Kamakhya Temple, Gauhati, in Kamarupa, in the early years of this century

Kāmakhyā Devī

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Web pages designed by Mike Magee.
Original artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are ©
Mike Magee 1975-2022.

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Yoginī Tantra

In the place of Kāma, which is in the centre of the place of Kāma and in the middle of Kāma, one should fashion a hole. By Kāma one should accomplish Kāma, and should place Kāma within Kāma. Having made oneself a lover by Kāma, in the place of Kāma one may agitate the world – Vāmakeśvara Tantra IV, 45-46

The Yoginī Tantra is a voluminous work held in high regard by practitioners of Vāmācāra. In a total of 28 chapters divided into two parts, it outlines every topic familiar to the Kaula and Vāmā traditions. What follows is an abstract of the first nine paṭalas or chapters.

First Paṭala

This opens with a familiar tantrik scene on Mount Kailasa where Śiva is addressed by Parvatī. She says she has heard exposition of tantras before on Śrī Śaila (mountain), in Vārāṇasī, in Kāmarūpa and in Nepal. Now she wants to hear more from Śiva, the world guru. In answer, Śiva says he will declare the great Yoginī Tantra, the giver of both wealth and liberation. It is to be concealed and is unknown to all the devatas, to the asuras, to the yakṣas and others but he will declare it out of love for Parvatī.

He starts by eulogising the goddess as the cosmic mother (Viśvamātā), dark as a thunderstorm, wearing a garland and waist-band of skulls, with dishevelled hair, completely naked (digambaram).

She has a rolling tongue, makes a terrifying roar, three reddened eyes, and has a wide open mouth. She wears a moon digit on her forehead, has the corpses of two boys as her earrings, and is adorned with various gems, which are of the brightness of the Sun and the Moon. Laughing loudly, she has two streams of blood pouring from her mouth, while her throat is red with blood. In her four arms she holds cleaver, head, and makes mudras dispelling fears and granting boons. She, the supreme Nityā, is seated in reverse (viparīta) intercourse with Mahākāla upon the corpse of Śiva. The whole scene is set in the cremation ground.

After this detailed dhyāna of Kālī, Śiva begins to outline the tantra, declaring that he is Parvatī’s slave.

He starts with the characteristics of the guru, who he describes as the root of all śastra, the root of this world and the very self of Parabrahma and the essence of Śiva. The guru can save a disciple where even gods and goddesses cannot intercede. The guru’s family is to be considered as identical with the guru. There follows a dhyāna of guru in the palace of wish-fulfilling gems on Mount Kailasa, surrounded by hosts of Bhairavas. The palace is surrounded by the seven oceans.

The guru is one with Mahākāla Adinātha and knows all mantras, whether they be Śakta, Vaiṣṇava or Gaṇapatya. The greatness of the guru is hymned in all the śastras.

Second Paṭala

Devī asks Śiva to speak of Kālī and Tāriṇī. Śiva says that Kālīkā is the greatest of the great vidyas, supreme and giving nirvana and liberation to people. Her disciples are Brahma, Viṣṇu and himself. If a sādhaka recites the Kālī mantra, he becomes her son. Kālī, Tārā and Cchinnā are the māhavidyās. One successful in Kālī becomes similarly successful in the others. Śiva begins to speak of initiation. He says that the rosary to be used in the pūjā should be made of human skullbone for long-lasting success. A sādhaka or sādhika may also use crystal or ruby rosaries. A full rosary should have 108 beads. The meru, or bead to mark the beginning and the end of the mālā, should be made of a king’s tooth. Śiva proceeds to outline the number of times the mantra should be recited holding the rosary and the way the fingers should count. He speaks of the nature of other rosaries including pearl, tulsi (basil) when worshipping Viṣṇu, ivory for Gaṇeśa, and rudrākṣa or red sandalwood for Tripurā. Dhattura growing in a cremation ground is used for Dhūmāvatī. He then describes ritual accessories to be used in the pūjā and the times in bright and dark fortnights of the moon which are favourable and unfavourable as well as other restraints due to time as well as suitable places for the rite.

Third Paṭala

Devī asks how catastrophes including war and fever can be warded off. In reply, Śiva recites a kavaca or armour which can be used to protect against malefic influence. It is not to be revealed lightly. He then speaks of a way to subjugate the world (jagadvashyakara). Sage Narada also asked Śiva to speak of this of old.

