The Execution of Sacrifice
My introduction yesterday to Tarapith was intense to say the least and as a result, when I came back after my day and tried to put myself to bed, it was just no use… there was no sleeping for me given the wedding reception and festivities that were taking place at the hotel (if you have never experienced an India Wedding – it is a must!) but more disturbing were the swelling undercurrents lapping my consciousness, spraying anxious mist all around my subtle system.
I was filled with a deep sense of powerful magic in the atmosphere of this place and I wasn’t sure it was all positive…I was scared. I felt small, unready and ill-equipped to receive such powers should Ma bestow on me the requests I had ignorantly, arrogantly and out of pure egotistical naïve curiosity made in the past. I knew now that I knew nothing – so now I just waited and prayed that I would be forgotten, unseen and ignored by the forces that I had previously sought or protected by those that knew I was nothing but a fool.
As this knowledge dawned and I was left with the stark reality that if I didn’t want power, or magic or now even my own desires, which seemed stacked with short sightedness – then what did I want? And it was with this question firmly and squarely in mind that exhaustion finally claimed my body and consciousness at 2am.
I woke at 5am to my alarm and began my Sadhana with the aim of going to morning puja at the temple but I fell asleep and re-awoke at 7.30am to really begin my day.
That mild feeling of fear, anxiety and uncertainty was still lingering and I was contemplating the wisdom in just skipping the magical maya of the temple today to stay at the hotel – read a book and keep it simple until I was due to leave that afternoon. A part of me just wanted to stay cocooned in my ignorance, however I got an email asking that I give pranams to Ma from a most loved teacher and so I had to go!
I got myself ready with a prayer to receive and be – nothing … to be empty and witness only. I didn’t want anything other than to love this fearsome mother of mine and be loved in return. I plucked a wide open, beautiful, bountiful and generous flower (which was in stark contrast to how I was feeling but was hoping to invoke within me) which I have had a dream about in the past, and in the centre of this bloom placed a ring that has seen me through many chapters. I had intended to place a drop of my blood at the middle of the flower also but due to dehydration, my blood just wouldn’t flow. It felt like my body refused to surrender its life force for my intentions.
As I make my way to the temple, I notice a shift. The sun is out, the mood all about it just lighter and softer. I feel more like me again and comfortable within time and space.
I get to the temple and things move quickly – they flow. I see the puja line but the gates are now closed. I ask a pandit how I can offer puja to Ma and when the next session is but he walks me and my offering to the front of the line and there I got the full force of her darshan. There is chaos, crowds, clamouring and cursing as I chant her mantras and offer my love and the pranams of my teacher, while all efforts are made at diversion and distraction from those surrounding her to keep things moving…and so I am finally squeezed out the side door into daylight and peaceful echos waft across my being of that past glorious moment. It slowly settles into the cells like sun kissing my skin – and I know that I am loved.
I wonder where to go next – job done so to speak – when I see a rush of about 50 people moving to that strange area I saw yesterday with the variation of Shiva’s trishul but with only two forks… I follow. Shiva’s Trishul represents Creation, Preservation and Destruction and so I wonder about this motif/device having only two forks and its significance or purpose and instantly – I get the picture!
It was in the form of a Goat and this device was a Guillotine! This Goat was beautiful – a glossy dark coat covered a fully grown, healthy, vital male in his prime – really a sight of beauty and he looked happy enough at first. He was bathed, fed, offered flowers/oblations and being sung mantras to but in an instant his instincts knew but as he tried to run he was now overpowered by that steely focused dominant humanity, and it sensed its demise.
This beautiful Alpha goat was picked up having his legs manually bound, screaming futile resistance – the sounds of a terrified animal using its voice as the only means to fight for its life, given its body was inhibited, is something I will never forget. Oddly by now there were 4 small black kids (very young goats) now in the same area – bleating in confusion and fear at what was happening. It seemed absolutely deconstructing to my mind – a form of terrorism for these kids, this goat and my human sensibilities to witness what was unfolding before me. The goat was lifted up over the folks with his head one side and his body the other, as it continued to scream bloody ‘MURDER’, the man from behind pulled its legs/body which stretched its neck forcing the sounds of resistance to become thin and strained. Its mouth was now closed shut in pain and finally, this beautiful purpose built hand crafted sword was swiftly and deftly descended through the body and the life of this offering.
Anyone who knows me well, knows that I am quite tender and can’t stomach the suffering of other (particularly those ‘underdogs’), yet there I stood – frozen, silent and watching – not just the play of this sacrifice before my eyes but more interestingly, the expressions of my mind and body in connection to this experience. I felt this goat – I felt it’s fear, the damage to it stretched vocal chords, the pranic release from its body and I was completely stilled by the experience. The next thing I know, I am running after the pandit who has collected this goats blood so that he too can place it at my eyebrow centre…I become marked with this sacrifice and receive fully the life and death of experience. Blood is now on MY head!
