Shakti and Shakta

by John Woodroffe | 1929 | 243,591 words

A collection of papers and essays addressing the Śakti aspect of the Śākta school of Hindu philosophy by John Woodroffe, also known as Arthur Avalon....

Chapter VIII - Cīnācāra (Vasiṣṭha and Buddha)

IT has been the subject of debate whether the Tāntrik Pañcatattva ritual with wine and so forth is a product of Buddhism, and whether it is opposed to Vaidika Dharma. Some have supposed that these rites originally came from yellow Asia, penetrated into India where they received its impress, and again made their way to the north to encounter earlier original forms. I have elsewhere put forward some facts which suggest that these rites may be a continuance, though in another form, of ancient Vaidik useage in which Soma, Meat, Fish and Purodāsha formed a part. Though there are some Maithuna rites in the Vedas it is possible that the Bengal Śākta ritual in this respect has is origin in Cīnācāra. Possibly the whole ritual comes therefrom. I have spoken of Bengal because we should distinguish it from other forms of Śākta worship. The matter is so obscure at present that any definite affirmation as to historical origins lacks justification. Most important however in the alleged Buddhist connection is the story of Vasiṣṭha to be found in the Tantras. He is said to have gone to Mahācina (Tibet), which, according to popular belief, is half way to heaven. Mahādeva is said to be visible at the bottom of the Manasarova Lake near Kailāsa. Some of the Texts bearing on it have been collected in the Appendix to the edition of the Tārā Tantra which has been published by the Varendra Anusandhāna Samīti. The Tārā Tantra opens (I. 2) with the following question of Devī Tārā or Mahānīla-Sarsvatī: “Thou didst speak of the two Kula-bhairavas, Buddha and Vasiṣṭha. Tell me by what Mantra they hecame Siddha.” The same Tantra (IV. 10) defines a Bhairava as follows: “He who purifies these five (i.e., Pañcatattva) and after offering the same (to the Devatā) partakes thereof is a Bhairava.” Buddha then is said to be a Kula-bhairava. It is to be noted that Buddhist Tāntriks who practise this ritual are accounted Kaulas. Śiva replied, “He Janārdana (Viṣṇnu) is the excellent Deva in the form of Buddha (Buddharūpī).” It is said in the Samayācāra Tantra that Tārā and Kālikā, in their different forms, as also Mātangī, Bhairavī, Chhinnamastā, and Dhūmāvatī belong to the northern Āmnāya. The sixth Chapter of the Sammohana Tantra, mentions a number of Scriptures of the Bauddha class, together with others of the Śākta, Śaiva, Vaiṣṇava, Saura and Gānapatya classes.

Vasiṣṭha is spoken of in the XVII Chapter of Rudrayāmala and the 1st Patala of the Brahmayāmala. The following is the account in the former Tāntrik Scripture:—

Vasiṣṭha, the self-controlled, the son of Brahmā, practised for ages severe austerities in a lonely spot. For six thousand yean he did Sādhanā, but still the Daughter of the Mountains did not appear to him. Becoming angry he went to his father and told him his method of practice.

He then said,

“Give me another Mantra Oh Lord since this Vidya (Mantra) does not grant me Siddhi (success) otherwise in your presence I shall utter a terrible curse.”

Dissuading him Brahmā said,

“Oh son, who art learned in the Yoga path, do not do so. Do thou worship Her again with wholehearted feeling, when She will appear and grant you boons. She is the Supreme Śakti. She saves from all dangers. She is lustrous like ten million suns. She is dark blue (Nīlā). She is cool like ten million moons. She is like ten million lightning-flashes. She is the spouse of Kāla (Kālakāmini). She is the beginning of all. In Her there is neither Dharma nor Adharma. She is in the form of all. She is attached to pure Cīnācāra (Śuddhacīnācāraratā). She is the initiator (Pravarttikā) of Śakti cakra. Her greatness is infinitely boundless. She helps in the crossing of the ocean of the Saṃsāra. She is Buddheśvari (possibly Buddhīśvarī, Lord of Buddhi). She is Buddhi (intelligence) itself (Buddhirūpā). She is in the form of the Atharva branch of the Vedas (Atharvavedaśākhinī). (Numerous Śāstric references connect the Tantra Śāstra with the Atharvaveda. See in this connection my citation from Śaktisaṅgama Tantra in “Principles of Tantra.”) She protects the beings of the worlds. Her action is spread throughout the moving and motionless. Worship Her, my son. Be of good cheer. Why so eager to curse? Thou art the jewel of kindness. Oh son, worship Her constantly with thy mind (Chetas). Being entirely engrossed in Her, thou of a surety shalt gain sight of Her.”

