Swami Rama on Samaya Sri Vidya Tantra

These excerpts on Samaya Sri Vidya are taken from various books and video lectures by the great Master of the Himalayan lineage and the Samaya Sri Vidya Tradition, Swami Rama. 

In his lifetime Swami Rama wrote over 25 books on yoga practice, yoga philosophy, among them commentaries on the Upanishads, poetry and psychology. The excerpts below are about Samaya Srividya Tantra. 

Swami Rama in Living with the Himalayan Masters

I also received a few important lessons from my grandmaster on Sri Vidya, the highest of all sciences and the mother of all mandalas found in Tibetan and Indian literature. In advanced practices the student learns how to concentrate on different parts of Sri Yantra, and a few rare students learn to travel to the center. This yantra is considered to be a manifestation of divine power, and the bindu, or point in the center, is the center where Shakti and Shiva are united. Even after being initiated in this vidya in the Malabar hills of India, my teacher there did not give me the practice of bindu bhedana (piercing the point). In this worship of the Divine Mother the final knowledge imparted by the great sages is found. For this knowledge a scriptural study is essential, but most essential is the direct guidance of a master who is adept in this vidya. There are very few people who know this, and they can be counted on the fingertips, though I do not know them all. Our tradition alone teaches this vidya. If anyone is accomplished in this, then he is from our tradition.

Lectures on Saundarya Lahiri

In Sri Vidya there is one thing very wonderful, and that is, you don't have to visit the temple. You can. A student of Sri Vidya can go to synagogue, temple, church, Shiva temple, Krishna temple, any temple - it doesn't matter.  For him or her, everything is one and the same.  It's not the worship of the woman, mother, it's not worship of man, father; it's the worship of Brahman.  Not even worship of neuter gender.  The absolute Truth which is changeless, which is not subject to change, death and decay, that which is limitless, that Infinite for whom we do not have words, which is beyond explanation, which cannot be explained, which is inexplicable.

But the method here is: your deha, your body, is a shrine - first point the teacher says.  You can visit any place.  External world inspires you - anything in the external world - even teacher will inspire you, scriptures will inspire you, lectures will inspire you, listening to the tapes will inspire you. But that is not enough.  Suppose you are inspired.  What do you do next?  It means you should be able to use your potentials for the next step.

So first awareness is this, you are "deho devalaya prokta, jeevodeva sanatana."  You are the shrine of the Lord. That awareness is developed.  If you want to worship, don't go here and there.  Don't condemn what others are doing.  Don't look into that.  Perhaps what they are doing you don't understand and they are doing well.  At least they are doing something!

So first awareness is,  the greatest of all dwells within you. This awareness is developed.  It's not easy.  Once you have developed this, fifty percent of job is completed.  So teacher says, "The Lord is within you.  Don't search for the Lord outside you. It is everywhere, and it is within you. How can you be excluded?"

Again and again teacher creates that awareness and strengthens that awareness - that the Lord of life and the universe, they are one and the same, and the Lord dwells within you. And where you find the presence of Lord, that is called temple or shrine.  That is called church, the house of God. 

So here, teacher says it's the house of God - don't do this, don't ignore this house of God.  You don't break the wall, you don't keep the walls dirty, or external part of the temple dirty.  No. You keep it clean. This awareness is strengthened again and again.  The day you have attained this faith that Lord is in me, and I am the shrine of the great Lord, you have accomplished something. And teacher again and again says - you put question to your teacher, "How is it possible for a little human being to become temple of God?"

Teacher says, "Look here, God dwells everywhere.  How can you exclude yourself?  Where is that place where there is no God? No absolute Truth?"

So it is within you.  How can you say that this space within the glass - is separated it from this space (pointing to the room around), and this space is separated from the space outside? They are one and the same. Again and again the teacher makes you aware of this.

Therefore, first part, first awareness that teacher creates is awareness that Mother Divine is within you. 

You know there is a word, "Shiva," it's a Sanskrit word.  It is written like this: शिव (writes on the blackboard).  If you only remove this part (the sign: ि, which means the vowel "i") it becomes "Shava" शव which means dead - corpse - Shava.  Without Shakti, there is no existence of Shiva.

