[ TRS MURTHY
Please enlighten full details of NABHI-VIDYA.
Dear Sri Murthy
I started this as a reply to your comment. But, since it grew rather lengthy, I am posting it separately, as a blog. Pardon me for the delay in responding.
The subject, to say the least, is rather obscure; its text is also not widely known; and, not many have written about it. And, the manner in which the Nabhi-Vidya has been expounded is, indeed, very complicated. I have attempted to write about its structure, as I have understood. I am aware, my presentation could be inadequate at places. Please pardon me.
In case you are deeply interested in the subject, you may treat this as prompter; and, seek further guidance from a truly learned person.
I trust you will have the patience to read through this somewhat tedious post.
OK. Here we go …]
The Nabhi-vidya is one of the lesser-known texts of the Sri Vidya lore. It, basically, is related to Shodashi and Maha–Shodashi-Mantras; there is also a brief use of the Para-Shodashi-Mantra, the highest, which bestows true knowledge and leads to liberation (Jnana-prada, Mukti-prada). The various combinations of these Mantras, constructed in their regular order (Anuloma) as also in their reverse order (Viloma), as per their formats in the Kadi, Hadi Vidyas and in the mixture of the two (Kadi-Hadi), are hailed as the most sacred, secretive and powerful Mantras.
However, there is no definite information either about its date or its author. And, the text, to say the least, is needlessly made complicated by admixing varieties of Mantra-formats of various Schools; combining them with intricate sets of meters; and, encrypting the verses by resorting to the Katapayadi technique of hashing. It could be interpreted in more than one way.
Nabhi-Vidya is, by no means, a lucid text; and, is not easy either to understand or to follow. It is not a text which expounds a philosophy. It is constructed as a set of Mantras, which the adherent has to earnestly and repeatedly recite (Japa), as a part of her / his Sadhana or Upasana-krama. Further, since the Nabhi-Vidya is associated with the Vama-achara modes of worship, it is not in common practice either.
Its text is in the traditional format of conversation (Samvada); and, it takes place between Sri Hayagriva and Sage Agastya. Here, Agastya requests the most learned (Sarva-shastra-visharada) Guru Hayagriva to impart to him the knowledge about the Self (Atma-jnana), which is pristine, most delightful (Ananda-rasa-sambrutham), eternal; and, unwavering (a-chanchala).
Hayagriva Daya-sindhau, Sarva-shastra-visharada / kena prapnothi niyata-mathma jnanam a-chanchalam / kena samprapnoya sakshmam Ananda-rasa sambrutham //
Then, Guru Hayagriva recounts a similar request made earlier by Devi Sri Parvathi to Lord Shiva, to reveal to her the secret knowledge about his true nature.
Deva-Deva-Mahadeva Sat-chidananda-vigraha / Yad-gopyam tava sarvasvam kathayasva mama-prabhuo //
In response to Devi’s request, the Supreme Lord Mahadeva reveals and teaches Devi Parvathi the ancient and hitherto hidden knowledge, the Nabhi Vidya.
Shrunu Devi pravakshyami rahasyam yad-vachoduna / Gopaniyam prayatnena purna-hanta maya-param //
Further, Shiva mentions that the rare and precious (Tri-lokya-durlabham) Nabhi-Vidya consists thirty-six mantras (Nabhi-vidyatmakam-divya-shat-trishatu-tattva samkhyakam) representing thirty-six elements (tattva); together with Matruka, Natha, Baala and Para-Vidyas, it amounts to forty mantras (Matruka-Natha-Baalabhir-Paraya saha / chatvarimsat samkhyabhi aakhya Nabhi-iritha). These are arranged in varied combinations following the principles of Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, as indicated cryptically (Rahasya-sanketha).
Pica-ru-ru Bala yugmam kambhuka trimbakabha / Bala pica ru-ru yugmam Raja-vidyaya shtanabha / Nrupathi yuga vathamsa Matruka Natha Baala / Para-yuvathi sametha pathu maam Nabhi-vidyaya //
Later, the Devi teaches Sage Hayagriva the Nabhi Vidya, composed of the Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi Mantras, each of which set to Kadi, Hadi and also to the combinations of the two (Kadi-Hadi). These twenty-four, along with the twelve arrived at with the doubling of the Hrillekhas (Srim- ह्रीं)) at the end of each Kuta (group), amount to thirty-six mantras (Shat-trimshat-tattva-sankhya). And, the other four being explicit Matruka, Natha, Baala and Para Mantras.
And, Hayagriva thereafter initiates Agastya into the sacred and hidden Nabhi-Vidya (Shiva-Shivaa rahsyam cha etad gopyam)
Guru Hayagriva mentions; if the Mantra is practiced earnestly and properly, it will lead to the realization of one’s true Self (Pujayitva yatha-vidhi, nija-swarupam vijnathu Iccha -phalitha manasa)
It is said that the Nabhi-Vidya, being at the center of all the Maha-Mantras, connects the devotee to the Universal Mother (Vishva-matha) Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari; and, seeks her blessings.
