Vārāhī pitṛdevatā kurukullā balidevatā mātā || वाराही पितृदेवता कुरुकुल्ला बलिदेवता माता

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 4)

This verse says that Vārāhī Devi is the father and Kurukullā Devi is the mother. This appears to be difficult to explain as there are no authentic and elaborate explanations on this verse. Both Vārāhī and Kurukullā need to be separately understood. Though there are enough materials about Vārāhī, not many are available on Kurukullā. This verse speaks about their parenthood not only to a human being, but also to all the beings.  It can however be explained that they are parents both to physical as well as subtle bodies. In other words, they are the cause for existence of our gross bodies as well as mind (subtle body). It is said that Vārāhī presides over bones and Kurukullā presides over other parts of the body. Without bone, no proper shape is possible and thus, bone forms the basic structure of the bodily constitution. With bone alone, a shape cannot be completed. Rest of the bodily material are provided by Kurukullā. Since bone is the toughest part of the body, Vārāhī is described as father and rest of the body compositions are subtler and soft and Kurukullā is described as mother. Both these names are referred in Lalitā Sahasranāma.

A physical body needs two aspects. One is protection, which Vārāhī does as father and another aspect is nourishment which is provided by Kurukullā as mother. Kurukullā is rarely known in rituals and mostly associated with Buddhist tradition. However, she is said to be one of the nine kula devi-s of Tantric tradition, the other eight being Nārasimhī, Cāmuṇdā, Vāruṇi, Kalāpī, Nārāyaṇī, Kaumārī, Parājitā and Aparājitā*.

How does Kurukullā nourish a human body? It is said that she receives offerings made during fifteen lunar days and nourishes the body. It is also believed that tithinityā devi-s receive the offerings made on a particular tithi and they in turn offer them to Kurukullā to sustain all the gross bodies in the universe. Hence, she is called as balidevatā in this verse. Bali is also an offering during rituals made to other inferior deities. Bali always forms a part of the main offering, except in the case of kṣetrepāla bali, which is prepared separately. Some are of the opinion that the presiding deity should be given offerings which is called naivedya and for all other deities during that particular ritual offerings made are known as bali.  

It is also said that Kurukullā represents full moon, when Parāśakti remains in the form of Pañcadaśī mantra. As discussed earlier (Journey to Śri Cakra), Parāśakti is in the form of Ṣoḍaśī mantra on new moon days, which is represented by Vārāhī. Since the entire creation is placed between Pañcadaśī and Ṣoḍaśī representing full moon days and new moon days and since Kurukullā and Vārāhī represent new moon days and full moon days, it is said that they are like father and mother of the universe. We have seen Kurukullā Devi (while discussing Journey to Śri Cakra) 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 (between forts 21 and 22)”. Based on her positioning between the forts of mind and ego, we can also say that Kurukullā controls antaḥkaraṇa (mind, intellect and ego). If Kurukullā is described like this, it can also be said that Vārāhī presides over gross body and Kurukullā presides over subtle body.

There are other interpretations also, which are of no significance. However, it is still intriguing why these references are made in this Upaniṣad, which belongs to Atharva Veda.

*There are eight mothers (aṣṭa māta-s), representing eight different human qualities.  They are 1. Yogeśvarī representing desire, 2. Māheśvarī for anger, 3. Vaiṣṇavī for greed, 4. Brāhmaṇī for passion, 5. Kalyāṇī for bewilderment, 6. Indrajā for envy, 7. Vārāhī for disdain and 8. Yamadaṇḍā for death.  There are variations in their names from the one mentioned above, while worshipping them in Śrī Cakra. They are worshipped in Śrī Cakra as Brāhmī, Māheśvarī, Kaumārī, Vaiṣṇavī, Vārāhī, Māhendrī, Cāmunḍā and Mahālakṣmī.  These goddesses are worshiped in the first āvaraṇa in Śrī Cakra worship.  Aṣṭa māta-s also refer to eight veins on both sides of human neck.

