Kunda photographed in Virupaksha Temple, Vijayanagar (c) Mike Magee 2018

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 Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī Abstract

Only if conjoint with the Shakti would Shiva earn the privilege to become overlord; otherwise the God is not able even to stir. While so, how dares one, who has acquired no merit, either to salute or to praise Thee, who are worthy of being adored even by Hari, Hara, Virincha and others? – Saundarya Lahari, I

This compilation –  Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī – waves of bliss for śaktas, devotees of Śakti, is ascribed to Brahamandagiri, with the edition used for this abstract being volume two of the Yogatantra Granthamala, published by Sampurnanand Sanskrit University, Varanasi, 1987.

The text is made up of eighteen chapters, called here ullasās, “lights” or “splendours”, which range far and wide across many tāntrik themes. It is notable for referring to other tantras, some of which aren’t available now.

The first chapter, which has 123 verses, deals of the body including the characteristics of the five elements, the vital breaths in the body, the place of the nāḍīs or conduits of prāṇā, where the planets are in the body, and the process of birth.

After Kāma’s arrows strike, the yoni and the liṅgam come together, giving great bliss to a couple and causing the creating of an embryo (budbuda) on the fifth day. The text says this embryo gradually takes on different characteristics of the five elements from the parents, with the different nāḍīs coming into being.

In verse 51 onwards, according to the Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī Īśvara says the sun rules over the nāda cakra, while the moon rules the bindu cakra, Mars is in the eyes, the son of the Moon – Mercury (Budha), is in the heart, Jupiter (Guru) is in the stomach, while Venus (Śukra) is in the semen. Saturn (Manda) is in the navel, while Rāhu (northern node of the moon) is in the mouth. Ketu (southern node of the moon), is in the feet. In the ninth month, a baby is born.

The embryo is formed by the conjunction of blood from the mother and semen from the father. If blood predominates, a female is born, if semen predominates a male is born, and if the balance of these two factors is equal, the baby is of neuter gender (v63).

Birth is of six types: as a deva, a human, a beast, a bird, an insect, and a plant (v70). Plants, and all that moves including birds, beasts and men, live and die in the ocean of unhappiness called saṃsāra and are subject to cause and effect (karma) which is both auspicious and inauspicious. A person goes to heaven or to hell according to the acts she or he commit. A person is born and re-born.

Chapter two, of 183 verses, deals with initiation, the nature of the guru, the suitability of a female partner, and closes with the greatness of the guru.

The Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī quotes from a number of works including the Kulārṇavatantra, the Rudrayāmala, the Kriyāsāra, the Gurudīkṣātantra, the Gāndharvatantra, the Matsyasūkta, and a number of other texts. In verse 100 and onwards it is said that the guru is greater than any of the gods, and so should be worshipped at the three twilights as the cause of all.

Worship one’s own guru and not others. In verse 172 and on, an extract attributed to the Rudrayāmala, says that a disciple should worship the guru, his wife, and his sons with scent, flowers, light, food.

The guru is clearly Hara (Śiva) and his wife is the beloved of Hara (Śakti). The son of the guru is Gaṇeśa. The guru’s wife is clearly the true form of Devī. A disciple (śiṣya) seeing the guru sees the equivalent of 10,000,000 suns and moons.

The third chapter of Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī, which has 58 ślokas, opens by saying that without upāsana (worship), men gain no results. It then deals with the nature of Mahāmāyā, who is both with qualities and without qualities. Without forms, the absolute (Parabrahma) is still and unmoving. In verse 14, quoting from the Yāmala, it is said that meditation (dhyāna) is of two types – the subtle consists of mantra while the gross consists of thinking of a physical image.

Verses 24 to 28 give a meditation on the lion seat in the centre of the heart lotus, which is red, and upon which sits Mahādeva, with Mahādevī seated upon him in love play. A sādhaka should meditate on the self of devī being identical with his own self.

Verses 40-41 describe the female excellences (vidyās) as being Kālī, Nīlā, Mahādurgā, Tvaritā, Cchinnamastakā, Vāgvādinī, Annapūrnā, Pratyaṅgirā, Kāmākhyā, Vāsinī, Bālā, Mātaṅgī, and Śailavāsinī. In verse 45 the various avatars of Viṣṇu are said to be Matsya, Kūrma, Varāha, Nṛsiṃha, Vāmana, Rāma, Buddha and Kalkī.

