SĀDHANĀis 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 Ātmā whose veiling vesture the body is. The means employed are numerous and elaborate, such as worship (Pūjā) exterior or mental, Śāstric learning, austerities (Tapas), Japa or recitation of Mantra, Hymns, meditation, and so forth. The Sādhanāis necessarily of a nature and character appropriate to the end sought. Thus Sādhanāfor spiritual knowledge (Brahmajñāna) which consists of external control (Dams) over the ten senses (Indriya), internal control (Śama) over the mind (Buddhi, Ahaṃkāra, Manas), discrimination between the transitory and eternal, renunciation of both the world and heaven (Svarga), differs from the lower Sādhanā of the ordinary householder, and both are obviously of a kind different from that prescribed and followed by the practitioners of malevolent magic (Abhicāra). Sādhakas again vary in their physical, mental and moral qualities and are thus divided into four classes, Mṛdu, Madhya, Adhimātraka, and the highest Adhimātrama who is qualified (Adhikārī) for all forms of Yoga. In a similar way, the Śāktla Kaulas are divided into the Prākṛta or common Kaula following Vīrācāra with the Pañca-tattvas described in the following Chapter; the middling (Madhyama) Kaula who (may be) follows the same or other Sādan 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 Sādhaka is Siddha all Sādhanāis 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 (Īśvara) Himself. He is the Supreme Guru as aIso is DevīHis Power, one with Himself. But he acts through man and human means. The ordinary human Guru is but the manifestation on earth of the Ādi-nātha Mahākāla and Mahākālī the Supreme Guru abiding in Kailba. As the Yoginī Tantra (Ch. 1) says Guroh stānam hi kailāsam. 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 (Śiṣya) continues until the attainment of spiritual Siddhi. It is only from him that Sādhanāand Yoga are learnt and not (as it is commonly said) from a thousand Śāstras.
As the Ṣaṭkarmadīpikāsays, mere book-knowledge is useless.
Pustake likhitā vidyā yena sundari yapyate
Sidhir na jāyate tasya kalpakoti-ṣaṭair api.
(O Beauteous one! he who does Japa of a Vidyā (= 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 Śāstras 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 Śiva, 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 Śāstras 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 Tantrasāra, Ch. I). Before initiation, the Gum examines and tests the intending disciple for a specified period. The latter’s moral qualifications are purity of soul (Śuddhātmā), control of the senses (Jitendriya), the following of the Purṣārtha or aims of all sentient being (Puruṣārthaparāyana). Amongst others, those who are lewd (Kāmuka), adulterous (Para-dārātura), addicted to sin, ignorant, slothful and devoid of religion should be rejected (see Matsyasūkta Tantra, XIII, Prāṇatoṣiṇī 108, Mahārudrayāmala, I. XV, 11. ii, Kulārṇava Tantra Ch. XIII). The good Sādhaka who is entitled to the knowledge of all Śāstra 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., Brāhmaṇa (priesthood and teaching), Kṣatriya (warrior), Vaiahya (merchant). All are (it is said) by birth, Śūdra (Jamanh jāyate Śudrah) 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 Brāhaṇa (Brahma jānāti brāhmaṇah). From this well-known verse it will be seen how few there really are who are entitled to the noble name of Brāhmaṇa. The Tāntrik Mantra-initiation is a different ceremony and is for all castes. Initiation (Dīkṣā) 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 (Prāṇaśakti) of the Supreme Guru in the thousand-petalled lotus (Sahasrāra). 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 Śakti consisting of Mantra is communjcated from the Guru’s body to that of the Śiṣya. 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 Yoginī Tantra (Ch. I) says:—
Mantra-pradāna-kāle hi māuśe Naganadini
Adhiṣṭānam bhavet tatra Mahākalasya Śaṃkari
Ato na gurutā devi mānuśe nātra saṃśayah.
(At the time the Mantra is communicated, there is in man (i.e., Guru) the Presence of Mahākāla. There is no doubt that man is not the Guru.)
Guru is the root (Mūla) of initiation (Dīkṣā). Dīkṣāis the root of Mantra. Mantra is the root of Devatā, and Devatā is the root of Siddhi. The Mundamālā Tantra says that Mantra is born of Guru, and Devatā of Mantra, so that the Guru is in the position of Father’s Father to the Iṣṭadevatā. Without initiation, Jāpa (recitation) of the Mantra, Pūjā, and other ritual acts are useless. The Mantra chosen for the candidate must be suitable (Anukūla). Whether a Mantra is Svakula or Akula to the person about to be initiated is ascertained by the Kulākulacakra, the zodiacal circle called Rāśicakra and other Cakras whiah may be found in the Tantrasāra. Initiation by a woman is efficacious; that by the mother is eightfold so (ib.). For, according to the Tantra Śāstra, a woman with the necemary qualifications, may he 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 Gum (see Mahāṇirvāna, Ed. A. Avalon, p. 111, n. 10; p. 120, n. 3).
So long as the Śakti communicated by a Guru to his disciple is not fully developed, the relation of Teacher and Director and Disciple exists. A man is Śiṣya so long as he is Sādhaka. When, however, Siddhi is attained, Guru and Śiṣya, as also all other dualisms, and relations, disappear. Besides the preliminary initiation, there are a number of other initiations or consecrations (Abhiṣeka) which mark greater and greater degrees of advance from Śāktābhiṣeka when entrance is made on the path of Śākta Sādhanā to Pūrnadīkṣābhiṣeka and Mahāpūrnadīkṣābhiṣeka also called Virajā-grahanābhiṣeka. On the attainment of perfection in the last grade the Sādhaka performs his own funeral rite (Śraddha), makes Pūrnāhuti with his sacred thread and crown lock. The relation of Guru and Śiṣya now ceases. From this point he ascends by himself until he realizes the great saying So’ham “He I am,” Sā’ham “She I am.” Now he is Jīvan-mukta and Paramahaṃsa.
The word Sādhanā comes from the root Sādh, to exert or strive, and Sādhanā 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 Śāstras, means spiritual advancement with its fruit of happiness in this world and in Heaven and at length Liberation (Mokṣa). He who practises Sādhanā is (if a man) called Sāhaka or (if a woman) Sādhikā. But men vary in capacity, temperament, knowledge and general advancement, and therefore the means (for Sādhanāalso 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 Adhikāra or competency. Thus some few men are competent (Adhikārī) to study Vedānta 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 subutance Prakṛti-Śakti (Prak ṛtyātmaka), as Prakṛti is Herself the three Guṇas, Sattva, Rajas and Tamas, and as all things and beings are composed of these three Guṇas in varying proportions, it follows that men are divisible into three general classes, namely, those in which the Sattva, Rajas, and Tamas Guṇas, predominate respectively. There are, of course, degrees in each of these three classes. Amongst Sāttvika men, in whom Sattva predominates, some are more and some less Sāttvika than others and so on with the rest. These three classes of temperament (Bhāva) are known in the Śākta Tantras as the Divine (Divyabhāva), Heroic (Vīrabhāva) and Animal (Paśubhāva) temperaments respectively. Bhāva is defined as a property or quality (Dharma) of the Manas or mind (Prāṇatoṣiṇi, 670). The Divyabhāva is that in which Sattva-guṇa predominates only, because it is to be noted that none of the Guṇas are, or ever can be, absent. Prakṛti cannot be partitioned. Prakṛti is the three Guṇas. Sattva is essentially the spiritual Guṇa, for it is that which manifests Spirit or Pure Cousciousness (Cit). A Sāttvika 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 Sāttvik. Paśubhāva, is, on the other hand, the temperament of the man in whom Tamas guṇa prevails and produces such dark characteristics as ignorance, error, apathy, sloth and so forth. He is called a Paśu or animal because Tamas predominates in the merely animal nature as compared with the disposition of spiritually-minded men. He is also Paśu because he is bound by the bonds (Pāśa). The term Pāśa comes from the root Paś to bind. The Kulārṇava enumerates eight bonds, namely, pity (Dayā of the type which Taoists call “inferior benevolence” as opposed to the divine compassion or Karunā), ignorance and delusion (Moha), fear (Bhaya), shame (Lajjā), disgust (Ghrinā), family (Kula), habit and observance (Śila), and caste (Varṇa). Other larger enumerations are given. The Paśu is the man caught by the world, in ignorance and bondage. Bhāskararāya, on the Siitra “have no converse with a Paśu,” says that a Paśu 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 Śaiva Śāstra, speaks of three classes of Paśu, namely, Sakala bound by the three Pāśas, Anu, Bheda, Karma, that is, limited knowledge, the seeing of the one Self, as many by the operation of Māyā, and action and its product. These are the three impurities (Mala) called Ānavamala, Māyāmala, and Kārmamala. The Sakala Jīva or Paśu is bound by all three, the Pralayākala by the first and last, and the Vijñānākala 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 Śiva Himself, Here however Paśu is used in a different sense, that is, as denoting the creature as contrasted with the Lord (Pati). In this sense, Paśu is a name for all men. In the Śākta use of the term, though all men are certainly Paśu, as compared with the Lord, yet as between themselves one may be Paśu (in the narrower sense above stated) and the other not. Some men are more Paśu than others. It is a mistake to suppose that the Paśu is necessarily a bad man. He may be and often is a good one. He is certainly better than a bad Vīra who is really no Vīra at all. He is, however, not, acoording to the Śāstra, an enlightened man in the sense that the Vīra or Divya is, and he is generally marked by various degrees of ignorance and material-mindedness. It is the mark of a bad Paśu to be given over to gross acts of sin. Between these two comes the Hero or Vīra of whose temperament (Vīrabhāva) so much is heard in the Śākta Śāstras. In him there is prevalent the strongly active Rajas Guṇa. Rajas is always active either to incite Tamas or Sattva. In the former case the result is a Paśu, in the latter case either a Vīra or Divya. Where Sattva approaches perfection of development there is the Divyabhāva. 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 Vīra. Being heroic, he is permitted to meet his enemy Tamas face to face, counterattacking 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 Guṇas of the Sāṃkya Darśana.
