The following article by Yogini Shambhavi was first published in Tathaastu Magazine.
The Flow of the Yoga Shakti
Yoga Shakti is the transformative power of consciousness, love and delight pulsating behind the forces of Nature and the very source of life. The key to physical, psychological and spiritual well-being consists of awakening thisShakti within our own minds and hearts and allowing it to flow like a river, permeating our daily experiences of pleasure and pain, happiness and sorrow, or just the necessary activities of sustaining our lives. When Shakti lights up our outer existence, all that we do moves with a certain grace, distilling a higher wisdom and delight to impel us forward on our spiritual quest.
The path that the Yogini follows moves like the flow of a river, its continuity carrying the forces of divinity and leading her into inner experiences through Nature’s universal harmonies. Her sacred journey emulates the Divine feminine play at every level of consciousness. As a dedicated Tantrika or mystic adept, she perceives and embodies the finer nuances of Nature’s grandeur, innate wisdom and gentle nurturing.
The river’s course is a meditative study of life, rushing forth from the melting waters of Mother Earth’s womb at birth, cascading down great heights of waterfalls in childhood mirth and meandering through youthful streams. In maturing, the river’s steady calm currents find their eventual repose in the deep recesses of the ocean waters. The river weathers the peace and fury of Nature’s moods, muddying its pristine waters from rainy storms and collecting the debris of for its embankments to nurture the land. Yet at its culmination, the river mirrors the clarity and beatitude of the ocean’s vastness in its sedate finality.
The Inner Tantric vision perceives the entire universe as a pyramidal configuration of energetics encompassing diverse worlds through varying vibratory levels; each level expressing a certain quality in relation to its inherent aspect of consciousness. At the summit of this powerful pyramid of energy rests the abode of the supreme cosmic power or divine Shakti. The consciousness-power of Shakti, the Goddess in her exuberant expression, enhances the play of every cosmic field, through her creation and maintenance of all existence.
The Yogini connects to the primal Shakti as Mother Earth, Nature, cosmic space, sacred waters, divine Grace and affluence through her dance with divinity, enfolding love, forgiveness, kindheartedness, open-mindedness and devotion. She cherishes every aspect of life, legitimizing both the passion and pain that script one’s existence. The Yogini encompasses life’s experiential threshold through a circumspect drawing from the joyous celebrations of earthly existence.
In the Kaula Shakta tradition, bhoga, the experience of pleasure and delight, finds its expression in yoga, in which all negativities take on the attributes of pure perception. The Goddess is called Bhogini, ‘the supreme enjoyer’, the Devi who genuinely enjoys every aspect of experience, mirroring every myriad facet of a universal life. She holds the rasa, the rejuvenative power inherent in the Tanmatras, the subtle essences of sight, sound, taste, touch and smell, the sensory influences that color the flow of grace and grant beauty and fulfillment to our lives.
Revering our own inner sacredness deepens our awareness of the Self, tapping the aura of divinity through observing, healing, rejuvenating, restoring and celebrating our core existence. Desires, wishes and expectations abound in our everyday life enhancing our worldly attributes and yet slowly dragging us down in a whirlpool of entropy and externality. The key to physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being rests in modulating our outer needs to harmonize with our inner needs, harnessing the powers of the mind and heart. It requires that we let go of worldly pessimism and hostility out of both compassion to ourselves and respect for the dignity and independence of others.
Recognizing the enduring light of love behind the smoke of every transient desire, one creates an awareness of eternal joy, supreme bliss and boundless beauty. The Yogini does not negate disturbed outer manifestations, but accepts them with grace, allowing them to dissolve of their own accord. She wields her inner wisdom to move through this entangling web of illusory veils. All gratification and delight is experienced as energized by the inner power of awareness that is ever content in itself.
The Goddess is the supreme ecstasy of Self-realisation, in which the personal self fades away like the husk from around a seed. As the expression of ultimate joyousness, she draws us by the inner allure of the light of awareness, delivering us from the shackles of bondage into the folds of liberation. She brings out the rasa, the inner luminosity and grace, in every expression of life; be it a great personal achievement or a great cataclysm.
The Yogini learns to ride the waves of life as a master surfer, as it were, the waves becoming a part of the great waters of the ocean, whether tempestuous or serene in movement. The waves are the ocean’s reality, not a separate entity. Normally we see the waves and miss the sea. But the waves are the sea. The spiraling movement of life consists of ever returning into the eternal presence beyond birth and death, a movement encompassed by a greater stillness that it cannot diminish. Tantra in the real sense requires searching out the Absolute in every object, and every person who realizes the inner truth of existence becomes one with the universal Self and accepts the flow of life as a display of one’s true nature.
