Hymns to the Goddess, by John Woodroffe (Arthur Avalon), , at sacred-texts.com
SANĀTANA BRAHMAN is called sakala when with Prakṛti, as It is niṣkala when thought of as without Prakṛti (prakṛteranya), for kalā is Prakṛti. 1 To say, however, that Śakti exists in or with, the Brahman is an accommodation to human thought and speech, for the Brahman and Śakti are in fact one. Śakti is eternal (anādirūpā), and Brahmarūpā, and both nirguṇā and saguṇā. 2 She, the Goddess (Devī), is the caitanyarūpiṇi devī who manifests all bhūta; the ānandarūpiṇi devī by whom the Brahman, who She is, manifests Itself, 3 and who, to use the words of the Śāradātilaka, pervades the universe as does oil the sesamum seed. "Sa aikṣata," of which Śruti speaks, was itself a manifestation of Śakti, the paramāpūrvanirvāṇaśakti, or Brahman, as Śakti.
From the paraśaktimaya issued nāda, and from nāda, bindu 4. The state of subtle body known as kāmakalā is the mūla of mantra, and is meant when the Devī is spoken
of as mūlamantrātmikā. 1 The Parambindu is represented as a circle the centre of which is the Brahmapada, wherein are Prakṛti-puruṣa; the circumference of which is encircling māyā. It is in the crescent of nirvāṇakalā the seventeenth, which is again in that of amākalā the sixteenth, digit of the moon circle (candramaṇḍala), situate above the sun-circle (sūryamaṇdala), the Guru and the Hamsah in the pericarp of the 1,000 petalled lotus (sahasrārapadma). The bindu is symbolically described as being like a grain of gram (canaka), which under its encircling sheath contains a divided seed--Prakṛti-puruṣa or Śakti-Śiva. 2
It is known as the Śabda Brahman. 3 A polarization then takes place in paraśaktimaya. The Devī becomes unmukhi. Her face is turned to Śiva. There is an unfolding which bursts the encircling shell. 4 The devatāparaśaktimaya exists in the threefold aspect of bindu, bīja, and nāda, the last being in relation to the two former. An indistinct sound then arises 5 (avyaktātmāravobhavat). Nāda, as Rāghava Bhatta 6 says, exists in three states, for in it are the three guṇas. The Śabda Brahman manifests Itself in the threefold energies, Jnāna, Ichhā, and Kriyā Śakti. 7 For, as the Vāmakeśvara
[paragraph continues] Tantra says, the Devī Tripurā is threefold, as Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Īśa. Paraśiva exists as a septenary under the forms of Śambhu, Śadāśiva, Īśāna, Rudra, Viṣṇu, and Brahmā. The last five are the Mahāpreta, four of whom form the support, and the fifth the seat, of the bed on which the Devī is united with Paramaśiva in the room of cintāmaṇi stone on the jewelled island clad with clumps of kadamba, and heavenly trees set in the ocean of ambrosia. 1
Śakti is both māyā and mūlaprakṛti, whose substance is the three guṇas, representing nature as the revelation of spirit (sattva); nature as the passage of descent from spirit to matter, or of ascent from matter to spirit (rajas), and nature as the dense veil of spirit (tamas). The Devī is thus the treasure-house of guṇas (guṇanidhih). 2 Mūlaprakṛti is the womb into which the Brahman casts the seed from which all things are born. 3 The womb thrills to the movement of the essentially active rajoguṇa, and the now unstable guṇas in varied combinations under the illumination of Śiva (cit) evolve the universe which is ruled by Maheśvara and Maheśvarī. The dual principles of Śiva-Śakti, which are the product of the polarity manifested in Paraśaktimaya, pervade the whole universe, and are present in man in the svayambhulinga of the mūlādhāra and the Devī Kuṇḍalinī, who in serpent form encircles it. The Śabdabrahman assumes the form of the Devī Kuṇḍalinī, and as such is in the form of all breathing creatures (prāṇi), and in the form of letters appears in prose and verse. She is the luminous vital energy (jīvaśakti), which manifests as prāṇa. Through the
various prakṛta and vaikṛta creations, issued the Devas, men, animals, and the whole universe, which is the work and manifested form of the Devī. For, as the Kubjikā Tantra says, "Not Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Rudra create, maintain, and destroy, but Brāhmī, Vaiṣṇavī, Rudrāṇī. Their husbands are but as dead bodies."
