Dolls to Represent Devi [ February 2004 ]


Allison
Hello there! I have been lurking for a while but I have a question that I really want to ask. I am a goddess worshipper and I've been looking pretty closely at Hindu goddesses lately. I was at a store that specializes in hindu devotional items and the owner was telling me that sometimes, on the altar, there is a doll dressed up to represent a goddess. Then she pulled out all these beautiful doll clothes and crowns to show me. I was immediately intrigued! I already use barbies to represent goddesses

So, I was wondering if anyone can tell me a little bit more about this practice. Are there any "do's and don'ts" I need to know about before I take my barbies down to this store? I was going to dress one then build an altar for her. Any suggestions?

Thanks so much! blessings,

Cecilia
Hiya, I too would like to know more about this. I have often wondered if we could use barbie's to represent Goddesses and to have Darshan with. If you find anything please do post it! Have the best day ever.

Satish Arigela
Barbies cannot be used to represent Shakta divinities.

They have specific forms and there are specific materials out of which the representations are made.

Yvonne
Why? The representation is only a representation. It is not the real Goddess. The real Divine lies in the heart, right? The physical representation whether in the form of a painting or a figurine or a yantra or whatever is just a tool, something to help us focus our concentration while meditating. Right? So who cares what it's made of? Please understand that I mean no disrepect. I am trying to learn, that's all.

Allison
Darn! ;) What materials do they have to be made out of? Is this written in a sacred text or something? Forgive my ignorance, but I am really interested in how I can construct this altar I am thinking of.
Blessings,

Satish Arigela
Namaste,

The materials are given in texts like Devi Bhagavatha and maybe in some other tantras too. Sample materials are clay, panchaloha (mixture of gold silver copper etc), silver etc. These materials are important only if one want to do puja using Her mantras etc. If the intention in making the image is to put it on the altar one can make the image out of anything they want,making sure it confirms with the image of durga as seen in pictures or as described in texts dealing with her worship and maybe and light lamp, burn incense and make offerings etc.

Kensho Godchaser
Why? The representation is only a representation. It is not the real Goddess. The real Divine lies in the heart, right? The physical representation whether in the form of a painting or a figurine or a yantra or whatever is just a tool, something to help us focus our concentration while meditating. Right? So who cares what it's made of?

Speaking from the standpoint of an uninitiated heathen Westerner, I can see a problem given what Barbie represents in the West. She is a commercial property designed to make money for her creator (Mattell) at the expense of women's self-image. The Barbie icon has helped raise an entire generation of girls to think they must be pencil-thin (read: anorexic) to be "sexy", and special, and loved. Barbie represents such an awful, monstrous lie that I can't see myself ever using her to represent Maya Devi, unless I were playing at some kind of sick joke.

Just my opinion - do with it what thou wilt...

In Her Service,

Satish Arigela
Why? The representation is only a representation. It is not the real Goddess. The real Divine lies in the heart, right? The physical representation whether in the form of a painting or a figurine or a yantra or whatever is just a tool, something to help us focus our concentration while meditating. Right? So who cares what it's made of?

The shastra cares. The shastra is an expression of Her command. So it is Her command that Her worship should be done in such and such way. For worship of shakta divinities refer shakta scriptures. You are not at liberty to do as you like in the shakta system. If anyone has problem with following shakta principles they may leave it and follow something else. Different materials have different spiritual significance(hence specific materials) and each shakti has a specific form and when invoked one has to invoke that form which is in ones heart. Hence the representation needs to be like Durga if you are invoking Durga or Kali if you are invoking Kali. Yantra is different from paintings and other stuff. Yantra when energised with mantras has the capacity to magically control the 6 internal enemies. A figurine or painting is incapable of that. When invoked the shakta way, the statue/yantra is no longer a representation. The real goddess manifests in the representation.

If you are worshipping your witch/wiccan/shaman or whatever gods/goddesses with dolls or whatever I dont care what you do. Devi is a shakta goddess and She should be worshipped according to shakta ways.

Yvonne
Okay, I can see your point concerning Barbie, but how about some other doll? Or some figurine or a woman-shaped candle or something? Actually, my preference would be for something you make yourself. Maybe a candle you pour yourself, or clay you mold yourself, or maybe something you carve out of wood or soap or something. That would have personal meaning for you and help you connect to the inner Goddess better than some jade or alabaster statue you bought mail-order from somewhere. But that's just my humble opinion.

MaryJWoodworth
I made a Kali out of doll parts and I still have it I am hopeing one day to make a lot more Goddess dolls

Allison
Okay, I read this over several times trying to grasp it.

Is the Yantra a statue or figurine that is made out of the specific materials according to shakta scriptures? Also, you said that a specific form of the Devi has to be invoked but also the form that is in one's heart... that's confusing to me. I would interpret that to mean that the form that is in my heart could be different from the form commonly associated with the Devi, perhaps one that would be more accessible to me.

Anyways, thank you for your continuing input, blessings,

Yvonne
Thank you very much for answering my question. I repeat that I mean no disrespect. I am curious and trying to learn.

