Shakta Sadhana (The Ordinary Ritual)
Sadhana is that, which produces Siddhi or the result sought, be it material or spiritual advancement. It is the means or practice by which the desired end may be attained and consists in the training and exercise of the body and psychic faculties, upon the gradual perfection of which Siddhi follows. The nature or degree of spiritual Siddhi depends upon the progress made towards the realization of the Atma whose veiling vesture the body is. The means employed are numerous and elaborate, such as worship (Puja) exterior or mental, Shastric learning, austerities (Tapas), Japa or recitation of Mantra, Hymns, meditation, and so forth. The Sadhana is necessarily of a nature and character appropriate to the end sought. Thus Sadhana for spiritual knowledge (Brahmajñana) which consists of external control (Dama) over the ten senses (Indriya), internal control (Sama) over the mind (Buddhi, Ahamkara, Manas), discrimination between the transitory and eternal, renunciation of both the world and heaven (Svarga), differs from the lower Sadhana of the ordinary householder, and both are obviously of a kind different from that prescribed and followed by the practitioners of malevolent magic (Abhicara). Sadhakas again vary in their physical, mental and moral qualities and are thus divided into four classes, Mridu, Madhya, Adhimatraka, and the highest Adhimatrama who is qualified (Adhikari) for all forms of Yoga. In a similar way, the Shakta Kaulas are divided into the Prakrita or common Kaula following Viracara with the Pancatattvas described in the following Chapter; the middling (Madhyama) Kaula who (may be) follows the same or other Sadhana but who is of a higher type, and the highest Kaula (Kaulikottama) who, having surpassed all ritualism, meditates upon the Universal Self. These are more particularly described in the next Chapter.
Until a Sadhaka is Siddha, all Sadhana is or should be undertaken with the authority and under the direction of a Guru or Spiritual Teacher and Director. There is in reality but one Guru and that is the Lord (Ishvara) Himself. He is the Supreme Guru as also is Devi His Power one with Himself. But He acts through man and human means. The ordinary human Guru is but the manifestation on earth of the Adi-natha Mahakala and Mahakali, the Supreme Guru abiding in Kailasa. As the Yogini Tantra (Ch. 1) says Guroh sthanam hi kailasam. He it is who is in, and speaks with the voice of, the Earthly Guru. So, to turn to an analogy in the West, it is Christ who speaks in the voice of the Pontifex Maximus when declaring faith and morals, and in the voice of the priest who confers upon the penitent absolution for his sins. It is not the man who speaks in either case but God through him. It is the Guru who initiates and helps, and the relationship between him and the disciple (Shishya) continues until the attainment of spiritual Siddhi. It is only from him that Sadhana and Yoga are learnt and not (as it is commonly said) from a thousand Shastras. As the Shatkarmadipika says, mere book-knowledge is useless.
Pustake likhitavidya yena sundari jap yate
Siddhir na jayate tasya kalpakoti-shatairapi.
(O Beauteous one! he who does Japa of a Vidya (= Mantra) learnt from a book can never attain Siddhi even if he persists for countless millions of years.)
Manu therefore says, "of him who gives natural birth, and of him who gives knowledge of the Veda, the giver of sacred knowledge is the more venerable father." The Tantra Shastras also are full of the greatness of the Guru. He is not to be thought of as a mere man. There is no difference between Guru, Mantra and Deva. Guru is father, mother and Brahman. Guru, it is said. can save from the wrath of Shiva, but in no way, can one be saved from the wrath of the Guru. Attached to this greatness there is, however, responsibility; for the sins of the disciple may recoil upon him. The Tantra Shastras deal with the high qualities which are demanded of a Guru and the good qualities which are to be looked for in an intending disciple (see for instance Tantrasara, Ch. I). Before initiation, the Guru examines and tests the intending disciple for a specified period. The latter's moral qualifications are purity of soul (Shuddhatma), control of the senses (Jitendriya), the following of the Purushartha or aims of all sentient being (Purusharthaparayana). Amongst others, those who are lewd (Kamuka), adulterous (Para-daratura), addicted to sin, ignorant, slothful and devoid of religion should be rejected (see Matsyasukta Tantra, XIII; Pranatoshini 108; Maharudrayamala, I. XV, II. ii; Kularnava Tantra, Ch. XIII). The good Sadhaka who is entitled to the knowledge of all Shastra is he who is pure-minded, self-controlled, ever engaged in doing good to all beings, free from false notions of dualism, attached to the speaking of, taking shelter with and ever living in the consciousness of, the Supreme Brahman (Gandharva Tantra, Ch. ii).
All orthodox Hindus of all divisions of worshippers submit themselves to the direction of a Guru. The latter initiates. The Vaidik initiation into the twice-born classes is by the Upanayana. This is for the first three castes only, viz., Brahmana (priesthood and teaching), Kshattriya (warrior) Vaishya (merchant). All are (it is said) by birth Shudra (Janmana jayate Shudrah) and by sacrament (that is, the Upanayana ceremony) twice-born. By study of the Vedas one is a Vipra. And he who has knowledge of the Brahman is a Brahmana (Brahma jñanati brahmanah). From this well-known verse it will be seen how few there really are, who are entitled to the noble name of Brahmana. The Tantrik Mantra-initiation is a different ceremony and is for all castes. Initiation (Diksha) is the giving of Mantra by the Guru. The latter should first establish the life of the Guru in his own body; that is the vital power (Pranashakti) of the Supreme Guru in the thousand-petalled lotus (Sahasrara). He then transmits it to the disciple. As an image is the instrument (Yantra) in which Divinity (Devatva) inheres, so also is the body of the Guru. The candidate is prepared for initiation, fasts and lives chastely. Initiation (which follows) gives spiritual knowledge and destroys sin. As one lamp is lit at the flame of another, so the divine Shakti consisting of Mantra is communicated from the Guru's body to that of the Shishya. I need not be always repeating that this is the theory and ideal, which to-day is generally remote from the fact. The Supreme Guru speaks with the voice of the earthly Guru at the time of giving Mantra. As the Yogini Tantra (Ch. I) says:
Mantra-pradana-kale hi manushe Naganandini
Adhishthanam bhavet tatra Mahakalasya Shamkari
Ato na guruta devi manushe natra samshayah.
(At the time the Mantra is communicated, there is in man (i.e., Guru) the Presence of Mahakala. There is no doubt that man is not the Guru.) Guru is the root (Mula) of initiation (Diksha). Diksha is the root of Mantra. Mantra is the root of Devata, and Devata is the root of Siddhi. The Mundamala Tantra says that Mantra is born of Guru, and Devata of Mantra, so that the Guru is in the position of Father's Father to the Ishtadevata. Without initiation, Japa (recitation) of the Mantra, Puja, and other ritual acts are useless. The Mantra chosen for the candidate must be suitable (Anukula). Whether a Mantra is Svakula or Akula to the person about to be initiated is ascertained by the Kulakulacakra, the zodiacal circle called Rashicakra and other Cakras which may be found in the Tantrasara. Initiation by a woman is efficacious; that by the mother is eightfold so (ib.). For, according to the Tantra Shastra, a woman with the necessary qualifications, may be a Guru and give initiation. The Kulagurus are four in number, each of them being the Guru of the preceding ones. There are also three lines of Gurus (see The Great Liberation).
So long as the Shakti communicated by a Guru to his disciple is not fully developed, the relation of Teacher and Director and Disciple exists. A man is Shishya so long as he is Sadhaka. When, however, Siddhi is attained, Guru and Shishya, as also all other dualisms, and relations, disappear. Besides the preliminary initiation, there are a number of other initiations or consecrations (Abhisheka) which mark greater and greater degrees of advance from Shaktabhisheka when entrance is made on the path of Shakta Sadhana to Purnadikshabhisheka and Mahapurnadikshabhisheka also called Virajagrahanabhisheka. On the attainment of perfection in the last grade the Sadhaka performs his own funeral rite (Shraddha), makes Purnahuti with his sacred thread and crown lock. The relation of Guru and Shishya now ceases. From this point he ascends by himself until he realizes the great saying So'ham "He I am," Sa'ham "She I am". Now he is Jivan-mukta and Paramahamsa. The word Sadhana comes from the root Sadh, to exert or strive, and Sadhana is therefore striving, practice, discipline and worship in order to obtain success or Siddhi, which may be of any of the kinds, worldly or spiritual, desired, but which, on the religious side of the Shastras, means spiritual advancement with its fruit of happiness in this world and in Heaven and at length Liberation (Moksha). He who practices Sadhana is called (if a man) Sadhaka or (if a woman) Sadhika. But men vary in capacity, temperament, knowledge and general advancement, and therefore the means (for Sadhana also means instrument) by which they are to be led to Siddhi must vary. Methods which are suitable for highly advanced men will fail as regards the ignorant and undeveloped for they cannot understand them. What suits the latter has been long out-passed by the former. At least that is the Hindu view. It is called Adhikara or competency. Thus some few men are competent (Adhikari) to study Vedanta and to follow high mental rituals and Yoga processes. Others are not. Some are grown-up children and must be dealt with as such . As all men, and indeed all beings, are, as to their psychical and physical bodies, made of the primordial substance Prakriti-Shakti (Prakrityatmaka), as Prakriti is Herself the three Gunas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, and as all things and beings are composed of these three Gunas in varying proportions, it follows that men are divisible into three general classes, namely, those in which the Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas Gunas, predominate respectively. There are, of course, degrees in each of these three classes. Amongst Sattvika men, in whom Sattva predominates, some are more and some less Sattvika than others and so on with the rest. These three classes of temperament (Bhava) are known in the Shakta Tantras as the Divine (Divyabhava), Heroic (Virabhava) and Animal (Pashubhava) temperaments respectively. Bhava is defined as a property or quality (Dharma) of the Manas or mind (Pranatoshini, 570). The Divyabhava is that in which Sattva-guna predominates only, because it is to be noted that none of the Gunas are, or ever can be, absent. Prakriti cannot be partitioned. Prakriti is the three Gunas. Sattva is essentially the spiritual Guna, for it is that which manifests Spirit or Pure Consciousness (Cit). A Sattvika man is thus a spiritual man. His is a calm, pure, equable, refined, wise, spiritual temperament, free of materiality and of passion, or he possesses these qualities imperfectly, and to the degree that he possesses them he is Sattvik. Pashubhava is, on the other hand, the temperament of the man in whom Tamas guna prevails and produces such dark characteristics as ignorance, error, apathy, sloth and so forth. He is called a Pashu or animal because Tamas predominates in the merely animal nature as compared with the disposition of spiritually-minded men. He is also Pashu because he is bound by the bonds (Pasha). The term pasha comes from the root Pash to bind. The Kularnava enumerates eight bonds, namely, pity (Daya, of the type which Taoists call "inferior benevolence" as opposed to the divine compassion or Karuna), ignorance and delusion (Moha), fear (Bhaya), shame (Lajja), disgust (Ghrina), family (Kula), habit and observance (Shila), and caste (Varna). Other larger enumerations are given. The Pashu is the man caught by the world, in ignorance and bondage. Bhaskararaya, on the Sutra "have no converse with a Pashu," says that a Pashu is Bahirmukha or outward looking, seeing the outside only of things and not inner realities. The injunction, he says, only applies to converse as regards things spiritual.
The Shaiva Shastra speaks of three classes of Pashu, namely, Sakala bound by the three Pashas, Anu, Bheda, Karma, that is, limited knowledge, the seeing of the one Self as many by the operation of Maya, and action and its product. These are the three impurities (Mala) called Anavamala, Mayamala, and Karmamala. The Sakala Jiva or Pashu is bound by all three, the Pralayakala by the first and last, and the Vijñanakala by the first only. (See as to these the diagram of the 36 Tattvas.) He who is wholly freed of the remaining impurity of Anu is Shiva Himself. Here however Pashu is used in a different sense, that is, as denoting the creature as contrasted with the Lord (Pati). In this sense, Pashu is a name for all men. In the Shakta use of the term, though all men are certainly Pashu, as compared with the Lord, yet as between themselves one may be Pashu (in the narrower sense above stated) and the other not. Some men are more Pashu than others. It is a mistake to suppose that the Pashu is necessarily a bad man. He may be and often is a good one. He is certainly better than a bad Vira who is really no Vira at all. He is, however, not, according to this Shastra, an enlightened man in the sense that the Vira or Divya is, and he is generally marked by various degrees of ignorance and material-mindedness. It is the mark of a bad Pashu to be given over to gross acts of sin. Between these two comes the Hero or Vira of whose temperament (Virabhava) so much is heard in the Shakta Shastras. In him there is prevalent the strongly active Rajas Guna. Rajas is always active either to incite Tamas or Sattva. In the former case the result is a Pashu, in the latter case either a Vira or Divya. Where Sattva approaches perfection of development there is the Divyabhava. Sattva is here firmly established in calm and in high degree. But, until such time, and whilst man who has largely liberated himself through knowledge of the influence of Tamas, is active to promote Sattva, he is a Vira. Being heroic, he is permitted to meet his enemy Tamas face to face, counter-attacking where the lower developed man flees away. It has been pointed out by Dr. Garbe (Philosophy of Ancient India, 481), as before him by Baur, that the analogous Gnostic classification of men as material, psychical, and spiritual also corresponds (as does this) to the three Gunas of the Samkhya Darshana.
