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Mahanirvana Tantra (Tantra of the Great Liberation) | Translated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe)



THE Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga, and as such are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox "Hinduism." The Tantra Shastra is, in fact, and whatever be its historical origin, a development of the Vaidika Karmakanda, promulgated to meet the needs of that age. Shiva says: "For the benefit of men of the Kali age, men bereft of energy and dependent for existence on the food they eat, the Kaula doctrine, O auspicious one! is given" (Chap. IX., verse 12). To the Tantra we must therefore look if we would understand aright both ritual, yoga, and sadhana of all kinds, as also the general principles of which these practices are but the objective expression.

TitleMahanirvana Tantra (Tantra of the Great Liberation)
AuthorTranslated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe)
PublisherUnknown
Year1913
Copyright1913, Arthur Avalon
AmazonMahanirvana Tantra: Tantra of the Great Liberation

Translated from sanscrit

-Preface
The Indian Tantras, which are numerous, constitute the Scripture (Shastra) of the Kaliyuga, and as such are the voluminous source of present and practical orthodox Hinduism. The Tantra Shastra is, i...
-Introduction. Mount Kailasa
The scene of the revelation of this Tantra is laid in Himalaya, the Abode of Snow, a holy land weighted with the traditions of the Aryan race. Here in these lofty uplands, encircled with everlasting...
-Shiva and Shakti
That eternal immutable existence which transcends the turiya and all other states is the unconditioned Absolute, the supreme Brahman or Para-brahman, without Prakriti (nishkala) or Her attributes (nir...
-Guna
It cannot be said that current explanations give a clear understanding of this subject. Yet such is necessary, both as affording one of the chief keys to Indian philosophy and to the principles which ...
-The Worlds (Loka)
This earth, which is the object of the physical senses and of the knowledge based thereon, is but one of fourteen worlds or regions placed above and below it, of which (as the sutra says) knowledg...
-Inhabitants of the Worlds
The worlds are inhabited by countless grades of beings, ranging from the highest Devas (of whom there are many classes and degrees) to the lowest animal life. The scale of beings runs from the shining...
-Varna
Ordinarily there are four chief divisions or castes (varna) of Hindu society, viz.: Brahmana (priesthood; teaching); Kshattriya (warrior); Vaishya (merchant); Shudra (servile), said to have sprung res...
-Ashrama
The four stages, conditions, or periods in the life of a Brahman are: First, that of the chaste student, or brahmachari; second, the period of secular life as a married householder, or grihastha; thir...
-Correspondence Between Macrocosm and Microcosm
The universe consists of a Mahabrahmanda, or grand Kosmos, and of numerous Brihatbrahmanda, or macrocosms evolved from it. As is said by the Nirvana Tantra, all which is in the first is in the second....
-The Ages
The passage of time within a maha-yoga influences for the worse man and the world in which he lives. This passage is marked by the four ages (yuga), called Satya, Treta, Dvapara, and Kali-yuga, the la...
-The Scriptures of the Ages
Each of these Ages has its appropriate Shastra or Scripture, designed to meet the characteristics and needs of the men who live in them The Hindu Shastra are classed into: (1) Shruti, which commonly i...
-The Human Body
The human body is Brahma-para, the city of Brahman. Ishvara Himself enters into the universe as jiva. Wherefore the maha-vakya That thou art means that the ego (which is regarded as jiva only from t...
-The Five Sheaths (Koshas). Anna-Maya, Prana-Maya, Mano-Maya, Vij˝ana-Maya, Ananda-Maya
In the body there are five kosha or sheaths: Anna-maya, prana-maya, mano-maya, vij˝ana-maya, ananda-maya, or the physical and vital bodies, the two mental bodies, and the body of bliss. In the first t...
-Nadi
It is said that there are 3Ż crores of nadi in the human body, of which some are gross and some are subtle. Nadi means a nerve or artery in the ordinary sense; but all the nadis of which the books on ...
-Chakras
There are six chakra, or dynamic Tattvik centres, in the body, viz., the muladhara, svadhishthana, mani-pura, anahata, vishuddha, and ajna, which are described in the following notes. Over all there i...
-The Three Temperaments
The Tantras speak of three temperaments, dispositions, characters (bhava), or classes of men, namely, the pashu-bhava (animal), vira-bhava (heroic), and divya-bhava (deva-like or divine). These divisi...
-Guru and Shishya
The Guru is the religious teacher and spiritual guide to whose direction orthodox Hindus of all divisions of worshippers submit themselves. There is in reality but one Guru. The ordinary human Guru is...
