Every human is an incarnation of God, right? So can one reach enlightenment by worshipping any ordinary person as god/goddess? Does that only work with Avatars, or certain spiritual advanced persons like ones Guru? Or does that also work with commpletely ordinary persons? For instance Indian women in earlier times regarded their husbands as gods, and then there is also the worship of Devi in form of virginal girls.
I think you've asked a good question. Deepak Chopra has advised that lovers should consider their beloved as their guru. In tantra, it is advocated that men worship women. As for "worship" of gurus, it seems to often lead to some kind of power abuse, unfortunately. I have read that marriage was designed along the lines of man's relation to god, and that the spiritual hierarchy of god over man was brought into marriage and family to allow men to be god over women and children. Unfortunately, as with the guru "worship," that has led to problems. I would guess that the worship of virginal girls was about trying to control sexuality and/or to maintain the marital/family hierarchy somehow, but I don't know; I'm unfamiliar with that. Ultimately, I think that worshipful feelings toward another person may be about bringing something unconscious in your own being to light, and as such, can bring enlightenment. After all, the god/dess you worship in another is but a reflection of yourself. I am interested to read others' responses to your post.
Sankara Menon In tantra there is not only worship of male by female; but worship of female by male and male to male and female to female.
Kalaavahana is one such ritual; it may or may not involve sex depending on the inclinations of the parties. The gender is irrelevant. It has nothing to do with suppression of one genderby the other.
If you read Ramakrishna Pramahamsa's biography you will find him worshipping his wife as God.
But the present social mentality has driven these sublime procedures underround so there are few who know it and those who know and practice do not do so publicaly. That is all.
Alexandra asked "So can one reach enlightenment by worshipping any ordinary person as god/goddess? Does that only work with Avatars, or certain spiritual advanced persons like ones Guru?"
My answer would be that it does not depend on the object of worship, but on the worshiper. The worshiper who perceives that s/he is worshiping a person is doing nothing more than that. The worshiper who perceives that s/he is worshiping Devi (or whatever their perception of the Deity may be) is doing just that.
Mary Ann added that "in tantra, it is advocated that men worship women."
I do not believe that this is correct. In tantra, it is advocated that humans worship Devi. Again, the devotee who perceives that s/he is merely worshiping another human being is doing nothing more than that. Sankara Menon's recent post illuminates this point.
*** I would guess that the worship of virginal girls was about trying to control sexuality and/or to maintain the marital/family hierarchy somehow, but I don't know; I'm unfamiliar with that. ***
If you are unfamiliar, then there is little need to leap to the very grossest assumptions of motive. When the worshiper is of pure mind and properly prepared, the worship of virginal girls is the worship of Devi -- nothing more, nothing less. Certainly, an ugly array of social ills has plagued humankind throughout history. The study of patriarchy and gender relations is an important and worthwhile pursuit. However, spirituality works on several levels, physical, subtle and transcendent. By analyzing any religious ritual as merely the manifestation of a social ill, you effectively lock yourself on the physical plane -- like the person who perceives s/he is merely worshiping another human being. In the context of sadhana, it is a spiritual dead end. For 100 years or so, Marxist scholars were sure they could explain everything in this world as a manifestation of class struggle in the inevitable movement of humankind toward communism. They were wrong, of course. Certainly, class struggle is a huge factor in the movement of history; and certainly patriarchy is a huge factor as well. But there are myriad other factors as well: Humanity is too complex to be comprehended through a single dialectical model, even on the physical plane. And when we move *beyond* the physical plane, such models are more than just limiting; they become crippling. In Shaki Sadhana, we do not ignore the social ills of this world. They are to be faced and confronted; we must do our best to eradicate these drags on humanity, and reveal the beauty and love of Devi. But in our efforts to make this physical plane a better place, let us not forget the fundamental truth that there are other planes that need attending as well.
When you worship a person, you are not actually worshipping the physical aspect, but the essence that the person represent.