Puruṣārthāḥ sāgaraḥ पुरुषार्थाः सागरः

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 5)

Object of human pursuit is like an ocean. Puruṣārtha consists of four ambitions of life – dharma, artha, kāma and mokṣa. They can be interpreted as leading life following the path of righteousness, acquiring material wealth, not only to sustain the self, but also to become a philanthropist, gratifications of desires and attaining liberation. This verse says these four, making the puruṣārtha-s are like an ocean. Puruṣārtha–s are not the same in everyone, though the last of the four, mokṣa is the same in everyone. There are two types mokṣa-s. One is final liberation and that soul will not be born again. This is known as liberation. Another mokṣa is inferior to liberation, where the soul reaches heavens (higher planes) and sojourns there, only to be born again to experience the remnants of karmic impressions.  Lalitā Sahasranāma 291 says that She alone is the giver of these puruṣārtha-s. Śiva will not give puruṣārtha-s, as He is beyond all these mundane activities. Śiva does not even give mokṣa, as She after imparting knowledge about Śiva (Lalitā Sahasranāma 727 – Śivajñānapradāyinī) ensures that such a yogi merges unto Śiva.

The first three of puruṣārtha-s vary depending upon one’s spiritual advancement. Let us take dharma. Dharma is explained as dos and don’ts of ethical and moral life. The precepts of dharma vary according to spiritual progression.  There is no need to tell a saṁnyāsin that he should not be angry or give room for emotions, ego, etc. When he has resorted to saṁnyāsa, it is understood that he should be away from material world with a steadfast mind. Similarly, a family man is entitled and duty bound to carry out his duties to his family and should not renounce without completing his duties, and at the same time pursuing his spiritual path. He has to earn for the sustenance of his family in a righteous way. What he has to do? This is explained in Lalitā Sahasranāma 946 Pañca-yajña-priyā. (The five yajña-s referred in smṛti-s are known as pañca mahā yajña-s.  They are deva yajña (appeasing gods and goddesses), brahma yajña (the knower of Vedas), pitṛ yajña (for ancestors), bhūta yajna (animals, etc) and nara or atithi yajña (nara means man and atithi means guest). Atithi is explained as a person who is entitled for hospitality.  Deva yajña is the worship to one’s kula devatā (the deity worshipped through lineage).  The study of Veda-s is the next.  Remembering our ancestors is the third.  This is performed on the annual death days of ancestors. (There is no point in performing annual ceremonies without taking care of them when they were alive). The idea behind this yajña is not only to remember them, but also to remember and follow the family’s culture and values. Bhūta yajña means sharing with other living beings.  Feeding the hungry animals develops universal love.  The last one also known as manuṣya yajña (manuṣya means friendly to man), traditional hospitality extended to fellow beings.) As the one who sustains his family, he has to follow the above five yajña-s. Thus, dharma though considered by the commandments, varies according to the level of spiritual evolvements of individuals.

Artha means wealth (Artha has other meanings such as purpose, cause, motive, etc). This also depends upon one’s spiritual evolution. The one at the higher end of spiritual life will not ask for more and more material wealth and instead will seek spiritual knowledge, which he considers as supreme wealth. Kāma means desires, which includes all types of desires such as material, physical, intellectual, etc. Therefore, puruṣārtha-s is not a yardstick that can be applied to everyone equally. Similarly, many are of the opinion that women should not recite ॐ, or perform agni rituals, etc. This is not true. Dharma applies to everyone and it does not differentiate based on gender.

Puruṣārtha-s can be interpreted from the point of view of the previous verse, which discussed about masculine and feminine energy in the names of Vārāhī and Kurukullā. Union of masculine and feminine energies is taken forward through various Tantra śāstra-s, which is often misunderstood, bringing disrepute to Tantra śāstra-s. This verse says that one has to transcend puruṣārtha-s, which is like an ocean, to reach the ultimate goal of liberation. If first three of the puruṣārtha-s are transcended, the fourth puruṣārtha is automatically attained, as the first three deal with the mind and the fourth can be attained, only if the mind is cleansed of the impressions of the first three, beyond the need for normal existence.