TANTRALOKA 29: The kula-yaga, or secret sexual ritual of original Tantra (part 1 of 12)

Somehow, I have been persuaded by public opinion to publish my translation of Abhinavagupta’s Light on the Tantras, Chapter 29, despite the fact that this chapter details a secret practice intended only for advanced practitioners and gurus. The reasoning that convinced me of the value of this publication is as follows: due to the widespread influence of neotantra, many wonder what the original/authentic Tantrik sexual sādhanā looked like, and whether it has any connection or resemblance to neotantric practice. (Spoiler alert: it doesn’t.) Since neotantra is here to stay, the argument goes, scholar-practitioners of classical Tantra ought to openly discuss what ‘real’ Tantrik sexual practice is all about.

I’m still not entirely persuaded by this argument (which, to be fair, the brief summary above oversimplifies). Since my translation will appear in segments, it’s entirely possible that I will choose to cease publication before getting to the really secret teachings (on how to perform the sexual ritual itself) in the middle of the chapter. If this translation is ever published in print form, I’ll write a substantial introduction to it. For now, let Mahāmahopādhyāya Abhinavagupta’s words speak for themselves. This post presents the first 8% of Chapter 29, which consists of 292 difficult Sanskrit verses. Please note that Abhinava wrote this chapter in an intentionally impenetrable, elliptical, and abstruse manner to mitigate against ease of access to these teachings. As a result, there are many bracketed insertions to make the text intelligible. You can simply read through the brackets as if they weren’t there. The material inside the brackets is not speculative, but easily inferable by anyone who has read widely in the literature of Śaiva Tantra.

Light on the tantras, chapter 29

~ translation copyright © 2018 Christopher Wallis. All rights reserved. ~

29: The Secret Ritual (rahasya-caryā). These are the topics of this chapter: the sequence of Kula worship of the Siddhas and their consorts; the type(s) of practitioners qualified to perform it (adhikārins); the rite of [Kaula] worship [itself]; the rite of the consort; the procedure of the secret teaching (rahasya-upaniṣad); [Kaula] initiation and consecration; and [methods for] ‘piercing’[1] [the cakras]. || (TĀ 1.323-4)

Now (atha), after pointing out those who are properly qualified (adhikārins) for it, the secret rite (rahasya-vidhi) will here be taught. | 29.1ab |

Note that the word rahasya can also be translated ‘esoteric’, i.e. reserved for advanced practitioners.

Now the whole procedure of worship according to the Kula system will be taught. This procedure is appropriate for those teachers and students (gurus and śiṣyas) who have attained the summit in this [Śaiva Tantrik] way. || 1cd-2ab ||

“Attained the summit” probably means that only students who have received and mastered all the other practices of Śaiva Tantra may undertake this practice. Alternatively, it could refer to those students who have demonstrated refined insight, understanding and discernment. Or the phrase could imply both. Most likely, Abhinava means that only those who have mastered the teachings and practices detailed in the first 28 chapters of the Tantrāloka (which are closely based on, and constantly quote, the Tantrik scriptures) are qualified for the esoteric sexual sādhana. NB: the phrase “the Kula system” acknowledges that the ultimate roots of this practice are in the Kulamārga tradition that developed from the earlier Kāpālika sect, not in the Mantramārga. That is to say, this is a Kaula practice, not a Tantrik practice (in the narrower sense of that word).

The Supreme Lord has stated [in the scriptures] that the krama-pūjā [i.e., the worship of the Siddha lineage performed in the kula-yāga] is the very essence of His revelation. | 2cd |

Here Abhinava accords the highest place to the krama-pūjā component of the kula-yāga. This worship of the Siddhas and Yoginīs particularly characterizes pūjā in the Trika, Krama, and Kaula traditions that utilize the Kula system (kula-prakriyā). If we take krama-pūjā in the broader sense, as perhaps is warranted, it would simply mean that Kaula ritual is the core of all Śaiva practice.

It is said [in the scriptures that] that which comes about for one joined to & engaged in the lineage of the Siddhas [i.e., that which comes about for those performing the kula-yāga & krama-pūjā taught in this chapter] in one month cannot come about [for others] in countless years, even with [the aid of] multitudes of mantras of different kinds. || 3 ||

This verse can be taken to imply that the kula-yāga should be performed daily for one month to achieve its full result.

