In the Tantric pantheon, the sixth Great Cosmic Wisdom is Chinnamasta, the goddess without head.
This particularity suggests her capacity of transcending the mind and its functions, so that in the end she achieves the ecstatic reabsorption in the Supreme Void of the Absolute Divine Consciousness.
The headless image of Chinnamasta caused along the centuries, many adverse reactions and erroneous interpretations even amongst the specialists in Hinduism, as she is associated with the obscure magical practices and traditions of Tibet and India.
In fact, these hasty considerations are only limited attempts from certain westerners to understand the deeply esoteric sense of certain aspects from the Tantric spiritual tradition, those aspects that go beyond the modern people’s conventionalism and patterns built on preconceived ideas.
Consequently, the relatively natural tendency of the researchers of Hinduism, when facing representations of Chinnamasta was to see in the images of the headless goddess the manifestation of some macabre aspects and psychic deviations.
Therefore, it was impossible for these researchers to accept the idea of a spiritual symbolism with deep esoteric significations.
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WISDOM TRANSCENDS MIND
From a psychological point of view, what really causes the feeling of fear and rejection at the idea of a headless entity is the idea of lack of identity, which people immediately associate with their own being.
Or, we know that identity is the key element of “support” in the manifestation, the basis of understanding and of the conception about the world. Once this idea or support was eliminated, people feel confused, with no point of reference, lost in a tenebrous unknown.
Thus, people will unconsciously or consciously try to protect themselves not only against losing their identity, but also from the idea or exterior suggestions implying this separation of identity or ego.
The modern man, whose behaviour and way of thinking is mainly reasonable and logical, considers that “losing one’s head” equals losing touch with the regular sense of reality, which is nonetheless true from certain points of view.
However, from a spiritual point of view, these aspects have completely different significances.
For the initiate yogis, being without head is one of the known subtle metaphors referring to the transcendence of one’s identification with the bodily consciousness or to the overcoming the attachment towards thoughts and desires.
Practically, we do not observe our head more than we notice the back of our body, and the experience of the inside of the skull is basically the experience of an empty space because nobody can say they “feel” their brain and the annex glands.
Consequently, at a lucid and detached analysis, from the symbolic perspective of these aspects, we can say that we “have no head” until the moment when we look at our body in the mirror.
From the yogic spiritual tradition, the condition of the headless state represents in fact our true inner nature, of the divine and perfectly detached witness.
Implicitly, this condition proves that our present “location” in this body is not more than an illusory appearance and not a fundamental reality of our being.
If, in fact the powerful and constant thought “I am the body” would no longer be sustained by the mind, the individual consciousness would gradually go back to its originar condition, that which is not dependant on either form or thought.
Moreover, this idea of the absence of the head is frequently used as a spiritual metaphor in the spiritual tradition of Jnana yoga, Advaita Vedanta and Zen.
WHO DIES BEFORE DYING, DOES NOT DIE AFTER DYING
Consequently, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Chinnamasta whose representation is headless, is the Great Cosmic Wisdom who helps the sincere and devoted yogi to dissolve his or her mind, including all the ideas, attachments, habits, preconceived ideas into the Pure Divine Consciousness, helping him or her to transcend the mind and to merge with the supra-mental state (unmana) of the Divine Beatific Void.
This is why we need not fear the loss of our head or of time, because sooner or later death takes us all through the great passage, regardless whether we want it or not.
In fact, the only path to the spiritual awakening is the so-called “sacrifice of the mind”, implying the renunciation at the complicated mechanism of attachment and possession thoughts, of which the most persistent is the idea “I am the body”.
In the spiritual tradition this sacrifice is symbolized by the cutting off of the head, suggestively indicating the separation of the mind from the body, that is the freedom of the consciousness from the material outfit of the physical body.
On the other hand, it helps the release of the potential subtle energies present in the practitioner’s being.
