"In Wonders We Sail, Questing for the Answers in Veil"

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gods And Goddesses : The Offspring Of Sages

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. -John 1:1

The concept of gods and goddesses in yoga can be understood only if we understand tantric metaphysics. According to tantra there is only one reality, known as chit, pure consciousness. It is all-pervading, eternal, and endowed with all powers and potentials—both those we can imagine and those that are outside the scope of our imagination. The relationship between consciousness and its intrinsic power is like the relationship between the Sun and its light, or fire and its heat. Although Sun and sunlight are one and the same, these two terms are used for the sake of reference. Similarly, in tantra, consciousness is referred to as Shiva and the power of consciousness as Shakti.

The Hindu religion treats Shiva and Shakti as god and goddess, but in the yoga tradition the concept of Shiva and Shakti (along with terms referring to other gods and goddesses) has an entirely different meaning. In Hindu religious literature Shiva is believed to reside in Banaras or on Mount Kailas, Krishna was born and lived in Mathura, and many other gods live in the celestial realm. But according to the yoga tradition, gods or goddesses are not individual celestial entities; rather, they are manifestations of consciousness. In this, they are like all other forms of matter and energy that constitute the universe, including humans. Gods and goddesses are superior forms of the manifestation of consciousness only because the divine powers of consciousness—such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence—are less veiled in them than they are in us.

We humans are born, and one day we die; the gods and goddesses, however, are not born and therefore they do not die. They come into existence from a non-material, immortal source, which yogis call mantra shakti or spanda shakti, the divine word or the divine vibration. Mantra shakti is the imperceptible, eternal pulsation of consciousness which materializes in the form of gods and goddesses. In a sense, therefore, gods and goddesses are the children of mantra shakti—mantra shakti is the mother, and the seers to whom the mantras are revealed are the fathers. Through its own revelation mantra shakti transforms the sages and blesses them with divine vision; thus they become “seers.”

As mantra shakti dawns in their hearts, the seers become mantra shakti: the veil of duality between the seers and the knowledge revealed to them is lifted, and the seer and the seen become one. The relationship between the seer and the mantra is identical to the relationship between Sun and sunlight. According to the bhava (the inner feeling) and samskara (the subtle tendencies of the personality) of the seer, mantra shakti materializes itself by emerging from the sage’s field of intuition, descending into the mind-field, and taking a personified form—literally appearing in front of the sage. Thus a god or goddess is born. This is why the gods and goddesses are called the children of the sages in Indian spiritual literature.

For those of us with religious backgrounds, this is hard to comprehend; it is almost inconceivable to us that a god or a group of gods could be the offspring of the sages. Religion teaches us that a god or goddess is a being beyond our reach, that a person may become a saint by praying to the deity, and in rare cases may even be blessed with a vision of the deity. But according to the yoga tradition, having a vision of a god or goddess is not as important and spiritually illuminating as receiving and retaining mantra shakti and rejoicing in it.

Significance Of A Deity (Ishta Deva or Ishta Devata)

For those who do not know how to comprehend and establish a personal relationship with an impersonal, transcendent,Divine being (Pure Consciousness),a personified form of the deity is the best way to advance on the spiritual path.But for those who understand the eternity and omniscience of consciousness,mantra shakti itself is the deity,for there is no difference between consciousness and imperceptible,eternal pulsation.All scriptures whether they are classified as Yogic or Non-Yogic hold the mantra (the Word) in the highest regard.Like the bible,yoga scriptures repeatedly state,"In the beginning was the word....and the word was God."

But even after intellectually knowing the Divine nature of the word,people still fail to cultivate faith in mantra.In its manifest form,we feel that a mantra is just a sound or a set of words,and in our normal life it never occurs to us that the sound can be a living entity.Thus,despite the factors that scriptures of almost all spiritual tradition of the world tell us about oneness with the Word with God,We still want God to be more tangible.Our attraction to shape,color,size and texture induces us to imagine God in a personified form.

Long before the birth of modern physics,the Yogis of India understood that sound and light are simply two forms of the same energy,and further,that matter and energy are interchangeable.Constant repetition of mantric sound creates an extraordinary energy field within our body and mind.And as this energy field is intensified,it begins to form a reality of its own;at some point it may take a visible form and become perceptible to our naked eyes.This is called darshana,having direct experience of the deity corresponding to a perticular mantra.This level of darshana,which entails a face-to-face vision of the personified form of the mantra,requires intense and prolonged meditation on the mantra.The intensity in the practice is the fruit of an unshakable faith in the mantra.

