Shaktism reveres the Supreme as the Divine Mother, Shakti or Devi, in Her many forms, both gentle and fierce. Shaktas use mantra, tantra, yantra, yoga and puja to invoke cosmic forces and awaken the kundalini power. Aum.
While worship of the Divine Mother extends beyond the pale of history, Shakta Hinduism arose as an organized sect in India around the fifth century. Today it has four expressions--devotional, folk-shamanic, yogic and universalist--all invoking the fierce power of Kali or Durga, or the benign grace of Parvati or Ambika. Shakta devotionalists use puja rites, especially to the Shri Chakra yantra, to establish intimacy with the Goddess. Shamanic Shaktism employs magic, trance mediumship, firewalking and animal sacrifice for healing, fertility, prophecy and power. Shakta yogis seek to awaken the sleeping Goddess Kundalini and unite her with Siva in the sahasrara chakra. Shakta universalists follow the reformed Vedantic tradition exemplified by Shri Ramakrishna. "Left-hand" tantric rites transcend traditional ethical codes. Shaktism is chiefly advaitic, defining the soul's destiny as complete identity with the Unmanifest, Siva. Central scriptures are the Vedas, Shakta Agamas and Puranas. The Devi Gita extols, "We bow down to the universal soul of all. Above and below and in all four directions, Mother of the universe, we bow." Aum Chandikayai Namah.
Religion teaches us how to become better people, how to live as spiritual beings on this Earth. This happens through living virtuously, following the natural and essential guidelines of dharma. For Hindus, these guidelines are recorded in the yamas and niyamas, ancient scriptural injunctions for all aspects of human thought, attitude and behavior. In Indian spiritual life, these Vedic restraints and observances are built into the character of children from a very early age. For adults who have been subjected to opposite behavioral patterns, these guidelines may seem to be like commandments. However, even they can, with great dedication and effort, remold their character and create the foundation necessary for a sustained spiritual life. Through following the yamas and niyamas, we cultivate our refined, spiritual being while keeping the instinctive nature in check. We lift ourself into the consciousness of the higher chakras--of love, compassion, intelligence and bliss--and naturally invoke the blessings of the divine devas and MahÔdevas.
Yama means "reining in" or "control." The yamas include such injunctions as noninjury (ahimsa), nonstealing (asteya) and moderation in eating (mitahara), which harness the base, instinctive nature. Niyama, literally "unleashing," indicates the expression of refined, soul qualities through such disciplines as charity (dana), contentment (santosha) and incantation (japa).
It is true that bliss comes from meditation, and it is true that higher consciousness is the heritage of all mankind. However, the ten restraints and their corresponding practices are necessary to maintain bliss consciousness, as well as all of the good feelings toward oneself and others attainable in any incarnation. These restraints and practices build character. Character is the foundation for spiritual unfoldment.
The fact is, the higher we go, the lower we can fall. The top chakras spin fast; the lowest one available to us spins even faster. The platform of character must be built within our lifestyle to maintain the total contentment needed to persevere on the path. These great rishis saw the frailty of human nature and gave these guidelines, or disciplines, to make it strong. They said, "Strive!" Let's strive to not hurt others, to be truthful and honor all the rest of the virtues they outlined.
The ten yamas are: 1) ahimsa, "noninjury," not harming others by thought, word or deed; 2) satya, "truthfulness," refraining from lying and betraying promises; 3) asteya, "nonstealing," neither stealing nor coveting nor entering into debt; 4) brahmacharya, "divine conduct," controlling lust by remaining celibate when single, leading to faithfulness in marriage; 5) kshama, "patience," restraining intolerance with people and impatience with circumstances; 6) dhriti, "steadfastness," overcoming nonperseverance, fear, indecision, inconstancy and changeableness; 7) daya, "compassion," conquering callous, cruel and insensitive feelings toward all beings; 8) arjava, "honesty, straightforwardness," renouncing deception and wrongdoing; 9) mitahara, "moderate appetite," neither eating too much nor consuming meat, fish, fowl or eggs; 10) shaucha, "purity," avoiding impurity in body, mind and speech.
Siva's devotees live vibrantly in the eternity of the moment and flow with the river of life by giving up negative attachments, releasing the pains, injustices, fears and regrets that bind consciousness in the past. Aum.
As soon as we start on the path to enlightenment, we begin to wonder about our own personal life, and that becomes very important to us even to the point where sometimes it could make an aspirant rather selfish, because he becomes more interested in himself, his own personal life, than people around him.
This is one of the things on the path that really should be avoided, and again, a complete change of perspective is needed. We have to change our perspective and begin to realize that beautiful body of the soul which has been growing through the many, many lifetimes that we have spent on the Earth. It's an indestructible body, and each lifetime it grows a little bit stronger in its inner nerve system. That is called the soul, or the psyche.
This body has been in existence for some thousand years or more on this planet, through the reincarnation process, and it is rather mature when the individual asks for the realization of the Self. It has lived so many lifetimes and gone through so many different experiences that in its maturity it wants its last experience on this Earth, that of Self Realization.
So, therefore, our individual existence, our individual life, should be identified with the immortal body, not with the physical body, not with the emotional body, not with the intellectual body, not with the astral body, which of course, is the instinctive-intellectual body, but with the body of the soul that has come along and had one body after another. It's come along on the physical plane and had a physical body. Then it was overshadowed by an astral body. Then it was overshadowed by another physical body. Then it was overshadowed by an astral body. Then it was overshadowed by a physical body. And the layers went onto the body of the soul--the instinctive, the intellectual, the physical. And now, in its maturity, the layers are coming off again.
We drop off the intellect. We drop off the instinctive actions and reactions. The only thing we want to keep is the physical body and the body of the soul. And that is the path that we are on. And when this begins to happen, when the beautiful, refined body of light and the physical body merge as one, we see light all the way through the physical body, right into the feet, into the hands, through the head, through the torso, through the spine. We're just walking in a sea of light.
This inner light is so beautiful. All day long my head has been filled with light. It feels that if I were to reach up and put both hands around the top of my head, there wouldn't be a head there. It feels like there is nothing there. It just goes on and on and on into endless space, as I look back up within the head. When I look into the back of my neck, I see an array of, they look like, wires, and these, of course, are the nerve currents that run through the spinal cord. They're all bright and active and scintillating, drawing energy from the central source of energy. And, of course, if you looked into the central source of energy, what would you see? You would see light coming out of nothing. That's what it looks like, light coming out of nothing.
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These daily Master Course lessons are drawn from Gurudeva's 3,000 page trilogy on Hindu philosophy, culture and metaphysics, available in the full-color volumes of Dancing, Living and Merging with Siva at our Minimela online store.