by Pathmarajah Nagalingam


Chapter 6




The Magic of Tantra - Invoking the Gods, Worshipping the Gods

Hinduism is a supernatural and magical religion. Hindus invoke the gods, and honor the gods, and in that process seek liberation, an end to the separation of the soul and god. The magics' are in the mantras, tantras and yantras, and every Hindu is a shaman, occultist, whether he knows it or not.

In both philosophy and practice, Hinduism as it is today, is based on the agamas, with the veda samhitas as supplementary texts. Three hundred and twenty agamas and over a thousand upagamas cover every aspect of our religious and spiritual live. Some agamas are as large as the Quran (6,000 verses) and some are five times the size of the Bible (20,000 verses). In this we are rich.

From temples to home altars, pujas, first feeding, ear piercing to death and ancestor worship, festivals and holy days and temple chariot pulling, initiations, fasts and other observances, why, even the sizes and crafting of homa ladles, yak-hair fans, etchings on the conch, flags and banners, - all these, the A to Z of Hinduism is dictated by the Agamas. It has its myths, but which are quite different from itihasa and puranic myths. In philosophy too the agamas provides its own, specific and clarified, nothing to do with the upanishads. It does not depend on any schools of thought, vedanta or otherwise. Hindus are Agamists. Hindus are Tantriks. To this we supplement with vedic mantras, enchanting samhitas and soul moving bakti hymns that are pleasing to the gods, songs that convey our deepest affections.

In the same way the vedas supplement the central agamas, the shastras, and the saints, sages and sat gurus, supplement the temples. The temples are the central pillar of Hinduism, the source of all shastras, religious and spiritual life, and culture. The core of Hinduism is the agamas, and the core of the agamas are the temples, and the core of temples is the diety. Everything else in Hinduism are at its remote fringes.

The mantra is the basic tool for the inner religious experience of the presence of god. The worshipper by enunciation of the mantra, experiences the presence of the living diety in the murthi of the temple and may have a personal exchange, from soul to soul, with the diety, to perform his worship. It is an interaction between a bonded soul occupying, pervading and animating a physical body, and a supreme soul, God, occupying, pervading and animating a murthi. There are tools to arrive at this interactive communicative inner experience; the tools being mantra recital, imagination and dhyana.

"Like the ocean, the king is the recipient of all valuables." (Kadambari)

This state of kings is also transferred to the temple, which is the seat of magnification of all arts and culture. They include architecture, sculpture, painting, singing, music, dances, language, literature, hymns, rituals, mudras, yantras, garland making, flower decoration, costuming, perfumery, and cuisine.

All that is performed in the world involves a communication, an exchange between living, conscious beings, the subject and the king, for instance. The worship, as a sublimated form of this transaction, is an interaction between the conscious worshipper and the conscious, living god, not with the stone statue or any other material object of worship. The presence of the diety is achieved through ritualistic action, on one side, and through the inner experience of the worshipper on the another. In the temple, that is achieved by the worshipper, at the time of his perception of the presence of god.

Every act of the worshipper implies the presence of the diety in the statue, and in the mind of the worshipper. Worship is the aspiration of the worshipper to suppress the separation of himself from the object of worship. The worshipper works at amalgamating his self with the supreme self. The ultimate stage in worship is the identification of the worshipper and the diety, the same state as in that of meditation. As a step towards that unity, the worshipper recreates himself as an 'effigy of god'. In the Bhagavata god is a mirror who sends back to the worshipper the sublimated image he has worked out.

"Not for himself does this Lord (Narasimha) desires honor from an ignorant creature.....Any honor, which the creature extends to the Sovereign Lord, is for himself, like the beauty made up on the face extended to the mirror." Bhagavata 7.9.11

Note the reference to 'ignorant creatures'. That means us!

