We are now standing in front of huge gates of manomaya fort (fort of mind, mental fort or mental sheath), which is fort number 20. Forts 20, 21 and 22 form the forts of antaḥkaraṇa. Antaḥkaraṇa consists of three components as per Trika philosophy (explained in this link in three parts) and four components as per Advaita philosophy. The four components are mind, intellect, consciousness and ego. In Trika, consciousness is not included, as Śiva Himself is Consciousness. We walk through manomaya fort to reach another open vast space, which is lustrous red in colour.
In this open space, we see Amṛtavāpikā (lake of nectar). Two banks of the lake are named as saṁcala (referring to wavering nature of the mind). In this lake, we are able to see swans in the colour of pearls (pure white), moving around. We also find many gold lotus flowers in the lake. Apart from gold lotuses, there are other fragrant watery flowers, and bees fly around these flowers making buzzing sound, which is soothing to our ears. In the middle of this lake, there is a boat, built with pure white pearls. In that boat, we see a beautiful young woman playing with her friends. She is pinkish red in complexion (sindūrapāṭalāṅgī). She has moon in her crown, her face appears like the full moon and her lower lip is deep red in color, like pomegranate flowers. She has dark curly hair and her eyes are like young doe’s (female deer) eyes. She has bright ear studs, the reflections of which are seen in her shining cheeks. She is being given abhiṣeka (sacred bath, accompanied with recitation of mantras) by her assistants, who also travel with her in small boats. They give her bath by using gold horns (like horns of cow). She is Tārā Devi (one of the Śakti-s of daśamahāvidyā). After worshipping her, we move on to the next fort (four number 21), fort of ego.
The fort of mind is a subtle fort (though not explicitly said so). Thought processes of the mind are explained as the banks of the pond and that is why they are named as saṁcala (saṁcala means wavering). Gold lotuses represent material desires. Fragrance, colour, complexion, etc refer to lecherousness. Sounds of bees are the material sounds that afflict our minds. Sight and sound are the primary reasons, for causing lasting mental impressions in our minds. In order to remove mental afflictions, Tārā Devi is worshipped, as she is known for wisdom and knowledge. When her grace is obtained, we begin to taste the divine nectar (spiritual advancement).
(Further reading on Tārā Devi: Tārā Devi described here and in other mantra texts do not agree. Some of the common descriptions are boat, pearl, etc. There are three types of dhyāna for her and they are ṣṛṣṭi, sthiti and saṁhāra dhyāna-s (contemplation for creation, sustenance and destruction). Based upon different acts, her dhyāna verses also vary. For example, white colour is associated during creation, red during sustenance and black during destruction. It is also said that Brahmā andViṣṇu worshipped her with different mantras. Brahmā worshipped her with “om trīṁ hrīṁ huṁ phaṭ ॐ त्रीं ह्रीं हुं फट्” and Viṣṇu worshipped her with “om hrīṁ śrīṁ klīṁ sauḥ huṁ ugratāre huṁ phaṭ ॐ ह्रीं श्रीं क्लीं सौः हुं उग्रतारे हुं फट्”. But her common mantra is “om hrīṁ trīṁ huṁ phaṭ ॐ ह्रीं त्रीं हुं फट्”. Her bīja is trīṁ त्रीं”)
We are now standing before the gates of fort of intellect (buddhi), which is the 21st fort. As we walk through this fort, we reach another open space. While going around this place, we find another lake by name ānandavāpikā (lake of bliss), which is full of nectar. This lake has steps made of rubies, which are deep red in colour. There is a small boat, built with rubies, in the middle of the lake of bliss. In that boat, is seated Amṛteśī. She has compassionate eyes and she is well decorated with shining ornaments. She is also known as Vāruṇi Devi. This Devi is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma (333), Vāruṇi-mada-vihvalā, which is explained thus: Vāruṇi is the extract of dates that is allowed to brew and when consumed causes inebriation. There is a nāḍi (nerve) called vāruṇi which can be controlled by breath. This nāḍi plays a significant role in excretion of bodily waste. If this nāḍi is brought under control by proper breathing exercises, one will never feel tiredness in the body. Sages keep this nāḍi under their control to cope up with longer duration of meditation.” Opposite to her, some beautiful divine damsels are seated with gold oars in their hands (to row the boats). We pray to her that she should give us enough knowledge (higher level of spiritual knowledge known as buddhi) to know about Lalitāmbikā and move to the next fort.
Next fort (fort number 22) is fort of ego (ahaṁkāra). We walk through this fort to reach yet another open space. This space is known as “malayapavamāna” (malaya – mountain range; pavamāna – being purified; this possibly indicates presence of purified air in this mountain range). We are able to feel the breeze, filled with fragrance of newly blossomed flowers. There are many birds in this region. There are many bees tasting the nectar from the newly blossomed flowers. The buzzing sound of the bees is sweet to our ears. In this mountain range, there is a pond called “vimarśavāpikā”. This pond is the store house of nectar that flows into the throat during kuṇḍalinī meditation. This is purely a Divine Grace and not everybody is blessed with this flow of nectar.
(Further reading on the flow of nectar: This is discussed in two nāma-s of Lalitā Sahasranāma 105 and 106, the essence of which is given here: “She has now reached Her destination, the sahasrāra, where Śiva is waiting for Her. Sahasrāra is just below the brahmarandhra, an orifice in the skull that connects to cosmos (The existence of this orifice has not been medically proved. Perhaps this is like the pores that exist in our skin through which sweat comes out. But one can distinctly feel the cosmic connection through this orifice. But according to Ayurveda, there is marma point (also known as varma point here, by name adhipati). The union of Śiva and Śaktī takes place at sahasrāra. The sādhaka, who all along was worshipping only the Śaktī, begins to worship Her along with Her Creator, Śiva. There is one soma chakra in the middle of sahasrāra. When Kuṇḍalinī reaches this cakra, out of the heat generated by Her presence, the ambrosia which is stored there gets melted and drips through the throat and enters the entire nervous system.”)
We are able to see in the middle of vimarśavāpikā, a boat made of rubies. In the boat we are able to see a beautiful dark green complexioned damsel. She has a well developed body. She has beautiful eyebrows that shames Manmatha’s bow. She is smiling pleasantly. She is wearing ear studs made of rubies. She is Kurukullā Devi. A reference to her is available in Lalitā Sahasranāma 438 Kurukullā, and this nāma is explained like this: “Kurukullā is a goddess who dwells in Śrī Cakra between the boundaries of ego and consciousness. The Bhāvanopaniṣad considers goddess Vārāhi as father and Kurukullā as mother. It says, ‘Vārāhi pitṛurūpā kurukullā balidevatā mātā (वाराहि पितृरूपा कुरुकुल्लाबलिदेवता माता).’ This is based on the principle that our body consists of sensory organs along with flesh and blood that cause the feeling of bodily lust. The physical description of Kurukullā is terrifying, probably indicating that lust is one of the factors that form a stumbling block to the spiritual progression.”
After paying our respects to her, we move to the next fort (fort number 23), the sun fort.