Even in its limited Shakta sense, there are degrees of Pashu, one man being more so than another. The Pashas are the creations of Maya Shakti. The Devi therefore is pictured as bearing them. But as She is in Her form as Maya and Avidya Shakti the cause of bondage, so as Vidya Shakti She breaks the bonds (Pashupasa-Vimocini) (see v. 78, Lalita-sahasranama), and is thus the Liberatrix of the Pashu from his bondage.
Nitya Tantra says that the Bhava of the Divya is the best, the Vira the next best, and Pashu the lowest. In fact, the state of the last is the starting point in Sadhana, that of the first the goal, and that of the Vira is the stage of one who having ceased to be a Pashu is on the way to the attainment of the goal. From being a Pashu, a man rises in this or some other birth to be a Vira and Divyabhava or Devata-bhava is awakened through Virabhava. The Picchila Tantra says (X, see also Utpatti Tantra, LXIV) that the difference between the Vira and the Divya lies in the Uddhatamanasa, that is, passionateness or activity by which the former is characterized, and which is due to the great effort of Rajas to procure for the Sadhaka a Sattvik state. Just as there are degrees in the Pashu state, so there are classes of Viras, some being higher than others.
The Divya Sadhaka also is of higher or lower kinds. The lowest is only a degree higher than the best type of Vira. The highest completely realize the Deva-nature wherein Sattva exists in a state of lasting stability. Amongst this class are the Tattvajñani and Yogi. The latter are emancipated from all ritual. The lower Divya class may apparently take part in the ritual of the Vira. The object and end of all Sadhana, whether of Pashu or Vira or Divya, is to develop Sattvaguna. The Tantras give descriptions of each of these three classes. The chief general distinction, which is constantly repeated, between the pure Pashu (for there are also Vibhavapashus) and the Vira, is that the former does not, and the latter does, follow the Pañcatattva ritual, in the form prescribed for Viracara and described in the next Chapter. Other portions of the description are characteristics of the Tamasik character of the Pashu. So Kubjika Tantra (VII) after describing this class of man to be the lowest, points out various forms of their ignorance. So it says that he talks ill of other classes of believers. That is, he is sectarian-minded and decries other forms of worship than his own, a characteristic of the Pashu the world over. He distinguishes one Deva from another as if they were really different and not merely the plural manifestations of the One. So, the worshipper of Rama may abuse the worshipper of Krishna, and both decry the worship of Shiva or Devi. As the Veda says, the One is called by various names. Owing to his ignorance "he is always bathing," that is, he is always thinking about external and ceremonial purity. This, though good in its way, is nothing compared with internal purity of mind. He has ignorant or wrong ideas, or want of faith, concerning (Shakta) Tantra Shastra, Sacrifices, Guru, Images, and Mantra, the last of which he thinks to be mere letters only and not Devata (see Pranatoshini, 547, et seq., Picchila, X). He follows the Vaidik rule relating to Maithuna on the fifth day when the wife is Ritusnata (Ritu-kalam vina devi ramanam parivrajayet). Some of the descriptions of the Pashu seem to refer to the lowest class. Generally, however, one may say that from the standpoint of a Viracari, all those who follow Vedacara, Vaishnavacara and Shaivacara are Pashus. The Kubjika Tantra (VII) gives a description of the Divya. Its eulogies would seem to imply that in all matters which it mentions, the Pashu is lacking. But this, as regards some matters, is Stuti (praise) only. Thus he has a strong faith in Veda, Shastra, Deva and Guru, and ever speaks the truth which, as also other good qualities, must be allowed to the Pashu. He avoids all cruelty and other bad action and regards alike both friend and foe. He avoids the company of the irreligious who decry the Devata. All Devas he regards as beneficial, worshipping all without drawing distinctions. Thus, for instance, whilst an orthodox upcountry Hindu of the Pashu kind who is a worshipper of Rama cannot even bear to hear the name of Krishna, though both Rama and Krishna are each Avatara of the same Vishnu, the Divya would equally reverence both knowing each to be an aspect of the one Great Shakti, Mother of Devas and Men. This is one of the first qualities of the high Shakta worshipper. As a worshipper of Shakti he bows down at the feet of women regarding them as his Guru (Strinam padatalam drishtva guruvad bhava pet sada). He offers everything to the supreme Devi regarding the whole universe as pervaded by Stri (Shakti, not "woman") and as Devata. Shiva is (he knows) in all men. The whole universe (Brahmanda) is pervaded by Shiva Shakti.
The description cited also deals with his ritual, saying that he does daily ablutions, Sandhya, wears clean cloth, the Tripundra mark in ashes or red sandal, and ornaments of Rudraksha beads. He does Japa (recitation of Mantras external and mental) and worship (Arcana). He worships the Pitris and Devas and performs all the daily rites. He gives daily charity. He meditates upon his Guru daily, and does worship thrice daily and, as a Bhairava, worships Parameshvari with Divyabhava. He worships Devi at night
(Vaidik worship being by day), and after food (ordinary Vaidik worship being done before taking food). He makes obeisance to the Kaula Shakti (Kulastri) versed in Tantra and Mantra, whoever She be and whether youthful or old. He bows to the Kula-trees (Kulavriksha). He ever strives for the attainment and maintenance of Devatabhava and is himself of the nature of a Devata.
Portions of this description appear to refer to the ritual and not Avadhuta Divya, and to this extent applicable to the high Vira also. The Mahanirvana (I. 56) describes the Divya as all but a Deva, ever pure of heart, to whom all opposites are alike (Dvandvatita) such as pain and pleasure, heat and cold, who is free from attachment to worldly things, the same to all creatures and forgiving. The text I have published, therefore, says that there is no Divya-bhava in the Kaliyuga nor Pashubhava; for the Pashu (or his wife) must, with his own hand, collect leaves, flowers and fruit, and cook his food, which regulations and others are impossible or difficult in the Kali age. As a follower of Smriti, he should not "see the face of a Shudra at worship, or even think of woman" (referring to the Pañcatattva ritual). The Shyamarcana (cited in Haratattvadidhiti, 348) speaks to the same effect. On the other hand, there is authority for the proposition that in the Kaliyuga there is only Pashubhava. Thus, the Pranatoshini (510-517) cites a passage purporting to come from the Mahanirvana which is in direct opposition to the above:
Divpa-vira-mayo bhavah kalau nasti kadacana
Kevalampashu-bhavena mantra-siddhir bhaven nrinam.
(In the Kali age there is no Divya or Virabhava. It is only by the Pashu-bhava that men may attain Mantra-siddhi.)
I have discussed this latter question in greater detail in the introduction to the sixth volume of the series of "Tantrik Texts".
Dealing with the former passage from the Mahanirvana, the Commentator explains it as meaning "that the conditions and characters of the Kaliyuga are not such as to be productive of Pashubhava, or to allow of its Acara (in the sense of the strict Vaidik ritual). No one, he says, can now-a-days fully perform the Vedacara, Vaishnavacara, and Shaiva-cara rites without which the Vaidik and Pauranic Yajña and Mantra are fruitless. No one now goes through the Brahmacarya Ashrama or adopts, after the fiftieth year, Vanaprastha. Those whom the Vaidik rites do not control cannot expect the fruit of their observances. On the contrary, men have taken to drink, associate with the low and are fallen, as are also those who associate with them. There can, therefore, be no pure Pashu. (That is apparently whilst there may be a natural Pashu disposition the Vaidik rites appropriate to this bhava cannot be carried out.) Under these circumstances, the duties prescribed by the Vedas which are appropriate for the Pashu being incapable of performance, Shiva, for the liberation of men of the Kali age, has proclaimed the Agama. Now there is no other way."
We are, perhaps, therefore, correct in saying that it comes to this: In a bad age, such as the Kali, Divya men are (to say the least) very scarce, though common-sense and experience must, I suppose, allow for exceptions. Whilst the Pashu natural disposition exists, the Vaidik ritual which he should follow cannot be done. It is in fact largely obsolete. The Vaidik Pashu or man who followed the Vaidik rituals in their entirety is non-existent. He must follow the Agamic rituals which, as a fact, the bulk of men do. The Agama must now govern the Pashu, Vira and would-be Divya alike.
As I have frequently explained, there are various communities of the followers of Tantra of Agama according to the several divisions of the worshippers of the five Devatas (Pañcopasaka). Of the five classes, the most important are Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakta. I do not, however, hesitate to repeat a statement of a fact of which those who speak of "The Tantra" ignore.
The main elements of Sadhana are common to all such communities following the Agamas; such as Puja (inner and outer), Pratima or other emblems (Linga, Shalagrama), Upacara, Sandhya, Yajña, Vrata, Tapas, Mandala, Yantra, Mantra, Japa, Purashcarana, Nyasa, Bhutasuddhi, Mudra, Dhyana, Samskara and so forth. Even the Vamacara ritual which some wrongly think to be peculiar to the Shaktas, is or was followed (I am told) by members of other Sampradayas including Jainas and Bauddhas. Both, in so far as they follow this ritual, are reckoned amongst Kaulas though, as being non-Vaidik, of a lower class.
A main point to be here remembered, and one which establishes both the historical and practical importance of the Agamas is this: That whilst some Vaidik rites still exist, the bulk of the ritual of to-day is Agamic, that is, what is popularly called Tantrik. The Puranas are replete with Tantrik rituals.
Notwithstanding a general community of ritual forms, there are some variances which are due to two causes: firstly, to difference in the Devata worship, and secondly, to difference of philosophical basis according as it is Advaita, Vishishtadvaita, or Dvaita. The presentment of fundamental ideas is sometimes in different terms. Thus the Vaishnava Pancaratra Agama describes the creative process in terms of the Vyuhas, and the Shaiva-Shakta Agamas explain it as the Abhasa of the thirty-six Tattvas. I here deal with only one form, namely, Shakta Sadhana in which the Ishtadevata is Shakti in Her many forms.
I will here shortly describe some of the ritual forms above-mentioned, premising that so cursory an account does not do justice to the beauty and profundity of many of them.
There are four different forms of worship corresponding to four different states and dispositions (Bhava) of the Sadhaka himself. The realization that the Supreme Spirit (Paramatma) and the individual spirit (Jivatma) are one, that everything is Brahman, and that nothing but the Brahman has lasting being is the highest state or Brahma-bhava. Constant meditation with Yoga-processes upon the Devata in the heart is the lower form (Dhyanabhava). Lower still is that Bhava of which Japa (recitations of Mantra) and Hymns of praise (Stava) are the expression; and lowest of all is external worship (Bahyapuja).
Pujabhava is that which arises out of the dualistic notions of worshipper and worshipped, the servant and the Lord, a dualism which necessarily exists in greater or less, degree until Monistic experience (Advaita-bhava) is attained. He who realizes the Advaita-tattva knows that all is Brahman. For him there is neither worshipper nor worshipped, neither Yoga, nor Puja nor Dharana, Dhyana, Stava, Japa, Vrata or other ritual or process of Sadhana. For, he is Siddha in its fullest sense, that is, he has attained Siddhi which is the aim of Sadhana. As the Mahanirvana says, "for him who has faith in and knowledge of the root, of what use are the branches and leaves'?" Brahmanism thus sagely resolves the Western dispute as to the necessity or advisability of ritual. It affirms it for those who have not attained the end of all ritual. It lessens and refines ritual as spiritual progress is made upwards; it dispenses with it altogether when there is no longer need for it. But, until a man is a real "Knower", some Sadhana is necessary if he would become one. The nature of Sadhana, again, differs according to the temperaments (Bhava) above described, and also with reference to the capacities and spiritual advancement of each in his own Bhava. What may be suitable for the unlettered peasant may not be so for those more intellectually and spiritually advanced. It is, however, a fine general principle of Tantrik worship that capacity, and not social distinction such as caste, determines competency for any particular worship. This is not so as regards the Vaidik ritual proper. One might have supposed that credit would have been given to the Tantra Shastra for this. But credit is given for nothing. Those who dilate on Vaidik exclusiveness have nothing to say as regards the absence of it in the Agama. The Shudra is precluded from the performance of Vaidik rites, the reading of the Vedas, and the recital of Vaidik Mantras. His worship is practically limited to that of his Ishtadevata, the Vana-lingapuja with Tantrik and Pauranik mantra and such Vrata as consist in penance and charity. In other cases, the Vrata is performed through a Brahmana. The Tantra Shastra makes no caste distinction as regards worship, in the sense that though it may not challenge the exclusive right of the twice-born to Vaidik rites, it provides other and similar rites for the Shudra. Thus there is both a Vaidik and Tantrik Gayatri and Sandhya, and there are rites available for worshippers of all castes. All may read the Tantras which contain their form of worship, and carry them out and recite the Tantrik Mantras. All castes, even the lowest Candala may, if otherwise fit, receive the Tantrik initiation and be a member of a Cakra or circle of worship. In the Cakra all the members partake of food and drink together, and are then deemed to be greater than Brahmanas, though upon the break-up of the Cakra the ordinary caste and social relations are re-established. It is necessary to distinguish between social differences and competency (Adhikara) for worship. Adhikara, so fundamental a principle of Brahmanism, means that all are not equally entitled to the same teaching and ritual. They are entitled to that of which they are capable, irrespective (according to the Agama) of such social distinctions as caste. All are competent for Tantrik worship, for, in the words of the Gautamiya which is a Vaishnava Tantra (Chap. I) the Tantra Shastra is for all castes and all women.
Sarva-varnadhikarash ca narinam yog ya eva ca.
