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The Toḍala Tantra
Listen, O Devī, I will speak concisely of the essence of yoga. The body resembles a tree, with the root above and the branches below. In the macrocosm there are tīrthas (bathing places) which also exist in the body. The macrocosm is like the microcosm. – Toḍala Tantra, II
This Hindu tantra is a brief but often quoted work of ten paṭalas or chapters. It is referred to, for example, in the Mātṛikābhedatantra. It also contains the daily pūjās of Tārā, Kālī and Śiva, as well as information about yoga. It’s in print.
Paṭala one deals with the ten Mahāvidyās, a subject which is returned to in chapter 10 of this tantra.
These major forms of the goddess are described in the Toḍala Tantra as Kālī, Tārā, Sundarī, Bhuvaneśvarī, Cchinnamastā, Bhairavī, Dhūmāvatī, Bagalā, Mātaṅgī, and Kamalā. According to Alain Danielou’s Hindu Polytheism, these ten aspects of Śaktī are the epitome of the entire creation. Chapter 10 also outlines their consorts, although Dhūmāvatī, the widow form, is not allocated a consort. At the close of the chapter comes the essential tantrik view that Śiva, as the witness is not involved in creation, maintenance or withdrawal.
Many tantras, particularly those associated with Bengal, speak of ten major aspects of the goddess, the Mahāvidyā’s. Vidyā means knowledge but in the tradition this word is synonymous with both a Devī and Her mantra form. Mantra is divinity in its purest form as sound, yantra is divinity represented as diagram and the dhyāna, or meditation form, is considered to be the grossest representation. But these forms are given as ways of concentrating the mind easily.
The Mahāvidyā’s are, in order, Kālī, Tārā, Ṣoḍaśī (Tripurasundarī), Bhuvaneśvarī, Cchinnamastā, Bhairavī, Dhūmāvatī, Bagalāmukhī, Mātaṅgī and Kamalā. Each, except Dhūmāvatī, who is a widow, has her own form of Śiva hanging about.
1. Kālī. Seated on a corpse, greatly terrifying, laughing loudly, with fearful fangs, four arms holding a cleaver, a skull, and giving the mudras bestowing boons and dispelling fear, wearing a garland of skulls, her tongue rolling wildly, completely naked (digambara – clad in the directions), thus one should meditate on Kālī, dwelling in the centre of the cremation ground.
2. Tārā – Akṣobhya. Seated in the pratyalīḍha asana, seated on the heart of a corpse, supreme, laughing horribly, holding cleaver, blue lotus, dagger and bowl, uttering the mantra Huṃ, coloured blue, her hair braided with serpents, the Ugratārā.
3. Ṣoḍaśī. For her meditation image, see Māhatripurasundarī.
4. Bhuvaneśvarī. Like the red rays of the rising sun, with the moon as her diadem, and with three eyes, a smiling face, bestowing boons, holding a goad, a noose and dispelling fears, thus I hymn Bhuvaneśī.
5. Cchinnamastā. For her meditation image, see Cchinnamastā.
6. Bhairavī. Her head garlanded with flowers, she resembling the red rays of 1,000 rising suns, smeared with red, holding milk, book, dispelling fears and giving boons with her four hands, large three eyes, beautiful face with a slow smile, wearing white gems, I worship Bhairava.
7. Dhūmāvatī. The colour of smoke, wearing smoky clothes, holding a winnowing basket, dishevelled clothes, deceitful, always trembling, with slant eyes, inspiring fear, terrifying.
8. Bagalāmukhī. Three eyes, wearing yellow clothes and gems, moon as her diadem, wearing campakā blossoms, with one hand holding the tongue of an enemy and with the left hand spiking him, thus should you meditate on the paralyser of the three worlds. See also Bagalāmukhī.
9. Mātaṅgī. Dusky, beautiful browed, her three eyes like lotuses, seated on a jewelled lion-throne, surrounded by gods and others serving her, holding in her four lotus-like hands a noose and a sword, a shield and a goad, thus I remember Mātaṅgī, the giver of results, the Modinī.
10. Kamalā. With a smiling face, her beautiful lily-white hands hold two lotuses, and show the mudras of giving and dispelling fear. She is bathed in nectar by four white elephants and stands upon a beautiful lotus.
“Śrī Devī said: Lord of the world, lord of all knowledge, tell of the worship of the mahādevas in the three worlds. On the right hand side of each are various forms. Mahādeva, speak of each one separately.
“Śrī Śiva said: Listen, beautiful one to Kālikā’s Bhairava. On Dakṣiṇā’s right, worship Mahākāla, with whom Dakṣiṇā is always in love union. Worship Akṣobhya on the right of Tārā. Devī, the Kālakūṭa poison produced by the churning of the ocean caused great agitation to all the gods and their consorts.
“Because he destroyed the agitation caused by the deadly yellow poison, he is known as Akṣobhya. Thus Tariṇī, the Mahāmāyā, always delights in her consort.
