Sri Kamakoti Mandali  
shrImAtre namaH  
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Tapta Mudrankana


[Query] I am into Shreevidhya upasana. Is it okay to wear taptha mudra? As bhaskararayar did not approve.

namaH shAntAya ghorAya mUDhAya guNadharmiNe |
nirvisheShAya sAmyAya namo j~nAnaghanAya cha ||

shrImAtre namaH

It really does not matter what bhAskararAya says, but what is important is what the shAstra pramANa is. Though it is generally believed that tapta chakrA~Nkana is prohibited by the smR^itis, there seem to be pramANas both for and against it. So, it all depends on how you want to position your outlook:

a. As a smArta [which is unlikely considering your roots]
b. As a shrIvaiShNava
c. As a shrIvidyA shAkta

Most often, people cannot make a single choice, especially the last one, as shrIvidyA is somewhat an additive and not replacement for sAmAnya dharma. It may not be incorrect to call it as viSheSha dharma, but again, it is all perception. Of course, there are vIra shAktas who follow only what is said in the Agama or tantra and skip any other vidhi but that does seem to be ideal or what is prescribed by several great masters or even in the tantra itself. For example, only kaula shrAddha is recommended for a kaulAchArin but many who claim to be kaulas have no clue whatsoever in this regard. Moreover, one who is a smArta is always at doubt whether to give up his dharma partly to engage in rites which seem to contradict the shruti and smR^iti. Again, people come up with four ways:

a. Try to stick with smR^iti and only embed those practices from tantra which they think do not contradict their root belief.
b. Try to follow both smR^iti and tantra based on convenience and circumstance.
c. Try to pre-dominantly follow tantra, trying to esoterically explain concepts like makAra etc., the vedic origins of certain practices and similar things, trying to fit these within the main stream thought. The same is true in case b as well, which many times is unnecessary and of least practical utility.
d. Stay exclusively with one, either follow tantra or smR^iti universally and have nothing to do with the other.

Tradition, lineage, outlook of the person and various other factors seem to influence this choice. Though the example here is of smR^iti and tantra, the same can be true with smR^iti and pA~ncharAtrAgama or vaiShNava pramANas and shaiva purANas etc. It is best to make a choice after careful thought and stick completely with the path chosen. Sincerity helps greatly and guidance from Paradevata and Guru flows in ways unknown. So, the choice really is yours. My lineage interprets shruti as the highest pramANa, followed by smR^iti and then the tantra. Also, the practices chosen are considered as unobtrusive to smArta dharma after a careful analysis, and hence adopted. At the end of the day, it is careful self-evaluation that matters, where one ponders on how one has progressed spiritually or become a better being after treading a path for a considerable amount of time.

Coming back to the specific query of tapta mudrA~Nkana, the following pramANas prohibit the act. The prohibition is not specific to vaiShNava mudras alone but apply to shaiva and shAkta chihnas like li~Nga, shUla, yoni etc. The pramANas are chiefly from the smR^iti as they deal with the subject directly and because dharma, though shrutyukta, has to be interpreted through the smR^iti.

yastu santaptasha~NkhAdi chihnatanurdvijaH |
sa sarvayAtanAbhogI chaNDAlojanmakoTiShu ||
yastu santaptasha~NkhAdi li~NgA~NkitatanurdvijaH |
saMbhAShya narakaM yAti yAvadindrAshchaturdasha || [bR^ihannAradIya]

chakrA~NkitatanurvA.api tathA li~NgA~Nkito.api vA |
nAdhikArI sa vij~neyaH shrautasmArteShu karmasu || [likhita]

shrautasmArtakriyo vipro nA~Nkayeda~Ngama~NkanaiH |
api viShNvAdisambandhaiH taptairvA patito bhavet || [gokhila]

a~NgeShu nA~Nkayedvipro devatA.a.ayudhala~nChanaiH |
dahanAllekhanAdvipraH pAtityaM yAti tatkShaNAt || [shAtAtapa]

nA~NkayennadaheddehaM dahecchetkAmakArataH |
nAdhikriyeta dagdhA~NgaH shrautasmArteShu karmasu |
chakrA~Nkayedyadi vA doShAtpatatyeva na saMshayaH || [bodhAyana]

nA~NkayennadahedgAtraM devatA.a.ayudhalA~nChanaiH | [yama]

bhUdevastaptamudrAbhiH chihnaM kR^itvA vimUDhadhIH |
ihajanmani mUDhasyAt pretya cha shvA bhaviShyati || [vaidyanAtha

taptamudrAtvantyajAya hariNA nirmitA purA |
gopIchandanasaMlipta phAlakAshchAntyajAtayaH || [brahmA]

