Arundhathi Subramaniam experiences the alchemy of consecration through the Linga Bhairavi, a fierce and compassionate goddess birthed by her spiritual guide, Sadhguru.
This article was first published in Life Positive magazine, February 2015, p. 70-74.
Arundhathi: Why are we drawn inexplicably to some spaces? Why do we feel that pang of regret, that lingering sense of loss, when we leave them? Why is there that sudden upsurge of joy at the prospect of revisiting them?
It was only after I met my spiritual guide some 10 years ago that I began to fathom the meaning of the term many of us used so liberally in our adolescence: ‘vibe’. I realized that it is, in fact, a way (somewhat slangy perhaps, yet not inauthentic) of referring to something perceptible, tangible, deeply experiential.
But I began to understand it in the light of a far richer, more profound concept, which had previously been blurry and confused in my lexicon. For the first time, after the advent of Sadhguru in my life, I began to understand the meaning of the word ‘consecration’. Until then, I’d believed consecration was about rituals adopted by different faiths to drape the mantle of sanctity on our otherwise drearily humdrum lives. I could see the poetic beauty of some rituals. But much of what I was familiar with seemed to entail coconuts and watering eyes, and little else.
Besides, I identified entirely with the 7th century Tamil poet Appar who asked: ‘Why rise at dawn and bathe?/ Why practice each rite according to the rules?/ Why perform sacrifices at great altars of fire?/ All this is in vain if you do not say,/ ‘He is my friend.’ Or Basavanna, the 12th century Kannada mystic, who memorably proclaimed that if the rich could make temples for Shiva, the poor could turn their own bodies into temples! I was impatient with ritual which seemed like a mechanical process of external purification. Surely, human interiority is what really counted?
But then into my life walked this spiritual master and adept, Sadhguru, who, in the course of a conversation, once said quite matter-of-factly of his extraordinary yogic capabilities: ‘If there’s one thing I’m really good at, it’s making a place crackle with energy.’
So what’s the big deal, one might ask? What’s a crackle? What does it achieve?
The answer, I’ve begun to realize, is, a lot. One hell of a lot. That crackle can be the difference between a life of misery and joy, a life of mechanical habit and magical possibility, a life of enslavement and exhilarating freedom. A positively energized space is a context that promotes wellbeing, happiness, and freedom. Figuratively, it offers fertile soil for a seed to sprout. In its absence, the seed might well remain just that – an unrealized possibility. In other words, a consecrated space is a catalyst for human growth; it allows you to ‘fast forward’ from a life of repetitive recycling of old patterns to a life of ever-widening choices and expanding horizons, from myopia to clarity. “When you live in a place saturated with grace,” Sadhguru once said, “your evolution need not stick to the Darwinian scale. You can simply leapfrog ahead to your ultimate liberation.”
And I gradually began to realize that consecration was a science, rather than a feel-good ceremony conducted by a tribe of mercenary middlemen. Sadhguru puts it simply: “Consecration is the science of transforming a grosser element into a finer one. Everywhere around us, one form of existence is constantly mutating into another. When mud turns into food, we call it agriculture. When food turns into body, we call it digestion. When body turns into mud, we call it cremation – or burial. Similarly, when a material substance turns into the highest and subtlest possible reverberation, we call it consecration. There is a whole sophisticated system of Indian alchemy, capable of transforming even a stone into the Divine.”
Can a stone be really converted into an idol? Evidently, it can. It involves a certain technical savoir-faire, a deep understanding of energy, certainly, but Sadhguru refuses to present it as some form of sorcery. It is just a technology, he’d say dismissively to curious questions about what often seem like feats of wizardry.
The small band of disciples who watched him consecrate the Dhyanalinga in 1999 were in no doubt that they were in the presence of a master of that technology. A yogic feat of tremendous sophistication, it was a project attempted in vain by several yogis down the centuries. A subtle body with all seven chakras operating at their optimal capacity, the Dhyanalinga is capable of sowing the seed of spiritual liberation in anyone who enters its precincts. For practitioners of all persuasions, Dhyanalinga represents the ultimate spiritual master, ever-compassionate, ever-available and imperishable. But Sadhguru often terms it with characteristic understatement as a ‘tool’ – a tremendous instrument of spiritual transformation. It took him three lifetimes to succeed in his mission of consecrating this form. But that is another story, a strange and hair-raising chronicle, recorded at length in his biography.
More recently, a much wider band of yoga practitioners watched Sadhguru consecrate another form: the Linga Bhairavi, a fierce and compassionate female energy. It was a three-day process that thousands watched with awe and incredulity in January 2010: the birth of a goddess.