Having heard these words of his Guru and having bowed to him again and again the pure one (Vasiṣṭha), versed in the meaning of Vedānta, betook himself to the shore of the ocean. For full a thousand yeam he did Japa of Her Mantra. Still he received no message (Ādeśa). Thereupon the Muni Vasiṣṭha grew angry, and being perturbed of mind prepared to curse the Mahāvidyā(Devī). Having sipped water (Āchamana) he uttered a great and terrible curse. Thereupon Kuleśvarī (Lady of the Kaulas) Mahāvidyāappeared before the Muni.

She who dispels the fear of the Yogins said,

“How now Vipra (Are Vipra), why have you terribly cursed without cause? Thou dost not understand My Kulāgama nor knowest how to worship. How by mere Yoga practice can either man or Deva get sight of My Lotus-Feet. My worship (Dhyāna) is without austerity and pain. To him who desires My Kulāgama, who is Siddha in My Mantra, and knows My pure Vedācāra, My Sādhanā is pure (Punya) and beyond even the Vedas (Vedānāmupyagocara).

[This does not mean unknown to the Vedas or opposed to them but something which surpasses the Vaidik ritual of the Paśu. This is made plain by the following injunction to follow the Atharvaveda.]

Go to Mahācīna (Tibet) and the country of the Bauddhas and always follow the Arthavaveda (Bauddhadeshe’tharvavede Mahācīne sadā braja).

Having gone there and seen My Lotus-Feet which are Mahābhāva (the great blissful feeling which in Her true nature She is) thou shalt, Oh Maharśi, become, versed in My Kula and a great Siddha.”

Having so said, She became formless and disappeared in the ether, and then passed through the ethereal region. The great Ṛṣi having heard this from the Mahāvidyā Sarasvatī went to the land of China where Buddha is established (Buddhapratiśthita).

Having repeatedly bowed to the ground, Vasiṣṭha said,

“Protect me, Oh Mahādeva who art the Imperishable One in the form of Buddha (Buddharūpa). I am the very humble Vasiṣṭha, the son of Brahmā. My mind is ever perturbed. I have come here (Chīna) for the Sādhanā of the Mahadevī. I know not the path leading to Siddhi. Thou knowest the path of the Devas. Seeing however thy way of life (Ācāra) doubts assail my mind (Bhayāni santi me hridi: because he saw the (to him) extraordinary ritual with wine and woman). Destroy them and my wicked mind which inclines to Vaidik ritual (Vedagāminī; that is, the ordinary Paśu ritual). Oh Lord in Thy abode there are ever rites which are outside Veda (Vedavahiśkrita: that is, the Vaidik ritual and what is consistent with Veda as Vasiśtha then supposed). How is it that wine, meat, woman (Anganā) are drunk, eaten and enjoyed by naked (Digambara) Siddhas who are high (Vara), and awe-inspiring (Raktapānodyata). They drink constantly and enjoy (or make enjoy) beautiful women (Muhurmuluh prapivanti ramayanti varāṅganām). With red eyes they are ever exhilarated and replete with flesh and wine (Sadā māṃsāsavaih pūrnāh.) They are powerful to favour and punish. They are beyond the Vedas (Vedasyagocharāh). They enjoy wine and women (Madyastrīsevane ratāh).” (Vasiśtha merely saw the ritual surface).

Thus spoke the great Yogi having seen the rites which are outside the Veda (Veda-vahishkrita. v. ante). Then bowing low with folded hands he humbly said,

How can inclinations such as these be purifying to the mind? How can there be Siddhi without Vaidik rites?