The Rishi of the Mantra is Ananda-Bhairava; its Devatha is Sri-Vidya-Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari; its Chhandas is Amruta-Virat-Gayatri; and, its viniyoga is securing the grace and the blessings of the Supreme Mother Goddess Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari.
Asya Sri Nabhi-Vidya shodasakshari Tripura-Sundari Brahma-vidya Mantra-raja Maha -Mantrasysa Ananda-Bhairava-Rishihi / Amruta-Virat-Gayatri-Chandhaha / Sri-Vidya -Maha-Tripura-Sundari Raja-Rajeshwari Devatha / Aim, ka, ye, ela, hrim Bijam / Sau skala hrim Shakthi-hi / Klim hasa-kapala hrim kilakam / Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari Anugraha-prasada sidyarthe jape-viniyogaha //
In the Nabhi-Vidya, the Shodashi, Maha-Para-Shodashi Mantras of Hadi Vidya, Kadi Vidya and Hadi-Kadi Vidya are mixed and combined in various patterns; out of which, 36 Mantras are generated. These are followed by 4 separate Mantras (37-40).
Almost the entire body of the thirty-six elements of the Nabhi-Vidya (composed of the Purvanga-vidya-24; Raja-Vidya-12; and, Nrpathi-vidya-4) is comprised by the sets of instructions for the arrangement/recitation (Japa) of the complicated pattern of the mixture of the selected segments of the Shodashi, Maha–Shodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras, as per the Kadi , Hadi and Hadi-Kadi Vidya-s, in their proper sequence (Anuloma) / reverse order (Viloma); with specified numbers of repetitions of the Hrim-kara (ह्रीं-Hrillekha-dwayam) .
Thus, the Nabhi-vidya is a compilation of a varied sets of Mantras, related to Srividya, arranged according to a pre-determined order. The Nabhi-Vidya, primarily and essentially, is meant for practice (Sadhana) of Srividya. There is not much philosophical discussion or expounding of theoretical principles here. It, indeed, is a practical guide for worship (Puja-vidhi) of Sri Maha-Tripura-Sundari through the medium of the Sri-chakra.
The Mantras from 37 to 40 , are four independent Mantras (Matruka; Guru-natha-paduka; Baala; and Para).
This is followed by an Epilogue (Uttara-bhaga) detailing the instructions to chant the Mantras as per both the Kadi and Hadi-Vidyas , as many times as possible (Yethah Vidyaya yatha-shakthi-japet-nityam) – at least a hundred times in a day. And, in the concluding Devi-Puja-kalpa there are details of the worship-procedures (Kara-nyasa, Anga-nyasa, Dhyana-slokas etc) for the Sadhana of the Srividya Shodasha-akshari; Srividya Maha-Shodasha-akshari; and Srividya Para-Shodasha-askshari Mantras.
And, in the Phala-sruthi, it is assured that Nabhi-Vidya is so powerful as that reciting the Nabhi-Vidya once is equivalent to repetition (Japa) of the Pancha-dashi Mantra one Lakh times. It would also bestow prosperity both here (Iha) and in hereafter (Para); and, will also grant the unshakable (a-chanchala) Self-knowledge (Atma-jnana).
Before we come to the text of the Nabhi-Vidya, let us try to get familiar with some of its terms.
Several explanations are offered to say why this set of mantras is celebrated as Nabhi-Vidya.
(1) The term Nabhi(नाभि), according to the ancient Katapayadi system or technique of hashing, for assigning numerical values to certain alphabets of Sanskrit Grammar (briefly explained a bit later), works out to the number 40. Here, the letter ‘Na’ (ना) stands for 0 (zero); and, ‘Bha’(भ) for 4. And, when the resultant values are placed in the reverse order (as is usually done), it read as 40. Following that, there are 40 mantras in the Nabhi-Vidya.
Of the 40 Mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya, 36 associated with the Kadi and Hadi Vidya traditions, are set to the various combinations of Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi Mantras. The rest four mantras are made up of Matraka; Guru-pada (Natha); Baala; and, Para mantras.
(2) Nabhi, its inadequate equivalent in English is navel; the depressed point in the middle of the abdomen. It is the Scar that marks the spot that once attached the umbilical cord to the foetus.
When the foetus is in its mother’s womb; it is thorough the umbilical cord, connected to its navel, that it gets nourishment. It is the ‘navel’ that, figuratively and also really, constructs a concreate relationship with its mother. This cord is a part of both the foetus and of the mother as well, for a period of Forty weeks.
It is said that the Nabhi-Vidya, being at the centre of all the Maha-Mantras, connects the devotee to the Universal Mother (Vishva-matha).
(3) Nābhi (नाभि), the ‘navel’, representing one of the sixteen vital centres of the body (i.e., ādhāra), is regarded as a seat of vital function. Nabhi is also the center of Paravak, the vibratory energy and the primordial source of all sounds.
