Shakti and Shakta

by John Woodroffe | 1929 | 243,591 words

A collection of papers and essays addressing the Śakti aspect of the Śākta school of Hindu philosophy by John Woodroffe, also known as Arthur Avalon....

Chapter XXIII - The Psychology of Hindu Religious Ritual

[Lecture delivered before the India Society on June 24, 1925. Chairman: Sir Francis Younghusband.]

THE word “religious” in the title of this lecture has been inserted in order to exclude magical ritual, with which I do not deal, though I have a word or two to say on the subject.

As regards the word “Hindu,” it must be remembered that there is a considerable variety of doctrine and ritual, for there are a number of communities of Indian worshippers. Though, perhaps, too much stress is generally laid on these differences, and sufficient notice is not taken of fundamental points of agreement, yet there are differences, and if we are to be exact, we must not forget that fact. It is not, of course, possible, during the hour or so at my disposal, to treat of all these differences. I have, therefore, selected the ritual of one of these communities called Śāktas. These worshippers are so called because they worship the great Mother-Power or Mahāśakti. Their doctrine and practice is of importance, because (as an Italian author has recently observed) of its accentuation of Will and Power. He describes it as “a magnificent ensemble of metaphysic, magic, and devotion raised on grandiose foundations.” And so, whether it be acceptable or not, I think it is. The title, therefore, is, in this matter, not exact. Some of what is here said is of common application and some is peculiar to the Śāktas.

Now as to the word “Ritual.” Ritual is the Art both of Religion and Magic. Magic, however, is more completely identified with ritual than is religion; for magic is ritual, using the latter term to include both mental and bodily activity; whereas religion, in the wide sense of Dharma, is not merely ritual-worship, but covers morality also. And so, it is finely said: “The doing of good to others is the highest Dharma.” In this sense of the term Dharma, we are not concerned with ritual. Ritual has been the subject of age long dispute. Whilst there are some who favour it, others are fanatically opposed to it. In this matter, India, as usual, shows her great reconciling wisdom. She holds (I speak of those who follow the old ways) that ritual is a necessity for the mass of men. To this extent she adopts what I may call the “Catholic” attitude. She makes, however, concession on the other hand to the “Protestant” view, in holding that, as a man becomes more and more spiritual, he is less and less dependent on externals, and therefore on ritual, which may be practically dispensed with in the case of the highest.

Then as to the word “Psychology.” In order to understand the ritual, one must know the psychology of the people whose it is; and in order to know and to understand their psychology, we must know their metaphysic. There are some who claim to dispense with metaphysic, but the Indian people have been, throughout their history, pre-eminently thinkers. The three greatest metaphysical peoples have been, in the past, the Greeks and the Indians, both Brahmanist and Buddhist, and, in modern times, the Germans. The Greek, Sanskrit, and German languages are pre-eminently fitted for metaphysical use. We must then deal with metaphysic when treating of Hindu ritual. I do not propose, however, here to enter upon the subject more than is absolutely necessary to understand the matter in hand.

Now, when we look around us, we see everywhere Power, or Śakti. The world is called Jagat, which means “the moving thing,” because, anticipating modern doctrine, the Ancient Hindus held that everything was in a state of ceaseless activity, which was not the Brahman in Itself (Svarūpa). Such movement is eit,her due to the inherent power of mind and matter, or to a cause which, though immanent in the universe, yet is not wholly manifested by, but transcends it. This latter alternative represents the Indian view. Power (Śakti) connotes a Power-holder (Śaktimān). Power as universe is called Saṃsāra. The state of power, as it is in itself, that is, the state of Powerholder, is (to we one of the better-known terms, though there are others) Nirvāṇa.

