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Tārārahasya of Brahmānandagiri
She (Tārā) is the Great Void, the Star from which all was gradually evolved and which leads all towards liberation from the endless [cycle of life] – Māhasundarī Tantra, translated by Danielou
Tārārahasya – the Secret of Tārā – by Brahmānandagiri, is a compilation of various texts related to Tārā, the second Mahāvidyā. The Tārārahasya is a guide to her pūjā and sādhanā and includes information on her different aspects such as Nīlasarasvatī, Ugrā, Ekajaṭā and the other cluster of Śaktis concerned with this Devī, She often figures in the list of Mahāvidyās, or great goddesses, as second only to Kāli.
There is some interesting material on inner worship of the different Devīs. A comparatively brief work, the tantra consists of four paṭalas or chapters. In chapter one, the author, little of whom is known, first compiles a little hymn to Tārā and then refers to the following works as his sources: Tārāsāra (Essence of Tārā), Tārānigama, Mahānīla, Mahācīna, Nīlatantra, Tārākalpa, Śaktikalpa, Śaktisāra, Rudrayāmala, Nīlasārasvata, Liṅgatantra, Yonitantra, Ṣoḍhātantra, Mahāmata, Kulasarva, and the Urdhvamnaya – which may here be a collective term for tantras emanating from the upper of the five faces of Śiva.
Brahmānandagiri also says he has referred to various other Śāstras to produce this Tārārahasya. Few of the works he refers to seem to be in existence, in printed form at least. The work describes the morning acts, which begin with the worship of the guru (verse 28).
The follower of the path of Tārā is to visualise his guru, together with his Śakti, at the brahmarandhra at the top of his skull, the guru taking the śukra or semen form, while the guru’s Śakti is red. The Tārānigama is quoted to the effect that at morning time one should visualise one’s peaceful guru, on the head, as seated on a white lotus, having two eyes, and two arms, the hands making the gestures (mudrā) of bestowing boons and dispelling fears.
This guru, says the quoted work, is the form of the supreme Brahman, adorned with various jewels, and seated in the svastika āsana, giving all knowledge, and the very essence of the bliss of knowledge himself. According to the Tārāsāra in the Rudrādhyāya, quoted in the text (verse 43) one should meditate on the yoni covered with svayaṃbhū flowers and the liṅga, doing one 100 koṭi recitation of the mantra.
There can be no siddhi in this vidyā, that is Tārā, unless there is recitation of the mantra in the morning. The author speaks of the tāntrik gāyatrīs of Tārā, and of the daily and other rites and meditations to be performed. These follow the general tāntrik pattern.
Tārā’s gāyatrī is oṃ hrīṃ tārayai vidmahe mahomāyai dhīmahi tanno devi prachodayāt. The rules for sandhyā or twilight worship are then outlined. The text gives meditation images (dhyāna) for the three twilights. The gāyatrī for Ugratārā gāyatrī is then revealed as oṃ ugratāre vidmahe Śmaśānavāsini dhīmahi tannastāre pracodayāt.
There then follows a section on the sandhyā (twilight) worship of Nīlasarasvatī who is situated on a blue lotus, in the middle of the cremation ground, as dark as a thundercloud, and adorned with masses of jewels. The text gives her gāyatrī as oṃ nīlasarasvati dhīmahi sāradāyai vidmahe tannah śive pracodayāt.
A section, the fifth in this chapter, and called the Bījakośa then follows, which gives the code words used in various tantras quoted by Brahmānandagiri which allow sādhakas to unravel the bīja and other mantras quoted. The sixth section describes mantras of Tārā and attendant Devīs, including the pañcaraŚmi or five-rayed mantra oṃ hrīṃ strīṃ hūṃ phaṭ.
The Ekajaṭā Śakti Siddhi mantra is revealed, as well as the Kāmākhyā gāyatrī. Kāmākhyā, the text says, is worshipped in all the Śāstras and bestows both pleasure and liberation. The gāyatrī is oṃ kāmākhyāyai vidmahe kulakaulinyai dhīmahi tannah Śyāme pracodayāt. There then follows a description of Ugratārā’s gāyatrī, as well as a gāyatrī of Mahākālapriyā Devī (beloved of Mahākāla).
The Nīlasarasvatī gāyatrī is revealed. A section follows on the Kullukā (Padmāvatī) mantra which reads oṃ padma mahāpadme padmāvati hrīṃ hrīṃ svāhā. Then follow a series of instructions on the puraścaraṇa, or preparatory rites, which need to be followed after initiation (dīkṣā) in order to make the mantra perfect.
