The terrible force of time, the grace of endless compassion, dazzling beauty, all-comprising vision, endless courage, capacity for self-sacrifice, fascinating brightness, sublime vacuity, expressive play, intoxicating harmony...all these are different aspects of Supreme Feminine Energy and each of them may lead you to experiencing the Ultimate Reality.
GAIN CONTROL OVER YOUR ENERGIES
In the context of this series of articles we will try to analyze the main philosophical and practical aspects that refer to the spiritual tradition of the Ten Great Cosmic Forces (Dhasha Mahavidya ).
This tradition is essentially a Tantric practice whose purpose is to gain a "magic" control over subtle energies and forces that animate both our inner micro cosmos and the Macro cosmos in its various aspects of manifestation.
The foundation for this Tantric spiritual practice lies in the idea that one should not avoid the tests which life puts us through by isolating ourselves and retreating into a deserted place in order to reach spiritual fulfillment.
Instead, Tantric tradition asserts that Mahavidya Upasana should be performed in the context of the every-day life as it offers us the possibility of mastering our problems and transcending them.
In this respect, the Tantric tradition (Tantra Shastra) offers several methods which are suited to any type of situation and human problems. It is therefore not necessary to seek a different method to evolve spiritually.
It is enough to activate as many sublime aspects of our superior nature as possible, attempting to fulfill any positive, beneficial desire we have and sublimating the energies that animate it.
On one hand the purpose is to experience a refined pleasure and on the other to experience a state of divine freedom.
Consequently, Tantric spiritual practice is not meant only for those who have been initiated, but it also offers amazing opportunities for those who ardently aspire to reach a state of ultimate freedom.
TANTRA IS NOT SORCERY
Although Tantric texts are filled with cryptic expressions, with metaphors and allegories which represent obstacles that are unsurpassable (for those who are not initiated), still Tantra is not sorcery.
Misunderstandings about these metaphors have caused even reputed researchers to make huge mistakes in the interpretation of these sacred texts.
One of the most frequent errors is made due to ignorance regarding important aspects of the Tantric system – they understand the metaphorical language literally, thus attributing inaccurate meanings to the Tantric texts, meanings which they never had.
Consequently, they associate Tantra with "abominable practices" such as sacrificial rituals, orgiastic sexual practices, etc. Actually, one may describe certain teachings of the Tantric tradition as a transcendence of any phenomenal tribulations; thus it is a deeply non-dualistic religious and philosophical system.( advaita ).
Authentic Tantric spirituality has nothing in common with witchcraft or certain magical practices that appear in some sects (having deviant and often gruesome practices) which are many times mistaken for deeply spiritual Tantric doctrine.
ALL THINGS LEAD TO HIM
The purpose of spiritual fulfillment through sadhana is to reach a state of full union with the Supreme Reality of God, whose nature is Sat - Chit - Ananda (Pure Existence, Pure Consciousness, Pure Bliss).
In Tantric tradition, the nature of divine reality bears the name Cit and refers to the infinite force of God's consciousness.
On a transcendent level, Cit (or the Absolute Consciousness of God) is associated with a tough, compact monolith, infinite in its splendor.
Nonetheless, this essential character of creation differentiates in some aspects, particularly its attributes and expressions; such as the expression 'Maya', the force of illusion covering the intrinsic reality of all manifested things.
In fact, Supreme Reality, which is beyond any attribute or conceptual understanding, projects itself in creation in a finite and determined form through the dynamics of the Divine Consciousness as Force (Cit).
From this point of view, the Great Cosmic Forces (Mahavidya) represent reflections of Cit as ideas or divine expressions in creation which consequently have a universal character.
The ten Cosmic Powers are considered as feminine entities whose consciousness is quite close to the consciousness of God and who are like "administrators" of creation.
This is because their nature is more subjective and less objective (in other words, the perception of their influence and of their manifestation is the subtle domain of consciousness).
However, the Hindu pantheon contains many representations of these feminine deities who each, in a symbolic manner, illustrate their main attributes and characteristics from the Macrocosm.
In spiritual Tantric practice, physical aspects constitute an important base for elevating one's consciousness. Besides various iconographic representations and graphical symbols (yantra, mantra) the Tantric tradition confers a tremendous importance to devotion to the ten Great Cosmic Powers.
The spiritual purpose for such a procedure is, starting from the physical level, that the individual consciousness gradually ascends to a state of transcendence characteristic to the Great Cosmic Powers who the Tantric practitioner adores.
Then, in an ultimate spiritual effort, the Tantric will accede to the state of Supreme Transcendent Void, the origin and quintessence of any divine energy.
Consequently, the principle at work in this case is the gradual elevation of consciousness, starting from inferior levels and moving up to a sublime, total experience of divine transcendence, without neglecting or interdicting any "mundane" aspects.
THE MYSTERY OF FULFILLMENT RESIDES INSIDE YOURSELF
This approach of reaching and experiencing the ten Great Cosmic Powers has a unitary, holistic character, in which the parts of the whole intermingle in harmony in order to create the image of the Whole.
