Śrīvidyā is one of the four great schools of Kaula Śaktism, and has drawn for its theory from the nondualistic Trika school of Kashmir. It is the only remaining living tradition of Śakta Śaivism. It developed from an early Kaula tradition known as the Dakṣiṇāmnāya. Its systematic literary profusion dates from the tenth to fourteenth centuries. A non-tantric form of Śrīvidyā came to be widespread in India, particularly in the South, where it is well-integrated into normative Brahmanical Hinduism. The tantric form of the teaching survives in northern India in Kamakhya.
The Śrīvidyā tradition is a highly developed, sophisticated, and systematized teaching of Śākta practice with a large canon in Sanskrit. In its tantric form, it came to adopt the Kashmir Saivite non-dual world view and theory of resonance, sound and mantra technology. It incorporates the practices of kundalini yoga with emphasis on the unfolding of the powers in the chakras. It incorporates the ritual components of nyāsa, mudrā, japa, and yantra contemplation while coupling these with outer ritual offerings.
The distinctive characteristics of the Śrīvidyā tradition is the worship of the Goddess Tripurasundarī, the recitation of the three-part fifteen (or sixteen) syllable Śrīvidyā mantra, and the employment of the Śrī Chakra mandala.
The main goddess in the Śrīvidyā tradition is Tripurasundarī. She and her retinue of yoginīs are the focus of worship in the spiritual practice or sādhana of the Śrīcakrapūjā.
Tripurasundarī means the “Beautiful Ruler of the Three Cities.” She is the resplendently beautiful respiratory process of the physical, mental/emotional and spiritual dimensions of the universe. She is unimaginable possibility and abundance in every dimension beyond any imaginings. Tripurasundarī is the unconditional love, beauty, and auspiciousness which exists in the center of our hearts. “She is to be realized in the heart of the yogin as his own Self.” (Yoginīhrdaya).
In her traditional iconography, she is white in color, tinged with red with three eyes and red lower garments. In the tantric form, she is all red. She has four arms holding a noose, hook, and a bow and arrows. These represent her powers of will (noose), knowledge (hook) and action (bow and arrow). She is seated on the seat of prostrate Sadāśiva on a throne held up by Vishnu, Indra, Agni and Rudra. Thus, she is both immanent and transcends the five great forces in the Universe of creation, maintenance, concealment, dissolution and grace.
Tripurasundarī is surrounded in her Śrī Chakra by 9 chakras with 98 seats for her retinue of yoginīs or powers. These yoginīs express her various dynamic potencies as she pervades the universe and indeed our own bodies and selves. In the worship of the Śrī Chakra, we make the effort to come into contact, alignment and flow with the Goddess and all her powers.
LALITĀPŪJĀ, LALITĀTRIŚATĪ, AND ŚRĪ CHAKRA ABHIshEKA
Every morning at TMC, a team of pūjāris honor and worship the Goddess installed in the Meru Śrī Chakra on the meditation hall altar. The pūjā is dedicated to the Goddess Lalitā, “the Beautiful” or “the Charming.” She is the same as Tripurasundarī.
In the pūjā, the Śrī Chakra altar is placed in the center of the meditation hall. Facing east and the sunrise, sitting before the altar, the pūjāri first goes through the ritual process of installing the powers of the Goddess upon their body (nyāsa), transforming themselves into and identifying themselves with the deity. Then, with the awareness of themselves as divine energy, one with the Goddess, the ritual assistant offers worship and gifts to the Goddess on the altar on behalf of the entire community. These offerings are in prayer for the health, peace and spiritual prosperity of our teachers, our community, all our loved ones, and indeed, the whole world.
The offerings presented represent the five senses and the five traditional gifts given to an honored guest in the Indian tradition: flowers, scented perfume (sandalwood powder), light, incense, sweet food and drink. In the mornings, we offer a cup of tea! Additionally, song in praise of the Goddess is offered by all those present by singing the auspicious and powerful Lalitātriśatī mantra chant.
Once a month on the new moon, the Lalitāpūjā begins with an abhisheka of the Śrī Chakra. The abhisheka is a ritual cleansing of the Śrī Chakra, in which the residual energies of the month prior are washed clean in order to make space for renewed brightness in the coming month. The pūjāri washes the Śrī Chakra with seven white and gold substances: milk, yogurt, sugar, honey, ghee, saffron, and coconut water. The jewels of the Goddess are cleansed, a fresh red sari and garland are offered and draped around her. Special items such as pearls and gold leaf may be given. It’s a sumptuous and poignant ceremony in which we ourselves take the opportunity to drop the tensions of our lives and begin afresh into the new moon cycle.
The daily Lalitāpūjā begins immediately after morning meditation when the gong is struck, at about 7:10 am and lasts for about 20 minutes. It is a beautiful, uplifting and sweetly devotional way to start the day. All are welcome to attend.
Lalitātriśatistotra is a devotional mantric chant containing three hundred names in praise of the Goddess Lalitā. The names in the chant are arranged in fifteen consecutive sets of twenty names. Each of the fifteen sets begins with a syllable of the Pañcadaśākṣarī, the Vidyā mantra of the Goddess Tripurasundarī. Thus, singing the chant is supremely auspicious in that it is both a praise in honor of the Goddess and a mantra recitation imbued with the energy of the Goddess herself.
The practice of the Lalitātriśati chant was transmitted to The Movement Center community by Swami Chetanananda in 2013. TMC is now very fortunate to have a new translation of the full 15th century Lalitātriśatistotra text by renowned Sanskrit scholar, Alexis Sanderson, who gifted the translation to our community in 2016. The translation of the text including the longer Nāmāvalī, along with a commentary by Alexis Sanderson is available for purchase through Rudra Press.