Sri Sukta is part of the Rig Veda, the most ancient of the world’s sacred scriptures. Many centuries ago, the great sage Vyasa organized the thousands of mantras of the Rig Veda into clusters. The technical name for these clusters is sukta. Each sukta has a unique mantric power, function, and purpose. The concluding clusters of mantras in the Rig Veda are known as Khila Suktas or Khailikani Suktani. Khila means “the space that gives room to a newly emerging reality.” It is a clutter-free, unobstructed power that attracts the forces of fullness and abundance and displaces the conditions of emptiness, loneliness, purposelessness, and worthlessness.
The Khila Suktas address the concerns of daily life. The seers of these mantras acknowledge that achieving ultimate freedom and lasting fulfillment is the highest goal of life, and are adamant that we can achieve this lofty goal only if our body is strong and our mind is clear. Safety in the external world is necessary if we are to seek and find safety in the inner world. Inner prosperity is a far-fetched dream if the majority of our time and energy is consumed in meeting our daily needs. The Khila Suktas are dedicated to securing safety, security, and prosperity at the mundane level, and to guiding us to use these gifts as a gateway to inner safety, security, and prosperity. In addition, these suktas guide us to use the forces of inner protection and prosperity to further enrich our life in the external world. Once the wheels of inner and outer safety, security, and protection are in motion, living on this mortal plane is a joy. The idea of finding freedom in heaven loses its luster, for we have found it right here in this world.
The practice of Sri Sukta is grounded in a philosophy that sees this world as a manifestation of divine will.
Sri Sukta is one of the Khila Suktas. It consists of sixteen mantras. The first fifteen mantras invoke the sacred fire and request it to bring the presiding forces of health, wealth, peace, and prosperity to us. The sixteenth mantra proclaims that the recitation of the first fifteen mantras awakens the infallible power of the divine force that rules over the conditions resulting in inner and outer prosperity.
The practice of Sri Sukta is grounded in a philosophy that sees this world as a manifestation of divine will. This philosophy is an extension of a much larger body of wisdom and experience known as Sri Vidya. A perfect blend of the Vedic and tantric traditions, Sri Vidya espouses a nondualistic philosophy. According to this philosophy, there is only one reality. Absolute, nameless, and formless, it is the locus for everything that exists. Yogis of the highest caliber experience this reality as a wave of joy and beauty—ananda lahari and saundarya lahari. This experience awakens the inherent power of intuition, enabling a yogi to see the entire phenomenal world as a wave of joy and beauty.
Sitting at the peak of this experience, the great sage Dakshinamurti saw the undivided truth pertaining to both unmanifest and manifest reality. He saw that every aspect of manifest reality—the phenomenal world—contains the same joy and beauty inherent in unmanifest, transcendental reality. He also saw that although most of that joy and beauty remains dormant in the phenomenal world, human beings have the power to awaken it—a power that depends heavily on how awakened they are themselves. Meditation is the surest way to that inner awakening. The soul of meditation is the power of mantra. The spiritual practice based on the experience of the sage Dakshinamurti came to be known as Sri Vidya. Sri Sukta is one of the cardinal texts leading to the experience of Sri Vidya.
The advanced practices of Sri Sukta are closely guarded by the living tradition. However, casual practices are widespread across all Indian traditions and subtraditions. According to popular belief, Sri Sukta is a prayer to Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth, a belief that incentivizes the masses to practice Sri Sukta casually. For example, people often recite it with the intention of overcoming a financial problem. Only highly motivated seekers attempt to unravel its potent content and profound intent.
The Sri Vidya tradition prescribes the practice of Sri Sukta to calm inner storms and the destruction caused by them. Almost without exception, all of us are caught in storms of doubt, fear, worry, anger, hatred, greed, resentment, regret, and feelings of helplessness, unworthiness, and despondency. These storms damage our trust in ourselves, in our loved ones, in justice, and in divine providence. We become weak and impoverished from inside. Our inner weakness and poverty affect our family and our surroundings. Inner poverty blocks our ability to see the abundant gifts inherent in nature and in our relationships with others. The ultimate goal of Sri Sukta practice is to eliminate our inner poverty and empower us to experience the fullness of life.
The mantras become part of our consciousness, and we become part of the mantric field.
The practice of Sri Sukta is done in three successive stages. The first stage helps us to cultivate a feeling for the mantras and their seers and to discover our relationship with them. It also helps us transform our intellectual understanding of these mantras into a living experience. This stage of the practice enables us to internalize the mantras, demolishing the conceptual wall of duality that separates earth from heaven and humans from divine beings. The mantras become part of our consciousness, and we become part of the mantric field. This merger sheds new light on our spiritual quest. We no longer see ourselves as pitiful and impoverished, begging an outside source for rescue. Rather, we do the practice joyfully to further strengthen our bond with the divinity within. Our practice is empowered by the understanding that the forces of abundance have always been with us, and that the recitation of mantras is a way to experience their presence at a conscious level.
As this understanding matures, we find ourselves drawn to the practice spontaneously and effortlessly. We do our practice not in response to worldly pressure but because there is no better way to express our gratitude to the benevolent forces of nature who have been constantly showering us with everything we need. The pathetic and needy being in us has vanished. This is how this first stage prepares the enthusiastic, joyful, and trusting being in us to undertake the next level of the practice.
The second stage is more intense than the first stage. The core of the practice consists of reciting the entire Sri Sukta eight hundred times in eleven days. Unlike the first stage, where rules and regulations pertaining to the practice are somewhat relaxed, in the second stage strict rules govern when to start and conclude the practice. Both the time and the place to undertake this practice are highly regulated. Furthermore, the number of recitations done on each day is precisely fixed and must be strictly observed. The fire offering is an integral part of the practice at this stage. Mental disciplines; mastery over inner tendencies; and special observances regarding thought, speech, and action are of paramount importance.
The goal is to reach a state of mantric absorption profound enough to create deep grooves in our consciousness. This causes the highly compressed mantric shakti of Sri Sukta to outshine previously stored negative tendencies, rendering them inert. This stage of practice creates space in our consciousness fit to be occupied by the seers of the mantras. This allows us to see the mantras through the eyes of the seers. Although intellectually we may not comprehend the full scope of mantra shakti, at the spiritual level we are bathing in it.
If we complete the second stage of practice with perfection and precision, we are able to transmit the mantras of Sri Sukta to other seekers, just as nature’s forces—the sun, water, fire, and air—transmit nourishment to all living beings. In other words, we become a conduit for transmitting the gifts of love, wisdom, compassion, protection, and nourishment inherent in Sri Sukta. This privilege allows us to take the practice to the next level.
The third and final stage of the practice is a highly guarded secret of the tradition. It is never done for personal benefit, but only for the benefit of humanity. More precisely, it is done in service of Mother Nature, who is the repository of true protection, nourishment, and prosperity.