Naga shrine near river, Vijayanagar. Image (c) MM 2007

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Brihat Tantrasara Abstract

There is no greater evil than aversion, no greater merit than pleasure - - Chandamaharoshana Tantra

This is a voluminous work in the digest class, and divided into five paricchedas (divisions) but also including a series of stotras (hymns) and kavachas (armours). The title means "The great essence of Tantra" and contains a wealth of information on the tradition, including yantras, dhyana (meditation images), stotras (hymns), kavachas (armours) and other ritualistic details. The edition used for this abstract was published by Prachya Prakashan (PP), Varanasi, in 1985.

Pariccheda One
The author starts with a salutation, then launches straight into the characteristics of a guru, and the greatness of the guru. He does so by quoting various sources and tantras, some of which now appear to be lost. This pattern is followed throughout the whole work.

Following this, he quotes works showing blameworthy types of guru, the characteristics of good and bad disciples and rules relating to initiation. Then follow prescriptions relating to mantras, which include using various diagrams such as the rashi (12 sidereal zodiac constellations) chakra, the nakshatra chakra (27 sidereal zodiac constellations) and other diagrams such as the A-Ka-Tha and A-Ka-Da-Ma, gain and loss chakras. A section deals with the best time to initiate, which draws widely on astrological rules. Then follows a section relating to the nature of malas (rosaries). This goes into some detail as to the type of materials to be used, and which are best. Then follow rules relating to asana (seat). A section on the preparatory actions (purashcharana) which must be followed once a disciple is initiated follows. Unless these actions are performed, a mantra does not bestow success and is lifeless.

A section follows which relates the types of fruit which can be expected from reciting a mantra, as well as the way japa (recitation) should be peformed. A section then deals with the kurma (tortoise) yantra, which is used to determine the direction in which japa is performed, followed by the 10 purifications (samskaras) of mantras to remove any defects they may have.

There follows a large number of verses drawn from different tantras related to various types of initiation (diksha).

Pariccheda Two
This section starts with rules relating to ordinary puja, that is worship carried out on a daily basis. Topics covered include the twilight rules, the way to bathe, the different gayatris of the different devatas, and a whole set of different nyasas. Nyasa is "placing" of mantras on different parts of the body, including visualisation of said mantras. Nyasas mentioned include Matrika nyasa, Hand and Limb nyasa, inner Matrika nyasa, outer Matrika nyasa, pitha nyasa, rishi and so forth nyasa, and others.

This chapter then begins to discuss the various mantras of different devatas - Annapurna, Triputa, Tvarita, Nitya, Vajraprastarini, Durga, Mahishamardini, Jayadurga, Shulini, Vagishvari start off a lengthy sequence.

The mantras of Parijata, Ganesha, Mahaganesha, Heramba, Haridra Ganesha, Lakshmi, Mahalakshmi, Surya, the Ajapa (unrecited), Vishnu, Rama, Krishna, a 13-lettered Krishna mantra, Balagopala, Vasudeva, Lakshmi-Narayana, Dadhivamana, Hayagriva, Nrisimha, Harihara, Varaha, Shiva, Mrityunjaya, Kshetrapala, Batuka Bhairava, then follow.

Following this are the mantras of Bhairavi, Tripurabhairavi, Sampatprada Bhairavi, Kalesha Bhairavi, Bhayavidhvamsini Bhairavi, Chaitanya Bhairavi, Kameshvari Bhairavi, Shatkuta Bhairavi, Nitya Bhairavi, Rudrabhairavi, Bhuvaneshvari Bhairavi, Tripura Bala, Navakuta Bala, Annapurna Bhairavi, Shri Vidya, Shodashi, Panchami (Varahi), Prachandandika, Shyama, Guhyakali, Bhadrakali, Tara, Chandograshulapani, Matangi, Ucchishta Chandalini, Dhumavati, Ucchishta Ganesha, Dhanada, Shmashanakali and Bagalamukhi. Many more details including those of puja, meditation images (dhyana) and yantras are given in this large section, which draws upon many different tantras and yamalas for the details.

Pariccheda Three
The pattern of division two continues in the third chapter, which kicks off by describing the mantra, puja, dhyana and other details of Karnapishachi. Other devatas mentioned in this section include Manjughosha. There's a section quoted from the Kakkuteshvara Tantra. Other extracts come from the Bhairava Tantra.

The Tarini Kalpa, extracted from the Tarini Tantra, is next. giving her mantra, tantra, nyasa and dhyana. She is described as black, long bellied, terrifying, adorned with snakes as her earrings, with a red mouth and rolling tongue, wearing red clothes, and with large rising breasts. She is sitting on a corpse, has four arms, long hair, drinking blood out of a cup she holds n one of her hands. She is long limbed, with tongue, her eyes being the form of the sun, the moon and fire. She is the enemy destroying Devi, the greatly terrifying giver of boons, wearing a tiger skin.