A shy friend sent me the following "clarification" to my post -- it is completely correct, and my post should be read in light of it:
"May I make a small clarification? You see, it is never a human being worshipping God in Tantra. No human is able or entitled to do so. That's where Nyasas come in. You make yourself divine before worshiping; with the Nyasas you become GOD whether a Devi or Deva, and then you become one with the worshipped - then the worshipper; worshipped and worship becomes one. So you are in effect adoring yourself; that is what is said:
Antahsthejo bahisteja aikeekamitaprabhavam. Then what happens is that you become one, and at that stage you can do anything: YOU ARE GOD. No gender, no individuality. You are the Universe."
To worship Devi you becomes a Devi, only then you will be able to merge with Devi. Devi and You becomes one, like a Lover.
In my experience, when I am caught up in loving, in the most intense experience of love, I try to reach beyond the physical plane, to look for the Goddess, knowing that as I love another, I am loving Her, as I accept love, I am accepting Her love.It is only when I am disappointed in love or lonely that I am mystified. But I trust that She is loving me still. I trust that I can continue to grow and reach for Her in everything. Having my faith in Her makes it more comfortable to experience great joy and intense feelings of love.
"By analyzing any religious ritual as merely the manifestation of a social ill, you effectively lock yourself on the physical plane -- like the person who perceives s/he is merely worshiping another human being. In the context of sadhana, it is a spiritual dead end. ….. And when we move *beyond* the physical plane, such models are more than just limiting; they become crippling. In Shaki Sadhana, we do not ignore the social ills of this world. They are to be faced and confronted; we must do our best to eradicate these drags on humanity, and reveal the beauty and love of Devi."
Not a woman, I would assume that this is a fairly big issue for feminist and Tantra. Once you are locked into a dialectic polarity, it is hard to free oneself. The trick is to see that it is a structure and then to move away from it expressed.
The most significant architect for feminism was Simone De Beauvoir who wrote the SECOND SEX in the late 1940's. She was one of the real geniuses in the world at the time whether you agree with her or not. She took a look at women from both an existential and Marxist perspective. Her lover was Satre. She identified two things. First, women were not expressing themselves fully as individuals. Second, that this was due to a class structure based upon gender. This world view shaped and continues to shape contemporary Western world view about women.
Personally, I find Post World War II French Existential philosophy limiting in its views of the life and the cosmos. It asks a lot of the right questions about existence but it has a framework of the world as almost if not completely chaotic. God is not a factor. The world is random. One needs to find ones own order, meaning and value which is true, however, they saw Marxism as a way to finding that meaning.
This is very limited view of existentialism. Explaining it in five sentences is too simple. There are many flavors of it. The piece that I bring here is that when one begins to assume or see that there is more than the physical reality and that humans are more than physical bodies, then you have a different view altogether. The world isn't just black and white, it has grays and colors, too. When you come to realize one has spirit or soul, then how you look at yourself and others profoundly changes.
I don't agree that bringing consciousness to how social ills may affect, lead to, or stem from, spiritual practices prevents one from advancing spiritually. I consider the raising of consciousness, inner and outer, to be synonymous with / analogous to the raising of kundalini. There seems to be an assumption underlying these posts that it isn't possible to be present to both inner and outer at the same time. Isn't that the very definition of non-dualism? As within, so without? Or am I misunderstanding your posts?
*** I don't agree that bringing consciousness to how social ills may affect, lead to, or stem from, spiritual practices prevents one from advancing spiritually. ***
I don't either, as I think I made clear in my original reply. In fact I've been roundly criticized more than once for being "overly focused on the social aspects" of Shakti Sadhana, at the expense of theory and esoteric practicalities. Nonetheless, my personal feeling remains that social consciousness (and more importantly, social action) is an inseparable part of Shakti Sadhana.
*** There seems to be an assumption underlying these posts that it isn't possible to be present to both inner and outer at the same time. Isn't that the very definition of non-dualism? As within, so without? Or am I misunderstanding your posts? ***
I certainly did not work from that assumption (I don't see it in Mr. Otto's post either, although I will not presume to extrapolate what his additional views might be). To restate, I not only assume that nonduality is "possible"; I also assume it to be Absolute Truth. What varies is merely individual human beings' experiential perceptions of that Truth.
