pañcadaśatithirūpeṇa kālasya pariṇāmāvalokanaṁ pañcadaśa nityāḥ ||

पञ्चदशतिथिरूपेण कालस्य परिणामावलोकनं पञ्चदश नित्याः॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 22)

The verse says that witnessing the changes happening (progression of time, day, etc, generally known as evolution) through fifteen lunar days (tithi) is seeing.

Fifteen tithi nityā devī-s have already been discussed in the series Journey to Śri Cakra – part 17.

Importance of tithi nityā devī-s is very significant in the evolution of the world. Moon waxes and wanes. As we know, the moon waxes for a period of fifteen days and each of these days is represented by a tithi nityā devī. Similarly, the moon begins to wane for the next fifteen days, thus causing bright fortnight or śuklapakṣa. On the fifteenth day, the moon becomes complete without any blemishes (pūrṇimā or full moon). Similarly, the moon begins to wax for another fifteen days (kṛṣṇapakṣa ) and completely covered by sun on the new moon day (amāvāsya). On the day of new moon, also known as amāvāsya, sun and moon are in the same ecliptical longitude (positions and orbits of solar system objects, in relation to the sun). These fifteen tithi nityā devī-s are called as changing principles (because they make the time or kāla), Lalitāmbikā, as the sixteenth digit does not change. Thus She is the unchanging principle of all changes. This means, everything changes along with the waxing and waning moon, but Lalitāmbikā alone does not change. These details are discussed in the above referred article. It is important to note that Lalitāmbikā, as Mahākāmeśvari, sits on the left lap of Mahākāmeśvara on the new moon day (amāvāsya). When She, in the form of moon, conjoins with Śiva, who is in the form of sun, She becomes Ṣoḍaśī. The sixteen kalā-s of moon and the sixteen kalā-s of the sun join together and this is subtly conveyed in the form of Ṣoḍaśī mantra. Based on this principle, it is said that Ṣoḍaśī mantra gives liberation. Śiva is worshiped in the form of the sun and Śakti is worshiped in the form of moon. Their union takes place on the day of amāvāsya, hence amāvāsya is considered as the most auspicious day for practicing Ṣoḍaśī mantra.

There is relevance between tithi nityā devī-s and the contemplation of an aspirant. In the initial stages of one’s sādhana, the aspirant identifies himself with these tithi nityā devī-s, who represent constant changes happening in the world with the passage of minute, hour, day, week, month, year and multitude of years. One’s birth and death are determined by time. When the aspirant identifies himself with tithi nityā devī-s, he gets bound by time. When he is bound by time, he has not yet removed his spiritual ignorance. When spiritual ignorance is removed due to Her Grace, the aspirant shifts his consciousness from the ever changing principles, to the changeless principle, viz. Mahākāmeśvari. Only in this state the aspirant enters into the state of Bliss or Ānanda, which subsequently leads to liberation. Therefore, one’s object of meditation should be shifted from ever changing principles in the form tithi nityā devī-s and after attaining perfection, one should meditate on the unchanging principle amongst all changing principles, Mahākāmeśvari. The method of meditation and the benefits thereof is explained in the next verse.

evaṁ muhūrtritayaṁ mūhūrtadvitayaṁ muhūrtamātraṁ vā bhāvanāparo jīvanmukto  bhavati | sa eva śivayogīti gadyate ||

एवं मुहूर्त्रितयं मूहूर्तद्वितयं मुहूर्तमात्रं वा भावनापरो जीवन्मुक्तो  भवति। स एव शिवयोगीति गद्यते॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 23)

This verse and the next verse form phala stuti; this talk about benefits accruing out contemplation explained in Bhāvanopaniṣad.

This verse says, the one who contemplates as detailed in Bhāvanopaniṣad for three muhūrta-s, two muhūrta-s, or even one muhūrta gets liberated in this life itself and such a yogi is called Śiva-yogin. One muhūrta is equivalent 1/30 part of a day (24 hour period), which is 48 minutes. Inhalation of breath alternates between two nostrils. For a certain period (generally it is 90 minutes under normal conditions) of time, inhalation is done through left nostril and after sometime, it automatically shifts to right nostril. Thus inhalation and exhalation alternates between two nostrils. Under normal circumstances, twelve to fifteen rounds of breathing takes place per minute. This can be reduced drastically, if mind is made calm and serene. The process of making the mind pure is possible only through perfect meditation and in order to attain perfection in meditation and in order to calm the mind, the number of breaths per minute gets drastically reduced. In the highest level of meditations, breathing per minute comes down to two or three. When the entire body is aligned with Śri Cakra mentally, the aspirant Himself becomes the Abode of Lalitāmbikā. It is said that the body is the temple and the Self within is the Sanctum Santorum (garbhagṛha). Only in this stage, She is realized.

While this process is going on one side, simultaneously due to the depth of love for Her, due to the slow and deep breathing patterns, the aspirant’s kuṇḍalinī is awakened on its own. Kuṇḍalinī can be awakened by practice and kuṇḍalinī will also awake on its own when the devotion transforms into Love for Her. When She is fully awakened, either due to practice or due to Love for Her, She moves up the spine to become one with Śiva at the crown chakra. During this union, the aspirant is completely absorbed into this Divine Union and he enters into the state of Bliss which leads to samādhi or trance. Realisation gets triggered during the period of trance that lasts for more than 48 minutes or one muhūrta.