First Saundarya Lahari's mantra, Shivah shaktya yukto yadi bhavati shaktah prabhavitum, this will explain to you how Shiva and Shakti, how the Lord of life is beyond all this. He has no gender.  You can call him mother, you can call him father. He's neither mother nor father, nor old nor young, nor child. But the teacher gives some concept. 

Then second step, teacher makes him aware that Shiva and Shakti are one and the same. He imparts the knowledge of macrocosm and microcosm. Pinda und Brahman. 

Pinda is this body, Brahman is the universe.  What is the difference between the drop of water and the ocean?  They are qualitatively one and the same.  But they are not quantitatively one and the same.  Once you understand the very summum bonum of your life, the very existence of this life, this individual, which is not body, which is not breath, not at all senses, which is not your thinking process, including your emotions, appetites and inclinations, which is beyond this.  Beyond means not far away - within you.  Whole philosophy and its dictionary changes.  Beyond, if you tell, it's beyond your reach.  It means it's far away in India, Himalayas, Tibet or somewhere you think.  Beyond means, the senses are beyond your body; the mind is beyond your senses; the soul is beyond your mind.  It's within. The whole concept is in this.

Swami Rama in Living with the Himalayan Masters

I found that Sri Vidya and Madhu Vidya are spiritual practices known to a very few - only ten to twelve people in all of India. I became interested in knowing this science, and whatever little I have today is because of it. In this science the body is seen as a temple and the inner dweller, Atman, as God. A human being is like a miniature universe, and by understanding this, one can understand the whole of the universe and ultimately realize the absolute One. Finally, after studying many scriptures and learning various paths, my master helped me in choosing to practice the way of Sri Vidya. In this path the kundalini fire is seen as the Mother Divine, and through yoga practices it is awakened from its primal state and raised to the highest of the chakras. The chakras are wheels of life which form our spiritual body and connect the entire flow of consciousness.


You need to go in systematically. So this body is like a chakra system, as Panditji has explained, in which five triangles - another six triangles - they are united.  How your body is composed? How is it formed? From here you start going inside.  If you have known yourself, you have known the universe. But if you are trying to know the universe, you are lost in bewilderment.  You are lost.  So you better learn to understand yourself first.

That vidya which leads you systematically is called Sri Vidya - highest of all vidyas, as mother. And you are fully protected. These experiments have been done.

Choosing a Path

Among all the spiritual traditions, the tantric tradition is the most ancient, and among all the schools of tantra, samaya is the highest. The school of samaya is profound, with its philosophy and practices; the samaya school practices Sri Vidya. All the vidyas explained in the Tantric texts originate from Sri Vidya, the mother of all vidyas. Sri Vidya is known to students as the symbol of the law of manifestation. The process of manifestation emanates from the ultimate Reality and moves into expansion by dividing this original unity into two: Shiva and Shakti. These are the latent and active aspects of consciousness dwelling in eternal unity. These two are represented in Sanskrit with the first and last letters of the alphabet: "a" and "h" which, like alpha and omega, signify everything in between them also. Thus, all the energy and elements in the universe, from the most subtle to the most gross, are held potentially within this seed of two phonemes. This perfect stillness, called Samvit, manifests into thirty-six gradations of cosmic evolution; the entire world is a continuous unfoldment of what is already in Samvit, and it will all dissolve back into this origin again. The sound principle of this manifestation, which emerges from the two bindus, Shiva and Shakti, is called nada. This entire process of expansion and dissolution is displayed graphically in the Sri Yantra. 

All forms manifest from unity into diversity and then return again to unity. This is the eternal law of the cycle of the universe that is reflected in all things. In the philosophy of Sri Vidya, these two movements are known as dissolution (laya-krama) and evolution (srsti-krama), and they are depicted by the concentric squares and circles and the interlaced, inverted and upright triangles of the Sri Yantra, which has the bindu point Samvit in its center. This union of Shiva and Shakti is called Mother Divine. 

