Wednesday, March 10, 2010
MAHANIRVANA TANTRA PART 1
EXCERPTS FROM THE GREAT BOOK MAHANIRVANA TANTRA
The scene of the revelation of this Tantra is laid in Himalaya, the "Abode of Snow," a holy land weighted with the traditions of the Aryan race. Here in these lofty uplands, encircled with everlasting snows, rose the great mountain of the north, the Sapta Kula Parvata. Hence the race itself came, and there its early legends have their setting. There are still shown at Bhimudiyar the caves where the sons of Pandu and Draupadi rested, as did Rama and his faithful wife at the point where the Kosi joins the Sita in the grove of Asoka trees. In these mountains Munis and Rishis lived. Here also is the Kshetra of Shiva Mahadeva, where His Spouse Parvvati, the daughter of the Mountain King, was born, and where Mother Ganges also has her source. From time immemorial pilgrims have toiled through these mountains to visit the three great shrines of Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath. At Kangri, further north, the pilgrims make the parikrama of Mount Kailasa (Kang Rinpoche), where Shiva is said to dwell. This nobly towering peak rises to the north-west of the sacred Mansarowar Lake (Mapham Yum-tso) from amidst the purple ranges of the lower Kangri Mountains. The paradise of Shiva is a summerland of both lasting sunshine and cool shade, musical with the song of birds and bright with undying flowers. The air, scented with the sweet fragrance of Mandara chaplets, resounds with the music and song of celestial singers and players. The Mount is Gana Parvata, thronged with trains of Spirits (devayoni), of which the opening Chapter speaks.
And in the regions beyond rises Mount Meru, centre of the world-lotus. Its heights, peopled with spirits, are hung with clusters of stars as with wreaths of Malati flowers. In short, it is written: "He who thinks of Himachala, though he should not behold him, is greater than he who performs all worship in Kashi (Benares). In a hundred ages of the Devas I could not tell thee of the glories of Himachala. As the dew is dried up by the morning sun, so are the sins of mankind by the sight of Himachala."
It is not, however, necessary to go to the Himalayan Kailasa to find Shiva. He dwells wheresoever his worshippers, versed in Kulatattva, abide, and His mystic mount is to be sought in the thousand-petalled lotus (sahasrara-padma) in the body of every human jiva, hence called Shivasthana, to which all, wheresoever situate, may repair when they have learned how to achieve the way thither.
Shiva promulgates His teaching in the world below in the works known as Yamala, Damara, Shiva Sutra, and in the Tantras which exist in the form of Dialogues between the Devata and his Shakti, the Devi in Her form as Parvvati. According to the Gayatri Tantra, the Deva Ganesha first preached the Tantra to the Devayoni on Mount Kailasa, after he had himself received them from the mouth of Shiva.
After a description of the mountain, the Dialogue opens with a question from Parvvati in answer to which and those which succeed it, Shiva unfolds His doctrine on the subjects with which this particular Tantra deals.
Questions relating to the Liberation of Beings
THE enchanting summit of the Lord of Mountains, resplendent with all its various jewels, clad with many a tree and many a creeper, melodious with the song of many a bird, scented with the fragrance of all the season’s flowers, most beautiful, fanned by soft, cool, and perfumed breezes, shadowed by the still shade of stately trees; where cool groves resound with the sweet-voiced songs of troops of Apsara, and in the forest depths flocks of kokila maddened with passion sing; where (Spring) Lord of the Seasons with his followers ever abide (the Lord of Mountains, Kailasa); peopled by (troops of) Siddha, Charana, Gandharva, and Ganapatya (1-5). It was there that Parvati, finding Shiva, Her gracious Lord, in mood serene, with obeisance bent low and for the benefit of all the worlds questioned Him, the Silent Deva, Lord of all things movable and immovable, the ever Beneficent and ever Blissful One, the nectar of Whose mercy abounds as a great ocean, Whose very essence is the Pure Sattva Guna, He Who is white as camphor and the Jasmine flower, the Omnipresent One, Whose raiment is space itself, Lord of the poor and the beloved Master of all yogi, Whose coiled and matted hair is wet with the spray of Ganga and (of Whose naked body) ashes are the adornment only; the passionless One, Whose neck is garlanded with snakes and skulls of men, the three-eyed One, Lord of the three worlds, with one hand wielding the trident and with the other bestowing blessings; easily appeased, Whose very substance is unconditioned Knowledge; the Bestower of eternal emancipation, the Ever-existent, Fearless, Changeless, Stainless, One without defect, the Benefactor of all, and the Deva of all Devas (5-10).
