(Adapted from Om Swami’s “Kundalini : An Untold Story” and
Sri Lalita Sahasranama, edited by Swami Tapasyananda, Introduction by Professor D.S. Sharma)
Long ago, earth was a beautiful place with abundance of forests, rich flora and fauna, and thousands of rivers and lakes. Some 900 million light years away in the interstellar space, a parallel universe existed with an earth-like planet, five times bigger and far more beautiful. The sun in the solar system of this earth-like planet was twice the size of the earth’s sun. The days were longer and so were the nights. Giant predators roamed freely in its forests that were vaster than our oceans. The Himalayas, eight times the size of earth’s Himalayas, were covered in snow. On those Himalayas, the biggest, widest, and highest mountain summit was Kailasha. Kailasha is where Shiva, the eternal yogi, meditated and lived with his consort Sati.
Once, Sati’s father, the famed king Daksha, has organized one of the grandest and greatest yajnas of all time. Brahma, Vishnu, Indra, Vasus, Adityas and numerous other devas were invited to this most exclusive yajna, presided over by Brihaspati himself. While all the devas were exulting in divine ecstasy at Daksha’s palace, Shiva meditated quietly on Kailasha. This did not sit well with Sati, who wondered why her father did not invite her and Shiva to the yajna. She asked Shiva if they could go, for which Shiva replied that Daksha did not like him, for he, Shiva, was sovereign and unbound by any custom. When Sati asked him again, Shiva said that he wouldn’t come anywhere uninvited and that she could go if she wished to.
It had been ages since Sati had last met her family. She adorned herself in the finest silk and the most precious jewels and went to the yajna. She walked around eagerly looking for her and Shiva’s seats, and to her surprise, found them missing. When she asked her father Daksha about this, he insulted Shiva calling him a mendicant and a beggar. This was a royal gathering and not for naked, ash-smeared eccentrics. Sati could not bear this insult. She was a true pativrata; there was only one man Sati has ever loved and he was Shiva. She felt that she had violated her pativrata dharma by not listening to Shiva and no longer deserved to live. Thus, in that very moment, Sati invoked her yogic power and turned her body into a mound of ash.
The ganas, who had accompanied Sati, hurried back to Kailasha at the speed of light and narrated what had happened. Shiva rose from his seat in great fury. He pulled one strand of his matted locks and flung it on the ground. It turned into Virabhadra, a terrifying gana of Shiva. Dark like coal, Virabhadra had eight hands, each one holding a weapon. Shiva took out one more lock and pitched it on the ground. This time arose Bhadrakali, the wrathful and terrifying form of Devi, who was dark like the night of Amavasya and who held in her 18 hands, the conch, discus, lotus, mace, trident, lance, scimitar, sword, thunderbolt, a demon’s head, goblet, goad, waterpot, cleaver, shield, bow and arrow. She was assisted by eight companion energies for battle – Kali, Katyayani, Chamundai, Ishaani, Mundamardini, Bhadra, Vaishnavi and Twarita.
Shiva ordered them to annihilate Daksha’s yajna. Shiva, the Nataraja, began the cosmic dance of destruction, and not before long, countless ganas assumed wrathful and terrifying forms. Virabhadra and Bhadrakali, with ganas in tow, arrived at Daksha’s yajna and destroyed everyone and everything that came their way. Virabhadra, obeying Shiva’s orders, decapitated Daksha in one effortless stroke. But the ganas continued with their destruction.
Fearing that this might be the end of time, the devas approached Shiva and sang eulogies of his kind heart and glories. A few moments later (which was a few thousand years on our earth) Shiva calmed down and Virabhadra, Bhadrakali, the other devis and ganas merged back with Shiva’s form and he sat there in a sombre mood. The devas pleaded him to forgive Daksha. Shiva took the head of a sacrificial goat and placed it on Daksha’s body, thus bringing him back to life. He took a bit of ash from his body and blew it in the air, all those who had been slain came back to life; all but Sati. Shiva knew that Sati wanted to be pure for him again after arguing with him, the omniscient Shiva. He knew that it would be a few thousand years before Sati would be reborn as Parvati and perform intense tapasya to be his consort once again.