The Goddess (Devī) is the great Śakti. She is māyā, for of Her the māyā which produces the samsāra is. As Lord of māyā, She is Mahāmāyā. 1 Devī is avidyā (nescience), because She binds; and vidyā (knowledge), because She liberates and destroys the samsāra. 2 She is Prakṛti, 3 and, as existing before creation, She is the ādya (primordial) śakti. She is the vācaka-śakti, the manifestation of cit in Prakṛti; and the vācya śakti or cit itself. The ātmā should be contemplated as Devī. 4
Śakti or Devī is thus the Brahman revealed in its Mother aspect (srīmātā) 5 as creatrix and nourisher of the worlds. Kālī says of Herself in Yoginī Tantra: 6 "Saccidānandarupāham Brahmaivāham sphuratprabham." So the Devī is described with attributes both of the qualified 7 Brahman, and (since that Brahman is but the manifestation of the Absolute), She is also addressed
with epithets which denote the unconditioned Brahman. 1 She is the great Mother (ambikā) sprung from the sacrificial hearth of the fire of the Grand Consciousness (cit) decked with the Sun and Moon; Lalitā--"She who plays"--whose play is world-play; whose eyes, playing like fish in the beauteous waters of Her Divine face, open and shut with the appearance and disappearance of countless worlds, now illuminated by Her light, now wrapped in her terrible darkness. 2 For Devī, who issues from the great Abyss, is terrible also in Her Kālī, Tārā, Chinnamastā, and other forms. Śāktas hold that a sweet and complete resignation of the self to such forms of the Divine Power denotes a higher stage of spiritual development. 3 Such dualistic worship also speedily bears the fruit of knowledge of the Universal Unity, the realization of which dispels all fear. For the Mother is only terrible to those who, living in the illusion of separateness (which is the cause of all fear), have not yet realized their unity with Her, and known that all Her forms are those of beauty.
The Devī as Parabrahman is beyond all form and guṇa. The forms of the Mother of the universe are threefold. There is first the Supreme (para) form, of
which, as the Viṣṇu Yāmala 1 says, "none know." There is next Her subtle (sūkṣma) form, which consists of mantra. But, as the mind cannot easily settle itself upon that which is formless, 2 She appears as the subject of contemplation in Her third or gross (sthūla) or physical form, with hands and feet and the like, as celebrated in the Devīstotra of the Purāṇas and Tantras. Devī, who as Prakṛti is the source of Brahmā, Viṣṇu, and Maheśvara, 3 has both male and female forms. 4 But it is in Her female forms that she is chiefly contemplated. For, though existing in all things, in a peculiar sense female beings are parts of Her. 5 The Great Mother, who exists in the form of all Tantras and all Yantras, 6 is, as the Lalitā says, the "unsullied treasure-house of beauty," the sapphire Devī 7 whose slender
waist, 1 bending beneath the burden of the ripe fruit of her breasts, 2 swells into jewelled hips heavy 3 with the promise of infinite maternities 4. Her litanies depict Her physical form from head to foot, celebrating Her hair adorned with flowers and crowned with gems; Her brow bright as the eighth-day moon; Her ruby cheeks and coral lips; teeth like to "the buds of the sixteen-syllabled mantra," and eyebrows curved as are the arches at the gate of the palace of Kāmarāja; Her nose; Her teeth; Her chin; Her arms; and "Her twin breasts offered in return for that priceless gem which is the love of Kāmeśvara"; Her waist girdled with jewelled bells; Her smooth and faultless limbs rounded beneath the "jewelled disc of the knee like the
sapphire-studded quiver of the God of Love" descending in lines of grace to Her bright louts feet, 1 which dispel the darkness of Her worshippers. 2 For moonlight is She, yet sunbeam, soothing all those who are burnt by the triple fires of misery (tāpatraya). Her face, Her body from throat to waist, and thence downwards, represent the vāgbhava and other kūta. The colour of the Devī varies according to the form under which She is contemplated. Thus, in conferring liberation, She is white; as controller of women, men, and kings, She is red; and as controller of wealth, saffron. As creatrix of enmity, She becomes tawny; and in the thrill of love, passion (śṛngāra), She is of the colour of the rose. In the action of slaying She becomes black. Thus, Devī, the Supreme Light, is to be meditated upon as differently coloured according to Her different activities. 3