(4) Nābhi (नाभि) refers to one of the seventeen stages in the rise of kundalini-Shakthi. The seventeen syllables (saptadaśā-akṣhara) of Mantra-mātā (मन्त्रमाता) are said to be arranged in as many locations along the axis of the subtle body.
Bindu or the centre of the body is considered to be the Nabhi. This is also understood as the hub of a wheel i.e., Nabhi Chakra.
The Nabhi-chakra is a vortex, the third of the seven major Chakras rising from the base of the spine to the crown of the head; and, is located above the navel. It is named as मणिपूर (Maṇipūra), the resplendent or lustrous gem; having ten petals, bearing the Sanskrit letters ḍa, ḍha, ṇa, ta, tha, da, dha, na, pa, and pha. The Bija-akshara in the centre is ram. Its Tattwa, the element, is Fire-Agni. The Chakra is associated with bright yellow (much like that of the Sun-flower).
Yoga believes that with the opening of this Chakra, the yogi attains a clear sense of self and purpose.
The Manipura-chakra, located under the solar plexus, is said to have a profound impact on the central nervous system, the optic nerves; and, on one’s digestive system as well. It balances the body functions. And, it also is said to regulate one’s will power.
निम्ननाभिः (nimnanābhiḥ): अरा इव रथनाभौ प्राणे सर्वं प्रतिष्ठितम् (arā iva rathanābhau prāṇe sarvaṃ pratiṣṭhitam) – Praśn. Up. 2.6
(5) Sri Lalita Tripura Sundarī protects from the navel region to the head, signifying the activation of the navel cakra to the Ajñā cakra.
सुन्दरी नाभि देशेऽव्याच्छीर्षिका सकला सदा । sundarī nābhi deśe’vyācchīrṣikā sakalā sadā ।
(6) Lord Vishnu, the protector of life, is also referred to as Padmanabha, the one who sprouts the lotus of creation.
Vishnu is depicted with a lotus emerging out of his navel. It is believed to be the centre of creative energy. The phenomenal universe is symbolized by Brahma, the creator, atop the lotus emerging from the navel of Lord Vishnu; the Navel being symbolized as the cause of creation
(6) The Natya and Shilpa shastras developed a remarkable approach to the structure of the human body; and delineated the relation between its central point (Nabhi, the navel), the verticals and horizontals. Based on these principles, Natya-shastra enumerated many standing and sitting positions, with reference to the navel.
(7) Finally: Central to Tantra-faith is the concept of duality that culminates in unity; as being essentially non-dual (abheda). Shiva the pure consciousness and Shakthi its creative power; the pure-light of consciousness (Prakasha) and its power of illumination (Vimarsha) are eternally conjoined. The one cannot be differentiated from the other. The Tantra ideology explains that Shiva-Shakthi are essentially two aspects of One principle. In reality, the whole of existence, the range of manifold experiences in the world are but the expressions of Shiva-Shakthi combine. This Shakthi is all powerful and infinite. It is only in the relative plane that Shiva-Shakti might appear as separate entities. But the Reality is unity, an indivisible whole.
It is said; the term Vidya, ordinarily stands for knowledge (vid = to know). But, in the context of Sri Vidya, it indeed refers to the Mother Goddess, who resides as wisdom in all the beings (Ya Devi sarva-bhuteshu Vidya-rupena samsthitha). Her form of Vidya (Sri Vidya) is explained as the Vidya that leads to liberation (Sa Vidya parama-mukther-hetu-bhutva-sanatani). Bhagavathi, the Devi, is verily the highest divinity (Vidya-si sa Bhagavathi parama-hi Devi). And, the form of her Vidya is the primordial energy Adi prakriti.
Sri Vidya is also the Vidya that yields Sri (prosperity). Sri Vidya is thus Bhukthi-Mukthi prada, the bestower of well-being, prosperity and liberation. Sri Vidya is the path and also the goal.
The sacred (Divya) Nabhi-Vidya composed of the combination of the letters or the syllables (Bijakshara) of Shodashi and Maha-Shodashi mantras, set to the segments (Kūṭa) of the Kadi and Hadi Vidyas, is said to be very embodiment of the Devi.
Shodashi is the first among the Vidya-s. She is otherwise known as Sri Vidya. She is identified with deities Lalitha, Raja-Rajeshwari, Sundari, Kameshwari and Baala. Lalitha is the playful one; all creation, manifestation and dissolution is her play. She is Maha-Tripura-Sundari, the most magnificent transcendental beauty without a parallel in all the three worlds. She is the conqueror of three levels of existence.
Each of her forms emphasizes a particular quality or function. In Sri Vidya, the Goddess is worshiped in her benign (saumya) and beautiful (soundarya) aspects, following the Sri Kula (family of Sri) tradition (sampradaya).