We can still ask ourselves: why does this concept need to be pictured in the terrible image of Chinnamasta when it could be explained and analyzed theoretically in less “shattering” conditions?
The answer is that usually the visual images have greater and more dramatic impact on the subconscious determining faster and more forceful changes in one’s conceptions and actions, and achieving more effective breaks to the essential nature than a theoretical lecture.
Generally speaking, the mind can accept the points of view presented in a theoretical lecture, and still avoid the reality of these teachings, while the impact of the image cannot be avoided as easily, because the image “communicates” more intensely and more directly with the spiritual heart of the being.
The suffering caused by the sacrifice of the ego represents for many people a tough experience, whom many try to avoid, although they admit its spiritual importance.
This type of experience usually causes a complete re-orientation of the energies towards deeply spiritual purposes and therefore it is assimilated, in the initiatic tradition to a “second birth”.
The terrible image of Chinnamasta, the headless goddess, is the most expressive way to suggest the fundamental transformation of the human being, meaning the renunciation at the limited and ephemeral individuality of the ego, so as to be absorbed ecstatically in the plenitude of God’s Universal Consciousness.
The iconographical representations of Chinnamasta show her holding her own head, whom she cut herself, in her right hand, and drinking the blood springing from open throat.
Even so, her face does not indicate suffering, or pain, but it shows the beatific feeling of contentment and beatitude.
The significance of this aspect is that of the joy of transcending the earthly condition and of the suffering caused by its loss.
At the same time, Chinnamasta’s image represents maybe the most energic form of manifestation of the goddess Shakti eloquently indicating the power of transformation in full action.
As a result of this fact, the cut head does not appear as lifeless, but it is even more alive than previously. The consciousness is not limited at the dimensions and functions of the body, but it exists separately from it.
Only when it is freed from the “prison” of the body the consciousness can express itself plenary, acquiring the profound divine freedom and knowledge.
Even if the idea of transcending the corporal consciousness can be frightening for certain people, the idea of remaining confined to the bodily consciousness and being subject to the influence of the body and death appears as even more frightful.
The human being experiments only a small fraction of the infinite game of the divine light in the manifestation and precisely this fragment can be reflected and most of the times distorted through the limited capacities of perception of his or her senses.
Therefore, the pleasure offered by the body and its senses is most times smaller than the pain, the suffering and the illness the people have to face during a lifetime.
From this point of view, in which the yogi feels incarcerated in the prison of the senses and bodily desires, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Chinnamasta appears as the Saviour from the slavery of the gross matter.
In the ecstasy of the happiness she experiments all the time, Chinnamasta can drink all the blood that here expresses the joys and sufferings, the pain and the hopes of the earthly life, absorbing and sublimating the whole fragmented experience of time, with its disappointments and illusions.
Chinnamasta does this extraordinary process of absorption and transformation of all that is ultimately ephemeral and illusory without forgetting her essentially divine nature, which is the very immuable and eternal nature of the Supreme Self Atman.
Although the form under she appears to the mortals is terrible and frightening, Chinnamasta represents one of the beneficial and deeply transforming energies of the Macrocosm, and of the microcosm.
THE GREAT COSMIC WISDOM CHINNAMASTA OFFERS US PERFECT DISCERNMENT
There is a close correlation between Chinnamasta and Kali, in the sense that Chinnamasta represents from a certain perspective the concretisation of Kali’s energy.
She is also oriented towards the spiritual transformation of the sincere devotee at perfection. In this aspect of hers, Chinnamasta is name also Prachanda Chandika, identifying herself with the most terrible form of Kali, which is Chandi.
On the other hand, her terrible aspect can also be correlated with the Great Cosmic Wisdom Tripura Bhairavi as Chinnamasta is, just as Tripura Bhairavi a great fighter.
Nonetheless, while Tripura Bhairavi resonates more with the tellurian fundamental energies, as her location is Muladhara Chakra, Chinnamasta resonates more with the dynamic subtle energies of air.