Ten years ago, I’d have brushed aside this notion as so much fluff. A goddess? Aren’t those the stuff of mythology and calendar art? Of course, they’re rich archetypal figures, who bring meaning and beauty to our lives, but that’s metaphor, for God’s sake! And yet, getting to know Sadhguru has been about realizing that he uses words with care. And certainly I have in the presence of the Dhyanalinga experienced a palpable serenity and meditativeness – enough to know that this is an incredibly high- voltage space. I was willing to accept that consecrating the Dhyanalinga entailed a kind of science, even if the language of chakras and subtle bodies was alien to me. Still, what was this about goddesses?
But all that was before I sat before the Linga Bhairavi in her shrine in Coimbatore.
Once I had spent half an hour in there, I realized that there was something here I couldn’t ignore. A vibe, a crackle, a presence, a goddess – call it what you will. But there was something irrefutable. What’s more, I didn’t want to leave. Fierce, intense, alive, and protective, it felt like I was in some primal place of origin – a womb, a sanctuary, comforting and energizing, nurturing and vitalizing all at once.
What was going on?
Sadhguru is no stranger to the questions that arise in the logically-oriented mind. “Many years ago, when I first said, ‘Let’s build a temple,’ people around me were incredulous. They said, ‘A temple? Because of you we stopped going to temples! And now you want to build one?’ They couldn’t believe a die-hard skeptic like me could propose this.”
He has always been the uncompromising proponent of yoga, the path of robust, committed practice, commonsensical, steadfastly non-magical, shorn of all mystique. So, where did temples fit into this scheme of things? “Yes, for many years, we eliminated all ritual at Isha because we are high-tech!” he acknowledges with a laugh. “But getting the whole world to practice meditation right now is just not possible. Maybe it will be in the future, but right now the way most people are in terms of their bodies and minds, it is not possible to expect them to commit to a path of sadhana. It won’t happen. Ritual is more mass-oriented. It represents a larger possibility in terms of reaching humanity – a little low-tech compared to meditation, but anyone can experience it. That’s the advantage.”
The point of any spiritual practice on the planet, he says, is essentially to refine one’s energies. “A very intense and refined form of the same energy is what you are referring to as a goddess. Every woman and man has the same energy, but not at such high levels of intensity and refinement. Right now, if we bow down to Bhairavi, it is because she is not only highly intense and subtle, but manages to stay that way.”
He has often said that the Indian temple was not intended as a place of prayer. “It may be turning into a place of petition now. But traditionally, this was a culture that told you to simply sit and imbibe the energy of a temple for a while. If there was a strong energy field, you absorbed it, then stepped out and went about your business. This ensured that you passed through the world and all its transactions smoothly, without getting trapped, and eventually enabled you to transcend them altogether.”
The science of consecrating temples, he explains, is an ancient one. “The temple was an energy center, a public charging place. There was a time when every street in southern India had as many as five temples. These were never in competition with each other because the underlying premise was that no human being deserved to live in a space that wasn’t consecrated.”
The ancient temple was, therefore, a live zone that served as a powerful field of transformation. “Many human beings gave their lives to build these temples because these were seen in ancient times as tremendous possibilities, empowering human beings to blossom to their fullest potential,” he says, elucidating that the methods of consecration ranged from ritualistic processes, which involved the use of mantras, to energy processes. Depending on the mode of consecration adopted, temples either required maintenance or none at all.
Due to a lack of understanding of this sophisticated science, he points out, a large number of temples have died out entirely. This is simply because subsequent generations have forgotten how to maintain these energy forms. “As the Bhakti movement swept through the country in medieval times, emotion became the focus of the human relationship with the Divine. More recently, we have reaped the benefits of modern science, but have forgotten the subjective aspects of an older science capable of bringing profound inner wellbeing, balance and fulfillment to our lives.”
The Linga Bhairavi, then, in no-nonsense yogic terms (and for those who don’t lean towards anthropomorphic notions of the Divine), is a mercury linga with three and a half chakras in full operation. On this unsentimental level, then, the linga is a device, an instrument that addresses health, material, emotional and spiritual wellbeing.
“She has only three and a half chakras – the muladhara, swadhishthana and manipura and one half of the anahata,” says Sadhguru. “She is made this way intentionally, and this makes her enormously compassionate and tremendously powerful. Because Linga Bhairavi has been consecrated through a direct energy process, not through mantras, she will remain alive, literally forever. If certain basic maintenance practices are maintained, centuries later she will be as vibrant as if she was consecrated just yesterday.”