What, then, is the nature of experience in the Saṃsāra? The latter is the world of form, and Dharma is the Law of Form. Form necessarily implies duality and limitation. Therefore, experience in Saṃsāra is an experieuce of form by form. It is limited, dualistic experience. It is limited or Apūrna (not the whole or complete), relative to the state of Nirvāṇa, which is the whole (Pūrna) or complete or Perfect Experience. Therefore, whilst the latter is a state of all-knowingness and all-mightiness, man is a contraction (Saṃkoca), and is a “little-knower” and “little-doer.” The Power-holder is called Śiva-śakti—that is, the supreme Śiva-śakti, for the universe, being but the manifestation of the transcendent Śiva-śakti, is also itself Śiva-śakti. The names Śiva and Śakti are the twin aspects of one and the same Reality. Śiva denotes the masculine, unchanging aspect of Divinity, while Śakti denotes its changing feminine aspect. These two are Haṃsaḥ, Haṃ being Śiva and male, and Saḥ being Śakti and female. It is this Haṃsaḥ, or legendary “Bird,” which is said, in the poem called “Wave of Bliss,” “to swim in the wates of the mind of the great.” The unmanifest Śiva-śakti aspect is unknown, except in the Samādhi or ecstasy of Yoga. But the Śakti aspect, as manifested in the universe, is near to, the Śakta worshipper. He can see Her and touch Her, for it is She who appears as the universe, and so it is said: “What care I for the Father, if I but be on the lsp of the Mother?” This is the Great Mother, the Magna Mater of the Mediterranean civilisation, and the Mahādevī of India—that August Image whose vast body is the universe, whose breasta are Sun and Moon. It was to Her that the “mad,” wine-drinking Sadhu Bhāma referred, when he said to a man I knew who had lost his mother: “Earthly mothers and those who suck their breasts are mortal; but deathless are those who have fed at the breast of the Mother of the Universe.” It is She who personalizes in the form of all the beings in the universe; and it is She again who, as the essence of such personalizing, is the Supreme Personality (Parāhantā), who in manifestation is “God in Action.” Why, it may be asked, is God thought of as Mother? This question may be countered by another—“Why is God called Father?” God is sexless. Divinity is spoken of as Mother because It “conceives, bears, gives birth to, and nourishes the Universe.” In generation man is said to be a helper only. The learned may call this mother-notion, “infantilism” and “anthropomorphism.” But the Śākta will not be afraid, and will reply that it is not he who has arbitrarily invented this image of the Mother, but that is the form in which She has herself presented Herself to his mind. The great Śākta poet, Rāmaprasāda, says: “By feeling (Bhāva) is She known. How then can Abhāva (that is, lack of feeling) find her?” In any case he may recall the lines of the Indian poet: “If I understand, and you understand, O my mind, what matters it whether any other understand or not?”

Viewing the matter more drily and metaphysically, we have then to deal with two states. Firstly, the limited experience of Saṃsāra the Becoming, and the Perfect Experience or transcendent Being, which is Nirvāṇa. This last state is not for the Śākta mere abstract Being. This is a fiction of the ratiocinating intellect. It is a massive, rich, and concrete experience, a state which—being powerful to produce from out itself the Universe—must therefore hold the seed or essence of it within itself. It is a mistake on this view to suppose that those who attain to it will lose anything of worth by so doing.

The first point which is therefore established is that there are these two states. Both are so established by experience—the first by the ordinary experience man has of this world, and the second by supernormal spiritual experience. For the Hindu holds that the Supreme State is proved not by speculation or argument (which may yet render its support), but by actual spiritual experience.

The second point to remember is that these two states are one. We must not think of “creation” in the sense, in which there is an infinite break between man and God, and, therefore, man cannot become God. Man, in this system of Vedānta, is, though a contraction of Power, nevertheless, in essence, the self-same Power which is God. There is unity (Abheda) as Essence, and difference (Bheda) as Manifestation. Similarly, Islamic philodophy distinguishes between independent Zat, or essence, and dependent and derivative Attribute, or Sifat. Essence is one, Manifestation is different. The two are thus neither identical nor separate. There is that which the Hindus call AbhedaBheda.

The third point then is that Man, being such Power, he can by his effort, and the grace of his patron Deity, enhance it even to the extent that he becomes one with Divinity. And so it is said that “by the worship of Viṣṇu, man becomes Viṣṇu.” To know a being or thing is, according to non-dual Vedānta, to be that thing. To know God, then, is to be God. Man can then pass from limited experience, or Saṃsāra, to Perfect Experience, or Nirvāṇa. This “towering tenet,” to use Brian Hodgson’s phrase (“Nepal”), that finite mind may be raised to infinite consciousness, is also held by Buddhism,

The practical question then is: How is this experience of oneness with Divinity, its powers aud attributes, obtained? The answer is that this is the work of Sādhanā and Yoga.

