śītoṣṇa sukhaduḥ khecchāḥ satva-rajastamoguṇāḥ vaśinyādi śaktayo'ṣṭau ||

शीतोष्ण सुखदुः खेच्छाः सत्व-रजस्तमोगुणाः वशिन्यादि शक्तयोऽष्टौ॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 16)

Eight vāgdevī-s represent climatic conditions such as heat and cold, mental state such as happiness and sadness, emotionalism, and three guṇa-s.

This verse discusses about the seventh āvaraṇa known as sarvarogaharacakra. We have already discussed that the seventh āvaraṇa is presided over by eight vāgdevī-s, who composed Lalitā Sahasranāma. In Bhāvanopaniṣad, we are discussing about liberation or saṁhāra krama. As we go towards inner triangle and the bindu within, our gross and subtle bodies are purified.

Human body is made of five sheaths, known as kośa-s. These sheaths form the covering of human organism, which is also called piṇḍa śarīra.  The soul is covered by three overlapping vestures.  They are causal body, subtle body and gross body.  The casual body is the innermost and gross body is the outermost.  The gross body is perishable, subtle body sustains for longer time and the casual body is permanent till the final liberation of the soul. The soul along with karmic account is embedded in the casual body.  According to Vedānta philosophy, there are five superimposed sheaths known askośa.  The inner most is ānandamaya kośa (the sheath of bliss), which corresponds to the casual body.  The next three layers are vijñānamaya kośa (the sheath of intellect and knowledge), manomaya kośa, the sheath of mind, prānamaya kośa, the sheath of vital airs like prāna, apāna, etc.  These three, vijñānamaya kośa, manomaya kośa and prānamaya kośa correspond to the subtle body. The fifth and the outer sheath is annamaya kośa, the sheath of food that corresponds to the gross body. The entire sheathing structure of the human organism hides the soul or puruṣa or the self, deep within and falsely projecting itself as the microcosm and bringing forth the illusion of the world as the macrocosm. 

When we move towards the central bindu for the purpose of liberation, each of these kośa-s are purified in stages. As far as this āvaraṇa is concerned, eight aspects are purified or contracted. Creation is called expansion of Śiva and liberation is called contraction by Śiva. There is difference between individual liberation and universal annihilation. At the time of liberation, the individual soul merges with Śiva (not necessarily during death). An individual soul, which becomes impure due to different afflictions caused by māyā has to purified totally before it is liberated. This process of purification is done in the eight āvaraṇa-s of Śri Cakra.

Different sheathsIf we look at the above image, we can understand how different types of bodies control different sheaths. When we enter Śri Cakra from the first āvaraṇa, the cleansing process begins form the gross body and as we proceed towards the bindu, subtle body and finally causal body are purified. In the seventh āvaraṇa, any remains of rajo guṇa and tamo guṇa are purified. This is the state of prakṛti (imperceptible), where all the three guṇa-s lie in equipoise. In this āvaraṇa, purification is done for the subtle body comprising of mind and intellect. They are purified by working on antaḥkaraṇa (mind, intellect and ego) as well any modifications of pañcabhūta-s. He now truly understands advaita or non-dualism, as all his dualities are destroyed in this āvaraṇa. The process of liberation from this point onwards is kept as a closely guarded secret. This is the stage where an aspirant perpetually contemplates Her and the connection between the aspirant and Lalitāmbikā is kept as a closely guarded secret. How this secret is maintained due to the destruction of his mind, intellect and non-essential ego? His external appearance undergoes complete transformation. He begins to discard all external accessories such as wearing sacred ashes, rudrākṣa beads, etc. From the stage ofsthitaprajña he moves very close to the state of jīvanmukta. Jīvanmukta is the stage where one is liberated while he is alive. The aspirant here continues to live, but as a thoroughly transformed person, as he is now very close to complete purification. Once the purification is complete, he becomes jīvanmukta awaiting his death to merge into Brahman.

Apart from the destruction of dualities, remnants of five principle elements and antaḥkaraṇa, seven psychic centres (chakras in kuṇḍalinī meditation) are also purified.

śabdādi tanmātrāḥ pañca puṣpabāṇāḥ | mana  ikṣadhanuḥ | rāgaḥ pāśaḥ |dveṣo'ṅkuśaḥ ||

शब्दादि तन्मात्राः पञ्च पुष्पबाणाः। मन  इक्षधनुः। रागः पाशः। द्वेषोऽङ्कुशः॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 17)

Five tanmātra-s are represented by the five flower arrows. Mind is the sugarcane bow. Desire is the noose and hatred and aversion is the goad. These four are the weaponries that are worshiped outside the eighth āvaraṇa, which is explained in Journey to Śri Cakra - part 18. These four weaponries annihilate all the qualities, known as guṇa-s of a devotee. At the time of liberation, one should be devoid of guṇa-s. When there is imbalance in guṇa-s, only then modifications in the mind happen, which leads to desires, attachments, hatred, aversion, etc. When the mind is completely purified and is made devoid of guṇa-s, qualities of the mind are annihilated and the mind is made completely placid. In an unruffled state of mind, the aspirant thinks only about Her. In this state of mind, mantra and mediation are automatically culminated. All these unfold on its own, as his mind has already been cleansed and made pure.