Kadi-matha and Hadi-matha
The Sri Vidya tradition which centres on the worship of Sri Chakra, considers the following twelve gods and sages as its principal Gurus (mukhya-upaskaha): Manu, Chandra, Kubera, Lopamudra, Manmatha, Agasthya, Nandisha, Surya, Vishnu, Skanda, Shiva and Durvasa.
Manu-Chandra-Kuberascha-Lopamudra-cha-Manmathaha/Agathya-Nandi-Suryascha -Indro -Vishnu-Shiva-thatha / Krodha-Bhattaraco -Devya-yete-mukhya-upaskaha //
It is said; each of the twelve Gurus propagated a school with regard to the worship and the significance of Sri Chakra. Of these, only two schools have survived to this day; one is the school started by Manmatha (also called Kamaraja) – known as Kadi-matha (also as Kamaraja-vidya, Madhumathi-matha; and, Kaali-krama). The Kadi tradition was continued by Sage Agastya. The Kadi-Vidya commences with the Bijakshara Ka (क) – क ए ई ल ह्रीं.
The other school is Hadi-matha (Sundari-krama), commencing with the Bijakshara (ह) – ह स क ह ल ह्रीं. This tradition was brought into practice by Lopamudra, wife of the Sage Agastya. And, some mention (?) that it was followed by five Upasaka-s: Manu, Kamaraja, Indra, Durvasa and Kubera.
Hadisthu Lopamudrashya, Kamarajasthu Kadikaha / tayosthu Kamarajam siddhi dau Bhakthi-shalini //
[An interesting aspect is that the vowels (aa, e, i etc.,) are regarded as representations of Shakthi; while the 35 consonants are basically inert and depend on vowels (just as Shiva depends on Shakthi) to manifest in a meaningful form. It is only when the germinating power (Bija) of the vowels is infused with consonants, the latter gain meaning. That is the reasons the vowels are Bija-aksharas. They transform ordinary letters into mother like condition (Matrika); that is, they impregnate ordinary letters with meaning and power.]
There is also a mention of an obscure third school called Sadi-matha (Tara-krama), commencing with the Bijakshara Sa (स) – स क ल ह्रीं; and, this school, not recommended for householders, it appears, is no longer in current practice, externally.
Of the three, the Kadi- matha (with its mantra starting with letter Ka) is regarded the oldest; and, its attitude and worship is Sattvic; and, is considered more suitable for pious practice. (Kamarajam siddhi dau Bhakthi-shalini). It insists on virtue, discipline and purity of rituals. The prominent Gurus of this School are Paramashiva, Durvasa, Hayagriva and Agasthya. And, as such, Kadi-matha is regarded more important.
Of the other two schools, Hadi-matha is Rajasic; and, the Sadi-matha is Tamasic.
Kadi-matha accepts Vedic authority; and, formulates its position in accordance with the Vedic tradition. The other School is considered different (iyam-anya cha vidya). The term Samaya also means Vedic convention; as orthodox and valid. Hence Kadi School came to be known as Samaya.
The Samaya believes in identity of Shiva and Shakthi; and, its form of worship is purely internal. Hence, Kadi School is also known as Para-Vidya, where the worship (Archana) is conducted in the space of one’s heart (hrudaya-akasha-madhye).
The external worship conducted, say by the Tantric Kaulas, lays greater importance on the Muladhara and Svadhistana Chakras, which are said to be situated at the base of the spinal column; and, which relate essentially to physiological needs and psychological urges.
The Samaya School, on the other hand, prescribes that the internal worship (Antar- Aradhana) be conducted at higher levels, viz., from Manipura to Sahasra. The seat of Tripura is at Sahasra, beyond the six Chakras. It is also the seat of supreme consciousness, Shiva, from which Shakthi springs forth.
Samaya is centered on knowledge (jnana), which is the realization of the identity of Shiva and Shakthi (Sri Shiva-Shakthi rupini Lalithambika). Sri Dakshinamurthi is a revered seer of the Kadi (Samaya) School.
Sri Chakra is the main device employed by Kadi (Samaya) school; the worship is mainly through symbolism; and, successive identifications. The symbolism involves identification (saamaya) of the arrangements and the lines of the diagram with the structure of the Universe; the psycho-physical aspects of the devotee with the spatial arrangement of the diagram representing the goddess; and identifying the Mantra with the Yantra.
As regards the worship of Sri Chakra, there are three recognized procedures:
: – Hayagriva tradition, regarded as Dakshina-chara, the right-handed method, reciting Lalitha-sahasra-nama and Lalita Trisathi, offering Kumkum.
: – Anandabhirava tradition, a Vama-chara, a left-handed method; and
: – Dakshinamurthi tradition, a doctrinal school-Samaya-chara.
Of the three, the last one is considered the best.
The Nabhi-Vidya, the Rishi of which is Anandabhirava, is classified under Vama-chara-vidya.
