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Shiva Shakti Shakta, Hindu Religion and Tantra

Tantra and the Tantrik Hindu religion: Shakti and Shakta

by Arthur Avalon, $19.95 large size paperback, $10.60 ebook

 

This book is a profound assimilation of Arthur Avalon's essays on the mystic spiritual tradition of Goddess worship in Hinduism. An essential book for any era, the subtle, eternal truths offered within the covers of this book take the reader into the holistic realm of divine inner union. Originally published in 1918, this incredible work of scholarship, mysticism, and wisdom has been resurrected by Iconoclast Press so as to keep the treasures of understandings found within this book available to the world.  

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Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta :

Chapter Twenty-three: The Psychology of Hindu Religious Ritual

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

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

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

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

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

What, then, is the nature of experience in the Samsara? The latter is the world of form, and Dharma is the Law of Form. Form necessarily implies duality and limitation. Therefore, experience in Samsara is an experience of form by form. It is limited, dualistic experience. It is limited or Apurna (not the whole or complete), relative to the state of Nirvana, which is the whole (Purna) or complete or Perfect Experience. Therefore, whilst the latter is a state of all-knowingness and all-mightiness, man is a contraction (Samkoca), and is a "little-knower" and "little-doer". The Power-holder is called Shiva-shakti -- that is, the supreme Shiva-shakti, for the universe, being but the manifestation of the transcendent Shiva-shakti, is also itself Shiva-shakti. The names Shiva and Shakti are the twin aspects of one and the same Reality. Shiva denotes the masculine, unchanging aspect of Divinity, while Shakti denotes its changing feminine aspect. These two are Hamsah, Ham being Shiva and male, and Sah being Shakti and female. It is this Hamsah, or legendary "Bird," which is said, in the poem called "Wave of Bliss," "to swim in the waters of the mind of the great." The un-manifest Shiva-shakti aspect is unknown, except in the Samadhi or ecstasy of Yoga. But the Shakti aspect, as manifested in the universe, is near to the Shakta worshipper. He can see Her and touch Her, for it is She who appears as the universe, and so it is said: "What care I for the Father, if I but be on the lap of the Mother?" This is the Great Mother, the Magna Mater of the Mediterranean civilization, and the Mahadevi of India -- that August Image whose vast body is the universe, whose breasts are Sun and Moon. It was to Her that the "mad," wine-drinking Sadhu Bhama referred, when he said to a man I know who had lost his mother: "Earthly mothers and those who suck their breasts are mortal; but deathless are those who have fed at the breast of the Mother of the Universe". It is She who personalizes in the form of all the beings in the universe; and it is She again who, as the essence of such personalizing, is the Supreme Personality (Parahanta), who in manifestation is "God in Action." Why, it may be asked, is God thought of as Mother? This question may be countered by another -- "Why is God called Father?" God is sexless. Divinity is spoken of as Mother because It "conceives, bears, gives birth to, and nourishes the Universe". In generation man is said to be a helper only. The learned may call this mothernotion, "infantilism" and "anthropomorphism". But the Shakta will not be afraid, and will reply that it is not he who has arbitrarily invented this image of the Mother, but that is the form in which She has Herself presented Herself to his mind. The great Shakta poet, Ramaprasada, says: "By feeling (Bhava) is She known. How then, can Abhava (that is, lack of feeling) find Her P" In any case he may recall the lines of the Indian poet: "If I understand, and you understand, 0 my mind, what matters it whether any other understand or not?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The mind affects the body. As it is said in the West, "the soul is form and doth the body make." Every thought has a corresponding change in the material substance of the brain. Well, then, as the mind must have an object which again shapes the mind, the ritual selects a good object, namely, the Divinity of worship with all good attributes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Asana, or seat, has more importance in Yoga than in Sadhana. The principle as regards Asana is to secure a comfortable seat, because that is favorable to meditation and worship generally. If one is not comfortable there is distraction and worry. Both Mudra and Asana are, therefore, ancillary to worship as Puja, the principle of which has been described.