“On the right hand side of Māhatripurasundarī, worship Śiva in his five-faced form with three eyes in each of the faces, O lady of the gods. She always delights in sexual union with her consort, O Mahādevī. For this reason, she is known as the famous Pañcamī. On the right side of Śrīmad Bhuvaneśvarī, who in the heavens, on earth, and in the underworlds is known as the Ādyā, worship Tryāmbaka. She makes love with Tryāmbaka in these places, it is said. He and his Śaktī are mentioned and worshipped in all tantras. On Bhairavī’s right side is Dakṣiṇāmūrti. By supreme efforts, one should certainly worship that five faced one.
“On Cchinnamastā’s right side, worship Śiva-Kabandha. By worshipping him, one becomes lord of all siddhi. The Mahāvidyā Dhūmāvatī is a widow. Seated on the right of Bagalā is the Mahārudra, with one face, who dissolves the universe. On Mātaṅgī’s right side is Śiva Mataṅga, similar to Dakṣiṇāmūrti, the form of cosmic bliss. He who worships Sadāśiva, the Viṣṇu form, on Kamalā’s right side becomes perfect, there is no doubt about this.
“On Annapūrṇa’s right hand side, worship Brahmā, the giver of great liberation, the god with ten faces, the Maheśvara. On the right side of Durgā, worship Nārada. The letter Nā causes creation, the letter Da maintenance, while the letter Ra causes dissolution. So He is known as the famous Nārada. Worship the Ṛiṣi who “gave birth” to the other vidyā’s on their right hand side.” (Toḍala, chapter one)
Śiva, in the second chapter, tells Śaktī of yoga and describes the body as resembling a tree. There is no difference between the macrocosm or the microcosm. The supreme mantra is Haṃsa, equivalent to 21,600 breaths in a day. The letter Ha is Śiva while the letter Sa is Śaktī. According to ancient texts, breath is time. An individual inhales once every four seconds and exhales once every four seconds. One is a solar breath and one a lunar breath.
In chapter three, the different forms and mantra’s of Kālī are described, along with the sandhyā (twilight) mantra’s of both Kālī and Tārā. These are the four tantrik twilights of dawn, midday, sunset and midnight, when the currents of pranayama change direction and the sādhaka can do his or her pūjā knowing he is close to the in-betweenness which is the essence of tantra. Kālī’s daily rites are detailed.
The fourth chapter deals with Tārā’s pūjā, giving a beautiful meditational image of her as situated in the centre of a lovely island, seated on a lion throne under a jewelled pavilion. Chapter five turns to Śambhuṅatha (Śiva). In this yugā, sādhaka’s should not worship his form known as Nīlakaṇṭha, an aspect of Śiva. At the churning of the milk ocean, at the beginning of time, Śiva swallowed the poison which stained his throat a deep blue. It is unclear, however, why this tantra prohibits his worship. One should never worship Śaktī unless Śiva is first worshipped, preferably with a clay linga.
In chapter six, Śiva gives the vāsanā or inner meaning of Kālī and Tārā mantra’s Krīṃ and Strīṃ. The different letters of the mantra’s are placed on separate parts of the human body. The seventh chapter speaks of yoga and of the seven islands and of their locations in the body. Kāmarupa is in the Mūladhāra cakra. Other sacred centres are also situated in the body.
The 51 letters of the alphabet are the sacred pīṭhas within the body, each associated with one of the parts of the Devī which fell to earth when sliced by the discus of Viṣṇu.
Chapter eight continues the previous topic. The body is permeated with millions of nadīs and the elements have their place there too. In chapter nine, Śiva speaks of the Sundarī mantra.
Even though Śiva has already spoken of it in the Nityā Tantra, Śaktī asks him to reveal its true meaning. Śiva says that 21,600 is the head of the letters of the alphabet and the true rosary in the thousand petalled lotus. Details of the rosary follow. Using tantrik methods, sādhakas can be both liberated and enjoy.
The last chapter equates Viṣṇu’s ten incarnations with the ten Mahāvidyā’s. Durgā is the Kalki, the last of the avatars of Viṣṇu. He is yet to come, and when he does he will be born in Śambhala. He will ride a white horse and hold a sword which blazes like fire, bringing back to the planet harmony, according to the Agni and other Puraṇa’s. Kālī’s consort is Kṛṣṇa.
“Śrī Devī said: Lord of gods, guru of the universe, tell me of the ten avatars. Now I want to hear of this, tell me of their true nature. Pārameśvara, reveal to me which avatar goes with which Devī.
“Śrī Śiva said: Tārā Devī is the blue form, Bagalā is the tortoise incarnation, Dhūmāvatī is the boar, Cchinnamastā is Nṛsiṃha, Bhuvaneśvarī is Vāmana, Mātaṅgī is the Rama form, Tripura is Jamadagni, Bhairavī is Balabhadra, Mahālakṣmī is Buddha, and Durgā is the Kalki form. Bhagavatī Kālī is the Kṛṣṇa mūrti.” (Toḍala, chapter 10)
Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org