Puja is a feast for the senses – beautiful flowers, intoxicating incense, delicious food, beautiful murtis. Performing puja makes us feel good, like we’re doing something, like we’re serving God/dess.
In her powerful and insightful book Goddess Durga and Sacred Female Power, Shakta devotee, scholar, and yogini Laura Amazzone writes that a pilgrimage begins the moment you decide to undertake it. For those who embark on their journey with conscious intention, yatra (pilgrimage) has a profound effect on consciousness and has the power to transform your life.
Every time someone comes to our site, they are saying “Jai MAA!” simply by typing in the URL. The blessing repeats itself again and again. But what does it mean? Continue reading »
What does it mean to surrender? And how is this relevant to the Tantric path?
There was a time when practicing some form of hatha yoga – that is, physical postures – was inseparable from Tantric practice. In the beginning, serious practitioners are often required to sit for extended periods in order to complete what their gurus ask of them. As one progresses on the path, intense sadhanas require great physical effort to maintain the health of the body while going through the rigors of the path. Hatha yoga is a physical practice that is based on asanas or postures, which are said to prepare us to sit for sadhana.
I pray to her who is the cause of delight of the world and is herself the embodiment of delight, who is the creation, existence, and the end of the world, who is auspicious Lakshmi of Hari (Vishnu).
“The folklore that crystallized around Gorakhnath bears witness not only to the tremendous impression that his magical powers made on the popular imagination but also to certain shamanic elements that confirm the archaism of the myths and symbols launched by the appearance of the Siddhas. The well-known story of the drought in Nepal has come down to us in several versions. Gorakhnath, not having been received with fitting honors in the course of a visit, shut up the clouds (or the Nagas who governed them) in a bale, sat down on it, and remained there for twelve years, lost in meditation. The King begged Avalokiteshvara (= Matsyendranath), who was living on a mountain named Kapotal (near Kamarupa), to save the country, and the saint came to Nepal; upon seeing his guru approach, Gorakhnath got up from the bale, the clouds escaped, and rain began to fall. After this service, Matsyendranath-Avalokiteshvara became the tutelary divinity of Nepal. We may note in passing that this legend clearly points to a historical fact: it was from Kamarupa (= Assam) that “Matsyendranath” brought tantrism, or more precisely, the new “revelation” of the Siddhas and Nathas, to Nepal.”
p. 311, Mircea Eliade, Yoga: Immortality and Freedom (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009/1954).
Kamarupa is none other than Kamakhya, home of the Sri Sri Kamakhya Temple, our Mother. According to legend, Matsyendranath (also called Macchendranath) was initiated into a system related to what is now called Tantra by yoginis (female yogis) at Kamarupa (where Kamakhya is located), and that he then codified, Sanskritized, and disseminated its secrets throughout India and Nepal.
Artwork credit: SessionSpace
I am a Shakta, and for me, MAA (an informal word a child uses for its Mother, like “Mama”) is the representation of Infinite Being, of pure existence from which all things emerge.
Essentially, we are all MAA, we are all just in different phases/states/stages of realized awareness about the nature of Her existence. The best of gurus teach their disciples to listen to their own Atman (and how to listen, through sadhana) as the supreme guide, because Atman is not separate from Brahman/MAA/Infinite Being (these words are interchangeable), rather than relying on them totally. They may give us guidance and advice, but ultimately they will encourage us to first begin to hear, and then begin to listen to MAA directly. We must each come to our own realization, do our own sadhana, make our own mistakes, and release our own “I” in order to emerge from the darkness of non-awareness.
One of the most consistent comments I hear from devotees is this:
“I would love to practice more meditation/yoga/puja/etc., but I just don’t have enough time/am too busy/have too much on my plate/can’t/don’t know how.”
The problem is the same for beginners as well as advanced practitioners. As we travel along any spiritual path and dive more deeply, things don’t get easier, they get harder. Yes, some things get easier – concepts become familiar, we might learn certain things more quickly or need less basic instruction as time goes on. But the deeper we go, the bigger the obstacles are. So what is the answer?
Yesterday my husband was reading my latest post when he stumbled on this verse from the Chandi:
12.37: By her, this universe is deluded. She herself brings forth everything. Entreated, she bestows right knowledge; propitiated, she bestows prosperity.
“Wait a minute,” he said. “By her the universe is deluded? That doesn’t sound good at all!”