Though according to Vaidik usage, the wife was co-operator (Sahadharmini) in the household rites, now-a-days, so far as I can gather, they are not accounted much in such matters, though it is said that the wife may, with the consent of her husband, fast, take vows, perform Homa, Vrata and the like. According to the Tantra Shastra, a woman may not only receive Mantra, but may, as Guru, initiate and give it (see Rudrayamala II, ii, and XV). She is worshipped both as wife of Guru and as Guru herself (see ib., I. i. Matrikabheda Tantra (c. vii), Annadakalpa Tantra cited in Pranatosini, p. 68, and as regards the former Yogini Tantra chap. i. Gurupatni Maheshani gurur eva). The Devi is Herself the Guru of all Shastras and woman, as indeed all females Her embodiments, are in a peculiar sense, Her representatives. For this reason all women are worshipful, and no harm should be ever done them, nor should any female animal be sacrificed.
Puja is the common term for ritual worship, of which there are numerous synonyms in the Sanskrit language such as Arcana, Vandana, Saparyya, Arhana, Namasya, Arca, Bhajana, though some of these stress certain aspects of it. Puja as also Vrata which are Kamya, that is, done to gain a particular end, are preceded by the Sankalpa, that is, a statement of the resolve to worship, as also of the particular object (if any) with which it is done. It runs in the form, "I--of--Gotra and so forth identifying the individual) am about to perform this Puja (or Vrata) with the object -- ". Thereby the attention and will of the Sadhaka are focused and braced up for the matter in hand. Here, as elsewhere, the ritual which follows is designed both by its complexity and variety (which prevents the tiring of the mind) to keep the attention always fixed, to prevent it from straying and to emphasize both attention and will by continued acts and mental workings.
The object of the worship is the Ishtadevata, that is, the particular form of the Deity whom the Sadhaka worships, such as Devi in the case of a Shakta, Shiva in the case of the Shaiva (in eight forms in the case of Ashtamurti-puja as to which see Todala Tantra, chap. V) and Vishnu as such or in His forms as Rama and Krishna in the case of the Vaishnava Sadhaka.
An object is used in the outer Puja (Bahyapuja) such as an image (Pratima), a picture and emblem such as a jar (Kalasa), Shalagrama (in the case of Vishnu worship), Linga and Yoni or Gauripatta (in the case of the worship) of Shiva (with Devi), or a geometrical design called Yantra. In the case of outer worship the first is the lowest form and the last the highest. It is not all who are capable of worshipping with a Yantra. It is obvious that simpler minds must be satisfied with images which delineate the form of the Devata completely and in material form. The advanced contemplate Devata in the lines and curves of a Yantra.
In external worship, the Sadhaka should first worship inwardly the mental image of the Devata which the outer objects assist to produce, and then by the life-giving (Prana-Pratishtha) ceremony he should infuse the image with life by the communication to it of the light, consciousness, and energy (Tejas) of the Brahman within him to the image without, from which there then bursts the luster of Her whose substance is Consciousness Itself (Caitanyamayi). In every place She exists as Shakti, whether in stone or metal as elsewhere, but in matter is veiled and seemingly inert. Caitanya (Consciousness) is aroused by the worshipper through the Pranapratishtha Mantra. An object exists for a Sadhaka only in so far as his mind perceives it. For and in him its essence as Consciousness is realized.
This is a fitting place to say a word on the subject of the alleged "Idolatry" of the Hindus. We are all aware that a similar charge has been made against Christians of the Catholic Church, and those who are conversant with this controversy will be better equipped both with knowledge and caution against the making of general and indiscriminate charges.
It may be well doubted whether the world contains an idolater in the sense in which that term is used by persons who speak of "the heathen worship of sticks and stones". According to the traveler A. B. Ellis ("The Tshi speaking peoples of the Gold Coast of West Africa"), even "negroes of the Gold Coast are always conscious that their offerings and worship are not paid to the inanimate object itself but to the indwelling God, and every native with whom I have conversed on the subject has laughed at the possibility of its being supposed that he would worship or offer sacrifice to some such object as a stone". Nevertheless a missionary or some traveler might tell him that he did. An absurd attitude on the part of the superior Western is that in which the latter not merely tells the colored races what they should believe, but what notwithstanding denial, they in fact believe and ought to hold according to the tenets of the latter's religion.
The charge of idolatry is kept up, notwithstanding the explanations given of their beliefs by those against whom it is made. In fact, the conviction that Eastern races are inferior is responsible for this. If we disregard such beliefs, then, anything may be idolatrous. Thus; to those who disbelieve in the "Real Presence," the Catholic worshipper of the Host is an idolater worshipping the material substance, bread. But, to the worshipper who believes that it is the Body of the Lord under the form of bread, such worship can never be idolatrous. Similarly as regards the Hindu worship of images. They are not to be held to worship clay or stone because others disbelieve in the efficacy of the Prana-Pratishtha ceremony. When impartially considered, there is nothing necessarily superstitious or ignorant in this rite. Nor is this the case with the doctrine of the Real Presence which is interpreted in various ways. Whether either rite has the alleged effect attributed to it is another question. All matter is, according to Shakta doctrine, a manifestation of Shakti, that is, the Mother Herself in material guise. She is present in and as everything which exists. The ordinary man does not so view things. He sees merely gross unconscious matter. If, with such an outlook, he were fool enough to worship what was inferior to himself, he would be an idolater. But the very act of worship implies that the object is superior and conscious. To the truly enlightened Shakta everything is an object of worship, for all is a manifestation of God who is therein worshipped. But that way of looking at things must be attained. The untutored mind must be aided to see that this is so. This is effected by the Pranapratishtha rite by which "life is established" in the image of gross matter. The Hindu then believes that the Pratima or image is a representation and the dwelling place of Deity. What difference, it may be asked, does this really make? How can a man's belief alter the objective fact? The answer is, it does not. God is not manifested by the image merely because the worshipper believes Him to be there. He is there in fact already. All that the Pranapratishtha rite does is, to enliven the consciousness of the worshipper into a realization of His presence. And if He be both in fact, and to the belief of the worshipper, present, then the Image is a proper object of worship. It is the subjective state of the worshipper's mind which determines whether an act is idolatrous or not. The Prana-Pratishtha rite is thus a mode by which the Sadhaka is given a true object of worship and is enabled to affirm a belief in the divine omnipresence with respect to that particular object of his devotion. The ordinary notion that it is mere matter is cast aside, and the divine notion that Divinity is manifested in all that is, is held and affirmed. "Why not then" (some missionary has said) "worship my boot?" There are contemptible people who do so in the European sense of that phrase. But, nevertheless, there is no reason, according to Shakta teaching, why even his boot should not be worshipped by one who regards it and all else as a manifestation of the One who is in every object which constitutes the Many. Thus this Monistic belief is affirmed in the worship by some Shaktas of that which to the gross and ordinary mind is merely an object of lust. To such minds, this is a revolting and obscene worship. To those for whom such object of worship is obscene, such worship is and must be obscene. But what of the mind which is so purified that it sees the Divine presence in that which, to the mass of men, is an incitement to and object of lust? A man who, without desire, can truly so worship must be a very high Sadhaka indeed. The Shakta Tantra affirms the Greek saying that to the pure all things are pure. In this belief and with, as the as the Jñanarnava Tantra says, the object of teaching men that this is so, we find the ritual use of substances ordinarily accounted impure. The real objection to the general adoption or even knowledge of such rites lies, from the Monistic standpoint, in the fact that the vast bulk of humanity are either of impure or weak mind, and that the worship of an object which is capable of exciting lust will produce it, not to mention the hypocrites who, under cover of such a worship, would seek to gratify their desires. In the Paradise Legend, just as amongst some primitive tribes, man and woman go naked. It was and is after they have fallen that nakedness is observed by minds no longer innocent. Rightly, therefore, from their standpoint, the bulk of men condemn such worship. Because, whatever may be its theoretical justification under conditions which rarely occur, pragmatically and for the bulk of men they are full of danger. Those who go to meet temptation should remember the risk. I have read that it is recorded of Robert d'Arbrissel, the saintly founder of the community of Fonte d'Evrault that he was wont on occasions to sleep with his nuns, to mortify his flesh and as a mode of strengthening his will against its demands. He did not touch them, but his exceptional success in preserving his chastity would be no ground for the ordinary man undertaking so dangerous an experiment. In short, in order to be completely just, we must, in individual cases, consider intention and good faith. But, practically and for the mass, the counsel and duty to avoid the occasion of sin is, according to Shastrik principles themselves, enjoined. As a matter of fact, such worship has been confined to so limited a class that it would not have been necessary to deal with the subject were it not connected with Shakta worship, the matter in hand. To revert again to the "missionary's boot": whilst all things may be the object of worship, choice is naturally made of those objects which, by reason of their effect on the mind, are more fitted for it. An image or one of the usual emblems is more likely to raise in the mind of the worshipper the thought of a Devata than a boot, and therefore, even apart from scriptural authority, it would not be chosen. But, it has been again objected, if the Brahman is in and appears equally in all things, how do we find some affirming that one image is more worthy of worship than another. Similarly, in Catholic countries, we find worshippers who prefer certain churches, shrines, places of pilgrimage and representations of Christ, His Mother and the Saints. Such preferences are not statements of absolute worth but of personal inclinations in the worshipper due to his belief in their special efficacy for him. Psychologically all this means that a particular mind finds that it works best in the direction desired by means of particular instruments. The image of Kali provokes in general only disgust in an European mind. But to the race-consciousness which has evolved that image of Deity, it is the cause and object of fervent devotion. In every case, those means must be sought and applied which will produce a practical and good result for the individual consciousness in question. It must be admitted, however, that image worship like everything else is capable of abuse; that is a wrong and (for want of a better term) an idolatrous tendency may manifest. This is due to ignorance. Thus the aunt of a Catholic schoolboy friend of mine had a statue of St. Anthony of Padua. If the saint did not answer her prayers, she used to give the image a beating, and then shut it up in a cupboard with its "face to the wall" by way of punishment. I could cite numbers of instances of this ignorant state of mind taken from the past and present history of Europe. It is quite erroneous to suppose that such absurdities are confined to India, Africa or other colored countries. Nevertheless, we must, in each case, distinguish between the true scriptural teaching and the acts and notions of which they are an abuse.
The materials used or things done in Puja are called Upacara. The common number of these is sixteen, but there are more and less (see Principles of Tantra, Part ii). The sixteen which include some of the lesser number and are included in the greater are: (1) Asana (seating of the image), (2) Svagata (welcoming of the Devata), (3) Padya (water for washing the feet), (4) Arghya (offerings which may be general or Samanya and special or Vishesha) made in the vessel, (5), (6) Acamana (water for sipping and cleansing the lips -- offered twice), (7) Madhuparka (honey, ghee, milk and curd), (8) Snana (water for bathing), (9) Vasana (cloth for garment), (10) Abharana (jewels), (11) Gandha (Perfume), (12) Pushpa (flowers), (13) Dhupa (incense), (14) Dipa (lights), (15) Naivedya (food), and (16) Vandana or Namaskriya (prayer).
Why should such things be chosen? The Westerner who has heard of lights, flower and incense in Christian worship may yet ask the reason for the rest. The answer is simple. Honor is paid to the Devata in the way honor is paid to friends and those men who are worthy of veneration. So the Sadhaka gives that same honor to the Devata, a course that the least advanced mind can understand. When the guest arrives he is bidden to take a seat, he is welcomed and asked how he has journeyed. Water is given to him to wash his dusty feet and his mouth. Food and other things are given him, and so on. These are done in honor of men, and the Deity is honored in the same way.
Some particular articles vary with the Puja. Thus, Tulasi leaf is issued in the Vishnu-puja; bael leaf (Bilva) in the Shiva-puja, and to the Devi is offered the scarlet hibiscus (Jaba). The Mantras said and other ritual details may vary according to the Devata worshipped. The seat (Asana) of the worshipper is purified as also the Upacara. Salutation is made to the Shakti of support (Adhara-shakti) the Power sustaining all. Obstructive Spirits are driven away (Bhutapasarpana) and the ten quarters are fenced from their attack by striking the earth three times with the left foot, uttering the weapon-mantra (Astrabija) "Phat," and by snapping the fingers round the head. Other rituals also enter into the worship besides the offering of Upacara such as Pranayama or Breath control, Bhutasuddhi or purification of the elements of the body, Japa of Mantra, Nyasa (v. post), meditation (Dhyana) and obeisance (Pranama).
Besides the outer and material Puja, there is a higher inner (Antarpuja) and mental (Manasapuja). Here there is no offering of material things to an image or emblem, but the ingredients (Upacara) of worship are imagined only. Thus the Sadhaka, in lieu of material flowers offered with the hands, lays at the feet of the Devata the flower of good action. In the secret Rajasik Puja of the Vamacari, the Upacara are the five Tattvas (Pañcatattva), wine, meat and so forth described in the next Chapter. Just as flowers and incense and so forth are offered in the general public ritual, so in this special secret ritual, dealt with in the next Chapter, the functions of eating, drinking and sexual union are offered to the Devata.
A marked feature of the Tantra Shastras is the use of the Yantra in worship. This then takes the place of the image or emblem, when the Sadhaka has arrived at the stage when he is qualified to worship with Yantra. Yantra, in its most general sense, means simply instrument or that by which anything is accomplished. In worship, it is that by which the mind is fixed on its object. The Yantra, in lieu of the image or emblem holds the attention, and is both the object of worship, and the means by which it is carried out. It is said to be so called because it subdues (Niyantrana) lust, anger and the other sufferings of Jiva, and the sufferings caused thereby. (Tantra-tattva. Sadharana Upasana-tattva.)