As a Yogini, one learned to worship all that is poignant, passionate and transformative within and to embrace their outer reflections as well. Opening the heart through devotion, faith and silence born of Nature, we create a temple space for the universal mysticism to unfold its paradoxical drama. The luminosity of our inner light radiates the true wishes of our hearts, not merely the murky desires of the egoistic self. One’s pure nature is the expression of a supreme pleasure or ‘preetih’, the joyousness of love personified.
The Cosmic Waters of Ma Ganga
The forces of Mother Nature unravel life’s divine secrets through the great five elements. When we learn to train our inner eye to understand and approach our existence with an inner vision, we reach out to the core of our reality, which is our spiritual yogic perception. Yet of the five elements, it is water alone that is the element of life which allows consciousness to be reflected and feeling to be sustained. The cosmic waters are not simply the material element but the underlying bliss or Ananda from which everything arises and to which everything returns. All existence is a flow of the cosmic waters either as a material manifestation or as a spiritual reality. In the coolness of that flow through the mind and heart, we find beauty, peace, calm and joy.
It is these cosmic waters, with emerald sapphire hues, cool and transformative that we find in the flow of the Ganga above Rishikesh, before it reaches the plains of our worldly existence. My experience of Ma Ganga brought home the eloquence of waters’ mystic and rejuvenative powers. Ma Ganga as she is affectionately referred unfolds the poetic script of every sadhak’s heartfelt wishes, once one enters into her waters and surrenders to their movement.
The Yogini’s heart searches out divinity not only in the waters of the earth but through the heavenly waters as well. The yogic perception regards all mediums of expression as waves of deeper awareness, be it the rush of a river, the sweeping waves of the ocean’s turbulences, the still waters of pristine mountain lakes or the waters of our inevitable life force and the rasa or divine sap of rejuvenation. We exist within and are surrounded by manifold currents of the cosmic waters. Our spiritual life is an ingress into these mystic streams, in which our minds and hearts merge into their depths, letting going of the outer waves of differentiation.
Life’s sacred reality unfurled through my silent participation with Ma Ganga’s tumultuous flow, witnessing my entire existence through its myriad facets. At times the emerald waters spoke to me of my soul’s deeper indwelling power. Ma Ganga’s comforting voice stilled the outer din of my life with gentle reassurances. The night time rush of melting snows flooded my thoughts with calm aspirations, deepening a yogic awareness of a higher unity through the dissolving world.
Meditating on a river’s flow is a natural form of sadhana, a ‘spiritual endeavor’ that draws one into whirlpools of heavenly waters, maneuvering beyond the waves of life’s illusory course. The hypnotic effect of Ganga’s mystic vapors ceases all worldly expressions, luring one into a trance of natural serenity and dynamic stillness. Its meditative silence releases the purity of Mother Nature’s nurturing calm, churning the mind’s chaos into realms of contemplative bliss.
The Flowering of the Waters
The essence of a Yogini’s flowering unfolds through her sacred space. The Goddess power is the extraordinariness epitomizing the soul of every flower, opening us up to the flower of atmospheric space that delights in the heavenly waters from which comes the rain of bliss. The Yogini manifests the Devi or Goddess like a flowing force, as the spontaneous self-originated flower of spatial waters that arises out of receptivity, openness and repose.
The divine feminine force showers one with blessings of flowers, both within and around us. All creativity consists of flowers in the waters of space. The universe, the celestial heavens, the planets, Sun and Moon are all cosmic flowers of light, scripting their movement in space, vortexes of Shakti, the innate energy which creates flower-like patterns, mystic designs and celestial vistas. The blooms of spiritual essences manifest as sacred flowers through all the worlds. Even the clouds gather the waters of the flowers of energy in the atmosphere, raining their essence on earth.
Ma Ganga carries with it Nature’s bounty of medicinal properties melting from pure glaciers, rushing through mountain canyons and fertile plains, ultimately offering her abundance into the vast ocean expanses. The ocean itself, in its waves and tides, is an overflowing of the flora of the waters in the essence of Soma, the ‘divine nectar’. The higher self, our atman is the ultimate flowering of divinity. In its sublimity, it gives rise to the fullness of the lotuses of our subtle body. Shakti is the grace within the lotus that generates and opens the power of the Self as the cosmic prana suffusing our spiritual flowering with her life force.
The Yogini’s very existence searches out the wonders of the Goddess’s flowering flow through a seeking, desiring and nurturing of life’s bounty and beatitude. The lure of my mind’s eye ripened over years of spiritual grooming allowed me to taste the innate wisdom and sweet bliss of meditative repose. My existence through its subtle nuances of all life’s energies came vibrantly alive allowing its cascading vibration to draw me into its magnetic vortexes.
During potent sadhanas by the banks of the flowing grace of the Ganga, I would diligently lure the Goddess with flowers, mantra invocations and fire rituals to entice her into my surroundings. The deluge of incense, flowers and chants created a sea of beatitude, allowing my emotions to express themselves in torrents of fervent Bhakti, uniting with the river’s mesmeric roar.