Mahah-pravṛttireteśu katham bhavati pāvani
Kathang vā jāyate siddhir veda kāryyang vinā prabho

Buddha said,

“Oh Vasiṣṭha, listen the while I speak to thee of the excellent Kula path, by the the knowing of which one becomes in a short time like Rudra Himself. I speak to thee in brief of the Āgama which is the essence of all and which leads to Kulasiddhi. First of all, the Vīra (hero) should be pure (Śuchi. Buddha here states the conditions under which only the rites are permissible). His mind should be penetrated with discrimination (Viveka) and freed of all Paśubhāva (state of an uninitiate Paśu or animal man). Let him avoid the company of the Paśu and remain alone in a lonely plaoe, free from lust, anger and other passions. He should constantly devote himself to Yoga practice. He should be firm in his resolve to learn Yoga; he should ever tread the Yoga path and fully know the meaning of the Veda (Vedārthanipuno mahān). In this way the pious one (Dharmātma) of good conduct and largeness of heart (Audārya) should, by gradual degrees, restrain his breath, and through the path of breathing compass the destruction of mind. Following this practice the selfcontrolled (Vaśī) becomes Yogī. In slow degrees of practice the body firstly sweats. This is the lowest stage (Adhama). The next is middling (Madhyama). Here there is trembling (Kampa). In the third or highest (Para) stage one is able to levitate (Bhūmityāga). By the attainment of Siddhi in Prāṇāyāma one becomes a master in Yoga. Having become a Yogi by practice of Kumbhaka (restraint of breath) he should be Maunī (given over to silence) and full of intent devotion (Ekānta-bhakti) to Śiva, Kṛṣṇna; and Brahmā. The pure one should realize by mind, action, and speech that Brahmā, Viṣṇu and Śiva are rbstless like the moving air (Vāyavīgatichancalah. Quaere. Perhaps the transient nature of these Devatās, as compared with the supreme Śakti, is indicated.) The man of steady mind should fix it on Śakti, who is consciousness (Cidrūpā). Thereafter the Mantrin should practise Mahāvīrabhāva (the feeling of the great hero) and follow the Kula path, the Śakti-cakra, the Vaiṣṇava Sattva-cakra and Navavigraha and should worship Kulakātyāyanī, the excellent one, the Pratyaksha Devatā (that is, the Deity who responds to prayer) who grants prosperity and destroys all evil. She is consciousness (Cidrūpā), She is the abode of knowledge (Jñāna) and is Consciousness and Bliss, lustrous as ten million lightnings, of Whom all Tattvas are the embodiment, who is Raudrī with eighteen arms, fond of wine and mountain, of flesh (the text is Śivāmāṃsāchalapriyām, but the first word should be Surā). Man should do Japa of the Mantra, taking refuge with Her, and following the Kula path. Who in the three worlds knows a path higher than this? By the grace gained therein, the great Brahmā Himself became the Creator, and Viṣṇu, whose substance is Sattva-guṇa, the object of adoration of all, highly deserving of worship, the great, and Lord of Yajurveda, became able to protect. By it Hara the Lord of Vīras, the wrathful one, Lord of wrath and of mighty power, became the Destroyer of all. By the grace of Vīrabhāva the Dikpālas (Protectors of the quarters) became like unto Rudra. By a month’s practice power to attract (Ākarśanasiddhi) is attained. In two months one becomes the Lord of Speech. In four months one becomes like unto the Dikpālas, in five months one becomes the five arrows (probably masters the five Tanmātras), and in six months he becomes Rudra Himself. The fruit of this method (Ācāra) is, beyond all others. This is Kaulamārga. There is nothing which surpasses it. If there be Śakti, the Vipra becomes a complete Yogi by six months’ practice. Without Śakti even Śiva can do nought. What then shall we say of men of small intelligence.”

Having said this, He whose form is Buddha (Buddharūpī) made him, practise Sādhanā. He said,

“Oh Vipra, do thou serve Mahāśakti. Do thou practice Sādhanāwith wine (Madyasādhanā) and thus shalt thou get sight of the Lotus-Feet of the Mahāvidya.”

Vasiśtha having heard these words of the Guru and meditating on Devī Sarasvatī went to the Kulamandapa to practise the wine ritual (Madirāsādhanā) and having repeatedly done Sādhanā with wine, meat, fish, parched grain and Śakti he becanie a complete Yogī (Pūrnayogī).

A similar account is given in the Brahmayāmala. There are some variants however. Thus while in the Rudrayāmala, Vasiṣṭha is said to have resorted to the shore of the ocean, in the Brahmayāmala he goea to Kāmākhyā, the great Tāntrik Pītha and shrine of the Devī. (The prevalence of Her worship amongst the Mongolian Assamese is noteworthy.) It may be here added that this Yāmala states that, except at time of worship, wine should not be taken nor should the Śakti be unclothed. By violation of these provisions life, it says, is shortened, and man goes to Hell.

