Deity Yoga


‘Deity yoga’ is one of the least-understood aspects of Tantrik Yoga. The term refers to the quintessentially Tantrik practice of invoking aspects of the One divine Consciousness and identifying yourself with them. In other words, the One energy that alone exists expresses as countless different ‘vibrations’, some of them very ephemeral and others eternal (or lasting as long as this universe does, anyway). The ‘eternal’ vibrations are intrinsic parts of the overall Pattern, and so they last as long as the Pattern exists. Some of these eternal vibrations of conscious energy we call ‘deities’. The word deva in Sanskrit (or the feminine form, devī) comes from a Sanskrit root √div, meaning both ‘shine’ and ‘play’. So the devas are the shining playful ones – playful in the sense that they want to play with us! As it were. These patterned forms of consciousness exist both within us and as energetic patterns of flow in the wider universe (of which you are, of course, a microcosm). Therefore they are not reducible to either ‘gods’ (divine persons) or to ‘archetypes’ (aspects of our psyche), though in a sense they are both of those things (and more). They are archetypes insofar as they are paradigms or patterns within the collective unconscious (to borrow Jung’s phrase), and they are divine persons in the sense that you can have an ‘encounter’ with a deity in which you simultaneously feel the presence of a Divine ‘Other’, and yet realize that this ‘Other’ is not separate from you. (By the way, I’m using lots of ‘scare quotes’ just to indicate that words can only clumsily approximate these experiences, which necessarily transcend any mental or verbal representations we can create of them.) When you experience a ‘visitation’ from a deity, it feels ‘Other’ only because you have not yet realized your total Being, which encompasses all forms the One consciousness can wear.

            The Tantrik tradition teaches that each deity has an ‘essence-nature’ (svabhāva) which can inhabit the ‘bodies’ (mūrtis) that are representations of it. Most deities have three ‘bodies’: the sonic body (mantra), a geometric pattern (yantra or maṇḍala), and an anthropomorphic represention (whether sculpted, painted, or visualized). A given body, such as a statue of a deity, is considered ‘dead’ (jaḍa) unless the energy of the deity is installed into it (this is called prāṇa-pratiṣṭhā), usually by means of mantras articulated within a space of heightened & devoted awareness; when this has happened, the deity’s mūrti is said to ‘alive’ or ‘conscious’ (chaitanya). This is why the British in the colonial period (and the Baptists and Muslims today) were wrong to call Indians ‘idolators’ – when the prāṇa (life-force) is removed from a statue and placed in a temporary receptacle (like a water-pot with herbs and leaves in), then the statue is summarily discarded and the water-pot is treated as a deity! –Until the energy can be installed in a new statue or other substrate. To be an idolator is precisely to mistake a symbol for its referent, which is explicitly not happening here—the energy is venerated, not its vessel or touchstone.

             What distinguishes Tantrik practice proper from the temple culture that it influenced is that Tantrikas prefer to invoke the energy of a deity into a visualized substrate rather than a physical one. This practice necessarily entails honoring oneself as the expression of the deity, because according to the Tantrik maxim, ‘Only God can worship God’ (śivībhūtvaiva śivaṃ yajet). Having invoked the deity’s energy into the visualization (Tantrik Buddhists describe this as summoning the jñāna-sattva or ‘wisdom being’ into the samaya-sattva or ‘symbolic being’), the practitioner honors the deity’s power/energy, while striving to see the deity as an icon of her own essence, a reflection of an aspect of her true Being.

            Even the mantra of a deity, it must be noted, can be ‘dead’ or ‘conscious/alive’. The former cannot grant mantra-siddhi, the fruit of mantra-practice. The best way to ensure that a mantra you receive is ‘living’ is to receive it from someone for whom it is alive. A teacher possessed of awake awareness transmits a mantra saturated with that awareness—but no attempt to discern whether a given teacher is ‘enlightened’ is necessary, because even a fellow practioner, who is in love with that mantra and has worked with it deeply, can pass it on in an alive state (as sometimes happens in kīrtan sessions).

            In performing Deity Yoga, one must distinguish between ‘enlightened deities’ and all the rest. Enlightened deities are those invoked as part of a spiritual practice aiming at liberation and awakened awareness (mokṣa and bodha), whereas other deities are invoked for specific limited goals – like increasing financial abundance, attracting a partner, pacifying an enemy, etc. Doing the sādhana of a specific deity means invoking that deity daily with mantra, yantra, and visualization (three out of four of the key elements of Tantrik Yoga, the fourth being the breath). Such a sādhana can result in both inner and outer shifts – you may get ‘signs’ that you have connected with the energy of that deity, such as elements of that deity’s constellation of attributes repeatedly showing up in your life. - From a blog post,  DEITY YOGA: A TANTRIK TECHNOLOGY by Scholar, Author, Teacher, Practitioner, Initiate & Guide, Christopher Hareesh Wallace of Tantrika Institute. 

In the yogic traditions, the Goddess is considered the embodiment of power and of energy—the energy "Adi Shakti" that enlivens the world, and our own bodies and minds. Whether we encounter the Goddess spontaneously or explore her deliberately, as a practice, the energy can open us to our own inner source of empowerment. Deity meditation can assist to unsnarl psychological knots by calling forth specific transformative forces within the mind and heart. It puts us in touch with the protective power within us, and can change the way we see the world.

Ancient texts mention about "Dasha(10) Mahavidya", who are worshipped to seek all sorts of powers. Mahavidya worship is known as Sadhana in which the worshipper concentrates on a single Goddess to please and to seek her blessings. In any Sadhana, Yantra and Mantra are considered very effective mediums through which worshippers can reach their target and fulfill the motive to perform it.

Dasha Mahavidya - 10 Forms of Goddess Shakti: Kali, Tara, Tripurasundari,  Bhuvanesvari, Bhairavi, Chinnamasta,  Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi, Kamala. The highest spiritual truth is that reality is One. That reality, when personified as the Divine Mother, expresses itself in countless ways. The ten Mahavidyas, or Wisdom Goddesses, represent distinct aspects of divinity intent on guiding the spiritual seeker toward liberation. For the devotionally minded seeker these forms can be approached in a spirit of reverence, love, and increasing intimacy. For a knowledge-oriented seeker, these same forms can represent various states of inner awakening along the path to enlightenment.

There is a deep quintessential need in the human psyche for a mother. It is said; the Goddess was humankind’s earliest conception of divinity. Among the Shaktas who worship Mother Goddess, the source of all existence is female. God is woman. She is the principle representation of Divinity. She is that power which resides in all life as consciousness, mind, matter, energy, silence, joy as also disturbance and violence. She is the vibrant energy that makes everything alive, fascinating and wonderful. She is inherent in everything and at the same time transcends everything. Her true nature is beyond mind and matter; she is not bound by any limitation. She is Arupa(formless). When she is represented in a form, her intense representation is a Bindu the dimensionless point about to expand immensely. The Bindu symbolizes her most subtle micro form as the universal Mother, womb, yoni, creator, retainer and also the receiver of the universe.