"Sri Vidya begins where the current understanding of quantum physics ends," say modern-day scholars about this little-known, highly esoteric spiritual tradition that has been carefully kept under wraps by its secretive and serious practitioners. The study of Sri Vidya is fascinating as much as it is frustrating because information about its various aspects is exceptionally hard to find. Tantra, Mantra and Yantra of Sri Vidya is an endeavor to explore the Sri Vidya tradition and understand it as the unfolding of Shakti, the inherent power which lies at the core of our being and holds the key to our worldly and spiritual success.
Sri Vidya practice comprises tantra (a technique or framework for worship) whose two main elements are mantra (sacred sound) and yantra (sacred geometry). Tantra can be described in simple terms as the utilization of the mental faculty to pursue the objectives of worship using mantra and yantra. Mantra is the use of sound energy to bring about oneness with the Divine while yantra is a geometric drawing that serves as a tool to reach the Divine.
The book delves into concepts such as Sankhya, Yoga, Karma and Kundalini in order to establish the context of how Sri Vidya is to be approached, combining elements of knowledge, devotion and ritual.
The author has kept in mind the sensibilities of the modern spiritual seeker and their needs and interests, presenting the information in a non-dogmatic and practical manner, thereby allowing everyone an opportunity to learn and experience the benefits of Sri Vidya.
This is the third book by the author in the Spirituality Series. The first book was about the Sri Chakra Yantra and the second book had Chakras as its subject.
Vinita Rashinkar is a health and wellness expert, writer, speaker, spiritual counsellor and healer. She derives satisfaction from helping people find happiness and in aiding them lead a healthy and meaningful life. She has studied the principles of Ayurveda, yoga, meditation, chanting, chakras and stress management under various masters for the past 20 years. She has a Master's degree in English Literature.
Vinita is the Founder and Managing Director of Amara Vedic Wellness GmbH, a Dusseldorf-based company which aims at bringing hidden aspects of Vedic knowledge to the common man. Vinita has been a regular contributor to popular publications and portals, writing on subjects of health and lifestyle. She is also the Founder-Director of Bluebrick PR, a specialized international tourism marketing company.
She is presently working on her third book based on the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad.
Vinita has been featured in various Indian and international publications such as Femina, Outlook, Asiaspa, Finest Finance and Vogue. She is currently working with a major TV channel to provide health and wellness content.
One of the foremost practitioners of Sri Vidya was a renowned philosopher and scholar named Bhaskaracharya, who moved to a small town of Tamil Nadu to be close to his guru sometime during the 18th century. He never spoke about his sadhana except to state that he was a Sri Vidya upasaka (practitioner). A wandering monk from the Advaita lineage was passing through the town where Bhaskaracharya lived and was intrigued by the comings and goings of the silent and devout sadhu. He noticed that Bhaskaracharya never greeted or prostrated before other holy men he encountered, unlike most other sadhus. The monk made this a subject of discourse amongst the town dwellers and followers.
Bhaskaracharya heard about the monk's talk and cordially approached him with due humility. He addressed the monk to say: "Revered Swami, I shall prostrate before every passing holy man, but first I would like to demonstrate something to you before I start this practice. Please place your kamandalu (the water pot), danda (walking stick) and turban before me so I may prostrate before them. You see what happens, and if you still insist, I will prostrate before you a thousand times." The monk placed his items before Bhaskaracharya, and he prostrated with utter respect. Instantaneously all three things caught fire and were reduced to ashes.
The awestruck monk gaped at Bhaskaracharya, who calmly explained that it is not out of arrogance that he did not prostrate before others but because no human can stand before the power of a genuine Sri Vidya sadhaka who attains such levels of energy and oneness with the Divine that he no longer identifies with either his ego or needs to acknowledge others as separate beings for he has witnessed the oneness of all things in the Universe.
