Saturday, October 20, 2012

Why Sri Vidya is a Supreme Science (Tantra Part 3)

In the undertaking of any tradition, we should ideally have faith that our tradition is a supreme one. I want to say superior but it is important to respect all traditions. Nevertheless there is something very, I would say extremely, special about Sri Vidya. This article will address why I believe that to be the case.

Why have faith in our own tradition and why is faith so important? The Parasurama Kalpa Sutra in chapter one tells us "through sampradaya and faith comes every fulfillment". In other words if we have authentic lineage or sampradaya, we have the power behind us of every practitioner that has gone before us, carving out the energetic pathways of mantric energy that bring us forward in our practice. Having faith in this strengthens our minds and our belief systems, our view, that is the foundation of directed energy and power. Faith strengthens our will. Will carries us forward to do what needs to be done and bring success to our practice and our lives.

In stating the supreme nature of Sri Vidya I should state once again the words of the Parasurama in terms of my first comment, "no criticism of any system of philosophy". All systems must be respected because ultimately faith in any system will prompt the soul forward in its work and as the Bhagavad Gita states "in whatever way men/women come to me, in that way I will receive them."

That being said, once we begin to practice the Sri Vidya tantra, we want to feel the depth and the power of what this system is. We want to feel in our deep hearts that this is THE system for us. We don't meet it halfway. We engage with it directly, with it fully. The PK Sutra also states "tenacity of attitude leads to fulfillment of all-round knowledge." So once we have the conviction, we are set forward and become unstoppable in our endeavor of the path. This is so critical to understand because it provides the power and the framework for our entire sadhana.

To help us have this conviction let us look at why Sri Vidya is such a powerful science. In the Soundaryalahari, a beautiful song composed by Shankaracarya (sometime towards the end of his life when he had left behind the patriarchal old ways and had had a direct vision of the Goddess), verse one states "If Siva is united with his Sakti (power), he is able to create, if he is not thus, he is not even able to stir." The saying goes "Siva is not able to lift one finger without Sakti." In other words, the Consciousness principle or the Divine Light Prakasha by itself is useless in this world without its divine Vimarsha, without its wonderous power and reflective nature. In other words, the Male principle is nothing in this world without the Female. Devi or the Goddess or the Divine Feminine, the Sakti, the Spanda, the Divine Throb and pulse of this universe is what creates, exists and then withdraws. This is also stated in the first 3 names of the Devi in Lalitha Sahasranama: "Shri Mata Shri Maharajni Shrimatsimhasaneshvari". "O Divine Mother, O Divine Great Queen, You who sit on the Lion Throne." The Mother is the creator, the Queen is the sustainer, and the Lion symbolizes the destructive nature which withdraws all back into itself. In other words all forms, names and manifestations are the Devi herself. She is Mother Earth, Mother Prakriti, the World, the Body, Life, Energy, Movement, Pulsation. One is bound and freed by Her alone. Even if one tires of this life, this samsara, it is only Devi who brings about the decision to do the sadhana which brings one back to her.

This above paragraph is important to understand because the way of tantra and Sri Vidya is very different from traditional patriarchal religions and systems in which matter is set against spirit, in which the emphasis is on trancendence and escape from this world of samsara. Sri Vidya embraces ALL, both matter and spirit, the world, male and female, white and black. There is nowhere the God/dess is not. This is why in our tradition Mother Lalitha is shown seated atop Siva and the throne itself is supported by the Patriarchal Gods of Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra, and Isvara. She is superior. She is the ruler. By taking this way we approach God through the reflective nature of whatever is in front of us. We see God everywhere.

The Great Lalitha Tripurasundari is the prime Devi/Goddess of Sri Vidya. Her mantra is the great 15 syllabled mantra Pancadasi, which symbolizes on one level the 15 phases of the moon, encompassing all time and cycles. This mantra has many deeper hidden meanings and there are few mantras greater than this one, and those that are all belong to Her.

Lalitha's Yantra is the great Sri Yantra, also called Sri Cakra which contains within it the entire universe seen and unseen. The human body itself is the Sri Yantra, thus our bodies contain within it the entire universe. This follows the Western hermetic principle of "as above so below, as below so above". This principle is described in detail in the Bhavanopanishad and several other important texts. So our body truly is a temple. A divine temple. Hrim is the divine mantra of creation and maya, that movement that takes us out clockwise from the bindu of the yantra through the phases of creative evolution. Shrim is the divine mantra which takes us back counterclockwise into the bindu. Life is not a bindu alone though remember. Life is the fullness of the yantra itself and the bindu only holds the whole display together. We could say that this bindu is simultaneously at the center and also everywhere.

Lalitha Tripurasundari's form shows many powerful symbols in addition to the ones described already. She wears the sun and moon as earrings, emphasizing the fact that astrological forces are mere adornments to her. In her 4 arms, she carries the 5 arrows of the elements and the senses, the sugarcane bow of the mind, the noose of desire and attraction, and the goad of anger. So the entire world of the elements, senses, and mind are her instruments. The twin forces of attraction and repulsion/aversion are her instruments as well. All powers of the universe are Hers.

These things described serve to enhance our faith in this powerful tradition and to remind us that this world is sacred, that it is all God's play. It helps us to lighten up, to not be so concerned with "liberation" and to remember that we are Her. She is us. Our world is divine.