Tripura Rahasya: Tradition & Text
Tripura Rahasya: Secrets of Shakti
June 10, 2019
The previous post Shakti Sadhana: An Introduction introduced us to the idea of shakti sadhana, the path that leads to moksha—ultimate liberation—as it is described in the tantric scripture Tripura Rahasya. Traditionally, spiritual knowledge was handed down from gurus to their disciples, and this tradition still exists. In ancient India it was customary for a student to know about the tradition and lineage of the knowledge he was receiving before he started treading the path of light. Thus, the Tripura Rahasya opens with references to the tradition through which it has been transmitted.
The seers Medha and Sumedha are said to be the spokesmen of this scripture—they made it available to the oral tradition, and from there, it was committed to writing. They received this knowledge from the sage Parashurama. Parashurama received it from Dattatreya, Dattatreya from Brahma, Brahma from Vishnu, and Vishnu from Shiva. In the Markandeya Purana it is said that Medha rishi was also a teacher of the Durga Saptashati, another prominent scripture of shakti sadhana. Medha rishi was initiated by the great sage Parashurama, and so, in reciting the scripture, Medha rishi begins with the story of Parashurama.
Parashurama is one of the key links in the long chain of the tradition of the Himalayan sages. At one time, Parashurama stopped doing his austerities. He felt badly about his lapse and repented. In this frame of mind, he encountered a man who was pretending to be completely disorganized and mentally disturbed.
The man ignored him, but Parashurama, determined to talk to him, made persistent efforts to get his attention. The man did not lose his temper, even though Parashurama teased him obstinately, but kept on smiling and muttering. This behavior convinced Parashurama that he had encountered a great sage who had conquered lust and anger, and so he surrendered himself at the man’s feet.
Seeing this, the man said, “I am Brihaspati’s brother, Samvarta. I renounced my home in my childhood and began practicing contemplation. I protect myself from people by posing as a lunatic. I remain in contemplation all the time and have no time to teach you. Go to the sage Dattatreya, and he will initiate you in the worship of Tripura.”
Hearing this, Parashurama went to Gandhamadana Mountain, where the revered Dattatreya lived. This mountain is north of the Himalayas. In this calm and tranquil setting, he found someone seated in a meditative pose who greeted him with a smile, saying, “You are in the right place. The sage Dattatreya is seated in the inner chamber of this ashram. You may go in.”
Parashurama entered and saw the sage. A courtesan was seated next to him, trying her best to charm him, and a goblet of wine was by his side. Parashurama was completely bewildered by this, but he had faith in Samvarta. Reminding himself that sages have their peculiar ways, he prostrated and sat in front of Dattatreya.
The sage welcomed him: “O Parashurama, you have taken the path of enlightenment. To attain perfect control over sense gratification is the way of victory. To have control over the palate and the sexual urge is a great achievement. As you see, I keep the objects of enjoyment with me—both wine and courtesan are by my side. Seeing this, all the sages have left me. They despise me now. For what have you come? Do you not hate me?”
Parashurama replied, “I have heard about you from the sage Samvarta, and have come to your feet with great shraddha (faith). Kindly instruct me.”
Sage Dattatreya was happy to comply and imparted the knowledge of Tripura Rahasya in the traditional manner. Having received this knowledge, Parashurama departed for Mahendra Mountain to do his sadhana. This phase of his sadhana lasted 12 years, and according to the tradition, it was during this time that he initiated Sumedha rishi.
Initiation in Shakti Sadhana
Shakti sadhana is not possible without initiation. In shakti sadhana, the yogi awakens the dormant shakti of his disciple through diksha (initiation). There are various levels of initiation, and it is given according to the aspirant’s state of mind and level of awareness.
It is important for seekers to thoroughly study the Tripura Rahasya under the guidance of a competent master who has attained the knowledge of this scripture. To become qualified for the guidance of such a master, the student must have developed three qualities: first, he should be endowed with firm faith; second, he should be free from the attachment of “mine and thine”; and third, he should have a burning desire to attain pure knowledge.
The Tripura Rahasya explains all the stages of enlightenment and inspires the student at every step. Other scriptures only talk about certain principles and tell the seeker what to do and what not to do, but they do not explain how to be. This scripture furnishes both the principles and the practices. Another unique aspect of this scripture is that it is ascribed to a female deity. In the Tripura Rahasya, through the worship of and devotion to the Mother Divine, the aspirant fathoms all levels systematically and finally attains the highest state of consciousness.
Most other scriptures use the word “he” or other pronouns in the masculine or neuter gender when referring to God. But the Tripura Rahasya uses the word “mother” and other feminine-gendered terms when referring to the highest deity. A child finds comfort in his mother’s lap and is very close to her. It is easy for a child to converse with its mother and to learn from her. Similarly, in sadhana, the seeker finds that his practice is easy and spontaneous when he uses the words “Mother,” “Shakti,” “Mahamaya,” or “Tripura Sundari.”
This highly practical scripture also reminds an aspirant that without sankalpa shakti (firm determination), neither philosophical knowledge nor spiritual practice has great value. It is through sankalpa shakti that one gathers the courage to tread the path. Bhakti (devotion) is also needed for without it spiritual practice becomes dry and technical. In order to acquire the virtues of sankalpa shakti and bhakti, an aspirant must cultivate positive thinking—a virtue of a purified and sharpened intellect.
When the faculty of discrimination is sharpened, sankalpa shakti strengthens. Sankalpa shakti is a prerequisite for entering the subtle realms within. Without it, one cannot tread the path of bhakti. Bhakti means compassion plus devotion. When the seeker equips himself with these two exquisite qualities, he is fully prepared to tread the path. Firm faith develops in the company of the sages, by contemplating on the atman, and by practicing the systematic method of meditation, described below:
Steps to Meditation
- Learn to sit still, keeping the head, neck, and trunk in a straight line, yet remain relaxed.
- Practice withdrawing the senses from the objects of the world by fixing the attention on the flow of the breath. Make the mind aware that the breath and the mind are like two sides of the same coin; they are inseparable, twin laws of life. It has been proven scientifically that when the mind is agitated, the inhalation and exhalation also become agitated, and jerks, shallowness, and several other inconsistencies appear in the flow of the breath.
- Begin to realize the nearness of the self within. This is accomplished by gearing the mind and its modifications one-pointedly to the individual self only. Upasana (literally, “to be near”) means to be constantly aware of the self within. This is the prime goal of that sadhana which leads the seeker to the highest state of attainment.
Upasana, or devotion, has two aspects—external and internal. In external worship, objects such as flowers and fruits are used, and rituals such as the fire ceremony, are performed. In internal worship, the mind and its modifications are made one-pointed and inward. Then, as the Yoga Sutra says: tada drashtuh svarupe avasthanam—“the seer is established in his own nature.”
The Tripura Rahasya is one of the most wonderful and practical of all scriptures and is very helpful to those on the path of self-realization. I am certain that those aspirants who study this scripture with full faith and a tranquil mind will have a new vision, and will become aware of a completely new dimension of life.
Source: Introduction by Swami Rama in Shakti Sadhana: Steps to Samadhi by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Sakti Sadhana: Steps to Samadhi
Pandit Tigunait’s translation of the Tripura Rahasya is a journey through the states of consciousness encountered on the path to ultimate self-awareness, written in a manner that makes it easily digestible for the Western reader. Sakti Sadhana is one of the most vivid and well written Vedic translations available in modern times, and an essential read for the dedicated spiritual seeker.
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