This is part III of tantra series. Once the initiation is over, the sadhaka has to go on reciting the mantra uniting his mind with the form of the deity. Based upon the progress made by the sadhaka (disciple), the Guru may decide to give ‘diksha’ to the disciple. Diksha can be called as the second initiation. There are four stages to attain siddhi in a mantra. The first stage is the initiation of mantra by the guru. The second stage is the diksha. The third stage is ‘purascharana’. Purascharana ritual is the combination of fire ritual followed by tarpana (making the water, milk, sandal and other prescribed ingredients to drip through the palm), marjana (bathing or sprinkling of water over the self with the mula mantra) and feeding. The details of purascharana ritual will be discussed subsequently. The fourth and final stage is called sadhana (the practice) to establish a firm commune with the deity.

Diksha is the second stage and is to be performed by Guru. The diksha ritual is like adding a second engine to a train. It is said that without diksha ritual the sadhaka will not be able to achieve the purpose of the mantra. This is a process by which the sins of sadhaka are warded off. A mandapa will be erected to carry out this ritual. Construction of mandapa was discussed in ‘tantric initiation’. First the entry point to the mandapa will be sprinkled with purified water (purification means purification with varuna mantra and mula mantra). Then the door to the mandapa and its corners are worshiped. There is a specific mantra called ‘astra mantra’ for this purpose. Then the corners of door frames are worshiped. On entering the mandapa, the sadhaka strikes the ground with his left heel to ward off the evil effects if any, in that place. It is said that certain gods and demons do not allow the sadhaka to complete the ritual by causing obstacles. By reciting a mantra and striking the earth three times with the left heel drives the evil forces out of the mandapa. Then the rituals commence.

The entire mandapa is sprinkled with water to purify the place (punyagavachana). Then yellow mustard seeds are thrown all over the place, again to drive away the evil forces. Driving away the evil forces is considered very important in all types of rituals whether tantric or vedic, as the evil forces somehow or other try to cause some obstacles even without our knowledge. A small mistake in the ritual will not make the mantra fructify. On entering the mandapa, first the guru is worshipped. Then lord Ganesha is invoked to ward off any foreseen and unforeseen obstructions. Then, Vastu Purusha , dik devatas (devatas of directions), the planets are worshiped. A platform is erected to perform the fire ritual and this platform is also purified and fire altars erected. Lamps are lit with ghee (clarified butter) in the platform. A big kalasa (pradana or main kalasa) is established with water inside, mixed with sweet smelling ingredients like sandal, rose water, cardamom, etc wherein the presiding deity will be invoked. The sadhaka then proceeds with the rituals associated with the mantra. First he meditates on the atma bija given to him by the guru to merge his individual atman with that of the deity of the mantra. Various nyasas are then performed to establish a firm connection between himself and the deity of the mantra. Nyassa is a procedure of energizing various parts of the body with the mantra.

The fire ritual begins and oblations are offered with ghee mixed with certain other ingredients prescribed for each deity. The fire logs also differ from deity to deity. Apart from ghee oblations, other oblations like boiled rice, etc are also offered to the fire, who is the carrier of each oblation to the deity concerned. The benefits accruing out of such oblations are then transferred to the pradana kalasa, wherein the deity is already invoked by various mantras. Once the benefits of the oblations are transferred to the kalasa, it is worshipped chanting mula mantra with flowers and mudras. Mudras are manipulating the fingers of the hands to form certain shapes that please the concerned deity. Each deity will have ‘avarana devatas’ or protecting gods and goddesses. The sadhaka has to worship each of these devatas and take their permission to proceed to the main deity. Once the puja to the kalasa is over, food is offered to the deity accompanied by fruits, betel leaves, water, etc. When a ritual is done sincerely, there are instances, where the food items offered by the sadhaka are consumed by the devata. Finally, the kalasa water is poured on the sadhaka by the guru accompanied by mantras (particularly from sama veda), musical instruments, drums, sound of conch, etc and this is called mantra bath. The mantra bath signifies that the devata of the mantra has entered the body of the sadhaka. From this point, the sadhaka has to proceed further with extreme caution by not committing sins by chanting more mantra japa till he established link with the deity. Once a firm link is established, purascharana is performed and the sadhaka establishes commune with the deity. (to be concluded)

Further Readings:

Introduction to Tantra Sastra

The Tantric Fire

Tantra and Five Elements

Tantra and Creation