Bhakti Yoga isn’t a mere expression of emotion. Bhakti Yoga rests upon a deep philosophy, graciousness and a dynamic movement of honoring divinity as an inner and outer aspect of spirituality. Bhakti unfolds the art of devotion, creating and sustaining the beauty of a poetic flourish through music, dance and prose. Bhakti strains gently lure the heart to a sweet surrender with the spirit of freedom, imbuing our ordinary existence with sacred intent, poise and pride. Bhakti is the flow of the waters of inspiration back to their source within the heart.
Surrendering to the flow of Ma Ganga elevated my soul into her protective confines of peace and happiness. The expression of my surrender sought itself through sacred offerings and intuitive rituals relating to universal elements. Flowers given in rituals hold a poignant meaning and power far beyond mere ceremonial flourishes. In a deeper sense, we are always offering the Goddess or Great Nature our own life’s flowering, be it the flowers of devotion or the flowerings of moha and maya (delusion and illusion). Sadhana or divine observances grant us a perceptive and profound understanding of life’s journey. Through multi-layered mystical encounters arose an inner awareness as in a deeper flowering. The waters of my inner being sustained various enfoldments, if one could but let the true essence come forth.
Sadhana by the Ganga
The Ganga’s eclectic flow yields the Yoga Shakti, reveling in the spell of her water’s intimacy. Her energies awaken the soul stirrings, guiding one to meander towards the ultimate source. Mother Ganga’s rushing currents spin the aspirant into the centre of her creation when she perceives our readiness for the higher realms of celestial ecstasy.
I have learned to share this experience of Ma Ganga in all her grandeur and grace, which is what she in fact exhorts us to do. Our beautiful Inner Tantric Yoga retreat by the waters of Ma Ganga every March brings sadhaks from all over the world to return to their spiritual home in the river’s flow. Every sadhak learns to tap their divinity through healing, rejuvenating and celebrating life in sync with Nature’s benevolence.
We move through the gentle rigors of Bhuta Shuddhi, the Vedic ritual of purifying the mind, prana and senses in the aura of the river. We honor Ganga’s celestial nature with arati, hymns in praise of the cosmic powers accompanied with the effulgence of light. Our arati plates are decorated with flowers surrounding the lamp lit with camphor and pure ghee (oil). The offering of arati serenades the divinity in both the sacred flow of the river as well as the rivers of our being, invoking the blessings of the great Divine powers.
Calming the senses creates a foundation for stilling the being from an outer restlessness and letting go of the stagnant energies of the outer world, so that we can effortlessly flow within. Stillness is the calm which rejuvenates and energizes our intrinsic holistic nature. Stillness restores, holds and enhances our life prana or force. Spiritual stillness evolved through contemplative sadhana is the calm after the storm. Only when we learn to weather the storm with grace will we appreciate the serenity of being still in quiet repose.
We steer every sadhak to become immersed in body and soul with the purity and healing force of the sacred river. Nature unveils its own graciousness when we learn to sanctify the five elements within and around us. Worshipping the elements grounds our personality allowing the Earth, Water, Fire, Air and Ether to imbue us with their cosmic energetics, but in this process water is the connective link and the transformative flow.
A full Moon night in quiet meditation by the banks of Ganga tunes the heart to resonate with the sound of the river’s rush, contemplating the Moon’s reflection in the waters, absorbing the mystic vapors while feeling the wisp of night breeze and the sand beneath one’s feet. Nature has a surreal effect on our sensitivities, once we let go of our minds, forget the world and remember our eternal Mother.
Our retreat draws out every sadhak’s higher energy through sacred rituals, Vedic fire offerings, meditation, mindful asana practice, mantra chanting and mudra initiation into the whirlpool dance of Shakti’s ecstasy. The footwork of Mother Earth’s dance leaves one touched with energy, compassion and a passionate fervor for divinity. Embracing the still waters of life is not about exhaustive competitiveness with our inner and outer worlds. It is about harnessing the grace of divinity through gentle contemplative sadhana with the universal elements.
Sacred rivers are part of our universal spiritual heritage. Civilization itself grew up on great rivers which allowed agriculture and cities to arise. The ancients worshipped their rivers, which sustained their traditions, wealth and aspirations. In honoring Mother Nature through her great rivers, we sustain our link to both the earthly and the cosmic waters, and with the plants, animals, plains, mountains, glaciers, clouds and sky that they connect us to.
We must learn to let our inner rivers, the channels, currents and nadis of the soul flow again with all their vibrancy.b Let the pure grace of Ma Ganga flow within and all that is impure or sorrowful will quickly be washed away into a current of eternal delight. Let us join together in creating a harmonious, conscious and spiritually evolved existence through awakening the higher Self, empowering the divine grace within, and embracing the Inner World of Shakti!