The Yantra is a diagram drawn or painted on paper, or other substances, engraved on metal, cut on crystal or stone. The magical treatises mention extraordinary Yantras drawn on leopard's and donkey's skin, human bones and so forth. The Yantras vary in design according to the Devata whose Yantra it is and in whose worship it is used. The difference between a Mandala (which is also a figure, marked generally on the ground) is that whilst a Mandala may be used in the case of any Devata, a Yantra is appropriate to a specific Devata only. As different Mantras are different Devatas, and differing Mantras are used in the worship of each of the Devatas, so variously formed Yantras are peculiar to each Devata and are used in its worship. The Yantras are therefore of various designs, according to the object of worship. The cover of "Tantrik Texts" shows the great Sri Yantra. In the metal or stone Yantras no figures of Devatas are shown, though these together with the appropriate Mantras commonly appear in Yantras drawn or painted on paper, such as the Devata of worship, Avarana Shaktis and so forth. All Yantras have a common edging called Bhupura, a quadrangular figure with four "doors" which encloses and separates the Yantra from the outside world. A Yantra in my possession shows serpents crawling outside the Bhupura. The Kaulavaliya Tantra says that the distinction between Yantra and Devata is that between the body and the self. Mantra is Devata and Yantra is Mantra, in that it is the body of the Devata who is Mantra.
Yantram mantra-ma yam proktam mantratma devataiva hi
Dehatmanor yatha bedo yantradevata yos tatha.
As in the case of the image, certain preliminaries precede the worship of Yantra. The worshipper first meditates upon the Devata and then arouses Him or Her in himself. He then communicates the Divine Presence thus aroused to the Yantra. When the Devata has by the appropriate Mantra been invoked into the Yantra, the vital airs (Prana) of the Devata are infused therein by the Pranapratishtha ceremony, Mantra and Mudra (see for ritual Mahanirvana, VI. 63 et seq.). The Devata is thereby installed in the Yantra which is no longer mere gross matter veiling the Spirit which has been always there, but instinct with its aroused presence which the Sadhaka first welcomes and then worships.
In Tantrik worship, the body as well as the mind has to do its part, the former being made to follow the latter. This is of course seen in all ritual, where there is bowing, genuflection and so forth. As all else, gesture is here much elaborated. Thus, certain postures (Asana) are assumed in worship and Yoga. There is obeisance (Pranama), sometimes with eight parts of the body (Ashtangapranama), and circumambulation (Pradakshina) of the image. In Nyasa the hands are made to touch various parts of the body and so forth. A notable instance of this practice are the Mudras which are largely used in the Tantrik ritual. Mudra in this sense is ritual manual gesture. The term Mudra has three meanings. In worship (Upasana,) it means these gestures. In Yoga it means postures in which not only the hands but the whole body takes part. And, in the secret worship with the Pañcatattva, Mudra means various kinds of parched cereals which are taken with the wine and other ingredients (Upacara) of that particular worship. The term Mudra is derived from the root "to please" (Mud). The Tantraraja says that in its Upasana form, Mudra is so called because it gives pleasure to the Devatas. These Mudras are very numerous. It has been said that there are 108 of which 55 are in common use (Shabdakalpadruma Sub Voce, Mudra and see Nirvana Tantra, Chap. XI). Possibly there are more. 108 is favorite number. The Mudra of Upasana is the outward bodily expression of inner resolve which it at the same time intensifies. We all know how in speaking we emphasize and illustrate our thought by gesture. So in welcoming (Avahana) the Devata, an appropriate gesture is made. When veiling anything, the hands assume that position (Avagunthana Mudra). Thus again in making offering (Arghya) a gesture is made which represents a fish (Matsya Mudra) by placing the right hand on the back of the left and extending the two thumbs finlike on each side of the hands. This is done as the expression of the wish and intention that the vessel which contains water may be regarded as an ocean with fish and all other aquatic animals. The Sadhaka says to the Devata of his worship, "this is but a small offering of water in fact, but so far as my desire to honor you is concerned, regard it as if I were offering you an ocean." The Yoni in the form of an inverted triangle represents the Devi. By the Yoni Mudra the fingers form a triangle as a manifestation of the inner desire that the Devi should come and place Herself before the worshipper, for the Yoni is Her Pitha or Yantra. Some of the Mudra of Hathayoga which are in the nature both of a health-giving gymnastic and special positions required in Yoga-practice are described in A. Avalon's The Serpent Power. The Gheranda Samhita, a Tantrik Yoga work says (III. 4. 8. 10) that knowledge of the Yoga Mudras grants all Siddhi, and that their performance produces physical benefits, such as stability, firmness, and cure of disease.
Bhutasuddhi, an important Tantrik rite, means purification of the five "elements" of which the body is composed, and not "removal of evil demons," as Professor Monier-William's Dictionary has it. Though one of the meanings of Bhuta is Ghost or Spirit, it is never safe to give such literal translations without knowledge, or absurd mistakes are likely to be made. The Mantramahodadhi (Taranga I) speaks of it as a rite which is preliminary to the worship of a Deva.
Devarca yog yata-praptyai bhuta-shuddhim samacaret.
(For the attainment of competency to worship, the elements of which the body is composed, should be purified). The material human body is a compound of the five Bhutas of "earth," "water," "fire," "air", and "ether". These terms have not their usual English meaning but denote the five forms in which Prakriti the Divine Power as materia prima manifests Herself. These have each a center of operation in the five Cakras or Padmas (Centers or Lotuses) which exist in the spinal column of the human body (see A. Avalon's Serpent Power where this matter is fully described). In the lowest of these centers (Muladhara), the Great Devi kundalini, a form of the Saguna Brahman, resides. She is ordinarily sleeping there. In kundalini-yoga, She is aroused and brought up through the five centers, absorbing, as She passes through each, the Bhuta of that center, the subtle Tanmatra from which it derives and the connected organ of sense (Indriya). Having absorbed all these, She is led to the sixth or mind center (Ajña) between the eyebrows where the last Bhuta or ether is absorbed in mind, and the latter in the Subtle Prakriti. The last in the form of Kundali Shakti then unites with Shiva in the upper brain called the thousand-petalled lotus (Sahasrara). In Yoga this involution actually takes places with the result that ecstasy (Samadhi) is attained. But very few are successful Yogis. Therefore, Bhutasuddhi in the case of the ordinary worshipper is an imaginary process only. The Sadhaka imagines Kundali, that She is roused, that one element is absorbed into the other and so on, until all is absorbed in Brahman. The Yoga process will be found described in The Serpent Power, and Ch. V. 93 et seq. of the Mahanirvana gives an account of the ritual process. The Sadhaka having dissolved all in Brahman, a process which instills into his mind the unity of all, then thinks of the "black man of sin" in his body. The body is then purified. By breathing and Mantra it is first dried and then burnt with all its sinful inclinations. It is then mentally bathed with the nectar of the water-mantra from head to feet. The Sadhaka then thinks that in lieu of his old sinful body a new Deva body has come into being. He who with faith and sincerity believes that he is regenerated is in fact so. To each who truly believes that his body is a Deva body it becomes a Deva body. The Deva body thus brought into being is strengthened by the Earth-mantra and divine gaze (Divyadrishti). Saying, with Bijas, the Mantra "He I am" (So'ham) the Sadhaka by Jiva-nyasa infuses his body with the life of the Devi, the Mother of all.
Nyasa is a very important and powerful Tantrik rite. The word comes from the root, "to place," and means the placing of the tips of the fingers and palm of the right hand on various parts of the body, accompanied by Mantra. There are four general divisions of Nyasa, viz., inner (Antar), outer (Bahir), according to the creative (Srishti) and dissolving (Samhara) order (Krama). Nyasa is of many kinds such as Jiva-nyasa, Matrika or Lipi-nyasa, Rishi-nyasa, Shadamganyasa on the body (Hridayadi-shadamga-nyasa) and with the hands (Amgushthadi-shadamga-nyasa), Pitha-nyasa and so on. The Kularnava (IV. 20) mentions six kinds. Each of these might come under one or the other of the four general heads.
Before indicating the principle of this rite, let us briefly see what it is. After the Sadhaka has by Bhuta-shuddhi dissolved the sinful body and made a new Deva body, he, by Jiva-nyasa infuses into it the life of the Devi. Placing his hand on his heart he says, "He I am" thereby identifying himself with Shiva-Shakti. He then emphasizes it by going over the parts of the body in detail with the Mantra Am and the rest thus.' saying the Mantra and what he is doing, and touching the body on the particular part with his fingers, he recites: "Am (and the rest) the vital force (Prana) of the blessed Kalika (in this instance) are here. Am (and the rest) the life of the Blessed Kalika is here; Am (and the rest) all the senses of the Blessed Kalika are here; Am (and the rest) may the speech, mind, sight, hearing, sense of smell of the Blessed Kalika coming here ever abide here in peace and happiness. Svaha". By this, the body is thought to become like that of Devata (Devatamaya). Matrika are the fifty letters of the Sanskrit alphabet, for as from a mother comes birth, so from the Brahman who, as the creator of "sound" is called "Shabdabrahman", the universe proceeds. The Mantra-bodies of the Devata are composed of the Matrika or letters. The Sadhaka first sets the letters mentally (Antar-matrika-nyasa) in their several places in the six inner centers (Cakra), and then externally by physical action (Bahya-matrika-nyasa). The letters of the alphabet form the different parts of the body of the Devata which is thus built up in the Sadhaka himself. He places his hand on different parts of his body, uttering distinctly at the same time the appropriate Matrika for that part. The mental disposition in the Cakra is that given in Serpent Power by A. Avalon, each letter being repeated thus, Om Ham Namah (obeisance), Om Ksham Namah and so on with the rest. The external disposition is as follows: The vowels are placed on the forehead, face, right and left eye, right and left ear, right and left nostril, right and left cheek, upper and lower lip, upper and lower teeth, head and hollow of the mouth. The consonants, 'Ka' to 'Va' are placed on the base of the right arm and the elbow, wrist base and tips of fingers, left arm, and right and left leg, right and left side, back navel, belly, heart, right and left shoulder, and space between the shoulders (Kakuda). Then, from the heart to the right palm, Sa; from the heart to the left palm, Sa (second); from the heart to the right foot, Sa; from the heart to the left foot, Ha; and lastly from the heart to the belly and the heart to the mouth, Ksha. This Matrikanyasa is of several kinds.
One form of Rishi-nyasa is as follows: "In the head, salutation to Brahma and the Brahmarishis; in the mouth, salutation to Gayatri and other forms of Verse; in the heart, salutation to the primordial Devata Kali; in the hidden part (Guhya), salutation to the Bija Krim; in the two feet, salutation to Hrim; in all the body, salutation to Shrim and Kalika. In Shadamga-nyasa on the body, certain letters are placed with the salutation Namah, and with the Mantras Svaha, Vashat, Vaushat, Hrim, Phat on the heart, head, crown-lock (Shikha), eyes, the front and back of the palm. In Karanyasa, the Mantras are assigned to the thumbs, index fingers, middle fingers, fourth fingers, little fingers, and the front and back of the palm. From the above examples the meaning of Nyasa is seen. By associating the Divine with every part of the body and with the whole of it, the mind and body are sought to be made divine to the consciousness of the Sadhaka. They are that already, but the mind is made to so regard them. "What if it does?" the English reader may ask. How can the regarding a thing as divine make it so? In one sense it does not, for mind and body are as Shakti divine, whether this be known or not. But this must be known to the Sadhaka or they are not divine for him. His mind is trained to look upon them as divine manifestations of the One Supreme Essence which at base he and they are. According to Hindu views, primary importance is attached to mental states, for as the Divine Thought made the World, man makes his character therein by what he thinks. If he is always thinking of material things and has desires therefor, he becomes himself material and is given over to lust and other passions. If, on the contrary, he has always his mind on God, and associates everything with the thought of Him, his mind becomes pure and divine. As the Upanishad says, "What a man thinks that he becomes." Thought is everything, molding our bodily features, moral and intellectual character and disposition, leading to and appearing in our actions. Much superficial criticism is leveled at this or other ritual, its variety, complexity, its lengthy character and so forth. If it is performed mechanically and without attention, doubtless it is mere waste of time. But if it is done with will, attention, faith and devotion, it must necessarily achieve the result intended. The reiteration of the same idea under varying forms brings home with emphasis to the consciousness of the Sadhaka the doctrine his Scripture teaches him, viz., that his essence is Spirit and his mind and body are its manifestation. All is divine. All is Consciousness. The object of this and all the other ritual is to make that statement a real experience for the Sadhaka. For the attainment of that state in which the Sadhaka feels that the nature (Bhava) of the Devata has come upon him, Nyasa is a great auxiliary. It is as it were the wearing of Divine jewels in different parts of the body. The Bijas of the Devatas (which are Devatas) are the jewels which the Sadhaka places on the different parts of his body. By the particular Nyasa he places his Abhishtadevata in such parts, and by Vyapaka-Nyasa he spreads its presence throughout himself. He becomes thus permeated by the Divine and its manifestations, thus merging or mingling himself in or with the Divine Self or Lord. Nyasa, Asana and other ritual are necessary, for the production of the desired state of mind and its purification (Cittashuddhi). The whole aim and end of ritual is Citta-shuddhi. Transformation of thought is transformation of being, for particular existence is a projection of thought, and thought is a projection from the Consciousness which is the Root of all.
