Tantra teacher Sarita shares her insights on rituals.
What Is The Definition of Ritual?
I love rituals, particularly those in service of enlightenment. Some persons reading this may wonder how a ritual is defined. What is a ritual exactly? A ritual is an outward manifestation of conscious intent. Below I list some of the ways we perform rituals in our everyday life:
- Regular meditation practice
- Yoga or other forms of exercise we do daily
- The way we make and eat our breakfast
- Clinking glasses and making a toast before drinking wine
- Blessing of food before eating
- Surrendering to the way the beautician or hairdresser offers us pampering and beautifying
- Dinner out in a candlelit restaurant
- Getting engaged
- Getting married
- Going to a church or a temple
- Mantra chanting
Conscious Intention is The Master Key
When we place our conscious intent into any act, the power of such an act is magnified. Many people experience that once food has been blessed, the taste is amplified. Or when water has been blessed, the quality is heightened.
Rituals can be directed towards any intent. Some people use ritual to gain more power over others. Such rituals are in service of greed. Black magic is used in this way. There is a grey area where certain rituals we think are quite normal in our society are actually in service of greed and ill intent, like some political rallies. We can also observe law-makers who use the rituals of parliament to bring certain laws into being which are in service of a nefarious intent by big business, aided and abetted by politicians. In such a case, you will see the puppet governing body, going through certain motions designed to lull observers into trusting them even though they are conning us, the people.
An obvious example of this is what happened in Nazi Germany. Hitler’s rallies were designed in such a ritualistic way that masses of people were simply hypnotized and believed whatever was being told to them. Years later, when the war was over, they ‘woke up’ en masse and felt deep shame at their behaviour.
Ritual is a Science
In an opposite direction, we can witness Tibetan Lamas offering extremely powerful rituals aimed at bringing enlightened consciousness to the world. Or we can witness Shamans performing rituals to call in healing. In the Hindu tradition, statues of Gods and Goddesses representing a particular life principle are ‘brought to life’ through the chanting of certain mantras and the creation of yantras or fire rituals. The power of ritual should not be overlooked. It is in actual fact, a science.
Our ancient ancestors of the Vedic tradition designed rituals in order to manifest certain cosmic principles on the physical plane. To do this, they used sound (Mantra), form (Yantra) and method (Tantra). These elements were woven together in a particular manner to bring about a certain vibrational manifestation. Some of these manifestations were depicted in the form of a particular deity.
These rituals were kept alive through an oral tradition where initiates would be trained to continue the particular recipe, unique to each individual ritual. Even today, priests in India continue to offer rituals, which they have been trained in. Of course, if a ritual is done only by rote, without any awareness of the inner and secret manifestation which can be brought about through it, such a ritual will not carry the same power as if it is done in the light of consciousness.
Awareness and Discernment in which Rituals We Choose
Cosmic power is neutral and can be harnessed for a clear and loving intent or for evil intent. Basically, energy follows intent. This is why in many cultures, before doing a ritual, the practitioner would fast, and cleanse themselves in other ways before going into the ritual. They wanted to make sure that they were so pure that only the highest manifestation of cosmic energy would be brought into and through them.
The way a ritual works in the human energy system is through our imagination, intuitive and creative brain aspects. This dream-world capacity within us remains continuously open to impressions received from the outside and when those impressions become fixed within us, they will begin manifesting our world-view and our life experience. We contain this capacity because we are designed to be adaptable to our surroundings in order to survive in many varied social or natural climatic conditions. In essence, we human beings are continuously in a state of hypnosis. We adapt to a status quo, which is implanted in us and with which we set our barometer of ‘normality’.
You can notice this in yourself just by observing how you like your breakfast in the morning. I often notice that people retain very fixed patterns and rituals around their way of eating breakfast, which stem from childhood conditioning. They will crave certain things prepared in a certain way and eaten in a particular manner according to how they were raised.
A perfect example of this is the good old English Breakfast (two fried eggs, 2 slices of fried bacon, one fried sausage, two pieces of fried toast, one fried tomato, some fried potato and two fried mushrooms, not to forget the baked beans!). Even though people may realize that this is one of the unhealthiest breakfasts on earth, they will still sit down and eat it with great gusto, because as children this was considered to be the ultimate fulfillment in the morning. Or in France, we can observe people feeling the absolute necessity to have hot chocolate or coffee with a baguette (or a croissant) dipped into it for breakfast. Even if someone gets very ill from eating such food, they will stubbornly continue to consume it because it has become a fixed ritual for them, the way the day must begin.
