Shri Vidya Parampara
– Shri Ramesh Namboodri
Sri Vidya upasana is one of the oldest, most secret spiritual sadhana (procedures) and hence its tenets are mostly based on tradition (sampradaya). The central mantra is the fifteen syllable Pancadasi Vidya is also called Srividya.
Vamakeshvara tantra, Nitya sodasikarnava / Nitya Shodashikarnava enumerates the six different meanings of this mantra. In the meaning called kaulikartha of this Vidya, Sri Bhaskararaya in his commentary called setubandha of the aforesaid tantra, has explained that this meaning has a simile of the fisher man’s net, though having a lot of links, they all are held in the hand of the fisherman. Like wise there will seem many lineages and procedures, but in spirit the truth is that all of these lineages have been initiated by the single guru, who is the Lord Siva / Lord Shiva himself. He then gives us a picture of the lineage from the top as: The Initial spanda to create in the Nirguṇa Parabrahma resulted in the subtle sound energy being manifested in the subtle space. This energy took the form of Svacchanda bhairava and unfolded the Tantras in a very secret coded form and revealed them to anasrita siva / anashrita Shiva, who elaborated them to śāntātītā devi. She revealed them to Sadasiva / Sadashiva, who made them into the five amnaya (pathway), Ishvara, who is the vidyeśvara, then revealed them to Srikanthadi / Shrikanthadi devatas. In this line is our preceptor, from whom these meanings are revealed.
Another way of looking at this lineage: Guru gita explains that a guru is greater than a touch stone (Touch stone is a mythical object which turns the base metal into gold by its touch). Though a touch stone cannot create another touch stone by its contact, the guru creates a true identical self in his disciple (his reflection) by his contact (called diksha) and hence is greater than the touch stone.
Another image is that this lineage transfer is liked to lighting of a lamp from another lamp. This process will create a now light without any deficiency in the previous one, with more glow to the environment.
Reflecting of the first simile, if we look back, our guru is a replica/ reflection of his guru- our parama guru, he in turn is a replica of his guru – our parameṣṭi guru / parameshthi guru, so on and so forth. This idea of reflection will reveal that the guru is identical with Lord Siva / Lord Shiva – the adi guru.
Another corollary from the above is that all gurus are identical in spirit as they all are reflections of the primordial guru – Lord Siva / Lord Shiva. Thus the guru stotra says ‘Vidyāvatāra samsidhhyai svīkṛtāneka vigraha’- for the descent of this Vidya you take many forms. Thus we also find a tenet in the tantras as ‘gurum prakāsayet dhīmān mantram yatnena gopayet’- Highlight your Guru but keep in secret your sadhana modality, Since your guru is Lord Siva / Lord Shiva himself to praise and glorify him will be the best sadhana itself.
With the above thought in mind, from my initiation, collecting various lineages was my prime interest. In Nov 2005, the Mahayaga held at Mumbai gave me an opportunity to befriend and intermingle with a lot of lineages. This is a small gratitude to them by highlighting the various lineages known to me. There are many lineages in Sri Vidya / Shri Vidya upasana in India and abroad as of now.
One of the most famous parampara is that of Sri Bhaskararaya. He was a well-traveled illustrious Upasaka, establishing the tattvas along with the upasana rituals where ever he went. One of his sisya parampara / shishya parampara is established at Sukanand samsthan / Shukanand samsthan in Vasmat. Sri Bhaskararaya’s daughter’s family lineage is established in Narayanapet, Andhrapradesh. Sri Dhiranandanatha (Sri Vittal Dev / Vitthal Dev) of this family – and also in the sisya / Shishya lineage through Shukanand samsthan, took a sajīva Samadhi in their home, and is venerated there. Sri Jagannatha Pandita, another sisya / shishya, wrote the now widely referred to ritual manual, Nityotsava. Sri Cidambara Dixit / Shri Chidananda Dikshit, Purna Brahma Avatara, Belgaum district is in another sisya / Shishya lineage of Sri Bhaskararaya. A recent equally famous and great Upasaka of parampara from Sukanand samsthan, was Sri Raghunath Godbole, from Mumbai, who traveled widely all over India, collected a lot of tantric texts for study, did an in-depth study and executed that knowledge in action in his parampara. He had many sisyas / shishyas Sall over India. His sisya / shishya, Sri Nilakantha Joshi, of Rameshvaram was also famous and a propagator of this sadhana throughout the world. Another sisya is Sri Vatuknath khiste / Batuknath Khiste, from Sampurnananda University, Varanasi. One of the main identities of this parampara is that they have a list of the gurus dating back to the adinatha himself.