From this point of view, we can say that Chinnamasta acts mainly in what we call the intermediary world, in that world that connects the transcendent aspect of the manifestation with the material one.
Thus she represents the lightning that unifies the sky and the earth, which are analogically associated with the mind and the body of the human being.
Her fundamental goal is to free the people from the limitations inherent to their condition of incarnate spirits.
If Chandi (Kali’s most terrific aspect) destroys the demons and satanic entities, the aspect of Prachanda Chandi of Chinnamasta destroys the last and most important enemy of spirituality – the ego.
From another perspective, Chinnamasta is identified with Indrani, the feminine counterpart of the great Vedic god Indra and the greatest and most important of all goddesses.
Indrani is also named Vairochani, “the very brilliant”, “the one who radiates powerfully”, just as Durga the terrible goddess who is described in the same manner.
Chinnamasta is particularly named Vajra Vairochani, meaning “the who that is brilliant and holds the thunder in her arm”.
As we already know, the thunder is Indra’s weapon and is the very reason for which Indra is considered the diamante god, personification of the instantaneous spiritual enlightening.
THE GREAT COSMIC WISDOM CHINNAMASTA – THE THUNDER OF THE INSTANTANEOUS SPIRITUAL ENLIGHTENMENT
As force or terrible power of the great god Indra, Chinnamasta represents the electrifying energy of our subconscious depths (Vidyut Shakti), energy that acts on all levels of the creation.
In the physical material world, the electric energy, electricity, represents only one of the forms of this colossal transforming power that is Chinnamasta.
On a mental level, she acts as energy determining the correct understanding of the essential reality, determining also the instantaneous spiritual enlightenment.
As we mentioned in our previous articles on this topic, Kali acts generally in the direction of the devotee’s spiritual transformation.
Chinnamasta represents the same force, which is nonetheless directed towards the immediate, “thundering” transformation of the yogi.
Consequently, Chinnamasta is in a way the bright lightning of the instantaneous spiritual intuition that destroys and casts away for good the veil of ignorance, opening up the path towards the supreme spiritual freedom.
This attribute that Chinnamasta manifests as a distinctive note of her terrible “divine personality” represents in fact the capacity of direct perception, pure vision that goes beyond any veil of ignorance and limited perception revealing the uniqueness of the infinite divine consciousness that is beyond name and form.
THE GREAT COSMIC WISDOM CHINNAMASTA GRANTS THE PURE VISION OF THE REALITY
Consequently, Chinnamasta is the colossal power of the spiritual inner vision, which sacrifices in the fire of the pure knowledge all objects belonging to the manifested world, including the body of the person performing this act of perfect knowledge.
Therefore, in the tradition of the Hindu spirituality, Chinnamasta represents Atma-yajna, meaning the self-sacrifice, manifested when someone offers one’s own being with great honesty to the Divine, through an act called “the sacrifice of the mind”, in order to life fully in the unity of the divine consciousness.
This fundamental characteristic of Chinnamasta represents also, through extrapolation, the very aspect of pralaya, the destruction or resorbtion of the world and the entire creation in the Holy Heart of the Absolute.
Metaphorically speaking, Chinnamasta is the head that chews on the entire body, being thus the power of destruction and transformation of the manifested reality into the non-manifested, original reality.
In the yogic spiritual tradition it is said that Chinnamasta achieves this remarkable “transformation of the state” through the piercing of the subtle blockage from the level of Ajna charka, allowing the yogi to transcend simultaneously his or her mind and body-awareness.
This characteristic action is at the same time a direct indication of the fact that Chinnamasta represents also the unobstructed flux of the subtle energy circulating through Sushumna Nadi, the central energetic channel of the human being.
Thus, Chinnamasta is associated with the awakening and ascension of the gigantic cosmic force, Kundalini Shakti through Sushumna Nadi, from the base of the spine, from Muladhara Chakra, up to Sahasrara Chakra representing in this hypostasis the Divine Path of the Vedic gods, or Vedayana.