There has been a massive surge in Sri Vidya's popularity in recent times, and there is an air of mystery and esotericism surrounding the discipline. Most people fear it to be a part of Tantra, which is a hugely misunderstood and misinterpreted term. The various traditions that constitute Sri Vidya are often sources of confusion as several lineages have formed their rituals and practices and claim that their path is the most authentic. To add to this overall lack of clarity, it is a firmly held belief that all the learning about this discipline must be done under the tutelage of a well-versed guru in the subject. Unfortunately, most of us do not have access to such gurus, willing to share their knowledge of this esoteric and mysterious subject to eager learners. All of my learnings about Sri Vidya came from self-study, and I am more than happy to share it with those with a keen interest in the subject.
Studying Sri Vidya requires an understanding of many of the core principles of Hinduism. In the following chapters, we first learn about diverse subjects such as Shaktism, Kundalini, Chakras, Karma, Sankhya and Yoga philosophies before embarking upon the detailed discussion of Tantra, Mantra and Yantra.
My main aim in writing this book is to offer all the information that a novice seeks to get him/her into Sri Vidya Sadhanas practice and be involved in self-learning rather than seeking it from external sources. Sri Vidya has always remained a very enigmatic and secretive knowledge, revealed only to Brahmins belonging only to a specific sub-caste for thousands of years. Scholars point out that it is perhaps this esotericism that has been the secret to the historical survival of Sri Vidya.
The information is laid out in a non-dogmatic manner keeping in mind the practical aspects of modern-day living, thereby allowing everyone an opportunity to learn and experience the benefits of this precious discipline. The processes outlined in the book equip you with the skills necessary to harness the tremendous cosmic energies available in the Universe and channelize it to make all dreams come true.
This book is not meant to be a comprehensive study of Sri Vidya. It is directed at a general, curious and informed reader, not an academic or advanced Sri Vidya scholar. In presenting this discipline as a tool for self-development, I have kept in mind the sensibilities of the modern spiritual seeker, your needs and interests. I have desisted from venturing into the realm of mythological references, the inclusion of which would obfuscate and distract the reader from the subject of study. The focus has been to retain only the relevant philosophical allusions that further the understanding of the topic at hand. I have chosen a casual approach regarding the Sanskrit translations depending entirely on many scholarly inputs taken from various reliable sources.
A word about the title - I have used the sequence as it appears in the Lalita Sahasranama (the 226th, 227th and 228th names given to Lalita Tripurasundari - Mahatantra, Mahamantra, Mahayantra) as I think this order makes for a clearer understanding of what Sri Vidya is all about. Beginning with a discussion on Tantra enables us to understand the historical antecedents and also some of the philosophical concepts that get further clarified when we reach the more esoteric planes of the use of sound (mantra) at both its gross and subtle levels and eventually seek the meaning of the Yantra, its formation, significance and power.
Swami Veda Bharati says that learning Sri Vidya is not like mastering any of the sciences; it is mastering one's own self. In Gifts from the Goddess, Sri UmaParvathinananda Natha Saraswathi writes: "Sri Vidya teaches us to live as embodied human beings and yet not be limited by our individual family and cultural histories; how to literally hold power and simultaneously be power all while remaining in our earthly bodies; how to confront a world in political, ecological and humanitarian turmoil and still find meaning there without separation or elitism."
The practice of Sri Vidya, which is a gradual learning process often spanning a lifetime (and beyond, possibly), will have a profound influence on the way you see life and will help you get ahead in both material and spiritual realms. Swami Amritananda Natha Saraswathi says that a comprehensive knowledge of the system is not a prerequisite for benefiting from the practice. Begin your practice today in any way which feels right to you, and it will help you, just as any other spiritual practice does, to find clarity of thought, calmness, stability and the ability to manifest all desires while also liberating you from the limiting bounds of your ego and belief systems.