And kula is the Power of the Supreme Lord: it is potency, eminence, autonomy (svātantrya), radiant energy (tejas), virility (vīrya), ‘mass’ (piṇḍa), consciousness, and embodiment. || 4 ||

The literal meanings of the Sanskrit word kula are: a herd, troop, flock, assemblage, multitude, or swarm; and a family, community, tribe, caste, set, gang, or company. Essentially, kula means any collectivity united by an overarching principle. But here Abhinava clearly indicates that it is a technical term, giving the specific senses in which he will use it: nine glosses in all. NB: The technical term piṇḍa most likely refers to a specific type of consonant-dense mantra that is unpronounceable physically, such as HSKHPHREM.

Only that worship has such a nature [that it could properly be called a kula-yāga] which is [performed] by one who has dissolved the multitude of inhibitions & doubts and who is [thereby] seeing all created things exactly as they [really] are [i.e. not as pure or impure but rather as kula]. || 5 ||

The point of enumerating the esoteric meanings of the word kula (in verse 4) is that it allows Abhinava to argue that it is only when the practitioner can see the substances of worship (including alcohol and sexual fluids)—and his own body and that of his partner—as kula (i.e., as śakti, potency, vitality, consciousness, etc.) that he can perform the ritual to full effect. (Note that Abhinava’s commentator, Jayaratha, says that seeing the substances and bodies as kula means seeing them as being in essence the vibration of Śiva-Śakti.) To accomplishing this ‘right seeing’ the practitioner must become free of inhibitions, specifically those relating to the culturally-constructed notions of purity and impurity—notions formed through the influence of the stringent brāhminical norms enshrined by the mainstream culture of the time.

Whatever the Hero [i.e., the qualified Kaula practitioner] might perform in the way of body, speech and mind for the sake of becoming proficient in [seeing] the nature [of things in] that way [i.e., as kula]: that is taught as the [real] kula-yāga. || 6 ||

Here we see an interesting statement that seems to supersede all that comes after it: the assertion that whatever causes the practitioner to see the various phenomena of his or her experience as ‘kula’ (i.e., as śakti, potency, vitality, consciousness, etc.) is by that very fact the real Kula ritual. Thus, we learn right at the outset that one need not undertake this specific practice if one experiences its result by any other means. Indeed, whatever accomplishes that result may be termed a kula-yāga or “worship of the unified collectivity.”

This Kula worship can be done in six ways: externally [i.e., using a maṇḍala on the ground], involving a śakti [i.e., female partner], the couple, [one’s own] body, the path of prāṇa, or thought [i.e., mentally], with further sub-divisions in each of these divisions. || 7 ||

Here we learn that sexuality is not, in fact, the keynote of this ritual, since only two out of the six possible variations involve sexual interaction (those involving a śakti or a couple). In the first of these two, the initiated male practitioner performs yoni-pūjā before coupling with a willing uninitiated partner; the second envisions two initiated practitioners who worship each other. But the other four variations involve no partner at all.

The ritual bath, maṇḍala, fire-pit, and so on; the six ways of installing mantras [taught in Chapter 15] and so on: none of these need be applied here. On the other hand, if they are done, they will not invalidate [the rite]. || 8 ||

The Kaula rite is said in the Triśirobhairava-tantra to consist of both [certain forms of] cognition and its corresponding objects, free of the need for the six maṇḍalas and their circuits of worship. || 9 ||

In other words, the purpose of the practice is to attain certain forms of insight (jñāna), facilitated by certain forms of stimulation (jñeya).

And here in this [Kaula form of] worship, a wise person should use those substances which are forbidden in the whole series of [Vedic] texts, inundated with the ‘nectar of the left’ (vāmāmrta, i.e. ale or wine). || 10 ||

The forbidden substances in question being, at the very least, the kuṇḍa-golaka or mingled sexual fluids, placed in a chalice which is then filled with wine.

In the sacred Brahmayāmala-tantra, liquor is taught to be the external essence of Śiva (śiva-rasa). Without it—[whether] made from wheat, honey or molasses—there is no enjoyment or liberation [possible through this rite]. || 11 ||

Technically, these three are all ales, not liquors. At any rate, the point is clear: alcohol is an indispensable element of the rite.

