The ritual begins
Gabriel Pradīpaka --wrongly-written Pradipaka--, once again. This document is the first one of a series of documents dealing with Tantric Ritual. Since there are innumerable ways to perform ritualistic worship according to Tantricism, I decided to outline a "standard" ritual which may be used as a framework in order to understand the core behind all intricacies and complexities of a Tantric ritual. Thus, you may find some rituals placing a particular purificatory act here and not there and the like... but, if you understand the core, the rest will be a piece of cake. I will be teaching you a "standard" arrangement of acts to be performed during a Tantric rite, but it may vary "a little" sometimes. Every Tantric group has a special form "to do" the things, you know. However, the sense of a Tantric ritual remains the same: "To realize a higher reality". There are specific rituals only intended to achieve some minor purpose (e.g. "to bring good luck to one's own life", "to subjugate the enemy" and so on). Obviously, I am not interested in this kind of adoration. My explanation will be only concerned with those rituals wherein the Supreme Being is worshipped and realized.
You may wonder, "How did this guy come to build a standard framework for most Tantric rituals?" It is not something to be done overnight, be sure, hehe! Not at all. I studied, studied, studied, studied, studied and... studied. After that, I performed rituals, performed rituals, performed rituals, performed rituals, performed rituals and... performed rituals. I do not know any other way than this to understand rituals or anything else. Theory and practice, that is the only way to success that I know. I have been studying and performing rituals for years, and thus I could understand the core of the ritualistic worship according to Tantricism. So, I will be regurgitating this sacred food known as Tantric ritual into your mind gradually. Do not be in a hurry. Try to understand completely a particular subject before advancing to the next one. Well, let us get down to work.
The ancient Vedic scriptures state the existence of four Yuga-s or Ages, viz.:
|Kṛtayuga or Satyayuga||An age of wisdom and prosperity whose duration is 1,728,000 years of men|
|Tretāyuga||An age in which the original wisdom and prosperity of Satyayuga has decreased a little; its duration is 1,296,000 years of men|
|Dvāparayuga||An age in which the original wisdom and prosperity of Satyayuga has decreased even more; its duration is 864,000 years of men|
|Kaliyuga||An age in which the original wisdom and prosperity of Satyayuga is almost nonexistent; its duration is 432,000 years of men|
The current Kaliyuga began the 18th of February, 3102 BC Thus, we have been living in this horrible Yuga for about 5,100 years. As it lasts 432,000 years according to the Vedic tradition, about 426,900 years are left... ūūgh! If someone does not still understand what the Kaliyuga is, my advise for him/her is to read a good book dealing with the history of mankind for the last 5100 years, hehe!
Thank God, these cosmic ages affect the mankind as a whole... but a particular individual might escape from their influence if he/she is intelligent enough. In short, one could live in Satyayuga despite the rest of mankind is living in Kaliyuga. Well, this is a different subject which I will explain to you on some occasion. As I said, the Vedic scriptures state the existence of four Yuga-s or ages. At daybreak of Kaliyuga, all "Yajña-s" or worship rituals were mostly abandoned. You may wonder, "Why?" The reason is simple: "The Vedic scriptures declare that the Yajña-s or rituals of worship are no longer necessary in Kaliyuga". Only the chanting of the sacred name of the Lord is enough in Kaliyuga. This is so because each of the Yuga-s has a specific "set" of practices which "should not" be performed in a different age due to either their inherent difficulty or uselessness. For example, in many Vedic rituals the different accessories to perform the ritual are really "expensive" or difficult to gather together. For an average individual of Kaliyuga, it is really difficult or even impossible to get all those elements.
Here you are the practices that you must do in each of the Yuga-s in order to achieve Final Liberation according to the Vedic scriptures:
|(1) In Satyayuga, meditation (Dhyāna) is the key to Liberation|
|(2) In Tretāyuga, sacrifice (Yajña) is the key to Liberation|
|(3) In Dvāparayuga, worship of the deity (Pūjā) is the key to Liberation|
|(4) In Kaliyuga, the repetition of the names of God (Nāmasaṅkīrtana) is the key to Liberation|
As you see, Yajña or sacrifice (its older meaning was "worship") is not recommended for the current era by the Vedic scriptures.
Thus, the Vedic Yajña-s were pushed aside in the dawn of Kaliyuga because they were useless. Nonetheless, Tantricism (whose line of thinking was opposite to the traditional Vedic one) took these forsaken Yajña-s, reworked them and used them as a primordial practice so that a person may achieve Enlightenment through them. Tantricism is responsible for the upholding of those ritualistic practices, otherwise they had been forgotten and lost a long time ago. Besides, those expensive and difficult-to-get accessories were replaced by different elements which were symbolic of the former. All accessories that were not "at hand" were substituted by some substance or item which acted as a symbol of them. Good idea, isn't it?
