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Śrī Vidyā (also spelled "Shri Vidya") is the name of a Hindu religious system devoted to the goddess Lalitā Tripurasundarī or simply Tripurasundarī ('Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities'), a tantric form of the goddess Śrī (also called Lakṣmī).[1] According to scholar Gavin Flood, the late leader of the largest Samaya school of Śrī Vidyā, Sri Chandrasekharendra Saraswati Swamigal, says that the Śrī in Śrī Vidyā is a title of respect meaning The Vidyā and has no connotation to Lakṣmī[2] This, however, is not the generally accepted interpretation. The Sanskrit word vidyā means "knowledge" or "lore."[3] A thousand names for this form of Devī are recited in the Lalitā Sahasranāma, which includes Śrī Vidyā concepts.[4]

The Sri Yantra (shown here in the three-dimensional projection known as Sri Meru Chakra or Maha Meru used mainly in rituals of the Srividya Shakta sects) is central to most Tantric forms of Shaktism.

Meru Chakras are frequently a central focus and ritual object for this worship of the Goddess. They are a more potent form of the Sri Yantra, since they are three-dimensional. Meru Chakras can be found in rock crystal and in metal, often a traditional panchaloha formula of silver, antimony, copper, zinc, and pewter, which enhances the flow and generation of Sri's beneficial energies, covered in gold.

In the theology of the Śrī Vidyā the goddess is supreme, transcending the cosmos which is a manifestation of her.[5] The school has an extensive literature of its own.[6] The details of the beliefs vary in different texts, but the general principles are similar to those found in Kashmir Shaivism.[7]

The goddess is worshipped in the form of a mystical diagram (Sanskrit: yantra) of nine intersecting triangles, called the śrīcakra ("Chakra of Śrī") that is the central icon of the tradition.[8]

The name śrīvidyā is also used to refer to a specific mantra used in this tradition having fifteen syllables.[9] This mantra is called the pañcadaśī ("The Fifteen syllabled")[10] and the pañcadaśākṣarī ("The Fifteen Syllables").[11] She is also worshipped with a mantra of sixteen syllables called the ṣodaśākṣarī by some people, which according to different published interpretations is obtained either by adding the syllable śrīṁ[12] or the syllable śrī [13] to the fifteen-syllable mantra. Another published source says that the sixteenth syllable is kept secret and communicated only to adepts.[14]

It must also be noted that the ultimate mantra in the system is "Shodashi" having 32 syllables. Though many Sri Vidya mantras are available in print, they are often considered more potent if they are empowered by an enlightened teacher who will give greater life to it. The underlying principle of the practice is to realise the ultimate unity of the Devata or deity, the mantra or sound syllable, the teacher, and the practitioner. See Parasurama Kalpasootra that is accepted by many of the practitioners as the base text."Mantra devatA guru AtmAnAm aikyam". There are various schools of srividya. The left-handed path; the right-handed practice etc. ie. Vama, Dakshina, Samaya etc. Considerable controversy exists between the practitioners of each of the branches regarding superiority, though serious practitioners just follow their teaching without criticising other methodologies.

This is a path that insists on equal respects for all paths in as much as Parashurama Kalpasootra injuncts "sarwa darshanaaninda" - "One shall not insult any other path." This is a cardinal principle that has run though Hinduism generally like a golden thread. The path, as does Hinduism, believes all paths lead to the ultimate reality. This path also emphasises the value of visualisation by stating that "Bhaavanaadhaardyaat nigrahaanugraha sheshi" "One gets the power to bless or curse based on his/her visualisation ability".(Taken from Shreeram Balijepalli's writings and online Yahoo group "Srividya-Tantra")

Notes

  1. ^ For description of the system and translation "Beautiful Goddess of the Three Cities" see: Flood 1996, p. 187
  2. ^ A Digest of Paramacharya’s Discourses on Soundaryalahari P. 27, translated from Digest of pages 892-898, Deivathin Kural (in Tamil), Vol.6, 4th imprn, http://www.geocities.com/profvk/gohitvip/DPDS26-30.html
  3. ^ For definition of विद्या (IAST: vidyā) as "knowledge, learning, lore, science" see: Apte 1965, p. 857.
  4. ^ For presence of influence in the Lalitā Sahasranāma and a brief summary of some Śrī Vidyā practices, see: Sastry 1986, pp. vii-ix.
  5. ^ For goddess as supreme and beyond the manifest cosmos, see: Flood 1996, p. 188.
  6. ^ For extensive literary tradition of the Śrī Vidyā school, see: Bhattacharyya 1999, p. 329.
  7. ^ For thematic similarity to Kashmir Shaiva tantras, see: Flood 1996, p. 188.
  8. ^ For description of śrīcakra yantra see: Flood 1996, pp. 187-188.
  9. ^ For the 15-syllable śrīvidyā mantra, see: Flood 1996, p. 187.
  10. ^ For pañcadaśī as name for the fifteen-syllable mantra see: Sastry 1986, pp. 8, 36..
  11. ^ For pañcadaśākṣarī as name for the fifteen-syllable mantra see: Joshi 1998, p. 5.
  12. ^ For Śrīṣodaśākṣarīvidyā ("She who is in the form of the holy formula of sixteen syllables") as a name for the goddess and as a mantra, and addition of syllable śrīṁ, see: Joshi 1998, p. 210.
  13. ^ For Śrī ṣodaśākṣarī vidyā ("She who is of the form of the sixteen-syllabled mantra") as a name for the goddess and as a mantra, and addition of syllable śrī, see: Dev 1996, p. 254.
  14. ^ For secrecy of the sixteenth syllable, see: Tapasyananda 1990, p. 27.

References

  • Apte, Vaman Shivram (1965), written at Delhi, The Practical Sanskrit Dictionary (Fourth revised and enlarged ed.), Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, ISBN 81-208-0567-4
  • Bhattacharyya, N. N. (1999), written at New Delhi, History of the Tantric Religion (Second revised ed.), Manohar, ISBN 81-7304-025-7
  • Dempsey, Corinne G. (2006), written at New York, The Goddess Lives in Upstate New York: Breaking Convention and Making Home at a North American Hindu Temple (first ed.), Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-518729-8
  • Dev, K. V. (editor) (1996), written at San Ramon, California, The Thousand Names of the Divine Mother, Mata Amritanandamayi Center, ISBN 1-879410-67-2
  • Flood, Gavin (1996), written at Cambridge, An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press, ISBN 0-521-43878-0
  • Joshi, L. M. (1998), written at New Delhi, Lalitā Sahasranāma, D. K. Printworld (P) Ltd., ISBN 81-246-0073-2
  • Sastry, R. Ananthakrishna (1986), written at Delhi, Lalitāsahasranāma, Gian Publishing House
  • Tapasyananda, Swami (1990), written at Mylapore, Chennai, Śrī Lalitā Sahasranāma, Sri Ramakrishna Math, ISBN 81-7120-104-0
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