Shiva went back to Kailasha, sat in his yogic posture and took the deepest plunge into dhyana, taking his meditative trance to nearly a point of no return.
As time ticked by, an asura called Tarakasura began conquering deva loka and all the other planes of existence. He was too powerful and invincible. Through his tremendous tapasya of thousands of years, he had earned a boon from Brahma himself that he could only be killed by a son of Shiva, knowing well that Sati had given up her life and Shiva would not take anyone else as his consort.
The Supreme Goddess, Sati, was reborn as Parvati to Himavan, the king of the Himalayas (or the Himalayas himself) and Mena, a celestial nymph and the queen of Himavan. Parvati did intense tapasya and received Shiva as her husband. Himavan, unlike Daksha, was a humble and just king. He accepted his daughter’s choice wholeheartedly. Soon after Shiva took Parvati as his consort, the natural yogi that he was went back to his meditative state.
The devas were aghast because they needed Shiva to consummate the marriage with Parvati so that she could bear his son, who would have eventually slain Tarakasura. They begged Parvati to intervene in Shiva’s dhyana and bring him to the normal plane of consciousness. Parvati suggested that they pray to him and ask him for the right thought to emerge victorious. The devas did as instructed, but after a while a thought entered their minds. They sent Manmatha (Kamadeva) the god of love, who shot his five shafts of love to rouse the desire to mate in Shiva. When those arrows hit Shiva, he was utterly displeased. He opened his third eye and burnt Manmatha to ashes. Suddenly the whole world became a desolate place. Love became dry as men and women did not desire each other. The birds and animals stopped breeding as there was no desire in the absence of Manmatha.
The devas approached Shiva along with Rati, the wife of Manmatha, and begged him to restore Manmatha to his physical form. But Manmatha had already been turned to ashes. Shiva granted a boon that since Manmatha could not be brought back to life, he would now live ananga, without form, in all living beings and keep desire alive.
Rati pleaded with Shiva to at least cast his yogic glance at the mound of ash so that Manmatha could be delivered. Shiva hesitated, but when Rati wouldn’t relent, he agreed to cast a glance at the knoll of ash. As soon as he did that, a form arose from the ash. It was Bhandasura, another demon, who made his abode in Shonitpura. He wrecked even greater havoc on the devas. Distraught and lost, they approached Narada, who advised them to do a yajna.
It all started with a yajna, he said, and it would end with a yajna. Only the Supreme Goddess could help now.
The birth of Lalita Maha Tripura Sundari
The devas organized an elaborate yajna and out of its sacrificial fire the Supreme Goddess arose in the form of Maha Tripura Sundari. This was an exquisite form : fair coloured, four-armed, fragrant, heady, beautiful, well-endowed, compassionate, yet she was holding the five arrows of Manmatha, a bow, a goad and a noose.
The devas didn’t know how to propitiate her. Confessing their ignorance, they begged Devi to explain how to welcome her. Mother Divine called upon her eight companion energies called Vagadevis, They were the same who had manifested at the time of Bhadrakali’s origin. They had been a witness to various aspects of Devi.
The vagadevis began singing glories of the Supreme Goddess by addressing her with her one thousand names, which are also known as Lalita Sahasranama. And this is where, in the Lalita Sahasranama, the first mention of Kundalini and chakra is ever made. Before all other scriptures, commentaries, samhitas, this is where kundalini is first touched upon as the pristine formless aspect of Goddess, the primordial energy.
Lalita Sahasranama was later narrated by Hayagriva, a form of Vishnu with the head of a horse, to the rishi Agastya for the benefit of the human race on this planet and many other parallel ones.