-Initiation. Diksha
Initiation is the giving of mantra by the guru. At the time of initiation the guru must first establish the life of the guru in his own body; that is the vital force (prana-shakti) of the Supreme Guru...
-Abhisheka
Abhisheka is of eight kinds, and the forms of abhisheka which follow the first at later stages, mark greater and greater degrees of initiation. The first shaktabhisheka is given on entrance into the p...
-Sadhana
Sadhana is that which produces siddhi (q.v.). It is the means, or practice, by which the desired end may be attained, and consists in the exercise and training of the body and psychic faculties, upon ...
-Worship Generally
There are four different forms of worship corresponding with four states (bhava). The realization that the jivatma and paramatma are one, that everything is Brahman, and that nothing but the Brahman e...
-Forms of Achara
There are seven, or, as some say, nine, divisions of worshippers. The extra divisions are bracketed in the following quotation. The Kularnava Tantra mentions seven, which are given in their order of s...
-Mantra
Shabda, or sound, which is of the Brahman, and as such the cause of the Brahmanda, is the manifestation of the Chit-shakti Itself. The Vishva-sara Tantra says that tha Para-brahman, as Shabda-brahman,...
-The Gayatri Mantra
The Gayatri is the most sacred of all Vaidik mantras. In it the Veda lies embodied as in its seed. It runs: Ong bhur bhuvah svah: tat savitur varenyam bhargo devasya dhimahi: dhiyo yo nah prachodayat....
-Yantra
This word in its most general sense means an instrument, or that by which anything is accomplished. In worship it is that by which the mind is fixed on its object. The Yogini Tantra says that the Devi...
-Mudra
The term mudrais derived from the root mud, to please, and in its upasana form is so called because it gives pleasure to the Devas. Devanang moda-da mudra tasmat tang yatnatashcharet. It is said tha...
-Sandhya
The Vaidika sandhya is the rite performed by the twice-born castes thrice a day, at morning, midday, and evening. The morning sandhya is preceded by the following acts. On awakening, a mantra is said ...
-Puja
This word is the common term for worship of which there are numerous synonyms in the Sanskrit language. Puja is done daily of the Ishta-devata or the particular Deity worshipped by the sadhaka, the De...
-Yajna
This word, which comes from the root yaj (to worship), is commonly translated sacrifice. The Sanskrit word is, however, retained in the translation, since Yajna means other things also than those wh...
-Vrata
Vrata is a part of Naimittika, or voluntary karma. It is that which is the cause of virtue (punya), and is done to achieve its fruit. Vrata are of various kinds. Some of the chief are Janmashtami on K...
-Tapas
This term is generally translated as meaning penance or austerities. It includes these, such as the four monthly fast (chatur-masya), the sitting between five fires (pancha-gnitapah), and the like. It...
-Japa
Japa is defined as vidhanena mantrochcharanam, or the repeated utterance or recitation of mantra according to certain rules. It is according to the Tantra-sara of three kinds: Vachika or verbal japa...
-Sangskara
There are ten (or, in the case of Shudras, nine) purificatory ceremonies, or sacraments, called sangskara, which are done to aid and purify the jiva in the important events of his life. These are ji...
-Purashcharana
This form of sadhana consists in the repetition (after certain preparations and under certain conditions) of a mantra a large number of times. The ritual deals with the time and place of performance, ...
-Bhuta-shuddhi
The object of this ritual, which is described in Chapter V., verses 93 et seq., is the purification of the elements of which the body is composed. The Mantra-mahodadhi speaks of it as a rite which is...
-Nyasa
This word, which comes from the root to place, means placing the tips of the fingers and palm of the right hand on various parts of the body, accompanied by particular mantra. The nyasa are of vario...
-Panchatattva
There are, as already stated, three classes of men, pashu, Vira, and Divya. The operation of the guna which produce these types affect, on the gross material plane, the animal tendencies, manifesting ...
-Chakrapuja
Worship with the panchatattva generally takes place in an assembly called a chakra, which is composed of men (sadhaka) and women (shakti), or Bhairava and Bhairavi. The worshippers sit in a circle (ch...
-Yoga
This word, derived from the root Yuj (to join), is in grammar sandhi, in logic avayavashakti, or the power of the parts taken together, and in its most widely known and present sense the union of th...
-Shodhana: Shatkarmma
The first, or cleansing, is effected by the six processes known as the shatkarmma. Of these, the first is Dhauti, or washing, which is fourfold, or inward washing (antar-dhauti), cleansing of the teet...