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

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

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

An essential element in all rites Bhutasuddhi, which means the purification of the elements of which the body is composed. Man is physical and psychical. The physical body is constituted of five modes of motion of material substance, which have each, it is said, centers in the spinal column, at points which in the body correspond to the position of various plexuses. These centers extend from the base of the spine to the throat. Between the eyebrows is the sixth or psychical center, or mind. At the top of the brain, or cerebrum, is the place of consciousness; not that Consciousness in itself -- that is, as distinct from Mind -- can have a center or be localized in any way; for, it is immaterial and all-pervading. But, at this point, it is the least veiled by mind and matter, and is, therefore, most manifest. This place is the abode of transcendent Shiva-Shakti as Power-holder. In the lowest center (Muladhara), which is at the base of the spine, there sleeps the Immanent Cosmic Power in bodies called Kundalini Shakti. Here She is ordinarily at rest. She is so, so long as man enjoys limited world-experience. She is then roused. "Jagrati Janani" ("Arise, 0 Mother!"), calls out the Sadhaka poet, Ramaprasada. "How long wilt thou sleep in the Muladhara?" When so roused, She is led up through the spinal column, absorbing all the physical and psychical centers, and unites with Shiva as consciousness in the cerebrum, which is known as the "thousand-pealed lotus". The body is then drenched with and renewed by the nectar which is the result of their union and is immortal life. This is the ecstasy which is the marriage of the Inner Divine Man and Woman. Metaphysically speaking, for the duration of such union, there is a substitution of the Supreme Experience for World-Experience.

This is the real process in Yoga. But in ritual (for all are not Yogis) it is imagined only. In imagination, the "man of sin" (Papapurusha) is burnt in mental fire, kundalini absorbs the centers, unites with Shiva, and then, redescending, recreates the centers, bathing them in nectar. By the mental representation of this process, the mind and body are purified, and the former is made to realize the unity of man and the Supreme Power, whose limited form he is, and the manner whereby the Universe is involved into and evolved from Shiva-Shakti. All these, and other rituals keep the mind of the Sadhaka occupied with the thought of the Supreme Power and of his essential unity with It, with the result that he becomes more and more that which he thinks upon. His Bhava, or disposition, becomes purified and divinized so far as that can be in the world. At length practice makes perfect in Sadhana, and on the arising in such purified and illuminated mind, of knowledge and detachment from the world, there is competency for Yoga. When in turn practice in Yoga makes perfect all limitations on experience are shed, and Nirvana is attained.

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

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

"I torture not my body by austerity."

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

"I make no pilgrimages."

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

"I waste not my time in reading the Vedas."

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

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

"I take refuge at thy Sacred Feet."

For this is both the highest Sadhana and the fruit of it.

In conclusion, I will say a word upon the Tantra Shastra to which I have referred. The four chief Scriptures of the Hindus are Veda, Smriti, Purana and Agama. There are four Ages, and to each of these Ages is assigned its own peculiar Scripture. For the present Age the governing Scripture is the Agama. The Agama or "traditions," is made up of several schools such as Vaishnava, Shaiva and Shakta. It is a mistake to suppose that Agama is a name given only to the Southern Scriptures, and that Tantra is the name of the Scriptures of the Bengal School of Shaktas. The Scripture of all these communities is the Agama, and the Agama is constituted of Scriptures called Tantra and also by other names. To these Tantras titles are given just as they are given to Hindu Religion : Tantra : Shakti and Shakta : Chapters in a book, such as the Lakshmi Tantra of the Vaishnava Pancaratra, Malinivijapa Tantra of the Kashmir Shaiva Agama, and the Kularnava Tantra of the Bengal Shakta Agama. These four Scriptures do not supersede or contradict one another, but are said to be various expressions of the one truth presented in diverse forms, suited to the inhabitants of the different Ages. As a Pandit very learned in the Agama told me, all the Scriptures constitute one great "Many-millioned Collection" (Shatakoti Samhita). Only portions of the Vaidik Ritual have survived to-day. The bulk of the ritual which to-day governs all the old schools of Hindu worshippers is to be found in the Agamas and their Tantras. And in this lies one reason for their importance.

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"The union of spirit and flesh creates a subtle new harmony.

Two unique worlds come together, and through our hearts unite into one.

For it is only in the voice of the flesh, that the song of the spirit is finally sung."

Jack Haas