THE ESSENCE OF BEAUTY IS GOD
The third Great Cosmic Wisdom is known under the name of Tripura Sundari or Shrividya Tripura. The Goddess manifests, generally speaking, three fundamental aspects of the Divinity, which may be extended to the level of the whole creation.
Moreover, in the Tantric tradition there are many other forms of reuniting three aspects in one, such as Trishakti (referring to the three fundamental energies of God in the manifestation: iccha shakti – the energy of will, jnana shakti – the energy of knowledge, and kriya shakti – the energy of action) and Trilingam (referring to the three aspects of the universal lingam, which are: svayambhu lingam, bana lingam and itara lingam).
From an etimological point of view, “tri” means Three, and “pura” means city, or citadel. Thus Tripura may be translated as “the one comprising all three citadels”, referring to the three worlds or gigantic spheres of God’s creation: the physical world, the astral world and the causal world.
Due to the perfect homologation between the structure of the human microcosm and the macrocosm, these three citadels are usually associated to the three “bodies” of the human being: the physical body, the astral body and the causal body.
From a different perspective, the significance is that of the goddess’ sovereignty, on the matter, energy, and thought at the level of the whole creation.
Moreover, this grandious manifestation of the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari refers also to the three fundamental states of the human being: the state of awakening, the state of sleep with dreams and the state of deep sleep, without dreams, symbolized in Tantrism as the light of the fire, of the Moon and of the Sun.
Consequently, Tripura Sundari is the bright, gigantic sphere of divine consciousness that pervades all experiences of the three worlds of the Creation, but in the same time transcends them completely. The first “city-citadel” of the goddess is the state of awakening, in which the human being experiments various states of spirit mainly through the five senses.
In this case, the Tantric tradition asserts that the location of the individual consciousness is at the level of the right eye, or in the area of the forehead, in between the eyebrows.
The goddess second “city-citadel” is the state of sleep with dreams, associated to the level of vishuddha chakra, in which the individual consciousness is centered in the mind.
The goddess third “city-citadel” is suggested by the state of deep sleep, associated to the level of anahata chakra, in which the individual consciousness becomes united with its divine nature.
As the sovereign goddess of these three principal states of consciousness, Tripura Sundari represents in the same time the fourth state of consciousness (turiya), which transcends all other three and which is associated to the state of ecstasy (samadhi) and spiritual freedom.
TRANSFIGURATION IS THE MAGIC KEY
In the Tantric vision, from the point of view of the universal principles, it is known that the feminine principle represents Gods manifestation in the aspect of names and forms while the the masculine principle signifies the transcendent aspect of God.
Therefore, the feminine nature is always associated to beauty. We may justly ask ourselves: where can one find the supreme beauty? The tantric teachings urge us to seek this beauty inside of us, because exterior beauty can only reflect, mirror for a few instances the ineffable inner beauty, which transcends all forms.
From a literary point of view, Sundari means “beauty” and this Great Cosmic Wisdom’s worship represents, in fact, following the path of beauty and ecstatic bliss through the manifestation, to the Divine Absolute.
On the level of the ordinary conception of the world, we imagine beauty as implying the perfection and harmony of the exterior outer forms, as is the case of a beautiful woman or a gorgeous flower.
However, regardless of their beauty, if we analyze them closer, we will discover certain less appealing aspects. Moreover, as a direct consequence of our lifetime experience, we all know that all formal beauty will eventually fade and even disappear, sometimes even very soon. This thing happens because the form may embody an amazing beauty for a while, but nonetheless, beauty is and means more than any form.
On the supreme level, the genuine beauty is eternal, and it is reflected only to a certain degree in the changing forms of things and beings of the universe. From this point of view, Tripura Sundari represents more than the formal beauty (which is mainly the attribute of Kamalatmika, the tenth Great Cosmic Wisdom), Tripura Sundari is the very indescribable beauty of the perception of the divine perfection.
This is the reason why beauty should never be considered as inherent to objects, as it appears from the unwrapping of the divine consciousness light that irradiates from every single thing.
THE PURE MIND MIRRORS THE TRUTH
In order to resonate with this euphorical state of perception of the beauty we need to eliminate any preconceived ideas, about what we know or we can evoke through our memory.
In other words, we truly need to “cleanse” our mind so that the magnificent and glorious light of the Divine Self could reflect itself. If we do not fulfill this condition, the residues of our thoughts and emotions will obstruct, as a dark pellicle the divine beauty surrounding us.
Essentially speaking, Tripura Sundari represents the supreme beauty of the pure perception that appears when we are capable of “seeing”, of “envisaging” inside of our being the whole manifestation and the whole Nature as a direct reflection of Gods consciousness.