This is the essential principle and rational basis of this, as of all, Tantrik Sadhana. Nyasa also has certain physical effects, for these are dependent on the state of mind. The pure restful state of meditation is reflected in the body of the worshipper. The actions of Nyasa are said to stimulate the nerve centers and to effect the proper distribution of the Shaktis of the human frame according to their dispositions and relations, preventing discord and distraction during worship, which itself holds steady the state thus induced.
In the Chapters on Mantramayi Shakti and Varnamala, as also in my Garland of Letters, I have dealt with the nature of Mantra and of its Sadhana. An account will also be found of the subject in the Mantratattva Chapter of the second part of Principles of Tantra. Mantra is Devata and by Sadhana therewith the sought-for (Sadhya) Devata is attained, that is, becomes present to the consciousness of the Sadhaka or Mantrin. Though the purpose of Worship (Puja), Reading (Patha), Hymn (Stava), Sacrifice (Homa), Meditation (Dhyana), and that of the Diksha-mantra obtained on initiation are the same, yet the latter is said to be far more powerful, and this for the reason that in the first, the Sadhaka's Sadhana-shakti only operates whilst in the case of Mantra that Sadhana-shakti works in conjunction with Mantra-shakti which has the revelation and force of fire, than which nothing is more powerful. The special Mantra which is received at initiation (Diksha) is the Bija or Seed-Mantra sown in the field of the Sadhaka's heart, and the Tantrik Sandhya, Nyasa, Puja, and the like are the stem and branches upon which hymns of praise (Stuti) and prayer and homage (Vandana) are the leaves and flower, and the Kavaca consisting of Mantra, the fruit. (See Chapter on Mantra-tattva, part ii, Principles of Tantra.)
The utterance of a Mantra without knowledge of its meaning or of the Mantra-sadhana is a mere movement of the lips and nothing more. The Mantra sleeps. This is not infrequently the case in the present degeneracy of Hindu religion. For example, a Brahman lady confided to me her Diksha-mantra and asked me for its meaning, as she understood that I had a Bija-kosha or Lexicon which gave the meaning of the letters. Her Guru had not told her of its meaning, and inquiries elsewhere amongst Brahmanas were fruitless. She had been repeating the Mantra for years, and time had brought the wisdom that it could not do her much good to repeat what was without meaning to her. Japa is the utterance of Mantra as described later. Mantra-sadhana is elaborate. There are various processes preliminary to and involved in its right utterance which again consists of Mantra. There are the sacraments or purifications (Samskara) of the Mantra (Tantrasara, p. 90). There are "birth" and "death" defilements of a Mantra (ib., 75, et seq.,) which have to be cleansed. This and, of course, much else mean that the mind of the Mantrin has to be prepared and cleansed for the realization of the Devata. There are a number of defects (Dosha) which have to be avoided or cured. There is purification of the mouth which utters the Mantra (Mukha-shodhana) (see as to this and the following Sharada Tilaka (Chap. x), purification of the tongue (Jihva-shodhana) and of the Mantra (Ashauca-bhanga). Mantra processes called Kulluka, Nirvana, Setu (see Sharada Tilaka, loc cit, Tantrasara, and Purashcaranabodhini, p. 48) which vary with the Devata of worship, awakening of Mantra (Nidrabhanga) its vitalizing through consciousness (Mantracaitanya), pondering on the meaning of the Mantra and of the Matrikas constituting the body of the Devata (Mantrartha bhavana). There are Dipani, Yonimudra (see Purohita-darpanam) with meditation on the Yoni-rupa-bhagavati with the Yonibija (Eng) and so forth.
In ascertaining what Mantra may be given to any particular individual, certain Cakra calculations are made, according to which Mantras are divided into those which are friendly, serving, supporting or destroying (Siddha, Sadhya, Susiddha, Ari). All this ritual has as its object the establishment of that pure state of mind and feeling which are necessary for success (Mantra-siddhi). At length the Mantrin through his Cit-shakti awakening and vitalizing the Mantra which in truth is one with his own consciousness (in that form) pierces through all its centers and contemplates the Spotless One (Kubjika Tantra V). The Shakti of the Mantra is called the Vacika Shakti or the means by which the Vacya Shakti or ultimate object is attained. The Mantra lives by the energy of the former. The Saguna-Shakti in the form of the Mantra is awakened by Sadhana and worshipped and She it is who opens the portals whereby the Vacya-Shakti is reached. Thus the Mother in the Saguna form is the Presiding Deity (Adhishthatri Devata) of the Gayatri Mantra. As the Nirguna (formless) One, She is its Vacya Shakti. Both are in truth one and the same. But the Sadhaka, by the laws of his nature and its three Gunas, must first meditate on the gross (Sthula) form before he can realize the subtle (Sukshma) form which is his liberator. So for from being merely superstition, the Mantra-sadhana is, in large part, based on profound notions of the nature of Consciousness and the psychology of its workings. The Sadhaka's mind and disposition are purified, the Devata is put before him in Mantra form and by his own power of devotion (Sadhana Shakti) and that latent in the Mantra itself (Mantra-shakti) and expressed in his mind on realization therein, such mind is first identified with the gross, and then with the subtle form which is his own transformed consciousness and its powers.
Japa is defined as Vidhanena mantroccaranam, that is (for default of other more suitable words), the utterance or recitation of Mantra according to certain rules. Japa may however be of a nature which is not defined by the word, recitation. It is of three kinds (Jñanarnava Tantra, XX) namely, Vacika Japa, Upamshu Japa, Manasa Japa. The first is the lowest and the last the highest form. Vacika is verbal Japa in which the Mantra is distinctly and audibly recited (Spashta-vaca). Upamshu Japa is less gross and therefore superior to this. Here the Mantra is not uttered (Avyakta) but there is a movement of the lips and tongue (Sphuradvaktra) but no articulate sound is heard. In the highest form or mental utterance (Manasa-japa) there is neither articulate sound nor movement. Japa takes place in the mind only by meditation on the letters (Chintanakshararupavan). Certain conditions are prescribed as those under which Japa should be done, relating to physical cleanliness, the dressing of the hair, garments worn, the seated posture (Asana), the avoidance of certain states of mind and actions, and the nature of the recitation. Japa is done a specified number of times, in lakhs by great Sadhakas. If the mind is really centered and not distracted throughout these long and repeated exercises the result must be successful. Repetition is in all things the usual process by which a certain thing is fixed in the mind. It is not considered foolish for one who has to learn a lesson to repeat it himself over and over again until it is got by heart. The same principle applies to Sadhana. If the "Hail Mary" is said again and again in the Catholic rosary, and if the Mantra is similarly said in the Indian Japa, neither proceeding is foolish, provided that both be done with attention and devotion. The injunction against "vain repetition" was not against repetition but that of a vain character. Counting is done either with a Mala or rosary (Mala-japa) or with the thumb of the right hand upon the joints of the fingers of that hand according to a method varying according to the Mantra (Kara-japa).
Purashcarana is a form of Sadhana in which, with other ritual, Japa of Mantra, done a large number of times, forms the chief part. A short account of the rite is given in the Purashcarana-bodhini by Harakumara Tagore (1895). (See also Tantrasara 71 and the Purashcaryarnava of the King of Nepal.) The ritual deals with preparation for the Sadhana as regards chastity, food, worship, measurements of the Mandapa or Pandal and of the altar, the time and place of performance and other matters. The Sadhaka must lead a chaste life (Brahmacarya) during the period prescribed. He must eat the pure food called Havishyannam or boiled milk (Kshtra), fruits, Indian vegetables, and avoid all other food which has the effect of stimulating the passions. He must bathe, do Japa of the Savitri Mantra, entertain Brahmanas and so forth. Pañcagavya is eaten, that is, the five products of the cow, namely, milk, curd, ghee, urine, and dung, the two last (except in the case of the rigorously pious) in smaller quantity. Before the Puja there is worship of Ganesha and Kshetrapala and the Sun, Moon, and Devas are invoked. Then follows the Samkalpa. The Ghata or Kalasa (jar) is placed in which the Devata is invoked. A Mandala or figure of a particular design is marked on the ground and on it the jar is placed. Then the five or nine gems are placed in the jar which is painted red and covered with leaves. The ritual then prescribes for the tying of the crown lock (Shikha), the posture (Asana) of the Sadhaka, Japa, Nyasa, and the Mantra ritual. There is meditation as directed, Mantra-chaitanya and Japa of the Mantra the number of times for which vow has been made.
The daily life of the religious Hindu was in former times replete with worship. I refer those who are interested in the matter to the little work, The Daily Practices of the Hindus by Srisha Candra Vasu, the Sandhyavandana of all Vedic Shakhas by B. V. Kameshvara Aiyar, the Kriyakandavaridhi and Purohita-darpanam. The positions and Mudras are illustrated in Mrs. S. C. Belons' Sandhya or daily prayer of the Brahmin published in 1831. It is not here possible to do more than indicate the general outlines of the rites followed.
As the Sadhaka awakes he makes salutation to the Guru of all and recites the appropriate Mantras and confessing his inherent frailty ("I know Dharma and yet would not do it. I know Adharma and yet would not renounce it,") -- the Hindu form of the common experience "Video meliora," he prays that he may do right and offers all the actions of the day to God. Upon touching the ground on leaving his bed he salutes the Earth, the manifestation of the All-Good. He then bathes to the accompaniment of Mantra and makes oblation to the Devas, Rishis or Seers and the Pitris who issued from Sandhya, Brahma the Pitamaha of humanity, and then does rite.
This is the Vaidik form which differs according to Veda and Shakha for the twice-born and there is a Tantriki Sandhya for others. It is performed thrice a day at morn, at noon, and evening. The Sandhya consists generally speaking, of Acamana (sipping of water), Marjjana-snana (sprinkling of the whole body), Pranayama (Breath-control), Aghamarshana (expulsion of sin), prayer to the Sun and then (the canon of the Sandhya) Japa of the Gayatri-mantra. Rishi-nyasa and Shadamga-nyasa (v. ante), and meditation of the Devi Gayatri, in the morning as Brahmani (Shakti of Creation), at midday as Vaisnavi (Shakti of maintenance), and in evening as Rudrani (Shakti which "destroys" in the sense of withdrawing creation). The Sandhya with the Aupasana fire-rite and Pañcayajña are the three main daily rites, the last being offerings to the Devas, to the Pitris, to animals and birds (after the Vaishvadeva rite), to men (as by entertainment of guests) and the study of Vaidik texts. By these five Yajñas, the worshipper daily places himself in right relations with all being, affirming such relation between Devas, Pitris, Spirits, men, the organic creation and himself.
The word "Yajña" comes from the root Yaj (to worship) and is commonly translated "sacrifice," though it includes other rituals than what an English reader might understand by that term. Thus, Manu speaks of four kinds of Yajña as Deva, Bhauta (where ingredients are used), Niryaja and Pitryajña. Sometimes the term is used in connection with any kind of ceremonial rite, and so one hears of Japa-yajña (recitation of Mantra), Dhyana-yajña (meditation) and so on. The Pañcatattva ritual with wine and the rest is accounted a Yajña. Yajñas are also classified according to the dispositions and intentions of the worshipper into Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika Yajña. A common form of Yajña is the Devayajña Homa rite in which offerings of ghee are made (in the Kunda or fire-pit) to the Deva of Fire who is the carrier of oblations to the Devas. Homa is an ancient Vaidik rite incorporated with others in the General Tantrik ritual. It is of several kinds, and is performed either daily, or on special occasions, such as the sacred thread ceremony, marriage and so forth. Besides the daily (Nitya) ceremonies such as Sandhya there are occasional rites (Naimittika) and the purificatory sacraments (Samskara) performed only once.
The ordinary ten Samskaras (see Mahanirvana Tantra, Ch. IX) are Vaidik rites done to aid and purify the individual in the important events of his life, namely, the Garbhadhana sanctifying conception prior to the actual placing of the seed in the womb, the Pumsavana and Simantonnayana or actual conception and during pregnancy. It has been suggested that the first Samskara is performed with reference to the impulse to development from the "fertilization of the ovum to the critical period: the second with reference to the same impulse from the last period to that of the viability stage of the fetus," and the third refers to the period in which there is viability to the full term (see Appendix on Samskaras. Pranavavada, I. 194). Then follows the Samskara on birth (Jata-karma), the naming ceremony (Nama-karana), the taking of the child outdoors for the first time to see the sun (Nishkramana), the child's first eating of rice (Annaprasana), his tonsure (Cudakarana), and the investiture in the case of the twice-born with the sacred thread (Upanayana) when the child is reborn into spiritual life. This initiation must be distinguished from the Tantrik initiation (Mantra-diksha) when the Bija-mantra is given by the Guru. Lastly there is marriage (Udvaha). These Samskaras, which are all described in the ninth Chapter of the Mahanirvana Tantra, are performed at certain stages in the human body with a view to effect results beneficial to the human organism through the superphysical and subjective methods of ancient East science.
Vrata is a part of Naimittika -- occasional ritual or Karma. Commonly translated as vows, they are voluntary devotions performed at specified times in honor of particular Devatas (such as Krishna's birthday), or at any time (such as the Savitrivrata). Each Vrata has its peculiarities, but there are certain features common to all, such as chastity, fasting, bathing, taking of pure food only and no flesh or fish. The great Vrata for a Shakta is the Durga-puja in honor of the Devi as Durga.