The cosmos manifests on various degrees and grades from this point, and in his spiritual journey, the aspirant travels inward from the periphery of Sri Yantra to the center. The students of Sri Vidya understand both the way of universal unfoldment and the way of individual dissolution. They are no longer caught in the web of maya, and they constantly enjoy the divine play of this cosmic energy. Students of this path meditate intensely on the Sri Yantra, realize the existence of Mother Divine, and practice japa with an aksamala, a mala of phonemes instead of beads that is comprised of all the cosmic sounds. This mantra is the auditory representation of the visual pattern described in Sri Yantra. 

Sri Yantra thus maps the path of eternal return to inner wholeness and perfection. It shows that the origin of life is perfect bliss, peace, happiness, and wisdom and that its final destination must be the same. The subtlemost supreme internal worship practiced in the samaya school is called bhavana, and it is explained in the Bhavanopanishad. This scripture explains that that which is found in the individual self exists in the universe, and so in order to analyze and understand the universe, one can study the individual self. One's own body, mind, and spirit are the Sri Yantra. When all symbols and rituals are internalized, then the human body itself resembles Sri Yantra, and the student becomes one with the ultimate truth. 

Just as one is comprised of the qualities of his mother and his father, so the nine triangles of Sri Yantra - five inverted and four upright - display the qualities of Shakti and Shiva. The inward spiritual journey mapped by Sri Yantra describes progress through nine stages, depicted by its nine circuits. The central point of Sri Yantra is like an island whose immense base remains hidden in the ocean of bliss, peace, happiness, and wisdom. In the samaya, the physical appearance of life - the human body - is the center of consciousness coming to the surface. It comes from the ocean of bliss, remains surrounded by it, and will return to it. To those who are aware of this reality, suffering, ignorance, and obstacles are unreal. 

The components of this island, which comprise the physical body, are symbolized by precious gems, showing that it is an important means for higher attainment if utilized properly. On this island of gems, there is said to a celestial garden of wish-yielding trees, which represent the mind and desires. When undisciplined, this becomes a thick forest of suffering that hides the ocean of bliss. On this island are six seasons that are compared to the six tastes, which are the properties of food. Thus one's diet affects one's emotional life just as the growth of trees is affected by the seasons. The tastes are therefore important in developing attractive thoughts and desires that beautify the garden of mind. Regulation of food is therefore the foundation of all other regulations.

In the samaya school of internal worship the body and the mind are stilled and the student realizes that Sri Yantra is internal. Thus the nine levels of Sri Yantra have been equated to the chakras of the subtle body. Moving inward from the periphery, there are three sets of three chakras depicted in the design: muladhara, swadisthana, and manipura; anahata, vishuddha, and ajna; and two guru chakras and sahasrara. The Saundarya Lahari, the Wave of Bliss, of Shankara poetically explains the methods of practice for Sri Vidya, including the siddhis that are attained at various stages. In the samaya school, various chakras are focused on for different purposes. 

According to the samaya school, after a series of initiations, the aspirant learns to meditate in the sahasrara chakra. This school alone knows the meditation method in the crown chakra or thousand-petaled lotus. Other schools of Tantra do not practice this most advanced meditative method. It should be remembered that the samaya school of tantra is the highest of all schools, and Sri Vidya is the most profound way of attaining the ultimate Truth. The goal of Sri Vidya is to attain turiya, the fourth state, which is beyond waking, dreaming, and sleeping. There is another name for Mother Divine, who is the residing deity of this fourth state, and that is Tripura Sundari, the fountainhead of beauty, bliss, and wisdom. 

There are numerous scriptures available on tantric literature of all schools, but a competent guru is the only guide. Without his help, the aspirant cannot go beyond and attain liberation. Actually any spiritual practice that leads to the awakening of kundalini is worth trying to know, but the aspirant who has decided to practice this path should first study Tantric scriptures and then prepare himself to take this voyage and not go in search of a guru but start working with himself. The first requisite is to have a healthy body - a disease free body; second, a balanced or tranquil mind; third, an intense desire to attain the Truth. In fact, in great traditions, most of the spiritual practices are clearly and systematically explained. Tantra literature is the highest of all, which deals with this subject in a very systematic manner. In all paths the aspirants may experience moments of ecstasy and illumination, but there is only one path that helps the student to experience such phenomena at his will. 

