Khajuraho, India: Where the Sacred and Mundane Merge

December 26, 2014    BY Pandit Rajmani Tigunait

Known today as the home of erotic sculptures, Khajuraho is one of India’s biggest tourist attractions. Located in the wilderness of central India, it is a living museum of art, dance, architecture, political history, religion, philosophy, and spirituality. Tourists from all over the world flock here to see its perfect blend of art and architecture—yet sadly many come only because they expect to see temples covered with erotic carvings. If spiritual wisdom, as Indians proclaim, is the sages’ gift to the world, then the Khajuraho temple complex must be the core of India’s spiritual heritage. But not a single scholar, researcher, or author that I have discovered so far has ever tried to see these temples through the eyes of the masters who created them.

What I have learned from the scriptures and experienced at the feet of adepts has filled my heart with the conviction that Khajuraho is the place where sacred and mundane merge and the wall between sensuality and spiritual ecstasy vanish. This is the meeting ground between human and divine. Here the yogis discovered the purpose and meaning of life and mastered the art of transforming the primitive urges for food, sex, sleep, and self-preservation into spiritual means. They used this sacred site as a laboratory for understanding the dynamics of nature’s opposing forces—masculine and feminine, lunar and solar, active and passive—and used that knowledge to master the art of joyful living. And here they guided their followers to build temples that seekers could use as a map for discovering the numberless shrines within themselves.

Here the yogis discovered the purpose and meaning of life and mastered the art of transforming the primitive urges for food, sex, sleep, and self-preservation into spiritual means.

I was a university student when Khajuraho first came to my attention. Newspapers and magazines were filled with stories about the discovery of a complex of magnificent temples belonging to all the major faiths and subtraditions of ancient India—Hindu, Jaina, and Buddhist. Covered with intricate carvings, the temple complex had been mysteriously abandoned for at least seven centuries. These articles focused on the physical aspects of the site—where the stones used in these temples had come from, which temples were built first—and most of all, they told of the elaborate carvings—of humans, animals, nymphs, demigods, gods, and goddesses—that covered the walls. The graphic sexuality of the images was presented as the defining characteristic of these temples, and the notion I gathered was that they were offensive, disgusting, and frankly pornographic. I wondered how such elements had made their way into our glorious and sublime heritage. After all, propriety is the hallmark of Indian culture, and self-discipline is central to our code of conduct. Why had the builders of these temples stained Indian culture in the name of religion?

Several years after the discoveries at Khajuraho hit the popular press, I began my doctoral work on the philosophy of the Sri Vidya tradition. This philosophy, the quintessence of tantrism, holds that life is beautiful and that the world is a manifestation of pure consciousness (known as Sri Vidya, the Divine Mother). Through the realization that she is our mother we become established in our blissful self; fear of death vanishes and the urge to cling to life melts away; death and birth are seen as a game of hide and seek. The way to gain experiential knowledge of Sri Vidya and participate in this divine game ourselves is described step by step in a yantra known as Sri Chakra.

This yantra was the subject of my dissertation. Sri Chakra is a miniature representation—a geometrical map—of both the universe (the macrocosm) and the human being (the microcosm). It consists of ten circuits, each representing a specific layer of matter, energy, and consciousness. By understanding each layer and the relationships among them, we gain a complete understanding not only of ourselves but also of the world in which we live.

The first circuit (the square with four gates) maps the dynamics of the physical level of day-to-day existence. The second circuit (the three circles joining the sixteen-petaled lotus) maps the dynamics of the psychological world, the emotional level of reality; it explains how we enjoy or suffer from the interplay of the positive and negative emotions that have their roots in the depths of our unconscious mind. This circuit describes the dynamics of these forces in the language of mythology, in which the currents and crosscurrents of our emotional world are presented in anthropomorphic form—and these forms (and even their names) carry the same deep sense of eroticism that were said to pervade the images covering the walls of the temples at Khajuraho.

Why, I wondered, did the sublime tradition of Sri Vidya, which is respected by even the puritanical swamis of the Shankaracharya order, include erotic concepts? None of the professors in Banaras and Allahabad could explain it, and the swamis who were known for their profound knowledge of Sri Vidya dismissed my queries. Fortunately I had already met my guru, Swami Rama, who was a master of Sri Vidya. Using my dissertation as an excuse to broach the subject, I asked him how a force that presides over the uncontrollable urge of kama (desire) could be characterized as the goddess described in the second circuit of Sri Chakra. The ensuing discussion was long and involved; it emerged in bits and pieces during the next several years. And even after all that, my understanding was still incomplete.