Because of our tendency to become hypnotized by the status quo, advertising has a tremendous success. Something is repeated over and over till it becomes ritualized and then fixed within our brain. We will then continue searching and seeking this fixation.
Advertisers, political and religious leaders all have a lot in common in so far as they know how to manipulate the part of the brain that is open for hypnosis through ritualistic repetition. The daily news is a negative ritual which programmes fear into people and in this way the populace will seek out the protection of its leaders and do whatever the leaders want in order to feel safe. It is really a clever way of manipulating a whole population (so long as people can be convinced to see and read the news).
I was very lucky growing up in that my father, bless his soul, forbade us to have a television in the house and also forbade us to watch it. He informed us that it was an ‘idiot box’ and that if we watched it we would turn into idiots. Of course, I used to sneak over to the neighbour’s house and watch it sometimes, but while watching, I remained alert that it may be damaging. I would look at the people who were watching it to see if they were becoming idiots in front of my eyes, and sure enough, I saw a glazed look coming over them and if asked a question, they would answer in a zombie-like state, totally hypnotized by what they were seeing.
Rituals in Service of Enlightenment
When ritual is used in service of enlightenment, ambience, and all sensorial input is very consciously played out in a particular format. There will be particular scent, sound, perhaps tastes, visuals, all designed to open us very deeply to what is being conveyed in that particular ritual. The form of a magical Yantra is created with careful and conscious intent. The yantra is blessed, making it alive to cosmic energies. The ritual will have a clear beginning and clear ending. Once the ritual is complete, the yantra form is immediately dissolved. The benefit of the form melts into the persons who have participated in the ritual.
A few years ago in Varanasi, I was privileged to participate in a traditional ritual honoring the Shiva Lingam. The process went on for two hours, with animated chanting done by the priests, offerings of ghee, honey, spices and milk. We spent ages massaging the Lingam with yoghurt, and then honey. Milk was poured over it for 20 minutes. We did elaborate flower and fruit offerings. It all felt so familiar, as if I had done this before many times, perhaps in another life. The power of it is still with me, a rekindling of an ancient alignment. Rituals, when done correctly, can even transcend the barrier of death, helping us to sense the continuity of the soul.
There is a powerful ritual in Tantra, which became quite famous and also greatly misunderstood. This is the Maithuna Ritual, a three-day process which helps to free us of conditioning and open to the power of universal energy through conscious sexual union. This ritual is only undertaken in the presence of a master who holds the spiritual portal open to support the descent of grace into the densest areas of the human body and psyche. If the master has not done their homework rightly, they will be swallowed into a downward spiral, losing themselves into density and taking their initiates with them. This is one of the ways in which Tantra gained a questionable reputation, through the misuse and misinterpretation of sacred rituals.
Ritual as a Catalyst for Positive Transformation
We cannot change the fact that we as human beings are susceptible to ritualistic input. Even if we believe we are not susceptible, this is simply not true. Understanding and being aware of how we carry ritualistic programming will help us to leave behind those programmes that are not serving our highest good. We become aware and discerning in choosing the best ritualistic input which will help us to open to our full potential as conduits for cosmic consciousness.
When we consciously move into ritual with the intent of opening ourselves to love and enlightenment, the positive effects of such ritual will be felt in every cell of our body and mind. We will literally sense ourselves to be Gods and Goddesses and this world will be seen and experienced as paradise. It is! We have simply forgotten the science of how to access it.
In my groups for couples and individuals, I often use rituals as a transmission for higher consciousness. In the couples Soul Mate Training, each couple learns how to bring the power of ritual into their Lovemaking Meditations at home. Tantra in all it’s myriad manifestations uses ritual in many different ways and it is my joy to offer this transmission woven through each Tantra group I teach.
The wonderful thing is, once we open ourselves to a ritualistic intent for highest consciousness, we will find that those keys to access these states were not lost but simply forgotten. As we align ourselves with the magic of love, we discover the universe is showering love. As we align ourselves with grace and expansive intelligence, we discover genius just waiting to manifest. Rituals, when practiced rightly, can really help us to know heaven on earth.
Sarita met Osho in Mumbai in 1973 and shortly afterwards received sannyas. She spent the next 26 years in his communes where she worked cleaning Osho’s house, as a medium in energy darshan, in the PR department and as a holistic healer. Osho gave her the title ‘Mahasatvaa’ meaning ‘keeper of esoteric wisdom’. Since 1997 she has been teaching Tantra, holistic healing and meditation across the world. She lives in England and Greece. www.tantra-essence.com