The fasting which is done in these or other cases is called Tapas, a term which includes all forms of ascetic austerity and zealous Sadhana such as the sitting between five fires (Pañcagni-tapah) and the like. Tapas has however a still wider meaning and is then of three kinds, namely, bodily (Shariraka), by speech (Vacika) and by mind (Manasa), a common division both of Indian and Buddhist Tantra. The first includes external worship, reverence, support of the Guru, Brahmanas and the wise (Prajña), bodily cleanliness, continence, simplicity of life and avoidance of hurt to any being (Ahimsa). The second form includes truth, good, gentle and affectionate speech and study of the Vedas. The third or mental Tapas includes self-restraint, purity of disposition, tranquillity and silence. Each of these classes has three sub-divisions, for Tapas may be Sattvika, Rajasika, or Tamasika according as it is done with faith, and without regard to its fruit, or for its fruit; or is done through pride and to gain honor or respect or power; or lastly which is done ignorantly or with a view to injure and destroy others such as Abhicara or the Sadhana of the Tantrik Shatkarma (other than Shanti), that is, fascination or Vashikarana, paralyzing or Stambhana, creating enmity or Vidveshana, driving away or Uccatana, and killing or Marana when performed for a malevolent purpose. Karma ritual is called Kamya when it is done to gain some particular end such as health, prosperity and the like. The highest worship is called Nishkama-karma, that is, it is done not to secure any material benefit but for worship's sake only. Though it is not part of ordinary ritual, this is the only place where I can conveniently mention a peculiar Sadhana, prevalent, so far as I am aware, mainly if not wholly amongst Tantrikas of a Shakta type which is called Nilasadhana or Black Sadhana. This is of very limited application being practiced by some Vira Sadhakas in the cremation ground. There are terrifying things in these rituals and therefore only the fearless practice them. The Vira trains himself to be indifferent and above all fear. A leading rite is that called Shava Sadhana which is done with the means of a human corpse. I have explained elsewhere (see Serpent Power) why a corpse is chosen. The corpse is laid with its face to the ground. The Sadhaka sits on the back of the body of the dead man on which he draws a Yantra and then worships. If the rite is successful it is said that the head of the corpse turns round and asks the Sadhaka what is the boon he craves, be it liberation or some material benefit. It is believed that the Devi speaks through the mouth of the corpse which is thus the material medium by which She manifests Her presence. In another rite, the corpse is used as a seat (Shavasana). There are sittings also (Asana) on skulls (Mundasana) and the funeral pyre (Citasana). However repellent or suspect these rites may appear to be to a Western, it is nevertheless the fact that they have been and are practiced by genuine Sadhakas of fame such as in the past the famed Maharaja of Nattore and others. The interior cremation ground is within the body that being the place where the passions are burnt away in the fire of knowledge.
The Adya Shakti or Supreme Power of the Shaktas is, in the words of the Trishati, concisely described as Ekananda-cidakritih. Eka = Mukya, Ananda = Sukham, Cit = Caitanyam or Prakasha = Jñanam; and Akritih = Svaruipa. She is thus Sacchidananda-brahmarupa,. Therefore, the worship of Her is direct worship of the Highest. This worship is based on Advaitavada. Therefore, for all Advaitins, its Sadhana is the highest. The Shakta Tantra is thus a Sadhana Shastra of Advaitavada. This will explain why it is dear to, and so highly considered by Advaitins. It is claimed to be the one and only stepping stone which leads directly to Kaivalya or Nirvanamukti; other forms of worship procuring for their followers (from the Saura to the Shaiva) various ascending forms of Gaunamukti. Others of course may claim this priority. Every sect considers itself to be the best and is in fact the best for those who, with intelligence, adopt it. Were it not so its members would presumably not belong to it but would choose some other. No true Shakta, however, will wrangle with others over this. He will be content with his faith of which the Nigamakalpataru says, that as among castes the Brahmanas are foremost, so amongst Sadhakas are the Shaktas. For, as Niruttara Tantra says, there is no Nirvana without knowledge of Shakti (Shaktijñanam vina devi nirvanam naiva jayate). Amongst the Shaktas, the foremost are said to be the worshippers of the Kali Mantra. The Adimahavidya is Kalika. Other forms are Murttibheda of Brahmarupini Kalika. Kalikula is followed by Jñanis of Divya and Vira Bhavas; and Shrikula by Karmin Sadhakas. According to Niruttara, Kalikula includes Kali, Tara, Raktakali, Bhuvana, Mardini, Triputa, Tvarita, Pratyamgiravidya, Durga, and Shrikula includes Sundari, Bhairavi, Bala, Bagala, Kamala, Dhumavati, Matamgi, Svapnavatividya, Madhumati Mahavidya. Of these forms Kalika is the highest or Adyamurti as being Shuddhasattvagunapradhana, Nirvikara, Nirgunabrahma-svarupaprakashika, and, as the Kamadhenu Tantra says, directly Kaivalyadayini. Tara is Sattvagunatmika, Tattvavidyadayini, for by Tattvajñana one attains Kaivalya. Shodashi, Bhuvaneshvari, Cinnamasta are Rajahpradhana Sattvagunatmika, the givers of Gaunamukti and Svarga. Dhumavati, Kamala, Bagala, Matangi are Tamahpradhana whose action is invoked in the magical Shatkarma.
The most essential point to remember as giving the key to all which follows is that Shaktadharma is Monism (Advaitavada). Gandharva Tantra says, "Having as enjoined saluted the Guru and thought "So'ham,' the wise Sadhaka, the performer of the rite should meditate upon the unity of Jiva and Brahman."
Gurun natva vidhanena so'ham iti purodhasah
Aikyam sambhavayet dhiman jivasya brahmano'pica.
Kali Tantra says: "Having thus meditated, the Sadhaka should worship Devi with the notion, 'So'ham'."
Evam dhyatva tato devim so'ham atmanam arcayet.
Kubjika Tantra says: "A Sadhaka should meditate upon himself as one and the same with Her" (Taya sahitamatmanam ekibhutam vicintayet). The same teaching is to be found throughout the Shastra: Nila Tantra directing the Sadhaka to think of himself as one with Tarini; Gandharva Tantra telling him to meditate on the self as one with Tirupura not different from Paramatma; and Kalikulasarvasva as one with Kalika and so forth. For as the Kularnava Tantra says: "The body is the temple of God. Jiva is Sadashiva. Let him give up his ignorance as the offering which is thrown away (Nirmalya) and worship with the thought and feeling, 'I am He'."
Deho devalayah proktah jivo devah Sadashivah
Tyajed ajñananirmalyam so'ham bhavena pujayet.
This Advaitavada is naturally expressed in the ritual.
The Samhita and Brahmanas of the four Vedas are (as contrasted with the Upanishads) Traigunyavishaya. There is therefore much in the Vaidik Karmakanda which is contrary to Brahmajñana. The same remarks apply to the ordinary Pashu ritual of the day. There are differences of touchable and untouchable, food, caste, and sex. How can a man directly qualify for Brahmajñana who even in worship is always harping on distinctions of caste and sex and the like? He who distinguishes does not know. Of such distinctions the higher Tantrik worship of the Shakta type knows nothing. As the Yogini Tantra says, the Shastra is for all castes and for women as well as men. Tantra Shastra is Upasana Kanda and in this Shakta Upasana the Karma and Jñana Kanda are mingled (Mishra). That is, Karma is the ritual expression of the teaching of Jñana Kanda and is calculated to lead to it. There is nothing in it which contradicts Brahmajñana. This fact, therefore, renders it more conducive to the attainment of such spiritual experience. Such higher ritual serves to reveal Jñana in the mind of the Pashu. So it is rightly said that a Kula-jñani even if he be a Candala is better than a Brahmana. It is on these old Tantrik principles that the Indian religion of to-day can alone, if at all, maintain itself. They have no concern, however, with social life and what is called "social reform". For all secular purposes the Tantras recognize caste, but in spiritual matters spiritual qualifications alone prevail. There are many such sound and high principles in the Tantra Shastra for which it would receive credit, if it could only obtain a fair and unprejudiced consideration. But there are none so blind as those who will not see. And so we find that the "pure and high" ritual of the Veda is set in contrast with theca supposed "low and impure" notions of the Tantra. On the contrary, a Tantrik Pandit once said to me: "The Vaidik Karmakanda is as useful for ordinary men as is a washerman for dirty clothes. It helps to remove their impurities. But the Tantra Shastra is like a glorious tree which gives jeweled fruit."
Sadhana, as I have said, is defined as that which leads to Siddhi. Sadhana comes from the root "Sadh" -- to exert, to strive. For what'? That depends on the Sadhana and its object. Sadhana is any means to any end and not necessarily religious worship, ritual and discipline. He who does Hatha-yoga, for physical health and strength, who accomplishes a magical Prayoga, who practices to gain an "eightfold memory" and so forth are each doing Sadhana to gain a particular result (Siddhi), namely, health and strength, a definite magical result, increased power of recollection and so forth. A Siddhi again is any power gained as the result of practice. Thus, the Siddhi of Vetala Agni Sadhana is control over the fire-element. But the Sadhana which is of most account and that of which I here speak, is religious worship and discipline to attain true spiritual experience. What is thus sought and gained may be either Heaven (Svarga), secondary liberation (Gaunamukti) or full Nirvana. It is the latter which in the highest sense is Siddhi, and striving for that end is the chief and highest form of Sadhana. The latter term includes not merely ritual worship in the sense of adoration or prayer, but every form of spiritual discipline such as sacraments (Samskara), austerities (Tapas), the reading of Scripture (Svadhyaya), meditation (Dhyana) and so forth. Yoga is a still higher form of Sadhana; for the term Yoga means strictly not the result but the means whereby Siddhi in the form of Samadhi may be had. Ordinarily, however, Sadhana is used to express all spiritual disciplines based on the notion of worshipper and worshipped; referring thus to Upasana, not Yoga. The latter passes beyond these and all other dualisms to Monistic experience (Samadhi). The first leads up to the second by purifying the mind (Cittashuddhi), character and disposition (Bhava) so as to render it capable of Jñana or Laya Yoga; or becomes itself Parabhakti which, as the Devibhagavata says, is not different from Jñana. The great Siddhi is thus Moksha; and Moksha is Para-matma, that is, the Svarupa of Atma. But the Sadhaka is Jivatma, that is, Atma associated with Avidya of which Moksha or Paramatma is free. Avidya manifests as mind and body, the subtle and gross vehicles of Spirit. Man is thus therefore Spirit (Atmasvarupa), which is Saccidananda, Mind (Antahkarana) and body (Sthula-sharira). The two latter are forms of Shakti, that is, projections of the Creative Consciousness through and as its Maya. The essential operation of Maya and of the Kañcukas is to seemingly contract consciousness. As the Yoginihridaya Tantra says, the going forth (Prashara) of Consciousness (Samvit) is in fact a contraction (Sankoca as Matri, Mana, Meya or known, knowing, being known). Consciousness is thus finitized into a limited self which and other selves regard one another as mutually exclusive. The Self becomes its own object as the many forms of the universe. It conceives itself as separate from them. Oblivious in separateness of its essential nature it regards all other persons and things as different from itself. It acts for the benefit of its limited self. It is in fact selfish in the primary sense of the term; and this selfishness is the root of all its desires, of all its sins. The more mere worldly desires are fostered, the greater is the bondage of man to the mental and material planes. Excessively selfish desires display themselves as the sins of lust, greed, anger, envy and so forth. These bind more firmly than regulated desire and moreover lead to Hell (Naraka). The most general and ultimate object of Sadhana is therefore to cast off from the Self this veil of Avidya and to attain that Perfect experience which is Atmasvarupa or Moksha. But to know Brahman is to be Brahman. Brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati as Shruti says. In essence man is Brahman. But owing to Avidya it is necessary to do something in order that this ever existent fact may be realized. That action (Kriya) is the work of Sadhana in its endeavor to clear away the veiling of Avidya which is ignorance. In the sense that Avidya is being removed man may be said by Sadhana to become Brahman: that is, he realizes himself as what he truly is and was. Sadhana, therefore, by the grace of Devi or "descent of Shakti" (Shaktipata) "converts" (to use an English term) the Sadhaka, that is, turns him away from separatist worldly enjoyment to seek his own true self as the pure Spiritual Experience. This transformation is the work and aim of Sadhana. But this experience is not to be had in its completest sense at once and at a bound. It is, as Patañjali says, very rare. Indeed those who truly desire it are very few. Brahman is mindless (Amanah); for mind is a fetter on true consciousness. This mindlessness (Niralambapuri) is sought through the means of Yoga. But no would-be Yogi can attain this state unless his mind is already pure, that is, not only free from gross sin, but already possessing some freedom from the bondage of worldly desires, cultivated and trained, and desirous of liberation (Mumukshu). The aim, therefore, of preliminary Sadhana is to secure that purification of mind (Cittashuddhi) which is alone the basis on which Yoga works. The first object then is to restrain the natural appetites, to control the senses, and all that excessive selfishness beyond the bounds of Dharma which is sin (Papa). Dharma prescribes these bounds because unrestricted selfish enjoyment leads man downward from the path of his true evolution. Man is, as regards part of his nature, an animal, and has, according to the Shastra, passed through all animal forms in his 84 lakhs of previous births. But he has also a higher nature and if he conforms to the path laid out for him will progress by degrees to the state of that Spirit whose limited form he now is. If he strays from that path he falls back, and continued descent may bring him again to the state of apparently unconscious matter through many intervening Hells in this and other worlds. For this reason, the Shastra repeats that he is a "self-killer" who, having with difficulty attained to manhood, neglects the opportunities of further progress which they give him (Kularnava Tantra I). Therefore, he must avoid sin which leads to a fall. How can the impure realize the Pure? How can the mere seeker of sensual enjoyment desire formless liberating Bliss? How can he recognize his unity with all if he is bound in selfishness which is the root of all sin? How can he realize the Brahman who thinks himself to be the separate enjoyer of worldly objects and is bound by all sensualities? In various forms this is the teaching of all religions. It would be hardly necessary to elaborate what is so plain were it not apparently supposed that the Tantra Shastra is a strange exception to these universally recognized principles. "I thought," said a recent English correspondent of mine, "that the Tantra was a wholly bad lot belonging to the left hand path." This is not so: common though the notion be. The Shastra teaches that the Sadhaka must slay his "Six Enemies" which are the six cardinal sins and all others allied with them. Whether all the means enjoined are good, expedient, and fitting for the purpose is a different matter. This is a distinction which none of its critics ever makes; but which accuracy and justice require they should make if they condemn the method. It is one thing to say that a particular method prescribed for a good end is bad, dangerous, or having regard to the present position of the generality of men, unadvisable; and a totally different thing to say that the end which is sought is itself bad. The Tantra, like all Shastras, seeks the Paramartha and nothing else. Whether all the forms of search are good (and against the bulk of them no moral objection can be raised) is another question. Let it be for argument supposed that one or other of the means prescribed is not good but evil. Is it accurate or just to condemn not only the particular Shastra in which they occur (as the discipline of a particular class of Sadhakas only), but also the whole of the Agamas of all classes of worshippers under the misleading designation "The Tantra"?