One of the features of a Yajña is that it uses a Yantra (mystic diagram) together with appropriate Mantra-s (sacred words) (If you want to learn more about Mantra-s, go to Meditation 3). I could say that a Yantra is really a "visual" Mantra. Of course, this is approximate but at the same time it is a useful definition of the word. The Highest Reality (Paramaśiva) is also known as Parabindu (the Supreme Bindu). The word "bindu" has many meanings, being "dot and knower" the main ones in this context. Paramaśiva (the Supreme Bindu) is split into two realities: Śiva and Śakti. Śiva is the silent Witness within oneself. He is not affected by anything. He is always Pure. He is the "I" in all. You are Him indeed. In turn, Śakti is His Power. Śakti manifests all the universe just for His delight. She makes Śiva a Knower or Witness by giving both I-consciousness and knowables to Him. Well, it is a long story... go to the documents under Trika section if you want to learn more about it.
Śiva is formless, while Śakti has a form. When Śiva assumes a form, He is turned into Śakti; and when Śakti loses Her form, She is turned into Śiva. This is so because Śiva and Śakti are really one entity. I am speaking of them as "two" entities for the sake of their study. Śiva is associated with Nāda (divine sound) while Śakti is associated with Bindu (divine form). Divine sound and divine form (Nāda and Bindu) will be later transformed into subtle sound and form... and then into gross sound and form... through a process of successive contractions (Go to Trika section and read all documents there; besides, go to the Tattvic Chart too). So, the gross sounds and form that you are perceiving "right now" are really the final outcome of those two divine principles: Nāda and Bindu (Śiva and Śakti). You might argue that since sounds and forms are coming directly from Nāda and Bindu they may be used as a kind of vehicle intended for carrying you back to Śiva-Śakti. And you are thinking exactly as the ancient sages did. Thus, a Yajña is a mixture of Mantra-s (Nāda) and Yantra (Bindu). They are not mingled with each other at random anyway. Not at all. There are specific Mantra-s for specific Yantra-s. It is quite a science which I begin teaching you now.
Yantra in conjunction with the proper Mantra-s is able to take you to the original Source of them both: Nāda-Bindu. When you concentrate on a Yantra, you are really contemplating on the divine Bindu Itself. Even though I have translated "Yantra" as "mystical diagram", it has several meanings. One interesting meaning is: machine. And yes, it is a kind of "spiritual machine" from a certain viewpoint. This machine generates "spiritual awareness" for all people coming in touch with it during a ritual. But, this machine is inert without the Mantra-s, which are the "software" activating the "hardware" known as Yantra. Well, I will teach how to do this later, when I speak of Prāṇapratiṣṭhā.
We will use the most celebrated Yantra known as Śrīyantra. This Yantra is an "impersonal" one, that is, you can use it with any kind of deity (male or female). You may wonder, "Are there personal Yantra-s?" Yes, there are. For example: Kālīyantra, which is only intended to be utilized with the goddess Kālī. This is only one example, but there are a lot more. The entire ritual is concerned with making a person conscious of his own Self.
The sequence in the ritual is Unity-Duality-Unity. It is just as the sequence followed by all universal processes: They emerge from the One without a second (Paramaśiva), they last for a while and they are lastly dissolved back in the Highest Reality. Therefore, at the commencement of the Yajña, the yogī attempts to be as conscious of his unity with Paramaśiva as possible. He uses different methods to achieve that, as you will see later on. Afterward, in the middle, the yogī realizes the colossal quantity of śakti-s or powers arising from the Supreme Self. This is a stage in which he experiences duality. At the end of the ritual, he is forced to recognize that duality is merely a fleeting appearance. Just Paramaśiva IS. So, he is drawn in back to his own Self. You may wonder, "what is the point of passing through the dual stage if one is able to perceive the unity from the beginning itself?" Well, that is a good question certainly. The answer might seem strange maybe: "Unity and duality are really the two sides of one coin. Neither are the Highest Reality. I am simply using them as a vehicle to realize Paramaśiva". As the "I" is always accompanied by "am", whether or not "am" is written or pronounced --try to separate them--, unity is always accompanied by duality. You may be in unity for a while, but you will have to return to duality sooner or later, and vice versa. That is why, you have two choices: (1) Continuing to fall prey to this pair of opposites, or (2) Using it as a tool to realize the Supreme Truth situated beyond unity and duality. Instead of fighting against the oscillating movement from unity to duality and from duality to unity, the yogī utilizes it as a means to perceive the Core of all: Paramaśiva.
So, a ritual is concerned with all that I said to you. The preparations for the ritual begin now... get ready!