AyudhaiH sha~NkhachakrAdyaiH na daheccha kadAchana |
manuShyANAM tu nAmnaiva vilikhechcorasi kramAt ||
dagdhA~NgashAyudhairdivyaiH likhaye naranAmataH |
shrautasmArtasamAchAre nAdhikArI kadAchana || [manu]

svadahrmatyAgino rAjan vedamArgabahiShkR^itaH |
AgamAn pA~ncharAtrAdIn vishante narakAnnarAH || [nArada]

atIva patitAnAM hi shvApadAdya~NkanaM nR^iNAm |
vidhIyate na shuddhAnAM tatashshuddhaM na chA~Nkayet || [kUrma purANa]

svadehe paradehe v Ana kuryAda~NkanaM naraH |
yadi kuryAccha chakrAdyaiH patatyeva na saMshayaH || [sUta saMhitA]

There are pramANas supporting this vidhi as well.

UrdhvapuNDraM tathA chakraM nityaM dhArayate tu yaH |
tena tasyAshubhaM nashyet shubhaM tasya pravardhate || [vR^iddha manu]

pashuputrAdikaM sarvaM gR^ihopakaraNAni cha |
a~NkayecCha~NkhachakrAbhyAM nAmakuryAccha vaiShNavam || [shaNDilya]

bhavatAM bhramatAmatra viShNusaMshrayamudrayA |
vinA.a.abha~NgakR^innaiva bhavishyati naraH kvachit ||

macchakrA~Nkitadeho.ayaM madbhakto bhuvi durlabhaH || [matsya purANa]

Both sides tend to reject the others pramANa as an instrumentation or a later addition but that is not the traditional or reasonable way to approach shAstra pramANa always. First of all, we need to decide if there is a Supreme Power, who is overseeing all that is happening. If we think there is one, we need to accept or reject that the shAstras were revealed by him. If we accept the validity of the shAstras, then we should examine the fact that different shAstras are revealed for different times [or say kalpas] based on the need of the hour. It would be highly difficult to ascribe shAstras completely to the handiwork of a group of individuals and expect yathA tathA results based on those creations. Also, time really is a very relative factor in this scheme of divine revelation.

- We say shAstra A is being followed in a current way based on a set of pramANas.
- Now pratipakSha says, the correct procedure was actually B, which over time has been corrupted to attain the state of A.
- Again, if the transformation that occurred was a corruption or refinement is based on perspective.
- Also, when we say the initial state of the shAstra was B and not A, we ignore the basic and an almost universal assumption that shAstra is anAdi. Based on analysis that can look back till a limited period of past time, we can arrive at conclusions. But probably, if the state of the shAstra before the considered window of time were to be observed, it could have been A, B or a different C. And it is possible, C was derived from A which existed before the known periods of time.

Thus, as several scholars including mahAmahopAdhyAya shrI gopInathA kavirAjaji point out, this scheme of evolutionary interpretation is not the right approach when dealing with shAstras which deal with subjects which everyone accepts as being av~Ngmanasagochara. This is the view of the current AchArya of shArada pITham as well. Moreover, many core concepts have to be dropped if this scheme of analysis is to be adopted which questions the nityatA of shAstra. So, the bottom line is: approach shAstra with faith and a suitable amount of logic, guided by a proper groundwork and not hearsay or bits and pieces picked here and there, avoiding unneeded attention to conspiracy theories. Nature is self-balancing and does what is just right at that point in time. If all this seems too complicated, place your faith in Guru/lineage who you have chosen after careful consideration, follow the pramANa which he thinks is right and your own practice will certify its validity in due course of time.

dakshiNAbhimukheshAnamAshraye bhavashAntaye