Spiritual life in Sri Vidya properly begins with a formal initiation by a competent sri-vidya-guru and it most often consists of a simple or complex ritual, or a series of rituals, in which the seminal and most potent mantras of a particular tradition are secretly given by the teacher to his/her student within a continuous lineage of transmission (guru-sishya-parampara) through at least three generations of teachers forming a legitimate tradition (sampradaya). In my case it was Sri Amrita Guruji (1934 – 2015), the former nuclear scientist who, mainly in the 1980s and 1990s, had built now quite well-known temple complex called Devipuram. The founder himself defined it as a “global resource for goddess worship”, housing a few unique temples (Kamakhya Pitham, Sivalaya, Dakshavati, Ganapati and Dattatreya shrines) with the central one in the form of Sri Meru Cakra – Sri Meru Nilayam – and it is the biggest of this kind in the world with Sri Sri Sri Sahasrakshi Rajarajesvari Lalita Devi situated on top of it, in the jungle near the city of Visakhapatnam, or Vizag, in Southeast India. The initiation was preceded by a beautiful dream I had about Devipuram although I had never been there, only seen pictures of it. It probably qualifies for an initiatory dream and it did feel like a full, although an informal initiation, which is essentially a rebirth into a new life of goodness and spirituality by the help of the svaguru, our own guru as the caring “midwife”. That was probably the reason why I felt I should have been patient and that a “real” initiation was only a question of time.
The formal initiation finally happened through a phone conversation in 2013. It is quite an unusual way to do it, but it was definitely practical. Sri Amrita first gave me guru, ganapati, bala and pancadasi-mantra-diksha and then instructed me on how to use the mantras in my personal practice. The instructions were straightforward and simple: “Do ganapati-tarpana for 44 days in a row to remove all the obstacles to your sadhana and then do sri-cakra-puja in the form that you know and love as much as you can and to the best of your abilities, adding power to it as you go. If you have any questions, I am here to guide you.” And I did it; I am still doing it. And the most natural thing was to integrate all that with my on-going daily Yoga practice that was already heavily influenced and informed by sri-vidya. The mantras are the entrance to and the very life of sri-vidyopasana. Ganapati-mantra, in particular, is a prerequisite for starting the practice of sri-vidya in most, if not all traditions, as well as bala-mantra that empowers many other mantras and is the very strength of Sri Lalita Devi. And finally, pancadasi, or sri-vidya-panca-dasakshari-mula-mantra is the most potent mantra in which all the esoteric and transformative secrets of sri-vidya are condensed in the form of monosyllabic seed mantras, or bija-mantras, structured into three “peaks”, or kutas, suggesting all the triads in which Sri Devi manifests Herself as the visible universe, as we ourselves in our embodied existence, and simultaneously suggesting the fourth, invisible and transcendent dimension going beyond the immanent manifestation that is the final goal of the practice. I was already familiar with all the mantras and all the practices Sri Amrita gave me and his personal message to me was basically the same as the message in his mail footer at the time:
“Magic is everywhere around you, even in the most usual, most ordinary situations.
Your lesson is to understand this magic and to help other people to use it, too.
You are a magician.”
This magic Sri Amrita was talking about is essentially the working knowledge of Tantra, which is mainly missing, is complicated or is not readily available in the living traditions, or is mostly diluted, compromised or perverted in the so called Neo-tantric movements. So, an important part of Guruji’s work was to clarify what Tantra actually is and then to delineate, as clearly as possible, the Tantrika practices of Sri Vidya that should be given to all people who are genuinely interested in learning and applying them. Guruji’s surviving wife, Sri Annapurnamba, or Guruji Amma, and their three daughters, Anantalakshmi, Radha and Rama, as well as other devoted students of Guruji, are continuing the great legacy of their visionary guru in the vibrant Devipuram. Many others are spreading the message all around the world.
Sri Amritananda’s main teacher was Sri Svaprakashananda Tirtha Avadhuta, the charismatic Guru Garu of Anakapalli, India, and his main teacher was Sri Kalyanananda Bharati Maharaj, the founder of the temple Bhadrakali Pitham in Haridwar, India, all adepts in Sri Vidya Sakta Tantra and other forms of Hindu spirituality. More about Sri Amrita, Sri Vidya, Devipuram and the context of all that Guruji brought forth can be learnt from his biography The Goddess and the Guru written by Michael M. Bowden (and published in 2017) and his selected writings Gifts from the Goddess edited by Michael M. Bowden (Published in 2019).