It has a feminine, nonbinary and masculine nature [respectively], bestowing both higher and lower [forms of] enjoyment. But that which is made from the grape [i.e., wine] possesses the highest brilliance (tejas)—it is Bhairava, without a doubt. || 12 ||

That is, women participating in the rite consume wheat-beer, men consume molasses beer, and nonbinary people (napumsakas) consume honey-mead. At least, this is one way of reading the verse. All three genders may consume wine, which Abhinava holds in the highest esteem. (NB: the phrase “without a doubt” might also mean “transcending ordinary understanding”.)

It is itself the pure liquid essence that embodies Awareness in its two aspects, Light and Joy (prakāśānanda). It is eternally beloved of the goddesses, therefore it should always be drunk [when the Kaula sādhaka worships]. || 13 ||

And it was taught by the Supreme Lord in the sacred Secret of the Krama that the offering chalice, the beautiful place of worship, and the lamp(s) are the secret triad in Kaula worship. || 14-15a ||

The text to which Abhinava refers, the Krama-rahasya, is now lost.

With respect to those three, the offering [placed in the chalice comes] from union with the śakti. The beautiful place [of the rite] is the ground, a [red] cloth [on the ground], or the throne of the body, in order of increasing superiority. || 15bcd ||

Lamps should be fueled by ghee, for cows are taught to be goddesses wandering the earth. Knowing thus, the Kula practitioner should make an effort with respect to this triad. || 16 || 

Therefore, understanding the supremacy of the offering chalice, he should be without doubt or inhibition with regard to these substances that have been taught [for worship] here by Śiva—for inhibition would defile [the rite]. || 17 ||

In other words, if one feels any inhibition in consuming the “products of bliss” (sexual fluids), one cannot perform the rite.

Now that the introductory overview is complete, the instructions for the first form of the ritual begin. This is the simplest form of the rite, performed by a solo practitioner on his or her own body (option #4 in verse 7 above).

Entering the place of worship, redolent with fragrant oils and incense [and illuminated by ghee-lamps], facing east [if seeking siddhi or bhoga] or north [if seeking liberation], one should perform in [the prescribed] order the purification that consists of ‘burning’ [the body (i.e. deha-śuddhi)] and ‘invigorating’ [i.e. emanating a light-body], in accordance with the [appropriate] categories of [mantra], [visualized as] blazing and nectarean [respectively], in reverse order [for the ‘burning’] and in normal order [for the ‘invigorating’], with [the mantras of] Parā, or Mālinī, or else with the Mātṛsadbhāva mantra. || 18-19 ||

For one familiar with Tantrik ritual, this instruction is not so abstruse. One is to perform mantra-nyāsa from the feet to the head using the esoteric Mālinī sequence of the fifty phonemes of the Sanskrit alphabet in reverse (pha -> na), visualizing the letters as blazing fire burning away one’s body-image and socially-constructed self. Then one performs the nyāsa of the Mālinī sequence in the normal order (na -> pha), from the head to the feet, visualizing the letters as shining lunar nectar, emanating the divine light-body of the Goddess as one’s own body. The phonemes of the Mālinī can be enclosed by the seed-syllables of Parā or Mātṛsadbhāva (see below, verse 21). For example, utilizing the first option, one would start with sauḥ pha sauḥ at the left foot and end with sauḥ na sauḥ at the topknot for the ‘burning’ phase, and then start at the topknot (with sauḥ na sauḥ) and end at the left foot (with sauḥ pha sauḥ) in the ‘invigorating’ phase. (The fact that one needs to refer ahead two verses to interpret this verse correctly is not abnormal procedure when highly secret mantras are being discussed.)

If one intends to perform an initiation [subsequent to the rite] then he must perform an ‘installation of the pathway’ [of the universe] that he wishes to purify in him [i.e., the initiand] [subsequently]. Then, through śakti alone, [he] should transform into nectar the substances which are to be completely purified. || 20 ||

This verse clearly implies that the default practitioner envisioned for the kula-yāga is the guru or āchārya. Here the practitioner is told to do pathway installation (adhva-nyāsa) of whichever of the six universal pathways (adhvans) s/he will use in the subsequent initiation ceremony (whether the kalās, tattvas, bhuvanas, varnas, mantras, or padas; see Tantra Illuminated, p. 164). Then, fully empowered, the practitioner casts a glance at the assembled ritual paraphernalia, and through the śakti of that glance, they are transformed into the nectar of pure awareness (i.e., they are seen for what they really are, vibrations of and within awareness).

