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The Brahmayamala Tantra or Picumata (The Religious Observances and Sexual Ritual of the Tantric Practitioner: Chapter 3, 21 and 45)

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Item Code: NAK612
Author: Csaba Kiss
Publisher: Institut Francais De Pondichery
Language: Transliteration and English Translation
Edition: 2015
ISBN: 9788184702071
Pages: 374
Cover: Paperback
Other Details 9.5 inch x 6.5 inch
Weight 670 gm
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About the Book


The Brahmayamalatantra (aka Picumata) is probably one of the earliest surviving Saiva tantras, and possibly the earliest one known to us of the Bhairavatantra tradition. The present volume contains a critical edition and annotated translation of three of its chapters: one on the central mandala of the cult, one on preliminary religious observances (vrata) prescribed for all practitioners (sadhaka), and one on instructions for each individual category of sadhaka instructions on transgressive sexual rituals for the Talaka, on strict rules of conduct for the chaste Carubhojin, and on a combination of these for the Mixed Practitioner. This unique system of sadhakas marks an early phase in the development of classification of practitioners seeking liberation and magical powers, and gives us an insight into the tantric world of extremes: of rule-bound sexual encounters involving several female partners and highly impure substances on the one hand, and of asceticism, strict vegetarianism and chastity on the other.


The introduction deals with the main topics raised by the selected chapters, as well as with problems of the sometimes extremely non-standard (Aisa) Sanskrit that the oldest manuscript transmits. One of the appendices provides a summary of the first twenty-five chapters (about one quarter of the Brahmayamala) to facilitate further study. The extensive index includes all important keywords and all major Aisa phenomena.



1.1 General Introduction

In this volume, I focus on the obscure and intriguing figure of the tantric practitioner (sadhaka) of mediaeval India, investigating his (and her) obligatory daily rituals as well as the occasional and optional rites he (and she) are entitled to perform, many times together as sexual partners, as presented in an early Saiva tantra, the 12000-verse Brahmayamala (BraYa). This text is also known as the Picumata, the Navaksaravidhana, the Dvadasasahasraka, the Ucchusma and the Vimala.1 The BraYa is one of the oldest surviving Bhairava-tantras if not simply the oldest of them, dated recently to around the seventh century. Its importance for mediaeval India, and mediaeval Indian authors can be inferred, among other things, from the fact that Abhinavagupta cites it frequently in his Tantraloka The fact that Buddhist tantras, especially the Laghusarpvara, contain extensive passages that are borrowed from the BraYa add considerably to its importance for the reconstruction of the history of mediaeval Indian religions.


The practitioners of later Saiva tantra are very commonly classified into four classes, and thus are given instructions on and entitled to pursue one of four kinds of ritual life: that of the samayin, the sadhaka, the putraka or the acarya. The case of the BraYa, and of other early tantric texts such as the Nisvasatattvasamhita (Nisv), is different: the practitioner is commonly and generally called sadhaka, and is variously classified into a number of groups. Early chapters of the BraYa mention three such groups or classes of practitioners, Sadhakas. This is what is expounded in great detail in one of the chapters edited, translated and analysed in the present volume (patala 45).


One of the two other chapters edited here (patala 3) gives us a general and basic overview of the cult's pantheon and initiation mandala. The core of the pantheon consists of the main deities Kapalisa and Canda Kapalini (her Vidya OM KANDE KAPALINI SVAHA, is the central mantra of the Bra'Ya), who are surrounded by the four Devis/Guhyakas (Rakta, Karali, Candaksi, Mahocchusma), the four Kinkaris/Dutis (Karala, Dantura, Bhimavaktra, Mahabala), the six Yoginis (Krostuki, Vijaya, Gajakarna, Mahamukhi, Cakravega, Mahanasa) and the eight Mothers/Matrs (Mahesvari/Mahesvari, Brahmi, Vaisnavi, Kaumari, Vaivasvati, Indrani/ Mahendri, Candika/ Camunda/Carcika, Aghori). Presenting this chapter here seemed useful to contextualise and locate many of the rituals described in the subsequent chapters, most of which are to be performed actually inside the mandala.


The third chapter I have choosen to edit for this volume is very closely related to patala 45 mentioned above, being nothing less than an elaboration on one phase in the Sadhaka's religious career touched upon briefly in patala 45, namely on the ascetic observances (vrata) required before setting foot on one of the three paths of the Sadhaka.


There has been relatively little scholarly work done on the BraYa. There are two scholars who are definitely to be mentioned in this respect. One is Alexis Sanderson, the first scholar to contextualise the BraYa within the Saiva tantric tradition and to give a detailed account of its general characteristics. He comments on various aspects of the text in many of his seminal articles. The other is Shaman Hatley, who devoted his ground breaking PhD thesis to the Bra'Ya (HATLEY 2007).