The next most popular lineage is from Sri Cidanandanatha / Chidanandanatha (Sir N Subramanya iyer) of Chennai; He was a Tamil teacher, met his guru – Sri Guhanandanatha, in Allahabad, did upasana in secret for twelve years as per instruction of his guru and then came out to popularize this upasana. He established the Brahma Vidya Vimarshini sabha later re-named after his guru as Guhananda Mandali, introduced many liberal steps in this sadhana, printed the first Sri Vidya Saparya paddhati in a book form and was ever kind in imparting this Vidya to all who desired. It would not be an exaggeration to say that one out of two upasakas in south India will belong to this parampara.
Another parampara is through Sri “Anna” Subramanya Iyer (Sri Cidanandanatha / Chidanandanatha), who worked as a teacher in Ramakrishna School and wrote many books for Ramakrishna Mutt, Mylapore – Chennai. He belongs to the lineage of Upanishat brahmnendra, Kanchi, incidentally his diksha name is also Cidanandanatha / Chidanandanatha. Though a low profile is seen among his sisya / shishya, they are quite a number.
A similar name is Thediyur Sri Subramanya Satrigal, who founded the Gurukulam at Mylapore, Chennai. He belongs to the Sringeri parampara / Shringeri parampara and his sisya / shishya are also quite a number.
It is the play of Lalitambika the three Subramanya’s were in Chennai in the middle of the nineteenth century. All were to propagate this Vidya to the general public, erasing any negative thoughts that this sadhana path had had till then.
Never the less, the paramparā of Śrī Isha Mahā Bhattāraka, who founded the Mahati Mandali is wide spread in the South and West India. Dr Raghvan (Yagnesha Bhattāraka), an ayurvedic doctor and Sanskrit scholar from this paramparā has written a sangeeta saparya (Musical text for the ritual). Śrī Pooja Ram Iyer (Amrtesha bhattāraka) of Hamsa Charana satsang and Śrī L Krishnamoorthy from this paramparā were responsible for the spread of the Śrī Vidyā particularly in Mumbai and all of West India.
An International Guru in this field, who built the Devipuram, where we find a replica of the Śrī Mahameru with the deities in life size, a nuclear scientist too, is Śrī Prahlada sastry (Annapūrṇamba sameta Amrutānandanātha). His openness and clarity in the Śrī Vidyā School has attracted many from the Western world. His spiritual son Śrī Wijay Haran (Caitanyānandanātha), has established Rāja Rajesvari peetam in Rush, New York State, and has affiliated peetams all around the world.
Gujarat had the privilege of imparting the Pūrṇa dīkṣā to Śrī Bhāskararāya by Śrī Śivadatta Śukla (ānandānandanātha) , Surat. Apart from this paramparā, another ancient lineage of the pashupata sampradāya is seen here. Śrī Ganapatram dhave (Vimarshānandanātha) was a famous guru of this lineage; his praśiṣya Śrī Śiv guru and Śrīmati Devi Bhā (Kulasundarymaba Anantānandanātha) have established the Rājarajeśvari peetam and Kadi, Gujrat. Their śiṣya pramapara is seen all over the world.
Another ancient lineage in South India had Śrī Appayya Dīkṣita in its line and has given forth to many branches, which are found in TamilNadu and Kerela. Thiruvaiyaru Venkatesa śāstrigal (Kameshvarānandanātha) a great Ramayana exponent is from this paramparā. Śrī Madhavji (Narasimhānandanātha) from Kerala is from this lineage, Śrī Girishkumar, President Shripuram tantra Vidyā peetam is his śiṣya.
