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Heart practice: On the Adoration of the Senses – II

The worship of oneself must be done with elements that are pleasing to the senses.
Yoginīhṛdaya, 3.8a

Let my idle chatter be the muttering of prayer, my every manual movement the execution of ritual gesture, my walking a ceremonial circumambulation, my eating and other acts the rite of sacrifice, my lying down, prostration in worship, my every pleasure enjoyed with dedication of myself, let whatever activity of mine be some form of worship of you.
Saundaryalahari, 27

In the previous post in this series I gave a brief discussion on what could be thought of as a ‘tantric’ perspective on the senses. Now I will move onto describing the “short form” of this practice, which takes the form of a short puja sequence. A longer version of this post can be found in Pathways in Modern Western Magic, edited by the late Nevill Drury and released by the Concrescent Scholars imprint, 2012.

This short sequence is based on Mike Magee’s Pentagram ritual, which can be found in The Grade Papers of the Magical Order of AMOOKOS (Prakasha Publishing, 2011). It was originally devised to supplment the practices described in the AMOOKOS “Academy of the Five senses”, but other practice regimes, for example – Cultivating the gifts of the Senses – can be used. The puja can be performed as a daily or weekly practice, as required.

The overall aim of this kind of sadhana is to cultivate our sense-capacities on a moment-to-moment basis.

If the Devi-offerings are to be made (see below) then in addition to the sense-offerings (i.e. something to taste, something to smell) then you will need a small bowl for water, incense, a perfume vial, food (sweets or fruit), a flame, and a red flower.

Begin by giving hand-claps to the eight directions, above, and below.

As I have remarked previously (see Practice notes: Wot, no circle?) my approach in puja generally is not that of making a delimitation between mundane space and sacred space, but to intensify the local prescence of the goddess.

“Honour to the guru, to the guru’s guru; to the Adiguru. Honour to all my teachers and those who have gone before.”

Acknowledging the influence of one’s teachers is both past and present is a strong theme in tantra practice. If nothing else, it’s a reminder that you are never really alone, and that your practice depends on the works of others, the influence of friends, etc.

“Salutations to Shiva-Shakti upon my forehead”
(bringing hands together, touch forehead with index fingers)
“Salutations to Shiva-Shakti upon my crown”
(bringing hands together, place on top of head)
“Salutations to Shiva-Shakti in my three eyes”
((bringing hands together, touch space between eyes)
Salutations to Shiva-Shakti upon my armour”
(touch shoulders with hands)
Salutations to Shiva-Shakti within my heart”
(bringing hands together, place upon breast)

Nyasa is a Sanskrit term often translated as “imposition” or “placing” (see Nyasa bodies for some brief notes).

In Classical Indian thought the heart is the seat of consciousness and the “space” where we may experience the divine (see the goddess dwelling in the heart). “Armour” (Sanskrit – kavacha) is the shoulders.

Adoration of the Arrow-goddesses

“I close my eyes and, picking up a freshly-cut flower, inhale its perfume. As I breathe in the scent, I feel close to me the arrow goddess of the delight of smell.”

“I reach out and take a grape into my mouth. As its juice floods my mouth I let form before me the shape of the arrow-goddess of the delight of taste.”

“I press the tips of my fingers together. I direct my attention to how my clothes hang on my body, the feel of the ground beneath me. As I feel these sensations I let the shape form of the arrow-goddess of the delight of touch before me.”

“I listen to the sounds around me, to the soft breath of those others in this room, to the ticking of a clock, the low hum of electricity, the rumble of traffic outside, the distant bark of a dog. Out of these sounds there forms the arrow-goddess of the delight of hearing.”

“I look about me, settling my gaze on as many places as possible, objects, their shadows, the glinting of lights, textures, surfaces, folds. As my eyes dart about I glimpse the fleeting form of the arrow-goddess of the delight of seeing.”

(These five meditations are for illustrative purposes only.)

The senses are each adored in turn as goddesses (shaktis). They emerge out of the experience of each sensory modality. We might think of them each as not so much as the Shakti of taste, for example, but the Shakti who is taste. They are called “Arrow-Shaktis” as they are the personifications of the five sensory arrows shot from the bow of the mind (see the Sugarcane Bow). All sensations and pleasures are emanations of the goddess, and in cultivating this awareness, we become sensitised to the world we move through, and, as time passes, may move closer to the sustained awareness of the wonder of the pulsating consciousness that is all-pervasive.

Lalita Tripurasundari – the Arrow-goddess
Seated with the five Sense-Shaktis before me, they shimmer and merge in and out of each other, becoming a single figure – their unity.

“Salutions to the Arrow goddess of the five, clothed in space, of a hue as red as a dawn, drenched in the nectar of ecstasy, holding in her two hands, five arrows and five flowers. She smiles gently, radiating satisfaction and contentment.”

Offerings to the arrow-goddess
* “Om, this is water, this is for sipping”
* “Om, this is incense, this is for prayer”
* “Om, this is perfume, this is for enjoyment”
* “Om, this is food, this is for sustenance”
* “Om this is flower, this is for experience”
* “Om this is fire, this is for sacrifice”

I contemplate Devi in this form, then breathe her into my heart and meditate upon her presence there.
(breathing in, draw the visualised form of the goddess into your heart-space and meditate upon her dwelling there, receiving all experiential offerings).

Lalita Tripurasundari is here adored as the source of all sense-experience; all sense-experiences, from the most fleeting to the most overwhelming – are gifts from Her and offerings made back to her. She delights in all experience and to experience wonder is to be co-present with her. The ways in which our senses overlap; cross-talk and play with each other is a manifestion of her divine activity – her lila.

Three handclaps to close.

A note on visualisation
I have deliberately left the visualisations of the sense-goddess vague.

A traditional dhyana for Lalita Tripurasundari (from the Vamakeshvara Tantra, translated by Mike Magee) can be read here. In the original Pentagram rite, on which this puja is based, the sense-shaktis were described in typical (idealised) fashion, as young, beatiful women, naked but for ornaments and jewelry: Smell (garlanded with white flowers, adorned with armlets, anklets & necklaces of silver); Taste (adorned with ornaments of glowing sapphire); Touch (garlanded with green flowers and adorned with emeralds); Sound (wearing golden ornaments and stroking a stringed instrument); Sight (smeared with red paste, body “shimmering as though covered in rainbows”).

How you visualise the sense-goddesses is up to you. Many years ago, when my guru, Sri Vishvanath was introducing me to another practice – which involved visualising naked female shaktis, I asked him if I could visualise them as “male”. Admittedly, I was half-expacting some degree of tradition-based objection; but he retorted with words to the effect that, so long as I did the practice, it didn’t matter how I visualised them. They needn’t be thought of as necessarily young and beautiful either. Some friends of mine, with whom I have practiced this puja produced a lovely version featuring the sense-goddess in both variously aged and transgendered forms, which was performed at Queer Pagan Camp a few years ago. For some further discussion of gender & the visualisation of tantric deities, see Ardhanarishvara and other conundrums of gender.

W. Norman Brown The Saundaryalahari or Flood of Beauty (Harvard University Press, 1958)
Nevill Drury (ed) Pathways in Modern Western Magic (Concrescent, 2012)
Mike Magee, The Grade Papers of the Magical Order of AMOOKOS (Prakasha Publishing, 2011)
André Padoux with Roger-Orpheé Jeanty, The Heart of the Yogini (Oxford University Press, 2013)