Awakening the Goddess – An Introduction to Shri Vidya (Part 1)
Classical Yoga offers a vast field of practices by which one can explore the inner life and ultimately awaken their highest potential.
Over the millennia many enlightened teachers have descended to our world and revealed teachings suitable to various levels of spiritual maturity. From the most basic teachings given to young souls regarding moral & ethical living, all the way to the teachings given to advanced spiritual seekers that are initiated into secret techniques to awaken kundalini, the enlightened ones bless all with wisdom.
Some of these sacred teachings have been passed down over the generations and have become organized into formal schools of yogic training known as sampradaya, or lineages.
There are thousands of lineages in modern-day India – some followed by only a handful of yogis, while others are so widespread they are followed by millions.
As your yoga practices deepen and your spiritual energy begins to awaken the law of resonance will begin to attract the proper teachings (dharma), soul sisters & brothers (sangha) and teachers (gurus) to you, based on your samskaras (previous life impressions).
For those of you, like ourselves, who have had many births in India, had been born into Brahmin families, participated in Vedic rituals and temple culture, as well as developed deep devotion to Spirit in the form of Divine Mother, your soul’s trajectory towards enlightenment may lead you to the yogic practices of the lineage known as Shri Vidya.
What is Shri Vidya?
Shri Vidya comes from the two Sanskrit words “Shri” (The Supreme) and Vidya (Knowledge) – and can be translated as “Supreme Knowledge”. In the ancient Vedic texts Shri Vidya is also known as Brahma Vidya (Knowledge of the Supreme Reality) and Atma Vidya (Knowledge of the Self).
The Shri Vidya was first revealed to the great Rishis of the Satya Yuga and some of the first mentions of it occur in encoded form in the Devi Atharva Shirsha Upanishad. Great Maharshis like Vasishta (one of the original sapta rishis) and Agastya taught this path of Self-realization. Its historical origins are hard to trace, as it is so ancient, however, there is evidence that it was revealed to the great sages in the times of Lemuria – a micro-continent, now underwater in the south of India, called Kumari by the Tamil people of India and recently renamed Mauritia by scientists.
Over time, as the yugas descended into darkness, this pure Vedic lineage of Shri Vidya spread from the South-Indian Brahmin culture to other lands. As these teachings came into contact with non-Vedic tribal and indigenous cultures, they assimilated their more Tantric practices. These Tantric elements, infused with magical rites, invocation of spirits, the use of rajasic/tamasic substances were integrated with the Shri Vidya and are now known as Kaula Marga (the tribal path – i.e. the integration of with indigenous beliefs). This is also known as the left-hand path (Vama Marga).
The purely Vedic version of Shri Vidya is known as the right-hand path (Dakshina Marga), while combining elements of both, which is the most common form of practice today, is called the mixed path (Mishra Marga).
In the modern world, many of us, out of necessity practice this Mishra Marga, as we were not born into Indian families, nor have a gotra (Vedic bloodline) and, as foreigners, are basically of another tribe.
Our Teachers & Lineage
Two of our main teachers, Ramana Maharshi and Shri Karunamayi, predominately teach the Vedic version of Shri Vidya, with only a slight touch of Tantric elements. As such, we teach and practice the same.
Within the right-hand path, there is also a set of teachings known as Samaya Shri Vidya, which are the non-dual (advaita) teachings of our lineage. This Samaya Shri Vidya is the highest form of Jnana Yoga propounded by Shankaracharya and found in the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita, Yoga Vasistha and other sacred texts dealing with the non-dual Reality.
This same Samaya Shri Vidya is also known as Shri Vidya Maha Yoga – the Supreme Knowledge of the Great Union. This set of teachings is what we share in all our courses and retreats, in an easy to understand manner to beginner students. We strip away many of the traditional forms of Shri Vidya Upasana (practice), which are deeply embedded in Indian mysticism and devotional practices, and instead emphasize its formless elements, which are easier to communicate to a global audience.
If you resonate with the fundamental message of BLISS! Magazine and the Blooming Lotus Yoga retreats and trainings it is helpful for you to understand the deeper dimensions of our teachings and develop a greater awareness of Shri Vidya, which is one of the greatest secrets of both the Tantras and Vedas. Shri Vidya is so secret that we rarely even mention it in public and before we speak about it in depth we chant certain mantras to protect the teachings, and ourselves, from the repercussions of communicating this sacred knowledge with inaccuracy.