-Dridhata: Asana
Dridhata, or strength or firmness, the acquisition of which is the second of the above-mentioned processes, is attained by asana. Asana are postures of the body. The term is generally described as mo...
-Sthirata: Mudra
Sthirata, or fortitude, is acquired by the practice of the mudra. The mudra dealt with in works of hathayoga are positions of the body. They are gymnastic, health-giving, and destructive of disease, a...
-Dhairya: Pratyahara
Dhairya, or steadiness, is produced by pratyahara. Pratyahara is the restraint of the senses, the freeing of the mind from all distractions, and the keeping of it under the control of the Atma. The mi...
-Laghava: Pranayama
From pranayama (q.v.) arises laghava (lightness). All beings say the ajapa Gayatri, which is the expulsion of the breath by Hangkara, and its inspiration by Sahkara, 21,600 times a day. Ordinarily, t...
-Pratyaksha: Dhyana
Through dhyana is gained the third quality of realization or pratyaksha. Dhyana, or meditation, is of three kinds: (1) sthula, or gross; (2) jyotih; (3) sukshma, or subtle. In the first the form of th...
-Nirliptatva: Samadhi
Lastly, through samadhi the quality of nirliptatva, or detachment, and thereafter mukti (liberation) is attained. Samadhi considered as a process is intense mental con-centration, with freedom from al...
-Forms Of Samadhi Yoga
This samadhi yoga is, according to the Gheranda Sanghita, of six kinds. (1) Dhyanayogasamadhi, attained by shambhavi mudra, in which, after meditation on the Vindu-Brahman and realization of the Atma ...
-Shatchakra-bheda
The piercing of the six chakra is one of the most important subjects dealt with in the Tantras, and is part of the practical yaga process of which they treat. Details of practice can only be learnt fr...
-Sin and Virtue
According to Christian conceptions, sin is a violation of the personal will of, and apostasy from, God. The flesh is the source of lusts which oppose God's commands, and in this lies its positive sign...
-Karma
Karma is action, its cause, and effect. There is no uncaused action, nor action without effect. The past, the present, and the future are linked together as one whole. The ichchha, jnana, and kriya sh...
-Four Aims Of Being
There is but one thing which all seek, happiness, though it be of differing kinds and sought in different ways. All forms, whether sensual, intellectual, or spiritual, are from the Brahman, who is Its...
-Dharma
Dharma means that which is to be held fast or kept, law, usage, custom, religion, piety, right, equity, duty, good works, and morality. It is, in short, the eternal and immutable (sanatana) principles...
-Kama
Kama is desire, such as that for wealth, success, family, position, or other forms of happiness for self or others. It also involves the notion of the necessity for the posses-sion of great and noble ...
-Artha
Artha (wealth) stands for the means by which this life may be maintained, in the lower sense, food, drink, money, house, land, and other property; and in the higher sense the means by which effect may...
-Moksha. Mukti
Of the four aims, moksha or mukti is the truly ultimate end, for the other three are ever haunted by the fear of Death the Ender. Mukti means loosening or liberation. It is advisable to avoid the t...
-Siddhi
Siddhi is produced by sadhana. The former term, which literally means success, includes accomplishment, achievement, success, and fruition of all kinds. A person may thus gain siddhi in speech, sidd...
-Chapter 1. Questions relating to the Liberation of Beings
THE enchanting summit of the Lord of Mountains, resplendent with all its various jewels, clad with many a tree and many a creeper, melodious with the song of many a bird, scented with the fragrance of...
-Chapter 2. Introduction to the Worship of Brahman
HAVING heard the words of the Devi, Shangkara, Bestower of happiness on the world, great Ocean of mercy, thus of the truth of things spoke. Sadashiva said: O Exalted and Holy One! Benefactress of th...
-Chapter 3. Description of the Worship of the Supreme Brahman
SHRI DEVI said: O Deva of the Devas, great Deva, Guru of Brihaspati himself, Thou Who discourseth of all Scriptures, Mantra, Sadhana, and hast spoken of the Supreme Brahman by the adoration of Whom m...
-Description of the Worship of the Supreme Brahman. Continued
Stotra Ong! I bow to Thee, the eternal Refuge of all: I bow to Thee, the pure Intelligence manifested in the universe. I bow to Thee Who in His essence is One and Who grants liberation. I bow to T...