Even in its limited Śākta sense, there are degrees of Paśu, one man being more so than another. The Pāśas are the creations of Māyā Śakti. The Devī therefore is pictured as bearing them. But as She is in Her form as Māyā and Avidyā Śakti the cause of bondage, so as Vidyā Śakti She breaks the bonds (Paśupāśa-Vimocinī) (see v. 78, Lalitāsahasranāma), and is thus the Liberatrix of the Paśu from his bondage.
Nityā Tantra says that the Bhāva of the Divya is the best, the Vīra the next best, and Paśu the lowest. In fact, the state of the last is the starting point in Sādhanā, that of the first the goal, and that of the Vīra is the stage of one who having ceased to be a Paśu is on the way to the attainment of the goal. From being a Paśu, a man rises in this or some other birth to be a Vīra and Divyabhāva or Devatābhāva is awakened through Virabhāva. The Picchilā Tantra says (X, see also Utpatti Tantra, LXIV) that the difference between the Vīra and the Divya lies in the Uddhatamānasa, 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 Sādhaka a Sāttvik state. Just as there are degrees in the Paśu state, so there are classes of Vīra, some being higher than others.
The Divya Sādhaka also is of higher or lower kinds. The lowest is only a degree higher than thc best type of Vīra. The highest completely realize the Deva-nature wherein Sattva exists in s state of lasting stability. Amongst this class are the Tattvajñāni and Yogī. The latter are emancipated from all ritual. The lower Divya class may apparently take part in the ritual of the Vīra. The object and end of all Sādhanā, whether of Paśu or Vīra or Divya, is to develop Sattvaguṇa. The Tantras give descriptions of each of these three classes. The chief general distinction, which is constantly repeated, between the pure Paśu (for there are also Vibhāva-paśus) and the Vīra, is that the former does not, and the latter does, follow the Pañcntattva ritual, in the form prescribed for Vīrācāra and described in the next, Chapter. Other portions of the dcscription are characteristics of the Tamasik character of the Paśu. So Kubjikā 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 Paśu 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 Rāma may abuse the worshipper of Kṛṣṇa, and both decry the worship of Śiva or Devī. 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 oompared with internal purity of mind. He has ignorant or wrong ideas, or want of faith, concerning (Śākta) Tantra Śāstra, Sacrifices, Guru, Images, and Mantra, the last of which he thinks to be mere letters only and not Devatā (see Prāṇatoṣiṇi, 647, et seq., Picchilā, X). He follows the Vaidik rule relating to Maithuna on the fifth day when the wife is Ritusnātā (Ritu-kālam vinādevi ramanam parivarjayet). Some of the descriptions of the Paśu seem to refer to the lowest class. Generally, however, one may say that from the standpint of a Vīracārī, all those who follow Vedācara, Vaiṣṇavācāra and Śaivācāra are Paśus. The Kubjikā Tantra (VII) gives a description of the Divya. Its eulogies would seem to imply that in all matters which it mentions, the Paśu is lacking. But this, as regards some matters, is Stuti (praise) only. Thus he has a strong faith in Veda, Śāstra, Deva and Guru, and ever speaks the truth which, as also other good qualities, must be allowed to the Paśu. He avoids all cruelty and other bad actions and regards alike both friend and foe. He avoids the company of the irreligious who decry the Devatā. All Devas he regards as. beneficial, worshipping all without drawing distinctions. Thus, for instance, whilst an orthodox upcountry Hindu of the Paśu kind who is a worshipper of Rāma cannot even bear to hear the name of Kṛṣṇa, though both Rāma and Kṛṣṇa are each Avatāra of the same Viṣṇu, the Divya would equally reverence both knowing each to be an aspect of the one Great Śakti Mother of Devas and Men. This is one of the first qualities of the high Śākta worshipper. As a worshipper of Śakti he bows down at the feet of women regarding them as his Guru (Strīnām pādatalam dṛṣṭvā gutuvad bāvayet sadā). He offers everything to the supreme Devīregarding the whole universe as pervaded by Strī (Śākti, not “woman”) and as Devatā. Śiva is (he knows) in all men. The whole universe (Brahmānda) is pervaded by Śiva Śakti.
The description cited also deals with his ritual, saying that he does daily ablutions, Sandhyā, wears clean cloth, the Tripundra mark in ashes or red sandal, and ornaments of Rudrākṣa beads. He does Japa (recitation of Mantras external and mental) and worship (Archanā). 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 Parameśvarī with Divyabhāva. He worships Devī at night (Vaidik worship being by day), and after food (ordinary Vaidik worship being done before taking food). He makes obeisance to the Kaula Śakti (Kulastrī) versed in Tantra and Mantra, whoever She be and whether youthful or old. He bows to the Kula-trees (Kulavrikṣa). He ever strives for the attainment and maintenance of Devatābāhva and is himself of the nature of a Devatā.
Portions of this description appear to refer to the ritual and not Avadhūta Divya, and to this extent are applicable to the high Vīra also. The Mahāṇirvāna (I. 56) describes the Divya as all but a Deva, ever pure of heart, to whom all opposites are alike (Dvandvātīta) 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 Divyabhāva in the Kaliyuga nor Paśubhāva; for the Paśu (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 Smṛti, he should not “see the face of a Śūdra at worship, or even think of a woman” (referring to the Pañcatattva ritual). The Shyāmārcana (cited in Haratattvadīdhiti, 348) speaks to the same effect. On the other hand, there is authority for the proposition that in the Kaliyuga there is only Paśubhāva.
Divya-vīra-mayo bhāvah kalau nāsti kadāchana
Kevalam paśu-bhāvena mantra-siddhir bhaven nṛnām.
(In the Kali age there is no Divya or Vīrabhāva. It is only by the Paśu-bhāva that men may attain Mantrasiddhi.)
I have discussed this latter question in greater detail in the introduction to the sixth volume of the series of “Tāntrik Texts.”
Dealing with the former passage from the Mahāṇirvāna, the Commentator explains it as meaning “that the conditions and characters of the Kaliyuga are not such as to be productive of Paśubhāva, or to allow of it’s Ācāra (in the sense of the strict Vaidik ritual). No one, he says, can now-a-days fully perform the Vedācāra, Vaiṣṇavācāra, and Śaivācāra rites without which the Vaidik and Paurāṇic Yajña and Mantra are fruitless. No one now goes through the Brahmacarya Āśrama or adopts, after the fiftieth year, Vānaprastha. 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 Paśu. (That is apparently whilst there may be a natural Paśu disposition the Vaidik rites appropriate to this Bhāva cannot be carried out.) Under these circumstances, the duties prescribed by the Vedas which are appropriate for the Paśu being incapable of performance, Śiva, for the liberation of men of the Kali age, has proclaimed the Āgama. 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 Paśu natural disposition exists, the Vaidik ritual which he should follow cannot be done. It is in fact largely obsolete. The Vaidik Paśu of man who followed the Vaidik rituals in their entirety is non-existent. He must follow the Āgamic rituals which, as a fact, the bulk of men do. The Āgama must now govern the Pashu, Vīra and would-be Divya alike.
