Goddess Worship in Tantra
by Layla Martin
The Goddess is felt in Tantra both as an intrinsic piece of who we are, as well as an external transcendent being and a personification of universal forces. In worshipping the Goddess, devotees come under her care along their spiritual path. She looks out for their well-being and transformation process.
In Tantra, one system for approaching the Goddess is the pantheon of the Mahavidyas : The Ten Great Wisdom Goddesses of Tantra. They are meant to encompass all aspects of the great mother, and each is considered a path to enlightenment.
These Goddesses are: Kali, Tara, Tripura-Sundari, Bhuvaneshvari, Bhairavi, Chhinnamasta, Dhumavati, Bagalamukhi, Matangi and Kamalatmika. They range in behavior and appearance from young beauty queens, to terrifying black fanged goddesses who inhabit graveyards to gentle mothers who adore luxury and comfort. Each represents a piece of the great power of the universe, and each has her own special gifts and wisdom to convey to the devotee. Tantra accepts that the power of the universe, or Shakti, is multifaceted, and that each piece of her can be worshipped.
Taoist Goddesses that we worked with were GuanYin (also KwanYin and QuanYin) - the Buddhist Bodhisattva associated with compassion. Tara appears in both Taoist and Tantric traditions, in the Tao tradition she is a Bodhisattva, considered the “Mother of Liberation”.
Main methods for worshiping the goddesses include: use of mantras or songs for the goddess, ritual worship (including pujas: the offering of the five elements to the goddess), meditations on the goddess with or without special mantras, the use of Yantras (geometrical representations of the goddesses), spiritual practices including Qigong and Yoga which activate an awareness of the goddesses and transfiguration, among other things.
Sound is the key to many Tantric practices and to purification of the body and psyche. Purification is considered essential on the spiritual path as many spiritual practices activate latent energy resources in the body. In an impure system, this would be like pouring water into a dirty river, only more dirty water is produced. In a pure system, it is adding water to a fresh stream, getting crystal clear water as an energy resource. Sound can be used in the form of Mantras to resonate at the same frequency as celestial powers such as the great goddesses. It can also be used to cleanse.
One strong practice for this for women is to sound what they are feeling from the ovaries, womb, vagina, etc...This works best when using freedom of sound: not making the “right sounds” or the socially acceptable sounds, but really tuning into the sound already existing in the body and allowing it to release.
Mantras for the goddesses are now public and can be found in the book “Tantric Yoga and the Wisdom Goddesses” by David Frawley. It is recommended in ancient texts to do a mantra a minimum of100,000 times in order to come into the true power. Initiation from a guru is also a strong way to receive mantra transmission. Goddess worship is also a living experience, so find the ways which most deeply connect you to the feminine essence within you.
Layla offered teachings as part of the Tao Tantric Arts TTC in Spring 2013. She has been practicing and teaching Tantra for many years and has a special gift to offer the world. She has created a unique online course for women, sharing many of the techniques of the Tao Tantric Arts.
You can learn more with Layla on her website.