Ahymsin Newsletter: Yoga is Samadhi

A Discussion with a Wandering Monk

by Joanne Sullivan

The Puja in the Devi Temple

The new Tara Temple is pulsing with a light one does not see with the eyes. For days many of us have been softly chanting the thousand names of Divine Mother, The Shri Lalitaa Sahasranaama in front of Tara Devi. The early morning hours are a mysterious time. On April 28, 2012, we were graced with a special worship of the Shri Yantra, also known as Shri Chakra.

What happened in that 5-hour long, deep, silent prayer is beyond telling. A swami who does a daily 16-hour silent practice for 5 months of every year to Shri Chakra wandered through here. The prayers he does are held secret and dear. You will find no expounding nor explanations of that puja, drenched in the silent absorption in mantras and mudras, with offerings of fire, flowers, water, ambrosia, incense and fruit.

Swami Veda sat opposite the monk in that pre-dawn enclosure. Shri Chakra - and now I know more than ever that I have no idea What or Who Shri Chakra is - is exalted and responds in like manner leaving other-worldly effulgence in the temple space. One feels it as one enters, even now, days later.

I am often drawn to return to that sacred space, drawn into that nonphysical but almost palpable Presence. Someone abides and I know more than ever that there is much I do not understand. The monk who did an abbreviated version of this puja beginning one morning at 4:30 AM and lasting 5 hours is a messenger of sorts and I cannot grasp its entirety but am nonetheless enveloped.

At the very end, the monk prostrated. We all prostrated mentally before that Great Unknown, of Whom very few have been initiated into Her true depth of meaning. For now, I feel grateful to have been a witness, no matter how little I can grasp, of this cosmic event wherein the jiva, the individual soul, is dipped in the exalted oceans of the Divine Mother. Here are a few things that Swami Veda Bharati said at this puja of the Shri Yantra in prayer to Her.

“Shri Chakra or Shri Yantra is the highest yantra of the mandala.

For the beginners, the puja is external, bahir-yaga. For the dhyana yogis, it is internal, antar-yaga. The Swamiji who is performing the puja is well-trained and practices it. The Shri Chakra consists of 9 major yantras or mandalas. They are visualized in three different ways although there are more complex ways. Each of those yantras contains the energies, the shaktis of Divine Mother, the spiritual powers that are within us, the psychosensual powers within us.

Those who have the adhikara, those who are authorized to do the puja, do so in various sequences.
…5 acts or powers of Divine Mother, the powers of volition, knowledge, action (or, in another count, creation, sustenance, dissolution), the power of revelation and the power of concealing…

It can take up to 10 hours.

This (pointing to the body) and this (pointing to the Shri Chakra or Shri Yantra) --- [are] one and the same.

This synchronization of the internal chakras with the yantras of Shri Chakra, [can be done in] one method of sequencing. Elsewhere before, I have taught it … [in another] meditational sequence.”

Just before the end, the swami who performed this Shri Vidya puja made a deep inward bow and offered the nirvana mudra to the Shri Chakra and the Goddess. Swami Veda said “In nirvana, everything is turned inside out.”

The monk was reluctant to say exactly where he had been and where he was going. It seemed that he did not wish to draw attention to himself.

A Discussion with a Wandering Monk

A day or two passed after the Shri Yantra puja and I had the good fortune to learn some things about Shri Yantra, Shri Vidya, and the path of surrender to Divine Mother from this young monk.

Shri Yantra puja belongs to the corpus of sacred, secret practices called Shri Vidya. It is Tantra. Tantra is the manipulation of the energies of yantra through mantra, which is the technology of sorts. There are 10 main mudras along with so many others. It is inadvisable to take, show or pursue photographs of the mudras as it can be dangerous to those who are not prepared. The practices themselves are not to be spoken. They are not to be given except by a guru. One finds his or her guru only when chosen by the Devi.

This knowledge is protected. Until and unless Divine Mother chooses a sadhaka, you will not find a guru. She comes into your life in the form of a physical guru. The event in which the aspirant meets a true guru only occurs through good karma over many lifetimes and intense, single-minded devotion towards Divine Mother. When such a guru who abides in Her comes along, only then can Shree Vidya be illuminated in the seeker. “However, there are many fake gurus. There are so many fake gurus because there are so many fake seekers,” he said.

Shri means wealth. Vidya means knowledge. There are two types of wealth: material wealth (bhautik or laukik) and spiritual (adhyatmic, or on the level of atma or pure spirit). Shri Vidya is the knowledge through which one can use external forms of wealth to cultivate internal wealth, the highest form of which is Self-realization or God-realization. This is the ultimate goal of human life.

To the one who follows the path of bahir-yaga, external worship with names, forms and attributes, She bestows all siddhis (miraculous powers) and nidhis (physical treasures). Along with that, She grants the vision of all times, past, present and future as well as all lokas or spaces, both internal and external.

One must be mindful of and careful about what one wishes for. To the aspirant who worships along the antar-yaga or internal path, She gives ultimate Self-realization or God-realization.

