In many books, TV shows, and discourses there are various definitions and explanations of Sri Vidya.
So what exactly is Sri Vidya?
Among the Dasa mahAvidyAs, the third mahAvidyA is Devi Shodashi or Goddess TripurA or TripurAsundari. Here is how they are mentioned in a verse from the ViswasAra Tantram:
KAli TArA MahAvidya Shodashi Bhuvaneswari | Bhairavi ChinnamastA Cha Vidya DhumAvati TathA || BagalA SiddhavidyA Cha Matangi KamalAtmikA | Eto DasamahAvidyA SiddhavidyAh PrakirtitAh ||
The 10 MahAvidyAs ( or the Goddesses of great wisdom) are KAli, TArA, Shodashi, Bhuvaneswari, Bhairavi, ChinnamastA, DhumAvati, BagalAmukhi, MAtangi and KamalA.
And, the great knowledge pertaining to Goddess TripurA (or Goddess Shodashi) is known as Sri Vidya , which is famous as the king of all Vidyas in all Tantras and Agamas.
In, the KubjikA Tantram, which is a part of another major Agama called VishnukrAnta, Lord Shiva explains why Sri VidyA is so-called as follows.
[Lord ShivA said] SridAtri cha sada vidyA Srividya parikirtitA |
Nirguna cha MahAdevi Shodasi parikirtitA ||
Because it [the VidyA] always provides Sri or prosperity, it is called Sri VidyA. And since MahAdevi is NirgunA (attributeless), she is known by the name of Shodashi.
Now, there is deep connection between Goddess being NirgunA and she being known by the name Shodashi. But that is not worth discussing here, given the context of the present question.
Sri Vidya is one of the most popular and discussed subjects today pertaining to the goddess worship. There have been many confusions revolving around the subject since quite a while. Following points might help to understand it better.
When it is not even possible to grasp and understand the tenets of this great shAstra in its entirety, how is it possible to define her? If you define, you confine ! i.e If you even attempt to define shrIvidyA, then you are attempting to confine her ! neither is possible. However let us discuss certain basic concepts of this highly secretive path which has to be learnt only from one's pujya shrIguru, avoiding transmission of prohibited aspects.
Here are some popular views obtaining on shrIvidyA:
--shrI vidyA upasana is worship of Goddess sarasvati .
--shrI vidyA belongs to vAmamArga
--shrIvidyA belongs to dakShiNamArga , samayamArga
--shrIvidyA is advaitic (vedantic) as it is practiced in shankara Mutts
so on and so forth
but what then is shrIvidyA ?
'shrI' vidyA - is a combination of two words - shrI and vidyA. It is a popular misconception that the word 'shrI' is a title which is added to vidyA like shrI rama shrI krishna etc. Just as brahma vidyA is the knowledge of brahman, shrI vidyA is the knowledge of 'SHRI'
The word shrI in shrIvidyA is derived as 'shrayaNe' and indicates the supreme shakthi who is the final retreat and shelter for everything- chetanAchetana, sthAvara jangama, everything, right from the brahma to the smallest creature in this universe. The verse :
"yasyAM sarvaM samutpannaM yasyAM adyApi tiShTati layameShyati yasyAM tvAM pancamIM praNamAmyaham"
neatly describes shrI -
That supreme sakthi from whom everything has originated, by whom everything is sustained and in whom everything is withdrawn is known as shrI. This shrI is known as the supreme bliss or kevalAnanda. The vidyA of shrI is therefore known as shrIvidyA. vidyA here is jnAnarUpA.
shrIvidyA is the ultimate and all other mArga-s dakShiNa samaya etc or paths are only steps or sopana to this vidyA. In that case where does brahma vidyA stand ? what is brahma vidyA ? is it the same as shrI vidyA ? if yes how ? If not how ?
The vedas are also known as "brahma". The tripadA gayatri mantra into which one is initiated as a pre-qualification for the veda adhyayana actually denotes this brahman. Hence, having been initiated into this gayatri mantra, the next step is to do the veda adhyayana. The vedas unequivocally advice svAdhyAya which is nothing but tapas or penance, as a mode of acquiring the knowledge about brahman. For such a tapas to fructify, one has to lead a householder's life and worship the agni. By worshipping the gArhapatyAgni, by being in the grihasthAshrama, when a person realises that there is a greater bliss to be experienced/enjoyed which is different and superior to the enjoyment from the senses, then this is called as brahma jigyAsa.