The next section of this chapter is called the Sarasvata Prada Kalpa, followed by the Katyayani Kalpa, succeeded by a section on Durga Devi. This is followed by the Vishalakshi Mantra, attributed here to the "Adiyamala". Next is the Gauri mantra, then Brahma Shri, Rajamukhi, Indra, Garuda, Hanuman, Vrischika, Shmashanabhairavi, Mahakali, Jvalamalini, Chiti, Trayambaka, and Amritanjivini. Attached to this last Devi is a selection of prayogas for attraction, subjugation, causing enmity, driving away - complete with mantras and dhyanas. A section on Yogini starts, attributed to the Bhutadamara Tantra. These include Kameshvari, Ratisundari, Padmini, Natini, Madhumati, and others, and include the pujas and dhyanas needed in their worship.

A number of other sources are quoted including Kaulavali, Yogini Tantra, Vamakeshvara Tantra and others. A section describes what is to be done and not done with the yantras.

Pariccheda Four
This section largely deals with details of puja, homa, asana and the like. Like the other sections, it compiles the details from a variety of agamas and tantras, some of which are unknown apart from quotations.

The chapter describes defects of mantras, and how they can be fixed or "pacified", and goes on to describe the characteristics of kundas or hearths in which to perform homa. Home can be performed for "optional" purposes, that is to achieve certain aims. The measurements of the hearths and other details are described. Homas and mantras for specific devatas, including Ganesha and others are given in great detail. The next section describes the Six Acts, describing the tithis, or stations of the Moon, that are suitable for these purposes.

Stavas and Kavachas
In this edition, the next section is not called a Pariccheda, but instead contains a number of stotras or hymns and kavachas or armours to different devatas.

Bhuvaneshvari's stotra and kavacha are given, followed by Annapura, and Triputa. Then comes the 100 names of Durga hymn, and her kavacha. This is followed by the Mahishamardini stotra and kavacha, the Lakshmi stotra and kavacha, the Sarasvati stotra, the Ganesha stotra and the Haridra Ganesha kavacha - attributed to the Vishvasara Tantra.

Then follows Surya kabacha, the Vishnu stava, the Rama stotra, the Ramashtakam Stotra, the Rama kavacha, the Krishna stotra. the Gopala stotra, the Krishna kavacha, the Nrisimha kavacha, the Shiva stotra, a Shiva kavacha ascribed to the Bhairava Tantra, a Batuka Bhairava stotra, a Bhairavi stotra, a Bhairavi kavacha, a Shri Vidya stotra, a Kinkini stotra, a Shri Vidya kavacha said to be from the Siddha Yamala, a Mahatripurasundari kavacha, the Prachandachandika stotra, the Prachandandika kavacha, a Shyama stotra and kavacha, a Tara stotra from the Nila Tantra, a Tara kavacha and then the Trailokyamohana Tara kavacha said to be from the Tara Kalpa. That's followed by a Bagalamukhi stotra and a Matangi kavacha.

Pariccheda Five
The fifth section starts off by talking about the upacharas, or ritual accessories, used in puja of the different devatas. The 64 upacharas are first described, then the 18, then the 16, then the 10, then the five. There follows a section on the greatness of the rudraksha rosary, drawn from the Padma Purana. Different purifications are then described in great detail, followed by the characteristics of mudras (hand gestures). There follows a section related to yantras and how they can be worn. These yantras include those for Bhuvaneshvari, for Tvarita, Navadurga, Lakshmi, Tripura Bhairavi, Tripura, Ganesha, and a host of other devatas. A section describes the substances to be used to draw yantras. Much of the following relates to different pujas for many of the devatas already mentioned.

Vetala siddhi, drawn from a section of the Kulachudamani Tantra, is described, followed by a description of animal sacrifice, the acts to be performed in the morning and the necessary purifications to be performed.

Then follows a section on the purification of a Shakti, quoting from many different tantras. A section describes vira sadhana, the five makaras (five Ms), and Kumari puja.

Appendix
An appendix to the Prachya Prakashan edition of Brihat Tantrasara describes the Ganga mantra, and the Shashthi mantra, dhyana and puja, as well as containing the Ganga kavacha, the Kartikkeya kavacha, the Shashthi stotra, the Vishahari Manasa stotra, the Svaha kavacha, the Dakshina stotra, the Balaram stotra, the Mahakali stotra, the Nayika kavacha and stotra, the Guru kavacha, the Yoshid Guru meditation, the Stri Guru (female guru) kavacha, a Guru stotra, a Hanuman stotra, a Matanga stotra, a Dhumavati stotra, and other ritual information such as where to place the pot, how to purify a kavacha, and a section on the Svara Shaktis, corresponding to the vowels of the Sanskrit alphabet.

The last section of the PP edition of this tantra contains illustrations of a number of yantras referred to in the text.

Artwork is © Jan Bailey, 1996-2007. Translations are © Mike Magee 1996-2006. Questions or comments to mike.magee@btinternet.com

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