This aspect becomes more obvious by the awakening and ascension of Kundalini Shakti. For instance, this energy may be either latent, "sleeping" in Muladhara chakra, or it may become active, purifying and activating all the levels of our being.
The polarization of Kundalini has a different correspondent in the human being. Thus, when Kundalini Shakti is sleeping in Muladhara chakra the person is somewhat "awake" for the exterior world, even though, considered through the point of view of the Supreme Transcendent Reality, this world is ephemeral.
When this energy is awake and active and reaches as high as Sahasrara chakra, the practitioner becomes "dead" for the outer world, yet from the point of view of the divine reality, he is unbelievably lucid and awake.
Each of the ten Great Cosmic Powers ( Kali , Tara , Tripura Sundari, Bhuvaneshvari, Tripura Bhairavi , Chinnamasta , Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi, and Kamalatmika) have a characteristic sadhana , but still each sadhana has 3 fundamental points:
1. Devotion to the image of the deity (of the Great Cosmic Power chosen for devotion at a certain time);
2. Concentration on the yantra (geometrical representation corresponding to the field of beneficial influence of a certain great cosmic power).
3. Mental emission of a mantra corresponding to a Great Cosmic Power.
Nonetheless, in our devotion to these ten Great Cosmic Powers we have to differentiate between them and Matruka.
The first represents the gigantic sphere of consciousness of the divine energy that encompasses the whole universe. While the later represents the cosmic forces of the most important gods of the Hindu pantheon, and in the oriental tradition they are known as the consorts of those gods. They are: Maheshvari, Vaishnavi, Brahmani, Kaumari, Indrani, Narasimhi, and Varahi.
Thus, with some guidelines which clearly go through the Tantric tradition and through the practice of the devotion to the ten Great Cosmic Powers, we will introduce brief and representative characteristic of each Great Cosmic Power in the following articles in this section.
THE TEN VIDYA -S
In the Tantric vision, the Universe has a vibratory structure much like a pyramid. Different worlds are placed on different levels or strata. Each stratum has a definite rate of vibration and expresses a definite level of consciousness.
At the top of this gigantic pyramid like structure there are certain Cardinal Focuses of Energy (Vidya-s) symbolically called "Cosmic Powers" or "Goddesses", which have a paramount role in creating, maintaining and re-absorbing the Cosmos.
The disciplines that have an inner communion with these Cosmic Powers are known as Maha Vidya Yoga or Shri Vidya Yoga. These are the supreme fundamental ways (paths) of profound knowledge and wisdom.
The Tantric tradition is characterized by the central place given to Everlasting Female Archetypes, to the Supreme Goddess, the Mother of the Universe, i.e. the essential femaleness as a creative and dynamic Power which complements the stillness of the Consciousness.
In this vision, each female is a Shakti. She embodies and manifests the secret fundamental subtle forces which animate and control the Cosmos.
The Tantric adepts see the whole Cosmos, with its visible and invisible worlds, as a Supreme Mother Goddess ( Parashakti ), which holds ultimate and omnipotent power over cosmic manifestation and over all creatures.
On a human scale, all women are part of the Cosmic Goddess. The Ultimate Consciousness ( Shiva ) is grasped through Shakti.
It can be said that the Ten Great Feminine Cosmic Powers (Dasha Maha Vidya-s) are the ten fundamental aspects of the Supreme Cosmic Mother's personality. Nevertheless, each Goddess has a specific cosmic function in the universal harmony.
The traditional sequence of the ten Goddesses is:
KALI - The Power of Time and The Night of Eternity
TARA - The Power of Void and The Night of Anger
TRIPURA SUNDARI - The Power of Absolute Splendor
BHUVANESHWARI - The Power of Space and The Night of Perfect Realization
TRIPURA BHAIRAVI - The Power of Death and The Night of Destiny
CINNAMASTA - The Power of Sacrifice and The Night of Courage
DHUMAVATI - The Power of Deprivation and The Night of Frustration
BAGALAMUKHI - The Power of Instantaneously Stopping
MATANGI - The Power of Domination and The Night of Illusion
KAMALATMIKA - The Power of Perfect Happiness and The Night of Paradise
The cluster of the ten Maha Vidya-s reflects the dynamic unity of existence, in which all aspects of life - the darkest, the purest, the most forceful and the inert - are combined to form a whole, a vision of unity in diversity.
DEFINITION OF "WORSHIP"
The esoteric Tantric Tradition states that:
'The highest form of worship ( Param Puja ) is not offering flowers, fruits, etc., to any image, but it is the grasp of the true nature of [the Deity as being the Self]. It does not need any definite place or time: it is to be performed wherever and whenever possible'
We use the term "worship" with this meaning. This way, worship leads to spiritual knowledge, which implies the unification of subject and object by relation of identity ( samyama ).
In fact Maha Vidya Yoga consists of ten different ways (paths) of understanding ourselves and the Universe through identification with ten fundamental energies-consciousness of the Cosmos.
Therefore our purpose is self-knowledge through specific ways which are related to our affinity i.e., which best fit our personality. Tantra reveals that the Supreme Being can be reached through any of these Cosmic Focuses of Power.