Dipa Devi

– Ramesh Namboodri

In the Sri Vidya ritual manual we are directed to place two lamps on either side of the Pūja pīTham. The Lamp on right side of pīTham should be filled with ghee and have a white wick; the one on left side should be filled with sesame oil and have a red wick. This is a small open thought on placement and choice of material.

The pūja pīTham is facing sādhaka. The deity is invoked on the pīTham and is meditated as facing sādhaka. Thus we find right side of sādhaka is the left of the deity and vice versa. The deity invoked is Śrī Lalitā-Kāmeśvara Couple. Śrī Lalitā Devi is meditated as being seated on left lap of Śrī Kāmeśvara. Thus we find Lamp on right side of pīTham, filled with ghee and having a white wick will be on Śrī Kāmeśvara’s side and on left side filled with sesame oil and with a red wick will be on Śrī Lalitāmbikā’s side.

We are immediately reminded of the Guru’s Foot stool as said in verse ‘rakta śukla’, where śukla’refers to Śrī Kāmeśavra is ādiguru – pointing to source of knowledge and ‘rakta’ to Śrī Lalitāmbika, who is his vimarśa śakti, experience of this knowledge. Examining ‘Dīpa’ with secret code kaTapayādi will show number eighteen, total number of Vidyās and Upa-Vidyās as per purāṇas, thus pointing to Knowledge (light) and its experience, which is also seen above.

The Cow’s ghee ‘गो घृतं ’ is used to fill right side lamp, ‘गो’ means cow, the most venerated, in whose body all divine forces of this universe reside–sarva devatā svarūpa, in short containing in it the divine energy of this entire universe-‘ग’ by KaTapayādi code is ‘three’ which point to the three worlds- visible universe (bhUH, bhuvaH and suvaH); This word also means ‘senses’- likened to a cow, which goes out to graze and then retires under a shade to masticate, similarly all the senses go out to gather knowledge from universe and then later remembers that experience (this is called vāsanā), number three will allure to three sates of awakening, sleep and deep sleep. ‘घृतं’ will mean ghee. The process of producing ghee is a long one, one has to get milk, boil it, cool, make it sour and turn into curds, churn the curds to get butter and finally heat (melt) butter to get ghee.
These processes described also give and idea on the acquisition of knowledge, which again is a long process. One has to wander like a cow and graze (read / hear), internalize fodder (heard/read information) to get milk, which is the essence (learning), One has to externally discuss or debate with likeminded people, which is likened to souring and get curds, then churn curds, which is internal debate and process to make these learning inside us, which is likened to the butter, heat again is to implement these learning in our daily routine (anuṣTāna) to get ghee (bliss). As per KaTapayādi code ‘घृतं’ will translate to sixty four, total number of all branches of knowledge- catuṣṣaṣTi-kalā. Further, we find same in our guru maṇdala veneratory verse as ‘sixty four siddhās’. Looking holistically, we find total knowledge in this entire universe is represented by lighting this lamp.

The left side lamp is with a red wick and filed with ‘तिल तैल’- sesame oil. According to the scriptures Lord Viṣṇu is pleased with worship of sesame seeds, which we also use in our forefather’s worship. Lord Viṣṇu is the ever pervasive consciousness in both animate and inanimate objects. Forefather’s represent the cumulative knowledge of experience by which we further find our way to the land of experiential knowledge. ‘तिल and तैल’ by KaTapayādi code will mean number thirty six. This is the number of tattvas in the experiential universe. The color red is explained in bhāvanopaniṣat as ‘lauhityam etasya sarvasya vimarśaH’ – red color is experience of identity of sadhaka, Śrī Lalitā and Śrī Kāmeśvara. Śrī Bhāskararāya puts is lucidly as: Atman without any attributes is Śrī Kāmeśvara and with an attribute called ‘bliss’ is called Lalitāmbikā and with attributes of four preceptor internal organs- manas, buddhi, ahamkāra and citta is called sādhaka. This identity is described in this verse. Looking above ideas on a whole, we find the experiential knowledge linked to thirty six tattva- universe is the message in lighting this lamp.

Adding both numbers seen will result in centum, (64+36). The total number of rays (raśmi’s) inside six ādhāra cakra counted both ways, up and down. (4+6+10+12+16+2 =50*2=100). The up and down movement of kuṇdalini is described beautifully in two verses of saundaryalahari- ‘mahīm mūlādhāre..’ and ‘sudhādhārā sāraiH..’. Thus a total blissful experience of kuṇdalini movement is explicitly seen in establishing these lamps.

We usually light the dīpa with the hṛllekha bījam – ‘hrīm’. This is the verbal form of the initial creative movement of Lord śiva. The ‘h’ is Lord śiva and ‘I’ is the primordial energy which instigates creation and ‘r’ is the life energy – heat energy which resulted in created universe. Taking numbers for individual alphabets – ‘H’ is eight; ‘r’ is two; ‘I’ the vowel is four and ‘m’ (anusvara) is one. Thus we find a total of fifteen in parts and considering the whole bīja as one we get a total count of sixteen,‘ṣoḍaśa kalā’ which is ever present and ever illuminating all aspirant’s intellect for experience of this world.

In this manner, we find a very deep inner guidance in understanding and experiencing of śiva-śakti in all aspects for a simple ritual like establishing and lighting of lamps during saparyā.

More ‘light’ from Lalitā sahasranāma and triśati
There are two names in both of these stotrā with the word – ‘dīpa’. They are ‘agnānadhvānta dīpikā’and trikoṇāntara dīpikā’ in sahasranāma; ‘hrīmkārāṅgaṇa dīpikā’ and hrīmkāra maṇidīparciH’ in triśati.

  1. ‘agnāna’ – the ignorance of the true nature of self is compared to ‘dhvānta’ – darkness of night, which is lit up by lamp-light ‘dīpikā’. When we bring a light into a dark room, we need not ask / request the darkness to move away. Darkness itself is absence of light, so when light is lit, it spreads its glow and reveals all. ‘gnāna’ as defined in kaula upaniṣad by Bhāskararāya is ‘avivecana abhāva’ – not being unaware (note the double negative). As seen from above KaTapayādi code, agnāna is zero signifying absence of knowledge – Ignorance, dīpa is numeral eighteen, this refers to the light and experience as said in the eighteen vidyā.
  2. trikoṇa is a triangle, symbol of kula, the inseparable aspect of triads. Hence Devi is the light that shines and illumines the triads (gnāna gnātṛ and gneya); also we can see another name kulāntasthā, inside the kula, pointing to the same aspect. In Śrī cakra, inside the central triangle is the bindu, hence this name also points to Devi as shining from the centre of Śrī cakra.
  3. In triśati the bīja ‘hrīm’ is compared to court yard in front of the house, while devi is described as the light illuminating the path way to house. Considering from above, if dīpa can be thought of as the eighteen vidyā and its experiential knowledge, then we are amazed to see that to reach (know) the bīja ‘hrīm’, devi is the personification of all knowledge in the form of Sri Guru to reach (experience) that mantra.
  4. Again bīja ‘hrīm’ is likened to a crystal and devi is the rays of light gushing from the jewel. ‘ma’ and ‘ṇi’ as per code is five and five, representing organs of cognition and motor, light from inside (devi-ātmā) illumines them, leading to experience of universe, which is again Devi. ‘maṇi’ also is a secret code of sādhana of five ‘M’. Thus Devi is bliss (sadānanda) experienced as sādhana progresses under guidance of Sri Guru.