The yogic practices are explained in tantric literature and practiced under the guidance of a teacher who has himself awakened this latent force and led it to the crown chakra. He is the awakened master and the representative of a perennial tradition. Such a master, through a series of initiations, guides the aspirants to their goal. The first initiation is the imparting of a mantra, a seed sound, and when this mantra is assimilated in the unconscious mind and becomes a part of the aspirant's life, then he is taught to practice the mantra in conjunction with a number of coordinated spiritual exercises and mental and physical disciplines to purify him for the next step. The next step of initiation is inner antaryaga, a special method of meditation that helps mind in looking within. This way, a series of gradual steps are introduced to him. One of the most difficult steps is upward traveling, and the highest of all is shaktipata diksha, in which the master directly transmits his energy, which enables the student to remove the final obstacles. The advanced student of this path sometimes unconsciously influences those around him in the same way that a magnet influences metal objects in its proximity. It should be understood clearly that a master or a siddha only influences those who are already on the path. In shaktipata diksha, the influence is experienced in a fully conscious and extremely intense way. Through a touch or a gaze, or even without any touch or gaze, a real master is able to transform the consciousness of his closest disciple into a blissful state. But no real master ever gives such an initiation to unprepared students. Shaktipata removes the last stumbling block of samskaras and thus hastens the process of awakening the latent force. This experience is not frequently repeated. When a master works with his student, it is not on the gross or physical level, and the master is not alone in dealing with this powerful force. He has behind him the long tradition of the sages, of which he is only a representative. 

The search for truth is an eternal quest of human life. The search does not stop by performing karmas, doing one's actions skillfully, lovingly, and selflessly and then offering the fruits of actions as a worship, but a few great men renounce the worldly possessions so that they can devote their time and energy wholly for the attainment of enlightenment. Such renunciates are great and no doubt worthy of reverence. But in the philosophy of Tantra, the aspirant does not renounce the world or sacrifice any of the so-called pleasures of the world, which are usually considered to be obstacles on the path. In this path, no renunciation and no sacrifice is made, but conquest is the goal. 

Artha, dharma, kama, and moksha are the main goals of human life. Artha means having sufficient means in the external world so that the bare necessities of life do not consume time and energy in concern for external success. But dharma means that all the means that we gather together should be earned through righteousness only. Kama means the prime source of all desire, which should be carefully understood and channeled for attaining the height of spirituality, the prime goal of life. Moksha means liberation from all bonds of samskaras and the ones we create in this lifetime. Such freedom is the goal of tantra philosophy and its practices. 

Living with the Himalayan Masters

The knowledge of Sri Vidya is imparted stage by stage and the advanced student is taught Prayoga Shastra [which explains the practicality and application of the discipline one has to follow for this knowledge]. We believe in both the Mother and the Father principles of the universe. That which is called maya, or illusion, in our worship becomes the Mother and does not remain as a stumbling block or obstacle on the path of spiritual enlightenment. All of our worship is internal and we do not perform any rituals. 

There are three stages of initiation given according to our tradition. First: mantra, breath awareness, and meditation; second: inner worship of Sri Vidya and bindu bhedana (piercing the pearl of wisdom); third: shaktipata and leading the force of kundalini to the thousand-petaled lotus called the sahasrara chakra. At this stage we do not associate ourselves with any particular religion, caste, sex, or color. Such yogis are called masters and are allowed to impart the traditional knowledge. We strictly follow the discipline of the sages. 