The supreme is characterised as inaccessible to senses, speech and mind, making contemplation and worship impossible. Therefore the supreme makes himself accessible, through accessible hypostases substates. In the Ajita the primary (mula) hypostasis is Sadasiva, and from this, several more hypostasis substates, each of which has been identified and named as a god, each with a specific name and form, and specific functions. Each of these 'Gods' has a separate existence but without altering the essence from which they emerged from. Each of these 'Gods' is a metaphysical murthi (form) who inhabits the physical murthi in the temple. Hindus worship the metaphysical murthi, in the physical murthi, in the temple.

The three major hypostases are Brahma, Vishnu and Rudra, and this inseparable triad shares the Linga as residence. All other murthis are placed ritually around the linga as ancilliary murthis, or entourage dieties, for the king is never alone.

We explain 'hypostasis substates' by the anology of light, which at different frequencies appears as a spectrum of colors. Brahma, Vishnu, Rudra and Mahesvara would be akin to the different colors, with sadasiva as the undifferentiated light. There are no colors without the light. Whereas the other gods (Ganesha, Skanda, Hanuman, etc) are the different emanations of the same light, such as radiation, magnetism, alpha, beta and gamma waves. The other gods do have a birth and separate existence, just like souls, but all of whom will be eventually dissolved at mahapralaya by and into the Agent of Dissolution.

The staff of the temple is called the desika, acharya or gurukal, all signifying 'perceptor'. The assistants are called murtipa (protector of the murthi), putraka, sadhaka and hotri (oblator) when performing the homa. All of them are qualified by various dikshas. Today we call the priests as gurukkals, and the assistants as pandarams.

Dikshas are open to all men and women and there is no restrictions, making it spiritually an egalitarian religion. The agamas are varna free. The basic samaya diksha empowers one to conduct daily pujas in the home shrine which is a miniature temple, as a daily sadhana of the initiated, and chant mantras in japa. All temple desikars who naturally themselves have received the abisheka diksha, are empowered to initiate any person. All others who are not initiated may simply worship in the temple by observing the puja with palms together in reverence, sponsoring an abishegam, etc., and, worship in the home shrine by simply singing any hymns with offerings of flowers and garlands.

Other participants in the temple are the brahmins, who are the professional recitors of the vedas, and the paricarakas who are involved in the preparation of food and the transport of materials and procession apparatus. This is the only part brahmins play in a temple. The acharyas chant the mantras during the main course of the puja, whereas the brahmins chant the vedic slokas during pujas or during a homa, and which is not uttered by the acarya but left entrusted to the professional chanters. Likewise, the professional chanters of bakti hymns, the othuvars, and the temple dancers, have a part to play during the puja.

Women, referred to in the Ajita as 'slaves of Rudra', are to prepare the lamps and wicks, transport them on their head to the main shrine, oil them, light them and pass it to the desika for the nocturnal waving of the lamps. Music and conch blowing is mandated during pujas.

The simplest worship is gandhaadyair archayet - synonymous expression, 'to worship with sandal paste, etc'. This involves putting a little sandal paste on the icon, offering a flower, showing burning incense, waving the lamp with ringing of bell, offering a spoonful of water, while uttering a mantra of that Diety. This rite is executable in one minute, and it answers to the idea of satisfying all the divine beings. This would be the minimum daily worship sadhana for a Hindu.

Apart from pujas to the murthis the Ajita explains in detail worship through homa (fire ritual) and kalasam (an arrangement of water pots with coconut and mango leaves on top, representing the body of the various gods). Both these rituals create the presence of the diety there, and which 'charged' water in the pot is later transferred to the murthi by way of ablutions, which transfers the divine presence to the murthi. Both the homa and kalasam worship is a duplicate of the murthi worship, yet it is stressed as indispensable for certain ceremonies, but not for the daily worship of the murthi. So we know that a 'temporary temple' can be established anywhere just by conducting a homa, or kalasam worship. These rituals have the intent to create or recall the presence of the diety as a living conscious being, in the murthi, in the homa-fire, or in the kalasa water-pot.