Now comes the 'brahman'. The brahman is so called because of its inherent ability to expand.
'brhatvAt brhmaNatvAt ca brahma ityucchate budhaiH'
Meaning, “In view of its vastness of size or extent and in view of its expansiveness, it is called as brahman by the wise”
When the entire sRShTi or creation is viewed in this perspective, it is abundantly clear that this entire universe is nothing but the expansion of the brahman and consists of the same brahman in different levels of existence and evolution. Each created being experiences bliss according to its state of evolution and each created individual being is endowed with the intelligence, aspiration and ability to progressively evolve and attain higher levels of evolution. The vedas specify the way to realize this brahman by taking recourse to specified modes of worship. As I said earlier, the vedas themselves are known as 'brahma' because they primarily deal with the brahman. And the vidyA contained in the preaching of the vedas is therefore known as 'Brahma VidyA'.
As I said earlier, when one realises by being in the gRhasthAshrama, that there is a greater bliss to be experienced/enjoyed which is different and superior to the the enjoyment from the senses, then that is "brahma jijnAsa". Understanding the preaching of the vedas and understanding the nature of that which is declared by these brahma vidyas through brahma jijnAsa and experiencing the brahman enables one to enjoy the fruits of creation as an evolved being. AT THIS EVOLVED STATE ALONE A PERSONS QUALIFIES FOR SHRIVIDYA . Entry into shrIvidyA becomes possible only to those who have enjoyed the fruits of brahma vidya. In other words, only a person who has attained brahma vidya attains the desire to know about the shrIvidyA . This desire is known as "shakti jijnAsa'. shakti jijnAsa leads to "Ananda jijnAsa". Ananda jijnAsa ultimately leads to "shrI"
We are quite familiar with the phrase "sat-chit-Ananda". In essence, the 'sat' amsha is nothing but brahma jijnAsa leading to brahman in the 'sat bhUmika' which is attainable by virtue of veda adhyayana and the vedokta svAdhyaya/penance. shakti jijnAsa leads one to 'chit bhUmika' . Experiencing the chit bhUmika bestows "Ananda jijnAsa" which ultimately leads to shrI.
The vedas openly advocate gayatri upasana as a means to attain the brahman and secretively lays down shrIvidyA as the way to attain the Brahma MUla that is Ananda or supreme bliss.
“Anando brahmetivyajAnAt. Anandat eva khalu imAni bhutAni jAyante.”
‘Anando brahmayonih” "
Anandam parabrahmeti yoniH" (viShNu sahasranAma)
These are but a few examples of innumerable such statements found in the shrutis. If Brahman in its aspect of "supramental consciousness" is attributed with creation, then the bliss mentioned above should be considered as the root or mUla or the mother or creatrix of that Brahman !
Now - If indeed Ananda or bliss is the root cause for the creation of the creator or Brahman, then the nature of the bliss is required to be inquired into. For this, one should be aware of the basic principle of creation.
KalidAsa's famous shloka :
vAgarthAviva samprktau vAgartha pratipattayejagataH pitarau vande pArvati paramesvarau
beautifully describes the sambandha of shiva and shakti as the primordial parents. It says, Shiva and Shakti are as inseparable as the word and its meaning and they truly reflect the 'vAk' & 'artha' concept of creation. vAk is the shabda sRShTi and artha is the artha sRShTi. vAk is the sound and artha is the meaning.
In this universe, every form of sound from the vedas onwards is subtly contained in the akArAdi kShakArAnta (from 'a' to 'kSha') varNas known as the mAtRkAkShara-s of Sanskrit.
Hence the creation originates in bliss and ends in bliss. The "brahma yoni" 'brahma janani" etc that we were discussing is nothing but the aikya or sAmarasya or union of paramashiva & paramAshakti and this supreme blissful effulgence is only known as kalA, lalitA or ShRI:
To understand the subtle concepts of shrIvidyA and to know more about the path and to attain such a glorious state by being in this distinguished mArga, one has to be blessed enough to get a worthy guru belonging to a paramparA of the highest order.