This divine path refers practically at the movement and circulation of the subtle prana through Sushumna Nadi, towards the realm of “pure transcendence“, symbolized by the sun.
The yogic spiritual tradition asserts that in order to evolve spiritually and to avoid the karma-ic accumulation, it is imperative that the yogi focuses his or her energy on Sushumna Nadi, as this nadi is correlated with the the reality of the transcendent void, which is formless.
This condition cannot be achieved unless the yogi obtains the pure and correct vision of the fundamental reality of things.
At the time of death, the individual consciousness of the people who know all these things and who have practiced assiduously during their lifetime will come out of their body through Brahmarandra, the crown of the head, dissolving thus in the Supreme Source, which is God’s universal consciousness.
However, if this knowledge and ability to focus on Sushumna nadi was not gained until the moment of death, then the consciousness of this person will come out of the body through a different nadi, and it will be integrated in one of the countless worlds of the manifestation, according to the level of vibration and spiritual evolution.
Therefore, the yogis worship with great frenzy Chinnamasta as the sacred goddess of transformation, acting mainly on the level of the third eye, determining thus the transcendence of the hidden vision of the world.
THE EGOLESS IN LOVE YOGINI
Chinnamasta is also considered to be yoga shakti, meaning the terrible force of action of the yogic power, which made possible the association with Vajra Yogini and Para Dakini – the first and most important dakini – of the Tibetan tradition, the goddess that offers the sincere and devoted practitioner the greatest paranormal capacities.
At the level of the energetic structure, the Great Cosmic Wisdom Chinnamasta acts mainly on Ajna Chakra, opening the third eye and symbolizing the light that offers the essential direct perception of the surrounding reality, that casts away the ignorance inherent to duality.
Due to her association with the ascendant prana-ic flux of energy through sushumna Nadi, Chinnamasta is also correlated with udana vayu, the subtle energy causing the ascension of Kundalini Shakti and the deep transformation of the human being.
Nonetheless, Chinnamasta manifests at all levels when the yogi achieves an act of perception that goes beyond the normal condition.
From the point of view of the iconographical representations, Chinnamasta is represented as nude, and headless.
In her two hands she holds her own head and a sword. The decapitated head drinks from the blood coming out of her open throat. Traditionally, the head is held in the right hand, and the sword in the left.
Her body is that of a 16 years old girl. She wears a necklace made of human bones and a garland of human skulls.
Chinnamasta wears the sacred belt around her hips, and her breasts have the shape of lightning, being adorned with flowers and a single jewel attached to a snake in the area of the crown of the head. The goddess has three open eyes that radiate plenty of light.
On her sides there are two other goddesses, whose names are Dakini and Varini. Chinnamasta dances over the bodies of Kama, the god of love and his wife, Rati.
In some traditional representations, in their places are Krishna and Radha. This iconographical representation of Chinnamasta from the Hindu tradition is practically identical with thtat of the great goddess Vajra Dakini from the tradition of the Tibetan Tantric Buddhism.
There are in fact three streams of blood coming out from Chinnamasta’s throat: a central stream that she herself drinks, and two other placed on the left and on the right sides of this central stream, signifying the subtle energies from ida nadi and pingala nadi, and which are drunk by the two goddesses Dakini and Varini.
The couple of gods lying at her feet symbolizes the union of the masculine and the feminine energies of the human psychic.
Chinnamasta’s cut head represents the consciousness that was freed from the various limitations of the body and of the mind, while her lightning-shaped hair and radiant eyes are symbols of the direct perception of God’s Absolute Consciousness.
On the other hand, the sword she holds in her left hand signifies the discernment (viveka) and the goddess’s tongue symbolizes the colossal power of the divine logos, or of the mantra-s. as her representation is difficult to be rendered as a sculpture, Chinnamasta is most often represented as we described her in drawing or paintings.