The entire ritual is a meditation. And what is to meditate? To meditate is to realize one's own nature, is to become conscious of the Essence in oneself. In all that we do, the relationship Perceiver-Perception-Perceived is constantly shining forth. I (Śiva) am the Perceiver who is the Supreme Being. That which is Perceived is Śakti or Divine Power that firstly gives I-consciousness to me and then takes the form of the knowables. Śiva (I) and Śakti (am) are the core of all, and thus they are continuously remembered in every way you may imagine during a ritual. What else could be adored apart from them? They are the Creators and the real owners of all here. And they are yourself, myself and everyone. When one can keep this in mind, he is fit to begin with the preparations for the ritual.
In order to gradually become conscious of Śiva-Śakti, that is, the Highest Reality, you have to perform a rite consisting of three slaps after sitting in a appropriate yogic posture (Padmāsana, Sukhāsana, etc.) as for meditation. Each of them has an important symbolic significance. Before beginning with Tricapeṭa, you should know the following: There is an everlasting triad known as Kula in Tantricism. The three members of which it is composed are as follows:
|THE EVERLASTING KULA|
|a) Perceiver or knower (You, the Subject, the Supreme Śiva)|
|b) Perception or knowledge along with the process of knowing (carried out by mind and senses, which are manifestations of Śakti, the Divine Power of Śiva)|
|c) Perceived or knowable objects, which are manifestations of Śakti, the Divine Power of Śiva|
Every slap symbolizes one of these three members of the sacred and eternal Kula.
1) "The whole universe is my own Body". This should be the awareness accompanying the first slap in the feet. As you slap them, you realize that everything is yourself. All objects are eternally oriented to you (Śiva), all is revolving around you (the Highest Being). This knowledge and understanding permeate your entire self. The feet are the lowest part of the body and consequently they are in close contact with the "earth" which is here symbolic of "matter". Therefore, the feet are used to make you realize the grossest aspect of the universal Manifestation, that is, the perceived or knowable objects. A feeling of unity with all objects is now pervading your awareness. This "feeling" indicates that the first slap has been really fruitful.
2) "The means of perception (mind and senses) as well as the very process of knowing are myself". This should be the awareness accompanying the second slap in one hand. As you slap the hand, you realize that your own mind and senses together with their processes of knowing internal and external objects are yourself. You feel that mind and senses are pure Śakti who is without any limitation. They have arisen because of the Delight and in that Delight Itself they are finally dissolving. The reason for choosing the hand as the target of the second slap is the following: "The hand symbolizes that which apprehends or takes. Mind and senses apprehend and take, as it were, the knowable objects". An objection could be raised: "What is the need of mind and senses? Is the Supreme Knower known as Śiva not able to perceive without the aid of mind and senses?" The answer is simple: Why not? The problem resides in that you think of all as consisting of different realities called: the Knower, mind and senses, and the knowables... but everything is just Śiva. We assign names and appellatives to them only for the sake of convenience. We want to study them and it is convenient to designate them by using different terms. However, this would be a mere Vikalpa according to the sage Patañjali. It is a verbal and useful knowledge about something that is nonexistent. Śiva (You) is the mind, is the senses and is all objects. There is no separation at all as a matter of fact. And of this constant unity I am trying to become conscious through Tricapeṭa and in fact, the entire Yajña or ritual.
3) "I am the Perceiver, I am Śiva, the Supreme Lord". This should be the awareness accompanying the third slap in one cheek. As Śiva, you are not separate or different from anything. You are not in a particular place either, but you are all-pervading. The sensation of being in a particular spot called "here", it is only a creation of your Śakti or Divine Power. If you pervade all, where did the notion of residing in one place come from? All that was the playful movement of Śakti, who loves to delude Śiva. Nonetheless, even though Śiva and Śakti seem to be two, they are really one. That is your mystery, oh Śiva! The reason for choosing the face as the target of the last slap is the following: "The face is the area wherein you generally feel yourself as a witness or perceiver in wakefulness. You feel that you are perceiving from there because the senses are situated at that point." However, you are nowhere indeed, hehe! The third slap works as a kind of alarm clock... "hey Śiva, wake up!... you are not this limited and boring being called... but the Highest Reality!"
Well, this is the meaning of Tricapeṭa. And now, Vighnavighāta or Bhūtāpasāraṇa (Removal of obstacles).
