Notes on hayagrIva siddhi among the nAstika-s

While most extant mantravAdin-s practicing pA~ncharAtrika apotropaic rituals have a predilection for the ratna-traya mantra-rAjA-s, namely nR^isiMha, garuDa and chakra, some are well-versed in the secrets of hayagrIva. Even less known is the sAdhana of hayagrIva laid out in the context of the shaiva mantra-mArga, i.e. the tantra of the bhUta-srotas known as hayagrIvaM (a member of the deities of the bhUta-srotas along with khadgarAvaNa). The once vigorous practice of hayagrIva, centered around the great pA~ncharAtrika pITha of hayagrIva-mAdhava (adjacent to the kAmAkhyA site), might have been the source of its transmission to the great schools of the nAstika-s in the vicinity. Few years ago, we read an amazing account of the practice of a hayagrIva siddhi by a Lama at the Yeshe vihAra, Nyagrong, in occupied Tibet by a Canadian academic Marc des Jardins. He even had convincing photos of the Lama performing vahni-stambhana with the hayagrIva mantra. From his account we may reconstruct the ritual thus:

For the sake of removing persistent illness affecting certain sAdhaka-s living in the vihAra, the Lama decided to perform a ritual to hayagrIva. After a homa with apUpa-s called “torma” in Tibetan, ghee and some secret plants the sAdhya-s (those needing treatment) were led to the kitchen of the vihAra. There great fires were set up and being exalted further by blowing air. They were surrounded by a circular maNDala drawn using colored powder. On one stove was a cauldron with a boiling potion in it. On the other stove, stones were being heated till they were glowing red. The Lama took his seat near the stove and began muttering the hayagrIva mUlamantra [Footnote 1]. An uttara-sAdhaka lifted a red-hot stone with a pair of tongs and put it on the open palm of the Lama. As soon as he did so there was a puff of smoke and fire rising upwards. He then twirled the red-hot stone over the heads of the sAdhya-s and threw it into the potion in cauldron on the other fire, with much hissing and boiling over of the liquid. This was repeated five times. Then he dipped a juniper twig into the cauldron and sprinkled each of the sAdhya-s. Strikingly, the Canadian examined the Lama’s hands and found no signs of burns.

While hayagrIva (or his nAstika reflex paramAshva) is an important heruka figure with his yoginI mArIchI or vajravArAhI in several mantrayAna sAdhana-s transmitted to Tibet, the ritual reported by des Jardins is from the Bön system. This is of interest because it often contains an early layer of transmission of Indic memes, distinct from that seen in the four main Tibetan bauddha schools, i.e., Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyu, and Gelug. While hayagrIva entered the nAstika maNDala-s before the yoga and yoginI tantra-s, right in the charyA tantra-s, many of the Sanskrit sources of this layer have been lost due to the Islamic depredations of India. This layer is also most likely to have a close link to the bhUta-srotas of the shaiva mantra-mArga and earlier pA~ncharAtrika hayagrIva sAdhana-s. Hence, it is of interest to study the mantra sAdhana-s of hayagrIva (called Tamdrin in Tibetan) among the Bönpo and material pertaining to this devatA in the hagiography of Tönpa Shenrab Miwoche (gShen-rab mi-bo) who is considered the Adibuddha of the Bönpo.