Thus, the Great Goddess appears to us as the beauty of the whole creation, but this perception is performed in the terms of the indestructible divine unity, in the sense that the whole macrocosm is Brahman or the Heavenly Father and that there is nothing outside His consciousness.
Therefore, the ardent worship of the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari is one of the shortest and most secure path towards the revelation of the Divine Self.
When the mind is suffused with this divine knowledge, it will easily find a total satisfaction in whatever we do. Our perception is then transfigured, and thus we will find joy and happiness in all that we do, even in the most common and apparently insignificant gestures and actions.
We are now free from any conception of time, space, size, distance or importance of things. Any perception reveals then Gods eternal and compassionate presence and thus any perception becomes a kind of small universe in itself, allowing us to know intuitively the uniqueness of the Divine Consciousness in the appearance of the myriads of forms of manifestation.
THE WORLD IS A GAME
Tripura Sundari is also known as Lalita, “the one who plays”. The Hindu spiritual tradition asserts that the whole Creation is in fact the beautiful, charming game, or play of the Divine Mother.
To which we, as human beings are concerned, we are merely transient individualities in the Mothers gigantic game and in order to become free from its illusion we need to understand which is the primordial source of the power and energy that moves around the whole Creation.
Our sufferings are mere illusions; they are a direct consequence of the false knowledge rooted in ignorance and the manifestation of the ego. This is relatively simple: because we stubbornly and obstinately tend to control our happiness, or we tend to “own” it from the point of view of a separate, false “self”, we practically “split” from the genuine spiritual bliss.
As an accurate and pure image of this bliss, Lalita indicates to us the modality to come out of this situation, that we need not deny happiness, but we should discover it inside ourselves.
Practically Lalita awakens the receptive soul to the divine happiness impregnating every single thing that exists in the universe.
Lalita is also known as the deity presiding Sri Yantra, the Yantra that is at the base of the whole universe, and that is originated in the universal subtle sound, pranava.
Lalita is considered as the most beautiful of deities and represents the supreme ecstatic bliss as source of any other wonderful perceptions.
The tradition says that She is located on the peak on Mount Meru, the so-called Cosmic Mountain, sustaining and leading the movement and action in the whole universe. In the microcosm of our being, Mount Meru is associated to Sushumna Nadi.
She also represents the endless divine love, which is in fact the central, essential force motivating the existence of the Macrocosm and in the same time the initial impulse towards spiritual freedom.
LOVE IS THE GATE TO HER HEART
Tripura Sundari is also named Rajarajeshvari, or the “governess of the whole creation”, because She gives the “orders of ruling” the macrocosm.
Therefore, it is important that we think of Her and that we invoke Her grace whenever we are facing a difficult life-decision.
However, Her “orders” are not based on authority, but they respect exactly the free will of each being and they are impregnated with endless divine love.
Consequently, all we need to do in order to receive Her grace is to open up our hearts with sincerity, to the love she offers us unconditionally.
However, to deeply understand her way of action in the universe, we need to eliminate our selfish desires and to love in a transfiguring manner everything around us.
From the spiritual tradition of the Tantric teachings, beauty and ecstatic bliss represent the fundamental energy of the universe, and the “game”, the “play” is the nature of any existing thing in the universe.
Knowing all these, the path towards spiritual freedom and towards obtaining the real happiness and fulfillment becomes easier. This is the spiritual “key” offered to us by the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari.
TRIPURA SUNDARI IS REVEALED AS A 16 YEARS OLD GIRL
One of the most famous representations of the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari is a 16 years old girl. This anthropomorphic vision of the goddess is known as Shodasi (meaning “sixteen”) or Bala (meaning “young girl”).
The age of sixteen was not chosen by accident in this form of Tripura Sundari, because this is the age when the woman experiments the most pleasant and fascinating aspects of her personality at this age.
In this stage of her life, her most inner impulse is to experiment new sensations, and to fascinate the people around with her charm.
This is why it has been said that her innocence and purity disarms even the darkest souls, acting as a powerful magnet for all who resonate with beauty, truth and goodness.
Thus, just as the young girl of sixteen, Shodasi guides the aspirant with great discernment on the spiritual path, representing for the aspirant the innocence and the ardor towards God.
SHE SPREADS THE NECTAR OF THE DIVINE KNOWLEDGE
When we think about the transcendent divine aspects, which imply the essential forms of God’s consciousness and energy, Tripura Sundari is associated to the indissoluble reality, which is Cit-Shakti.
In Her aspect of Pure Knowledge, She is known as Samvit, referring to Her capacity of understanding and perceiving everything (every thing, being, phenomenon) as being infused with God’s supreme consciousness.
From this perspective, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari appears as a Power of intuitive and perceptive knowledge, and less as a knowledge issued from discursive analysis and reasoning.
