalitA.
3. Like the case of ShoDashI which includes pa~nchadashI in itself, some opine that the use of ShaDakSharI is warranted on account of it including the tryakSharI. This argument need not be technically correct as pointed out by rAmeshvara in the case of navAkSharI yogabAlA. Moreover, a hierarchical relation is non-existent between ShaDakSharI and tryakSharI like in the case of panchadashI and ShodashI.