Guru-Dakshinamurtthi Dakshina-chara-pravarthakaha ; Hayagriva thatha chaivam / Vamecha-Ananadabhairava //
It is said; in the past, Nabhi-Vidya was practiced only by Chandra and Nandi (out of the twelve Upasakas). The Nabhi-Vidya does not appear to be in much circulation even during the present times.
Pancha-dashi and Shodashi Mantras
In the Sri-Vidya tradition, the Panchadashi (Pancha-dasakshari) and the Shodashi are the cardinal and exclusive (rahasya) Mantras.
The Panchadashi-mantra of very potent fifteen letters or syllables (Bijakshara), composed of three segments (Kūṭa) , is indeed the very heart of the Sri Vidya Upasana. It bestows true-knowledge (Jnana-dayaka) and liberation (Moksha-karaka).
The basic mantra is composed of three groups – Kuta or Khanda (segments) of Bijas. The three groups together make up fifteen syllables (pancha-dasakshari mantra). This mantra is implicit.
Its three Kūṭas are:
Vāgbhava-kūṭa of five Bīja-s (ka- e – ī – la-hrīṁ, क ए ई ल ह्रीं);
Madhya or Kamaraja kūṭa of six Bīja-s (ha- sa- ka- ha- la- hrīṁ, ह स क ह ल ह्रीं); and,
the Shakti kūṭa of four Bīja-s (sa- ka- la -hrīṁ, स क ल ह्रीं).
Vāgbhavam Prathama Bijam / Kamarajam dwitiyakam / Trithiyam Shakthi Kutam / Nigama tritayodrutham, ittham Kumari-Vidyaya Bija-traya-mudiritham //
Aim (ऐं) is Vāgbhava-Bija; Klim (क्लीं) is Kamaraja-Bija; and, Sau (सौ) is the Shakthi-Bija. These three Bija-s together form Baala-mantra.
Its Rishi is Sri Dakshinamurthi; its Chhandas is Gayatri; and, its Deity (Devatha) is Baala-Tripura-Sundari
There is also a view that the first group starting with Ka is kadi-matha; the second group starting with Ha represents Hadi-matha; and, the third group starting with Sa is Sadi-matha.
The Rishis of the three practices are said to be: Sri Dakshinamaurthi; Hayagriva; and Anandabhairava, respectively.
Of these, Sri Dakshinamurthi and Hayagriva are said to have practiced Dakshina-chara (right method) ; while , Anandabhairava followed the Vama-chara (left-handed method)
Guru-Dakshinamurtthi Dakshina-chara-pravarthakaha ; Hayagriva thatha chaivam / Vamecha-Ananadabhairava //
The first Kuta of the Pancha-dashi -Mantra is said to be a prayer for removal of ignorance; the second, a prayer for grant of true knowledge; and, the third is the prayer seeking experience of the identity with Shiva-Shakthi, the Devi.
The mantra is composed of a series of individual Bija-Akshara (syllables), each having its own identify and association; and, each representing a certain aspect of the Goddess. But, when these Bija-aksharas are taken together, they manifest the subtle form (Sukshma-rupa) of the Mother Goddess.
Lalitha-sahasranamavali at 88 and 89 mention: Moola-mantra-atmikaa; Moola-Kuta-traya-kalevaraa
The Kadi-matha (Kadi-Vidya) says that the Panchadashi-Mantra consists fifteen visible syllables (ka- e – ī – la-hrīṁ / ha- sa- ka- ha- la- hrīṁ / sa- ka- la -hrīṁ).
क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं
The Hadi-matha version of the Panchadashi-Mantra is said to be (as hinted in sloka 32 of Soundarya-Lahari ) :
ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं
The Panchadashi-Mantra, as per Kadi -Vidya, is composed of 3 क-s; 2 ह-s (the 5 together relate to Shiva); 3 ह्रीं-s (relate to Shiva-and-Shakthi); and, the seven others relate to Shakthi (ए ई ल स ल स ल). Thus, the Mantra signifies the unison of Shiva and Shakthi.
It is also said that in the Panchadashi-Mantra of the Kadi-matha (Kadi-Vidya) , which consists fifteen visible syllables (ka e i la hrim; ha sa ka ha la hrim; sa ka la hrim- क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं / स क ल ह्रीं); Ka represents the air; ha the fire; sa the water; la the earth; and, e the space. The fifteen syllables are: one of space, two of air; three of fire; four of water; and five of earth.
These fifteen lettered Pancha-dasakshari–mantra, celebrated as Kamaraja-mantra or Kadi-Vidya, is revered as the verbal form of the Mother Goddess.
Ka is the first letter in the fifteen-lettered (Pancha-dashi) mantra of the Devi in the Kadi-vidya of Sri Vidya tradition. Ka is an important syllable in the fifteen-lettered mantra; for it appears three times. Here, Ka variously stands for the principle from which everything arises; for illumination (Kan-dipatu); or for the principle of consciousness (buddhi) in beings; and, also for the symbol of Self. And, Ka also stands for the form-less Brahman (ka iti Brahmano naamah).