In order that nothing may disturb the unfolding of the Yajña you are bound to perform now a special rite known as Vighnavighāta or Bhūtāpasāraṇa (Removal of obstacles). Thus, you chant a particular Mantra invoking Gaṇeśa. Who is Gaṇeśa? Oh, he is one of the two sons of the god Śiva (Purāṇic Śiva not Tantric Śiva, careful!). Although he has a human body, he has the head of an elephant. The "personal" stories about this god are many indeed, but the important point here is his power to remove obstacles. The "personal" images of the gods should be considered as icons. The presence of these icons in Indian culture does not indicate mere polytheism as lots of people think, but a cool way of relationship between the universal energies and oneself. This idea is being used in computers nowadays. You do not believe me?... look at your desktop. You may see several icons surely there on the screen. You do not see the real "programs" stood for those icons but only those colorful tiny images. Likewise, the personal form of the deities are actually "icons" representing powerful energies which are experienced indeed but "unseen". It is difficult to ask the invisible and all-pervading energy that dissipates obstacles to remove them for the Yajña to unfold smoothly. However, it is very easy to chant a few Mantra-s in honor of Gaṇeśa and contemplate on his form whether mentally or by using a picture of Him. This is not polytheism but a good manner to ask for help. There is only one God, but He has manifold manifestations and functions. This should be clearly understood if you want to advance positively in the ritual. There are several Mantra-s, mainly the Bījamantra (seed Mantra) sacred to Gaṇeśa:
To this Bījamantra other Mantra-s are generally added in chanting (e.g. Namo gaṇeśāya vighneśvarāya; "Salutation to Gaṇeśa, the lord who removes the obstacles"), but the important thing is your attitude of reverence. Your devotional attitude is crucial in attracting that compassionate power pushing away all obstacles to the Yajña. Let us get ready because the ritual is beginning now...
The Śrīyantra (the Yantra or mystic diagram used on this occasion) is brought and placed on a wooden base or pedestal. The ceremony is full of a devotional attitude, that is, one does not merely bring the Yantra and place on the base as if it were a common object. Not at all. One must perform that act with a mind completely absorbed in devotion to the deity which he has chosen to worship in this Yajña. When a ritual is performed, it is always in honor of a particular deity. The "deity" is not simply another "god" or "goddess" (this is not polytheism) but an aspect of the One without a second. For example, one could worship the goddess Lakṣmī that is the icon representing spiritual and mundane wealth. Or else, he could worship the goddess Sarasvatī that is representative of spiritual knowledge. Thus, you may choose whatever aspect you wish or need to adore in a particular point of your life.
I will explain now again to you the significance of a Yantra: The term Yantra literally means "machine". It is really a machine of meditation. Just as a Mantra works at a sound level and gives easy access to a meditative state, so a Yantra brings about the same results but through visual forms. When you repeat a Mantra, your mind takes on the form of that sound. Likewise, when you contemplate on a Yantra, your mind takes on the form of that image. And, since both gross Mantra and Yantra are approximate representations of one's essential Self (I said "gross" to denote their aspect as external sound and form; of course, there are subtle aspects of Mantra and Yantra though), when you concentrate your mind on the appropriate Mantra or Yantra, it assumes the form of that Ultimate Reality. And I said "appropriate" because even though each word and form is in fact a Mantra and a Yantra, there are certain "designs" which are more auspicious to achieve the spiritual goal of revealing the essential Truth. That is easy to understand. For example, you do not love all people equally despite they are all human beings. Love could arise when you see your loved ones because those forms have been associated with love. But, when you see any other person, you possibly do not feel that very love. This is a common experience. Yes, yes, this should not be so... one should feel love for all, but what the hell!, we are all beings living in a constant delusion unfortunately. Our thoughts are generally like this: "I am the body, I need this, I need that, I love this person and not that one, I like this, I do not like that, I am so young, I am so old, etc.". In short, no spiritual awareness... just mundane thoughts leading us to pain and unhappiness in the long run. For that reason we are performing the ritual, in order to be conscious of a universal Reality which is not partial as our limited minds at all. After the Yajña, our thoughts should be: "I am not the body, I am completely pleased and content in myself, I love all beings in this universe, I am the eternal Self in all, I am supremely happy, I do not need anything except this Bliss, etc.". These are thoughts of a superior person. You perform a Yajña to enjoy real Joy, not to strengthen the delusion in you. This is lastly the goal of a Yajña and any other spiritual practice.
Well, you will have to perform Aṅganyāsa now:
Before starting the meditation machine or Yantra, you must get ready. This is vital in order to have the Yantra properly started. If the Yantra is not adequately started, the rest of the ritual is useless and unfruitful indeed. However, if the start is a good one, you make certain that the entire process will go on successfully right to the end. In all processes (spiritual or not), there must be a good start and a good ending. A good start is a sure sign that the subsequent process will go on very well, that is, it is a sure sign that the process will hit the target. In turn, a good ending puts an end to all further unwanted consequence of the aforesaid process. If a Yajña is not well finished, there will be possibly certain śakti-s or energies bringing about confusion and infatuation at the end of it (e.g. people gossiping immediately after the ritual). That is why, you have to perform Aṅganyāsa now, at the beginning, and some other practices at the end of the Yajña.