Presence of the diety is a prerequisite for worship. This is established by invoking and 'placing' the diety in a particular spot with a rite of touching with darbha grass, 'looking' at a spot, or sprinkling water at a spot while uttering a mantra. The purpose is to render an inert unconscious spot fit for a conscious, living being to manifest therein. In elaborate ceremonies, the sprinkling gives way to ablutions of water, milk and other substances on the murthi while chanting mantras to permanently establish the presence of the diety. The living diety remains latent in the murthi all day, and is reinvoked or enlivened each day. The Ajita calls this, the 're- apparition', to explain the rite of daily re-enlivening.

Sivaya Subramuniyaswami of Kauai Aadheenam says, 'a desika, by the power of his training, can turn a tree into a temple, and a stone into a diety'.

The Ajita is listed as the fifth agama, suggests it is an important one.

More Quotes from the 'Great Tantra of the Unconquered' - the Ajita Agama

In the saiva tradition Siva is known as free from beginning, middle and end, free by nature from the stain-entity, powerful, omniscient, endowed with plenitude, non limited by directions of space, times, etc., beyond the range of speech and mind, free of manifestation, without action, all pervading, always seeing everything.

Note the mention of 'saiva' tradition, indicating and accepting implicitly the existence of other traditions.

Sadasiva, the unchangeable, great god, cause of all causes, is the origin of that entity (Mahesvara) who is the origin of me (Rudra), origin of you (Vishnu).

Note the difference in the nature of siva and sadasiva which becomes important in philosophy, and in understanding the oneness and distinctions of the different gods.

26.2 (Ethymology of the word mudra)
It gives joy to the gods and drives away the demons. The word mudra tells the fact to have the properties of rejoicing and driving away.

26.3-66 mentions forty mudras to be used in worship.

By worshipping the Linga one time, a mortal obtains the fruit of all rituals, penances, gifts, pilgrimages, etc...There is no meritorious action equal to the worship of the Linga in the three worlds, O Hari. As no limit of the vast sky is seen anywhere, in the same way there is no limit to the merit issued from the worship of the Linga. It alone is told to give experience of higher worlds and liberation. By the force of the process of worshipping the Linga of Siva who is everything, Brahman, Vishnu and others obtained the status of god of gods.

Note: obtaining the status of gods - reference to origin of linga mythology.

49.2-10 (The birth of Vinayaka)
Once, when I was playing with Uma on the bank of the Manasa lake, we saw elephants together with excellent she-elephants playing as they desired on that attractive bank. In this beautiful lake with pleasant animals we took the form of elephants for our enjoyment, and engendered an excellent son with an elephant head with the thought 'we will play with him as we desire', thus told, I did immediately all that I was told. Then after doing elephant play a long time, and thinking of the good of the gods, with desire for the good of the worlds, with Uma, I made this son a chastiser of god's enemies and foremost leader of the forteenfold universe. Therefore his name is heard as Vinayaka "Superior Leader'. I gave him the lordship of eighteen hosts (ganas) and the lordship over obstacles, the lordship of riches and incomparability. Then all the gods led by Indra, for the success of their aim, worshipped him at the beginning of their actions.

This myth differs sharply from the puranic myth. As agamas are shruti, it supercedes the puranas, and the puranic myths can be dispensed with.

One should perform (circumnambulation) in an odd number, one, three, five, seven, etc. The circumnambulation done with the number twenty one will be superior...

In performing a circumnambulation one should proceed at a gentle gait, with concentrated mind, placing one's footsteps after seeing, refraining from talking to others, reciting vedic mantras or hymns.

20.269-272 (music during pujas)
During ablutions, when the curtain is removed, at the end of food oblations, during the nocturnal offering of light, the offering of bali-s and in the process of the daily festival (puja) there should be musical instruments, but only the conch at the time of bringing the food oblation, of bringing the betel, of bringing the flowers, eatable and drinkable materials.



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