Tripura Rahasya


The Tripura Rahasya is one of the finest Shakta texts of the Devi or Mother Goddess tradition.

Raman Maharshi regarded the Tripura Rahasya as one of the greatest works of Advaita philosophy. It is considered by scholars to be a tantric or shakta text.

It is also called the Haritaayana Samhita after its author Haritaayana, son of Harita.

The Tripura Rahasya expounds the teachings of the supreme spiritual truth. The highest truth was first taught by Lord Shiva to Lord Vishnu. Lord Vishnu incarnated on earth as Sri Dattatreya, Lord of the Avadhutas, who taught this to Parasurama, who later taught it to Haritaayana.

The Tripura Rahasya is a dialogue between Lord Dattatreya and Parasurama. Interesting to note here is that Parasurama is the sixth avatar of Vishnu. Thus one avatar of Vishnu teaches another avatar of Vishnu!

Parasuma, a valiant Brahmin, vowed to kill all Kshatriyas (warriors) to avenge the murder of his saintly father. After this bloodbath he started severe penances and he eventually met Lord Dattatreya, who consented to be his spiritual guide.

Introduction to the Tripura Rahasya

Tripura means three cities or the trinity. Rahasya means secret or mystery. In a sense there is no secret to be revealed. It is only due to our lack of wisdom that we do not experience our true nature. Therefore  mystery would be a more appropriate translation. Thus Tripura Rahasya means the Mystery beyond the Trinity.

The three cities or states of consciousness are waking (Jagrut), dreaming (Svapna) and Shushupti (deep sleep). The underlying consciousness in them all is called Sri Tripura, the Mother Goddess.

Vedantic Practice of Contemplation known as Vichara is recommended

Hemachuda, a prince married Hemalekha the daughter of a sage. The prince soon notices that Hemalekha is not interested in the pleasures of love. Hemalekha enlightens her husband with an incredible tale told in Chapter 5: On Bondage and Release. This is a wonderful story to contemplate upon. Fortunately the Tripura Rahasya also provides a key to this parable in Chapter 8. Using this parable as a means to contemplation, the Prince attains the state of self- realization. This vedantic method of contemplation is also referred to as "Neti, neti" or "not this, not this", for all is eliminated until nothing remains but the Self.

Tripura Rahasya: Unconventional scriptural text

In chapter 12 another fascinating story is narrated, that of Mahasena and the Sage's son. The Sage's son has built his own world inside a hill. The circumference of the hill is hardly two and a half miles yet when Mahasena enters the hill, inside he sees the sun, stars, sky, oceans, islands, mountains, distant lands, in fact an entire universe exists within the mountain. In this world created by the Sage's son, only a day passed, but in Mahasena's world 12000 years flew past. Imagine the shock Mahasena receives when he returns to his world!Clearly the sages knew long before Einstein that Time was not constant. 

In chapters 13 and 14 the sage's son explains the similarity between waking and dreaming states and how the universe is entirely imaginery. In this story one notices the resemblance to the philosophical ideas of the Yoga Vasistha. On reading this story a contemplative mind may also ask: If the Sage's son is so knowledgeable and powerful what state has the Sage himself attained! A thought definitely worth pondering over.

It is interesting to note that there are a number of women saints of great wisdom mentioned in this text. Since the status of women in society was not very high this text stands apart as daring and unconventional. In chapter 15 a woman hermit enlightens the great sage Ashtavakra.

That this Gnostic text does not respect the existing cultural values and the positions in society is clear, when King Janaka explains and clarifies to Ashtvakra in chapter 16 what the woman hermit said. This was unheard of in the times of the all powerful Brahmins, custodians of knowledge.

Chapter 17 is of particular interest for it deals with the practical aspects. "Fleeting samadhis"are mentioned here. This implies that Samadhi is not an uncommon experience. Though such an experience is of no value for it cannot eradicate ignorance and lead to Self Realization. The different stages of practice  Sravana, Manana and Nidhidhyasana are also elaborated here.

English Translation of the Tripura Rahasya

Originally written in Sanskrit and translated in to number of local languages, most likely the first translation in English is by Swami Ramanananda Saraswathi (Sri Munagala S. Venkataramaiah) Published by Sri Ramanasramam, Tiruvannamalai.