"Nyāsa" is derived from the verb "nyas (ni-as)" --to place or apply, put down or insert, etc.". In Tantra, "nyāsa" means "to place one's own attention on something". There are many kinds of Nyāsa-s, but you will use only Aṅganyāsa this time. "Aṅga" means "body or limb". Thus, "Aṅganyāsa" is "to place one's own attention on different parts of the physical body". You may perform this in three ways: (1) Mentally: You pay attention to this part and then to that one, and so on; (2) With the help of a flower: You place a flower on the particular part of your body which you wish to pay attention to; and (3) With the help of your hand: You join the thumb and the middle finger and place them over the area of you body which you want to become conscious of. Some say that you should actually touch your body with the fingers, while others affirm that the fingers should not touch the skin but they should be placed over the zone without touching it at all. The first type of Aṅganyāsa, that is, "the mental one", is generally used when you practice Nyāsa over the Cakra-s. Since you cannot touch the Cakra-s with your physical hands, mental Nyāsa must obligatorily be practiced in this case. The second type, as well as the third one, is practiced directly over the various parts constituting the gross body.
You will perform the third kind of Aṅganyāsa in this ritual. Fifty-one regions of the body will be touched. Each of those regions is associated with a particular sound. For instance, the sound:
--it sounds like "ang"-- is associated with the hair. Therefore, you join the thumb and the middle finger together and place them over your own hair. At the same time, you repeat the aforesaid sound, that is to say, अँ.
The sounds are approximate representatives of those emitted by the vibrations circulating through a particular area. Every part of your body produces a certain sound pattern. By means of the Sanskrit sounds, you tune in the region over which I perform Nyāsa. This natural and spontaneous tuning is really a subtle and profound awareness harmonizing all parts of your body. Aṅganyāsa makes you pay attention to your entire physical body, and that simple act places purity there wherein there was apparently impurity. Truly, there is impurity nowhere. The notions of impurities are just that, "notions". All this is the Pure Self, the Infinite Consciousness, the Immaculate Reality forever. The practice of Nyāsa makes you realize that.
Together with the main aforesaid sounds, you also repeat a salutation to the respective area of your body. For example, at the same time you touch the tips of the hair with your thumb and middle finger joined, you pronounce अँ along with a salutation, this way:
ॐ अँ नमः केशान्तेषु -- Om̐ am̐ namaḥ keśānteṣu -- Om̐ am̐ salutation (namaḥ) on the tips (anteṣu) of the hair (keśa). The sacred Om̐ word is added to give further support to your salutation. Om̐ is generally used as an auspicious way of both beginning and/or finishing a salutation.
So, the function of the salutation is concerned with polishing the original sound associated with a particular part of your body. It works just as the fine tuner improving the reception of a specific wave. With this improvement, your consciousness of that bodily area will increase accordingly. And with the help of that augmented body awareness, you will be able to attain to higher levels of consciousness. Got it?
Well, next step is Karanyāsa...
The hands are the "kara" or doer of the ritual. Therefore, it is very important for you to become conscious of them. Through certain main sounds (e.g. "Vaṣaṭ") and specific salutations (namaḥ), you come to realize that your own hands are the Pure Self. The hands are of the nature of "going and taking". By means of Karanyāsa, I perceive their nature and identify it with the Supreme Power of Action (Kriyāśakti) of the Supreme Reality. This should be your consciousness as you perform Karanyāsa.
Thus, after practicing Nyāsa (both Aṅga and Kara) you realize that your physical body is only a manifestation brought about by the Creative Delight of Śiva. You also realize that, as a matter of fact, there is no real impurity in it because even an apparent taint is a form of Śiva, your own Self. Keeping firmly this realization in your mind, you perform Granthibandhana now.
With the thumb and the middle finger joined together, you place them on the space between the eyebrows. Then, you repeat Om̐ twenty-seven times. This simple act makes you realize that You are the Witness (Śiva) to the whole Yajña. You are the Supreme Self perceiving this ritualistic ceremony which is Your own Body. There is no separation at all among Witness and That which is witnessed. Everything is experienced as "I AM", as Śiva-Śakti.
What is the (higher) knot or "granthi"? In this context, I am not referring to the knot or granthi existing within Ājñācakra (the Cakra known as Ājñā which is situated in the middle of the cranium on a level with the space between the eyebrows), but rather to the particular "consciousness" dwelling there in wakefulness. Even though the Witness or Śiva is actually all-pervading and beyond all states of consciousness, the sensation of being a Witness is generally felt in that region during the waking state. This act of tying the (higher) knot is a kind of Nyāsa indeed. It is very important because by making you realize that You are Śiva, the Eternal Witness to all, it lays solid foundations for the entire structure of the ritual to be built on adequately. If you perform a Yajña but at the same time ignore that You are Him, you are wasting your time really, because the goal of the ritual is concerned with the recognition of your own essential nature or Śiva. If you do not strive to get that identification with Śiva, the Yajña is unfruitful. How are you supposed to attain to unity with the Supreme Being if you do not try to identify yourself with Him? Think about it.