The term Sādhanā comes from the root Sādh, which means to exert, to strive to attain a particular result or Siddhi, as it is called. The person making the effort is called Sādhaka, and if, he obtains the result desired, or Siddhi, he is called Siddha. Etymologically Sādhanā may refer to any effort. Thus a person who takes lessons in French or in riding, with a view to learn that language or to become a horseman, is doing Sādhanā for those purposes respectively. If French or riding is learnt, then Siddhi is obtained, and the man who attains it is Sidda, or proficient in French and riding respectively. But technically Sādhanā refers either to Ritual Worship or Ritual Magic. A Sādhaka is always a dualist, whatever his theoretical doctrine may be, because worship implies both worshipped and worshipper. The highest aim of religious worship is attainment, of the Abode or Heaven of the Divinity worshipped. This Heaven is not Nirvāṇa. The latter is a formless state, whereas Heaven is a pleasurable abode of forms—a state intermediate between Death and Rebirth. According to the ordinary view, Ritual Worship is a preparation for Yoga. When a man is Siddha in Sādhanā he becomes qualified for Yoga, and when he is Siddha in Yoga he attains Perfect Experience. Yoga is thus the process whereby man is raked from Limited to Perfect Experience. The Sādhanā with which I am now concerned is religious Sādhanā, a spiritual effort to achieve a moral and spiritual aim, though it may also seek material blessings from the Divinity worshipped.

Magic is the development of supernormal power, either by extension of natural faculty or by control over other beings and forces of nature. I use the word “supernormal” and not “supernatural” because all power is natural. Thus one man may see to a certain extent with his eyes. Another man with more powerful eyes will see better. A man with a telescope will see further than either of these two. For the telesoope is a scientific extension of the natural faculty of sight. Over and beyond this is the “magical” extension of power called clairvoyance. The last power is natural but not normal. Magic (of which there has been abuse) has yet been indiscriminately condemned. Whether an act is good or bad depends upon the intention and the surrounding circumstances, and this same rule applies whether the act is normal or magical. Thus a man may in defence of his life use physical means for self-protection, even to the causing of the death of his adversary. Killing in such a case does not become bad because the means employed are not normal but “magical.” On the other hand, Black Magic, or Abhicāra, is the doing of harm to another without lawful excuse. This the Scripture (Śāstra) condemns as a great sin. As the “Kulārṇava Tantra” says (XII. 63), “Ātmavat sarvahutebhyo hitam kuryyāt Kuleśvari”—that is, a man should not injure, but should do good to others as if they were his own self. In the Tantra Śāstras are to be found magical rituals. Some classes of works, such as the “Dāmaras,” are largely occupied with this subject. It is a mistake, howcver, to suppose that because a practice is described in the Scripture, it is counselled by it. A book on legal medicine may state the substances by and manner in which a man may be poisoned. It describes the process which, if carried out, produces a particular result, but it does not on that account counsel killing. As regards the magical rites themselves, the view that they are mere c,hildish superstition is not an understanding one. The objective ritual stimulates, is a support of, and serves the Mind-Rays, which, the Hindus would say, are not less but more powerful than the physical fornla we call X-rays and the like. It has long been known in India, as it is becoming known in the West, that the mind is not merely a passive mirror of objects, but is a great and active Power. As I have already said, however, I do not propose to deal with this subject, and now return to that of religious worship.

Religious ritual is either formal (Karma, such as the Homa rite, or is devotional (Upāsanā), according as the act done belongs to the Karma or Upāsanā Kāṇḍas, which together with the Jñāna Kāṇḍa, constitute the thee-fold division of Veda. The distinction between Karma and Upāsanā is this. In ritual Karma the result is produced by performance of the rite, such as Homa, independently of the effort of the Sādhaka, provided there be strict ritual accuracy; whereas, the fruit of Upāsanā, or psychological worship, depends on the personal devotion of the worshipper, and without it the act is of no avail. Upāsanā, or devotional worship, is again either gross (Sthūla) or subtle (Sūkṣma), according to the degree of competency or advancement of the Sādhaka or person who does Sādhanā. We must not understand by the word “gross” anything bad. It is merely used in contra-distinction to the word “subtle.” Thus, a worshipper who is doing his Sādhanā before an exterior image is performing gross worship, whereas he who worships a mentally conceived image is doing subtle worship. A man who offers real flowers is doing a part of gross worship. Subtle worship in such a case would be the offering of flowers of the mind.