Mālinī, enclosed by Parā, or enclosed by Mātṛsadbhāva, or on its own: these [mantras are to be used] in all rites. || 21 ||

Mālinī enclosed by Parā has the form sauḥ na sauḥ -> sauḥ pha sauḥ, and Mālinī enclosed by Mātṛsadbhāva has the form hskhphreṁ na hskhphreṁ -> hskhphreṁ pha hskhphreṁ (neither sequence is performable unless you know both the normal Sanskrit alphabetical order and/or the esoteric Mālinī order). The commentator Jayaratha states that Mālinī on its own should be used if one’s goal is siddhi, enclosed by Mātṛsadbhāva if one’s goal is liberation, and enclosed by Parā if one wishes both. You might think “Well, both, obviously,” but in other passages Abhinava argues that one who practices for both siddhi and liberation delays his or her liberation.

He should completely fill the chalice with those substances which are the causes and results of bliss. With respect to the chalice [and its contents], by identifying it with the mantras uttered [in the rite], s/he should transform it into the state of Bhairava. || 22 ||

The “causes of bliss” are alcoholic drinks and possibly some delicious food; the “results of bliss” are sexual fluids. The commentator makes this explicit. (See below for the full commentary.) One must of course consecrate the chalice with the mantras mentioned above before drinking from it.

Therefore, one should worship & gratify oneself [i.e., one’s body and subtle body], overflowing with that [Bhairava state], externally on the cakra(s) and subsidiary cakras, with drops up and down, [and] internally by drinking [from the chalice]. || 23 ||

The practitioner now sprinkles wine from the chalice on his or her cakras, especially the genital center (which as we will see is later called the mukhya-cakra or primary center), then drinks from the chalice (after offering it to the Siddhas and Yoginīs).

Having the multitude of one’s rays [of consciousness] fulfilled in this way as a result of the fact that one’s sensory vibrations are expanding, [and] desiring to see oneself in the same way [that is, as the fully expanded and replete Bhairava-essence, the Lord of the Circle] embodied, one must worship externally. || 24 ||

Since the ‘rays’ of one’s consciousness are in the Kaula tradition understood to be the goddesses of the sense faculties, this verse implies that in the rite there must be beautiful things to see and hear and touch, as well as the offering of smell and taste already mentioned. Only then can all the sense-goddesses be ‘fulfilled’. To understand the second half of the verse, please read Chapter 20 of The Recognition Sutras.

This concludes the first and simplest version of the rite, using one’s own body. The next version (29.25-55) utilizes the Kulāmnāya maṇḍala of the Kulamārga, and focuses on the worship of the lineages of Siddhas and Yoginīs (option #1 in verse 7 above).

OM!

Note: this translation would not be half as good as it is without having read this section of the text with Alexis Sanderson, greatest Tantric scholar of the English-speaking world, at Oxford in 2004.

Photo credit: Kavitha Chinnaiyan

[1] Reading vedha for bodha.


JAYARATHA’s COMMENTARY
(translation copyright © 2018 Christopher Wallis. All rights reserved.)
Jayaratha lived about 150 years after Abhinavagupta, and wrote a thorough Sanskrit commentary on the Tantrāloka. This commentary is hugely valuable for one main reason: Jayaratha had access to scriptural sources (i.e. tantras) that are now lost to us, and he quoted from them abundantly in his commentary. Below you find the text as it has come down to us in manuscripts: Abhinavagupta’s verses interspersed with Jayaratha (JR)’s commentary. Jayaratha’s citation of scriptural sources are clearly marked. NOTE: all the words that follow are those of Abhinava and Jayaratha. My minor insertions are in [brackets].

Maṅgala-śloka [auspicious verse which begins the commentary]:
May [the form of Śiva called] Bhadrakāla bestow all benefits upon you at all times. He is one whose way is incomparable, for even though he is located within the domain that transcends the Kula [i.e., akula-pada, the non-manifest, innermost transcendent reality], he again and again eagerly rushes toward the domain of the kula [i.e., embodied reality] here [in this world].

Now (atha), after pointing out those who are properly qualified (adhikārins) for it, the secret rite (rahasya-vidhi) will here be taught. | 29.1ab |

JR: ‘With reference to the secret’ means with reference to the kula system. [As opposed to the tantra system; kula is higher for Abhinava in part because it requires the initiate to be possessed by the goddess Parā.] ‘Rite’ means worship [yāga].

