Auspicious Wisdom

The Texts and Traditions of Śrividyā Śākta Tantrism in South India

By Douglas Renfrew Brooks

Subjects: Tantra
Series: SUNY series in Tantric Studies
Paperback : 9780791411469, 328 pages, October 1992
Hardcover : 9780791411452, 328 pages, October 1992

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Table of contents




Studying Goddess-Centered Hindu Tantrism: Take Srividya, for example
Reading Auspicious Wisdom

Part One: Srividya Tradition and Texts



Identifying Srividya in Sakta Tantrism
Srividya and Smarta Brahmanism
Orthodoxy and Orthopraxies in Srividya


1. Kula Tantrism and Srividya Tradition


Oral and Written Tantric Tradition and the Development of Tantric Canons
Srividya: Goddess Worship in the Srikula Tantras
Srividya within and beyond Kula Tantrism


2. Earliest Historical Evidence for Srividya in Tamil Literature

3. Srividya in Text and History


Determining Srividya Sources in South Indian Tradition
The Srikula Trantras and Other Early Sources
Gaudapada, Sankara, and the Sankara Tradition
Ritual Source Books, Treatises, and Later Tradition
Regional and Vernacular Sources of Srividya and Further Remarks on the Concept of Authority and Scripture


4. The Goddess Lalita Mahatripurasundari: The Sthula Aspect


Lalita the Great Goddess
The Making of a Great Goddess
Lalita Tripurasundari and Her Subordinates
The Iconographic and Mythic Lalita in South Indian Temples
The Esoteric Interpretation of Lalita's Image and Mythology


5. The Srividya Mantra: srividya


The Subtle Aspect of Devi
Interpreting the Canon of Signs
Mythical and Historical Derivation of the srividya
Kamesvara and Lopamudra: kadi and hadi vidyas
The srividya, Sakta speculations, and Triadic symbolism
The srividya, Vedic gayatri, and Vedic traditions
Esoteric Meanings of the srividya
The srividya Appended to other Mantras
Tripura Upanisad, Hadi, and Kadi Vidya
Sodasaksari: The Sixteen Syllable Form of the srividya
The Meaning of the Vidya, Initiation, and other Mantras
Secrecy and the Articulation of the Mantra


6. Sricakara: The Transcendent Aspect of Devi


Introductory Remarks
Sricakra: Creation as the Form of God
The Sricakra Deities


Part Two: Interpreting Tantric Ritual


Introduction: Why Theorize about Srividya Ritual?
The Vaidika Tantric: Acquiring Power by Exploiting Incongruity
The Fivefold Structure of Srividya Ritual
Tantric Scholarship and Modes of Comparison
Tantric and Non-Tantric Worlds of Convergence and Disjuncture
Convergent and Utopic Maps of the World
Ritual Strategies and Objectives
Beyond Tantric and Vedic Ritual Ideologies: The Religious Virtuosi


Appendix of Diagrams




Rooting itself in Kashmir Shaivism, Śrividyā became a force in South India no later than the seventh century, and eventually supplanted the Trika as the dominant Tantric tradition in Kashmir. This is the first comprehensive study of the texts and traditions of this influential school of goddess-centered, Śākta, Tantrism. Centering on the goddess's three manifestations—the beneficent deity Lalita Tripurasundari, her mantra, and the visually striking sricakra—Śrividyā creates a systematic esoteric discipline that combines elements of the yogas of knowledge, of devotion, and of ritual. Utilizing canonical works, historical commentaires, and the interpretive insights of living practitioners, this book explores the theological and ritual theories that form the basis for Śrividyā practice and offers new methods for critical and comparative studies of esoteric Hinduism.

Douglas Renfrew Brooks is Assistant Professor of Religion and Director of Asian Studies, University of Rochester. Brook's textual and historical investigations of Sakta tantrism are augmented by extensive field work and experience among contemporary practitioners. He is also the author of The Secret of the Three Cities: An Introduction to Hindu Sakta Tantrism.