My present contribution is a very modest one. The BraYa being a very extensive text, no comprehensive study of all its important features or a complete critical edition seems a feasible task at the moment. It took me a considerable time to narrow down all the possibilities offered by the text to the topic of the Sadhaka. The 674-verse-Iong main Sadhaka chapter (BraYa 45) gives a detailed description of its subject matter and is relatively coherent: this is one of the reasons why it seemed a good idea to focus on it. The edition of the Mandala chapter (BraYa 3) can be seen as a continuation of HATLEY'S edition of the first two patalas in HATLEY 2007, which is an additional reason to include it here. Finally, BraYa 21 is not only related to BraYa 45, but provides interesting confirmation for the BraYa's close relationship with the Jayadrathayamala (JRY, see section 1.3 on pp. 31ff.).


In the following, I will analyse each of the three patalas critically edited, translated and annotated in the second half of this volume. After the analyses, and some general remarks on the available manuscripts and my editorial policy, there follows the Sanskrit text and annotated translation of the three selected chapters.


The appendices contain a summary of the first twenty-five patalas of the BraYa to give the reader some general picture of the overall character of the first quarter of the text, as well as a chart presenting the measurements given in BraYa 4.10-16 for comparison with similar charts in GOODALL 2004:523. It is followed by a list of abbreviations, bibliography and index.


1.2 The Mandala

1.2.1 General remarks

The main objective of editing and publishing chapter 3 of the BraYa and to present a detailed account of the pantheon of its cult is to help contextualise the innumerable rituals the text teaches. Most rituals taught in the BraYa include some sets of deities that are first introduced, enumerated and placed in a hierarchy of deities in patala 3. As I will try to show below, most of the sexual rituals taught in patala 45 (edited in this volume) are performed in the great initiation mandala taught in patala 3.


Additionally, the nine geographical locations mentioned in the course of the construction of the mandala, i.e. the nine cremation grounds of Prayaga, Varanasi etc., could provide us with some clues on the provenance of the text. An analysis of these locations has been attempted by HATLEY (2007:228236), but it is difficult to arrive at any definitive conclusion. According to HATLEY (2007:235), "Orissa might seem a strong candidate" for the place of origin of the text. All I can add to this is that the fact that the centre of the initiation mandala of the BraYa is Prayaga may have some weight, and may lead us to the supposition that the birth-place of the text should not lie extremely far from Prayaga, modern Allahabad. In support of Prayaga being the place of origin of the text, one could also refer to BraYa 1.27-28, in which Sattika, the Goddess herself, is said to be incarnated in Kanavira, a village near Prayaga.


1.2.2 On domestic worship

Since patala 3 starts with a brief summary of domestic pantheon-worship (grhayaga or navayaga), it is perhaps not unnecessary to clarify some of its details, although it has little to do with the mandala itself. For a longer description of one form of navayaga, see BraYa patala 13: the Sadhaka installs the four Guhyakas, the four Dutis, Bhairava and Bhairavi on the petals and the pericarps of nine eight-petalled lotus truuuialas. The deities alternate in occupying the pericarp of the lotuses.


BraYa 3 (and the Jayadrathayamala, see JRY 1.48.4ff) teaches nine forms of domestic pantheon-worship based on nine household items, in which the deities dwell or on which one should visualise them.


A list of five household items appears already in Manusmrti 3.68: culli, pesani, upaskara, kandani, udakumbha. These are considered there as potentially dangerous instruments for the householder because by using them he may kill small living creatures unintentionally. Other lists of nine household items appear in texts such as the Kubjikamatatantra and the Somasambhupaddhati etc.


1.2.3 The construction of the mandala

Verses 5-50ab in patala 3 of the BraYa focus on the actual construction of the initiation mandala. The main points to emphasise here are the following: the measuring and tracing of the mandala is performed using impure substances, befitting a transgressive Bhairava-tantra; the core pantheon is located on a lotus in the centre around which an intricate pattern of eight passageways (vithi) is to be constructed, with their open gates placed in the cardinal directions beginning with the North; there are eight additional lotuses called 'cremation' grounds (Smasana) outside the passageways and the enclosing wall; the area of the whole structure is approximately 4 x 4 metres. See a very sketchy reconstruction of the initiation mandala of the BraYa, as described in patala 3, on the next page. Note that in order to reach the centre using the open gates and passageways, one has to circumambulate (pradaksina) the mandala six times.


1.2.4 The core pantheon

The central area of the mandala, which is to be visualised as the cremation ground of Prayaga, contains the core pantheon: Kapalisa surrounded by the four Devis/Guhyakas (Rakta, Karali, Candaksi, Mahocchusma), the four Kinkaris/Dutis (Karala, Dantura, Bhimavaktra, Mahabala), the six Yoginis (Krostuki, Vijaya, Gajakarna, Mahamukhi, Cakravega, Mahanasa) and the eight Matrs (Mahesvari /Mahesvari, Brahmi, Vaisnavi, Kaumari, Vaivasvati, Indrani, Candika/Mahendri, Aghori/Carcika).





Part One









Editorial Policies: Language and Conventions



Part Two



The Critically Edited Sanskrit Texts









Summary of Brahmayamala 1-25



Measurements in Brahmayamala4.10-17ab



Abbreviations and Symbols



Works consulted






Sample Pages

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