My approach to spirituality has always been to focus on the methods, tools, engineering and science of it. Towards this – i really feel out of place when people talk about devotion. For me devotion is also another tool ……………..to an end …………and not an end in itself.
I have always felt that various religions came out of the spiritual base. They were a cultural skin to the spiritual core.
The core is what really matters and not the skin. Throw the skin away i would say. The skin holds value from a social perspective and not from an existential perspective.
On the path people should know where the skin needs to be played with and where the core needs to be focused on.
Here are excerpts from a talk that Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev had with Sanjiv Goenka an industrialist
In southern India, we also refer to the deity as a yantra. A yantra is a form or a machine that works for you. Essentially, every machine is only an enhancement of a faculty that we have. It does what we can do, but in a better way. To give a few examples – we can walk. With a bicycle or car, we can move much faster. We can see. With a telescope, we can see much farther. We can speak. With a microphone, we can speak much louder. So, every machine is only an enhancement of our existing faculties.
He goes on to compare gods to tools ……………which enhance our faculties and further our lives in subjective and objective ways. The example of Ramanujam and his goddess is incredible.
As we have created physical machines, we have created subjective machines. We call them deities, murtis, or gods. These are machines that can do something for us that we ourselves cannot do to the same extent. In other words, they greatly enhance our faculties. There are innumerable examples of people using their deities or yantras in ways that have made them into incredible human beings. The great mathematician Ramanujam is one of them. He simply poured out mathematics. When asked where all this comes from, he credited it to his goddess. Things he wrote in the early twentieth century are still being figured today. And just a few years ago, scientists realized that some of the formulas that he built are actually describing black holes. He created a mathematical backbone for black holes, at a time when there was not even a concept of black holes.
He further goes on to give real life examples where he compares a deity/god to a plumbing tool
So, these deities are tools. Whenever I refer to the Dhyanalinga as a tool, people get upset, because to them, it is more than their life. They find the word “tool” too mundane and crude in this context. Then I tell them, “Suppose I give you a plumbing job and you are only allowed to use your bare hands and teeth, no tools. If after three days of working like that, I give you a spanner, will you worship the spanner or not?” Do not underestimate the power of the tool. As human beings, we are who we are only because of our ability to create and use tools. That is what sets us apart. So, we built subjective tools which, today, are being referred to as gods. We appropriately called them yantras because these are machines that work for us. Towards this end, there was a certain way to operate a certain machine, and a certain way to access it – a particular sound pattern, a particular form, and a particular process. Unfortunately, these processes have gotten distorted in many places, but if a deity is alive, and you know how to use it, it can do incredible things for you. This is not a belief system; this is not a religion; this is a technology – a technology of a different kind.
Brilliant!!! Not a belief system ……………..wow!!!
On similar lines ………..Swami Rama speaks about how various religions share similar methods and core …………….while having differing skins to suit the time and context. He mentions this in his book “Living with the Himalayan Masters” in so many words
My pet take on this topic is especially around two rituals …….one is that of shodashopachaara and the second is that of animal sacrifice.
Shodoshaopachara or the sixteen forms of worship are practiced in different religions in different ways.
In a Christian consecrated altar – usually a Sunday mass would have devotees bring in flowers, incense, candles etc. Some even bring in salt, rice etc. I recollect a particularly mystical experience I had in Cairo when I visited a church that was almost 1800 years old and that had been continuously used as a place of worship for such a long time. These places have a particular force field and energy to them. When I lit a candle there – a certain mystical experience happened to me.
Similarly in Islam there is the tradition of offering incense, flowers and a cloth (chadar) to a shrine.
Buddhism has similar traditions of offering incense, flowers, fruits, cloth, lamps.
Jainism has a similar tradition
Sikhism has a tradition of offering cloth, flowers and wind from a sacred device (chaamara).
Yoga has its own Guru pooja where all sixteen offerings are made.
Apparently the science behind this seems to be that you make some specific offerings that are in tune with that energy entity that you are transacting with. So you “give” something in a certain way. This creates an obligation to the entity to give back in another way. This completes the transaction. But there is a method to give. You should give without expecting in return …………….and that’s how things work for you. This is how you would do “Upachaara” (which is the word related to the technique of Shodashopachaara).
Apparently Shodhashopachara originated with Agastya Muni offering his knowledge back to Shiva (from whom he learnt). There were sixteen sciences that he had learnt from Shiva and he gave it back to Shiva and emptied himself of everything he knew. This seems to be the historical root of the technique.
The technique works well if you are truly initiated by a living master into the technique , you follow the technique surgically and with a sense of inclusiveness
The second ritual of animal sacrifice is similarly practiced in Abrahamic religion of Islam, Hinduism, European pagan religions etc. The way it is done is remarkably similar. Again here in some practices there is a mantra that does with the jhatka (the point where the head is severed from the body) and at times it is a jhatka facing an energy deity with a fire in between the animal and the deity. Again in some European pagan practices there is the deity, fire and animal in a straight line ………………with a circle encompassing all three. The jhatka is done after that. Essentially the pranic energy interacts with fire in a special way. This is offered to the deity.
Again going back to my original topic of technique over belief – it reminds me of my visit to Mt.Kailash. The mountain is important for five different religions – Sikhism, Jainism, Bon religion, Buddhism and Hinduism. These are the known “isms”. Apparently various masters who don’t belong to any particular ism have deposited their knowing in that mountain (read: Sadhguru on Kailash).
But how do we really know wether a certain process, technique or ritual is working the way we intend to. This calls for evolving our consciousness to perceive things for what they are. There are various states of consciousness. Stitah Prajna and Ritambara Prajna are two such states. In the former – you can see things for what they really are ………….rather than what your earlier programming may lead you to believe it is. Ritambara Prajna makes you see forms that emnate from sounds.
What methods do you adopt to get there. One sure way of doing it is to embark on learning Prana Vidya. This is taught by the BSY group (Bihar School of Yoga) of Swami Satyananda Saraswathi.