Shri Parvati said:
O Deva of the Devas, Lord of the world, Jewel of Mercy, my Husband, Thou art my Lord, on Whom I am ever dependent and to Whom I am ever obedient. Nor can I say ought without Thy word. If Thou hast affection for me, I crave to lay before Thee that which passeth in my mind. Who else but Thee, O Great Lord, in the three worlds is able to solve these doubts of mine, Thou Who knowest all and all the Scriptures (11-13).
Shri Sadashiva said:
What is that Thou sayest, O Thou Great Wise One and Beloved of My heart, I will tell Thee anything, be it ever so bound in mystery, even that which should not be spoken of before Ganesha and Skanda Commander of the Hosts of Heaven. What is there in all the three worlds which should be concealed from Thee? For Thou, O Devi, art My very Self. There is no difference between Me and Thee. Thou too art omnipresent. What is it then that Thou knowest not that Thou questionest like unto one who knoweth nothing (14-16).
The pure Parvati, gladdened at hearing the words of the Deva, bending low made obeisance and thus questioned Shangkara.
Shri Adya said:
O Bhagavan! Lord of all, Greatest among those who are versed in Dharmma, Thou in former ages in Thy mercy didst through Brahma reveal the four Vedas which are the propagators of all dharmma and which ordain the rules of life for all the varying castes of men and for the different stages of their lives (18-19). In the First Age, men by the practice of yaga and yajna prescribed by Thee were virtuous and pleasing to Devas and Pitris (20). By the study of the Vedas, dhyana and tapas, and the conquest of the senses, by acts of mercy and charity men were of exceeding power and courage, strength and vigour, adherents of the true Dharmma, wise and truthful and of firm resolve, and, mortals though they were, they were yet like Devas and went to the abode of the Devas (21, 22). Kings then were faithful to their engagements and were ever concerned with the protection of their people, upon whose wives they were wont to look as if upon their mothers, and whose children they regarded as their very own (23). The people, too, did then look upon a neighbour’s property as if it were mere lumps of clay, and, with devotion to their Dharmma, kept to the path of righteousness (24). There were then no liars, none who were selfish, thievish, malicious, foolish, none who were evil-minded, envious, wrathful, gluttonous, or lustful, but all were good of heart and of ever blissful mind. Land then yielded in plenty all kinds of grain, clouds showered seasonable rains, cows gave abundant milk, and trees were weighted with fruits (25-27). No untimely death there was, nor famine nor sickness. Men were ever cheerful, prosperous, and healthy, and endowed with all qualities of beauty and brilliance. Women were chaste and devoted to their husbands. Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras kept to and followed the customs, Dharmma, yajna, of their respective castes, and attained the final liberation (28-29).
After the Krita Age had passed away Thou didst in the Treta Age perceive Dharmma to be in disorder, and that men were no longer able by Vedic rites to accomplish their desires. For men, through their anxiety and perplexity, were unable to perform these rites in which much trouble had to be overcome, and for which much preparation had to be made. In constant distress of mind they were neither able to perform nor yet were willing to abandon the rites.
Having observed this, Thou didst make known on earth the Scripture in the form of Smriti, which explains the meaning of the Vedas, and thus delivered from sin, which is cause of all pain, sorrow, and sickness, men too feeble for the practice of tapas and the study of the Vedas. For men in this terrible ocean of the world, who is there but Thee to be their Cherisher, Protector, Saviour, their fatherly Benefactor, and Lord? (30-33).
Then, in the Dvapara Age when men abandoned the good works prescribed in the Smritis, and were deprived of one half of Dharmma and were afflicted by ills of mind and body, they were yet again saved by Thee, through the instructions of the Sanghita and other religious lore (34-36).
