The Ten Great Cosmic Powers by S. Shankaranarayanan (Samata Books, 1972)
It is very difficult to find information on the ten Mahavidyas (ten great deities) of the Hindu Tantra tradition in the west. They are also known as ten great cosmic powers or ten wisdoms However, I was able to obtain this very find copy direct from India by Samata Books. The author is a respected Tantric scholar and has spent much of his life devoted to the manifestations of the Mahavidyas. This is a small book, about 160 pages. You can purchase it from the publisher whom I contacted at this email address: email@example.com.
This is what I learned from the book. Many of the tantric concepts I’ve worked out in a series of articles I wrote over the past few months in relation to Babalon. However, here are the basic understandings from the book itself.
In the Hindu traditions, where the concept of Ten Wisdoms originates, Time is represented by Kali who dances in the burning cremation grounds. She is the Dark Mother, the devourer of Time. She exists in three forms: Past, Present and Future. It is a relative experience as the Past was once the Future and someday the Future will be long Past. Time is a continuous river where we drift toward a destination unknown.
The second of the Ten Great Wisdoms is the Wisdom of Illumination. We are born in ignorance. We spend our entire lives in an effort to make sense of the universe. Only with learning and education can humanity come close to this goal. This is why a person who has obtained supreme knowledge of their surroundings is called “Illuminated”. In the Hindu Tantras, Illumination is represented by Tara. She has many forms, but her most fierce form shows her mounted on a corpse. Tara gathers human ignorance in a bowl made from a skull and destroys it.
The third Great Wisdom is Desire. Love is the desire to join in union with the Supreme Reality. This is the longing one feels for union with the infinite. Desire is the secret of all creation, the basis of Divine Manifestation and what keeps humans alive. If we have no desire for the Absolute, we become dead. In the Hindu Tantra traditions, this Wisdom of Desire is represented by Tripurasendari, or “She Who is Beautiful in the Three Realms”. Tripurasendari is recognized as a manifestation of Shakti, or the female essence of Supreme Reality.
Speech is one of the Ten Great Wisdoms. Speech is represented by the deity Matangi. She is described as being green in color and playing a stringed instrument. By speech, thoughts are made manifest. Thoughts enter the world of ideas in the form of words and words become speech to transmit their ideas to fellow humans.
Silence is Wisdom because sometimes it is best to say nothing. How many times have you been around people who wish to push their point no matter what the consequences? There is nothing so annoying as the person who won’t shut up in the tavern. In the Hindu Tantras, this Wisdom is represented by Bagalamukhi. She carries a club to smash delusion.
The sixth of the Ten Great Wisdoms is Force. Force brought the Supreme Reality into this existence. Force is how the Supreme Reality is manifested in this universe. It arrives in our Reality with the flash of lighting and the sound of thunder. This is how Force is used to bring our reality from the Absolute. The whole reason for creation is for the Supreme Reality to manifest itself into many distinct parts. There are an infinite number of these parts. Force represents the power of Will and Vision. In the Hindu Tantras, the Wisdom of Force is represented by the deity Chinnamasta (“The Headless One”). She is portrayed as dancing on the bodies of a couple in the act of love. She carries her own severed head that drenches blood over her naked body. Chinnamasta represents the power of Force over Desire.
In the beginning was Darkness. This is not the Darkness of the night, but the Darkness of a thing waiting to come into existence. It is the Primal Darkness that exists in a state of potential creation. It is the full adult that will emerge from the fertilized cell some day in the future. It is the non-being that creates the being. Darkness is the non-being that waits to come into existence. Darkness is represented as a Great Wisdom in the form of Dhumavati, an old widow woman.
In the Hindu Tantras, the Wisdom of Fire is represented by Tripurbhairavi (“The terror of the three realms”). The power of her truth burns away all barricades to spiritual growth. She is portrayed as a fierce woman seated on a lotus. The fire of self-awareness burns in every human. The fire of ambition forces us to achieve more than we thought possible. Fire is concentrated awareness.
In the Hindu Tantras, Space is represented by Bhuvaneshwari, the ruler of all worlds. She is the great mother of our reality. Space is created in our minds. If we cannot perceive it, it does not exist to us. It’s pointless to speculate about the Supreme Reality or Absolute since it will always be there and does not have much to do with us on a daily basis. However, the reality that proceeds, the dimension that has dimension and matter, does affect us every day of our lives.
In the Hindu Tantras, Beauty is represented by the deity Kamala. She sits in a lotus and holds the same in her hands. She is the final Great Wisdom. The Supreme Reality is beautiful beyond our understanding, but we find ways to approximate it. All great art strives for Beauty. Beauty inspires people and brings them joy. There is Beauty in all things.
This is an excellent short book which I wish more people knew about. Order it directly from the publisher, whom you can contact at the email I furnished.