I don’t know if this was shock or acute observation, but I found myself sitting – starring – at this disembodied goat now lying lifeless. I watched the last of its life leave through the eyes via rainbows and shades cast across its cornea which once absorbed life’s pictures, it was now only replaying its final screening.
The extinguishing of the Goats life brought me to such stillness that I was able to watch a flood of thoughts move through deep ravines of my mind – on the currents of questioning;
I wondered at the purpose of all this? Does my beloved Ma really want this sort of activity offered in her name / in this way? What is the symbolism of blood and why a goat? Why were those kids made to witness this? If we are all dead anyway (according to the aghoris), should our sensibilities and conditioning just be gotten over and death/sacrifice should be celebrated? What is life & What is death? Who has the right to take life – we certainly can’t give it or save it often times? If we can take an animals life, what is the difference were we to take a human life – do they not both suffer, desire to life and have a right to live…why can we as humans decide? Why are we so immune to the suffering of others? If God is in all beings, why did we just kill God for God? What would I like to offer Ma if not this? What do I really want from her? Who is she? There is a myth that she also gave life to Shiva though her breast milk when he was dying from poison as an infant – so is there not the gentle, loving aspect of her nature which I can focus on and worship instead of the terrible?This path of tantra – the left or right and which side am I placed? There is a deep cruelty to my nature along with a delicacy – what is that?
The symbolism of Tara standing on unconscious Shiva (Kali stands on him when he is dead) got me thinking about her followers. Is her job to energise (Shakti) what is unconscious? Is she attractive to those that are unconscious and deep in their dark, pashu (animal) instincts and nature? Or can the worship of Ma be done more symbolically? Could I offer her the head of my ego for decapitation allowing the lifeforce (blood and prana) to flow freely in service to her for the journey across samsara rather than take a life which is not mine and cause suffering to it?
After the torrential downpour of these thoughts subsided, I was able to walk home and decided to pay homage to the Madman Baba in the Smashan…to be an aghori is, now I understand, in a whole other spectrum of intensity and requires rigorous sacrifice of one’s own conditioned nature, very few are capable of. It was a hive of activity today and at Baba’s temple, there is a male and female Aghori either side of the entrance like Rottweilers. I offer dakshina in respect to his left-hand method while acknowledging that I am blessed to be walking the right-hand path. There were more guillotines here, which I took a parikrama (encircling/circumventing) around, with a feeling of purnahuti (everything is one/whole & complete). Shiva in the shape of a dog came barking over and stood beside me while I silenced. When leaving the smashan and on my way out, the two Aghori ‘rottweilers’ came begging. I offered them my hand and nothing more than a smile…we all laughed!
As I walked home, a migraine descended. I was in an altered state of consciousness but one which is painful and isolating – not the one I had originally hoped for! I am suffering due to resistance of what I have encountered – the ultimate sacrifice. I don’t feel I have the right to take another’s life or offer anything other than myself to my maker and so the clarity of what is needed was seen. I will place myself on the sacrificial altar surrendering the limbs of my desires, sufferings, hopes, fears, loves, roles and finally the head of my whole life, to the one who imagined me into existence. What he does with this blood, prana, mind and whatever is left, is up to him, but he has it. I don’t want to harm another, cause another’s suffering or resist who I am and what I am made of, instead I give all that I am back to the one who made me and hope that he can accept this offering and use it better than I ever did.
I anticipate at times there will be screams of pain, pleas for mercy and bestial resistance, but none the less the sacrifice will be made. I have fear already before actually placing myself under the guillotines frame about the illusionary losses that I will have to surrender – a lover, a family, a ‘normal’ life, financial security, material stability, composed identity and the delicious escape of change on a whim – which I am so renowned for. However this lower animal is now ready to liberate itself from mundane suffering toward divine ecstatic agonies.
I realise my spiritual family is in Saraswati Darshami and the right hand (dakshina marga) or Kaula Tantra is my path, which is rich with vidya (knowledge), tapas (discipline) and rigorous Sadhana (practices), along with inspiring examples of devotees whose aims are based on liberation and expansion through love and light, not darkness and death. With the grace of God and my parampara (linage of teachings and teachers) such as Swami Sivananda, my beloved Swami Satyananda, Swami Niranjanananda, Swami Satyasangananda, I am sure I can harness my ferocity and faith to serve, love and give to all living beings.