I am here speaking from the point of view of one who is not a Hindu. Those, however, who are Hindus must logically either deny that the Tantra Shastra is the Word of Shiva or accept all which that Word says. For if a Tantra prescribes what is wrong this vitiates the authority, in all matters, of the Tantra in which wrong is ordained. It may be that other matters dealt with should be accepted, but this is so not because of any authority in the particular Tantra, but because they have the countenance elsewhere of a true authoritative scripture. From this logical position no escape is possible.
Let us for the moment turn to the celebrated Hymn to Kali (of, as those who read it might call, the extremist, that is Vira Shakta worship) entitled the Karpuradi Stotra (Tantrik Texts, Vol. IX), which like most (probably all) of its kind has both a material (Sthula) and a subtle (Sukshma) meaning. In the 19th verse it is said that the Devi delights to receive in sacrifice flesh, with bones and hair, of goat, buffalo, cat, sheep, camel and of man. In its literal sense this passage may be taken as an instance of the man-sacrifice of which we find traces throughout the world (and in some of the Tantras) in past stages of man's evolution. Human sacrifices permitted by other Semites were forbidden by the Mosaic Code, although there is an obvious allusion to such a custom in the account of the contemplated sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham (Gen. xxii). The Israelites, however, offered bloody sacrifices the savor of which God (Yahweh) is represented as enjoying, they being necessary in His honor and to avert His wrath (Gen. viii. 21; Lev. i. 9. 13, 17; Judges vi. 17, xii. 15; Gen. viii. 20-21; 1 Sam xxvi. 19). Nothing is more common in all religions (and Christianity as by some understood provides many examples) than to materially understand spiritual truths. For such is the understanding of material of Sthuladarshin (grossly seeing) men. But, even in the past, those who were spiritual referred all sacrifice to the self; an inner sacrifice which all must make who would attain to that Spirit which we may call Kali, God, Allah, or what we will. But what is the Svarupa-vyakhya or true meaning of this apparently revolting verse? The meaning is that inner or mental worship (Antaryaga) is done to Her who is black (Asita) because She is the boundless (Sita = Baddha) Consciousness (Cidrupa) whose true nature is eternal liberation (Nityamukta-Svabhava). And just as in outer worship material offerings (Upacara) are made, so the Sadhaka sacrifices to Her his lust (the Goat-Kama), his anger (the Buffalo-Krodha), his greed (the Cat-Lobha), his stupidity of illusion (the Sheep-Moha), his envy (the Camel-Matsaryya) and his pride and infatuation with worldly things (the Man-Mada). All will readily recognize in these animals and man the qualities (Guna) here attributed to them. It is to such as so sacrifice to whom is given Siddhi in the form of the five kinds of Mukti.
Competency for Tantra (Tantrashastradhikara) is described in the second Chapter of the Gandharva Tantra as follows: The aspirant must be intelligent (Daksha), with senses controlled (Jitendriya), abstaining from injury to all beings (Sarva himsa-vinirmukta), ever doing good to all (Sarvapranihite rata), pure (Shuci), a believer in Veda (Astika), a non-dualist (Dvaitahina), whose faith and refuge is in Brahman (Brahmanishtha, Brahmavadi, Brahma, Brahma-parayana). "Such an one," it adds, "is competent for this Scripture otherwise he is no Sadhaka" (So'smin shastre'dhikari tad anyatra na sadhakah). It will be allowed by all that these are strange qualifications for a follower of "a bad scripture of the left hand path." Those who are on such a path are not supposed to be seekers of the Brahman, nor solicitous for the good of all being. Rather the reverse. The Kularnava Tantra (which I may observe deals with the ill-famed Pañcatattva ritual) gives in the thirteenth Chapter a long list of qualifications necessary in the case of a Tantrik disciple (Shishya). Amongst these, it rejects the slave of food and sexual pleasure (Jihvopasthapara); the lustful (Kamuka), shameless (Nirlajja), the greedy and voracious eater, the sinner in general who does not follow Dharma and Acara, who is ignorant, who has no desire for spiritual knowledge, who is a hypocrite, with Brahman on his lips but not in his heart, and who is without devotion (Bhakti). Such qualifications are inconsistent with its alleged intention to encourage sensuality unless we assume that all such talk in all the Shastras throughout all time is mere hypocrisy.
It is not however sufficient for the Sadhaka to turn from sin and the occasions of it. It is necessary to present the mind with a pure object and to busy it in pure actions. This not only excludes other objects and actions but trains the mind in such a way towards goodness and illumination that it at length no longer desires wrongful enjoyment; or lawful Pashu enjoyment or even enjoyment infused with a spiritual Bhava, and thus finally attains desirelessness (Nishkama-bhava). The mind dominated by matter, then regulated in matter, consciously releases itself to first work through matter, then against matter; then rising above matter it, at length, enters the Supreme State in which all the antithesis of Matter and Spirit have gone.
What then are the means by which spiritual Siddhi is attained? Some are possibly common to all religions; some are certainly common to more than one religion, such as objective ritual worship (Bahyapuja), inner or mental worship (Manasa-Puja or Antarpuja) of the Ishtadevata, prayer (Prarthana), sacraments (Samskara), self-discipline for the control of the will and natural appetites (Tapas), meditation (Dhyana) and so forth. There is, for instance, as I have elsewhere pointed out, a remarkable similarity between the Tantrik ritual of the Agamas and Christian ritual in its Catholic form. It has been suggested that Catholicism is really a legacy of the ancient civilization, an adaptation of the old religions (allied in many respects with Shakta worship) of the Mediterranean races; deriving much of its strength from its non-Christian elements. I will not observe on this except to say that you do not dispose of the merits of any ritual by showing (if it be the fact) that it is extremely old and non-Christian. Christianity is one of the great religions, but even its adherents, unless ignorant, will not claim for it the monopoly of all that is good.
To deal in detail with Tantrik Sadhana would take more than a volume. I have shortly summarized some important rituals. I will now shortly indicate some of the general psychological principles on which it is based and which if understood, will give the key to an understanding of the extraordinary complexity and variety of the actual ritual details. I will also illustrate the application of these principles in some of the more common forms of worship.
It is recognized in the first place that mind and body mutually react upon one another. There must therefore be a physical Sadhana as the groundwork of the mental Sadhana to follow. India has for ages recognized what is now becoming generally admitted, namely, that not only health but clarity of mind, character, disposition, and morals are affected by the nourishment, exercise, and general treatment of the body. Thus, from the moral aspect, one of the arguments against the use of meat and strong drink is the encouragement they give to animal passions. Why then it may be asked do these form a part of some forms of Shakta Sadhana'? I answer this later. It is however a Hindu trait to insist on purity of food and person. Tantrik Hathayoga deals in full with the question of bodily cleanliness, food, sexual continence, and physical exercise. But there are injunctions, though less strict, for the ordinary householder to whom wine and other intoxicating drinks and the eating of beef (thought by some to be a material foundation of the British Empire, but now recognized by several medical authorities to be the source of physical ills) and some other foods, as also all gluttony, as regards permitted food, are forbidden. Periodical fasts are enjoined; as also, during certain religious exercises, the eating of the pure food called Havishyannam made of fruit, vegetable and rice. The sexual life has also its regulations. In short, it is said, let the body be well treated and kept pure in order to keep the mind sane and pure and a good and not rebellious instrument for mental Sadhana. In the Tantras will be found instances of several necessary bodily perfections in the Sadhaka. Thus he should not be deformed, with defective limbs, wanting in, or having excess of any limb, weak of limb, crippled, blind, deaf, dirty, diseased, with unnatural movements, paralyzed, slothful in action (Kularnava, XIII).
Let us now pass to the mind. For the understanding of Hindu ritual it is necessary to understand both Hindu philosophy and Hindu psychology. This point, so far as I am aware, has never been observed Certainly Indian ritual has never been dealt with on this basis. It has generally been considered sufficient to class it as "Mummery" and then to pass on to something supposed to be more worthy of consideration. It is necessary to remember that (outside successful Yoga) the mind (at any rate in its normal state) is never for one moment unoccupied. At every moment of time worldly objects are seeking to influence it. Only those actually do so, to which the mind, in its faculty as Manas, gives attention. In one of the Tantrik Texts (Satcakranirupana), the Manas is aptly spoken of as a door-keeper who lets some enter and keeps others outside. For this reason it is called Samkalpavikalpatmaka: that is, it selects (Samkalpa) some things which the senses (Indriyas) present to it and rejects (Vikalpa) others. If the Manas attends to the sensation demanding entrance, it is admitted and passed on to the Buddhi and not otherwise. So the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad says, "My Manas was elsewhere and therefore I did not hear." This is a secret for the endurance of pain which not only the martyrs and the witches knew, but some others who have suffered lesser pains. When the sensation is passed on to the Buddhi, as also when the latter acts upon the material of remembered precepts, there is formed in the Buddhi a Vritti. The latter is a modification of the Mind into the form of the perceived object. Unless a man is a Siddhayogi, it is not possible to avoid the formation of mental Vrittis. The object, there fore, of Sadhana is firstly to take the attention away from undesirable objects and then to place a desirable object in their stead. For the mind must feed on something. The object is the Ishtadevata. When a Sadhaka fully, sincerely and deeply contemplates and worships his Ishtadevata, his mind is formed into a Vritti in the form of the Devata. As the latter is all purity, the mind, which contemplates it, is during and to the depth of such contemplation pure. By prolonged and repeated worship the mind becomes naturally pure and of itself tends to reject all impure notions. What to others is a source of impurity is pure. To the pure, as the Hellenes said, all things are pure. Things are not impure. It is the impure mind which makes them so. He learns to see that everything and all acts are manifestations of the Divine. He who realizes Consciousness in all objects no longer has desire therefor. In this way a good disposition or Bhava, as it is called, is attained which ripens into that which is divine or Devatabhava. This is the principle on which all Sadhana, as well as what is called specifically Mantrayoga, is based. It is profoundly said in the Kularnva Tantra that a man must rise by means of the same things which are the cause of his fall. If you fall on the ground you must raise yourself by it. The mind is thus controlled by means of its own object (Vishaya); that is, the world of name and form (Namarupa). The unregulated mind is distracted by Namarupa. But the same Namarupa may be used as the first means of escape therefrom. A particular form of Namarupa productive of pure Bhava is therefore given as the object of meditation. This is called Sthula or Saguna Dhyana of the five Devatas. Material media are used as the first steps whereby the Formless One is, through Yoga, attained, such as Images (Pratima), emblems (Linga, Shalagrama), pictures (Citra), mural markings (Bhittirekha), Jar (Ghata), Mandalas and Yantras. To these worship (Puja) is done with other rites such as Japa, Nyasa and so forth, and gestures (Mudra). Siddhi in this, is the Samadhi called Mahabhava.
