Exploration of Indian Yoga Psychology

A blog on the Transpersonal Psychology of Indian Yoga and the Spiritual Genius of India (another blog of the same author – http://integralmusings.aurosociety.org)

The Path of Worship in Tantra Yoga – M.S. Srinivasan

flower_yellow_rose(Worship and adoration is an important part of the Yoga of Devotion. But worship in Tantra Yoga raise to a much deeper and higher level than the traditional-religious conception and practices.)

Key – Perspectives

Worship identity; internal and external worship; flow of faith

Worship by Identity

Worship in tantra-yoga has a different connotation and significance from the popular religious conceptions of worship. These popular conceptions of worship is based on a clear duality between the worshipper and the worshipped , with the worshipper bowing down in utter supplication and prayer to the Worshipped, who is placed unapproachably above him.

But worship in Tantra yoga is a non-dualistic contemplation of the heart on the Divine. The goal of tantric worship is to become one with the Divine. “Worship the Goddess by becoming one with the Goddess” says Gandarva Tantra. The other unique feature of tantric worship is that this goal of unity or identity with the Divine is not placed entirely at the end of the path but the ideal is brought-forward in the very beginning of the path and incorporated in the very act of worship. Here are a few passages from tantric texts which exemplify the tantric ideal of worship. Gandarva Tantra, after asking the sadhaka to meditate on the Unity of Jiva, the individual soul with Brahman the supreme Reality says “Having thus meditated, the Sadaka should worship the Devi with the notion Soham I AM SHE”. Kularnava Tantra says “The body is the temple of God. Jiva is sadasiva. Let him give up his body as the offering which is thrown away and worship with the thought and feeling “I AM HE” Suta Samhita says “Experience directly Maheshwari as the Self; worship her with adoration; such worship fullfills”.

Internal and External Worship

Tantras speak of two types of worship: external and internal.   External worship involves physical acts of worship like rituals etc., Internal worship is subjective, which is done through thoughts and feeling and imagination. Tantric approach to worship seems to move towards a synthesis, the inner adoration expressing itself and made concrete through the outer acts of worship.   From yogic-spiritual point of view the internal worship is not necessarily superior to external worship. For the quality of worship depends not on whether it is internal or external but on the spirit behind it or in other words on the purity and sincerity, devotion and faith which animates the act of worship.   So says Siva in Siva Purana “External or Internal, in worship, I regard the Spirit”. But from a psychological point of view, we may say internal worship is superior to external worship because the former requires a greater development of the mind or heart to do it effectively; also, a mere external act of worship without an inner adoration of the heart is something barren; on the other hand, when there is a pure and intense inner adoration in the heart, the external act of worship is not imperative or necessary.   So Lalitasahasranama, a well-known tantric text on the Goddess says “Accepts the worship of the inward turned” and also “pleased with the unseen offerings”.

Flow of Faith

But what is exactly the nature and role of worship in the tantra yoga? The nature of popular religious worship doesn’t go beyond some sentimental and pietistic emotions. But the nature of worship in tantra yoga moves in a much higher plane than that of popular religion. As we have discussed earlier, tantra yoga like the yoga of the Gita is a synthesis of the triune path of knowledge, works and devotion. Worship is the devotional element in this synthesis of the tantra. But what is exactly the psychological nature of this devotion or worship? “Worship” answers a tantric text “is the uniform flow of faith at one place by yoking the mind which is preceded by control of other activities”. Here we have a very precise, scientific, impersonal and psychological definition of worship, somewhat in the style and manner of pantanjali’s yoga-suthra. We can also see that worship in the Tantras has a similar connotation to what is Dharana or Dhyana in Rajayoga. Dhyana or contemplation in Rajayoga is the continuous, unbroken and directed flow of mind’s attention and thought on the object of meditation. When   we view the tantric conception of worship from this   rajayogic perspective, we can say that it is the dhyana of the heart or in other words it is a continuous, unbroken and directed flow of the heart’s faith on the object of faith.

Here is an important and significant point to be noted in the verse we have quoted earlier from a tantric text. It describes worship as a “flow of faith” on the object of faith and not as a flow of feeling; for faith is something deeper than feeling or emotion. Faith means, in a psychological and spiritual perspective, not a mental or emotional belief but a kind of unmanifest intuition of our inner or deeper being which has not yet become manifest in our surface self as conscious knowledge or experience; in the beginning, this faith expresses itself as persistent will-to-be or will-to-become or realise what we perceive or feel to be true in the depth of our being. It is this persistent and unflagging will-to-be, and not mental convictions or emotional beliefs is the nature of the spiritual faith which brings the fullfillment in Yoga. In life and action, this will-to-be expresses itself as concentrated dedication to the ideal to be realised. In sanskrit terminology this will-to-be is called sradha and the concentrated, dedicated action which proceeds from this sradha is called nishta. In fact, this Sradha and Nishta, this concentrated faith, dedication and commitment to the ideal and not the extravagant emotionalism of some Bhakthi cults, is the essence of true devotion.

When this deeper faith is there, it will lead and sustain the seeker in the path even when the surface mind and heart fails or falters or collapses under the pressure of difficulties. On the other hand, if this deeper faith is not there, and the faith is made up of only mental and emotional ideas, feelings and beliefs of the surface being, the seeker cannot progress much in the path of yoga; Mental ideas and beliefs can be shattered by doubts and contrary ideas and beliefs presented with a greater force of mental power and logic and the emotional energy may get exhausted and dry-up due to repeated disappointments or excessive activity and expenditure. Under such adverse inner conditions, or “dark-night of the soul” if this deeper faith is not there, there will be nothing to sustain the seeker and he may fall away from the path.

And this faith sradha is predominantly the quality of the heart; not the surface heart made of petty emotions and sentiments but the deeper psychic heart, which, is the seat of the indwelling divine. We may say that faith or sradha is the knowledge and will of this deeper heart.   There is an intelligent will in the higher part of the mind which is called in Indian psychology as Budhi. And the Faith or sradha, is perhaps the counterpart of Budhi in the Heart? If Budhi is the intelligent will of the higher mind then sradha or faith is the feeling will of the deeper heart.   The natural urge of the intelligent will of the mind is towards knowledge, understanding, discrimination and judgement. On the other hand, the natural urge of the feeling will of the heart is for life and action, love, devotion and worship experience and realisation.

Tantras gave much importance to the power of faith in yoga. Here are a few verses from the tantric texts which affirm the power of faith: “Through tradition and faith there is every fullfillment”; “Abundance of Faith proves its authenticity”; “As is your attitude to the Mantra, to the place of pilgrimage, to the bramin, to God, to the knower of God, to the medicine and to the Guru, so is the result”; “stand up, awake, yoke yourself in acts of becoming, constantly without affliction, with the faith that it will be”; “Tenacity of attitude leads to fullfillment of all-round knowledge”;   The essential message of all these verses is that Faith potentially contains the goal to be realised or the result to be achieved and also the power of realisation or achievement. Persistent action, effort and practice on the lines indicated by the intuition of faith and a constant attitude bhavana dictated by faith will ultimately bring-about its inevitable result.

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This entry was posted on November 21, 2015 by in Psychology of Tantra Yoga.