The one who bestows wealth is Shri. She is Divine Mother. She blesses the aspirant with liberation or moksha. She also gives material wealth. Her names are Shri Lalitaa, Shri Raja Rajeshwari (Supreme Lady over Kings of Kings), and Kamakshi (the Fulfiller and destroyer of all Desires). She destroys all Kamas (passions, desires, lower volitions) through one glance. It is a sideways glance called Kripaa-kataksha. With one straight glance facing front toward the seeker, She gives moksha, liberation, on the spot, no matter the karmas.

Shree Lalitaa Devi is the main goddess of Shri Yantra. She resides at the center of the bindu; the bindu is the infinitesimally small dot at the very center of the yantra, through which bursts manifestation and into which the worlds dissolve. Shri Lalitaa Devi is covered by nine layers or sheaths. There are shaktis in each corner, thousands of shaktis.

Shri Vidya is the most difficult or obscure science. It is difficult in three ways:

  • First, it is hard to get a good guru.
  • Second, it is difficult to grasp, to understand.
  • Third, many things will come your way, many temptations, and if the aspirant does not assiduously follow the guru’s instructions, s/he will fall.

One must have very great dispassion (vairagya) and must strictly follow the guru’s instructions and do whatever the guru says or you can completely lose your way.

As I said earlier, this is secret knowledge that cannot be told. It is only through the initiatory path that one can experience Shri Vidya. Dr. Arya once said that the test of a true secret is that no matter how many times you tell it, it remains a secret. Shri Vidya is just one example of this and is known only through direct experience. One needs a master.

Once you surrender to a Guru you grow internally. Regarding the Guru, at first we see a person. After sincere, sustained sadhana blessed by the Guru and Divine Mother, all of our gross associations vanish. First, one’s own identification with the body and the gross senses are attenuated and then disappear. Next, one’s association with the Guru as a person, a physical form, disappears and only guru-tattva remains. Guru- tattva is the essence or the subtlest form of the guru and leads us to Self-realization or God-realization.

At a certain point, there is no self-identification. The ahankara, the I-maker, is gone. This is the stage of the jivan-mukta (liberated in this life) and all the temptations, the karmas and the kleshas (stains on the mirror of pure consciousness) have all been burned. All hatred, fear, ignorance disappear. There is no longer a second, no longer the other. There is only the all-abiding One Who is All. This occurs through the grace of Divine Mother and the Guru’s blessings.

The Shri Yantra puja itself comes from Adi-Shankaracharya, who is one of the preceptors of the Himalayan Tradition. Swami Veda said that this is why, at the conclusion of the Shri Yantra consecration some days earlier, he had Kusumji, the head priestess, take flowers to the murti of Shankaracharya. “Vidyaranya Muni wrote the treatise and paid homage to the 70 Acharyas of Shri Vidya from Kapila to Shankaracharya,” Swami Veda tells us.

According to the monk, during Shankaracharya’s time, Shri Vidya had taken a wrong turn and was mixed with people’s tamasic or selfish desires. Shankaracharya realigned it into a highly refined, sattvic compendium of knowledge and practices.

Varivasya Rahasya (variant title: Shri Vidya Varivasya) is the text from which this wandering monk read during the Shri Chakra puja. It was written by Shri Bhaskararaya in the 18th Century and contains 167 shlokas with commentaries. Shri Bhaskararaya is a significant author in the Tantra and Devi-worship traditions of India. His magnum opus is Setubandha, a technical work on Tantra. It is a commentary on part of the Vamakeshvara-tantra and the internal worship of Shri Tripurasundari. He also wrote Lalitāsahasranāmabhāsya, a commentary on the Shri Lalitaa Sahasranama.

We recently completed a 21-day akhanda japa [unbroken recitation] of Shri Lalitaa Sahasranama in the new Devi temple; many SRSG residents still chant from this text of Her 1000 names at various times throughout the day.

One must emphasize again, that this is a path of initiation. One needs a proper guide, intense devotion to Divine Mother and steadfastness. As with all true paths, one-pointed attention (ekagrata), intense determination (sankalpa) sustained practice (sadhana) over a long time, stitha prajna, a certain steady wisdom and whole-hearted devotion are required. One must remember, as it says in the Vedas, na mama. Not me, not mine. All this comes from the Divine, not from my power. Swami Rama said this again and again and sang it in one of Kabir’s songs: This is not my power!

I asked this traveling mendicant if he ever experienced discomfort, going from one place to the next all the time and never settling down. I got the feeling from the surprised look on his face that this would then be no surrender; when you surrender, you do not negotiate. You simply surrender.

“No,” he said with a gentle smile. “Then it is not surrender. Whether I am hot or cold, I am in Mother’s lap. It does not matter.” Then he said ever so quietly “You need to do more sadhana,” to which I joyfully replied “That’s the second time in two days someone has told me that.”

Editor's Note

For more about the 21-day akhanda japa [unbroken recitation] of Shri Lalitaa Sahasranama in the new Devi temple, please see “The Birth of the Lady of Compassion at SRSG” at http://www.ahymsin.org/docs2/News/1204Apr/12.html

Some of Kabir’s poems can be read at this link: http://www.poetseers.org/the_poetseers/kabir/kabir_index/