The second principle to be noted is that the object or mind's content, as also the service (Seva) of it, may be either gross (Sthula) or subtle (Sukshma). This distinction pervades all the rituals and rightly so. Men are not all at the same degree of intellectual and spiritual advancement. For the simple-minded there are simple material and mental images. Progressively considered, the objects used to fix in the mind the thought of the Devata are images in human or semihuman form, similar pictures, non-human forms or emblems (such as Linga and Gauripatta, Shalagrama, the Jar or Ghata, Mandalas) and lastly Yantras. The image is not merely used for instruction (ut pictura pro scriptura haberetur), or to incite in the mind a mental picture, but after the Prana-Pratishtha rite is itself worshipped. So also amongst Christians, where however this rite is unknown, "eikones acheiropoietoi" (what are called in Sanskrit Svayambu emblems) and wonder-working images have been directly venerated. Superficial persons doubtless think themselves profound when they ask how the Devata can be invoked (Avahana). To them also the dismissal (Visarjana) savors of childish impudence and absurdity. How (I have read) can God be told to come and go P A Christian who sings the Hymn, "Veni creator Spiritus," is indeed ignorant if he fancies that at his request the Holy Ghost comes to him flying through the skies. As Shamkara says, Spirit (Atma) never comes and never goes. That which in fact moves is the mind of the Sadhaka in which, if pure, Spirit manifests Itself. That Spirit is in all places, and when the Sadhaka's mind fully realizes its presence in the Image, the latter as the manifestation of that Spirit is a fitting object of worship. Some knowledge of Vedanta is needful for the understanding and performance of image worship. Yantra worship is however higher and is fitter for those who have reached a more advanced stage in Sadhana. The term, as I have said, literally means an instrument; that by which anything is accomplished. In Upasana it is that instrument by which the mind is fixed upon the Devata of worship. It is, as drawn, a diagram consisting of lines, angles and curves, varying with the Devata worshipped as also, to some extent, according as it is a Puja or Dharana Yantra, the whole being included in a common Bhupura. A Yantra is three-dimensional, though it is very generally represented by a drawing on the flat. The Yantra and each part of it as representing certain Shaktis, has a significance which is known to the instructed Sadhaka. On the great Sri Yantra with its Baindava and other Cakras there is an entire literature. It is neglected now-a-days. Those who have fully understood it are masters in Tantra Shastras. The subject is shortly dealt with in the Introduction to the Tantraraja Tantra (Vol. VIII, Tantrik Texts). Not only is the object of worship subtle or gross, but so also is the ritual with which it is worshipped. For the simple Indian, worship avails itself of the ordinary incidents of daily life understood by even the most ignorant. And so we see the tending of the idol, waking it, bathing it, giving it food, putting it to sleep and so forth. In ordinary worship there is the offer of flowers, light, incense and the like Upacara. In the subtle inner or mental worship (Antarpuja) these are but symbols. Thus the Jñaneshvara Samhita cited in the Mantrayogarahasyanirnaya speaks of the offering of "flowers of feeling" (Bhavapushpa) to the Divinity -- namely, the virtue of selflessness (Anahamkara), desirelessness (Araga), guilelessness (Adambha), freedom from malice and envy (Advesha, Amatsaryya), and infatuation and delusion (Amada and Amoha) and control over the feelings and mind (Akshobhaka, Amanaka). He who can truly make such offerings to Devi is a high Sadhaka indeed. The Shastra makes wonderful provision for all types. It recognizes that there must be a definite object to which the mind must turn; chooses that object with a view to the capacities of the Sadhaka; and similarly regulates the ensuing worship. Much ignorant talk takes place as to the supposed worship of the Formless. Worship implies an object of worship and every object has some form. But that form and the ritual vary to meet the needs of differing capacities and temperaments; commencing with the more or less anthropomorphic image (Doll or Puttali, as those who dislike such worship call it) with its material service reproducing the ways of daily life, passing through pictures, emblems, Yantras, and mental worship to adoration of the Point of Light (Jyotirbindu) in which at length, consciousness being merged, all worship ceases.
The Shaktirahasya summarizes the stages of progress in a short verse, thus: "By images, ceremonies, mind, identification, and knowing the Self, a mortal attains Liberation (Kaivalya)".
In the same way, meditation is either gross (Sthula) or subtle (Sukshma). The forms of the Mother of the Universe are threefold. There is first the Supreme (Para) form of which the Vishnuyamala says "None know". There is next Her subtle form which consists of Mantra. But as the mind cannot settle itself upon that which is formless, She appears also in physical form as celebrated in the Devi-stotras of the Puranas and Tantras.
The third principle to be noticed is the part which the body is made to take in the ritual. Necessarily there is action in any case to carry out the ritual, but this is so prescribed as to emphasize the mental operation (Manasikriya), and in addition certain symbolic gestures (Mudra) are prescribed. The body is made to take its part in the ritual, the mental processes being thus emphasized and intensified. This is based on a well-known natural tendency. When we speak with conviction and intensity of feeling, we naturally adopt appropriate movements of the body and gestures of the hands. We thus speak with the whole body.
Take for example Nyasa which like Yantra is peculiar to the Tantras. The object of the Sadhaka is to identify himself with the Devata he contemplates and thus to attain Devatabhava for which it is, in its many forms, a most powerful means. Regarding the body of the Devata as composed of Bija Mantras, he not merely imagines that his own body is so composed but he actually places (Nyasa means placing) these Bijas with the tip of his fingers on the various parts of his own body. The Abhishta Devata is thus in imagination (expressed by outward acts) placed in each of the parts and members of the Sadhaka's body, and then with the motion of his arms he, by Vyapaka Nyasa, as it were, spreads the presence of the Devata all over his body. He thus feels himself permeated in every part by the presence of the Devata and identified with the Divine Self in that its form. How, it may be asked, can the Devata be spread as it were butter on bread? These are crude questionings and because critics of the ritual do not get beyond this crude state of mind, this ritual is not understood. Devata is not spread. God is everywhere and He is not to be placed by man's fingers anywhere. What is done is to produce in man's mind the notion that he is so spread. Again with certain ritual acts Mudra is made. This Mudra expresses by the hands the thought of the worshipper of which it is sometimes a kind of manual shorthand.
A further important point for consideration is that the mental Vritti is not only strengthened by the accompanying physical action, but by a prolonged repetition of either or both. There may be a literal repetition of either or both, of which a prominent example is Japa of Mantra with which I have dealt in the Chapters on Shakti as Mantra and on the Varnamala; or the object of contemplation may be severed into parts, as where meditation is done not simply on the Devata as a whole, but on each of the parts of His body and then on the whole; or a particular result, such as the dissolution of the Tattvas in Bhutasuddhi, may be analyzed into the component parts of a process commencing with the first movement and ending with the last. Repetition of a word and idea fixes it in the mind, and if the same essential thought can be presented in varied forms, the effect is more powerful and at the same time less calculated to tire. "Vain repetition" is itself in the mouths of many a vain criticism when not a platitude. If it is in fact vain, it is vain. But it need not be so. In the current gross way of looking at things it is asked, "Will the Deity yield (like a modern politician) to repeated clamor?" The answer is the Devata is not so affected. What is in fact affected is, the mind of the Sadhaka himself, which, being thus purified by insistent effort, becomes a fit medium for the manifestation of a divine consciousness (Devatabhava). In short fact Indian ritual cannot be understood unless the Vedantik principles of which they are a particular practical application are understood. Even when in devotion, complete understanding and feeling are not attained, the intention to gain both will achieve success by quickening worshipper's interest and strengthening the forces of the will.
A word now as to Symbolism, which exists in all religions in varying degrees. The Tantra Shastra is extraordinarily full of it in all its kinds -- form, color, language, number, action. The subject is a highly interesting but very lengthy one. I can only make two remarks with regard to it here. Red is a favorite color in the Shakta Tantras. As pointed out in the Bhavanopanisad (Sutra 28) an Upanishad of the Kadimata and Bhaskararaya's commentary thereon, Redness denotes Raga and Vimarsha Shakti. (See Introduction to Tantraraja Tantra Vol. VIII, Tantrik Texts, and Vol. XI, Tantrik Texts.) There is a good deal of what is called erotic symbolism in some of the Tantras. This is apt to shock many English people, who are by no means all so moral in fact as some might think this sensitivity suggests. "The Hindus are very natural as regards sexual matters." An English clergyman remarks (E. F. Elwin India and the Indians, p. 70) "A leading Indian Christian said to me 'there is no reserve among us in the sense that you English people have it. There is nothing which our children do not know." It should be added, says this author, "that the knowledge of evil (why I may ask is it always evil?) does not as a matter of course produce evil". The mind of the ancients was a natural one and they called a spade a spade and not an horticultural instrument, and were not shocked thereby. For instance, coupled Yab-Yum figures were not thought impure. Another point has been observed upon by the Italian author Guido Gozzano, namely, that the European has lost the power of "worshipping through the flesh" which existed in antique pagan times. (Verso la cuna del Mondo). Fear of erotic symbols is rather indicative in the generality of cases of a tendency to weakness and want of self-control. The great Edward Carpenter speaks of the "impure hush" in these matters. A person whose mind is naturally bent towards sensual thoughts but who desires to control them has no doubt a fear, which one readily understands, of anything which may provoke such thoughts. But such a man is, in this respect, lower than him who looks upon natural things in a natural way without fear of injury to himself; and greatly lower than him to whom all is a manifestation of the One Consciousness, and who realizes this in those things which are the cause of all to the imperfectly self-governed Pashu. Nothing is in itself impure. It is the mind which makes it so. It is however absolutely right that persons who feel that they have not sufficient self-control should, until they gain it, avoid what they think may do them injury. Apart from symbolism there are statements in some Shastras or so-called Shastras which are, in the ordinary modern sense, obscene. Some years ago a man wrote to me that he had come across in the Tantras "obscenities the very reading of which was demoralizing". The very fact that these portions of the Scripture had such an effect on him is a sufficient reason that he and others similarly situated should not read them. The Tantra Shastra recognizes this principle by certain injunctions into which I cannot enter here. The Kularnava expressly says that the Chapter on the Wine ritual is not to be read (Na pathed asavollasam); that is, by the unqualified.
Again it is not necessary to admit either that every Text which calls Itself a Tantra is a genuine one or if so that it was the product of a high class Sadhaka. What is authoritative is that which is generally admitted to be so. Even if the Scripture be one of general acceptance, there is another matter to be remembered. As pointed out in Karpuradistotra (Hymn to Kali, where instances are given), an apparently "obscene" statement may disguise something which is not so. Why it may be asked? An intending disciple may be questioned as to such passages. If he is a gross-minded or stupid man his answers will show it. Those who are not fit for the reception of the doctrine may be kept off on hearing or reading such statements which may be of such a character that anyone but a fool would know that they were not to be taken literally. It may be that the passages which my correspondent read were of this character.
As regards erotic symbolism, however, (for to this I now limit myself) it is not peculiar to the Tantras. It is as old as the hills and may be found in other Scriptures. It is a matter of embarrassment to the class I have mentioned that the Bible is not free from it. Milton, after referring to Solomon's wedded leisures says, "In the Song of Songs which is generally believed, even in the jolliest expressions, to figure the spousals of the Church with Christ, sings of a thousand raptures between those two lovely ones far on the hither side of carnal enjoyment." If we would picture the cosmic processes we must take the materials therefor from our own life. It is not always necessary to go to the erotic life. But man has generally done so for reasons I need not discuss here; and his selections must sometimes be admitted to be very apt. It has however been said that "throughout Shakta symbolism and pseudo-philosophizing, there lies at the basis of the whole system, the conception of sexual relationship as the ultimate explanation of the universe." Reading these words as they stand, they are nonsense. What is true is that some Shakta Tantras convey philosophic and scientific truths by the media of erotic imagery; which is another matter. But so also does Upanishad. The charge of pseudo-philosophy is ill-founded, unless the Advaita-vedanta is such. The Shakta Tantra simply presents the Vedantik teachings in a symbolical ritualistic form for the worshipper to whom it also prescribes the means whereby they may be realized in fact. Those who think otherwise have not mastered the alphabet of the subject.
I will conclude with a reply to a possible objection to what I have above written. It may be said that some of the rituals to which I have alluded are not merely the property of the Tantra Shastras and that they are not entitled to any credit for them. It is a fact that some (many have become extinct) Vaidik rituals such as the ten Samskaras, Sandhya, Homa and so forth are imbedded in and have been adopted by the Agamas. These and other rituals are to be found also in the Puranas. In any case, the Agama is what it is whether its elements are original or derived. If the rites adopted are creditable then praise must be given for the adoption of that which is good. If they are not, blame equally attaches to the original as to the copy. What however the Agamas have adopted has been shaped so as to be suitable for all, that is, for others than those for whom the original rituals were intended. Further many of the rituals here described seem to have been introduced by and to be peculiar to the Agamas. Possibly some of these may have been developed from other forms or seeds of form in the Vaidik ritual. The whole subject of Indian ritual and its origins is still awaiting inquiry. Personally I am disposed to favor the view that the Agamas have made a contribution which is both original and considerable. To me also the contribution seems to have greater conformity with Vedantik doctrine, which is applied by the ritual in a psychological manner which is profound. On an "historical" view of the matter this seems necessarily to be so. For, according to that view, the early Vaidik ritual either antedated or was contemporaneous with the promulgation of the Vedantik doctrine to be found in the Upanishads, for the general acceptance of which considerable time was necessary. It could not therefore (if at all) embody that doctrine in the same way or to the same degree as a Ritual developed at a time when that doctrine had been widely disseminated, generally accepted and at least to a greater degree systematized. Ritual is only a practical expression of doctrine, and the Agamas, according to a generally accepted view, did not come into being earlier than a date later than the first and chief Upanishads, and perhaps at the close of what is generally called the Aupanishadic age. No "historical" argument, however, is yet entirely trustworthy, as the material upon which it is to be based has not been sufficiently explored. For myself I am content to deal with present-day facts. According to the Indian view, all Shastras are various parts of one whole and that Part which as a present-day fact contains the bulk of the ritual, now or recently in practice, consists of the Tantras of the various schools of Agama. As an Indian author and follower of the Shaivagama has said -- the Temple ritual throughout India is governed by the Agamas. And this must be so, if it be the fact as alleged, that Temples, Images, and other matters were unknown to the original Vaidik Aryas. If the Agamas have adopted some of the ritual of the latter, those in their turn in course of time took to themselves the practices of those outside the body of men for whom the Vaidik Karma-kanda was originally designed. Vedanta in its various forms has now for centuries constituted the religious notions of India, and the Agamas in their differing schools are its practical expression in worship and ritual affording the means whereby Vedantik doctrine is realized.