Now: How do we develop these experiential perceptions? Through sadhana. What is sadhana? A prescribed set of personal beliefs and rituals engaged in with the object of attaining an experiential perception of Truth. Are any of these rituals immune from socio- political analysis? No, you can take 'em apart if you want to, as in any religion. Does objective socio-political analysis enhance the subjective efficacy of a received ritual? Not in the least. To move to the mundane from the sublime, I quote Billy Bragg:
To take the precious things we have apart
To see how they work
Must be resisted for they never fit together again
Does that mean precious things (such as rituals) ought never to be taken apart, questioned and analyzed? Not necessarily. It all depends on your position vis a vis the ritual.
"Bringing consciousness to how social ills may affect, lead to, or stem from, spiritual practices" can be a worthwhile cause in one's daily affairs. It can also make for fascinating social analysis and scholarly study. But it is emphatically not useful in spiritual practice -- that is, if you are using that ritual not as a subject of objective study, but as a devotional tool.
If you wish to exclaim something such as, "Shaktism is a patriarchal travesty, and I am dedicated to exposing that fact!" that is a different matter. Then you are consciously choosing to approach the religion as an outsider -- setting it up on a lab table as an object to be poked and prodded, analyzed and vivisected, and -- if all goes well -- enlightened and reformed. That's fine too. People have been doing it for centuries.
The crux of the matter, as I see it at least, is a choice is between accepting, say, a Kumari Pooja, on its own terms -- as a homage to Devi -- and seeing what effect the ritual has on your heart and soul; or saying, "Yeah, yeah, whatever, very transcendent. But what you're *really* doing is perpetuating social injustice, etc etc." Both positions may be legitimate -- or not.
It is a fact that huge numbers of people are not able to achieve spiritual advancement using certain rituals that others may find immensely uplifting and helpful. For example, Muslims and Protestant Christians have a real problem symbolizing religious ideas in statuary -- they call it idolatry. It makes them profoundly uncomfortable. None of them are going to get far in, say, a Southern European Catholic church or a South Indian temple. They're so freaked out by the ritual, they can't get past the physical plane: "This is idolatry! This is sinful! Get me outta here!"
Does that mean that Muslims and Protestants are unspiritual? Not at all -- as in any other religious tradition, it depends almost entirely on the individual. Does it mean that Southern European Catholic and South Indian temple ritual are sinful? Again, not at all -- millions have found solace and liberation in these traditions as well.
What it means is, certain rituals don't work for certain people. If you attend a Tantric Chakra ritual or a Kumari Pooja, and all you can think is "Exploitation! Oppression! Patriarchy!", then you've obviously come to the wrong place. It doesn't mean that you're wrong, or that the rituals are wrong. What it means it that there's a bad fit between you and that particular ritual.
I apologize if a lot of this repeats things I have said before (I know it does). It is simply my perception and opinion. If it's wrong, it's wrong. I'll read on, but I don't know I can add significantly more to the discussion other than additional restatements. So I'll stop here.
"I don't agree that bringing consciousness to how social ills may affect, lead to, or stem from, spiritual practices prevents one from advancing spiritually. I consider the raising of consciousness, inner and outer, to be synonymous with / analogous to the raising of kundalini. There seems to be an assumption underlying these posts that it isn't possible to be present to both inner and outer at the same time. Isn't that the very definition of non-dualism? As within, so without? Or am I misunderstanding your posts?"
No, that wasn't my point. My post was to just share some of the origins of a particular belief system that seems to have built in limitation. The decisions about those issues are for the individuals to solve. Once they know where they are coming from, it give them some tools to evaluate truth and their personal truth.
With many spiritual paths or practices is that once the spiritual aspects are right then the rest follows. Your perspective begins to shift. What is without is somehow in relationship to that within.
Marxism or Existentialism seem limited to just a very narrow view of reality and power.
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