Your answer relates back to the question I asked last week, of whether the writings of the ancients contain all the wisdom that is worth learning, or whether people alive today can add to that great body of wisdom. You seem to be giving the opposite answer to what Devi Bhakta said. Read the scriptures. Period. Please correct me if I'm wrong.

My Auntie Usha teaches that the ancient writings are important, and we should learn them and study them. The Divine speaks through them, and we should listen. But She also lives in our own souls, and we need to listen to her there too.

I suppose that there is some value in following ancient recipes on how to do ceremonies. That way, you get a close personal connection with these wise people who lived centuries ago. You also get to feel as if you are participating in something important. And that's fine. I have no problem with that. Thanx for teaching me.

Satish Arigela
Okay, I read this over several times trying to grasp it. Is the Yantra a statue or figurine that is made out of the >specific materials according to shakta scriptures? Also, you said that a specific form of the Devi has to be invoked but also the form that is in one's heart... that's confusing to me. I would interpret that to mean that the form that is in my heart could be different from the form commonly associated with the Devi, perhaps one that would be more accessible to me.

This is how icon worship is done by shaktas. They get initiated into a certain mantra. The presiding deity of this mantra has a specific form, say if it is Tara mantra the shakta will be meditating on the form of Tara while repeating the mantra. When he reaches a certain stage ** (determined by his teacher) he will be qualified for external worship, which is when he starts worshipping her in a yantra or in an icon. This icon in our example will be in the shape of Tara. Likewise if he has kali mantra he will be worshipping an image of Kali. As you can see the icon is now an exact representation of the goddess as is in his heart.

Yantra can be drawn on some special leaves or on a cloth or Stretched on thin sheets of gold copper silver or on stone.

The representation need not always be as a statue. Sometimes she is invoked in something called kalasha which is essentially a brass gold, copper or silver picther/tumbler with water in it and a coconut on top it along with some other things.

** At this stage the divinity is firmly established in the heart of that shakta due to mantra repitition over years. The divinity in his heart is transferrred to the icon which he is worshipping by using some other mantras.

Principles of Tantra by Arthur Avalon vol 2. has more details on external worship. I gathered this info from there.

Your answer relates back to the question I asked last week, of whether the writings of the ancients contain all the wisdom that is worth learning, or whether people alive today can add to that greatbody of wisdom. You seem to be giving the opposite answer to what Devi Bhakta said. Read the scriptures. Period.

I am not concerned about modern writings. The ways described in ancient texts are complete. They are eternal coz they speak about the truth and truth does not change with time. They are enough to reach the goal. However I dont say that one should not learn from modern saints and their teachings. They cannot replace the texts but their teachings can supplement.

There are numerous sadhakas who reached the highest goal of spirituality by following those texts in present times. I personally need no more proof than that.

"My Auntie Usha teaches that the ancient writings are important, and we should learn them and study them. The Divine speaks through them, and we should listen. But She also lives in our own souls, and we need to listen to her there too"

We are not perfect beings/souls to hear or understand what ourinner divine says. Our understanding is clouded by the impurities present in us. Those texts were dictated by beings who are perfect, and are more articulate, which is why more importance to them.

" I suppose that there is some value in following ancient recipes on how to do ceremonies".

They are the way. One does not write/follow customized ceremonies/spells in Shakta system as followers of witchcraft do.

Yvonne
Thank you very much for taking the time to teach me. I am learning a lot from this, and I am very grateful. However, with all due respect, I am confused by the following: "We are not perfect beings/souls to hear or understand what our inner divine says. Our understanding is clouded by the impurities present in us. Those texts were dictated by beings who are perfect, and are more articulate, which is why more importance to them"

My understanding (and, again, please correct me if I am wrong) is that the Divine is not a physical being but rather spiritual entities that exist within our souls. You say that we are unable to understand what they teach us. Fine. I can handle this. But then you say that the ancient text were dictated by perfect beings. This I find confusing. Two possibilities:

1) People of the ancient world were better able than we are at understanding the inner Divine, or

2). At some time in the distant past, the Divine did take the form of physical beings able to communicate with people in words. Thus they could dictate precisely what they wanted us to do.

Thank you again for your help. Jai Mahakali!

Satish Arigela
"But then you say that the ancient text were dictated by perfect beings. This I find confusing. Two possibilities: 1) People of the ancient world were better able than we are at understanding the inner Divine, or

I dont know. There is more scope for interested ppl in those times to dedicate their lives to the divine, due to favorable conditions. That might be a reason.

"2). At some time in the distant past, the Divine did take the form of physical beings able to communicate with people in words. Thus they could dictate precisely what they wanted us to do."

The divine appears in physical forms even now. There are very few in India even now who can be considered as some form of the divine. They were always there at any given period in history to guide seekers.