As I have frequently explained, there are various communities of the followers of Tantra or Āgama according to the several divisions of the worshippers of the five Devatās (Pañcopāsaka). Of the five classes, the most important are Vaiṣṇava, Śaiva and Śākta. 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 Sādhanā are common to all such communities following the Āgamas; such as Pūjā (inner and outer), Pratimā or other emblems (Liṅga, Śālagrama), Upacāra, Sandhyā, Yajña, Vrata, Tapas, Maṇḍala, Yantra, Mantra, Japa, Puraṣ̣ carana, Nyāsa, Bhūtaśuddhi, Mudrā, Dhyāna, Saṃskāra and so forth. Even the Vāmācāra ritual which some wrongly think to be peculiar to the Śāktas, is or was followed (I am told) by member of other Sampradāyas 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 Āgamas is this:—That whilst some Vaidik rites still exist, the bulk of the ritual of to-day is Āgamic, that is, what is popularly called Tāntrik. The Purāṇas are replete with Tāntrik rituals.
Notwithstanding a general community of ritual forms, there are some variances which are due to two causes: firstly, to difference in the Devatā worship, and secondly, to difference of philosophical basis according as it is Advaita, Viśiṣṭādvaita, or Dvaita. The presentment of fundamental ideas is sometimes in different terms. Thus the Vaiṣṇava Pañcarātra Āgama describes the creative process in terms of the Vyūhas, and the Śaiva-Śākta Āgamas explain it as the Ābhāsa of the thirty-six Tattvas. I here deal with only one form, namely, Śākta Sādhanā in which the Iṣṭadevatāis Śakti 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 (Bhāva) of the Sādhaka himself. The realization that the Supreme Spirit (Paramātmā) and the individual spirit (Jīvātmā) are one, that everything is Brahman, and that nothing but the Brahman has lasting being is the highest state or Brahmabhāva. Constant meditation with Yoga-processes upon the Devatāin the heart is the lower form (Dhyānabhāva). Lower still is that Bhāva of which Japa (recitations of Mantra) and Hymns of praise (Stava) are the expression; and lowest of all is external worship (Bāhyapūjā).
Pūjābhāva 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-bhāva) is attained. He who realizes the Advaitatattva knows that all is Brahman. For him there is neither worshipper nor worshipped, neither Yoga, nor Pūjā nor Dhāraṇā, Dhyāna, Stava, Japa, Vrata or other ritual or process of Sādhanā. For, he is Siddha in its fullest sense, that is, he has attained Siddhi which is the aim of Sādhanā. As the Mahānirvāṇa says, “for him who has faith in and knowledge of the root, of what use are the branches and leaves?” Brāhmanism 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 Sādhanā is necessary if he would become one. The nature of Sādhanā, again, differs according to the temperaments (Bhāva) above described, and also with reference to the capacities and spiritual advancement of each in his own Bhāva. 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 Tāntrik 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 Śāstra for this. But credit is given for nothing. Those who dilate on Vaidik exclusiveness have nothing to my as regards the absence of it in the Āgama. The Śūdra 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 Iṣṭadevatā, the Vāna-liṅga-pūjā with Tāntrik and Paurāṇik mantra and such Vrata as consist in penance and charity. In other cases, the Vrata is performed through a Brāhmaṇa. The Tantra Śāstra makes no caste distinction as regards worship, in the sense that though it may not challenge the exclusive right of the twiceborn to Vaidik rites, it provides other and similar rites for the Śūdra. Thus there is both a Vaidik and Tāntrik Gāyatrī and Sandhyā, and there am 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 Tāntrik Mantras. All castes, even the lowest Caṇḍāla may, if otherwise fit, reoeive the Tāntrik 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 Brāhmaṇas, though upon the break-up of the Cakra the ordinary caste and social relations are re-establishd. It is necessary to distinguish between social differences and competency (Adhikāra) for worship. Adhikāka, 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 Āgama) of such social distinctions as caste.
All are competent for Tāntrik worship, for, in the worde of the Gautamīya which is a Vaiṣṇava Tantra (Cap. I), the Tantra Śāstra is for all castes and all women.
Sarva-varṇādhikāraśca nārīnām yogya eva ca.
Though according to Vaidik usage, the wife was co-operator (Sahadharminī) in the household rites, now-adays, 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 Śāstra, a woman may not only receive Mantra, but may, as Guru, initiate and give it (see Rudrayāmala II. ii, and XV). She is worshipped both as wife of Guru and as Guru herself (see ib. I. i. Mātṛkābheda Tantra (c. vii), Annadākalpa Tantra cited in Prāṇatoṣiṇi, p. 68, and as regards the former Yoginī Tantra cap. i. Gurupatni Maheśāni gurur eva). The Devī is Herself the Guru of all Śāstras 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.
Pūjā is the common term for ritual worship, of which there are numerous synonyms in the Sanskrit language such as Arcanā, Vandanā, Saparyā, Arhanā, Namsayā, Arcā, Bhajanā, though some of these stress certain aspects of it. Pūjā as also Vrata which are Kāṃya, that is, done to gain a particular end, are preceded by the Saṃkalpa, 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 Pūjā(or Vrata) with the object ——.” Thereby the attention and will of the Sādhaka are focusd 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 Iṣṭadevatā, that is, the particular form of the Deity whom the Sādhaka worships, such as Devī in the case of a Śākta, Śiva in the case of the Śaiva (in eight forms in the case of Aṣṭamūrti-pūjāas to which see Todala Tantra, cap. V) and Viṣṇu as such or in His forms as Rāma and Kṛṣṇa in the case of the Vaiṣṇava Sādhaka.
An object is used in the outer Pūjā (Bāhyapūjā) such as an image (Pratimā), a picture, and emblem such as a jar (Kalasa), Śālagrāma (in the case of Viṣṇu worship), Liṅga and Yoni or Gaurīpatta (in the case of the worship) of Śiva (with Devī), 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 Devatā completely and in material form. The advanced contemplate Devatā in the lines and curves of a Yantra.
In external worship, the Sādhaka should first worship inwardly the mental image of the Devatā which the outer objects assist to produce, and then by the life-giving (Prāṇapratiṣṭhā) ceremony he should infuse the image with life by the oommunication to it of the light, consciousness, and energy (Tejas) of the Brahman within him to the image without, from which there then bursts the lustre of Her whose substance is Consciousness Itself (Caitanyamayī). In every place She exists as Śakti, whether in stone or metal as elsewhere, but in matter is veiled and seemingly inert. Caitanya (Consciousness) is aroused by the worshipper through the Prāṇapratiṣṭhā Mantra. An object exists for a Sādhaka 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 traveller 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 traveller 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 colloured 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 Prāṇapratiṣṭhā 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 Śākta doctrine, a manifestation of Śakti, 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 Śākta 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 Prāṇapratiṣṭhā rite by which “life is established” in the image of gross matter. The Hindu then believes that the Pratimā 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 Prāṇapratiṣṭhā 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 eubjedive state of the worshipper’s mind which determines whether an act is idolatrous or not. The Prāṇapratiṣṭhā rite is thus a mode by which the Sādhaka 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 Śākta 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 Śāktas 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 Sādhaka indeed. The Śākta Tantra affirms the Greek saying that to the pure all things are pure. In this belief and with, as the Jñānārṇava 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’Arbrisse, the saintly founder of the community of Fonte d’Evrault, that he was wont on occasions to sleep with his nuns, to mortify his fleah and as a mode of strengthening his will aginst 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 Śāstrik 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 Śākta 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 Devatā 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 Kālīprovokes in general only diegust 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. It is is due to ignorance. Thus the aunt of a Catholic school-boy 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 coloured 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 Pūjāare called Upacārā. The common number of these is sixteen, but there are more and less (see “Principles of Tantra,” vol. ii). The sixteen which include some of the lesser number and are included in the greater are: (1) Āsana (seating of the image), (2) Svāgata (welcomhg of the Devatā), (3) Pādya (water for washing the feet), (4) Arghya (offerings which may be general or Sāmābnya and special or Viśeṣa) made in the vessel, (5) (6) Achamana (water for sipping and cleansing the lips—offered twice), (7) Madhuparka (honey, ghee, milk and curd), (8) Snāna (water for bathing), (9) Vasana (cloth for garment), (10) Abharana (jewels), (11) Gandha (Perfume), (12) Puśpa (flowers), (13) Dhūpa (incense), (14) Dīpa (lights), (15) Naivedya (food), and (16) Vandana or Namaṣkriyā (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 of the rest. The answer is simple. Honour is paid to the Devatā in the way honour is paid to friends and those men who are worthy of veneration. So the Sādhaka gives that same honour to the Devatā, 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 honour of men, and the Deity is honoured in the same way.