Now the sinful Kali Age is upon them, when Dharmma is destroyed, an Age full of evil customs and deceit. Men pursue evil ways. The Vedas have lost their power, the Smritis are forgotten, and many of the Puranas, which contain stories of the past, and show the many ways (which lead to liberation), will, O Lord! be destroyed. Men will become averse from religious rites, without restraint, maddened with pride, ever given over to sinful acts, lustful, gluttonous, cruel. heartless, harsh of speech, deceitful, short-lived, poverty-stricken, harassed by sickness and sorrow, ugly, feeble, low, stupid, mean, and addicted to mean habits, companions of the base, thievish, calumnious, malicious, quarrelsome, depraved, cowards, and ever-ailing, devoid of all sense of shame and sin and of fear to seduce the wives of others. Vipras will live like the Shudras, and whilst neglecting their own Sandhya will yet officiate at the sacrifices of the low. They will be greedy, given over to wicked and sinful acts, liars, insolent, ignorant, deceitful, mere hangers-on of others, the sellers of their daughters, degraded, averse to all tapas and vrata. They will be heretics, impostors, and think themselves wise. They will be without faith or devotion, and will do japa and puja with no other end than to dupe the people. They will eat unclean food and follow evil customs, they will serve and eat the food of the Shudras and lust after low women, and will be wicked and ready to barter for money even their own wives to the low. In short, the only sign that they are Brahmanas will be the thread they wear. Observing no rule in eating or drinking or in other matters, scoffing at the Dharmma Scriptures, no thought of pious speech ever so much as entering their minds, they will be but bent upon the injury of the good (37-50).
By Thee also have been composed for the good and liberation of men the Tantras, a mass of Agamas and Nigamas, which bestow both enjoyment and liberation, containing Mantras and Yantras and rules as to the sadhana of both Devis and Devas. By Thee, too, have been described many forms of Nyasa, such as those called srishti, sthiti (and sanghara). By Thee, again, have been described the various seated positions (of yoga), such as that of the "tied" and "loosened" lotus, the Pashu, Vira, and Divya classes of men, as also the Devata, who gives success in the use of each of the mantras (50-52). And yet again it is Thou Who hast made known in a thousand ways rites relating to the worship with woman, and the rites which are done with the use of skulls, a corpse, or when seated on a funeral pyre (53). By Thee, too, have been forbidden both pashu-bhava and divya-bhava. If in this Age the pashu-bhava cannot exist, how can there be divya-bhava? (54). For the pashu must with his own hand collect leaves, flowers, fruits, and water, and should not look at a Shudra or even think of a woman (55). On the other hand, the Divya is all but a Deva, ever pure of heart, and to whom all opposites are alike, free from attachment to worldly things, the same to all creatures and forgiving (56). How can men with the taint of this Age upon them, who are ever of restless mind, prone to sleep and sloth, attain to purity of disposition? (57). By Thee, too, have been spoken the rites of Vira-sadhana, relating to the Pancha-tattva – namely, wine, meat, fish, parched grain, and sexual union of man and woman (58-59). But since the men of the Kali Age are full of greed, lust, gluttony, they will on that account neglect sidhana and will fall into sin, and having drunk much wine for the sake of the pleasure of the senses, will become mad with intoxication, and bereft of all notion of right and wrong (61). Some will violate the wives of others, others will become rogues, and some, in the indiscriminating rage of lust, will go (whoever she be) with any woman (62). Over eating and drinking will disease many and deprive them of strength and sense. Disordered by madness, they will meet death, falling into lakes, pits, or in impenetrable forests, or from hills or house-tops (63-64). While some will be as mute as corpses, others will be for ever on the chatter, and yet others will quarrel with their kinsmen and elders. They will be evil-doers, cruel, and the destroyers of Dharmma (65-66). I fear, O Lord! that even that which Thou hast ordained for the good of men will through them turn out for evil (67). O Lord of the World! who will practise Yoga or Nyasa, who will sing the hymns and draw the Yantra and make Purashcharana? (68). Under the influences of the Kali Age man will of his nature become indeed wicked and bound to all manner of sin (69). Say, O Lord of all the distressed! in Thy mercy how without great pains men may obtain longevity, health, and energy, increase of strength and courage, learning, intelligence, and happiness; and how they may become great in strength and valour, pure of heart, obedient to parents, not seeking the love of others’ wives, but devoted to their own, mindful of the good of their neighbour, reverent to the Devas and to their gurus, cherishers of their children and kinsmen (70-72), possessing the knowledge of the Brahman, learned in the lore of, and ever meditating on, the Brahman. Say, O Lord! for the good of the world, what men should or should not do according to their different castes and stages of life. For who but Thee is their Protector in all the three worlds? (73-74).