One more ancient lineage based at tanjore, with a majority of the Vedic Brahmins, is centered on Śrī Pudukkottai Krishnamurthy śāstrigal (Hasitānandanātha). The lineage branches out widely in Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh from him.
Another lineage from Tanjore district is that of Śrī ‘Mantramoorthy’ – Śrī Krishnamoorthy śāstrigal (Bhuvanānandanātha) from suddamalli, Śrī Anantarama śāstrigal (madanānandanātha -Mohan guruji) is from this lineage.
In Deep South TamilNadu, at the outskirts of Tirunelveli town, in Suttamalli village is the Lalitāmbāl Madom established by Śrī Poundareeka Subrahmanya Bahu somayaji (Kameshvarānandanātha -Kovillappa) and is around one hundred and fifty odd old. He was a wide traveled sadhaka and had many śiṣyas. Their lineage is now all over India. Śrī Bhāskaraprakāsa mandali established by Śrī Rengaswamy dīkṣitar (Vimarshānandanātha) in Chennai is a famous branch in this paramparā.
Another Lalitāmbāl Madom established by Śrī Rāmaswamy Bhāgavatar (Rāmānandanātha), śiṣya of the famous Venkata makhi (Śrīvidyānandanātha- introducer of 72 melakarta ragas), in Cintamani village, south of Madurai, is a treasure house of palm leaf manuscripts. The paramparā has also the Lalitā kameshvara vivāha in the traditional Bhajana style composed by Śrī Bhāgavatar. .
Let me introduce my lineage from Tirunelveli outskirts, Melappavur. The lineage has in its branch the famous Veena exponents: The Karaikkudi Brothers, Śrī Subbarāma Iyer (Sundarānandanātha) and Śrī Sāmbhaśiva Iyer (Gītānandanātha). My Guru Śrī Viśvanātha śāstrigal (yajanānandanātha) was from Thediyur, and His guru, Śrī Krishanmurthy śāstrigal (natanānandanātha) was from Śrīvanchiyam, both on the outskirts of Kumbakonam, my parameshti guru, Śrī ādishesha śāstrigal (śivānandanātha) was from Vallanadu, near Tirunelveli and his guru, Śrī Krishna śāstrigal (śankarānandanātha) was from a nearby place, Melappavur.
Interestingly, while collecting the paramparas, we found some rare paduka’s with two saktis.
- श्रीसावित्री सरस्वत्यंबा सहित पूर्णानन्दनाथः
Śrī SāvitrI Sarasvatyambā sahita Pūrṇānadanātha – (Pūrṇabrahma avatara, Śrī Cidambara Dixit, Belgaum)
- श्रीनारायणी जानक्युभयाम्बा सहित नरसिम्हानन्दनाथः
Śrī NārāyaNI Jānakyubhayāmbā sahita Narasimhānandanātha.
- श्रीसर्वमङ्गला लक्ष्म्युभयाम्बा सहित योगानन्दनाथः
Śrī Sarvamangalā lakshmyubhayāmba sahita Śrī Yogānandanātha
Other than those mentioned above we will find practicing upasakas, in secret and with an in depth, intricate knowledge of this Sādhanā, all over India.
After the mahayaga in 2005 at Mumbai, With a view to integrate all Guru mandalams on the earlier said idea that they are one in spirit, philosophy and tenets, varied only in procedures and places of residence, Shri Vidya Guru Manadala Parsihad was formed, including all participated and invited guru mandalams from all over India, to create a common platform to discuss and exchange views on the practical and philosophical aspects.
Publishing rare, manuscripts and re-printing books, which are out of print, but valuable in content are some of the prime objectives of this assembly.
Let us all participate in this assembly and benefit from the shared knowledge to experience the inherent bliss of Divine, called by us as Lalitāmbikā.
सदानन्दपूर्ण स्वात्मैव परदेवता ललिता
‘Sadānanda Pūrṇa svātmaiva paradevatā Lalitā’