Now the whole procedure of worship according to the Kula system will be taught. This procedure is appropriate for those teachers and students (gurus and śiṣyas) who have attained the summit in this [Śaiva Tantrik] way. || 1cd-2ab || 

JR: ‘Worship with the kulaprakriyā’ means the kulayāga. By this (expression), ‘who have attained the summit’, a distinction of qualified persons, namely those who are more-or-less perfected since they have entered that nondiscursive state [nirvikalpa-daśā] attained at the highest level, is implied. 

One might object: What, we ask, is the superiority of the kulaprakriyā over other systems [prakriyā] such that a distinction among qualified persons is conveyed? With this question in mind, Abhinavagupta says, 

The supreme Lord has stated that it is the [siddha-]krama-pūjā [i.e., the worship of the Siddha lineage] which is the essence [/core] (of his teachings). /2cd/ 

It is said [in the scriptures that] that which comes about for one joined to & engaged in the lineage of the Siddhas [i.e., that which comes about for those performing the kula-yāga & krama-pūjā taught in this chapter] in one month cannot come about [for others] in countless years, even with [the aid of] multitudes of mantras of different kinds. || 3 ||

JR: [joined to] the sequence of the Siddhas, specifically, Khagendranātha and others who came to earth [/were avatars] in the sequence of the various yugas beginning with the Kṛta; i.e., joined to the kulaprakriyā which has come down to us through that lineage.  ‘Different’ means taught in various other systems [prakriyās].  As has been taught:

Scriptural quote:
“All those mantras which have been taught in the tantras beginning with the Siddhānta are lacking in power [vīrya] because they are bereft of the radiance of feminine power. But the great mantras of the Kula (system), being of radiant splendour by the their very nature, shine with a divine light, bringing about instant evidence (of their efficacy).” || 

He now explains the meaning of the word kula in the expression ‘kulaprakriyā.’

And kula is the Power of the Supreme Lord: it is potency, eminence, autonomy (svātantrya), radiant energy (tejas), virility (vīrya), ‘mass’ (piṇḍa), consciousness, and embodiment. || 4 ||

JR: ‘Potency’ means being the agent of dissolution and arising. …‘Piṇḍa’ is so called because everything in the universe is present within it in a single (undifferentiated) flavor.

Scriptural quotes:

“Kula is the supreme Power…” [śakti]

“Passing away and arising are of the nature of consciousness. Therefore that is called Kula.” [= sāmarthya, potency]

“Pure awareness within one’s own nature is Kula, the cause of everything.” [= ūrdhvatā, eminence]

“O fair-faced one, the Kula means that all-pervading subtle (reality) that is the (true) agent [/doer] of all that is done.” [= svātantrya, independence]

“O goddess, the Kula is that supreme and terrifying radiance which is the lord of all, which is all, and is established in all.” [= tejas, radiance, radiant energy]

“Know that vīrya in the domain of śakti is the kula in all. [Know that kula means that vīrya within śakti, i.e. the semen in the vagina, on the microcosmic plane.]” [= vīrya, virility, sexual energy, etc.]

“Kula is supreme bliss.” [ = piṇḍa, mass, as in a mass of bliss?]

“Kula is the nature of one’s own self.” [= samvit, consciousness]

“Kula is said to be the body.” [= śarīra, body]

JR: Thus, having explained the word kula, in order to explain the word yāga also, which has been introduced by the words [i.e. synonyms] vidhi, upāsā, etc., he says:

Only that worship has such a nature [that it could properly be called a kula-yāga] which is [performed] by one who has dissolved the multitude of inhibitions & doubts and who is [thereby] seeing all created things exactly as they [really] are [i.e. not as pure or impure but rather as kula]. || 5 ||

JR: Why is it said that the worship of one seeing in this way is of that (kula) kind alone? With this question in mind, he says:

Whatever the Hero [i.e., the qualified Kaula practitioner] might perform in the way of body, speech and mind for the sake of becoming proficient in [seeing] the nature [of things in] that way [i.e., as kula]: that is taught as the [real] kula-yāga. || 6 ||

Jayaratha: What is the substrate of this worship?  With this question in mind, he says:

This Kula worship can be done in six ways: externally [i.e., using a maṇḍala on the ground], involving a śakti [i.e., female partner], the couple, [one’s own] body, the path of prāṇa, or thought [i.e., mentally], with further sub-divisions in each of these divisions. || 7 ||

Jayaratha: ‘On the couple’ means on the couple engaged in the primal worship [ādi-yāga, i.e. the sexual ritual]. ‘On the path of the prāṇa’ means in the central channel. ‘On thought’ means on the buddhi, because the accomplishment of that (yāga) can be (done) also through various thought positions. ‘It has subdivisions in each (of these) divisions’: for example, the external (substrate) has the subdivisions of earth, cloth, and so on. 