Some particular articles vary with the Pūjā. Thus, Tulasī leaf is issued in the Viṣṇu-pūjābael leaf (Bilva) in the Śiva-pūjā, and to the Devi is offered the scarlet hibiscus (Jabā). The Mantras said and other ritual details may vary according to the Devatā worshipped. The seat (Āsana) of the worshipper is purified as also the Upachāra. Salutation is made to the Śakti of support (Ādhāra-śakti), the Power sustaining all. Obstructive Spirits are driven away (Bhūtapasarpana) and the ten quarters are fenced from their attack by striking the earth three times with the left foot, uttering the weapon-mantra (Astrabīja) “Phat"”, and by snapping the fingers round the head. Other rituals also enter into the worship besides the offering of Upacāra such as Prāṇāyāma or Breath control, Bhūtaśuddhi or purification of the elements of the body, Japa of Mantra, Nyāsa (v. post), meditation (Dhyāna) and obeisance (Pranāma).
Besides the outer and mctterial Pūjā, there is a higher inner (Antarpūj ā) and mental (Mānasapūjā). Here there is no offering of material things to an image or emblem, but the ingredienfs (Upacāra) of worship are imagined only. Thus the Sādhaka, in lieu of material flowers offered with the hands, lays at the feet of the Devatā the flower of good action. In the secret Rājasik Pūjāof the Vāmācāri, the Upacāra 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 Devatā.
A marked feature of the Tantra Śāstras is the use of the Yantra in worship. This then takes the place of the image or emblem, when the Sādhaka 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 Jīva, and the sufferings caused thereby. (Tantra-tattva, 519. Sādhārana Upāsanā-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 Devatā 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 Devatā, a Yantra is appropriate to a specific Devatāonly. As different Mantras are different Devatās, and differing Mantras are used in the worship of each of the Devatās, so variously formed Yantras are peculiar to each Devatā and are used in its worship. The Yantras are therefore of various designs, according to the object of worship. The cover of “Tāntrik Texts” shows the great Śri Yantra. In the metal or stone Yantras no figures of Devatās are shown, though these together with the appropriate Mantras commonly appear in Yantras drawn or painted on paper, such as the Devatā of worship, Āvarana Śaktis and so forth. All Yantras have a common edging called Bhūpura, 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 Bhūpura.
The Kaulāvaliya Tantra says that the distinction between Yantra and Devatā is that between the body and the self. Mantra is Devatā and Yantra is Mantra, in that it is the body of the Devatā who is Mantra.
Yantram muntra-mayam proktam mantrātmā devataiv hi
Dehātmanor yathā bhedo yantradevatayos tathā
As in the case of the image, certain preliminaries precede the worship of Yantra. The worshipper first meditates upon the Devatā and then arouses Him or Her in himself. He then communicates the Divine Presence thus aroused to the Yantra. When the Devatāhas by the appropriate Mantra been invoked into the Yantra, the vital airs (Prāṇa) of the Devatāare infused therein by the Prāṇapratiṣṭhā ceremony, Mantra and Mudrā (see for ritual Mahānirvāṇa VI. 63 et seq.) The Devatā 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 Sādhaka first welcomes and then worships.
In Tāntrik 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 (Āsana) are assumed in worship and Yoga. There is obeisance (Pranāma), sometimes with eight parts of the body (Aṣṭāṅgapranāma), and circumambulation (Pradakṣina) of the image. In Nyāsa the hands are made to touch various parts of the body and so forth. A notable instance of this practice are the Mudrās which are largely used in the Tāntrik ritual. Mudrā in this sense is ritual manual gesture. The term Mudrā has three meanings. In worship (Upāsanā) 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, Mudrā means various kinds of parched cereals which are taken with the wine and other ingredients (Upacāra) of that particular worship. The term Mudrā is derived from the root “to please” (Mud). The Tantrarāja says that in its Upāsanā form, Mudrā is so called because it gives pleasure to the Devatās. These Mudrā are very numerous. It has been said that there are 108 of which 55 are in common use (Śabdakalpadruma Sub. Voc. Mudrā and see Nirvāṇa Tantra, Chap. XI). Possibly there are more. 108 is a favourite number. The Mudrā of Upāsanā 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 (Āvāhana) the Devatā, an appropriate gesture is made. When veiling anything, the hands assume that position (Avagunthana Mudrā). Thus again in making offering (Arghya) a gesture is made which represents a fish (Matsya Mudrā), 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 Sādhaka says to the Devatāof his worship, “this is but a small offering of water in fact, but so far as my desire to honour you is concerned, regard it is as if I were offering you an ocean.” The Yoni in the form of an inverted triangle represents the Devī. By the Yoni Mudrā the fingers form a triangle as a manifestation of the inner desire that the Devī should come and place Herself before the worshipper, for the Yoni is Her Pītha or Yantra. Some of the Mudrāof Haṭhayoga 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 Gheraṇḍa Saṃhitā, a Tāntrik Yoga work, says (III. 4. 8. 10) that knowledge of the Yoga Mudrās grant all Siddhi, and that their performance produces physical benefits, such as stability, firmness, and cure of disease.
Bhūtaśuddhi, an important Tāntrik rite, means purification of five “elements” of which the body is composed, and not “removal of evil demons,” as Professor MonierWilliams’ Dictionary has it. Though one of the meanings of Bhūta 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 (Taraṅga I) speaks of it as a rite which is preliminary to the worship of a Deva.
Devārcā-yogyatā-prāptyai bhūta-śuddhim samācaret.
(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 Bhūtas of “earth,” “water,” “fire,” “air,” and “ether.” These terms have not their usual English meaning but denote the five forms in which Prakṛti the Divine Power as materia prima manifests Herself. These have each a centre of operation in the five Cakras or Padmas (Centres 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 centres (Mūlādhāra), the Great Devī Kuṇḍalinī, a form of the Saguṇa Brahman, resides. She is ordinarily sleeping there. In Kuṇḍalinīyoga, She is aroused and brought up through the five centres, absorbing, as She passes through each, the Bhūta of that centre, the subtle Tanmātra from which it derives and the connected organ of sense (Indriya). Having absorbed all these, She is led to the sixth or mind centre (Ājñā) between the eyebrows where the last Bhūta or ether is absorbed in mind, and the latter in the Subtle Prakṛti. The last in the form of KuṇḍalīŚakti then unites with Śiva in the upper brain called the thousand-petalled lotus (Sahasrāra). In Yoga this involution actually takes place with the result that ecstasy (Samādhi) is attained. But, very few are successful Yogīs. Therefore, Bhūtaśuddhi in the case of the ordinary worshipper is an imaginary process only. The Sādhaka imagines Kuṇḍalī, 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 Mahānirvāṇa gives an account of the ritual process. The Sādhaka having dissolved all in Brahman, a process which instils 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 Sādhaka 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 (Divya-dṛṣṭi). Saying, with Bījās, the Mantra “He I am” (So’ham) the Sāidhaka by Jīvanyāsa infuses his body with the life of the Devī, the Mother of all.
Nyāsa is a very important and powerful Tāntrik 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 Nyāsa, viz., inner (Antar), outer (Bahir), according to the creative (Sṛṣṭi) and dissolving (Saṃhāra) order (Krama). Nyāsa is of many kinds such as Jīva-nyāsa, Mātṛkāor Lipi-nyāsa, Ṛṣi-nyāsa, Ṣaḍaṅganyāsa on the body (Hṛdayādi-ṣaḍaṅga-nyāsa) and with the hands (Anguṣṭhādi-ṣaḍaṅga-nyāsa), Pīthanyāsa and so on. The Kulārṇava (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 Sādhaka has by Bhūta-śuddhi dissolved the sinful body and made a new Deva body, he, by JĪva-nyāsa infuses into it the life of the Devī. Placing his hand on his heart he says, “He I am” thereby identifying himself with Śiva-Śakti. He then emphasizes it by going over the parts of the body in detail with the Mantra Āṃ 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:—“Āṃ (and the rest) the vital force (Pṛāṇa) of the blessed Kālikā(in this instance) are here. Āṃ (and the rest) the life of the Blessed Kālikāis here; Āṃ (and the rest) all the senses of the Blessed Kālikāare here; Āṃ (and the rest) may the speech, mind, sight, hearing, sense of smell of the Blessed Kālikā coming here ever abide here in peace and happiness. Svāhā.” By this, the body is thought to become like that of Devatā (Devatāmaya). Mātṛkā 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 “Śabdabrahman,” the universe proceeds. The Mantra-bodies of the Devatā are composed of the Mātṛkāor letters. The Sādhaka first sets the letters mentally (Antar-mātṛkā-nyāsa) in their several places in the six inner centres (Cakra), and then externally by physical action (Bāhya-mātṛkā-nyāsa). The letters of the alphabet form the different parts of the body of the Devatā which is thus built up in the Sādhaka himself. He places his hand on different parts of his body, uttering distinctly at the same time the appropriate Mātṛkā for that part. The mental disposition in the Cakra is that given in the “Serpent-Power” by A. Avalon, each letter being repeated thus, Oṃ Haṃ Namaṃ (obeisance), Oṃ Kṣaṃ Namaṃ 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, Śa; from the heart to the left palm, Ṣafrom 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, Kṣa. This Mātṛkā-nyāsa is of several kinds.