I will now shortly examine the Vedāntic theory of Mind, which must be known if the ritual is to be understood. There is no Mind without Matter or Matter without Mind, except in dreamless sleep, when the latter is wholly withdrawn. The Mind has always an object. In a literal sense, there is no vacuous mind. It is not aware, of course, of all objects, but only of those to which it pays attention. Nextly, Mind is not Consciousness (Cit) which is immaterial. Mind, on the contrary, is a quasi-material principle of Unconsciousness, which on one view, appears to be conscious by reason of the association of Consciousness with it. According to the Śākta Śāktra view, Mind is an unconscious quasi-material force, being the power of Consciousness to limit itself, and to the extent of such limitation, to appear as unoonscious. How then does Mind operate? A Mind-Ray goes forth to the object, which in its turn shapes the mental substanoe into the form of the object. Thus, when a man thinks of an image of Divinity intently and without distraction, his mental substance takes the form of the image. The object which is perceived leaves an impress on the mind, and this impress, if repeated, sets up a tendency or Saṃskāra. Thus a man who repeatedly thinks good thoughts has a tendency towards the thinking of such thoughts, and by continued good thought character is moulded and transformed. As the Chandogya Upaniṣad says: “As a man thinks that he becomes.” Similarly, the Gandharva Tantra says: “By meditating on anything as the self, one becomes that thing.” A man can thus shape his mind for good or bad.

The mind affects the body. As it is said in the West, “the soul is form and doth the body make.” Every thought has a corresponding change in the material substance of the brain.

Well, then, as the mind must have an object which again shapes the mind, the ritual selects a good object, namely, the Divinity of worship with all good attributes.

The Sādhaka meditates on and worships that. Continued thought, repetition, the engagement of the body in the mental action co-operate to produce a lasting and good tendency in the mental substance. Sincere and continued effort effects the transformation of the worshipper into a likeness with the Divinity worshipped. For as he who is always thinking bad thoughts becomes bad, so he who thinks divine thoughts becomes himself divine. The transformation which is commenced in Sādhanāis completed in Yoga, when the difference between worshipper and worshipped ceases in that unitary consciousness which is ecstasy or Samādhi, or transcendent perfect experience.

Let us now 'examine some illustrations of the psychological principles stated.

Divinity as it is in Itself cannot (as an Indian writer has said) be seized by the mind any more than air can be grasped by a pair of tongs. It is necessary, therefore, to have something placed before one as a representative of something else, which is what the Sanskrit ternis, Pratīka Pratimā, for the object worshipped, mean. This may be an external object or a mental one. As regards the former, there are varying degrees of grossness and subtlety. The grossest is that in which there is no call upon imagination —that is, the Image of three dimensions. Less so is the painting on the flat; then comes the emblem, which may be quite unlike the Devatā or Divinity, of which it is an emblem, such as the Śālagrāma stone in the worship of Viṣṇu, and, lastly, the Yantra, which is the diagrammatic body of a Mantra.

Worship is outer—that is, of an outer object with physical acts such as bodily prostrations, offering of real flowers, and so on: or it may be partly or wholly mental, as in the latter case, where both the form of the Divinity is imagined (according to the meditational form or Dhyāna given in the Scriptures) as also the offerings.