It should be noted that hayagrIva represents one of the early theriomorphic vibhava-s of viShNu, who predates the nR^isiMha form. Thus, we have an early macranthropic description of viShNu as hayagrIva which is preserved in both the mahAbhArata and the harivaMsha. The rise of nR^isiMha appears to have displaced hayagrIva to a degree in the pA~ncharAtrika texts. Nevertheless, the older presence of hayagrIva (as in the nArAyaNIya section of the epic pA~ncharAtra) and his connection to the vAjasaneyin form of the sun suggests that he was important in the early layer of the pA~ncharAtrika system (it should be remembered that the pA~ncharAtrika-s explicitly associated their tradition with the vAjasaneyI saMhitA). An examination of the macranthropic hayagrIva, which might also be compared to the description of the ashvamedha horse in the veda, provides an early witness for key iconographic elements, several of which continued to survive in the nAstika manifestations of the devatA:
Mbh 12.347
jahau nidrAm atha tadA veda-kAryArtham udyataH |
aishvaryeNa prayogeNa dvitIyaM tanum AsthitaH ||
sunAsikena kAyena bhUtvA chandraprabhas tadA |
kR^itvA hayashIraH shubraM vedAnAM AlayaM prabhuH ||
tasya mUrdhA samabhAvad dyauH sa-nakShatra-tArakA |
keshash chAsyAbhavan dIrghA raver aMshu saMaprabhaH ||
karNAv AkAshapAtAle lalATaM bhUtadhArinI |
ga~NgA sarasvatI shroNyau bhruvAv AstAM mahodadhI ||
chakShuShI soma-sUryau te nAsA saMdhyA punaH smR^itA |
OMkAras te atha saMskAro vidyuj jihvA cha nirmitA ||
dantAsh cha pitaro rAjan somapA iti vishrutAH |
goloko brahmalokash cha oShTAv AstAM mahAtamanaH ||
grIvA chAsyAbhavad rAjan kAlarAtrir guNottarA |
etad dhayashiraH kR^itvA nAnAmUrtibhir AvR^itaM ||
antardadhau sa vishvesho vivesha cha rasAM prabhuH |

Thus, viShNu assuming his second form, i.e., that of hayagrIva is supposed to have attacked the demons madhu and kaiTabha and slain them in a fierce battle. A similar account is given in the harivaMsha regarding this battle were viShNu’s hayagrIva form is described as encompassing all the gods (HV appendix 1.41.1421-130):
stUyamAnash cha vibudhaiH siddhair munivarais tathA |
sasmAra vipulaM dehaM harir hayashiro mahAn ||
kR^itvA vedamayaM rUpaM sarva-devamayaM vapuH |
shiro-madhye mahAdevo brahmA tu hR^idaye sthitaH |
Aditya-rashmayo vAlAsh chakShuShI shashi-bhAskarau ||
ja~Nghe tu vasavaH sAdhyAH sarvasaMdhiShu devatAH |
jihvA vaishvAnaro devaH satyA devI sarasvatI ||
maruto varuNash chaiva jAnudeshe vyavasthitAH |
evaM kR^itvA tathA rUpaM surANAm adbhutaM mahat ||
asuraM pIDayAm Asa krodhAd raktAnta-lochanaH |

Of note in these accounts is the role of viShNu in recovering the lost veda. This might be compared to the legend of the vAjasaneyin-s where the veda lost by their founder yAj~navalkya due to his teacher’s curse was restored to him by the sun in a horse-headed form. This motif also occurs in an inverted form in the legend of the dAnava hayagrIva who stole the veda-s from brahma before he was killed by viShNu and the shruti was restored. This solar connection is also evident in the iconography of hayagrIva in the above accounts – his horse mane is described as being comprised of the solar rays (also related to the name of his shaktI mArIchI). Another aspect made explicit in the version found in the harivaMsha is his wrathful nature with fiery red eyes. This aspect is particularly emphasized in his nAstika manifestation.

Both his wrathful aspect as well as that of removing ignorance aspect are clearly present in the early charyA tantra-s of the nAstika-s which appears to have been lost in their Sanskrit original. Some examples of texts translated by the chInAchArya-s, like Yixing, might be considered in this regard. The first is a translation of a massive collection of sAdhana-s by AchArya atigupta for instructing the chIna-s known as the dhAraNI saMgraha made in 653 CE. The 6th chapter of atigupta’s dhAranI is largely devoted to hayagrIva sAdhana-s. Here a mantra of hayagrIva is given which might be reconstructed in Sanskrit as:
namo .advidyA-bhakShakAya grasa grasa vapa vapa sphuTa sphuTa grasa hayagrIvAya svAhA | mahAbalAya sarva-j~nAna-netre svAhA |