Verse 50 says the three forms of Durgā, Viṣṇu and Śiva should not be taken as separate forms by the wise, because their nature is oneness. The chapter closes with a quote from the Rudrayāmala which says that while it’s said that where there is pleasure (bhoga) there is no liberation (mokṣa) and where there is liberation there is no pleasure, the path of Śiva gives both liberation and pleasure.

In chapter four, there’s a description of the acts to be performed in the morning including meditation on the Kuṇḍalinī and the six cakras, meditation in the 1,000 petal lotus, cleaning of teeth, bathing, wearing clothes and tilaka, and the characteristics of the Gāyatrī mantra. Verses 14-22 onwards gives a hymn of praise to guru from the Kubjikātantra.

He is praised, in the Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī, as the great giver of mantra, the form of Śiva, the light of the knowledge of the absolute, who ferries people across the ocean of saṃsara. Verses 24 onwards describe the six cakras. On the left of the spine is iḍā, the form of the moon, Śakti; on the right is piṅgala, the male form, like the sun. In the centre of the spine extending from the root of the body to the brahmarandhra is suṣumnā nāḍī, consisting of all effulgence, and of the nature of fire. Within the suṣumnā is the citrā nāḍī. In the middle of citrā is the brahmanāḍī.

Strung along the central nāḍī are six lotuses, the first at the base of the spine, resembling a lotus with four petals. In the petal of the red lotus is the Kāmākhyā, the yoni, which is of the nature of Icchā, Jñāna and Kriyā. Kuṇḍalī, of the appearance of a lightning flash, lies coiled like a slumbering snake, three and a half times here.

When roused, she proceeds from this place up the spine to the top of the head, the brahmarandhra, which is Śiva’s city, and resembles 1,000 petals. In verse 71 and following, it’s said that Kuṇḍalī constantly makes the sound of the hūṃ mantra, and is within the body as the hāmsa mantra. Having cut through the different granthis (junctures) on her route upwards she is led through the suṣumna nāḍī to unite with Sadāśiva in the 1,000 petalled lotus.

Other details of the six cakras follow. The remainder of the chapter, to verse 208, describes the morning acts a sādhaka should undertake. Chapter five relates to recitation of mantra (japa), the characteristics of the seat upon which to do meditation, and pūjā during the day and the night. This chapter has 43 verses.

In chapter six, of 68 verses, there are quotations from texts about inner worship (antaryāga) and outer worship (bahyapūjā) and also information relating to bhūtaśuddhi. This last is the cleansing of the bhūtas or elements in the body. Chapter seven, which has 189 verses, talks about daily pūjā, how to cleanse and purify the place of worship, more on bhūtaśuddhi, as well as information about mātṛkā nyāsa, which is related to prāṇāyāma.

There’s more information about other nyāsas such as six-limbed and hand and limb nyāsa, with the chapter closing with āvaraṇa pūjā.

Verse 75 starts to describe the mātṛkā ṣaḍaṅga nyāsa, said to be from the Jñānārṇavatantra. The 80 verses of chapter eight discuss the various mālās (rosaries) to be used in pūjā, including the characteristics of rudrākṣa mālās, how to place them, and the correct way to use them when pronouncing mantras.

They can be made of different substances including crystal, pearl, conch, etc., says the Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī. The rosary is of two kinds, one inner and one outer. The inner rosary is strung along the spine in the form of the letters of the alphabet.

Chapter nine deals with the rules of reciting mantras, the essence of mantra, the real meaning of mantras, and the consciousness inherent in mantras.

Verse 32 and the following four verses, said to be from the Uttaratantra, relate the 22 letters of the Śyāmā mantra to the body – krīṃ is on the top of the skull, krīṃ is on the forehead and krīṃ is on the three eyes; hūṃ is on the nostrils, and on the mouth; drīṃ is on the ears and the throat, while da is on the chin, kṣi is on the teeth, and ṇe is on the two lips.

The letter kā is on the breasts, li is on the chest, ke is on the arms; krīṃ is on the belly, krīṃ is on the navel, while krīṃ is on the buttocks. The syllable hūṃ is on the yoni while hūṃ is on the thighs; drīṃ is on the knees and on the ankles while svā is on the two feet and on the nails.

Verses 87-95 discuss the characteristics of the nine jewels, while verse 96 begins a discussion of the meaning of mantra, said to be the body of devatā. There’s a discussion about the yoni mudrā from verses 112-129.