Classical Yoga & Shri Vidya Tantra
In essence, Shri Vidya offers a holistic model of spiritual evolution capable of taking a complete beginner to even the most advanced yogini to the heights of spiritual realization. It offers an integrated approach of utilizing classical karma, bhakti, raja and jnana yoga disciplines while integrating special Tantric practices to realize the Great Union (Maha Yoga.)
For the general public, we simplify this and say that the “motto” of Blooming Lotus Yoga is “Love | Serve | Meditate | Realize.” However, this “slogan” is impregnated with deep transcendental meaning. “Love” refers to Bhakti or deep devotion, “Serve” to Nishkamya Karma Yoga or desireless action, “Meditate” implies the path of self-discipline which is Raja Yoga, while “Realize” suggests the path of non-dual wisdom, the Advaita Vedanta, which is our particular approach to Jnana Yoga.
Behind the scenes, each of these 4 paths has an entire science of spiritual disciplines that we can integrate into our lives. Once their intended outcome has manifested in our personalities, through the direct application of the teachings, we can share them with others.
It is our deep and heartfelt wish to share these inner treasures with you as we spend more time in satsang, as the training courses only allow us to dip our toes into the vast sea that is yoga. To completely immerse yourself into the ocean of yogic wisdom requires much time, dedication and sacrifice— qualities that the average modern yoga student simply doesn’t have.
But YOU must be different. Real yoga is not for the masses. It is now and always has been for the select few that are ready to devote their entire life to it. It is not a part-time interest, nor something for curiosity’s sake. It requires that you abandon everything– most of all, your concepts of what yoga is, how to learn it, how to practice it correctly and how to transmit its essence.
Wandering from teacher to teacher, studio to studio, yoga center to yoga center, ashram to ashram trying to collect more and more knowledge and/or experiences is a stage on the path. However, the quicker you can find clarity and commit to one teaching, one practice and one teacher the better. Real yoga involves a trinity: Guru, Shisyha and Shastra. The Teacher (Guru) teaches the student (Shishya) a particular means to liberation, which is often outlined in a sacred text (Shastra) of their lineage.
Making this commitment is a milestone on your journey. Yet, very few people make it this far. In many traditions, this commitment is ritualized through an initiation ceremony (Diksha) to mark this junction on the path and the impending emergence into the Light.
Commitment feels very difficult and can be very intimidating, as it necessitates sacrifice. Committing to a lineage requires that you limit your desire to experience other things and gives the fear of possibly missing out on some other greater experience.
Yet how can you climb up a mountain if you never stay on one path? Only a fool would try to climb Mount Everest by going up all the routes in turn. The ascent is difficult enough just following one path. Why exhaust yourself and dissipate your energy going up halfway, descending to basecamp and then trying another path because you want to see if the snow is also white on the other side of the mountain? This precious human birth is very short and cannot be wasted in aimless pursuits.
This lack of commitment is a symptom of the monkey-mind and indicates a lack of focus and fear. Conquer your fears, develop faith and focus (Shraddha), first in your Self and secondarily on your human teachers, and be free.
Your human teachers have limitations, they always will, no matter how realized they may be. Learn to look beyond the human and feel the Light within them, which is only a reflection of your true Self always guiding you in the right direction and protecting you from harm. No human being is perfect, even Mahatmas appear to get angry, frustrated, agitated etc. Look beyond the appearance, look beyond the human limitations – only take the nectar of the teachings and apply it.
Though the teacher teaches the Way, you yourself must work out your own salvation.
This commitment comes in its own time and cannot be forced— so never fear that we will ever ask you to choose us or our approach if you ever attend our retreats, training or do seva here. If it is your way you will know in your heart when the time is right.
In the meantime, while you are with us, do your best not to wander around too far. Spend your time here trying to understand deeply what Shri Vidya is so that you may come to understand if it is your way. If you don’t give it enough time or attention it will simply evade you yet again. Shri Vidya is exceedingly elusive and to be reading this and learning even a little bit about it indicates that She has likely sought you out before.