What happens during the final stages of spiritual progression? An aspirant sheds all his practices; remains calm, does not aspire for anything. He sheds his non-essential ego and stays attuned with Her all the time. He does not perform any pūjā-s and japa stops on its own; he does not even spend separate time for meditation, as he is able realize Her within. When She is with him, to whom he is going perform pūjā-s, for whom he is going to repeat japa mantras and on whom he is going to meditate? He sheds his duality by pursuing the path of Brahmavidyā. Though Śrī Vidyā is also known as Brahmavidyā, former is slightly different from the later. Śrī Vidyā initially dwells on pūjā-s and japas any by practicing them, the aspirant gains complete knowledge about Her. Once he understands and realizes Her, She showers Her Grace on him, which is known as Śaktipāta. At the end of Śrī Vidyā, a true aspirant experiences Śaktipāta. What is Śaktipāta? It is explained as the descent of Śakti Herself in the form of Grace on the aspirant. Only on the descent of Śaktipāta, the aspirant realizes that the individual soul within, is nothing but the Self. He now understands His true nature and becomes perfectly fit for emancipation (cessation from transmigration). What happens to him after the descent of Śaktipāta? This is explained in Śiva Sūtra (II.8), which says, “Śarīraṁ haviḥ”, which can be explained briefly thus. The aphorism says that the body is the oblation. Ego is reflected through I consciousness that percolates into all three types of bodies (gross, subtle and subtlest) and if this percolation is allowed to happen for long, destroying this I consciousness becomes difficult.  In the early stage of spiritual path, if I consciousness in all the three levels of a body are offered as oblations into the fire of God consciousness or Śiva consciousness, ego is burnt into ashes not to rear again.  It is not just enough to offer these oblations, but repeatedly affirm that evils of ego have been reduced to ashes and what exists now is that of Śiva or belong to Śiva.  Such a transformed yogi will not repeat namaśivāya, the great mantra of Śiva, but he will turn into Śiva himself and affirm confidently śivohaṁ, meaning I am Śiva. This is possible only if Śaktipāta is experienced. When he realizes that He is Śiva, he is transformed into a jīvanmukta, the one who is liberated in this birth itself and waiting for his death to merge with Śiva.

Though one may boast that he has complete knowledge of various texts, various practices, etc, such a person will never be realized person, as he is completely encompassed with ego. When ego is predominant, he will end up by only remaining as the knower of texts, capable of criticism, misleading others from reality, etc and due to his egoistic approach, he loses the focus on the Self and will never experience Śaktipāta. Therefore, one has to be extremely careful during the transition from Śrī Vidyā to Brahmavidyā. Once Śrī Vidyā is transcended due to the descent of Śaktipāta, his entry into Brahmavidyā will be much more comfortable, as in Brahmavidyā, senses are not at all involved; when senses are not involved, he works only through his mind. In other words, he moves from the ritualistic path to spiritualistic path. This is the essence of Bhāvanopaniṣad.

kādimatena antaścakrabhāvanāḥ pratipaditāḥ || कादिमतेन अन्तश्चक्रभावनाः प्रतिपदिताः॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 24)

The explanation of Bhāvanopaniṣad is based on kādi vidyā (Pañcadaśī mantra-s beginning with (क)“ka”). This Upaniṣad taught about inner meditation based on inner psychic chakras. This is explained in detail in Lalitā Sahasranāma 98, Samayācāra-tatparā. Meditation alone will not make a person Self-realized. He has to undergo several internal process and transformations before he enters into meditative practices. Spiritual journey typically begins with rituals, fully understanding the underlying implications. The next stage is to visualize all these rituals through contemplation. A typical example is Mantramātṛkāpuṣpamālāstavaḥ. After this stage, the aspirant moves from different forms of worship to the single formless Brahman, Only in this stage is Śaktipāta descends on him and he is now called as a yogi. His true spiritual journey begins here and is completed at the stage of becoming a jīvanmukta.

ya evaṁ veda so'tharvaśiro'dhīte | ityupaniśat || य एवं वेद सोऽथर्वशिरोऽधीते। इत्युपनिशत्॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 25)

The one who understands these important conveyances of this Upaniṣad is said to have mastered Atharva. Atharva is the eldest son of Brahmā (god of creation; not Brahman) to whom Brahmavidyā is revealed. This Upaniṣad comes under Atharva Veda.

This series concluded with a Śiva Sūtra (II.1), “Cittaṁ mantraḥ”, which is explained as follows;

Citta is unconditioned self awareness as opposed to ahaṃkāra (ego) that is conditioned by self-concern.  Mantra in this context does not merely refer to mantra-s.  Mantra is the essential tool to connect individual consciousness with cosmic consciousness.  The general purpose of mantra is to establish his awareness firmly with the concerned deity.  But, in this aphorism, Śiva says that mind itself is mantra.  As far as this sūtra is concerned, citta cannot be simply explained as mind.  It is the modification of the mind where the stage of supreme consciousness is attained by focusing within.  This is the stage, where one’s awareness is disconnected from his senses.  His mind at this point becomes devoid of sensory perceptions.  Only if the mind becomes devoid of sensory perceptions, the higher level of consciousness can be reached.  Only in the purest form of consciousness, Supreme Reality can be realised.  Apart from delinking the mind from sensory perceptions, one has to get over sensory impressions also.  Sensory impressions are more harmful than perceptions.

Mantra is one of the tools, by which one can control the wavering mind.  The repeated recitation of any mantra makes a person to develop concentration.  In the initial stages spiritual pursuits, it is not easy to control the mind.  An effective control of the mind can be achieved only by persistent practice.  Mantra’s main objective is to tune his mind to concentrate.  As a by-product, he is also protected from transgressing spiritual path.  No mantra will fructify if proper alignment is not made between the practitioner, mantra and the deity.  This is where consciousness assumes greater significance.  Such alignment can happen only in the purest form of the mind.  Purity of thought and mind is very important while pursuing spiritual path.  That is why, mantra-s are recited mentally and not vocally.

This series on Bhāvanopaniṣad is concluded.