The following is only an opinion and could be wrong. On Devi Bhakta's reply: I dont think any of these present day realised ones (or enlightened or whatever ppl may call) don't preach anything contradictory to established tantric norms. They may revive some tradition or teaching which is ignored over the years. Depending on prevailing conditions some become canonized during their lifetime while some other's teaching may be recognized a few years or a century or two later, after which their teachings are treated like a teaching of divine origin.

As you have given the anology of scientific procedure, IMHO it makes quite a bit of sense to view such new relevations with skepticism or even treat them with opposition untill the tantric community is somehow conviced.

Devi Bhakta
Hi Yvonne and Satish:

Interesting conversation. Since reference has been made to previous statements of mine, I wanted to step in and briefly clarify my meaning:
"Yvonne wrote: "Your answer relates back to the question I asked last week, of whether the writings of the ancients contain all the wisdom that is worth learning, or whether people alive today can add to that great body of wisdom. You seem to be giving the opposite answer to what Devi Bhakta said. Read the scriptures. Period."

"Satish replied: "I am not concerned about modern writings. The ways described in ancient texts are complete. They are eternal coz they speak about the truth and truth does not change with time. They are enough to reach the goal. However I don't say that one should not learn from modern saints and their teachings. They cannot replace the texts but their teachings can supplement. There are numerous sadhakas who reached the highest goal of spirituality by following those texts in present times. I personally need no more proof than that."

Yvonne, I do not think Satish's answer is really so opposite to mine. His approach is slightly more conservative than mine, but it is still basically the same idea.

You see, the ancient texts set out the foundation of Shaktism. They define what the system is. The word of the guru (or the writings of modern saints) supplement their content, but do not fundamentally alter it. It is more a matter of applying the ancient precepts to modern situations; updating and demonstrating the relevance of the foundational materials.

Maybe it will be clearer if you think of the Tantras and other Shakta writings not as "scriptures" (a loaded term for many) but as - to be blunt - instruction manuals. Because the Tantric method is very scientific. A scientist in looking to demonstrate certain phenomena will carefully detail each step in the process. Then if s/he fails, s/he will be able to go over those notes and isolate variables that might be changed for a better result next time. When the desired result is finally achieved, the well-documented procedure for getting there can be published. Other scientists interested in the result will test the process (i.e. follow the same path) to confirm (or disprove) the efficacy of the method given. When a given method repeatedly produces the desired result for many different scientists, it is considered scientifically valid and fit for use in various practical applications.

Tantras are like that. Those that have come down to us are the result of untold centuries of "scientific" trial-and-error. Countless aspirants have followed these instructions and achieved Realization. Countless gurus have fine-tuned and perfected the techniques contained therein, and commented on the more difficult passages for clarity. So when you ask: "Why do I have to do it that way instead of my own way?!" The reply is, "Just because it works." The assumption is that you want to realize Devi. The Tantras say, "Here's how."

You see, Christianity and Islam teach of their respective faiths, "You must believe and practice this set of precepts, or you will go to Hell." Shaktism is quite different. It teaches, "Try this! It works!" There is no blind belief or threat of eternal damnation necessary: "Just try it, okay? It works. Really."

Of course, if you don't *want* to try it, no one's forcing you. If you try it and don't succeed, you're free to dismiss the whole thing as bullshit and follow another path. No one's threatening you either way. And there are lots of other paths. If you want guilt, self- flagellation, suppression of human needs and desires, "the one and only right way" - well, plenty of religions offer all that kind of stuff. In the alternative, if you want Barbie dolls dressed as goddesses, go for it. Have a ball. For that matter, if you want to invent an entirely new religion and see if it gets you anywhere, best of luck. Hope it works. Enjoy yourself.

Because all rivers eventually lead to the sea. Shaktism simply recognizes that some of these rivers twist and turn a great deal along the way. Some are silted up and sluggish, making progress slow and difficult work. Some branch off into deceptive estuaries that look like the main river - until you suddenly reach a dry dead end and have to turn back and start over. Some rivers are slow and depressing, and can waste your precious time. Some are polluted and smell terrible. Some are dangerous and unpredictable, and can wind up hurting you badly if you don't know what you're doing.

Tantra invites us to simply skip the rivers, and go directly to the Sea.

However, I do not agree with Satish (that is, if I understood him correctly) that the only valid tantras were those written centuries ago. There are tantras still being written to this day. There are Upanishads still being written to this day. Great souls are still meeting Devi and other deities and writing down what they learned in the exchange for the good of humanity.

But they are achieving this through the Tantras, and when they offer us a "better way", it is not an entirely new invention from scratch. It is simply a further refinement of the received wisdom; perhaps an adjustment and update for clarity in a new time and new place. Because the Truth does not change - it is eternal. And proven methods for getting at that Truth is eternal. So why re-invent the wheel? The guru can help you understand the path, and point you the literature that her or his lineage employs. The guru will also share her or his own experiences to guide you along the way. And the best part is that, in the end, you get to experience it all for yourself, and -- hopefully -- help guide others who are seeking guidance. It'snothing new. It's already there. It's in you and all around you. It's just a matter of uncovering it.

Aum Maatangyai Namahe

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