It is not possible for me to discuss in detail the secret teachings of Prayoga Shastra, for it is said: "Na datavyam, na datavyam, na datavyam - Don't impart, don't impart, don't impart" unless someone is fully prepared and committed and has practiced self-control to a high degree. These attainments can be verified through the experiences of the sages of the past. In our path, gurudeva is not a god but a bright being who has faithfully and sincerely attained a state of enlightenment. We believe in the grace of the guru as the highest means for enlightenment, but never as the end. The purpose of the guru is to selflessly help his disciples on the way to perfection. 

Saundarya Lahiri

That vidya which leads you systematically is called Sri Vidya - highest of all vidyas, as mother. And you are fully protected.  These experiments have been done.  Wild elephant was left with a child and father. The father ran away and left the child there.  Wild elephant was left when mother was walking with the child - mother faced the elephant.  You are very close to mother.  I’m talking about Divine Mother - the mother in you, the shakti in you, the power in you.

Sakti Sadhana

Samaya is the highest of the three schools and is practiced only by accomplished yogis. The word samaya means "I am with you." When the aspirant attains this state, he feels as though he is walking in Brahman-consciousness all the time. His ajapa japa becomes spontaneous and effortless. Even in deep sleep, he re­ mains aware of his mantra, because mantra becomes the predominant factor in all activities of life. 

This school leads the aspirant directly to moksha, liberation. At this stage, the body is regarded as a living shrine in which the divine force dwells. All practices are internal. No internal method, such as contemplation or meditation, can be accomplished without establishing perfect harmony between the mind and the breath, and the aspirant is given breathing practices to establish this harmony. 

Wisdom of the Ancient Sages, Commentary on the Mundaka Upanishad

The third school is Samaya. The Samaya path is the highest of all paths, and is purely yogic. On this path worship is performed only internally, in the sahasrara chakra. The aspirants of this school do not perform any ceremony externally, but they do the ceremony only in a purely mental and yogic sense. That is why it is called internal worship, in which the methods of pranayama, meditation, and contemplation are involved. After under­ going a series of preliminary purificatory disciplines, highly evolved adepts worship the union of shiva and parvati (shakti), visualizing their inseparable unity at sahasrara chakra. There is nothing external in the practice. Such worship leads the aspirants to a state of sahaja samadhi - the state of jivanmukti. This is considered to be the highest of all the schools and is practiced by yogis and renunciates. Samaya is the rarest of all the paths of Tantra. 

Living with the Himalayan Masters

Sri Vidya, in which the microcosm and macrocosm are thoroughly understood, is the highest of all the paths and is practiced by only very few accomplished ones. It is a practical path, but it requires strong philosophical understanding before it is trodden. Practice based on the mere information of books could be time-consuming as well as dangerous. A competent teacher is necessary in this spiritual practice, and the principles of tantra and other philosophies need to be thoroughly understood before a student takes such a venture. This extremely rare path is followed only by the highly accomplished sages. 

Choosing a Path

The path of Tantra is meant for a very fortunate few, especially for those who have a profound knowledge of the various schools of philosophy and who are prepared to practice the tantric way of life in which the male and female represent the two cosmic principles called Shiva and Shakti. Some choose to follow the external way of worship and others choose the external and internal both. But rare are those who follow the path of samaya, the highest of all paths of yoga and tantra. 

In this path, the aspirant does not desire any siddhi. This is a meditative order that does not believe in any sort of rituals of any type. In this path the primal force is worshipped as the Mother Divine. The kaula and mishra schools strive for success in the external world as well as liberation - bhukti and mukti. But according to samaya, sushumna awakening after bhuta shuddhi (internal and external purification) seems to be the first requisite. Then kundalini is awakened, and in the third step it is led to sahasrara and not allowed to flow again to the lower levels of consciousness. The path of samaya is the highest of all, in which the accomplished teacher imparts the knowledge of Sri Vidya to the prepared student. Such an aspirant attains the fourth state, turiya, the highest goal of human life. It is a state beyond. No other school of philosophy and yoga explains and experiences the transition period between death and rebirth. When a student meditates on the sahasrara chakra, the thousand-petaled lotus in the crown of the head, he receives the knowledge of consciously casting off his body and goes through the transition period very consciously. He knows the mystery of life hereafter. Such yogis are rare.