After the description of the form of the Devī in brahmāṇḍa follows that of Her subtle form, called Kuṇḍalinī in the body (piṇḍāṇḍa). As the Mahādevī 4 She exists in all forms as Śarasvatī, Lakṣmī, Gāyatrī,
[paragraph continues] Durgā, Tripurasundarī, Annapurṇā, and all the Devī who are avatāra of the Brahman. 1
Devī, as Satī, Umā, Pārvatī, and Gourī, is spouse of Śiva. It was as Satī, prior to Dakṣa's sacrifice (dakṣayajna) that the Devī manifested Herself to Śiva 2 in the ten celebrated forms known as the daśamahāvidyā--Kālī, Bagala, Chinnamastā, Bhuvaneshvarī, Mātanginī, Shorosi, Dhumāvati, Tripurasundarī, Tārā, and Bhairavī. When at the dakṣayajna She yielded up Her life in shame and sorrow at the treatment accorded by Her father to Her husband, Śiva took away the body, and, ever bearing it with him, remained wholly distraught and spent with grief. To save the world from the forces of evil which arose and grew with the withdrawal of His divine control, Viṣṇu, with his discus (cakra), cut the dead body of Satī, which Śiva bore, into fifty-one fragments, which fell to earth at the places thereafter known as the fifty-one 3 mahāpīthasthānas, where Devī, with her Bhairava, is worshipped under various names.
Thus the right and left breasts fell at Jalandhara and Ramgiri, where the Devī is worshipped as Tripuramālinī; the yoni at the celebrated shrine at Kamrup in Assam, where the Devī is worshipped as Kāmākṣā or Kāmākhyā (see ibid.); 4 the throat, shoulders, nose, hands,
arms, eyes, fingers, tongue, buttocks, lips, belly, chin, navel, cheeks, thighs, teeth, feet, ears, thumbs, heels, toes (some at Kālīghat), waist, hair, forehead, with skeleton (several of these parts being themselves divided), fell at other pītha, at each of which the Devī is worshipped under different names in company with a Bhairava or Śiva, also variously named. Thus, the Devī at Kālīghat is Kālikā, and the Śiva Nakuleśvara, and the Devī at Kamrup is Kāmākshā, and Her Bhairava is Ramānanda.
These are but some only of Her endless forms. She is seen as one and as many: as it were, but one moon reflected in countless waters. 1 She exists, too, in all animals and inorganic things, since the universe, with all its beauties, is, as the Devī Purāṇa says, but a part of Her. All this diversity of form is but the infinite manifestations of the flowering beauty of the one Supreme Life--a doctrine which is nowhere else taught with greater wealth of illustration than in the Śākta Śāstras and Tantras. The great Bharga in the bright sun, and all Devatā, and, indeed, all life and being are worshipful, and are worshipped, but only as Her manifestations. 2 And he who worships them otherwise is, in the words of the great Devībhāgavata, 3 "like unto a man who, with the light of a clear lamp
in his hands, yet falls into some waterless and terrible well." It is customary nowadays to decry external worship, but those who do so presume too much. The ladder of ascent can only be scaled by those who have trod all, including its lowest, rungs. The Śaktirahasya summarises the stages of progress in a short verse, thus: "A mortal who worships by ceremonies, by images, by mind, by identification, by knowing the self, attains kaivalya." Before brahma-bhāva can be attained the sādhaka must have passed from pūjābhāva through hymns and prayer to dhyāna-bhāva. The highest worship 1 for which the sādhaka is qualified (adhikāri) only after external worship, and that internal form known as sādhāra 2 is described as nirādhāra. Therein Pure Intelligence is the Supreme Śakti who is worshipped as the Very Self, the Witness freed of the glamour of the manifold universe. By one's own direct experience of Maheśvarī as the Self, She is, with reverence, made the object of that worship which leads to liberation.