One form of Ṛṣi-nyāsa is as follows:—“In the head, salutation to Brahma and the Brahmarṣisin the mouth, salutation to Gāyatrī and other forms of Verse; in the heart, salutation to the primordial Devatā Kālīin the hidden part (Guhya), salutation to the Bīja Krīṃ, in the two feet, salutation to Hrīṃ; in all the body, salutation to Śriṃ and Kālikā.” In Ṣaḍaṅga-nyāsa on the body, certain letters are placed with the salutation Namah, and with the Mantras Svāhā, Vaśat, Vauśat, Hriṃ, Phat on the heart, head, crown-lock (Śikhā), eyes, the front and back of the palm. In Kara-nyāsa, 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 Nyāsa 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 Sādhaka. 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 Śakti divine, whether this be known or not. But this must be known to the Sādhaka 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 on 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 Upaniṣad says, “What a man thinks that he becomes.” Thought is everything moulding our bodily features, moral and intellectual character and disposition, leading to and appearing in our actions. Much superficial criticism is levelled 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 Sādhaka 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 Sādhaka. For the attainment of that state in which the Sādhaka feels that the nature (Bhāva) of the Devatā has come upon him, Nyāsa is a great auxiliary. It is as it were the wearing of Divine jewels in different parts of the body. The Bījas of the Devatās (which are Devatās) are the jewels which the Sādhaka places on the diflerent parts of his body. By the particular Nyāsa he places his Abhīṣṭādevatā in such parts, and by Vyāpaka-Nyāsa 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. Nyāsa, Āsana and other ritual are necessary for the production of the desired state of mind and its purification (Citta-śuddhi). The whole aim and end of ritual is Cittaśuddhi. 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, Tāntrik Sādhanā. Nyāsa 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 Nybsa are said to stimulate the nerve centres and to effect the proper distribution of the Śaktis 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 Mantramayī Śakti and Varṇamālā, as also in my “Garland of Letters,” I have dealt with the nature of Mantra and of its Sādhanā. An account will also be found of the subject in the Mantratattva Chapter of the second volume of “Principles of Tantra.” Mantra is Devatā and by Sādhanā therewith the sought-for (Sādhya) Devatā is attained, that is, becomes present to the consciousness of the Sādhaka or Mantrin. Though the purpose of Worship (Pūjā), Reading (Pātha), Hymn (Stava), Sacrifice (Homa), Meditation (Dhyāna), and that of the Dīkṣā-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 Sādhaka’s Sādhanā-śakti only operates, whilst in the case of Mantra that Sādhana-śakti works in conjunction with Mantra-śakti which has the revelation and force of fire, than which nothing is more powerful. The special Mantra which is received at initiation (Dīkṣā) is the Bīja or Seed-Matra sown in the field of the Sādhaka’s heart, and the Tāntrik Sandhya, Nyāsa, Pūjā, 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 Mantratattva, vol. ii, “Principles of Tantra,” Ed. A. Avalon.)
The utterance of a Mantra without knowledge of its meaning or of the Mantra-sādhanā 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 Dīkśā-mantra and asked me for its meaning, as she understood that I had a Bīja-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. Mantrasādhanā 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 (Saṃskara) of the Mantra (Tantrasāra, 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 Devatā. There are a number of defects (Dośa) which have to be avoided or cured. There is purification of the mouth which utters the Mantra (Mukha-śodhana) (see as to this and the following Śarada Tilaka (Chap. x), purification of the tongue (Jihvā-śodhana) and of the Mantra (Aśauca-bhaṅga). Mantra processes called Kulluka, Nirvana, Setu (see Śarada Tilaka, loc cit, Tantrasāra, and Purashcaranabodhini, p. 48) which vary with the Devatā of worship, awakening of Mantra (Nidrabhaṅga) 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-bhagavatī with the Yonibīja (Eṃ) 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-śakti 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 Śakti of the Mantra is called the Vāchika Śakti or the means by which the Vacya Śakti or ultimate object is attained. The Mantra lives by the energy of the former. The SaguṇaŚakti in the form of the Mantra is awakened by Sādhāna and worshipped and She it is who opens the portals whereby the Vacya-Śakti is reached. Thus the Mother in the Saguṇa form is the Presiding Deity (Adhishthatri Devata) of the Gayatri Mantra. As the Nirguṇa (formless) One, She is its Vacya Śakti. Both are in truth one and the same. But the Sādhaka, by the laws of his nature and its three Gunas, must first meditate on the gross (Sthula) form before he can realize the subtle (Sukṣma) form which is his liberator. So for from being merely superstition, the Mantra-sādhanā is, in large part, based on profound notions of the nature of Consciousness and the psychology of its workings. The Sādhaka's mind and disposition are purified, the Devata is put before him in Mantra form and by his own power of devotion (Sādhanā Śakti) and that latent in the Mantra itself (Mantra-śakti) 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 (Jñānārnava Tantra, XX) namely, Vācika Japa, Upāṃśu Japa, Mānasa Japa. The first is the lowest and the last the highest form. Vācika is verbal Japa in which the Mantra is distinctly and audibly recited (Spaśta-vācā). Upaṃśu 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 (Mānasa-japa) there is neither articulate sound nor movement. Japa takes place in the mind only by meditation on the letters (Cintanākṣararūpavān). 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 (Āsana), 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 Sādhakas. 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 Sādhanā. 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 Mālā or rosary (Mālā-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 Sādhanāin 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 Puraṣcarana-bodhinī by Harakumāra Tagore (1895). (See also Tantrasāra 71 and the Purashcaryārnava of the King of Nepal.) The ritual deals with preparation for the Sādhanā 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 Sādhaka must lead a chaste life (Brahmacharya) during the period prescribed. He must eat the pure food called Havishyānnam or boiled milk (Kshīra), fruits, Indian vegetables, and avoid all other food which has the effect of stimulating the passions. He must bathe, do Japa of the Sāvitrī Mantra, entertain Brāhmanas 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 Pūjā there is worship of Ganesha and Kshetrapāla and the Sun, Moon, and Devas are invoked. Then follows the Sankalpa. The Ghata or Kalasa (jar) is placed in which the Devatā 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 (Śikhā), the posture (Āsana) of the Sādhaka, Japa, Nyāsa, 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 Srīśa Candra Vasu, the Saṃdhyāvandana of all Vedik Śākhās by B. V. Kamesvara Aiyar, the Kriyākāṇḍavāridhi and Purohita-darpanam. The positions and Mudrās are illustrated in Mrs. S. C. Belnos’ “Saṃdhyā 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 Sādhaka awakes he makes salutation to the Guru of all and recites the appropriate Mantras and confessing his inherent human 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, Ṛṣis or Seers and the Pitris who issued from Sandhyā, Brahmā the Pitāmaha of humanity, and then does rite.
This is the Vaidik form which differs according to Veda and Śākhā for the twice-born and there is a Tāntrikī Saṃdhyā for others. It is performed thrice a day at morn, at noon, and evening. The Saṃdhyā consists generally speaking, of Ācamana (sipping of water), Mārjjana-anāna (sprinkling of the whole body), Prāṇāyāma (Breath-control), Aghamarśana (expulsion of sin), prayer to the Sun and then (the canon of the Saṃdhyā) Japa of the Gāyatrī-mantra. Ṛṣi-nyāsa and Ṣadāṅga-nyāsa (v. ante), and meditation on the Devī Gāyatrī, in the morning as Brahmanī (Śakti of Creation), at midday as Vaiṣṇavī (Śakti of maintenance), and in evening as Rudrānī (Śakti which “destroys” in the sense of withdrawing creation). The Saṃdhyā with the Aupāsana 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 Vaiśvadeva 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), Nṛyajña and Pitriyajña. Sometimes the term is used in connection with any kind of ceremonial rite, and so one hears of Japayajña (recitation of Mantra), Dhyāna-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 Sāttvika, Rājasika and Tāmasika Yajña. A common form of Yajña is the Deva-yajña Homa rite in which offerings of ghee are made (in the Kunda or firepit) 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 Tāntrik 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 Saṃdhyā there are occasional rites (Naimittika) and the purificatory sacraments (Saṃskāra) performed only once.