For all Tārā goddesses, blue lotuses and bilva leaves must be used. The mantras have to be recited many lakhs of times for success. The first section in chapter two is devoted to details of initiation into the Tārā mantras. If, by great good fortune, a sādhaka obtains the Tārā vidyā, it bestows īcchā siddhi, liberation and the eight renowned siddhis.
The mantra should not be revealed. It is to be obtained from a true guru with all the good qualities. Those addicted to gain or lust should not be given the mantra. Places of initiation include the root of a bilva tree, a cremation ground, a mountain, a forest, a riverbank, a guru’s house, a great pīṭha, a siddhi pīṭha, and a place where there is a single liṅgam.
Obtaining dīkṣā on the edge of the Ganges gives a koṭi koṭi qualities. Initiation proceeds over a period of days. A section, starting at verse 81, describes ritual worship of the Śiva liṅgam, which is succeeded by a section on inner worship. There is no fruit from pūjā unless inner worship is also performed.
The first of these relates to Ekajaṭā, and describes the inner bath. The text says the sādhaka should meditate in the heart on a jewelled island in the centre of a nectar ocean, which is covered in pārijāta trees (Erythrina indica), and in the centre of which is a begemmed temple. One should meditate there on a cremation ground and think of the wish-fulfilling kalpadruma tree, in the centre of which is a ruby pīṭha, studded with other jewels, and in the four directions are corpses and skulls.
Then one should meditate in the brahmarandhra on Mahādeva Śiva, the world guru, who has, on his left, Devī Tārā, the form of the syllable oṃ. From this bindu shower waters which descend to the heart via the suṣumnā nāḍī. This is the inner act of bathing.
Then in one’s own heart one should meditate on Śiva, adorned with jewels, naked, with a great body, in a desirous mood, with erect penis, with Śakti, the true form of amṛta and bliss. She resembles molten gold, is adorned with various jewels, and bedecked with pārijāta flowers. One should perform this meditation at the three sandhyās (twilights). The mother, Kāmeśvarī is the Devī, the father, Kāmeśvara, is Śiva, the text says. Meditating on both one becomes lord of the eight siddhis. This is the inner sandhyā.
There follows a meditation on Śiva-Śakti, who are as bright as millions of fires, suns and moons. A person should meditate on this image to achieve success. This is the inner act of meditation. Worship Tāriṇī with 10 masses of flowers called kindness, patience or calmness, sense-restraint, knowledge, goodness, non-harmfulness, keeping to the path, independence, adhering to the best (uttama) and bliss (ānanda).
You should give the five mākaras to Tārā. Then you will be successful, and not from recitation of the mantra but from kula worship. This is the inner worship, says the text. The next section says that a sādhaka should recite the rosary of letters in the different cakras within the human body, ending with visualising letters in the 1,000 petal lotus. Then one should internally pronounce the mātṛkās starting from the letter “a” and going to the letter “ha”, each with the nāda and bindu, reciting them both in a straight and in a reverse direction 108 times. One should then repeat the letters of the eight letter groups a, ka, ca, ta, ṭa, pa, ya, śa together with the nāda and bindu.
The next, brief, section in this chapter, starting at verse 121, deals with the inner worship of Ugratārā. One is to meditate on her in one’s own heart on a lotus of sixteen petals, and recite her mantra for each of these, mentally offering her liquid. The text appears to say that one should first worship her in the yoni cakra, then leading her by the path of suṣumnā through the navel cakra to the heart cakra again. Once more a sādhaka is to recite the rosary of letters 108 times.
Then follows the inner worship of Nīlasarasvatī. The text gives her dhyāna, upon which one should meditate in one’s own heart as being as lustrous as the autumnal moon, seated in the pratyālīḍha āsana, wearing tiger skins, with a laughing mouth, very terrifying, and in the reverse sexual posture with Śiva. She will make you a poet.
In your heart lotus meditate that she and Śiva are intoxicated with liquor, kissing one another again and again. They are eating flesh and drinking the nectar produced from the yoni and the liṅgam. Then one should worship Nīlasarasvatī with the leftovers and recite the garland of letters internally over and over.