The ritual bath, maṇḍala, fire-pit, and so on; the six ways of installing mantras [taught in Chapter 15] and so on: none of these need be applied here. On the other hand, if they are done, they will not invalidate [the rite]. || 8 ||

Quote: Mālinī-vijayottara-tantra (MVT) 11.2 [Nearly identical to above.]

Jayaratha:  But what is the reason that the external bath and so on is not necessary here?  With this question in mind, he says:

The Kaula rite is said in the Triśirobhairava-tantra to consist of both [certain forms of] cognition and its corresponding objects, free of the need for the six maṇḍalas and their circuits of worship. || 9 ||

Jayaratha: ‘Knowledge’ [= ‘cognition’ above] means awareness which is extroverted and embodied in the means of knowledge [the sense faculties]. ‘Objects of knowledge’ means that of which one is aware. All this, objects of knowledge, knowing, etc., is in essence nothing but the emanation (of the Kula principle), not something separate from that. 

Scriptural quote:
“O dear one, how can there be objects of perception while perceivers are not present? The perceiver and the perceived are but one reality. Therefore, the impure does not exist.” [Ucchiṣmabhairava-tantra]

Jayaratha: And therefore, since everything is in essence nothing but consciousness, purity and impurity also are not real. To allude to this, he states that the very distinction between those two things is not accepted in this doctrine. He says:

And here in this [Kaula form of] worship, a wise person should use those substances which are forbidden in the whole series of [Vedic] texts, inundated with the ‘nectar of the left’ (vāmāmrta, i.e. ale or wine). || 10 ||

[perhaps a double meaning here, i.e. nectar of the left = nondual consciousness; this interpretation accords with Abhinava’s view of ritual activity.]

Scriptural quote:
“This sequence (of deities, Siddhas, etc.) is to be worshipped with those substances which are despised by the common man, and which are outlawed by the teachings of the (Vedic) scriptures, which are held in disgust and condemned.”

Jayaratha:  Let there be here substances which are outlawed by the (Vedic) śāstras etc. Why mix them with wine also? To answer this, he says:

Liquor is also stated in the sacred Brahmayāmala to be the external essence of Śiva. Without it—(whether) made from wheat, honey or molasses—there is no enjoyment or liberation. //11//

It has a feminine, neuter or masculine nature (respectively), giving higher and lower enjoyment. But that which arises from the grape [i.e., wine] is of the highest brilliance, divine, and transcends ordinary understanding. //12//

This is [itself/] the self-created liquid essence that embodies the consciousness of both bliss and light [which is ānanda and prakāśa]. It is eternally beloved of the goddesses, therefore it should always be drunk [when the sādhaka worships]. //13 //

Scriptural quotes
“Liquor is the supreme śakti. Wine is called Bhairava. The great Bhairava has transformed himself into the form of liquid.”

“Without it, there is no mokṣa. Without it, there is no progress. Without it, there is no (supernatural) attainment, especially in the (way of the) Bhairavāgama.”

“Wheat-beer, molasses-beer, and also honey-wine are said to be manufactured liquors, giving pleasure to the sādhaka as female, male, and nonbinary (respectively).”

“But wine alone is natural. It is the radiance that is Bhairava. The supreme Lord is not female, nonbinary, or male.”

“Molasses-beer, mead, and also wheat-beer; Bliss-bhairava [personification of wine] is higher (than them).”

“Just as Śiva-bhairava is the leader of the circles of the Bhairavas, just as the Destroyer of Time [Kālī] is the supreme (leader) in all the circles of the (female) divinities, so these two are said to be the leaders of all the best liquid essences; but Lord Wine-bhairava is the best (of all) liquid essence, (having the nature of) quicksilver.”* [Jayadratha-yāmala]

“Greatly beloved always of Bhairava and the horde of Mother(-goddesses).”

