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The guru is Brahma, the guru is Vishnu, the guru is deva Maheshvara. Clearly the guru is the supreme Brahman, to that Shri Guru hail – traditional tantrik couplet
Because the guru gives mantra to a disciple and because she or he embodies the spirit and life of that mantra in an unbroken lineage to the Rishi who first perceived it, she or he is held in the utmost regard in the tantrik tradition.
According to the 13th chapter of the influential Kularnava Tantra, there is no difference between devata, mantra and guru. “Devata in truth is the same as mantra; mantra in truth is the same as the guru. The fruit of the worship of the devata, mantra and guru is the same.” (Ram Kumar Rai translation).
Liberation cannot be obtained by reading the Vedas or studying the shastras (sacred texts), the same Kaula tantra says. Only knowledge (jnana) gives liberation and that depends on the grace of the guru, who is one with Shiva and Shakti. “If the guru first mentally awakens the pupil and then reveals to him this high knowledge of Kula, then both enjoy direct companionship of Yogini and Vira and even cross this worldly ocean effortlessly.” (Kularnava Tantra, II. 39-40).
But a Kaula guru may behave in a different way from a disciple or the ordinary world expects, because she or he is liberated. “One may be like a child, a madman, a king, or like one in a swoon, independent minded, like a lord hero, like a Gandharva, or like a naked person, a tridandin or like one who sells Veda for cash. Effulgent One, the way to be is to act howsoever one wills, knowing both Akula and Devi’s Kula.” (Kaula Jnana Nirnaya, XII. 3-6.)
This tradition of the “crazy” guru is embedded deep in the lore of the tantriks and the Nathas and has its value in shaking the conditioning of someone who aspires to be a Kaula, the tradition avers. For similar reasons, some elements of the tantrik tradition in India, such as worship in cremation grounds, the consumption of pig flesh and some sexual practices, were intended to rattle orthodox tendencies in tantrik pupils. (For a full exploration of this topic, see Holy Madness by Georg Feuerstein, Arkana 1992).
While orthodoxy appeared to regard women as inferior to men, the Kaulas took a different approach. Initiation from a female guru is held in the highest esteem, as she is Shakti on earth. The female guru is Ananda Bhairavi and the male guru Ananda Bhairava, together in sexual union, drinking the intoxicating wine of consciousness which is bliss (ananda) itself. Below, we find a meditation (dhyana) and an armour (kavacha) devoted to the Stri or female guru, ascribed to the Brahmayamala. The armour in the first translation is made up from the vidya (mantra) of the female guru. After this is a short hymn (stotra) to the male guru from the Matrikabhedatantra, in which his identification with Shiva is plain. The bija or root mantra of the guru, illustrated left, is Hskphrem.
This is the meditation image (dhyana) of the young female guru. Om. With eyes like fully blossoming lotus petals, firm swelling breasts, a sweetly smiling face, and a slender waist, one should meditate on the auspicious female guru, shining like the red lotus, wearing beautiful red clothes, wearing a red ring on her hand, and beautiful jewelled anklets, resembling the effulgence of a hibiscus, her feet like like a lotus, her face like the brightness of the autumn Moon, her body resplendent, with her own Natha sitting on her left, her hands [showing the mudras] granting boons and dispelling fear. Having meditated in this way, one should do puja.
Striguru Kavacha. Of this Striguru Kavacha, the Female Guru is the devata and attaining the four aims of mankind is the application Obeisance to Sadashiva on the head. Obeisance to the Female Guru in the heart. Ishvara said: Sadashiva is the rishi of this Female Guru kavacha. It is said that this devata is the fruit-giver of the four aims. 
Om Klim bija protect my head, the same protect my forehead. Klim bija protect my eyes and Sadashiva all my limbs. 
Aim bija protect my face and Hrim encompass my tongue. Shrim bija protect the region of the shoulders and Hskphrem my two arms. 
The letter Ha protect the area of my throat and the letter Sa the sixteen petals. Ksha must protect me below and the letter Ka my heart. 
The letter Va (protect my) back and the letter Ra my right side. The syllable Hum my left side and the letter Sa my spine. 
The letter Ha my right hand and the letter Ksha my left. The letter Ma must protect my fingers and the letter Ma must protect my nails. 
The letter Va protect my rear and the letter Ra my belly. The syllable Yim my feet and Hsauh protect all of my limbs. 
Hsauh shield the penis and the hair of the body and the head. Aim bija protect me in the East and Hrim bija shield me in the South. 
Shrim bija protect me in the West and Bhutasambhava in the North. Aim must protect me in the South East and Om (vedadya) in the South West. 
Devyamba must protect me in the North West and Shri Paduka in the North East. Pujayami must protect me above and Namah below. 
Om thus to you, Charming One, is declared the supremely marvellous armour. After reciting the guru mantra if one should then read the armour, one becomes a siddha, with ganas (hosts) like Shiva, clearly, there is no doubt. 
At puja time one should recite the armour, the very body of the mantra. It gives the fruit of puja, Sureshvari, this is true, true. Whoever recites it at the three twilights become successful, there is no doubt about this. 
If one should write it on bhurja (birch bark), wrapped up in a golden ball, and by showing it, for him the disputatious becomes humiliated (lit. deprived of radiance – nishprabha), 
in knowledge he is victorious and in war he is like Nirriti, the goddess of death, in assemblies he gains victory and is my equal, no doubt. 
Whosoever should recite it at the three twilights in the 1,000 petalled lotus, becomes like Siddhalokesha and attains to Nirvana. 
The kavacha (armour) is called the accumulation of good fortune and is supremely marvellous. To whom should it never be given nor revealed? 
One should give it to a peaceful pupil, otherwise it is without fruit. Never show it, Deveshi, to the undevoted or to (their?) sons. 
Whoever recites this kavacha without knowing the vidya, gains no fruit and afterwards goes to the Naraka (underworld). 
So in the Brahmayamala, in the conversation with Parvati, the Shrimad Stri Guru Kavacha is completed.
Shrimad Guru Paduka Stotra
I worship the 12 lettered lotus adorned with the Kundali nadi in the womb of the marvellous and eternally white and pure 1,000 petal lotus. 
I worship that auspicious white seat in the cavity of the flowering pericarp, where exist the lines of A- Ka-Tha and so forth, forming a circle marked with angles. 
I meditate in my heart on that beautiful jewel throne of bindu and nada, the circle of consciousness, in that cavity where a bright lightning-like colour competes with the effulgence of a pale red gem. 
I remember those wonderful feet, the pair which are the root of cooling moon rays, the two feet of Natha, sun and moon, like saffron wine, a river of flower-juice. 
The nails of which are radiant like the moon, those gold-bejewelled, glittering, purifying, red padukas, which restrain the clamour of evil. I worship the two feet of the guru, sun and moon, supreme essence of nectar, pure quintessence, brilliant, the very core of power, placed on my head. 
This five-fold paduka hymn has come from the five faces of Shiva. 
So ends the Shrimad Guru Paduka Stotra, uttered by Shiva in the Shri Matrikabheda Tantra.
Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org