Many religious groups are based in “follow the leader” methodologies. While this can be good under some circumstances, eventually this becomes an obstacle to spiritual evolution. When many “followers” find themselves faced with this obstacle at the same time, the group itself stagnates. When there is stagnation, rot sets in and enthusiasm is lost. When enthusiasm is lost, people lose interest in the group.
I have personally been struggling with this issue, but it was only yesterday that I found enough clarity about it to dare to sit here and write. I suppose what I will say is obvious and I am sure that someone out there has not only said it, but groups practice it because nothing new exists under the sun. Be that as it may, I want to share with you what I realized.
I always have difficulty on spiritual holidays like Janmastami because these days cause feelings to arise within me that I successfully suppress the rest of the year. I then find myself writing some scathing critique about all the wrongs I have seen while convincing myself that I can definitely do better than that! Well, that may or may not be true, but this thought keeps me from suffering too much.
Yesterday was Janmastami in these here parts and early evening I sat before my deities to sing to them while playing my mrdnga. Due to age, finger and voice problems, my performance was not good and while I lamented this to my deities, begging their tolerance of my attempt, I understood something significant. Just previous to entering my temple room, I was writing in the hidden forum on harimedia.net where a few of us are discussing the major issues and obstacles we have to overcome to make this Divine Harmony thing work. Because I had written in the mood of my Janmastami induced frustration, I said some harsh things related to how I was disappointed by the lack of potency in the elaborate sacrificial ceremonies within temples. My thoughts included how the chanting of mantras was limited and the usage of tantra lacked potency.
While I was chanting for my deities with the full intention to really crack open the energetic pathway to deep spiritual exchange, I realized that I cannot sing and play the mrdnga and focus my attention on the energetic connection I value most. I did not have the capacity to do these three things at the same time! Oh my! I suddenly realized I unfairly criticized the chanters and priests and the deities confirmed this and wanted me to update my text in the forum. I did this but I surprised myself when I came up with a new way of looking at the deficiency in the ceremony. I then understood that the deities wanted me to feel the problem first hand so I could better understand how to upgrade the experience! Now that is cool! My deities are the greatest!
We live in a different time than when the yajnas (sacrificial ceremonies) were performed for Kings or when Puja was the best method to experience Divinity in its/his/her various forms and personality. We cannot simply depend on a community of brahmans to chant so powerfully that we are swept away into a spiritual energy that reigns prosperity upon all. We do not have such brahmans and I doubt we will ever revive them. I may be wrong about them being gone forever, but we live in the present and not a rosy future, so right now we can say with confidence that we have no access to such potency.
Does this mean there is no hope and we should give up this ideal? I don’t think so because I think (hope) I have the solution (or at least one solution, I am open to more…)
If we set up an “arena” within a spiritual space like our temple and fill it with all variety of relevant sacred objects and atmosphere, invite truly qualified chanters to create the best cadence they can using recognized mantra, end engage skilled priests to perform the ceremony, we have done a lot. Yet, I have experienced that despite all of this we still lack the real potency we desire.
Although we are in a different time and space, we have an asset we can use to compensate for what we lack. Instead of our audience being passive, they should be active. The audience should place themselves energetically within the energy being activated by the sounds and ceremony within this sacred space. The members of the audience should, by their own meditative power, create a connection between this energy, themselves and the deity. By first creating a connection of Us-ness between themselves and the deity (as they do when concentrating on the deity alone) they accept within their divine embrace the energy of the mantra and tantra and in a moment of sublime divine alchemy focus on spiritual transformation and benefitting the group. Their meditation can include the visualization of an opening lotus flower exploding seeds of change and evolutionary prosperity.
I call this alchemy because the union of the individual and deity in Us-ness together embracing the intention of the yajna is the catalyst to expand our experience powerfully.