avyakta mahadahaṅkārāḥ kāmeśvarī vajreśvarī bhgamālinyo'ntasrikoṇagā devatāḥ ||

अव्यक्त महदहङ्काराः कामेश्वरी वज्रेश्वरी भ्गमालिन्योऽन्तस्रिकोणगा देवताः॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 18)

Avyakta, mahat and ego are Kāmeśvarī, Vajreśvarī and Bhgamālinī and control the three corners of the inner most triangle.

This verse talks about eighth āvaraṇa. The universe first becomes visible when avyakta in combination with intellect (mahat or buddhi) and ego interact with tanmātra-s, as discussed in the previous verse. Further contraction of the aspirant happens here. Kāmeśvarī, Vajreśvarī and Bhgamālinī work on him in the subtlest way possible. His subtlest aspect alone remains, which is the state of ānanda or the ānandamaya kośa, which is his causal body. Ānanda here refers to Parāśakti, the Supreme Power of Śiva. Ānanda is also a state of mind, however without duality. In the state of Bliss or Ānanda the aspirant completely unites with Her and residues of dualities are annihilated. At the time of liberation, even ānanda is also considered as a quality.

It is important to understand the difference between Cit and Ānanda. Cit is Śiva and Ānanda is Śakti. Cit is Prakāśa, the Power of Self-revelation (the Absolute and the foundational Consciousness that never undergoes any changes) and Ānanda is Vimarśa, the absolute state of Bliss, also known as svātantrya śakti of Śiva (Independent and Absolute Authority of Śiva, beyond which nothing exists). At the time of creation, everything begins from Śakti and at the time of liberation of an individual soul, everything is dissolved into Her and the soul is finally merged with Śiva only by Her. An individual soul cannot directly merge with Śiva without Her stamp of approval. The importance of worshippingŚakti arises from this reality.

Kāmeśvarī cleanses the aspirant with fire. His individual soul is now totally purified, as fire and water are considered as the best purifiers. Purification of individual soul means removing the remnants of karmic impressions. Vajreśvarī purifies him with the rays of the sun. His inner soul after these two purifications is realised as antarātma. In this state, the inner soul is prepared to merge with the Supreme Soul. Finally, Bhgamālinī makes his soul ready to get the final approval of Lalitāmbikā and takes him before Her for final realization and liberation.

virupādhikā saṁvideva kāmeśvaraḥ sadānandapūrṇā svātmaiva paradevatā lalitā |  lauhityametasya sarvasya vimarśaḥ ||

विरुपाधिका संविदेव कामेश्वरः सदानन्दपूर्णा स्वात्मैव परदेवता ललिता।  लौहित्यमेतस्य सर्वस्य विमर्शः॥

(Bhāvanopaniṣad 19)

Pure Consciousness is Kāmeśvara. Individual self, which is in the state of eternal Bliss is Lalitāmbikā. The redness is contemplating the union of Śiva, Śakti and jīvan (individual soul).

This verse talks about ninth āvaraṇa, which has been elaborately dealt with while discussing sarvānandamayacakra. This is the innermost triangle and on each side of the triangle one kūṭa ofPañcadaśī mantra is placed. At the time of creation, the inner most triangle is known Divine Procreative point (yoni). A person born out this point comes back to Her at the time of liberation. Thus, She becomes the cause both for creation and liberation. The entire period from creation to liberation is controlled by Her. In other words, our existence in this world is under Her direct control and care. Having born due to karmic impressions, we have two options before us. One is to realize Her and get liberated. Another option is to continue our existence, without making efforts to realize Her. To realize Her, the highest form of spiritual knowledge is required and the source of highest spiritual knowledge is Brahma Sūtra and Upaniṣad-s. A learned Guru imparts highest spiritual knowledge to his disciples in stages, first by initiating into mantras and gradually takes the aspirant forward to the path of liberation. Hence Guru maṇḍala attains great importance in Śri Cakra worship.

The contraction of the aspirant in this āvaraṇa is complete. When reflections are withdrawn in stages over a period of time, the aspirant is able to witness the original illuminating Light of Śiva known as Prakāśa. This is the point where the aspirant affirms “śivoham” (I am Śiva or I am That or ahaṁ brahmāsmi). He becomes liberated and becomes a jīvanmukta (liberated while alive).

Depending upon his karmic account, his period of life is determined. After becoming a jīvanmukta he continues to live, but without any traces of duality as every trace of materialistic world is annihilated and they will not reappear again and as She has already showered Her Grace (Śakti-pāta) on him. Without the decadence of Her Grace, jīvanmukta state is not possible.

With this, the first part of Bhāvanopaniṣad is completed. There are another fifteen verses which describe about practice.