The ordinary ten Saṃskāras (see Mahānirvāṇa Tantra, Ch. IX) are Vaidik rites done to aid and purify the individual in the important events of his life, namety, the Garbhādhāna sanctifying conception prior to the actual placing of the seed in the womb, the Puṃsavana and Sīmantonnayana or actual conception and during pregnancy. It has been suggested that the first Saṃskāra 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 fœtus,” and the third refers to the period in which there is viability to the full term (see Appendix on Saṃskāras. Praṇavāda, I. 194). Then follows the Saṃskāra on birth (Jāta-karma), the naming ceremony (Nāma-karana), the taking of the child outdoors for the first time to see the sun (Niṣkramana), the child’s first eating of rice (Annaprāsana), his tonsure (Cūdākarana), and the investiture in the caae of the twice-born with the sacred thread (Upanayana) when the child is reborn into spiritual life. This initiation must be distinguished from the Tāntrik initiation (Mantra-dīkṣa) when the Bīja-mantra is given by the Guru. Lastly them is marriage (Udvāha). These Saṃskāras, which are all described in the ninth Chapter of the Mahānirvāṇa 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 Eastern science.
Vrata is a part of Naimittika—occasional ritual or Karma. Commonly translated as vows, they are voluntary devotions performed at specified times in honour of particular Devatās (such as Kṛṣṇa’s birthday), or at any time (such as the Sāvitrīvrata). 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 Śākta is the Durgā-pūjā in honour of the Devī as Durgā.
The fasting which is done in these or other cases is called Tapas, a term which includes all forms of ascetic austerity and zealous Sādhanā such as the sitting between five fires (Pañcāgni-tapah) and the like. Tapas has however a still wider meaning and is then of three kinds, namely, bodily (Śārīraka), by speech (Vācika) and by mind (Mānasa), a common division both of Indian and Buddhist Tantra. The first includes external worship, reverence, support of the Guru, Brāhmaṇas and the wise (Prājña), bodily cleanliness, continence, simplicity of life and avoidance of hurt to any being (Ahiṃsā). 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 claws has three sub-divisiom, for Tapas may be Sāttvika, Rājasika, or Tāmasika 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 honour or respect or power; or lastly which is done ignorantly or with a view to injure and destroy others such as Abhicāra or the Sādhanā of the Tāntrik Ṣaṭkarma (other than Śānti), that is, fascination or Vaśīkarana, paralysing or Stambhana, creating enmity or Vidveśana, driving away or Uccātana, and killing or Marana when performed for a malevolent purpose. Karma ritual is called Kāṃya when it is done to gain some particular end such as health, prosperity and the like. The highest worshlp is called Niṣkāma-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 Sādhanā, prevalent, so far as I am aware, mainly if not wholly amongst Tāntrikas of a Śākta type which is called Nīlasādhanā or Black Sādhanā. This is of very limited application being practised by some Vīra Sādhakas in the cremation ground. There are terrifying things in these rituals and therefore only the fearless practise them. The Vīra trains himself to be indifferent and above all fear. A leading rite is that called Śava Sādhanāwhich 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 Sādhaka 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 Sādhaka what is the boon he craves, be it liberation or some material benefit. It is believed that the Devī 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 (Śavāsana). There are sittings also (Āsana) on skulls (Mundāsana) and the funeral pyre (Citāsana). However repellent or suspect these rites may appear to be be a Western, it is nevertheless the fact that they have been and are practised by genuine Sādhakas of fame such as in the past the famed Mahārāja 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 Ādyā Śakti or Supreme Power of the Śāktas is, in the words of the Triśatī, concisely described as Ekānandacidākritih. Eka = Mukya, Ānanda = Sukham, Cit = Caitanyam or Prak āśa = Jñānam; and Ākritih = Svarūpa. She is thus Saccidānanda-brahmarūpā. Therefore, the worship of Her is direct worship of the Highest. This worship is based on Advaitavāda. Therefore, for all Advaitins, its Sādhanāis the highest. The Śākta Tantra is thus a Sādhanā Śāstra of Advaitavāda. 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 Nirvāṇamukti; other forms of worship procuring for their followers (from the Saura to the Śaiva) 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 Śākta, however, will wrangle with others over this. He will be content with his faith of which the Nigamakalpataru says, that as among castes the Brāhmaṇas are foremost, so amongst Sādhakas are the Śāktas. For, as Niruttara Tantra says, there is no Nirvāṇa without knowledge of Śakti (Śaktijñānam vinā devi nirvāṇam naiva jāyate). Amongst the Śāktas, the foremost are said to be the worshippers of the Kālī Mantra. The Ādimahāvidyāis Kālikā. Other forms are Mūrttibheda of Brahmarūpini Kākikā. Kālīkula is followed by Jñānis of Divya and Vira Bhāvasand Śrīkula by Karmin Sādhakas. According to Niruttara, Kālīkula includes Kālī, Tārā, Raktakālī, Bhuvanā, Mardinī, Triputā, Tvaritā, Pratyangirāvidyā, Durgā; and Śrīkula includes Sundarī, Bhairavī, Bālā, Bagalā, Kamalā, Dhūmāvatī, Mātangī, Svapnavatīvidyā, Madhumatiī Mahāvidyā. Of these forms Kālikā is the highest or Ādyamūrti as being Śuddhasattvaguṇapradhānā, Nirvikāra, Nirguṇabrahmasvarūpaprakāśikām and, as the Kāmadhenu Tantra says, directly Kaivalyadāyinī. Tārā is Sattvaguṇātmikā, Tattvavidyādāyinī, for by Tattvajñāna one attains Kaivalya. Śodaṣī, Bhuvaneśvarī Chinna-mastā are RajahpradhānāSattvaguṇātmikā, the givers of Gaunamukti and Svarga. Dhūmāvatī, Kamalā, Bagalā, Mātangī are Tamahpradhānā whose actiojn is invoked in the magical Ṣaṭkarma.
The most essential point to remember as giving the key to all which follows is that Śāktadharma is Monism (Advaitavāda). Gandharva Tantra says,
“Having as enjoined saluted the Guru and thought ‘So’ham,’ the wise Sādhaka, the performer of the rite should meditate upon the unity of Jiva and Brahman.”
Gurūn natvā vidhānena so’ham iti purodhasah
Aikyam saṃbhāvayet dhimām jīvasya brahmano’pi cha
Kālī Tantra says:
“Having thus meditated, the Sādhaka should worship Devī with the notion, ‘So’ham.’ ”
Evam dhyātvā tato devīm so’hamātmānam archayet.
Kubijikā Tantra says:
“A Sādhaka should meditate upon himself as one and the same with Her”
(Tayā sahita mātmānam ekībhūtam vicintayet).
The same teaching is to be found throughout the Śāstra: Nīla Tantra directing the Sādhaka to think of himself as one with Tārinī; Gandharva Tantra telling him to meditate on the self as one with Tripurā not different from Paramātmaand Kālīkulasarvasva as one with Kālikā and so forth.
For as the Kulārṇava Tantra says:
Deho devālayah proktah jīvo devah Sadāśicah
Tyajed ajñānanirmālyam so’ham bhāvena pūjayet.
This Advaitavāda is naturally expressed in the ritual.
The Saṃhitā and Brāhmaṇas of the four Vedas are (as contrasted with the Upaniṣads) Traigunyaviśaya. There is therefore much in the Vaidik Karmakāṇḍa which is contrary to Brahmajñāna. The same remarks apply to the ordinary Paśu ritual of the day. There are differences of touchable and untouchable, food, caste, and sex. How can a man directly qualify for Brahmajñāna 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 Tāntrik worship of the Śākta type knows, nothing. As the Yoginī Tantra says, the Śāstra is for all castes and for women as well as men. Tantra Śāstra is Upāsanā Kāṇḍa, and in this Śākta Upāsanā the Karma and Jñāna Kāṇḍas are mingled (Miśra). That is, Karma is the ritual expression of the teaching of Jñāna Kāṇḍa and is calculated to lead to it. There is nothing in it which contradicts Brahmajñāna. This fact, therefore, renders it more conducive to the attainment of such spiritual experience. Such higher ritual serves to reveal Jñāna in the mind of the Paśu. So it is rightly said that a Kulajñāni even if he be a Caṇḍāla, is better than a Brahmaṇa. It is on these old Tāntrik 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 Śāstra 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 the supposed “low and impure” notions of the Tantras. On the contrary, a Tāntrik Pandit once said to me: “The Vaidik Karmakāṇḍa is as useful for ordinary men as is a washerman for dirty clothes. It helps to remove their impurities. But the Tantra Śāstra is like a glorious tree which gives jewelled fruit.”
