Friday, August 20, 2010

Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses: Spiritual Secrets of Ayurveda

Book Review: Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses: Spiritual Secrets of Ayurveda by Dr. David Frawley (Passage Press 1994)

This books serves as a thorough introduction to mainly Hindu Tantra. The veneration of the Ten Wisdom Goddesses was revived as the Sri Vidya tradition by the sage Abhinavagupta although the ten forms appear earlier as the Dasha Mahavidya – the ten forms of the goddess arising from Kali or from Durga as she emanated ten forms to slay the demon. “Each of the Ten forms of the Goddess represents a particular approach to Self-realization.” The Ten Wisdom Goddesses in this tradition are Kali, Tara, Tripura Sundari (Lalita), Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi, and Kamalatmika. The first three are the most known. Lalita is most venerated in South India, Kali in West India and Bengal, and Tara in North India and Buddhist lands.

Kali is given as the Goddess of Yogic transformation. Kali is time, creation and destruction, life and death, being, nirvana, the power of action, and beauty. The saint Ramakrishna was a great devotee of Kali who he said brought forth the fruits of yoga. Kali represents the Pure Awareness of meditation and non-attachment. Kali is also Prana.

Tara is given as the Saving Word – ruling speech, as Om – the teacher or guru, sound and breath, and knowledge. Tara means she who saves. She is also associated with Sarasvati – particularly in a wrathful form. The Buddhist Tara is somewhat different than in this tradition in my opinion – actually many tantric scholars consider the Buddhist form of Tara to have Buddhist origins. There are certainly many legends about her origins. But certainly the name Tara is given in the Vedas for Shiva and his Shaktis. In this tradition one may meditate on Tara with the mantra Om.

Tripura Sundari, or Lalita – she who plays –is called the Beauty of the Three worlds – or three bodies: physical, astral, and causal. She is the Beauty of Pure Perception, the Goddess of Vedantic Knowledge, and Consciousness.

Bhuvaneshvari is the Queen of the Universe, of Space and Direction and Matter, Maya and the Void, Peace and the Power of Love.

Bhairavi is the Warrior Goddess, Goddess of Speech, Dangerous Consort of Rudra - the wrathful aspect of Shiva. She is associated with Tapas – the transforming energy of heat. She is fire, lightning, and the Sun. The mantra Svaha (soha) is associated with Bhairavi.

Chhinnamasti is give as the Consciousness Beyond the Mind. She is practiced in the Buddhist tradition as the severed-headed Vajrayogini. This is the slaying of the ego and giving up identifying with the body associated with yogic liberation. The three streams of blood are the three channels (nadis). She represents free flow of Kundalini - free of the effects of the three knots: the Brahma-granthi in the root chakra which represents bondage to speech, the Vishnu-granthi in the heart chakra which represents bondage to emotion, and the Rudra-granthi in the third eye which represents our bondage to thought. Chinnamasti represents the breaking of the Rudra knot allowing the transcendence of thought. She is also associated with Indrani – the consort of Indra. She is the Great Yogini.

Dhumavati is called the Grandmother Spirit. She is the Elder of Primordial Darkness, the Void, the Power of suffering, the elder form of Kali. She removes negativity.

Bagalamukhi is given as the Hypnotic Power of the Goddess. She is the Power of Silence and the Weapon of Brahma which refers to inner inquiry as to one’s nature. She is associated with the magical power called Stambhana – stopping or paralyzing and also with turning things into their opposite.

Matangi is called the Utterance of the Divine Word. She is associated with Sarasvati – the Goddess of Wisdom. She is the guru but also the outcast. She is sometimes seen as consort to Ganesha as she appears as a female elephant. She is associated with Joy and with ministerial duties – particularly she is the minister of mantric or word power. She resides in the throat chakra.

Kamalatmika is given as the Lotus Goddess of Delight. Kamala is an aspect of Lakshmi consort to Vishnu. Lakshmi is the Goddess of Spiritual Wealth, of Fortune, of Auspiciousness. She is associated with outer beauty and abundance – what most folk in the world seek after. Kamala is the form of Lakshmi related to yogic practice. She is the granting aspect of Kali and the most material form of the Wisdom Goddesses.

Each of the goddesses has specific mantras, locations in the body, meditational forms, and meditation approaches. The goddesses relate in various ways and can be classified in various ways. The first three are most important as aspects of existence: Kali is power or shakti. Tara is wisdom or prajna, and Sundari is beauty. Kali relates to Shiva as the destroyer. Tara relates to Brahma as the creator, and Sundari relates to Vishnu as the preserver. Kali is Sat – or being. Tara is Cit – or consciousness, and Sundari is Ananda – or bliss. Sat-cit-ananda is considered the threefold nature of the absolute. The three forms of Hindu goddess are usually given as Sarasvati, Lakshmi, and Kali knowledge, beauty, and power.

The rest of the book goes through the yogic sheaths and bodies, the chakras, the subtle doshas, the types of mind, and Ayurvedic theory. There are suggestions for how to develop the subtle doshic energies.

There is a small section at the end of comparison of Buddhist and Hindu aspects of the Goddesses – it is admirably done although he is perhaps a bit less clear on the Buddhist aspects.

Dr. Frawley is considered a knowledgable Vedic scholar and has written many very good books.

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