The last part of this chapter has a dIkSha vidhi with the hayagrIva maNDala, where he is identified with the bodhisattva avalokiteshvara. A study of this maNDala suggesting that is bauddha appropriation of an Astika dIkSha ritual. In the middle of the maNDala an image of hayagrIva is place. In the eastern quarter one of the ekAdashamukha avalokiteshvara is placed. In the northern quarter the image of the aShTabhuja amoghapAsha is placed. In the south the the 8 nAgarAja-s are paced. The sAdhaka should enter the bodhi maNDala from the [western side] and perform pUjA for hayagrIva concentrating on avalokiteshvara. Then in the course of the pUjA the bodhisattva-s with siddhi-s will manifest. Another set of Chinese translations of mantra texts from the charyA layer identified by the Dutch scholar van Gulik have mantra-s and rituals (Here we are not attempting to reconstruct them in completion but only provide the translations). One text is translated as the “Methods (upAya) and rules (vidhi) for incantations (mantrANi) and offerings (Ahuti) to effect the manifestation (AviShkaraNa ) of the great fierce king, the holy hayagrIva”. This tAntrika text is of some importance to our current study because it provides background for the Bön rituals for hayagrIva. It has the mantra:
hayagrIvAya svAhA || Able to destroy all the obstacles of mAra! It is through the upAya of karuNa that he yet manifests a krodha rUpa.” [translated from the Tibetan]

These are paralleled by the nAstika hayagrIva sAdhana in the Gilgit manuscripts wherein vaDavAmukha hayagrIva is invoked in an idol made of sandalwood at whose base is placed the triad of vajrapANi, lokeshvara and avalokiteshvara. The use of the term vaDavAmukha in this text offers a link to the descriptions of hayagrIva in the mahAbhArata:
ahaM hayagrIvo bhUtvA samudre pashcimottare |
pibAmi suhutaM havyaM kavya~n cha shraddhayAnvitaM ||
Mbh. 12.340

As also the tale in which the wrath of viShNu made the ocean salty:
nArAyaNo lokahitArthaM vaDavAmukho nAma purA maharShir babhUva| Mbh 12.342.60ab

In the Gilgit manuscript the mantra of hayagrIva is stated as destroying rival abhichArika mantra-s (para-vidyA saMbhakShaNa) and has the phrases such as “khAda khAda para-mantraM… para-mantra vinAshaka… tan sarvan vaDavAmukhena nikR^intaya phaT” etc. This hR^idaya mantra is said to have been expounded by avalokiteshvara as is clear from the statement: “tasmai namaskR^itva idam AryAvalokiteshvara mukhodgIrNaM hayagrIva nAma parama hR^idayam AvartiShyAmi”. As the great vaiShNava pointed out to us it might be noted that this statement is comparable to a mantra text for the worship of nIlakaNTha (i.e. rudra) recorded by the Indian AchArya vajrabodhi in the siddhaM script in the chInadesha: “tasmai namaskR^itva idam AryAvalokiteshvara bhaShitaM nIlakaNTha nAma”. Here again avalokiteshvara is described as the expounder of the hR^idaya for the worship of nIlakaNTha. This, suggests that several astika devata-s were being incorporated into the tAthagata-mata as their mantra-s now have the sanction of being expounded by the bodhisattva himself. Subsequently, they were identified with the bodhisattva himself.

Together, these suggest that the worship of hayagrIva was very prominent in the period around 500-700 CE in India. The nAstika-s adopted and transmitted hayagrIva along with several several other deities, like nIlakaNTha rudra, as suggested by the Gilgit and Chinese texts. It is possible that some of the tAntrika material of the Bön texts derive from such transmissions of the sAdhana of Hindu deities via the medium of the tAthagatha-s.