Why, I wondered, did the sublime tradition of Sri Vidya, which is respected by even the puritanical swamis of the Shankaracharya order, include erotic concepts?

By the summer of 1980 I was writing the final draft of my dissertation, and each evening I read Swamiji what I had written that day. Then one night, as I was reading a passage on the psychological and spiritual significance of the erotic goddesses located in the second circuit of Sri Chakra, Swamiji cut me off in midsentence. “For ages religion has imposed a taboo on sex,” he said, “even though it is a natural urge of all living beings. People talk of suppressing and repressing this urge, but no one teaches how to manage and master it. Repression results in frustration and anger; an angry person becomes delusional. From there loss of memory ensues. Then they are no longer able to exercise their power of discrimination and they become irrational. In an attempt to avoid the pain of their self-created misery, they blame others.

“There are only two options for dealing with this urge. You can condemn it and fight it—but by doing so you turn your mind into your enemy; once your mind has become your enemy, you are a hopeless case. The other option is to work with it, to try to understand what this urge is, how deeply rooted it is, how it affects your sleep and your dreaming, how it affects your breathing pattern and your thought processes. Try to understand why it is called manmath [the churner of mind], the governor of your entire being.

“Who has ever succeeded in conquering the power of desire with an enemy mind? Better to transform your psychological foes into friends. There are negative tendencies—anger, hatred, jealousy, greed, and the rest—and there are positive tendencies, such as love, kindness, compassion, non-attachment, and forgiveness. Put both these negative and positive tendencies in a container, shake them up, and the mixture that emerges is called a human being, a combination of the subhuman and the divine. The key to inner unfoldment is to understand both the unwanted and wanted parts of ourselves and transform that which is not conducive to our growth. A wise man makes the best use of everything he has, even his negative tendencies and weaknesses. How to do this is called spiritual practice. And to give a graphic description of spiritual practice, especially the method of reconciling the positive and negative aspects of mind found in the Sri Vidya tradition, the sages employed art, dance, sculpture, and architecture. The temples of Khajuraho are a living example.”

This conversation awakened in me a strong desire to visit Khajuraho and see those temples with my own eyes, but twenty-two more years were to pass before I had that privilege. In 1985, however, I came tantalizingly close. That year Swamiji asked me to meet him in the little town of Tikam Garh in central India, and several days later we drove to nearby Khajuraho so that he could catch a flight to New Delhi from the airport there.

Gazing at the rugged hills that lined the winding road between Tikam Garh and Khajuraho, Swamiji said, “This is an amazing land, full of surprises. Its spiritual history dates further back in hoary antiquity than any other part of India. People come here looking for diamonds in the mines of Panna, not realizing what a profound, esoteric wisdom is also buried here. It is one of my master’s most favorite places. As a kid I walked in these jungles and mountains. This is where my master helped me overcome my fear of snakes.”

Swamiji was lost in reverie for a few minutes. Then he said, “Like the Himalayas, this land is the abode of Shiva. In the Himalayas the Divine Mother was born as Parvati, and here as Matangi. She is an embodiment of compassion and the presiding deity of all the fine arts. In the Hindu pantheon she is generally known as Nila Sarasvati [Blue Sarasvati], and in the Tibetan tradition as Tara. In the esoteric tradition of tantra she is Matangi, the daughter of the sage Matanga, who begot her here at a site now known as Maihar. There are hundreds of siddha shrines pulsating with spiritual energy located between Vindhya Vasani in the north to Omakareshwar on the bank of the Narmada River in the south. Khajuraho is in the center of all these shakti shrines.”

Swamiji was lost in reverie for a few minutes. Then he said, “Like the Himalayas, this land is the abode of Shiva.

When we reached Khajuraho we went to the Oberai Hotel for lunch. “It is odd that I am eating in a hotel at Khajuraho,” Swamiji mused. “I have spent so many winters here with my master and other sadhus. In those days we got alms from nearby villages, cooked our own meals, and lived in these deserted temples. This place takes me back in time, pulling forward the sweet memories of the love of the Divine Mother that I received at the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis.…” Afterwards, as he was standing in front of the hotel, Swamiji looked into the distance toward the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis and said, “I will take you to my mother.” But when we went to hire a car we were told that vandalism had caused the Department of Archaeology to temporarily close the area to visitors. So we left without going anywhere near the place that Swamiji had described as one of the greatest vortices of spiritual energy on the planet.