And it was taught by the Supreme Lord in the sacred Secret of the Krama that the offering chalice, the beautiful place of worship, and the lamp(s) are the secret triad in Kaula worship. || 14-15a ||

With respect to those three, the offering [placed in the chalice comes] from union with the śakti. The beautiful place [of the rite] is the ground, a [red] cloth [on the ground], or the throne of the body, in order of increasing superiority. || 15bcd || 

Jayaratha: ‘Argha’ is the special substance called kuṇḍa-golaka [the mingled sexual fluids]. ‘From union with śakti’ will be explained (below) as the primal worship (ādi-yāga, = kula-yāga). ‘Body-throne’ means one’s own or another’s body. [Or a skull bowl placed on the red cloth on the ground.]

Lamps should be fueled by ghee, for cows are taught to be goddesses wandering the earth. Knowing thus, the Kula practitioner should make an effort with respect to this triad. || 16 ||

Jayaratha: he should gather those (substances) with faith and conviction. He shouldn’t have any doubt/hestitation/inhibition. 

In our doctrine, it is the argha that is the most important. Thus the supreme lord has taught other substances also that are appropriate for it [i.e. the argha]. Therefore one should not be inhibited about that argha or about those other substances; for it is inhibition that is the great fault and this we have stated previously on more than one occasion. He says this:

Therefore, understanding the supremacy of the offering chalice, he should be without doubt or inhibition with regard to these substances that have been taught [for worship] here by Śiva—for inhibition would defile [the rite]. || 17 ||

JR: By the substances, he means such as the 5 jewels. As it is said [in the Krama scripture Kālīkula-pancaśataka chapter 5]:

Scriptural quote:
“Semen, Siva’s water [= urine], ‘flower’ [= menstrual blood], faeces, and ‘tube-butter’ [= phlegm], human (flesh), cow-flesh, goat, fish, fowl, onion, and garlic; these are the twelve auspicious substances. [O Śiva, he should gratify the goddesses with these 12 food-offerings.]” [Note: this proof-cited by Jayaratha should not be taken to indicate that these 12 are to be used in the kula-yāga! Only two (or optionally five) of these are used in the kula-yāga.]

Entering the place of worship, redolent with fragrant oils and incense [and illuminated by ghee-lamps], facing east [if seeking siddhi or bhoga] or north [if seeking liberation], one should perform in [the prescribed] order the purification that consists of ‘burning’ [the body (i.e. deha-śuddhi)] and ‘invigorating’ [i.e. emanating a light-body], in accordance with the [appropriate] categories of [mantra], [visualized as] blazing and nectarean [respectively], in reverse order [for the ‘burning’] and in normal order [for the ‘invigorating’], with [the mantras of] Parā, or Mālinī, or else with the Mātṛsadbhāva mantra. || 18-19 ||

[The translation of this highly condensed verse is slightly problematic. The Parā mantra is a single syllable, so cannot be done in a different ‘order’, so there are two possible interpretations. Either here Parā actually stands for Mātṛkā (the normal alphabet) and ‘reverse order’ means kṣa to a (and normal order a to kṣa); or else, ‘reverse order’ and ‘normal order’ refers not to the order of the mantras, but simply the installation of them in the body, i.e. ‘burning’ proceeds from the feet to the head, while ‘invigorating’ from the head to the feet.] [SEE verse 21 below.]

[“Normally when you enter a place of worship, there’s a whole series of preliminary worships to be done: first of outer deities, then of deities on the doorposts; only then you take a flower, consecrated with the Weapon-mantra, and flick into the interior of the yāgaukas (worship chamber) with fingers in the naraca mudrā, turn to one side to allow all the malevolent forces blasted out by the flower-astra to depart from the space, turn in and seal it and begin the pūjā.” – Prof. Alexis Sanderson]

JR: ‘viloma’ means in the order of resorption, from the feet to the head; ‘anuloma’ means in the natural order, the order of emission, from the head to the feet. The mantras are brilliant in burning, nectarean in nourishing/invigorating—‘respectively’ is understood.  