She represents that form of manifestation of the Supreme Divine Energy (Parameshvari) who appears to us as pure consciousness and as pure bliss.
In an overall attempt of resuming these aspects, we may state that Tripura Sundari is combining some aspects of the energy of activity (characteristic to Kali) with some aspects of the energy of knowledge (characteristic to Tara), adding to these the dimension of the bliss or beatitude of the supreme realization.
Closely related to the energy of spiritual beatitude, and with the presence of the divine nectar soma, Tripura Sundari represents also the Moon, as visible embodiment of the transcendent beauty and happiness.
From a subtle point of view, Sundari represents the ecstatic experience of spreading the divine nectar inside the aspirant, due to the process of resonance with the most elevated aspects of God’s Consciousness.
As the very source of the subtle soma, the goddess is located in Sahasrara padma, the crown of the head.
Through Her grace, the divine nectar conferring immortality is spread through the whole being of the aspirant, until the aspirant realizes the fact that the entire manifestation is infused with the same subtle energy of infinite beatitude.
TRIPURA SUNDARI PIERCES US WITH THE ARROWS OF ECSTASY
Regarding the Goddess’ form, to be visualized during meditation, this is said to be brighter than a thousand suns, and She wears a crescent moon on her head.
Tripura Sundari is represented with four arms, in which She holds a bowl for cane sugar, five arrows wreathed from flowers, a noose and a hook.
She is usually naked in these representations wearing only wonderful jewels, bracelets on her hands and ankles, earrings, rings, necklaces, and so on.
Her beauty is dazzling and her face and body are very young. Most of the times she is represented as sitting on a bed (which signifies the great God Sadashiva bent over His four forms: Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Maheshvara, symbolized by the four feet of the bed.
The bright red color in which is represented the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari signifies her state of ecstatic bliss, her knowledge illuminating and complete, as well as her compassion for all beings in the universe.
The symbolic significance of the objects she holds in her hands is the following: the bowl for cane sugar represents the mind, the arrows made of flowers represent the four senses, which through her grace become as many “gates” of manifesting an overwhelming happiness.
Metaphorically speaking, Tripura Sundari “hunts” us with the arrows of delight and happiness, revealing thus to us all the forms of the Creation as aspects of our inner divine nature.
The noose she holds in her third hand signifies her ability of attracting her sincere and devoted worshipers through her dazzling beauty. The hook held in her fourth hand represents the means through which she cuts off any attachment for the illusions of the outside world.
SHE CONTROLS AND FULLY MANIFESTS ALL THE FIVE ELEMENTS
Shiva‘s five forms on which Tripura Sundari is sitting are named in fact “the five bodies”, because they are absolutely inert in the absence of the energy infused by Tripura Sundari.
From this subtle point of view, these five forms symbolize the five elements (mahabhuta) of the manifested world, and the five types of Shiva’s main activities: create, preserve, destruct, occult, and grace.
Thus, Brahma signifies the earth element (prithivi mahabhuta) and the activity of creation. Vishnu is the water element (apas mahabhuta) and the activity of preservation.
Rudra is the fire element (agni mahabhuta) and the activity of destruction and transformation. Maheshvara represents the air element (vayu mahabhuta) and the activity of concealment, in other words Shiva’s action of hiding His essential nature.
Sadashiva is the fifth and most subtle of all the elements, the ether element, (akasha mahabhuta) and symbolizes Shiva’s grace, which frees us from the bonds of illusion and offers us the capacity of transcending it entirely.
THE REVELATION OF OUR SUPREME SELF ATTRACTS HER GRACE UPON US
The most elevated way of worshiping Tripura Sundari is to find our inner peace in the Supreme Self (Atman), or in other words to reveal our divine essence as the supreme, eternal reality of the whole creation.
The most direct method to attain this goal is that of deep introspection on our real identity, representing atma-vichara, whose method is mainly and synthetically presented in the question “Who am I really?” or the very relevant and abstract methods of the jnana yoga.
The fundamental experience resulting from here is the one that makes us understand that the things around us are not separated from ourselves, because they have the same source and the same essential nature.
In this respect, the teachings of the vedantic tradition say that it is below our dignity as human beings to let ourselves be taken over by feelings of guilt, fear, worry, or anger or for that matter, any feeling unsuitable with the spiritual perfection and harmony that we embody.
It is also beneath our dignity to identify ourselves with this tiny body, in bones and flesh, or with an ephemeral mental structure. Likewise, it is an insult to the Supreme Self to be identified with a limited body or a hesitating personality.
The deep understanding of these truths attracts the overwhelming grace of the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Sundari, who will prepare our body, heart and mind for experiencing the eternal and infinite bliss of the Divine Absolute.