You bind up the ten quarters (E, O, N, S, NE, SO, SE, NO, Zenith and Nadir) by snapping your fingers in the respective direction while simultaneously repeating Om̐. You do not need to get a compass because spiritually speaking East is always in front of you and West is behind you. In turn, North is on the left and South is on the right. Thus, it is easy to determine NE, SO, SE and NO. Finally, Zenith is located above and Nadir below. You simply snap your fingers in the respective direction and at the same time you repeat the sacred mantra Om̐. It is easy.
Every quarter is a śakti or power that bestows a sense of spatial location on the Witness. Although Śiva is beyond space, He manifests ten śakti-s in the form of the ten quarters in order to experience space. After that, the Highest Self brings about the notion of time and so on. Thus, the entire universe is manifested from His own Heart or Core. And that Śiva is You. When the ten quarters are manifested, you feel that you are here but not there and consequently the seed of ignorance regarding Your all-pervasiveness has been sown. Then, as I told you before, the seed of time is deeply sown too. And these two seeds, with the help of others seeds of nescience, make you feel that you are a limited being (whose name is X) that leads this little and insignificant life which is filled with an immense load of quarrels, misunderstandings and a constant useless search for happiness in objects and people. Good joke! Awake!, You are Śiva, You are the Absolute! That is the reason for binding up the quarters. In other words, when you binding them up you are really becoming conscious of Your own essential nature or Śiva. Awake!
Of course, besides Om̐, you will also have to pronounce a salutation to the quarters. The interesting point is that, apart from saluting the quarter, you also pay homage to the deity who is associated with it. For example, East is associated with Indra (the lord of Heaven). So, you salute both Pūrvā (East) and Indra. Look:
ॐ इन्द्राय पूर्वायै नमः -- Om̐ indrāya pūrvāyai namaḥ -- Om̐, salutation (namaḥ) to both Indra (indrāya) and the East (pūrvāyai).
In Tantra, a personal deity is commonly assigned to something that is not apparently personal, such as the quarters, mental moods, etc. Why? Because it is easier to meditate and become conscious of something which is personal than impersonal. If I tell you "realize the nature of Supreme Love"... this is difficult to accomplish, since Supreme Love is not personal. It can be accomplished if you are an advanced yogī, of course, but the vast majority of people will find it really difficult to realize that directly. However, if you begin meditating on Jesus Christ, Buddha, etc., you will find it really easy to attain to the realization of the nature of that Supreme Love. That is why a personal deity is assigned to such impersonal things as anger, quarters, beauty, wealth, etc. Enough of this.
Pūjā is really "worship" but here it is translated as "purification". This word (purification) is used in the sense of a purificatory adoration. And this purificatory adoration is lastly a realization. Everything is already completely pure. Nothing is actually to be purified in this ritual. As everything is Your own Self, it is immaculate. There is no need to clean that which is already clean. This kind of "clean" consciousness is vital. If you fail to keep it throughout the ritual, this one will be unfruitful. The notion of something being impure results from the operation of the Mala-s [Āṇavamala, Kārmamala and Māyīyamala --See Trika 4 (English)--] and these already have eradicated when you performed the ceremony of tying the higher knot. At the moment you tied the knot, Āṇavamala was loosened and consequently the remaining two Mala-s were loosened too.
So, to insert notions of impurity at this level is contradictory. In fact, once you have realized who You are, you cannot see impurity anywhere. The notion of something being impure is simply that, "a notion", which has been dissipated by the right knowledge gained through the performance of this tantric ritual. Impurity and purity are the two sides of only one coin known as Śiva. Śiva is both impurity and purity, and He is beyond this pair of opposites too. And Śiva is You.
Now you take a little pot, pour some water into it and place your hand over while pronouncing Om̐ (or any other propitious Mantra) twenty-seven times. Then, you sprinkle that very water over the accessories (flowers, etc.). Afterward, you sprinkle it over the base or seat on which you will place the Yantra as well as over the ground where the Yajña or ritual is being performed. After that, the Yantra itself is to be sprinkled over.
The process is not merely one of sprinkling some energized water (via Mantra-s) over those objects at all. It is much deeper and subtler indeed. Pay attention:
1) While repeating Om̐ (or any other adequate Mantra) 27 times, you must consider the water to be symbolic of Truth, pure Consciousness and Absolute Love. The water is not rigid but it takes on the form of the recipient containing it. You must feel that You are the water of Truth, which is to be sprinkled over various sacred objects. Truth is Pure Love, and this Love is not stiff but flexible.
2) While sprinkling the water over the accessories, seat, ground and Yantra, you are pouring Love into the them. As the Yantra is nothing but a representation of the manifested universe, what you are actually doing is to pour Love into the entire Manifestation. This process of transferring Love or Truth is easy to be performed and does not need ostentatious acts really. It is just a humble surrender to the Absolute by identifying yourself with Him. This understanding must pervade your whole being while doing Yantrapūjā.