If one intends to perform an initiation [subsequent to the rite] then he must perform an ‘installation of the pathway’ [of the universe] that he wishes to purify in him [i.e., the initiand] [subsequently]. Then, through śakti alone, [he] should transform into nectar the substances which are to be completely purified. || 20 ||

JR: The path to be purified is one of those beginning with bhuvana, worlds. [phonemes, words, mantras, kalās, tattvas and bhuvanas; these are the six pathways.]

Scriptural quote:
”Then he should install upon the disciple the path which is to be purified, visualising it as containing the other (five) paths.”

JR: ‘by śakti alone’ means not as before with such procedures as sprinkling with drops from the argha-pātra, (but by meditating upon the śakti as permeating all the substances and giving a ‘śakti glance’). 

Mālinī, enclosed by Parā, or enclosed by Mātṛsadbhāva, or on its own: these [mantras are to be used] in all rites. || 21 ||

[E.g. [Oṃ] sauḥ na-pha [hrīṃ] sauḥ Mālinyai namaḥ (or “a na-pha [hrīṃ] a Mālinyai  namaḥ”?); and Oṃ hskhphreṃ na-pha hskhphreṃ Mātrsadbhāvāya(i) namaḥ (?)]

JR: In all rites, the Mālinī-mantra of this kind is to be applied: by one desiring mokṣa, enclosed by Mātṛsadbhāva; [by one desiring siddhi, on its own; and] by one desiring both of those, enclosed by Parā. [possible textual corruption here — note that MVT 11.7 recommends Mālinī enfolded by Parā or Parā on her own!]

JR: Here, the author of the work has referred to Mātṛsadbhāva as well by the word Parā. For that is the higher nature of Parā herself. 

Scriptural quote:
“Let him always worship the god, having adorned himself with whatever delights the mind and increases good fortune & beauty.”

Surely it has been said throughout the scriptures that whatever substances are full of bliss should be used as the elements of pūjā. But here, why have you stated that they ought to be disgusting? It is answering this objection that he says,

He should fill the chalice with those substances which are the causes and results of bliss. /22ab/

JR: the causes are liquor and so on; the fruits are the ‘pit-and-ball’ and so on. [kuṇḍa-golaka, mingled sexual fluids] Therefore it has been said:

Scriptural quote:
“In the tantras, Bhairava, the severer of mundane existence, describes that person who is said to be ‘favoured’ as the one for whom the essences produce the ultimate bliss in their purification.” (textual corruption)

JR: As for the tradition of the filling (of the chalice), I have not explained that here, because it is secret, for fear of infringing the rule of secrecy. You must learn this from the mouth of your guru.  It is said:

Scriptural quote:
“The sacramental substance, the transmission, the gnosis, the (method of) union (with the yoginīs), the procedure of worship; (all this) is located in the mouth of the yoginīs.” [NB: Yoginī can mean female spirit, female siddha, or female practitioner, with the last meaning being the least common one.]

With respect to the chalice (and its contents), by identifying it with the mantras uttered (in the rite), he should transform it into the state of Bhairava. /22cd/

JR: ‘Uttered’ refers to Mātṛsadbhāva etc. For he (AG) will say (later in the text):
“’I do not exist. Another does not exist. I am only Energies.’ He should cultivate this impression, through awareness alone, constantly.” (29.64)

Scriptural quote:
“Non-corporeal goddesses, adopting form, are present within the body. They play in (and with) various mental states, out of their desire to obtain the supreme substances.”

JR: In accordance with such passages, all the deities beginning with the goddesses that are the sense faculties make themselves present, because of their eagerness to consume (the substances offered in) the pūjā.

Scriptural quote:
“If one does not gratify a mantra once it has come (into the place of worship), it steals one’s ‘better half’ . . .” [one’s consort? half one’s body?] 

JR: In accordance with such scriptural passages, because they (the mantras) become present, they must be gratified. 

Therefore, one should worship & gratify oneself [i.e., one’s body and subtle body], overflowing with that [Bhairava state], externally on the cakra(s) and subsidiary cakras, with drops up and down, [and] internally by drinking [from the chalice]. || 23 ||

JR: Surely in this way the kulayāga has been accomplished by this alone. What else remains? Answering this objection, he says,

Having the multitude of one’s rays [of consciousness] fulfilled in this way as a result of the fact that one’s sensory vibrations are expanding, [and] desiring to see oneself in the same way [that is, as the fully expanded and replete Bhairava-essence, the Lord of the Circle] embodied, one must worship externally. || 24 ||