Verse 136 describes Ekajaṭā’s yantra. Her mantra is inscribed in a yantra which is a triangle, a hexagon, two circles, eight petals, and an enclosure or bhūpura. The mantra hūṃ, the so-called kūrca bīja, is in the centre of the yantra. In the east is hrīṃ, in the south strīṃ, in the west ṭaṃ and in the north phah. This yantra is for worship.
A description of Ugratārā’s yantra follows, and then of Nīlasarasvatī. In verses 149 onwards, it’s said the yantras may be inscribed on copper, bone, wood from the cremation ground, gold, silver or iron. Yantras need certain purifications before they may be used, and also need to be installed with life. In these rites there are no distinctions between brahmins, kṣatriyas, vaiśyas, śūdras, or women – all are competent to perform these pūjas.
Verse 168 gives details of the different rosaries which may be used in the worship of Tārā and the other goddesses, as well as the purifications that need to be performed. The best rosary is that made of human bone for the worship of Kālī and Tārā. A section devoted to homa closes this chapter.
Chapter three opens with a description of the left-hand rules of Tārā which seem to abandon many of the elaborate rules required for other deities. According to the work, which quotes from the Tārānigama, considerations about days of the week, or the cakras used to establish gain or loss are not required in the worship of Tārā. Further, Tārā, Mahānīlā and the other deities in this cluster require the mahācīna way of worship to be satisfied.
A person who worships Tārā without these rites goes to hell. If a brahmin does the worship without the five tattvas, he becomes a śūdra, while if a śūdra does worship of Tārā with the five tattvas, he becomes a brahmin. This is Kaula worship, requiring Kaula initiation. The next section in this chapter, starting with verse 23, describes purification of the five tattvas. This includes mantras to remove the curses placed on wine by Śukra, Brahma and Kṛṣṇa, and obviously flies in the face of Hindu orthodoxy.
Then follows a meditation on Amṛtānanda Devī, followed by a meditation on Bhairava as the lord of bliss and of wine. She resembles a koṭi (10,000,000) of brilliant suns and a koṭi of cooling moons, she wears red clothes, is adorned with all ornaments and red jewels. He, the Sudhādeva, a form of Bhairava, sits in the centre of the ocean of nectar, is beloved by Bhairavī, and has five faces, with three eyes in each.
Adorned with every type of jewel, he sits on a bull and has a blue throat. He has eighteen arms which hold weapons and attributes including a club, a plough, a mace, a sword, a trident, a noose, and a staff, as well as having hands displaying various mudrās. Then follows a tāntrik gāyatrī which runs oṃ ānandeśvarāya vidmahe sudhādevyai dhīmahi tanno ardhanārīśvarah pracodayāt.
This gāyatrī refers to the union of Śiva and Śakti in a conjunct form, Ardhanārīśvara, where one half of the body is male, and the other is female. The section is followed by a rite where the wine vessel is purified, and the goddess of wine invoked. The third section of this chapter deals with Śakti sādhanā, which is preceded by the purification of the meat used in the rite, then fish.
Then follows a mantra devoted to the Śakti in her guise as Kāmākhyā, which also equates the Śakti with Kālīkā, Tārā and Tripurāsundarī. Following a lengthy description of rites, the author comes on to the subject of nyāsa, which involves placing bīja mantras and other visualisations on different parts of the body.
These include here mātṛkā nyāsa, yoni nyāsa, ṛṣi nyāsa, pīṭha śakti nyāsa, tattva nyāsa, bīja nyāsa, hand nyāsa, and six limb nyāsa. These are precursors to the Mahācīnācara pūjā, which is itself lengthy, ending with Tārā pūjā, and the necessary rites to clear the place of working. So much for the suspension of ritual, then.
Verse 177 starts describing how to recite the mantra. Verse 185 describes the Kāmatārāpūja. A dhyāna describes the Tāriṇī as laughing terribly, wearing a tiger skin, adorned with jewels, Ugratārā sits on a corpse, in reverse sexual intercourse, wearing red clothes and a garland of skulls, laughing terribly, garlanded with serpents, with a gold diadem.
In her right hands she holds scissors and an axe, and in her left hands she holds a blue lotus and below that a cup of liquor. A great serpent entwines her one braid of hair.
The last, rather brief chapter of 64 verses, deals with the performance of rites included in the term triṣoḍha. The first of these, called the secret one, involves placing the vowels of the letters of the Sanskrit alphabet before and after the individual letters of the Tārā mantra. These rites also include details about the relationship of the Śakti as Kulakuṇḍalinī with Tārā.