Sādhanā, as I have said, is defined as that which leads to Siddhi. Sādhanā comes from the root “Sādh”—to exert, to strive. For what? That depends on the Sādhanāand its object. Sādhanā is any means to any end and not necessarily religious worship, ritual and discipline. He who does Haṭhayoga, for physical health and strength, who accomplishes a magical Prayoga, who practises to gain an “eightfold memory” and so forth are each doing Sādhanā 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 Vetāka Agni Sādhanā is control over the fire-element. But the Sādhanāwhich 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 Nirvāṇa. It is the latter which in the highest sense is Siddhi, and striving for that end is the chief and highest form of Sādhanā. The latter term includes not merely ritual worship in the sense of adoration or prayer, but every form of spiritual discipline such as sacraments (Saṃskāra), austerities (Tapas), the reading of Scripture (Svādhyāya), meditation (Dhyāna) and so forth. Yoga is a still higher form of Sādhanā ; for the term Yoga means strictly not the result but the means whereby Siddhi in the form of Samādhi may be had. Ordinarily, however, Sādhanā is used to express all spiritual disciplines based on the notion of worshipper and worshipped; referring thus to Upāsanā not Yoga. The latter passes beyond these and all other dualisms to Monistic experience (Samādhi). The first leads up to the second by purifying the mind (Cittaśuddhi), character and disposition (Bhāva) so as to render it capable of Jñāna or Laya Yoga; or becomes itself Parabhakti which, as the Devībhagavata says, is not different from Jñāna.
The great Siddhi is thus Mokṣa; and Mokṣa is Parmātmā, that is, the Svarūpa of Ātmā. But the Sādhaka is Jīvātmā, that is, Ātmā associated with Avidyā of which Mokṣa or Paramātmāis free. Avidyā manifests as mind and body, the subtle and gross vehicles of spirit. Man is thus therefore Spirit (Ātmasvarūpa), which is Saccidānanda, Mind (Antahkarana) and body (Sthūla-śarīra). The two latter are forms of Śakti, that is, projections of the Creative Consciousness through and as its Mātā. The essential operation of Māyāand of the Kañcūkas is to seemingly contract consciousness. As the Yoginīhṛdaya Tantra says, the going forth (Prasara) of Consciousness (Saṃvit) is in fact a contraction (Saṃkoca as Mātri, Māna, 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 One 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 themelves 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 Sādhanā is therefore to cast off from the Self this veil of Avidā and to attain that Perfect experience which is Ātmasvarūpa or Mokṣa. But to know Brahman is to be Brahman. Brahma veda brahmaiva bhavati as Śruti says. In essence man is Brahman. But owing to Avidyā it is necessary to do something in order that this ever existent fact may be realized. That action (Kriyā) is the work of Sādhanā in its endeavour to clear away the veiling of Avidyā which is ignorance. In the sense that Avidyāis being removed man may be said by Sādhanā to become Brahman: that is, he realizes himself as what he truly is and was. Sādhanā, therefore, by the grace of Devī or “descent of Śakti" (Śaktipāta) “converts” (to use an English term) the Sādhaka, 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 Sādhanā. But this experience is not to be had in its completest sense at once and at a bound. It is, as Patanjali says, very rare. Indeed those who truly desire it are very few. Brahman is mindless (Ammah); for mind is a fetter on true consciousness. This mindlessness (Nirālambapurī) 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 (Mumukṣu). The aim, therefore, a preliminary Sādhanā is to secure that purification of mind (Cittaśuddhi) 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 Śāstra, 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 Śāstra repeats that he is a “self-killer” who, having with difficulty attained to manhood, neglects the opportunities of further progress which they give him (Kulārṇava 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 Śāstra 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 Śāstra teaches that the Sādhaka 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 make; 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 ta say that the end which is sought is itself bad. The Tantra, like all Śāstras, seeks the Paramārtha 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 suppoaed that one or other of the means prescribed is not good but evil. Is it accurate or just to condemn not only the particular Śāstra in which they occur (as the discipline of a particular class of Sādhakas only), but also the whole of the Āgamas 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 Śāstra 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 Kālī (of, as those who read it might call, the extremist, that is Vīra Śākta worship) entitled the Karpūrādi Stotra (Tāntrik Texts, Vol. IX), which like most (probably all) of its kind has both a material (Sthūla) and subtle (Sūkṣma) meaning. In the 19th verse it is said that the Devī delights to receive in sacrifice the 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 savour of which God (Yahweh) is represented as enjoying, they being necessary in His honour and to avert His wrath (Gen. viii. 21; Lev. i. 9, 13, 17; Judges vi. 17, xiii. 15; Gen. viii. 20-21; 1 Sam. xxvi. 19). Nothing is more common in all religions (and Christianity as by some understood provides man examples) than to materially understand spiritual truths. For such is the understanding of material or Sthūladarśin (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 Kālī, God, Allah, or what we will. But what is the Svarūpa-vyākhyāor true meaning of this apparently revolting verse? The meaning is that inner or mental worship (Antaryāga) is done to Her who is black (Asitā) because She is the boundless (Sitā = Baddhā) Consciousness (Cidrūpā) whose true nature is eternal liberation (Nityamukta-Svabhāvā). And just as in outer worship material offerings (Upacāra) are made, so the Sādhaka sacrifices to Her his lust (the Goat-Kāma), his anger (the Buffalo-Krodha), his greed (the Cat-Lobha), his stupidity of illusion (the Sheep-Moha), his envy (the Camel-Mātsarya) and his pride and infatuation with worldly things (the Man-Mada). All will readily recognize in these animals and man the qualities (Guṇa) 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 (Tantra śāstrādhikāra) is described in the second Chapter of the Gandharva Tantra as follows:—The aspirant must be intelligent (Dakṣa), with senses controlled (Jitendriya), abtaining from injury to all beings (Sarvahiṃsā-vinirmukta), ever doing good to all (Sarvaprāṇi-hite rata), pure (Śuci), a believer in Veda (Āstika), a non-dualist (Dvaitahīna), whose faith and refuge is in Brahman (Brahmaniṣṭha, Brahmavādī, Brahma, Brahmaparāyana). “Such an one,” it adds, “is competent for this Scripture otherwise he is no Sādhaka” (So'emin śāstre’ dhikāri tad anyatra na sādhakah). 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 Kulārṇava 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 Tāntrik disciple (Śiṣya). Amongst these, it rejects the slave of food and sexual pleasure (Jihvopasthapara); the lustful (Kāmuka), shameless (Nirlajja), the greedy and voracious eater, the sinner in general who does not follow Dharma and Ācāra, 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 Śāstras throughout all time is mere hypocrisy.