For the devotionally inclined, then, this is a fiery and compassionate manifestation of the Divine Feminine. And she gives – unstintingly, plentifully, bountifully. No desire is too trivial for Linga Bhairavi: you can ask her for anything you wish. She is the primal mother. She takes you by the hand and accompanies you step by step from you smallest material and psychological desires to your larger, more universal ones.
The tales of those who have sat with her returned, teary-eyed and grateful, are legion. Incredible as it may sound, she’s a boon-granting goddess. Sadhguru habitually downplays the remarkable transformations wrought by the shrine, clearly reluctant to turn this into an advertisement for miracles. And yet, he is aware that without a measure of material wellbeing no one would seek the ultimate spiritual goal of liberation. And so, Bhairavi addresses both worldly and spiritual goals, reminding us that the journey from materiality to mukti can be organic and non-disruptive.
Sadhguru summed her up in a poem:
Seek her in Devotion
She is an ocean of Compassion
Seek her in Desperation
She is a steadfast Companion
Seek her in true Passion
You will be loved to Distraction
Just seek her in your Confusion
She will lead you to Fruition
But how does one access this presence? Are the fruits of consecration geographically circumscribed? Does it mean a pilgrimage to Coimbatore? What of those who live elsewhere?
To address this concern, Sadhguru began to create Linga Bhairavi yantras. These are smaller forms, specially consecrated for households, by Sadhguru himself. Several who have received these personally consecrated yantras from him and installed them in their homes have testified to the difference. The home is suddenly different – more luminous, more harmonious, more abundant, more auspicious in every possible way. Having visited and lived in some of these homes, I am amazed at the transformation. The place suddenly seems lit up from within, throbbing with a new aliveness. I begin to see what it might mean to live in a home that is also a shrine.
The stories that have poured in are moving. From dramatic improvements in material circumstances to sudden upsurges of health and vitality, from the restoration of harmony in strained familial relationships to seemingly miraculous incidents in which accidents have been averted, crises resolved, conflicts laid to rest. “One who earns the grace of Bhairavi neither has to live in concern or fear of life or death, of poverty or failure,” says Sadhguru. “All that a human being considers as wellbeing will be his, if only he earns the grace of Bhairavi. It is out of such grace that a devotee lives unconcerned about his own wellbeing.”
And for those who find the imagery of gods and goddesses too sectarian, the yantra can simply be seen as a living machine. While yantras are embedded in a physical foundation, they are essentially pure energy forms. This means that they have no inertia. Thus, after setting up a personal goal, an individual might dissipate his energies elsewhere or lapse into forgetfulness or lassitude, but the yantra keeps working towards the fulfillment of the goal. If machines are designed to enhance our lives by making many functions easier, yantras are no different. Their energy acts as a lubricant, enabling one to undertake activities with minimum friction, and achieve goals with astounding ease. Above all, they are uniquely personalized to suit the needs of each individual.
“If everyone’s home, office and street reverberated with the intense and refined energy of these consecrated spaces, the results would be tremendous,” says Sadhguru. “It is my dream that this possibility is opened up to the world, so every human being is offered the opportunity to live in a consecrated environment.”
Ancient India, as he often reminds us, recognized this need. “Little towns in the southern part of India were always built around grand temples. This was based on the realization that nobody should live outside the diameter of the temple’s radiation. It was based on the understanding that whether your house is small or large would not make an ultimate difference to your life, but if you were in a consecrated space or not would make a phenomenal difference to you. Whether you go to the temple or not, whether you chant mantras or not, you must be in the womb of the Devi every moment or your life.”
And that to me is the most precise and eloquent summation of what the Linga Bhairavi yantra represents: the opportunity to be in the living womb of the Divine Mother every moment of one’s existence.
More personally, my encounter with this goddess energy has meant a growing sense of wonder at the fact that the Divine can be direct, personal, unafraid of intimacy, deeply involved with the particular, and not unconcerned about detail. It has been a moving discovery and my sense of wonder only increases by the day.
Bhairavi affirms for me the fact that the spiritual journey is not about amputating the sensuous or the particular, but about deepening one’s engagement with life and allowing it to lead us, seamlessly, gently, effortlessly, towards more profound places of nourishment. The material world, Devi reminds us, is not in opposition with the metaphysical; the body is not antagonistic to the beyond; the carnal is not at war with the cosmic. The human and the divine, she seems to tell us time and again, can be friends.
Editor’s Note: Linga Bhairavi is a feminine deity at the Isha Yoga Center consecrated by Sadhguru. One can take Devi’s grace home through the Linga Bhairavi Yantra, which is offered during the Yantra ceremony, a powerful process in the presence of Sadhguru. The next Yantra Ceremony is on 2nd August 2016. Find more info at LingaBhairavi.org or call +91-94890 45131/32/33/35/36