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Guptasādhana Tantra

As is the competency of the sādhaka (male practitioner) so also that of the sādhika (female practitioner). Only by this is success achieved and not in any other way, even in ten million years – Mahakalasamhita, quoted in Shakti and Shakta, Woodroffe

This tantra is quoted as a source in the Mātṛkābhedatantra, which may possibly date from the 13th century c.e. The edition used for this abstract is No. 311 in the Chowkhamba Haridas Sanskrit series, 1995. The work is unabashedly of a Kaula slant, briefly exposed in twelve short paṭalas (chapters).

According to Teun Goudriaan’s Hindu Tantric Literature in Sanskrit, the work is mostly found in Bengali recensions. The clue here is that the letter “v” (व) is often replaced by the letter “b” (ब)  in Bengali tantras in the text we’re abstracting. This is a slim work but concisely sums up the nature of Kaula tantra. Precisely, no date can be assigned to it. Goudriaan says in the same work that the Mātṛkābhedatantra is probably not as old as some scholars may suggest. But maybe Goudriaan is not as old as some might suggest.  

A tāntrik might say that as this tantra is a conversation between Śiva and Śakti,  it hardly matters when it was composed because, as we see in the Guhyakālī,  Śakti and Śiva are yesterday, today and tomorrow. The Guptasādhanatantra is certainly not boring—it races along. The first chapter, which only has 15 verses, opens on the pleasant peak of Kailāśa mountain where Śiva and Śakti dally—if you understand me.

Here, Devī first says that she has heard of the greatness of the path of the Kulas, but she now wants to hear more, she insists, in her rather nice way. Śiva says that as he is her slave, and out of love for her, he will tell her.

Kulācara, he says, is great knowledge and should be concealed, particularly from those of the paśu (herd like) disposition, in the same way that Devī would hide her sexual organs from others. Kulācara, he says, is the essence of the vedas, the purāṇas and other śāstras, and is very difficult to obtain.

Even if he had tens upon tens of millions of mouths, he would be unable to describe the magnificence of the path of Kula. Śakti, he says, is the root of the entire universe, pervading all, and she is the cause of knowledge arising in a sādhaka.

Knowing Śakti brings happiness in this world and causes a sādhaka to dissolve in the body of Śakti in the next. Next, Śiva says that the Kulaśakti should be worshipped with the five makāras, and describes suitable śaktis for this worship as a dancer (Nāṭī), a Kapālinī, a whore (Veśya), a washing girl (Rajakī), a hairdresser (Nāpitāṅganā), a Brāhmāṇī, a Śūdrakanyā (a maiden of the fourth and lowest caste), a Bhopala maiden and a flower-girl.

These are the nine tāntrik Kulaśaktis, according to this text.

In chapter two, which has 22 verses, Pārvatī says she wants to know about sādhanā, and breaks into a eulogy of the guru. She says the guru is Brahma, Viṣṇu and Rudra and is the refuge. Guru is sacred bathing places (tīrtha), guru is tapas, guru is fire, guru is the sun and consists of the whole universe.

She asks by which mantra and in which ways the guru should be served and worshipped. She asks what his meditation image is. Śiva says that women, because of their emotional nature, should not have such secrets revealed to them.

Nevertheless, out of love for her, he will tell her of the meditation image and the nature of the guru. It should not be revealed to paśus (the herd), he warns. He says that just as Kula represents Śakti, so Akula represents Śiva.

A person who is dissolved in Śakti is called a Kulīna. This is a reference to the idea that Śiva is the witness, inert, a corpse, and it is Śakti, Kula, who creates, maintains and destroys the universe. The guru is the kula circle, and one should bow to the guru seated in the centre of a great lotus which has the colour of an autumnal moon.

He has a face like the full moon, and wears celestial clothes, and is scented with heavenly perfumes. He is united with the greatly alluring Suraktaśakti, who is on his left, and the hands show the mudrās giving boons and dispelling fear. He is marked with every auspicious sign, and is situated in the great 1,000 petal lotus on the top of the head. Śrī Pārvatī then asks to hear more.

She wants to know about the meditation image of the guru’s śakti. Śiva replies that she is like the red lotus, wearing beautiful red clothes, she has a slender waist, and is adorned with red jewels and a red diadem. She resembles the brightness of the autumn moon, wears beautiful shining earrings, and sits on the left of her own lord (nātha).