1:1 Śāradā Tilakam (chap. i.). See Introduction to Tantra Śāstra by Sir John Woodroffe--sub. voc. "Śiva and Śakti," of which the above is in part (with added matter) an abbreviation.
1:2 Praṇamya prakṛtim nityām paramātmasvarūpinīm (chap. i.). Śāktānandataranginī, both Tāntrik works of high authority.
1:3 Kubjikā Tantra (First Paṭala).
1:4 Sāradā (loc. cit).
2:1 See Bhāskararāya's Commentary on the Lalitā Sahasranāma (verse 36), and the Pādukāpancaka in The Serpent Power.
2:2 See Ṣatcakranirūpaṇa of Purnānanda Svāmi in The Serpent Power.
2:3 Śāradā (loc. cit).
2:6 See Commentary on verse 49 of the Ṣatcakranirūpaṇa, and generally as to the subject-matter of this Introduction, my "Introduction to Tantra Śāstra."
2:7 See Goraksha Samhitā, Bhutaśuddhi Tantra, and Yoginī Tantra, Part I, p. 10.
3:1 See Ānandalaharī of Śankarācārya, verse 8. The dhyāna is well known to the Tāntrik sādhaka.
3:2 Lalitā, verse 121.
3:3 Bhagavadgītā (chap. xiv., verses 3,4).
4:1 Mahāmāyā without māyā is nirguṇā, and with māyā, saguṇā. Śāktānandataranginī (chap. i.).
4:2 Śāktānandataranginī (chap. L).
4:3 Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa (chap. i.); Prakṛtikhanda. Br. Nāradiya Pr.
4:4 See chap. ii. of Devī Bhāgavata.
4:5 Devī is worshipped on account of her soft heart. Śāktānandataranginī (chap. iii.).
4:6 Part I., Chapter X.
4:7 Such as Mukunda, an aspect of Viṣṇu. Lalitāsahasranāma, verse 838.
5:1 Ibid, verse 153, and Commentator's note to Chapter II., where Devī is addressed as Supreme Light (paramjyotih), Supreme Abode (paramdhāma), Supreme of Supreme (parātparā).
5:2 See the Lalitā.
5:3 See the saying of Rāmaprasāda, the poet-devotee of Kālimā, quoted at p. 714 in Babu Dinesh Chunder Sen's "History of Bengali Literature."
"Though the Mother beat him, the child cries 'Mother! O Mother!' and clings still tighter to her garment. True, I cannot see Thee, yet am I not a lost child. I still cry 'Mother!'
6:1 Mātastvatparamamrūpam tanna jānāti kashchana (see chap. iii. of Śāktānandataranginī)
6:2 Amurtauchitsthironasyāt tatomurtim vichintayet (ibid., chap. i., as was also explained to Himavat by Devī in the Kurma Purāṇa).
6:3 Ibid., and as such is called Tripurā (see Bhāskararāyā's Commentary on Lalitā, verse 125).
6:4 Ibid., chap. iii., which also says that there is no eunuch form of God.
6:5 So in Candi (Mārkaṇḍeya Purāṇa) it is said:
The Tāntrika, more than all men, recognizes the divinity of woman, as was observed centuries past by the author of the Dabistan. The Linga Purāṇa also, after describing Arundhati, Anasūyā and Shachi to be each the manifestation of Devī, concludes: "All things indicated by words in the feminine gender are manifestations of Devī." Similarly the Brahmavaivarta Purāṇa.