Shodashi literally means a ‘girl of sixteen years’; who is at a delightful stage of a woman’s life. Her nature is to play, to seek new experiences, and to charm others to her. Her innocence attracts all towards her. And, in Tantra, as also in Sri Vidya, the term refers to deities like Lalitha, Raja-Rajeshwari, Tripura-Sundari, Kameshwari and Baala et al.
Her mantra is called Shodashi mantra. Another reason for calling her mantra by that name is that it is made up of sixteen Bija-Akshara (seed-syllables).
The fifteen lettered (panch-dasha-akshari) Mantra is considered the verbal form of the Devi. But it is implicit or hidden. By adding to the Pancha-dasakshari -mantra the sacred syllable Srīṁ (श्रीं) it is transformed into the sixteen lettered Shodashi-mantra. It then becomes explicit.
The Bijakshara Srīṁ (श्रीं) is regarded as the visual expression, the original or the own form of the Mother Goddess Sri. And, with the sixteenth syllable (Srim) She comes to be celebrated as Sri-vidya.
Kamaraja-mantrante Shrim-Bijena samanvitha / Shodasakshari Vidyeyam Sri-Vidyethi prakirthita //
And, the mantra itself becomes the body of the Mother Goddess. She manifests the un-manifest. She is Prakriti. The auspicious Sri (Srim) is thus revered as Saguna-Brahman, the Sa-kara approach to the absolute principle of the Devi.
The mantra (fifteen or sixteen letters) is, thus, an expression of Sri Vidya. The verbal expression (nada or sound) of the Vidya is mantra; and, its visual expression is the Sri Chakra Yantra. The two are essentially the same. Both are the means to realize the identity of one’s consciousness with Maha Tripura Sundari.
The Shodasha-akshari-mantra is revered as Brahma-Vidya, which bestows Bhukthi (prosperity), Bhakthi (devotion) and also Mukthi (liberation).
It is also said; this mantra is known as Ṣhoḍaśhī or Shodasha-kala-vidya, because each of its sixteen Bīja-s represents a phase (Kalā) of the moon. They are the sixteen individualized aspects, kalas or sixteen phases of moon (Shodasha kalaa). And, therefore this Vidya is also known as Chandra-kala- vidya, the wisdom of the lunar digits.
This school of Sri Vidya explains that the fifteen letters of the mantra correspond to fifteen digits of the moon in each fortnight, commencing from prathipada, (Padyami) the first day of the brighter half (Shukla-paksha), when the moon “comes out of the sun”; and, ending with the full moon on the fifteenth day.
Similarly, in the dark half of the moon cycles (Krishna-paksha), all digits “return to the sun”. The emanation of the fifteen digits of the moon from the Sun culminates in the full moon (Purnima); while the absorption of the digits into the Sun results in new moon (Amavasya).
The sixteenth letter (Shodasha kala or Srim) is said to be present in each of the digits which are called Kalas or Nityas.
The Nityas are the primary Devatas represented in the triple-girdle (Tri-vrtta), between the outermost enclosure (Bhupura) and the sixteen—petalled -lotus (Asta-dala-padma of the second enclosure), in the form of sixteen vowels, each of them inscribed on a petal, in an anti-clock sequence. They are sixteen in number.
[In the Sri Vidya tradition, the sixteen guardian deities, named as Nityas, who form the entourage, of the Devi, are identified with the phases of the moon (Chandra-kalaa); and each Nitya corresponds to a day (tithi) or the aspect of the moon during the fortnight. The sixteen Nityas are: Kameshvari, Bhagamalini, Nityaklinna, Bherunda, Vahnivasini, Mahavajeshvari, Dooti, Tvarita, Kulasundari, Nitya, Nilapataka, Vijaya, Sarvamangala, Jwalamalinika and Maha-Nitya (Vichitra]
The Kalas or Nityas are invoked as forms of the Mother Goddess. They are worshipped during the brighter half of the month (Shukla-paksha), in a sequential order (Anuloma): Kameshvari on the first day; Bhagamalini on the second day; and, so on, till the fifteenth day. But, during the darker half of the month (Krishna-paksha), the worship sequence is reversed (Viloma), starting with Maha-nitya (Vichitra), the sixteenth Nitya.
The full-moon or the New-moon represent the culmination of all the phases (Kalas) of the moon or of the Nityas. The sixteenth aspect of the moon (Shodashi) is looked upon as Maha-Tripura-Sundari (or Lalitha), represented by the central point (Bindu) of the Sri Chakra.