-Chapter 4. Introduction of the Worship of the Supreme Prakriti
HAVING listened with attention to that which has been said concerning the worship of the Supreme Brahman, the Supreme Devi greatly pleased again thus questioned Shankara (1). Shri Devi said: O Lord ...
-Chapter 5. The Formation of the Mantras, Placing of the Jar, and Purification of the Elements of Worship
SHRI SADASHIVA said: Thou art the Adya Parama Shakti, Thou art all Power. It is by Thy power that We (the Trinity) are powerful in the acts of creation, preservation, and destruction. Endless and of ...
-The Formation of the Mantras, Placing of the Jar, and Purification of the Elements of Worship. Part 2
Having thus meditated on the great Devi Gayatri, and offered water three times in the hollow of his joined hands, the worshipper should make Japa with the Gayatri either ten or a hundred times (61). L...
-Formation of the Mantras, Placing of the Jar, and Purification of the Elements of Worship. Part 3
Having thus meditated upon the Devi Matrika, place the letters in the six Chakras as follows: Ha and Kska in the Ajna Lotus, the sixteen vowels in the Vishuddha Lotus, the letters from Ka to Tha in th...
-The Formation of the Mantras, Purification of the Elements of Worship. Part 4
Draw a triangle with the Maya Vija within it, and around it two concentric circles (the one outside the other). In the space between the two circumferences of the circles draw in pairs the sixteen fil...
-Chapter 6. Placing of the Shri-patra, Homa, Formation of the Chakra, and other Rites
SHRI DEVI said: As Thou hast kindness for Me, pray tell Me, O Lord! more particularly about the Pancha-tattvas and the other observances of which Thou hast spoken (1). Shri Sadashiva said: There ar...
-Placing of the Shri-patra, Homa, Formation of the Chakra, and other Rites. Part 2
Vang, Salutation to Vatuka, he should be worshipped in the East of the rectangle, and then sacrifice should be offered to him (55). Then, with the Mantra Yang to the Yogin is Svaha, sacrifice s...
-Placing of the Shri-patra, Homa, Formation of the Chakra, other Rites. Part 3
Then, taking the sacrificial knife, the excellent worshipper should worship it with the Vija Hung, and worship Sarasvati and Brahma at its end, Lakshmi and Narayana at its middle, and Uma and Mahesh...
-Chapter 7. Hymn of Praise (Stotra), Amulet (Kavacha), and the description of the Kula-tattva
PARVATI was pleased at hearing the revelation of the auspicious Mantra of the Adya Kalika, which yields abundant blessings, is the only means of attaining to a knowledge of the Divine essence, and lea...
-Chapter 8. The Dharma and Customs of the Castes and Ashramas
AFTER hearing of the various forms of Dharma, Bhavani, Mother of the worlds, Destructress of all worldly bonds, spoke again to Shankara (1). Shri Devi said: I have heard of the different Dharma, whi...
-The Dharma and Customs of the Castes and Ashramas. Part 2
The wise householder's speech should be truthful, mild, agreeable, and salutary, yet pleasing, avoiding both self-praise and the disparagement of others (62). The man who has dedicated tanks, planted ...
-The Dharma and Customs of the Castes and Ashramas. Part 3
He should be an expert in the maintenance of his forts, well trained in the use of arms. He should ever ascertain the disposition of his army, and teach his soldiers military tactics (123). O Devi1 he...
-The Dharma and Customs of the Castes and Ashramas. Part 4
While the circle is being formed, all dangers flee in confusion, awed by the Brahmanic lustre of its heroes (184). Upon the mere hearing that a Bhairavi circle has been formed at any place, fierce Pis...
-Chapter 9. The Ten Kinds of Purificatory Rites (Sangskara)
THE Adorable Sadashiva said: O Virtuous One! I have spoken to Thee of the custom and religious duties appropriate to the different castes and stages of life. Do thou now listen whilst I tell Thee of ...
-The Ten Kinds of Purificatory Rites (Sangskara). Part 2
Mantra Hring, O Lord of Sacrifice! may this Sacrifice of mine be complete. May all the Devatas of sacrifices be pleased and grant that which is desired. Svaha (55). The wise one should then, with th...
-The Ten Kinds of Purificatory Rites (Sangskara). Part 3
Mantra As the Earth is pregnant of Fire, as the Heaven is pregnant of Indra, as the Points of the compass are pregnant of the Air they contain, so do thou also become pregnant (by this my seed) (116)...