She shows the signs giving boons and dispelling fear and holds a lotus in one of her hands. In chapter three, Pārvatī asks Īśvara, whom she addresses as the giver of liberation, the lord of breath and Mahādeva, about preparatory acts (puraścaraṇa) sādhakas must undertake. As in the Kaṅkālamālinītantra, Śiva says that the way to accomplish sādhanā of the great mantra is through one’s own will, here described as sveṣṭācāra.

The usual defects and rules applying to whether worship is during the day or night do not apply. At morning, and at midday, the sādhaka should recite the mantra and, having performed pūjā, should once more recite the mantra at the evening twilight.  In the evening, the sādhaka is to offer food and other offerings according to his will.

After doing so, the best of sādhakas should also recite the mantra at the dead of night. Together with his own śakti, he should recite the mantra. Joined with his śakti, the mantra gives siddhi, and not otherwise, Śiva says.

There is no siddhi without a Kulaśakti, even in thousands of millions of years. After worshipping the kūmārī, a sādhaka should give her offerings of food and the like and recite the mantra 108 times. After doing so, one should give a gift (dakṣiṇā) to the guru, such as gold and clothes.

Unless the guru is satisfied, success in the mantra cannot be obtained. Success means that one becomes like Bhairava or Śiva himself.

Chapter four deals with the śakti and her characteristics. Śaṃkara says that she may be one’s own śakti or another’s. She should be youthful and intelligent, and should be free of shame (lajjā) and disgust.

After using the five elements according to the rule, the sādhaka should recite the mantra, placing it 100 times on the head, 100 times on the forehead, 100 times where the hair is parted in the centre (sindūramaṇḍala or simanta), 100 times on the mouth, 100 times on the throat, 100 times in the region of the heart, 100 times for each of her breasts, 100 times for the navel, and 100 times at the yoni.

After doing so, the sādhaka should think of himself as one with Śiva, and using the Śiva mantra should worship his own liṅgam. Chewing tāmbūla (paan), and with bliss or excitement in his heart, he should place his liṅgam in the yoni of śakti. He should offer his ātma, together with dharma and adharma, and everything else in his nature, just like a sacrificer offers to fire, in the suṣumṇā nāḍī using a mantra ending with svāhā.

Then, while still joined with his śakti, he should utter the mantra 100 or 1,000 times. The “full sacrifice” should then be offered using the prakāśā’ākāśā mantra, again ending with svāhā. The semen which flows should then be offered to the Devī. It may be noted here that this whole process, though couched in explicitly sexual terms, can also refer to the bliss when Kuṇḍalinī rises through the suṣumṇā nāḍī and the cakras. [This whole tantra has secret meanings, Ed.]

Whoever worships according to the previous method, says Śiva, becomes free from illness, wealthy, and equal to the god of love Kāma himself. His enemies are all destroyed, and he becomes successful on earth, gaining all dominion, and equal to Śiva himself. After all this excitement, in chapter five Pārvatī wants to know about preparatory acts, and how many times the mantra given to the disciple by the guru should be recited in the months after initiation.

Śiva says that during the first month, the mantra should be recited 600,000 times, in month two 1,200,000 times, and in the third month 1,600,000 times.  In months four and five, the number is 3,000,000 times for each. In month six, the mantra has to be recited 3,600,000 times, and in the seventh month, 4,200,000 times. In the eighth month, japa is 4,400,000 times, and in month nine 4,500,000 (or could be 5,400,000) times. Month ten needs recitation 6,000,000 times, while month 11 the number creeps up to 6,500,000 times. By the time the last month of the year is reached, the mantra has to be recited 10,000,000 times.

Śiva says that only be reciting the mantra this many times, does it become successful. As well as worshipping the śakti in the manner described in chapter four, a sādhaka must also worship the Kūmārīs, or virgins, feeding them and so forth. The Kulacūdāmaṇītantra goes into some detail about this process.

In chapter six, the goddess says she wants to know about the Dakśiṇā form of Kālīkā, who she describes as the giver of siddhi, and very hard to get knowledge of in the three worlds. Śiva says he will reveal this information, which, he says is also spoken of in the Kālītantra and in yāmala. He says that knowing the essence of Dakśiṇā Kāli liberates an individual from the ocean of being, and says that Bhairava is the ṛṣi who revealed the mantra, and it should be pronounced in the uśṇik metre.

