Lalleshwari—also known as Lalla Ded or Mother Lalla—was a poet and mystic saint born during the latter part of the fourteenth century in Kashmir, the splendid valley region in northwestern India surrounded by mountains, forests, and lakes. At a young age Lalleshwari met her Guru, Siddha Srikantha, who gave her spiritual initiation and taught her the philosophy of nondual Kashmir Shaivism that had flourished some centuries earlier in the region of Lalla’s birth.
This Shaiva tradition teaches that the same supreme Consciousness that is one’s own Self becomes the universe and all living beings. This Consciousness is known by the name Shiva, and because Shiva is the innermost Self, through the Guru’s grace and a steady effort in pursuing sadhana, a spiritual seeker can become established in the recognition of supreme divinity as their own. This attainment transforms one’s vision, revealing that everything surrounding one is, indeed, the manifestation of Shiva’s divine light. Lalleshwari reached this sublime state. She was so immersed in the experience of Shiva, her adored deity, that she became an avadhuta, rising above body consciousness. It is said that at the end of her life, she took mahasamadhi by dissolving into a flame of light and merging into oneness with Shiva’s universe.
For seven hundred years Lalleshwari has been revered by both Hindus and Muslims in Kashmir for her universal and nonsectarian spirit. This great bhakta, lover of God, drew from Hindu, Sufi, and Sikh teachings. Though born to a traditional Brahmin family, Lalla wrote in the local vernacular and, thus, made accessible to all Kashmiris obscure Shaiva teachings that had previously been given only in Sanskrit. She created a style of four-line poems called vatsun or vakh, which means “speech” in Kashmiri. These verses are considered the earliest literary works of the Kashmiri language.
In her vakh “I Entered the Gate of the Sushumna,” Lalleshwari speaks using the first-person pronoun to indicate that what she is describing is her own experience. In India, this mode of personal address was the provenance of the Bhakti poets, who preferred to convey the intimacy of devotional love. Here, Lalla tells us that the state she has attained is accessible to all who dedicate themselves to constant spiritual practice. The path to this state is found by entering and traversing the sushumna, the central conduit in the subtle body of a human being, through which Kundalini Shakti, awakened by the Guru’s grace, ascends to the sahasrara. A splendiferous center of luminosity found in the crown of the head, the sahasrara is where the inner spiritual journey culminates. There, one merges with Shiva and his divine power, Shakti. In this union one’s sense of being a separate individual dissolves. As Lalla says: “I have died while still alive”; and instead, “only the Supreme beyond all misery remains.”
This was Lalla’s experience and, for her, the true teaching.