-The Ten Kinds of Purificatory Rites (Sangskara). Part 4
The father should place the son on his mother's lap, the mother sitting on her husband's left, and, after breathing the Varuna Vija ten times over the water, rub the hair of the boy's head with lukewa...
-The Ten Kinds of Purificatory Rites (Sangskara). Part 5
The giver of the bride should ask after the bridegroom's welfare, and ask also his permission to honour him, and upon receiving his answer should honour him by the offer of water for his feet and the ...
-Chapter 10. Rites relating to Vriddhi Shraddha, Funeral Rites, and Purnabhisheka
SHRI DEVI said: I have now learned from Thee, O Lord! of the ordinances relating to Kushandika and the ten Sang-skaras. Do Thou now,O Deva! reveal to Me the ordinances relating to Briddhi Shraddha (1...
-Rites relating to Vriddhi Shraddha, Funeral Rites, and Purnabhisheka. Part 2
Mantra My father is my highest Dharma. My father is my highest Tapas. My father is my Heaven. On my father being satisfied, the whole Universe is satisfied (55). Taking up some flowers from the remn...
-Rites relating to Vriddhi Shraddha, Funeral Rites, Purnabhisheka. Part 3
Shri Sadashiva said: In the three Ages this rite was a great secret.; men then used to perform it in all secrecy, and thus attain liberation (110). When the Kali Age prevails, the followers of Kula ...
-Chapter 11. The Account of Expiatory Rites
LISTENING to the injunctions of Shambhu relating to the different castes and stages of life, Aparna was greatly pleased, and questioned Shangkara thus (1): Shri Devi said: Thou hast, O Lord! out of ...
-The Account of Expiatory Rites. Part 2
In the case of the boy who has neither father, mother, nor paternal grandfather, the mother's relatives are the best guardians (58). The mother's mother, mother's father, mother's brother, mother's br...
-The Account of Expiatory Rites. Part 3
The King should severely chastise and fine the man who is unsteady in hands, feet, or in speech, who is bewildered, maddened, and beyond himself with drink (118). The King, who labours for the happin...
-Chapter 12. An Account of the Eternal and Immutable Dharma
SHRI SADASHIVA said: O Primordial One! I am speaking to Thee again of the everlasting laws; the wise King may easily rule his subjects if he follows them (1). If Kings did not establish rules, men i...
-An Account of the Eternal and Immutable Dharma. Continued
Therefore, the father who marries his well-born daughter according to Shaiva rites by reason of anger or covetousness will be despised of men (61). In the absence of issue of the Shaiva marriage, the...
-Chapter 13. Installation of the Devata
PARVATI, the Mother of the three worlds, Her mind engrossed with thoughts for the purification of men polluted with the impurities of the Kali Age, humbly asked Mahesha, the Deva among Devas, who had ...
-Installation of the Devata. Part 2
Fire should be consecrated according to the injunctions laid down for Kushandika, and after offer of oblations to the best of one's ability, the Vastu-yajna should be concluded (59). I have thus desc...
-Installation of the Devata. Part 3
In rites for the attainment of peace or good fortune, or nourishment or prosperity, the Carrier of Oblations is called Varada; in rites relating to consecration he is called Lohitaksha; in destructive...
-Installation of the Devata. Part 4
Mantra O Naga! Thou art the couch of Vishnu, Thou art the adornment of Shiva; do Thou inhabit this pillar and protect my water (175). Having thus made supplication to Naga, the pillar should be set ...
-Installation of the Devata. Part 5
Mantra By me have been dedicated with devotion beautiful flowers, and charming and sweet scents prepared by Devas: do Thou accept this fiower (232). Mantra This incense-stick is the sap of the tree...
-Chapter 14. The Consecration of Shiva-linga and Description of the Four Classes of Avadhutas
SHRI DEVI said: I am grateful to Thee, O Lord of Mercy! in that Thou hast in Thy discourse upon the Worship of the Adya Shakti, spoken, in Thy mercy, of the mode of Worship of various other Devas (1)...
-The Consecration of Shiva-linga and Description of the Four Classes of Avadhutas. Part 2
After bathing the Devi in a similar way with the Mula Mantra, and worshipping Her, the good worshipper should pray to Shangkara with joined palms (58). Mantra Come, O Bhagavan! O Shambhu! O Thou bef...
-The Consecration of Shiva-linga, Description of the Four Classes of Avadhutas. Part 3
Those who (in their ignorance) believe that Ishvara is (only) in images made of clay, or stone, or metal, or wood, merely trouble themselves by their tapas. They can never attain liberation without kn...







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