In chapter 10 of the Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī, and in 65 verses, there is a string of code words given in association with numerous aspects of the Devī – the commentary gives their meaning. This chapter refers to these as setus – bridges or boundaries, and refers to tantras that appear to be lost, such as Mahāsetumāha Yāmala, and others. Sundarī, Bhairavī, Tārā, Śyāmā, Bhuvaneśī, Annādayā (Annapūrṇā), Mahiṣamardinī, Viṣṇu, Kṛṣṇa, Rāma, Śiva, and others are described.

A mantra for kavaca (magical armour) is described, followed by Kullukā mantras for many devatās. These are syllables which should precede the main mantra of a devatā. Chapter 11 gives a number of mantras for purifying the mouth for many of the devatās described in the previous chapter. It gives the rules relating to light, and concludes with the yoni mantra, quoting from a yāmala.

This, it says, is the great Kāmakāla mantra, made famous by Mahākāla himself. There are 56 verses in this chapter. In the 153 verses of chapter 12, there’s a description of puraścaraṇa, the preliminary acts that must be undertaken for a mantra to become fruitful, as well as a description of the types of food to be eaten and to be avoided.

Kṣetrapāla must be worshipped. The correct resolution must be adopted.

The liquids used for oblation (tarpaṇa) start to be described from verse 74 onwards. The chapter also gives the rules of homa. The number of times mantras must be recited are related. Verse 102 starts a passage from the Muṇḍamālā, describing practice at night time using the five substances. In verses 123-125 is a description of puraścaraṇa performed during an eclipse, attributed to the 12th chapter of the Śrībījārṇavatantra, and relating to Kāmākhyā. It says there’s no need to consult a pañcāṅga during an eclipse. Verse 126 begins to describe the food offerings to be made during a lunar eclipse, while in verse 129 it says that only Śakti mantras are to be recited during this period.

A number of verses from other tantras including the Sanatkumāratantra and the Guptadīkṣātantra back up the efficy of doing puraścaraṇa during a lunar eclipse. Chapter 13 deals with the construction, purification and creation of yantras. The devatā cannot be worshipped without yantra.

The different materials it may be made of, such as gold, silver or copper, crystal etc. are enumerated. The compilation quotes from the Urvhāmnāyatantra saying that just as mantras need to be purified, so too do yantras. Yantras need to be bathed, to be anointed with the five gavyas, sacred substances from the cow.

Methods for installing life in yantras and the sacrifices are discussed. Verse 57 begins a description of the bali (sacrifices) to be made. In verse 84 begins a description of the light to be placed on the head of the beast slaughtered. There are 96 verses in this chapter.

In chapter 14, there’s a description of the offerings (upacāra) to be made in worship, including the different scents, flowers, foods and lights. There’s also a description of circumambulation (pradakṣiṇa) and how to do praṇāma, or bowing. There are 153 verses in this chapter. Chapter 15 opens with a quotation from the Kulacūḍāmaṇītantra and immediately goes on to discuss the kula trees. These according to verses five to six are 12 in number, including the aśoka, the keśāra, the bilva, the rudrākṣa, and others. A number of different sources then mentioned give different lists.

Then the great pīṭhas of Śakti are described – the text quotes lists from the Gāndharvatantra and the Yoginīhṛdayatantra. Verse 79 begins a section about the sacrifices to be made to jackals (śivābali), with the compilation quoting different authorities.

Mantras to be used when feeding jackals are described. A mantra in verse 85 reads oṃ gṛhya devi! mahābhāge śive! kālāgnirūpiṇi śubhāśubhaphalaṃ vyaktaṃ brūhi gṛhya baliṃ tava. There are 111 verses in chapter 15.

In chapter 16, which has 104 verses, the various results to be expected from reciting mantras and the like are mentioned, as well as the various faults that can mess everything up. Prescriptions to avoid some of these pitfalls are given. The 17th chapter, in 48 verses, describes the pavilions (maṇḍapas) and kuṇḍas (fire hearths) to be used in worship.

These can be of different shapes and dimensions, which are also described in the text in great detail. The last chapter, 18, in 117 verses, dilates further on homa using such kuṇḍas and the rites, including various nyāsas, that need to be performed. A dhyāna of fire is given in verses 53-56. So ends the Śāktānandataraṅgiṇī.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2021. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2021.Questions or comments to mike.magee@btinternet.com

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