The Shodashi-mantra in Kadi and Hadi-Vidya-s, would be
Kadi: Ka-Ye-Ee-La/ Hrim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La / Hrim / Sa-Ka-La / Hrim / …Srim
क ए ई ल ह्रीं (5 Bīja-s) / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (6 Bīja-s) / स क ल ह्रीं (4 Bīja-s)- श्रीं
Hadi: Ha-Sa-Ka-La / Hrim / Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La / Hrim / Sa-Ka-La/ Hrim … Srim
ह स क ल ह्रीं (5 Bija-s) / ह स क ह ल ह्रीं (6 Bīja-s) / स क ल ह्रीं (4 Bīja-s) – श्रीं
Then there is the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra
The Mahā-Shoḍaśhī-Mantra is actually not sixteen; but it is a Mantra of 28 Bijakshara-s, set in three Kutas (segments): (Vac-Bija; Kamaraja-Bija; and, Shakthi-Bija). Here, each segment is counted as one Bijakshara. And, when it is hemmed on either side by eight and five Bijakshara-s, it would then be Maha-Shodashi-mantra of sixteen Bijakshara-s (8+3+5).
Ashta Bijaksharanyadau paschath panchadashi tathaha / panch-bijakshra seshya Sri-Maha-Shodashi mathaha //
It is said; when the fifteen lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra is preceded by eight letters regarded as Om kara -pranavas (Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh, Aum, Hrim, Srim); and, is later succeeded by five letters regarded as Shakthi-pranavas (Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim), it would be transformed into Maha-Shodashi-Mantra. It will be a Mantra of 28 Bijakshara-s (8+15+5). This is revered as Brahma-vidya or Moksha-vidya.
(1) Srim, Hrim, Klim, Aim, Sauh; (2) Aum, Hrim, Srim; (3) Ka-Ye-Ee-La-Hrim; (4) Ha-Sa-Ka-Ha-La- Hrim; (5) Sa-Ka-La- Hrim; and, (6) Sauh, Aim, Klim, Hrim, Srim
श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः ( 5 bīja-s); ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं ( 3 bīja-s); क ए ई ल ह्रीं ( 5 bīja-s); ह स क ह ल ह्रीं ( 6 bīja-s); स क ल ह्रीं ( 4 bīja-s); सौः ऐं क्लीं ह्रीं श्रीं ( 5 bīja-s) .. (5+3+5+6+4+5 = 28)
Srim-Bijam-maya-smara-yoni-shakthihi sarvam cha maya kamalathma-vidya / Shakthyadi bijani vilo-vitani Sri-shad-sharna-Para-Devatha //
The presiding deity of the Maha-Shodashi-mantra is Lalitha-Tripura-sundari; Raja-Rajeshwari-Para-Bhattarika.
The Navarna (also known as Navakshari and Chandi Gayatri) mantra of nine syllables is closely related to the extended Maha-Shodashi mantra of twenty-eight Bīja-s of Sri Lalitha tradition. Both are Navarna; as they are worshiped in nine levels (Nava–avarana), where the Devi is worshipped in her nine forms. It is described as a mantra that grants the highest bliss – Mahad Ananda dayakah.
The Navārna-mantra (Śrī-Chaṇḍi-Navākṣharī-Mantraḥ) is composed of the following syllables:
Om aiṁ hrīṁ klīṁ cāmuṇḍāyai vicce – ॐ ऐं ह्रीं क्लीं चामुण्डायै विच्चे ॥
The syllables of the Navārna-mantra are taken from the first line of the Mahāṣoḍaśī mantra – Srīṁ– Hrīṁ– Klīṁ -Aiṁ -Sauḥ (ॐ श्रीं ह्रीं क्लीं ऐं सौः)
Śrī Parāṣoḍahśī-mantra is associated with the ūrdhvāmnāya (Upper or higher) tradition of Śrī Vidya.
The Rishi of the mantra is Narayana. Its Chhandas is Gayatri; Para Sri Devatha is the deity. Its Bija is Srim; Shakthi is Hrim; and, Keelaka (key) is Klim. Its resolve is to seek liberation – Jīvan mukthi
Om̐ asya śrī parā ṣoḍaśī mahā mantrasya; Nārāyaṇa ṛṣiḥ । Gāyatrī chandaḥ । Parā śrīrdevatā । Srīm̐ bījaṃ । Hrīm̐ śaktiḥ । Klīm̐ kīlakaṃ । jīvan mukti prasādaye jape viniyogaḥ ॥
The Para-Shodashi-Mantra is composed of 28 letters:
Śrī Parā-ṣoḍaśhī Aṣṭa-viṃśadyakṣara Mantraḥ (श्री पराषोडशी अष्ट विंशद्यक्षर मन्त्रः)
śrīm̐ sauḥ klīm̐ aim̐ hrīm̐ / om̐ hrīm̐ śrīm̐ / sa ka la hrīm̐ / ha sa ka ha la hrīm̐ / ka e ī la hrīṃ / hrīm̐ aim̐ klīm̐ sauḥ śrīm̐ ।
श्रीँ सौः क्लीँ ऐँ ह्रीँ / ॐ ह्रीँ श्रीँ / स क ल ह्रीँ / ह स क ह ल ह्रीँ / क ए ई ल ह्रीं / ह्रीँ ऐँ क्लीँ सौः श्रीँ /
The mantra has six parts (Kūṭa-s). The first Kūṭa is reversed in the last Kūṭa, which is meant to purify the process in the practice of one’s mantra-japa. The first Kūṭa and second Kūṭa have the same significance as in the Mahā-Shoḍaśhī-mantra, although the seed syllables (Bīja-s) are in a different order, with the liberation being the main objective.