According to the account of the Brahmayāmala, Vasiṣṭha complaining of his ill-success was told to go to the Blue Mountains (Nīlāchala) and worship Parameśvarī near Kāmākhya (Kamrup in Assam). He was told that Viṣṇu in the form of Buddha (Buddharūpā) alone knew this worship according to Cīnācāra.

Devī said,

“without Cīnācāra you cannot please Me. Go to Viṣṇu who is Udbodharūpī(illumined) and worship Me according to the Ācāra taught by Him.”

Vasiṣṭha then went to Viṣṇu in the country Mahācīna, which is by the side of the Himālaya (Himavatpārśve), a country inhabited by great Sādhakas and thousands of beautiful and youthful women whose hearts were gladdened with wine, and whose minds were blissful with enjoyment (Vilāsa). They were adorned with clothes which inspired love (Śringāravesha) and the movement of their hips made tinkle their girdles of little bells. Free of both fear and prudish shame they enchanted the world. They surround Īśvara and are devoted to ths worship of Devī.

Vasiṣṭha wondered greatly when he saw Him in the form of Buddha (Buddharūpī) with eyes drooping from wine.

“What” he said,

“is Viṣṇu doing in His Buddha form? This way (Ācāra) is opposed to Veda (Vedavādaviruddha). I do not approve of it (Asammato mama).”

Whilst so thinking, he heard a voice coming from the ether saying,

“Oh thou who art devoted to good acts, think not like this. This Āhāra is of excellent result in the Sādhanā of Tārinī. She is not pleased with anything which is the contrary of this. If thou dost wish to gain Her grace speedily, then worship Her according to Cīnācāra.”

Hearing this voice, Vasiṣṭha’s hairs stood on end and he fell to the ground. Being filled with exceeding joy he prayed to Viṣṇu in the form of Buddha (Buddharūpa). Buddha, who had taken wine, seeing him was greatly pleased and said, “Why have you come here?” Vasiṣṭha bowing to Buddha told him of his worship of Tārinī. Buddha who is Hari and full of knowledge (Tattvajñāna) spoke to him of the five Makāras (M: that is, the five commencing with the letter M or Madya, or wine and so forth) which are in Cīnācāra (Majnānam Cīnācārādiāranam) saying that this should not be disclosed (a common injunction as regards this ritual and renders it from the opponents’ standpoint suspect).

“By practising it thou shalt not again sink into the ocean of being. It is full of knowledge of the Essence (Tattvajñāna) and gives immediate liberation (Mukti).”

He then goes on to explain a principal feature of this cult, namely, its freedom from the ritual rules of the ordinary worship above which the Sādhaka has risen. It is mental worship. In it bathing, purification, Japa, and ceremonial worship is by the mind only. (No outward acts are necessary; the bathing end so forth is in the mind and not in actual water, as is the, case in lower and less advanced worship.) There are no rules aa to auspicious and inauspicious times, or as to what should be done by day and by night. Nothing is pure or impure (there is no ritual defect of impurity) nor prohibition against the taking of food. Devi should be worshipped even though the worshipper has had his food, and even though the place be unclean. Woman who is Her image should be worshipped (Pūjanam striyah) and never should any injury be done to her (Strīveśo naiva kartavyah).

Are we here dealing with an incident in which Śākyamuni or some other Buddha of Buddhism was concerned?