The forms of worship vary according to the capacity of the worshipper. In the simplest form, the worshipper draws upon the daily life, and treats the Divinity whom he invokes as he would a guest, welcoming It after its journey, offering water for the dusty feet and the mouth, presenting It with flowers, lights, clothes, and so on. These ingredients of worship are called Upācārā. In the psychophysiological rites of some Ś āktas, the abuse of which has brought them ill-fame, the Upācārā are the functions of the body. In image-worship, the mind is shaped into the form of the object perceived. But the perception of a material image is not enough. The worshipper must see Divinity before him. This he invokes into the image by what is called the welcoming (Āvāhana) and Life-giving (Praṇapratiṣṭhā) ceremonies, just as, at the conclusion of the worship, he bids the Deity depart (Visarjana). Uncomprehending minds have asked: “How can God be made to come and go?” The answer is that He does not. What come and go are the modifications, or vṛttis, of and in the mind of the Sādhaka or worshipper. To invoke the Deity means, then, a direction not to the Deity, but by the worshipper to himself to understand that the Deity is there. Deity which is omnipresent is in the Image as elsewhere, whatever the Sādhaka may do or not do. The Sādhaka informs his own mind with the notion that the Deity is present. He is then conscious of the presence of and meditates on Divinity and its attributes, and if he be undistracted, his mind and its thought are thereby divinely shaped. Before the Divinity so present, both objectively and to the mind of the Sādhaka, worship is done. It is clear that the more this worship is sincerely continued, the greater both in degree and persietence is the transformation effected. The body is made to take its part either by appropriate gestures, called Mudrā, or other acts such as prostrations, offerings, libations, and so forth. By constant worship the mind and disposition become good, for good thoughts repeated make a man good. Ritual produces by degrees transformation, at first temporary, later lasting. “Bidding the Divinity depart” means that, the mind of the Sādhaka has ceased to worship the Image. It is not that the Deity is made to retire at the behest of his worshipper. A true Sādhaka has Divinity ever in his thoughts, whether he is doing formal worship or not. “Invitation” and “Bidding Depart” are done for the purposes of the worship of the Image only. Personally, I doubt whether idolatry exists anywhere in the sense that a worshipper believes a material image as such to be God. But, in any case, Indian image-worship requires for its understanding and practice some knowledge of Vedānta.

Transformation of comciousness-feeling by ritual may be illustrated by a short examination of some other of its forms.

Gesture of the hands, or Mudrā, is a common part of the ritual. There is necessarily movement of the hands and body in any worship which requires external action, but I here speak of the specially designed gestures. For instance, I am now making the Fish gesture, or Matsya Mudrā. The hands represent a fish and its fins. The making of this gesture indicates that the worshipper is offering not only the small quantity of water which is contained in the ritual vewel, but that (such is his devotion) his intention is to give to the Deity all the oceans with the fish and other marine animals therein. The Sādhaka might, of course, form this intention without gesture, but experience shows that gesture emphasizes and intensifies thought, as in the case of public speaking. The body is made to move with the thought. I refer here to ritual gestures. The term Mudrāis also employed to denote bodily postures ayurned in Haṭhayoga as a health-giving gymnastic.

Āsana, or seat, has more importance in Yoga than in Sādhanā. The principle as regards Āsana is to secure a comfortable sent, because that is favourable to meditation and worship generally. If one is not comfortable there is distraction and worry. Both Mudrā and Āsana are, therefore, ancillary to worship as Pūjā, the principle of which has been described.

Japa is recital of Mantra, the count being done either on a rosary or the phalanges of the fingers. What is a Mantra? A Mantra is Divinity. It is Divine Power, or Daivi Śakti, manifesting in a sound body. The Śāstra says that those go to Hell who think that an image is a mere stone, that Mantras are merely letters, and that a Guru is a mere man, and not a manifestation and representative of the Lord as Supreme Teacher, Illuminator, and Director. The chief Mantra is Oṃ. This represents to human ears the sound of the first general movement of Divine Power towards the manifestation of the Universe. All other Mantras are particular movements and sounds (for the two co-exist) derived from Oṃ. Here the Sādhaka strives to realize his unity with the Mantra, or Divinity, and to the extent that he does so, the Mantra Power (Mantra-Śakti) supplements his worship-power (Sādhanā Śakti). This rite is also an illustration of the principle that repetition makes perfect, for the repetition is done (it may be) thousands of times.

Japa is of three kinds—gross, subtle, and supreme. In the first, the Mantra is audibly repeated, the objective body-aspect or sound predominating; in the second, there is no audible sound, the lips and other organs forming themselves into the position which, together with contact with the air, produce the sound of the letters; in the third, the Japa is mental—that is, there is emphasis on the Divine, or subjective aspect. This is a means for the ritual realization—that is, by mind—of the unity of human power and Divine Power.