Such faith can come only from direct experience-but direct experience can come only from prolonged practice.To bypass this chicken-egg dilemma,the adepts introduced the concept of 'ista deva or ishta devata',the most concrete form of the deity.A teacher with a direct vision of the Ishta Devada can describe its features and characteristics and recount the circumstances in which she or he received a vision. After hearing about the Ishta Devata,and the transformation that has taken place in the teacher,we develop a faith in the deity,and this faith serves as an anchor in our mind.While holding on to the image of the Ishta Devata,we can meditate on mantra with a greater concentration than we can without that image.Thus Ishta Devata which represents only one aspect of the totality of the absolute,help us reach our goal more quickly and easily.The form of the deity we began to meditate on merely on the basis of a description given by our teacher soon become the object of our own personnel experience.That is when we realize the oneness of the mantra and the deity,as God or Goddesses.

The Reason For Personifying A Deity

God is nameless,formless, transcendental, absolute reality,although this concept is difficult for most people to grasp.We say God is the one whose name cannot be spoken,yet we still use the word "God." What do we mean by this word ? Generally when we say "God" we mean the divine force whose sheer will allows this Universe to manifest,the force that rules and regulates all subtle and gross forces in existence.It is the ultimate source of security,protection,happiness and everlasting fulfillment.Our intuition tell us that this force was there before the beginning of existence and will continue to be there after this phenomenal world is destroyed. 

We have a natural urge to hold on to this invisible divine force,yet we do not know how,because it is formless, nameless and intangible.So to comprehend it,we give it a name and form.That is what the Ishta Devada or Ishta Deva is : our chosen name or form of God.in this way the impersonal absolute reality becomes personnel,at least from our standpoint.

The philosophy and metaphysics underlying the concept of 'personified deity' refers to the absolute, transcendent,and formless,but we often forgot the philosophy and fight over our individual concepts,which we call God.This is the rot of all relegious wars.

God-Ishta Deva/Devata-does not change; it is our understanding that changes.As we grow in to adulthood,our understanding of the world and basic principles spirituality matures,and our concept of Ishta Deva/Devata  expands accordingly.Knowledge and understanding should grow as we go trough life.It is only in the realm of religious fanaticism that a person's concept of God,once formed,remains fixed.If that happens,we are not growing,we are not gaining knowledge,and we are not trying to refine our understanding of God.

The Dynamism In The Deity 

Just as the teacher initiates in to mantra,he or she introduces the Ishta Devata to you.A teacher with direct knowledge and vision knows the form of the deity corresponding to the mantra in which you are initiated.However,no one can give a precise description of the Ishta Devata/Deva corresponding to a perticular mantra,because the experience of the Ishta Devata varies with individual.Ten people practicing the same mantra often gain different results because each has unique characteristics,personality traits,desire and expectations.Not only is it likely that each will gain slightly different visions of the same Ishta Devata,but the degree of spiritual transformation engendered by such visions also vary.

The description of Gods and Goddesses given in the scriptures simply give us a general idea;the details are unique properties of our Bhava (feelings).Thus just as God is one and his manifestations are many,similarly,depending on our bhava,even the Ishta Devata can manifest in manifold forms.For instance, lets say you and I called our Ishta Devata "Krishna".Your Krishna will not be exactly like my Krishna.For me Krishna is Parabrahman,the absolute reality,whose physical body was an illusory veil that it carried around in a certain point of time and space.For you and others,Krishna might be the son of Yashoda -the divine being who manifested in flesh- and you may see him as a radiant baby or mischievous child,while others may see him as a brilliant adolescent or a mighty king.

Ishta Deva/Devata And Atheists

Every living being has an Ishta Devata,even an atheist.If a person does not believe in anything,he or she believes in 'nothing'.Thus shunya (nothing is only an approximate translation) could be considered the Ishta Devata for those Buddhist who practice shunyada.Nobody can live without a belief in something;having no conviction in anything is having conviction in nothing.At the very least you have conviction in yourself,therefore you own personality is your Ishta Devata.

In whatever form,in whatever manner,in whatever time and place your conviction and faith become condensed and concentrated,that concentrated form of your own shraddha (faith) and conviction is your Ishta Devata.It is a deep personal form and name of the impersonal reality -So personal that you may not be able to formulate it in to words.Everybody and everything is searching for something- there is a force that pulls everything towards the goal of its search.

So whether we know it or not,the personified deity is there.Both those who are enlightened and those who are not have an Ishta Devata.The difference is that,the enlightened one know it and others don't.But even if we know it,we must keep refining our understanding for our Ishta Devata,so that we don't get stuck with a inferior concept of God.Our psyche become an integral part of our life.From depths of these psyche these conviction shape our thoughts and feelings,and thus determine how we behave.this becomes obvious at the time of death,when the conscious mind is subdued and the unconscious becomes dominant.Our convictions hidden deep in the unconscious,come forward as we die.That is why the scriptures say that the worshipers of Ghost go the realm of ghosts,while the worshipers of the gods go to the realm of gods.


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