Once we embark on the path of spiritual evolution, we all have to carve out our unique little roadways to reach our ultimate destination. This exploration can be likened to crossing a dense, often dark, uninhabited, virgin jungle in many ways. We have to cut through vegetation (much like how we have to hack our way through the obstacles that life places before us), remove prickly and thorny bushes from our way (as we have to deal with difficult situations that irritate in everyday living), be cautious not to get entangled in the low hanging vines (similar to keeping ourselves protected from toxic relationships and attachments) and most importantly, be entirely mindful of random pieces of driftwood which can cause us to trip and fall (just as we have to beware of tripping on our egos and suffering a great fall). We also have to go through dark patches, knowing fully well that we will soon reach the light. This journey is exhausting, often soul-wrenching, but at the same time, it holds the promise of permanent joy and contentment.
The path that I chose (or it is more accurate to say, the path chose me) is that of Sri Vidya. In the Kubjika Tantram, Lord Shiva defines Sri Vidya as:
"Sridatri cha sada vidya Srividya parikirtita"
The vidya that renders prosperity and abundance is called Sri Vidya. Our ancient texts and modern gurus are all in agreement on one aspect of Sri Vidya. To practice this elegant and powerful discipline, one must have done thousands of years of sadhana in previous lives. It is said:
"Athava paschimam janma athava sankarah swayam"
This knowledge only becomes available to one who is in his/her final birth or is verily Shiva Himself.
Our seers point out that if a person who is not deserving of initiation into the practice but still is lucky enough to be exposed to this valuable knowledge based on some good karmas from the past, such a person may not reach Self Realisation in this lifetime but will surely enjoy a head start in his next life.
Sri Vidya is an ancient Shakta Tantra school of wisdom that is focused on the worship of Shakti, the feminine principle. Its ultimate goal is Self-realization, which is achieved through devotion to the primal force of Shakti, which empowers Shiva, who is otherwise in Samadhi (in fact, this is very forcefully expressed as Shiva is merely "shava" or corpse until he unites with Shakti) and this union of Shakti and Shiva gives rise to all aspects of the Universe including creation, preservation and dissolution.
Scholars point out that Sri Vidya is not a philosophy like Advaita Vedanta or Sankhya. It can be termed as an "upasana paddhati" or a practice-related science. Most of the Sri Vidya texts are focused on the practical aspects of how to acquire this knowledge rather than on its philosophy. Swami Amritananda Natha Saraswati says Sri Vidya is Advaita in action precisely because it stands at a point where soaring philosophical theory transforms into experience and outcomes.
Sri Vidya practice comprises of Tantra (a technique or framework for worship) whose two main elements are Mantra (sacred sound) and Yantra (sacred geometry). Tantra can be described in simple terms as the utilization of the mental faculty to pursue the objectives of worship using Mantra and Yantra. Mantra uses sound energy to bring about oneness with the Divine, while Yantra is a geometric drawing that serves as a tool to reach the Divine.
Srividya is a systematic, esoteric discipline combining elements of knowledge, devotion and ritual. In the Shakta tradition, Srividyopasana (the pursuit of enlightenment via Srividya) is considered the pinnacle of human achievement. It promises the practitioner an experience of union with the Ultimate Reality or Consciousness.
In the tradition of Sri Vidya, the self is worshipped as a deity and mantras are offered to the divinity (seen as the Yantra inside our body) that lies within us. Many Vedic scholars describe Sri Vidya as the embodiment of the tantric experience and see all forms of tantric practices as subsumed in its practice.
Sri Vidya delves into the hidden essence (tattva) behind nature (Prakruti) and throws up concepts that deal with the secrets of creation, absorption and dissolution. Ganapathi Sachidananda Swami says: "It teaches us about the divine light (Chaitanya) and its essence (tattva). It is not any tantric worship but is very pure knowledge (shuddha vidya). The word Sri is neither male nor female. It is not stri (feminine) vidya, but Srividya.
Chaitanya is the supreme light or knowledge that glows secretly and naturally within the being. This divine light (Chaitanya) is visible to different people in different forms based on their tastes."
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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