Practitioners are often curious about the place of Hindu gods and goddesses in yoga, especially tantra yoga. The concept of gods and goddesses in yoga can be understood only if we understand tantric metaphysics. According to tantra there is only one reality, known as chit, pure consciousness. It is all-pervading, eternal, and endowed with all powers and potentials—both those we can imagine and those that are outside the scope of our imagination. The relationship between consciousness and its intrinsic power is like the relationship between the sun and its light, or fire and its heat. Although sun and sunlight are one and the same, these two terms are used for the sake of reference. Similarly, in tantra, consciousness is referred to as Shiva and the power of consciousness as Shakti.

The Hindu religion treats Shiva and Shakti as god and goddess, but in the yoga tradition the concept of Shiva and Shakti (along with terms referring to other gods and goddesses) has an entirely different meaning. In Hindu religious literature Shiva is believed to reside in Banaras or on Mount Kailash, Krishna was born and lived in Mathura, and many other gods live in the celestial realm. But according to the yoga tradition, gods or goddesses are not individual celestial entities; rather, they are manifestations of consciousness. In this, they are like all other forms of matter and energy that constitute the universe, including humans. Gods and goddesses are superior forms of the manifestation of consciousness only because the divine powers of consciousness—such as omniscience, omnipresence, and omnipotence—are less veiled in them than they are in us.

Mantra shakti is the imperceptible, eternal pulsation of consciousness.

We humans are born, and one day we die; the gods and goddesses, however, are not born and therefore they do not die. They come into existence from a non-material, immortal source, which yogis call mantra shakti or spanda shakti, the divine word or the divine vibration. Mantra shakti is the imperceptible, eternal pulsation of consciousness which materializes in the form of gods and goddesses. In a sense, therefore, gods and goddesses are the children of mantra shakti—mantra shakti is the mother, and the seers to whom the mantras are revealed are the fathers. Through its own revelation mantra shakti transforms the sages and blesses them with divine vision; thus they become “seers.”

As mantra shakti dawns in their hearts, the seers become mantra shakti: the veil of duality between the seers and the knowledge revealed to them is lifted, and the seer and the seen become one. The relationship between the seer and the mantra is identical to the relationship between sun and sunlight. According to the bhava (the inner feeling) and samskara (the subtle tendencies of the personality) of the seer, mantra shakti materializes itself by emerging from the sage’s field of intuition, descending into the mind-field, and taking a personified form—literally appearing in front of the sage. Thus a god or goddess is born. This is why the gods and goddesses are called the children of the sages in Indian spiritual literature.

The relationship between the seer and the mantra is identical to the relationship between sun and sunlight.

For those of us with religious backgrounds, this is hard to comprehend; it is almost inconceivable to us that a god or a group of gods could be the offspring of the sages. Religion teaches us that a god or goddess is a being beyond our reach, that a person may become a saint by praying to the deity, and in rare cases may even be blessed with a vision of the deity. But according to the yoga tradition, having a vision of a god or goddess is not as important and spiritually illuminating as receiving and retaining mantra shakti and rejoicing in it.

Source: Inner Quest by Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

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