Now let us take a brief look at the Bön texts themselves. In the hagiography of Tönpa Shenrab we find a detailed account of how he taught the sAdhana of hayagrIva at kAilAsa parvata, to help sAdhaka-s ward of vighna-s that were difficult to conquer. He did this by reciting the mUla-mantra of hayagrIva [Footnote 1] and emanated a nirmANakAya as flaming red hayagrIva in the pratyAlIDa pose with two hands and holding a blazing sword. He had the green horse-head and was ornamented in gold and was flying in the air emitting rays like those of the sun (a trait reminiscent of the earliest accounts of hayagrIva found in the bhArata) that subjugate hostile beings. He then emanates hosts of bhUta-s, mAtR^i-s, yakSha-s and gaNa-s. The main Bön text compendium that deals with hayagrIva (including the above mentioned burning stone ritual) come as a triadic package that combines his sAdhana-s with those of vajrapAni and garuDa. This compendium includes rituals for removal of poisons in ritual kShetra-s, individual rites to the above triad of devatA-s, followed by a rite to sipe gyAlmo, the primary shakti of the Bön system [Footnote 2]. Regarding the burning stone rite these texts offer the following narrative. To benefit sAdhaka-s in the kaliyuga, the great yogin padmAkara went from the Kham region of Tibet to the region near bhArata to subjugate the ghosts known as srin living in the shmashAna-s. There he encountered a terrible lord of the ghosts known as the one-eyed Hadha. He took the form of a nine-headed boar and had a nine-headed rAkShasa on his back. Wandering around he spread greed and lust from his noses and mouths, madness and poison from his eyes, and warfare from his heads. But padmAkara invoked the mantra-s hayagrIva, vajrapAni and garuDa in succession who completely subjugated this ghost. The ritual which is instituted in light of this event was the burning stone ritual narrated above in which all the three devatA-s are invoked in the actual ritual.

A striking feature of this ritual is the minimal involvement of bauddha elements and the invocation of these deities by themselves. This reminds one of the early texts in which the boddhisattva avalokiteshvara is an expounder of mantra-s to the old deities. We suggest that the early layer of the Bön system involved transmission of these elements of Astika ritual perhaps via the medium to the nAstika teachers who presented them as a being expounded by the boddhisattva-s. However, the striking tAntrika stotra to sipe gyAlmo [footnote 2] and her tremendous prominence in the Bön world raises the possibility that there might have been a direct transmission by Astika-s that has now been forgotten and bauddhaized at a later point. If this were the case, then the counter-illness and poison rituals might suggest a connection to the shaiva bhUta-srotas in which hayagrIva was a deity and the garuDa-srotas. Indeed the bhUta-tantras and garuDa-tantra-s have tended to have a certain association with each other as suggested by later shaiva texts of these systems. Then could have been transmitted as a package, and the vajrapAni could very well be indra who was prominent in the early gAruDa system. As circumstantial support for this, one might consider the Tibetan rAmAyaNa which appears to be largely independent in its transmission of the bauddha version and appears early in the Dunhuang texts, which was temporally closer to the apparent period of transmission to the Bön.
Footnote 1: From the Bön text this mantra appears to be:
vsauH OM vajra rakSha krodha rava rava hayagrIva huM phaT ||
It appears to be a nAstika distortion of the mantra found in shaiva and vaiShNava tAntrika contexts:
OM shrIM hlauM OM namo bhagavate hayagrIvAya rava rava rakSha rakSha huM phaT svAhA ||

Footnote 2: sipe gyAlmo is a very interesting deity who has been poorly understood. Superficially her iconography with the ashvatara vAhana is reminiscent of the iconography of shrI devI (Palden Lhamo) among the Tibetans. However, the origin of sipe gyAlmo is very distinct from shrI devI and she appears to have influenced the later depictions of shrI devI resulting the convergence observed today. The Bön compendium mentioned above records a remarkable stotra to sipe gyAlmo translated from a now lost tantra. This stotra has little bauddha about it, and appears to be directly derived from a shAkta-shaiva tAntrika system. A key feature in the iconography of this great Bön deity is her relationship to the trividyA of the pashchimAmnAya, which presents a combination of the shakti-trayaM. But in the pashchimAmnAya the three faces stand for aparA, parAparA and parA; however, in the case of sipe gyAlmo the faces are depicted in the order of the three goddess of the pUrvAmnAya (trika) parA, parAparA and aparA. It is not entirely surprising that the bauddha-s have made some attempts to demonize her.

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