This mantra is very similar to the Mahā-Shoḍaśhī-mantra ; and, contains the same set of seed syllables used in that mantra as well. Here, the Pañcha-daśhī-mantra is reversed.
The object of the Mahā-Shoḍaśhī-mantra is the elevation from the mundane existence to the spiritual, by gaining of the correct knowledge, leading to the realization of the Absolute. This is the Sristi-krama, progressing from the gross to the most subtle. In contrast, the Para-Shodashi-mantra adopts the Samhara-krama, progressing further from subtle to the Absolute.
As mentioned earlier, the text of the Nabhi-Vidya is composed of a series of Kadi and Hadi-Vidya Kutas set to varied combinations of Shodashi, Maha-Shodashi and Para-Shodashi Mantras. Such diverse combinations of the Mantras are thirty-six in number. In addition, there are four other Mantras: Matrka; Guru-paduka; Baala; and, Para-Mantras. Thus, bringing up the forty mantras of the Nabhi-Vidya
When an ardent devotee is initiated into the Srividya, the Guru, initially, teaches her / him the worship of the young Bala-Sundari, with Bala-mantra of three Bijas (Aim of speech, Klim of wish; and Sauh of Sha). After the practice of this Mantra for a considerable time, the devotee is lead into the fifteen -lettered Pancha-dashi-Mantra.
Thereafter, the Sadhaka practices the sixteen-lettered Shodashi-Mantra, which is the essence of the earlier two Mantras. After the due practice of the Shodashi Mantra, the Devotee is initiated into the Mantras each having twenty-eight syllables: the Maha-Shodashi-Mantra and the Para-Shodashi-Mantra, for the worship of Tripura-Sundari. From hereafter, the Sadhaka gains authority to practice the most secret and complicated modes of Srividya-sadhanas.
There is also a gradation among the Laghu-Shodashi, the Maha-Shodashi and the Para-Shodashi; each more subtle than its previous one. It progresses from the subtle, to subtler and the subtest. (Sukshma, Sukshma-tara and Ati-Sukshma or Para),
These stages are also considered as progressions in the awakening of the Kundalini; leading to the realization of the identity with Shiva-Shakthi.
The “ka-Ta-pa-ya Sutra”, the numerical notation or encoding system, used by ancient Indian mathematicians and grammarians, is a tool to map letters to numbers. This is the world’s most ancient Hashing Algorithm known; and, has its origin in India. This system is used in several types of ancient Sanskrit texts, as an Encryption technique.
By assigning a number to each consonant of the Sanskrit alphabet, arranged as four groups, with “ka, Ta, pa, ya” as the beginning letters of the groups, we get this Katapayadi table. This is the reason why this system is called Katapayadi. Ka=Ta=Pa=Ya=1
According to the scheme, the consonants have numerals assigned as per the above table. All stand-alone vowels like a (अ) and ṛ (ऋ) are assigned to zero. In case of a conjunct, consonants attached to a non-vowel will not be valueless. The only consonant standing with a vowel is ya (य). So, the corresponding numeral for kya (क्या) will be 1. There is no way of representing Decimal separator in the system
Now, each letter of the group is numbered from 1 through 9 and 0 for the tenth letter. Thus, ka is 1, sa is 7, ma is 5, na is 0 and so on.
However, in the Indian tradition, the digits of a number are written left to right in the increasing order of their place value – exactly opposite the way we are used to writing in the western way.
For instance; Mahabharata is called ‘Jaya’, where Ja equates to numerical 8; and, Ya to 1. When placed together it would read as 81. But when reversed it would result in 18. And, Mahabharata contains of 18 Parvan-s (Mega-Chapters).
One can also convert a number into a word. Let’s say 53. It could be indicated using letters in the 5th and 3rd positions of the group. Say; Nga, Ga. And, when it is reversed, it would read as Ganga.
In the next two parts, let us take a look at the structure of the text of the Nabhi-Vidya (Nabhi-vidya-Mantrah नाभिविद्यामन्त्रः); and, the patterns of the arrangements of its Mantras
[ I am particularly grateful to the erudite scholar Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy.]
Sources and References
1.The Tantra of Sri Chakra by Prof. S.K. Ramachandra Rao (Sharada Prakashana, Bangalore,1983)
2.Srividya Shodasha-Maha-Mantramulu by Dr. Krovi Parthasarathy (Vijayawada-2020)
Nabhi-Vidya ( a discussion) by Purnananda Lahiri
ALL IMAGES ARE TAKEN FROM INTERNET