Therefore, you sprinkle the water of Truth and Love over all those sacred objects and simultaneously a higher state of consciousness is revealed for you. You feel that those objects are not different from You in the least. When this consciousness of Unity has taken firm root in you, you may advance to the next stage.
"Iṣṭadevatāpūjā" literally means "Worship (pūjā) of the chosen (iṣṭa) deity (devatā)". There are two types of Yantra-s:
1) Those which are only intended for worshipping a particular deity.
2) Those which may be utilized to worship any kind of deity.
The first type is generally called "Personal Yantra-s" because they are only associated with a particular deity. For example: Kālī Yantra (which is only used to worship goddess Kālī). The second type is generally called "Impersonal Yantra-s" not because there is no deity being worshipped through them, but because they admit all deities. For example: Śrīyantra (which may be used with any type of deities). We are currently using Śrīyantra to perform this Tantric ritual. However, the crucial point before formally worshipping a deity is to give a good and precise answer to the following question: "What is a deity or devatā?"
Well, I would say that a deity is mainly a definite energy (e.g. "a thunderbolt"). While the energies are as tangible and visible as a thunderbolt, you easily may concentrate on them and flow at that level of experience. If you contemplate on a thunderbolt (directly or mentally) for a long period of time, you will acquire its attributes, that is, you will get its power, brightness, etc. Nonetheless, how are you supposed to meditate on such subtle and intangible energies as love, spiritual and material fortune, knowledge, etc.? You are bound to resort to some form or icon standing for them. As far as love is concerned, you can take the image (photo, picture, statue, etc.) of some great saint who is celebrated by his love and compassion, and contemplate on it. The immediate consequence of this contemplation is that, after doing it, you are able to experience that level of divine love and compassion. You can understand this from a simple example: "the icons on your desktop are really representing intangible programs". You simply click or double click on them and a program is started. The same thing is true in respect of the deities' icons. You become onepointed on them, that is, you click or double click on them with your mind, and the respective state associated with those deities ultimately arises. This is so because the mind is like clay. You focus your mind on something, and it takes on that form. This may be easily proven:
1) Go to a party, in which there are many worldly people. Remain there for a couple hours.
Then, observe the state of your mind.
2) Afterward, meet true yogī-s and chant some Mantra-s with them. Then, observe the state of your mind.
Unless you are really a great yogī or yoginī, you will experience two completely different states of mind. If you do not get some true yogī-s (hehe!), go to a church, a mosque or any similar spiritual place. That is why, too much social life is not recommended for beginners in Yoga. Their minds still are too weak and they cannot avoid the constant mutation of it. Of course, the great yogī-s or yoginī-s may do whatever they wish, because their minds hardly experience some mutation despite the changing circumstances around them.
There must not be any intellectual relationships between you and a deity. Pure Love must be the only link between you both. That Love will eventually lead you to a complete surrender to Supreme Śakti or Divine Power. Even though Śakti is all-pervading, you choose a particular form (a deity) in order to worship Her. The fruit of your worship will be an engrossment in and an identification with Her. This is also known as Enlightenment.
In Tantricism, the spiritual paths may be generally classified into two types: (1) You identify yourself directly with Śiva by realizing your own essential nature. Thus, you shatter the net of Māyā (Ignorance) to pieces, which it is unable to catch you due to your inherent "greatness". (2) You become a devotee of Śakti and find your way out of Māyā's net through the holes in its weft. You can do so because of your inherent "smallness". You perform your worship of Śakti without worrying about the fruits of it. This is very important if you want the ego not to ruin your practice. The ego is continuously worried about the results of the actions, and that is why it is always under the effects of Māyā or Ignorance. In Bhagavadgītā (II, 47), Lord Kriṣṇa urges Arjuna not to become attached to the fruits of his actions:
कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोऽस्त्वकर्मणि॥
Karmaṇyevādhikāraste mā phaleṣu kadācana|
Mā karmaphalaheturbhūrmā te saṅgo'stvakarmaṇi||
Your (te) right (adhikāraḥ) is only (eva) related to action (karmaṇi), never (mā... kadācana) to (its) fruits (phaleṣu). Do not (mā) be (bhūḥ) the cause (hetuḥ) of the fruit (phala) of an action (karma) (and) let the attachment (saṅgaḥ) to inaction (akarmaṇi) not (mā) be (astu) yours (te) (either).
So, you will adore the chosen deity (iṣṭadevatā) in this ritual, that is, you will become completely engrossed in that divine form without experiencing any kind of attachment to the fruits resulting from such a worship. To perform this adoration, you will choose a particular "personal" icon in which the main characteristics of the aforesaid deity are stood for. For example, if you worship the "spiritual and material fortune", you will surely choose the form of Mahālakṣmī, because the principal features of spiritual and material fortune may be found there (e.g. a beautiful and compassionate face granting spiritual boons, coins falling from her hands, etc.). The process of worshipping the chosen deity consists of five offerings:
1) You offer flowers to the deity, which are symbolic of Ākāśa or ether (space). When you do this, your mind must take on the form of the entire space around you.