6:6 Sarvatantrarūpā Sarvayantrātmīkā (See Lalitā, verse 53).
6:7 Padma Purāṇa says: "Viṣṇu ever worships the sapphire Devī."
7:1 Ājnvarastanatatimtanuvrittamadhyām (Bhuvaneśvarīstotra), tanumadhya (Lalitā, verse 79). krishodari (Ādyakālisvarūpāstotra, Mahānirvāṇa Tantra, 7th Ullāsa).
7:2 Stotra and dhyāna commonly represent Her as having large, full, and erect breasts--pīnastanādye (in Karpurādistotra), pinonnatapayodharām) (in Durgā-dhyāna of Devī Purāṇa), bakshojakumbhāntari (in Annapurṇāstava) āpivarastanatatim (in Bhuvaneśvarīstotra)--which weight her limbs--kuchabharanamitāngīm (in Sarasvatidhyāna), annapradānaniratāngstanabhāranamrām (in Annapūrṇastava). And the Lalitā, verse 15, says: "Her golden girdle supports Her waist, which bends under the burden of Her breasts, thrice folding the skin below Her bosom" (trivalīvalayopetām).
7:3 So it is said in the tenth śloka of the Karpūrākhyastava samantādāpīnastanajaghanadhrikyauvanavatī. Śankarācarya, in his Tripurāsundarīstotra, speaks of Her nitaniba (buttocks) "as excelling the mountain in greatness" (nitambajitabhūdharām). The Javanese also call Her Loro Jongram, "The pure exalted virgin with beautiful hips."
7:4 The physical characteristics of the Devī in Her swelling breasts and hips are emblematic of Her great Motherhood, for She is Śrimātā.
8:1 See the Lalitāsahasranāma, verse 4 et seq. "Her brow (aṣṭamīcandravibhrājadalika sthala śobhitā), Her eyebrow (vadanasamara māngalyagrihatoranacillika), Her twin breasts (kāmeśvarapremaratnamani pratiphalastani), Her waist (ratnakinkinikārabhyarashanādāma bhūṣitā), "Her thighs, known only to Kameśa" (Kāmeśajnātasaubhāgya mardavorudvayānvitā), Her lower limbs (indragopa parikṣipta smaratunā bhajandhikā); Her instep 'arched like the back of a tortoise,' the bright rays from her nails and the soles of Her feet in beauty shaming the lotus."
8:2 From the beautiful litany to the Devī in the Lalitāsahasranāma.
8:3 Bhāskararāya's Commentary on Lalitā, verse 170.
8:4 She whose body is, as the Devī Purāṇa says, immeasurable.
9:1 Śāktānandataranginī (chap. iii.).
9:2 In order to display Her power to Her husband who had not granted, at Her request, His permission that She might attend at Dakṣa's sacrifice (see "Principles of Tantra" and for an account of the daśamahāvidyā, their yantra and mantra, the Daśamahāvidyā upāsanārahasya of Prasanno Kumar Shastri).
9:3 The number is variously given as 50, 51, and 52.
9:4 Here at Her shrine the menstruation of the earth which, according to Hindu belief, takes place in the month of Assar, is p. 10 said to manifest itself. For three days during ambuvāchī no cooked food is eaten by the women, nor does any cooking take place in the house.
10:1 Brahmabindu Up, p. 12.
10:2 See chap. iii. of the Śāktānandataranginī, where it is said: "The Parabrahman, Devī, Śiva, and all other Deva and Devī are but one, and he who thinks them different from one another goes to Hell."
10:3 Hymn to Jagadambikā in Chapter XIX.
11:1 Sūtasamhitā, 1, 5, 3, which divides such worship into Vedic and Tāntrik (see Bhāskararāya's Commentary on Lalitā, verse 43).
11:2 In which Devī is worshipped in the form of mantra according to the instructions of the Guru.