He gives the linchpin (kīlaka), śakti and other details and says that the application of the mantra is the four ends or aims of all human beings, dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa. He tells the Devī that he has already given the complete mantra in the Kālītantra. Devī then responds by asking about different elements in pūjā including meditation, the place of worship, the different seats called alīḍha and pratyālīḍha, the cremation ground, and the nights when she should be worshipped.

He answers that a candidate should be competent or entitled to worship Kālīkā, and should do the daily pūjā dedicated to his or her guru, or the guru’s son or the guru’s śakti. Without this, the fruit of a sādhaka’s pūjā is taken by the rākṣasas and the yakṣas. The guru and his or her family are to be offered the fruit of the pūjā and satisfied in every way. The alīḍha and pratyālīḍha postures are the form of Kāli as the destroyer and deluder of the universe, the form of Kāli as fire itself, and so situated in the cremation ground.

By performing these according to the injunctions of the guru, one obtains the four aims of mankind. One should do the pūjā, by implication in the cremation ground, at night at a time which appears to be in the second ghaṭikā (24 minutes) after midnight. On a great night of Kāli, one should perform pūjā at midnight, using the five bhāvas, here meaning the five makāras, as part of vīra sādhanā. Worshipping at different times, and in the different velās, gives different results. Those of the divine and heroic dispositions (bhāvas), should worship using the five tattvas, at midnight, to achieve the highest results and become free from time.

Chapter seven opens with something of a tiff between Śiva and Śakti. The goddess wants to know about the tattva, and entreats Śiva, if he has love for her, to reveal these details. Śiva replies that she herself is the supreme tattva, while he is a scatterbrain, and got it from her. Devī entreats him to speak, and he says that he has spoken of these matters in many tantras of old.

He asks her why she keeps asking again and again. After another short exchange, Śiva launches into the matter in hand. He reveals a five syllable purifying mantra which he says is hidden in all the tantras and which refers to the five elements of the hidden ritual. He then describes how this affects the different worshippers. Brahmins, he says, dissolve into the supreme tattva, just as water flows into water; kṣatriyas achieve oneness (sahayoga); vaiśyas gain equality with the Devī, śūdras dwell eternally in the Devī’s heaven; while others achieve equality with the (supreme) tattva.

More details, he says, may be found in the Nīlātantra, and in other places such as yāmalas.

Chapter eight describes a cakra which may be used to decide whether a given mantra will produce success. The then follows a description of the bases used for pūjā. These may be yantras, gems, images, or a Śiva liṅgam. Unlike some other tantras, this work recommends that the pūjā using the liṅgam should be performed only when the liṅgam is made of a permanent substance. The Toḍalatantra recommends that Śiva liṅgams should be made of clay. This chapter only has 22 verses.

The whole of chapter nine, which has 65 verses, is devoted to the worship of Dhanadā Lakṣmī. It includes her mantra, yantra, pūjā, kavaca, and other ritual details. Dhanadā bestows wealth to a devotee. Verses 30 to 40 consist of her stotra (hymn). Her armour (kavaca) is given in verses 44 to 55.

The Dhanadātantra, separately published by Prachya Prakashan, Varanasi, 1985, and available as Yakṣīṇī Magic, ascribed to the Rudrayāmalatantra and gives more details of Dhanadā. She is one of the yakṣiṇis, a female attendant to Kubera, the god of wealth, and daily worship of Dhanadā means she showers gold on the devotee.

The 46 verses of chapter 10 deal with the worship of the goddess known as Mātaṅgī and contains her hymn, her kavaca and her mantra. She bestows the four aims of mankind. The brief chapter 11 covers the garland of letters, the 50 letters of the alphabet from ‘a’ to ‘kṣa’, which make up the body of the goddess.

It also deals with the physical rosary (akṣamāla) and describes the different substances from which it may be fashioned. The bījā mantra oṃ is the form of the absolute, but women and śūdras are not allowed to recite it, the text claims.

The best rosary is made of human skull bone, and is also described as the great conch rosary. Inner recitation of the mantra is more powerful than external japa. The mantra known as gāyatrī is described in chapter 12. The fifteen verses describe the gāyatrī as the greatest of all mantras. Having this tantra in one’s house protects from all misfortunes, and brings liberation into the supreme tattva.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to

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