Mircea Eliade "From Primitives to Zen": PERSONAL WORSHIP


The Purification and Dedication of the Body:

The dedication of the body of the worshipper to the deity is a necessary prelude to ceremonial worship. In this rite the worshipper purifies and consecrates each part of his person that he may become fit to appear before a god.

'No man should worship a deity so long as he himself has not become a deity. If the repetition of sacred utterances is performed without previous dedication of the parts of the body to the different deities, this repetition of mantras is demoniacal and without useful effect. To worship a deity, a man must become the Self of that deity through dedication, breath control, and concentration until his body becomes the deity's abode.' (Gandharva Tantra.)

1 The first step is the purification of the worshipper and of the accessories of worship.

'The purification of the person of the worshipper consists in bathing, The purification-of-the-subtle-elements (bhuta shuddhi) of the body is done through breath control and through the dedication of the six main parts of the body to the six deities to which they correspond. After this the other forms of dedication are performed.

2. 'The purification of the place of worship is done by cleaning it carefully, adorning it with an auspicious ornamentation made of powders of five colours, placing a seat and a canopy, using incense, lights, flowers, garlands, etc. All this must be done by the worshipper himself

3. 'Purification of the ritual utterances, the mantras, is done by repeating the syllables which compose them in the regular order and then in the reverse order.

4. 'Purification of the accessories is done by sprinkling water consecrated with the basic mantra and the weapon-mantra (astra-mantra, i.e., the sound phat) and then displaying the cow-gesture (dhenumudra).

5. 'Purification of the deity is done by placing the image on an altar invoking the presence of the deity through its secret mantra and the life-giving breathing-mantra (prana-mantra), bathing the image three times while reciting the basic mantra, then adorning it with garments and jewels. After this an offering of incense and light should be made.' (Kularnava Tantra.)

Removing Obstacles:

'The worshipper should bow with respect to the deities of the doors, first at the eastern door of the house of worship, then, successively at the southern door, the western door, and the northern door. After this he should bow to his chosen deity present in the form of its yantra.' (Nigama-kalpalata 14.)

If the sanctuary has only one door, the worship of the deities of the three other directions should be done mentally. 'The sacrificial house should be entered with the right foot' (Shivarcana Candrika), with the left foot ff it is a left-hand sacrifice.

'The worshipper should remove obstacles of celestial origin by the godly look (looking with wide-open, unblinking eyes). Obstacles of the intermediary world are removed with the help of water consecrated with the astra-mantra. Terrestrial obstacles are avoided by doing three taps with the heel of the right foot.' (Shambavi Tantra.)

The Praise of the Deity:

'Just as gold is freed from its dross only by fire and acquires its shining appearance from heat, so the mind of a living being, cleansed from the filth of his actions and his desires through his love for me, is transformed into my transcendent likeness. The mind is purified through the hearing and uttering of sacred hymns in my praise., (Bhagavata Puruna II, 14, 25.)

The glorification of a deity is something different from meaningless praise. The Brhad-devata (1, 6) says: 'The praise of something consists in the utterance of its name, the description of its shape, the proclaiming of its deeds, the mention of its family.'

'We cannot know a thing without knowing its merits, its qualities. All knowledge or science is based on a form of praise. A dictionary is but the praise of words. The works of science are filled with glorification. Everything which is an object of knowledge is as such a deity and is glorified in the Scripture that deals with it.' (Vijayananda Tripathi, 'Devata tattva,' Sanmarga,III, 1942.)


'Meditation is of two kinds, gross and subtle. In the subtle form meditation is done on the "body of sound," that is, the mantra, of the deity. In the gross form meditation is on one image with hands and feet. . . . The suprasensory can seldom be reached by the mind; hence one should concentrate on the gross form.' (Yamala Tantra.)

'The worshipper should engage in meditation, gradually concentrating his mind on all the parts of the body of his chosen deity, one after another, from the feet to the head. He can thus acquire such an intense state of concentration that during his undisturbed meditation the whole body of the chosen deity will appear to his mind's eye as an indivisible form. In this way the meditation on the deity in its formal aspect will gradually become profound and steady.' (Siva Candra Vidyarnava Bhattacharya, Principles of Tantra [ed. Woodroffe, I, (1916), 134, or p. 874 [1952 ed.], quoted with slight changes.)

Japa, the Repetition of Mantras:

'Japa, as the repetition of a mantra, has been compared to the action of a man shaking a sleeper to wake him up.' (Woodroffe, The Garland of Letters, P. 211, with slight changes.)

'Once the image of the chosen deity has been formed in the mind by concentration, the seed-mantra should be repeated, withdrawing the mind from all other thoughts....... Japa is of three kinds, audible, articulate but inaudible, and mental....... Japa concentration by this -means is perfected, the consciousness of the worshipper is transferred to the deity represented by the utterance and he ceases to have an individuality distinct from that of the deity.' (Barada Kantha Majumdar. Principles of Tantra [cd. Woodroffe ], II [1916, 77-8, or pp. 648 ff 1952 ed.], quoted with slight changes.)

Translation by Alain Danialou, in his Hindu Polytheism (New York: Bollingen Series LXXIII, 1964), PP. 377-9

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