The defeat of Bhandasura
The devas praised Devi and she promised to vanquish their enemy Bhandasura. But Brahma said that no person who remained single was fit for sovereignty according to the scriptures and exhorted her to choose a suitable mate. The devas commended the proposal and assured her that her independence would in no way suffer by her marriage. Then the Goddess consented and threw up a garland. It fell around the neck of Shiva who had assumed the lovely form of Kameshwara. The marriage of the beautiful couple was celebrated by the devas with great pomp and Lalita became Kameshwari and was crowned along with her husband. After the devas had left, the Goddess set out to fulfill her mission with an army of Shaktis well-equipped with chariots, elephants and horses. The battle between her and the demon raged for four days and at last Bhanda was killed with all his kinsmen and followers, and his capital was razed to the ground. The devas praised the Goddess and requested her to take pity on Rati, the wife of Manmatha, who had been burnt to ashes by Shiva. She consented and revived the god of love.
She then went and settled down at Srinagara, her abode. The city was built for her by both Vishwakarma and Maya on one of the peaks of Mount Meru. An elaborate description of it is given in the purana. In the midst of this wonderful city is a palace built of precious Chintamani stones and in the centre of the palace is the seat of the Devi. On a jewelled cot, the legs of which are formed by Brahma, Vishnu, Ishwara and Maheshwara and the coverlet by Sadashiva, the great Goddess Sri Lalita Devi sits on the lap of her husband, Kameshwara.
The first practitioner – Agastya
Hayagriva initiated Agastya in the chanting of Lalita Sahasranama. Agastya was the first to be initiated into the sadhana of Devi. Hayagriva instructed Agastya to meditate on the thousand names of the Supreme Goddess, devoting one ayana, six months, to each name and thus completing his meditation over a period of 500 years. It was only after such profound meditation, he said, that Shiva would impart him the complete sadhana of Devi; the sadhana could not be complete without tantra and Shiva alone could give him that esoteric knowledge.
Agastya began meditating on Devi with single-pointed concentration. Seasons came and seasons went. Tiny seeds had grown into giant trees, the sun had travelled uttarayana and dakshinayana 500 times. Agastya finished meditating on the thousand names of Devi and had entered in deep absorption. When he opened his eyes, Narada greeted him and reminded him of Hayagriva’s instruction.
Exactly as Hayagriva had asked him, Agastya approached Shiva and prostrated before him. Pleased with his devotion and concentration, Shiva imparted to him the secrets of sadhana. He propounded the most mystical knowledge of Devi worship in her formed and formless aspects in both the left-handed and right-handed path of tantra. Shiva mystically predicts that in a few thousand years from then, a tenacious and determined rishi on earth would complete Devi’s sadhana.
Agastya did intense tapasya over the next one thousand years but only managed to complete the right-handed practices. His body was subject to the laws of nature and its time was coming to an end. So he went back to Shiva. Shiva asked him to go and pass on the knowledge to Dattatreya on earth, who would then give it to Parashurama and Vasishta. As instructed, Agastya passed on the esoteric knowledge to Dattatreya and Vasishta and dropped his body in Devi bhava.
Dattatreya and Parashurama
Dattatreya was born from the three aspects of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva, to the great rishi Atri and his wife Anasuya, who was famed for her pativrata dharma. Dattatreya imparted the sadhana to Parashurama, but as soon as the complete knowledge was granted, great vairagya sprouted in his mind and he did not marry. Parashurama remained devoted to his Guru and never took up a female consort. The sadhana could not be completed without the tantric worship with a consort. Dattatreya knew that Parashurama was not just any rishi but an incarnation of Mahavishnu himself. He relieved him of the burden of completing the Devi sadhana.
Parashurama was a Vishnu incarnate on earth who had vowed to rid the planet from tyrant kshatriyas. Other than the occult science of weapons – which he would give to Drona, Bhishma and Karna a few thousand years later – Parashurama never imparted the esoteric vidya of Devi to anyone. Vasishta was the only hope now. Dattatreya was not going to give it to any other disciple and if Vasishta didn’t do anything with it, the world would forever be deprived of the grace of Devi.
The great rishi Vasishta was known to be as old as the sun in the earth’s solar system. He had seen the rise and fall of kings. He had seen the transition of yugas. He had been to the three worlds and the 14 planes of existence. He had seen the transformation of Vishwamitra to a brahmarishi. He was not the eager or the impulsive type.