Śiva says that when she is imagined as a naked Devī, Kālī deludes the world. He then gives the Trailokya Mohana Kavaca (armour bewildering the three worlds). Kālabhairava is the ṛṣi of the mantra, Anuṣṭubh is the metre, Śmaśāna Kālī is the devata. After giving the armour, Śiva describes how to make it. It should be written on bhurja (birch) bark and worn round the person. It should be written on the eighth day of the bright fortnight and placed inside a golden container. Wearing it on different parts of the body gives different results. On the head, it destroys disease. On the right shoulder, it gives whatever is desired. Viṣṇu now chimes in and says Narada achieved the desires he wanted by employing this kavaca.

Fourth Paṭala

The Devī now wants to know of other prayogas to give dominion, knowledge and wealth. Śiva mentions the Phetkariṇī Tantra and the Nīla Tantra as sources. One process is to draw a hexagon with the mantra of Tārā within plus the Sādhya (the object). Devī asks about the ṣaṭkarma, six magical acts. Śiva says these are pacifying, subduing, causing enmity, driving away, uprooting (uccāṭana) and causing death. He says there are six Śaktis appropriate to these acts. The Padminī is suitable for pacifying and Śaṅkhinī for subjugation. He then outlines the mantras appropriate to the six acts.

Fifth Paṭala

Śiva describes a great sādhana in the cremation ground, involving the fifteen Kālī Nityās. This sādhana can also be performed in a desert, by the side of a river, on a mountain, at a crossroads, at the root of a Bilva tree, at a place where there is a single lingam, at a place where there are no people as well as in the cremation ground.

Sixth Paṭala

Devī asks about the different classes of sādhaka. Śiva says they are divided into the divya (divine), vīra (heroic) and paśu (herdlike) categories. The meditation for the divya should be concealed, Śiva speaking of vīra meditation. He says a vīra should meditate on the three bindus in the form of a 16 year old woman. The first is as bright as 10,000,000 dawn suns, extending from the head to the breasts. The second extends from the breasts to the hips and the third from the yoni to the feet. This is the Kāmakalā form, the very essence of Brahma, Viṣṇu and Śiva. The vīra and the divya may employ madya, māṃsa, matsya, mudrā and maithuna (the five Ms) in their worship. According to Śiva, the ṛṣīs, the vasus, the daityas all became great through this pūjā. Śiva speaks of this worship for the four Hindu divisions (Varṇas) and also for the Avadhuta. Much of this material is repeated in the Yoni Tantra. He says the great nectar flows from Kuṇḍalini when it has risen to the top of the head. This is the great wine. She is the supreme Śakti within the body.

Seventh Paṭala

Devī asks Śiva to tell her of Devī Svapnavatī (she who moves in sleep). He gives the mantra. Śiva says: ‘This Svapnavatī Vidyā is very hard to obtain in the three worlds. It is the cause of great miracles, declared by Mahākāla.’ It should be recited 108 times then Svapnavati visits in sleep always. A sādhaka who masters the mantra sees everything in his dreams he wishes. The god then speaks of the Mṛtasañjīvanī vidyā. This appears to give the power of bringing back the dead to life. He describes other vidyās including Madhumatī and the Trilokyakarṣī vidyā. This attracts whatever a sādhaka desires in the three worlds. Maidens will cross oceans and mountain ranges to get to him. Śiva goes on to give vidyas of Padmavatī, the Vaśīkaraṇī vidyā. He then returns to the topic of Svapnavatī. This appears to involve awakening while in the dream state (lucid dreaming?). The mantras should be concealed and given only to the devoted, the unstained otherwise hosts of Dakinis consume a person.

Eighth Paṭala

Śiva speaks of the Yoginis. They look terrifying, with blazing eyes and 50 lakhs of faces. The daitya Ghora then recites a hymn to Devī, celebrating her victory over the Daityas. Śiva chimes in, praising her greatness in battle. Towards the end of the patala, Śiva gives a meditation image of Śakti as Kālī.

Ninth Paṭala

Śiva starts this lengthy chapter by speaking of the Devī as the Brahmaṇḍa, the macrocosm. In this guise, she has an immense form, with millions upon millions of arms and heads. She is the sum of everything, containing purāṇas, vedas,  and smṛti. As such she is of the brilliance of millions upon millions of suns and moons and fires, consisting of all knowledge, all paths, all dharma, all bliss, all śastra, all veda and all worlds, in short, everything. Then follows a meditation on Shakti as being present in the different parts of the body. Śiva closes by saying that Kālī is the form of consciousness (citrupa), the impartite absolute.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1975-2022. Translations are © Mike Magee 1975-2022.Questions or comments to mike.magee@btinternet.com

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