It is not however sufficient for the Sādaka 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 Paśu enjoyment or even enjoyment infused with a spiritual Bhāva, and thus finally attains desirelessness (Niṣkāmabhāva). 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 (Bāhyapūjā), inner or mental worship (Mānasa-Pūjā or Antarpūjā) of the Iṣṭadevatā prayer (Prārthanā), sacraments (Saṃskāra), self-discipline for the control of the will and natural appetites (Tapas), meditation (Dhyāna) and so forth. There is, for instance, as I have elsewhere pointed out, a remarkable similarity between the Tāntrik ritual of the Āgamas and Christian ritual in its Catholic form. It has been suggested that Catholicism is redly a legacy of the ancient civilization, an adaptation of the old religions (allied in many respects with Śākta 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 Tāntrik Sādhanāwould 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 is 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 recognieed in the first place that mind and body mutually react upon one another. There must therefore be a physical Sādhanā as the groundwork of the mental Sādhanā to follow. India has for ages recognized what is now beooming 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 Śākta Sādhanā? I answer this later. It is however a Hindu trait to insist on purity of food and person. Tāntrik Haṭhayoga 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 Havishyānnam 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 Sādhanā. In the Tantras will be found instances of several necessary bodily perfections in the Sādhaka. 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, paralysed, slothful in action (Kulārṇava, 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 objiicts 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 Tāntrik Texts (Ṣaṭcakranirūpaṇa), the Manas is aptly spoken of as a doorkeeper who lets some enter and keeps others outside. For this reason it is called Saṃkalpavikalpātmaka: that is, it selects (Saṃkalpa) some things which the sensee (Indriya) 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 Bṛhadāranyaka Upaniṣad says, “My Manas wm 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 paased on to the Buddhi, as also when the latter acts upon the material of remembered percepts, there is formed in the Buddhi a Vṛtti. 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 Vṛttis. The object, therefore, of Sādhanāis 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. This object is the Iṣṭadevatā. When a Sādhaka fully, sincerely and deeply contemplates and worships his Iṣṭadevatā, his mind is formed into a Vṛtti in the form of the Devatā. 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 mid, all things are pure. Things are not impure. It is the impure mind which makes them so. He learns to see that every thing and act are manifestations of the Divine. He who realizes Consciousness in all objects no longer has desire therefor. In this way a good disposition or Bhāva, as it is called, is attained which ripens into that which is divine or Devatābhāva. This is the principle on which all Sādhanā, as well as what is called specifically Mantrayoga, is based. It is profoundly said in the Kulārṇava 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 (Viśaya); that is, the world of name and form (Nāmarūpa). The unregulated mind is distracted by Nāmarūpa. But the same Nāmarūpa may be ueed as the first means of escape therefrom. A particular form therefore of Nāmarūpa productive of pure Bhāva is therefore given as the object of meditation. This is called Sthūla or Saguṇa Dhyāna of the five Devatās. Material media are used as the first steps whereby the Formless One is, through Yoga, attained, such as Images (Pratimā), emblems (Liṅga, Śālagrāma), pictures (Citra), mural markings (Bhittirekhā), Jar (Ghata), Mandalas and Yantras. To these worship (Pūjā) is done with other rites uuch as Japa, Nyāsa and so forth, and gestures (Mudrā). Siddhi in this is the Samādhi called Mahābhāva.
The second principle to be noted is that the object or mind’s content, as also the service (Sevā) of it, may be either gross (Sthūla) or subtle (Sūkṣma). 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 Devatiāare images in human or semi-human form, simiir pictures, non-human forms or emblems (such as Liṅga and Gaurīpatta, Śālagrāma, 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 Prāṇa-pratiṣṭhā rite is itself worshipped. So also amongst Christians, where however this rite is unknown, “eikones acheiropoietoi” (what are called in Sanskrit Svayambhu emblems) and wonder-working images have been directly venerated. Superficial persons doubtless think themselves profound when they ask how the Devatācan be invoked (Āvāhana). To them also the dismissal (Visarjana) savours of childish impudence and absurdity. How (I have read) can God be told to oome and go? 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 Śaṃkara says, Spirit (Ātmā) never comes and never goes. That which in fact moves is the mind of the Sādhaka in which, if pure, Spirit manifests Itself. That Spirit is in all places, and when the Sādhaka’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 Vedānta 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 Sādhanā. The term, aa I have said, literally means an instrument; that by which anything is accomplished. In Upāsanā it is that instrument by which the mind is fixed upon the Devatā of worship. It is, as drawn, a diagram consisting of lines, angles and curves, varying with the Devatāworshipped as also, to some extent, according as it is a Pūjā or Dhārana Yantra, the whole beiug included in a common Bhūpura. 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 Śaktis, has a significance which is known to the btructed Sādhaka. On the great ŚrīYantra with its Baindava and other Cakras there is an entire literature. It is neglected now-adays. Those who have fully understood it are masters in Tantra Śāstras. The subject is shortly dealt with in the Introduction to the Tantrarāja (Vol. VIII, p. xii, Tāntrik Texts, Ed. A. Avalon). 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 Upacāra. In the subtle inner or mental worship (Antarpūjā) these are but symbols. Thus the Jñāneśvara Saṃhitā cited in the Mantrayogarahasyanirnaya speaks of the offering of “flowers of feeling” (Bhāvapuśpa) to the Divinity—namely, the virtue of selflessness (Anahaṃkāra), desirelessness (Arāga), guilelessness (Adambha), freedom from malice and envy (Adveśa, Amātsarya), and infatuation and delusion (Amada and Amoha), and control over the feelings and mind (Akṣobhaka, Amanaka). He who can truly make such offerings to Devī is a high Sādhaka indeed. The Śāstra 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 Sādhaka; 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 temperanients; commencing with the more or less anthropomorphic image (or Doll; Puttalī, 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 Śaktirahasya summarises 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 (Sthūla) or subtle (Sehma). The forms of the Mother of the Universe are threefold. There is first the Supreme (Para) form of which the Viṣṇuyāmala 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 Devīstotras of the Purāṇas 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 (Mānasīkriyā), and in addition certain symbolic gestures (Mudrā) 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 Nyāsa which like Yantra is peculiar to the Tantras. The object of the Sādhaka is to identify himself with the Devatāhe contemplates and thus to attain Devatābhāva for which it is, in its many forms, a most powerful means. Regarding the body of the Devatāas composed of Bīja Mantras, he not merely imagines that his own body is so composed but he actually places (Nyāsa means placing) these Bījas with the tip of his fingers on the various parts of his own body. The Abhīṣṭa Devatā 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 Vyāpaka Nyāsa, as it were, spreads the presence of the Devatāall over his body. He thus feels himself permeated in every part by the presence of Devatā and identified with the Divine Self in that its form. How, it may be asked, can the Devatā be spread as it were butter on bread? These are crude questionings and because critics of the ritual do not gct beyond this crude state of mind, this ritual is not understood. Devatāis 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 Mudrā is made. This Mudrāexpresses 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 Vṛtti is not only strengthened by accompanying physical actions, 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 Śakti as Mantra and on the Varṛamālā; or the object of contemplation may be severed into parts, as where meditation is done not simply on the Devatā 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 Bhūtaśuddhi, may be analysed 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 clamour?” The answer is the Devatā is not so affected. What is in fact aflected is the mind of the Sādhaka himself which, being thus purified by insistent effort, becomes a fit medium for the manifestation of a divine consciousness (Devatābhāva). In short fact Indian ritual cannot be understood unless the Vedāntik 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 the 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 Śāstra is extraordinarily full of it in all its kinds—form, colour, 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 favourite colour in the Śākta Tantras. As pointed out in the Bhāvanopaniṣad (Sūtra 28) an Upaniṣad of the Kādimata and Bhāskararāya’s commentary thereon, Redness denotes Rāga and Vimarsha Śakti. (See Introduction to Tantrarāja, Vol. VIII, Tāntrik Texts, Ed. by A. Avalon and Vol. XI, Tāntrik 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 ss regards sexual matters.” An English clergyman remarks (E. P. 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 Paśu. 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 Śāstras or so-called Śāstras 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 Śāstra recognizes this principle by certain injunctions into which I cannot cnter here. The Kulārṇava expressly says that the Chapter on the Wine ritual is not to be read (Na pathed āsavollāsam); that is, by the unqualified.
Again it is not necessary to admit either that every Text which calls ltself a Tantra is a genuine one or if so that it was the product of a high class Sādhaka. 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 Karpūrādistotra (Vol. IX, Tāntrik Texts, p. 11, 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 Śākta symbolism and pseudo-philosophising, 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 Śākta Tantras convey philosophic and scientific truths by the media of erotic imagery; which is another matter. But so also does Upaniṣad. The charge of pseudo-philosophy is ill-founded, unless the Advaitavedānta is such. The Śākta Tantra simply presents the Vedāntik teachings in a symbolical ritrualistic 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 Śāstras, 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 Saṃskāras, Sandhyā, Homa and so forth are imbedded in and have been adopted by the Āgamas. These and other rituals are to be found also in the Purāṇas. In any case, the Āgama 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 Āgamas 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 Āgamas. 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 enquiry. Personally I am disposed to favour the view that the Āgamas have made a contribution which is both original and considerable. To me also the contribution seems to have greater conformity with Vedāntik 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 Vedāntik doctrine to be found in the Upaniṣads, 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 Āgamas, according to a generally accepted view, did not come into being earlier than a date later than the first and chief Upaniṣads, and perhaps at the close of what is generally called the Aupaniṣadik 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 Śāstras 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 Āgama. As an Indian author and follower of the Śaivāgama has said—the Temple ritual throughout India is governed by the Āgamas. And this must be so, if it be the fact as alleged, that Temples, Images, and other matters were unknown to the original Vaidik Āryas. If the Āgamas 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 Karmakaṇḍa was originally designed. Vedānta in its various forms has now for centuries constituted the religious notions of India, and the Āgamas in their differing schools are its practical expression in worship and ritual affording the means whereby Vedāntik doctrine is realized.