Nyāsa is an important rite. The word means “placing” —that is, of the hands of the Sādhaka on different parts of his body, at the same time, saying the appropriate Mantras, and imagining that by his action the corresponding parts of the body of the Deity are placed there. The rite terminates with a movement of the hands, “spreading” the Divinity all over the body. It is not supposed that the Divinity can be spread like butter on bread. The Supreme Mother-Power is the Brahman, or All-Pervading Immense. What is all-spreading cannot be moved or spread. What can, however, be “spread” is the thought of the worshipper, who, with appropriate bodily gesture, imagines that the Deity pervades his body, which is renewed and divinized. By imagining the body of the Deity to be his body, he purifies himself, and affirms his unity with the Devatā.

An essential element in all rites is Bhūtaśuddhi, which means the purification of the elements of which the body is composed. Man is physical and psychical. The physical body is constituted of five modes of motion of material substance, which have each, it is said, centres in the spinal column, at points which in the body correspond to the position of various plexuses. These centres cxtend from the base of the spine to the throat. Between the eyebrows is the sixth or psychical centre, or mind. At the top of the brain, or cerebrum, is the place of consciousness; not that Consciousness in itself—that is, as distinct from Mind—can have a centre or be localized in any way; for, it is immaterial and all-pervading. But, at this point, it is the least veiled by mind and matter, and is, therefore, most manifest. This place is the abode of transcendent Śiva-Śakti as Power-holder. In the lowest centre (Mūlādhāra), which is at the base of the spine, there deeps the Immanent Cosmic Power in bodies called Kuṇḍalinī Śakti. Here She is ordinarily at rest. She is so, so long as man enjoys limited world-experience. She is then roused. “Jāgrahi Janani” (“Arise, O Mother!”), calls out the Sādhaka poet, Rāmaprasāda, “How long wilt thou sleep in the Mūlādhāra?” When so roused, She is led up through the spinal column, absorbing all the physical and psychical centres, and unites with Śiva as consciousness in the cerebrum, which is known as the “thousand-petalled lotus.” The body is then drenched with and renewed by the nectar which is the result of their union and is immortal life. This is the, ecstasy which is the marriage of the Inner Divine Men and Woman. Metaphysically speaking, for the duration of such union, there is a substitution of' the Supreme Experience for WorldExperience.

This is the real process in Yoga. But in ritual (for all are not Yogīs) it is imagined only. In imagination, the “man of sin” (Pāpapuruṣa) is burnt in mental fire, Kuṇḍalinī absorbs the centres, unites with Śiva, and then, redescending, recreates the centres; bathing them in nectar. By the mental representation of this process, the mind and body are purified, and the former is made to realize the unity of man and the Supreme Power, whose limited form he is, and the manner whereby the Universe is involved into and evolved from Śiva-śakti.

All these, and otther rituals which I have no time to mention, keep the mind of the Sādhaka occupied with the thought of the Supreme Power and of his essential unity with It, with the result that he becomes more and more that which he thinks upon. His Bhāva, or disposition, becomes purified and divinized so far as that can be in the world. At length practice makes perfect in Sādhanā, and on the arising in such purified and illuminated mind, of knowledge and detachment from the world, there is competency for Yoga. When in turn practice in Yoga makes perfect, all limitations on experience are shed, and Nirvāṇa is attained.