According to Hindu belief the Rāmāyaṇa was composed in the Treta age, and Vasiṣṭha was the family priest of Daśaratha and Rāma (Ādikaṇḍa VII. 4.5, VIII. 6, Ayodhyākaṇḍa V. 1). The Mahābhārata was composed in Dvāpara; Kṛṣṇa appeared in the Sandhyā between this and the Kaliyuga. Both Kurukṣetra and Buddha were in the Kali age. According to this chronology, Vasiṣṭha who was the Guru of Daśarathta was earlier than Śākyamuni. There were, however, Buddhas before the latter. The text does, not mention Śākyamuni or Gautama Buddha. According to Buddhistic tradition there were many other Buddhas before him such as Dīpaṅkara “The Luminous One,” Krakuchhanda and others, the term Buddha being a term applicable to the enlightened, whoever he be. It will no doubt be said by the Western Orientalist that both these Yāmalas were composed after the time of Śākyamuni. But if this be so, their author or authors, as Hindus, would be aware that according to Hindu Chronology Vasiṣṭha antedated Śākyamuni. Apart from the fact of there being other Buddhas, according to Hinduism “types” as distinguished from “forms” of various things, ideas, and faiths, are persistent, though the forms are variable, just as is the case with the Platonic Ideas or eternal architypes. In this sense neither Veda, Tantraśāstra nor Buddhism had an absolute beginning at any time. As types of ideas or faiths they are beginningleas (Anādi), though the forms may have varied from age to age, and though perhaps some of the types may have been latent in some of the ages. If the Vedas are Anādi so are the Tantra-śāstras. To the Yogic vision of the Ṛ ṣi which makes latent things patent, variable forms show their hidden types. Nothing is therefore absolutely new. A Ṛṣi in the Treti Yuga will know that which will apparently begin in Kali or Dvāpara but which is already really latent in his own age. Viṣṇu appears to his vision as the embodiment of that already latent, but subsequently patent, cult. Moreover in a given age, what is latent in a particular land (say Āryāvarta) may be patent in another (say Mahāchīna). In this way, according to the Hindu Śāstra, there is an essential conservation of types subject to the conditions of time, place, and person (Deśakālapātra). Moreover, according to these Śāstras, the creative power is a reproducing principle. This means that the worldprocess is cyclic according to a periodic law. The process in one Kalpa is substantially repeated in another and Vasiṣṭha, Buddha, and the rest appeared not only in the present but in previous grand cycles or Kalpas. Just as there is no absolute first beginning of the Universe, so nothing under the sun is absolutely new. Vasiṣṭha, therefore, might have remembered past Buddhas, as he might, have foreseen those to come. In Yogic vision both the past and the future can project their shadows into the present. Every Purāṇa and Saṃhitā illustrates these principles of Yogic intuition backwards and forwards. To the mind of Īśvara both past and future are known. And so it is to such who, in the necessary degree, partake of the qualities of the Lord’s mind. The date upon which a particular Śāstra is compiled is, from this viewpoint, unimportant. Even a modern Śāstra may deal with ancient matter. In dealing with apparent anachronisms in Hindu Śāstra, it is necessary to bear in mind these principles. This of course is not the view of “Oriental scholars” or of Indians whom they have stampeded into regarding the beliefs of their country as absurd. It is however the orthodox view. And as an Indian friend of mine to whose views I have referred has said, “What the Psychic research society of the West is conceding to good ‘mediums’ and ‘subjects’ cannot be withheld from our ancient supermen—the Ṛṣis.”

The peculiar features to be noted of this story are these. Vasiṣṭha must have known what the Vedas and Vaidik rites were, as ordinarily understood. He is described as Vedāntavit. Yet he was surprised on seeing Chīnācāra rites and disapproved of them. He speaks of it as “outside Veda” (Vedavahiśkrita) and even opposed to it (Vedavādaviruddha). On the other hand the connection with Veda is shown, in that the Devī who promdgates this Ācāra is connected with the Atharvaveda, and directs Vasiṣṭha always to follow that Veda, and speaks of the Ācāra not as being opposed to, but as something so high as to be beyond, the ordinary Vaidik ritual (Vedānāmapyagocarah). He is to be. fully learned in the import of Veda (Vedārthanipuno). It was by the grace of the doctrine and practice of Cīnācāra that Viṣṇu became the Lord of Yajurveda. The meaning therefore appears to be, that the doctrine and practice lie implicit in the Vedas, but go beyond what is ordinarily taught. Viṣṇu therefore says that it is not to be disclosed. What meaning again are we to attach to the word Viṣṇubuddharūpa. Buddha means “enlightened” but here a particular Buddha seems indicated, though Viṣṇu is also spoken of as Udbodharūpī and the Devī as Buddheśvarī. The TārāTantra calls him a Kulabhairava. As is well known, Buddha was an incarnation of Viṣṇu. Vasiṣṭha is told to go to Mahāchīna by the Himālaya and the country of the Bauddhas (Bauddhadeshe). The Bauddhas who follow the Pañcatattva ritual are accounted Kaulas. It is a noteworthy fact that the flower of the Devīis Jabā, the scarlet hibiscus or China rose. As the last name may indicate it is perhaps not indigenous to India but to China whence it may have been imported posaibly through Nepal. This legend, incorporated as it is in the Śāstra itself, seems to me of primary importance in determining the historical origin of the Pañcatattva ritual.

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