2) You offer incense, which is symbolic of Vāyu or air. When you do this, your mind must take on the form of that very air and become completely gaseous.
3) You offer light, which is symbolic of Agni or fire. When you do this, your mind must take on the form of that very fire and become hot.
4) You offer food, which is symbolic of Āpas or water. When you do this, your mind must take on the form of that very water and become liquid.
5) You offer sandal paste, which is symbolic of Prithivī or earth. When you do this, your mind must take on the form of that very earth and become solid.
Since the whole physical manifestation is composed of those five elements or Bhūtá-s, this fivefold realization will ultimately lead you to become conscious of the whole structure of the physical universe. After this fivefold offering is concluded, the final state you experience is one of unity in the form of "All this universe is Myself".
You are already fully prepared for starting the sacred Yantra. As I said previously, the Yantra is a machine of meditation. You will use the Śrīyantra now, which has already been placed over its seat and duly purified by you through Yantrapūjā. There are various methods to start the machine, but the important point is that you must be entirely conscious of your own Self or Śiva in order to start the Yantra properly. The preparations you did have been a way to make sure that you will be absolutely engrossed in the identification with Śiva at the moment of the starting. If your mind roams and your ego is worried about some trivialities --as usual-- at that moment, you will fail to start the Śrīyantra, and so the subsequent ritual will be of no use.
Even though there are several appropriate methods, as I said, you will use this one now: "Take a flower, and exhale some air over it while mentally repeating Om̐ (or any other auspicious Mantra) five times. Your mind must be completely onepointed on the inner Witness or Śiva as the mental Japa goes on. Then, place that flower on the center of the Yantra". This is the simple external ceremony to activate the machine of meditation.
As I said before, the Yantra is not started by the energized flower but by force of your self-consciousness at the moment you perform the external ceremony. Specially, you must be completely concentrated when you put the flower on the center of the Yantra because when you do that what you are really doing is becoming conscious of your own Self or Śiva (the inner Witness), who is the Center of all. The external rite must be always accompanied by a concordant internal consciousness. If you mind is not there, your performance of the external ritual is practically useless. The same truth may be applied to any yogic practice (e.g. if you perform a Mudrā with your fingers and at the same time your mind is roaming about worldly affairs, you are only holding bones).
The term "pratiṣṭhā" means "setting up" in this context, and the meaning of the word "prāṇa" is "vital energy". Thus, the Prāṇapratiṣṭhā ceremony is a "setting up of the vital energy". Prāṇa is contained in the air that is exhaled over the flower. Then, that flower which has been filled with vital energy is placed on the center of the Yantra. As a matter of fact, this act is merely a symbol of an internal process in which your mind becomes onepointed on the inner Self (Śiva), as I explained above. This realization of your own divinity, if performed adequately, puts the Yantric machine into motion. When the Yantra is properly started, you can rest assured that the Yajña is on the right track.
By means of Prānapratiṣṭhā, the seed of of a Higher Consciousness is sown. As the ritual goes on, that seed will begin growing into the Divine Creeper which grants the desired fruit. Let the desired fruit be the achievement of Mokṣa or Final Emancipation!
All these stages, from Tricapeṭa right to Prāṇapratiṣṭhā, should be considered to be a preparation for higher stages to come. All of them made you realize your essential nature or Śiva. You are always the Supreme Being, but due to Your own Cosmic Play, a false ego has apparently dethroned the real "I". Gabriel, John, James and so on are the names of that false ego. However, the ego is not different from the Self or Śiva. Śiva manifests Himself, in a limited way though, through the ego. Ahaṅkāra or ego should not be seen as an enemy to fight against but as a contracted manifestation of the Supreme Śiva. By performing this ritual, you are not going to annihilate your ego at all. That is impossible because the ego is Śiva Himself indeed. No, the goal here is to make ego abandon its contracted nature and realize its inherent divinity. When this happens, Ahaṅkāra or the limited "I" is dissolved in the Highest Consciousness, but it does not die. It just arrives at a divine dimension.
Since the ego is nothing but Śiva appearing in a contracted way, it is impossible to kill him by any means. Forget about fighting and killing the ego, just renounce the false sense of "I" in the form of Gabriel, John, James, etc (do not forget about including your own name too!). When you do so, you will see how that apparently malignant ego will be ultimately reabsorbed in Śiva, from whom it had emerged. With the reabsorption of the ego, the understanding that this universe is a Cosmic Play set in motion and supported by Śiva will dawn in You, dear Śiva. See you in the next document dealing with Tantric Ritual!
This document was conceived by Gabriel Pradīpaka, one of the two founders of this site, and spiritual guru conversant with Sanskrit language and Trika philosophy.
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