Lately, I find myself going back towards Shakta Tantra. I am not a practitioner because I am not initiated and have no guru. So I’m loath to call myself a Tantrik but it’s something I’ve had an interest in for years.
I think my first real introduction was as a member of the now long defunct Z(Cluster) online chaos magick list where there were a few people that studied real Tantra. From there, I got into Phil Hine’s work on the subject here and here which led to both to Mike Magee’s ShivaShakti website and to Lalita.
Lalita (also known as Tripura Sundari) is a Hindu goddess worshipped by some Shakta Tantriks. (Shakta, in this instance, referring to Tantriks that worship Shakti, or the Goddess.) Lalita means “She Who Plays”. She is a beautiful enchanting woman known for her playful attitude and glittery shining appearance.
For those devoted to Her worship, Lalita created all of existence. Everything is part of Her. Including Her consort, Shiva.
As someone with a very playful side myself, the concept of a benevolent playful Creatrix of Existence has always been greatly appealing. I tend to view Her and Shiva as parents of Sri Ganesha and, as such, have periodically been placed on altars and worshipped.
As is the case with many Tantrik deities, Lalita is worshipped in different forms. Her image (that of a beautiful woman with long dark hair, dressed in red, often holding a noose and goad, as well as a sugarcane bow and 5 arrows) is one such form.
Her mantra is another. The mantra is Om Shrim i ka-e-i-la-hrim | ha-sa-ka-ha-la-hrim | sa-ka-la-hrim. (Yes, it’s a mouthful.) This is considered to be Her.
Her third form is the Sri Yantra. A yantra is a sort of sacred diagram in Tantrik Hinduism (almost similar to a mandala among Tibetan Buddhists). Like the mantra, this yantra is another form of the Goddess. There is a particular way in which it is drawn, each angle is a different deity and has different significance. (There is a short video here.)
One of the advantages of worshipping Hindu deities is that there are well-established prayers, chants, and songs about them. I’m going to talk about this in the context of Lalita.
While understanding Hindu Tantra itself is dependent upon having a background in Hinduism as well as understanding Tantrik approaches and vocabulary, I’ve found that one can often get great results simply by focusing on traditional texts with prayer and a devotional attitude.
I’d like to look at three texts relating to worship of Lalita.
The first is the Lalita Pancharatnam. It’s a short piece in Sanskrit that employs vivid imagery of Lalita’s image as a form of meditation. Phil Hine did a blog on it here which includes the text in English but there are also videos that involve performances of it. This video has the text in transliterated Sanskrit and its meaning in English below the video.
Someone interested in Lalita worship can recite this each morning as a form of devotion (and as a daily reminder of prayerful beauty and joy).
The second piece is the Lalita Sahasranama which means “The 1000 names of Lalita”. It is an ancient text that mostly involves the reciting of the 1000 names/epithets of Lalita. About a year ago, I attended a recital of the Lalita Sahasranama at a Hindu temple not far from me. They do it every Friday night. It’s also a daily practice among worshippers of the “hugging guru” Ammachi who claims to be an incarnation of Lalita.
As there are 1000 names, it takes a long time to get through them. Here is a video (30 minutes long) of the Lalita Sahasranama conveniently with English meaning right on the video. Additionally, Amma’s group has a good English translation that I’ve used that can probably be found at an inexpensive price among the used books on Amazon.
I admit, this is a little much for me. But I have the audio track on my smartphone (performed by the Priya Sisters) and listen to it on my commute into work often. Though it’s hard to follow along with the different names sometimes.
Finally, there is the Saundarya Lahari. This is more advanced.
This is a piece involving Lalita Devi which functions both as a hymn to Her but also as a Tantrik guidebook to Her worship. Phil Hine has done an excellent series on the Saundarya Lahari which I highly recommend checking out. Phil’s piece uses the translation by Francis X. Clooney in his piece “Divine Mother, Blessed Mother: Hindu Goddesses and the Virgin Mary”.
The language often gets into Tantrik imagery and can be obscure and difficult, but there are some beautiful passages in there.
Also, there is a wealth of information at Mike Magee’s ShivaShakti site linked above. However, it’s a little overwhelming and difficult to follow if you’re new to Tantra.
Hell, I’m often confused by it and I’ve been studying this stuff off and on for years.
The best book on the subject of Hindu Tantra is Christopher Wallis’ excellent Tantra Illuminated. It goes deep into the philosophy behind Tantra and is excellent. It is, however, a little lacking on practical techniques. It is about Tantra (though Wallis does teach). Wallis’ book does feature a small section on the Sri Vidya branch of Tantra.
There’s also this cheesy but excellent video involving a mantra of Devi.