Ordinarily it is said that enjoyment (Bhoga) only enchains and Yoga only liberates. Enjoyment (Bhoga) does not only mean that which is bad (Adharma). Bad enjoyment certahly enchains and also leads to Hell. Good—that is, lawful—enjoyment also enchains, even though Heaven is its fruit. Moreover, Bhoga means both enjoyment and suffering. But, according to the Bengal Śākta worshippers, Enjoyment (which must necessarily be lawful) and Yoga may be one. According to this method (see Masson-Oursel, “Esquisse d’une Histoire de la Philosophie Indienne”), the body is not of necessity an obstacle to liberation. For, there is no antinomy, except such as we ourselves fancy, between Nature and Spirit, and therefore there is nothing wrong or low in natural function. Nature is the instrument for the realization of the aims of the Spirit. Yoga controls but does not frustrate enjoyment, which, may be itself Yoga in so far as it pacifies the mind and makes man one with his inner self. The spontaneity of life is under no suspicion. Supreme power is immanent in body and mind, and these are also forms of its expression. And so, in the psycho-physiological rites of these Śāktas, to which I have referred, the body and its functions are sought to he made a means of, as they may otherwise be an obstacle to, liberation. The Vīra, or heroic man, is powerful for mastery on all the planes and to pass beyond them. He does not shun the world from fear of it, but holds it in his grasp and learns its secret. He can do so because the world does not exist in isolation from some transcendent Divinity exterior to Nature, but is itself the Divine Power inseparate from the Divine Essence. He knows that he is himself as body and mind such power, and as Spirit or Self such essence. When he has learned this, he escapes both from the servile subjection. to circumstance, and the ignorant driftings of a humanity which has not yet, realized itself. Most are still not men but candidates for Humanity. But he is the illumined master of himself, whether he is developing all his powers in this world, or liberating himself therefrom at his will.

I conclude by citing a verse from a Hymn in the great “Mahākāla Saṃhitā,” by a Sādhaka who had surpassed the stage of formal external ritual, and was of a highly advanced devotional type. I first read the verse and then give a commentary thereon which is my own.

“I torture not my body by austerity.”

(For the body is the Divine Mother. Why then torture it? The Hymnist is speaking of those who, like himself, have realized that the body is a manifestation of the Divine Essence. He does not say that no one is to practise austerities. These may be necessary for those who have not realized that the body is divine, and who, on the contrary, look upon it as a material obstacle which must be strictly controlled. It is a common mistake of Western critics to take that which is meant. for the particular case as applying to all.)

“I make no pilgrimages.”

(For the sacred places in their esoteric senee are in the body of the worshipper. Why should he who knows this travel? Those, however, who do not know this may profitably travel to the exterior sacred places such as Benares, Puri, Brindaban.)

“I waste not my time in reading the Vedas.”

(This does not mean that no one is to read the Vedas. He has already done so, but the Kūlarṇava Tantra says: “Extract the essence of the Scriptures, and then cast away the rest, as chaff ie separated from the grain.” When the essence has been extracted, what need is there of further reading and study? Moreover, the Veda recalls the spiritual experiences of others. What each man wants is that experience for himself, and this is not to be had by reading and speculation, but by practice, as worship or Yoga.)

But, says the author of the Hymn, addressing the Divine Mother:

“I take refuge at thy Sacred Feet.”

(For this is both the highest Sādhanā and the fruit of it.)

In conclusion, I will say a word upon the Tantra Śāstra to which I have referred. The four chief Scriptures of the Hindus are Veda, Smṛti, Purāṇa and Āgama. There are four Ages, and to each of these Ages is assigned its own peculiar Scripture. For the present Age the governing Scripture is the Āgama. The Āgama or “traditions,” is made up of several schools such as Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva and Śākta. It is a mistake to suppose that Āgama is a name given only to the Southern Scriptures, and that Tantra is the name of the Scriptures of the Bengal School of Śāktas. The Scripture of all these communities is the Āgama, and the Āgama is constituted of Scriptures called Tantra and also by other names. To these

Tantras titles are given just as they are given to chapters in a book, such as the Lakṣmi Tantra of the Vaiṣṇava Pañcarātra, Mālinīvijaya Tantra of the Kashmir Śaiva Āgama, and the Kulārṇava Tantra of the Bengal Śākta Āgama. These four Scriptures do not supersede or contradict one another, but are said to be various expressions of the one truth presented, in diverse forms, suited to the inhabitants of the different Ages. As a Pandit very learned in the Āgama told me, all the Scriptures constitute one great “Many-millioned Collection” (Śatakoṭi Saṃhitā). Only portions of the Vaidik Ritual have survived today. The bulk of the ritual which to-day governs all the old schools of Hindu worshippen is to be found in the Āgamas and their Tantras. And in this lies one reason for their importance.

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