The wise Vasishta saw with his divine eye that the right time had not yet come on earth for anyone, including himself, to practice the sadhana of Devi as passed down by Shiva. He also saw how potent it was and that it could be catastrophic in the wrong hands. Even his own son, a rishi and a siddha, Shaktri, was not fit to do Devi’s sadhana, he realized. He clasped the secret of sadhana close to his heart and first disclosed it to Parashara, the one with no desires.
Empowered with the transcendental knowledge, Parashara felt increasingly disconnected from the world. Unlike his father, or grandfather, or the rishis of yore, neither did he marry, nor did he have a consort. Meditating on various aspects of Devi, he spent most of his time in the Himalayas.
The worship of the Supreme Goddess, however, could not be completed without a consort. Immersed in Devi’s bhava, Parashara did not feel attracted to any woman. Even though he well knew that he had to pass on the esoteric knowledge, he spent most of his life in meditation without worrying about a successor or a worthy recipient.
Krishna Dwaipayana Vyasa
A few decades passed and Parashara realized that the issue of a successor could not be postponed any longer. With that thought in mind, he descended from the Himalayas. One day he had to go across the Yamuna, and the chief of fishermen’s daughter, Matsyagandhi agreed to take him across. While she was ferrying him across, Parashara looked up and closed his eyes. With his divine vision, he saw that after more than 4000 years, the stars and planets had aligned themselves most perfectly not just in Akashganga, our galaxy, but across many universes. This was the time to give the world someone who would bring the vidya of kundalini to life. He looked at Matsyagandhi with a sense of desire, and she submitted to him. And it was there, on a nearby island, that the great rishi fathered none other than the legendary Vyasa, who is also known as Krishna Dwaipayana – Krishna, because he was dark, and dwaipayana because he was born in an island, dwipa.
As he departed, he blessed Matsyagandhi that she would no longer smell like a fisherwoman but a fragrant lotus. She would retain her maidenhood and her son would be the greatest poet ever to be born in this world.
A few years later, Parashara established contact with Vyasa to bring to his notice the grand purpose of his life. Parashara whispered the vidya in its entirety, including the kundalini aspect of Devi, to the young and bright Vyasa – the first on this planet earth to be initiated into the sadhana of kundalini. Parashara told his son that he must complete the sadhana of Devi. With her grace, he would go on to document the most esoteric wisdom for the benefit of mankind on this planet. She, as Vagavadini, the power of speech, would speak though him. He instructed Vyasa to create a fourth Veda and include Devi’s worship in it.
For Vyasa, the only goal of his life was to fulfill his father’s word. Vyasa meditated on the formed aspect of Mother Divine for 12 years and spent the next 12 years invoking her as his own latent energy in the form of kundalini. As she rose in him, untying the granthis and piercing the chakras, Vyasa was filled with light and wisdom. With immense shakti in him, unrestrained and divine, he sat down and composed the greatest epics known to human race.
Creating a fourth Veda called Atharva Veda, he elucidated tantra and included Devi worship in its secret passages.
Still brimming with wisdom and energy, he composed the Brahmanda Purana which contains the first documental evidence of Lalita Sahasranama. Devi was still working in him and there was nothing that could stop Vyasa. One after the other, he scribed the 18 Mahapuranas covering every aspect of knowledge, from sublime to mundane, from astrology to tending cows, but Devi was not done yet.
Eventually, he went on to narrate the greatest scripture of all time – the Mahabharata. The poetic fountain of his supraknowledge was bursting forth so rapidly that no one, not even Vyasa himself, could match the speed. Anyone who chose to write would soon feel tired. So, he called upon Shiva’s son, Ganesha, to scribe Mahabharata.
The unstoppable Vyasa went on to narrate the Bhagavata purana, the same story, Amar Katha, that Shiva had narrated to Parvati once.
Finally Devi appeared before Vyasa and told him that his work was over and that he could rest in her abode eternally. Thus, the Supreme Goddess merged in Vyasa.
In Kundalini sadhana, Vyasa was the first true sadhaka on planet earth and it is our greatest fortune that we have access to Lalita Sahasranama, where the complete sadhana of chakras is strewn like pearls around Devi’s neck.