Years passed. Swamiji left his body, and after a time I wrote his biography, At the Eleventh Hour. After it was published many students, fascinated by the story of Swamiji’s experience with his master at the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis, asked me to take a group to Khajuraho. I agreed, but first I wanted to see this place with my own eyes. So in 2002, when I went to India with my wife and three students, we included in our itinerary several days at Khajuraho.

Filled with anticipation, we flew into Khajuraho airport on a clear day in early April. I remembered Swamiji telling me, “This is a place on the planet where nature has arranged these hills in the formation of Sri Chakra.” I wished I had an aerial map so that I could see the arrangement of the hills and discover which spots correspond to the various circuits of Sri Chakra.

We checked into our hotel and hired a taxi to take us to the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis. When it dropped us outside the gate of what is known as the western temple complex, we asked the swarm of guides competing for our attention where to find the temple. “There is nothing at Sixty-four Yoginis,” they insisted. “This is the most important place.” Failing to find anyone who would tell us how to get where we wanted to go, we bought tickets and entered the western complex. Directly in front of us the majestic temple of Shiva soared into a clear blue sky. On the right stood one big temple and several small ones, all breathtakingly beautiful. Immediately to our left was a pair of temples—one dedicated to Shiva, the other to Vishnu—both rivaling mountains in might and grandeur. We approached the Vishnu temple and my companions busied themselves photographing the wealth of beautifully sculptured figures covering the exterior walls. There were figures of elephants, horses, armies marching to battle, peasants doing their chores, ladies putting on makeup, royalty attended by servants, women drying their hair, mothers nursing their babies, and a lover seducing her beloved. Here were the famous figures in erotic embraces, some compatible with the aesthetic standards of Indian culture—graceful and pleasingly erotic—and others so overtly sexual that, depending on the eye of the beholder, they might evoke feelings of lust or disgust—or force the viewer to stop and reflect on their purpose and meaning.

Leaving my companions to their photography, I pulled myself away from the spectacle of the outer walls and went inside. In contrast with the voluptuousness of the exterior, the interior was serene, pervaded by an aura of sanctity. I noticed that the closer I came to the inner sanctum, the more abstract the art, and I found myself deciphering the symbolic meaning of the personified figures and geometrical patterns on the nearby walls, pillars, and ceilings. As the seeker within me tried to grasp the correlation between this temple and the human body, I began to get a glimmer of how the architectural plan of the temple, in conjunction with the arrangement of these hundreds of sculpted images, could be used as a map for the pilgrimage from body to psyche and psyche to soul. But I told myself not to jump to conclusions—this temple was only one of many. And furthermore, my long-cherished conviction told me that the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis lay at the heart of all these secrets.

In contrast with the voluptuousness of the exterior, the interior was serene, pervaded by an aura of sanctity.

I left the Vishnu temple to find my companions still photographing the exterior walls. Almost an hour had passed and they had not even entered the building. This struck me as a metaphor for how we live—taking pictures of this external world throughout our lives and tucking the rolls of film into the bottomless niches of our unconscious, so absorbed in the spectacle before us that we never turn our attention to the interior world.

Thinking that the best way to decipher the meaning and purpose of the Khajuraho temples would be to work our way systematically through the complex, we set off for the temple in the farthest right-hand corner, commonly believed to be dedicated to the sun god. This time I decided to make a cursory survey of the whole temple, exterior and interior, and then study both systematically. Climbing the platform, I walked around the temple, noting that the carvings were arranged in three main layers, each with its own particular characteristics. Then I entered the interior, determined to avoid analysis. Instead I wanted to see only that which captured my attention spontaneously. In this frame of mind I traversed the narrow passage that led to the main hall. In the center was an elevated square; in the dome above it I saw a design that looked like a yantra. And there in a corner, I glimpsed the figure of a mother cradling her infant.

Adjoining the main hall was the entrance to the inner chamber. Statues of the sacred rivers, Ganga and Yamuna, stood on either side. But I saw no statue of Sarasvati. I told myself that just as the Sarasvati River flows invisibly underground in Allahabad at the physical confluence of the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers, the goddess would be invisible here as well. As a student of yoga I found the presence of these rivers at the entrance to the inner sanctum highly significant, because in tantric texts the rivers Ganga, Yamuna, and Sarasvati equate to the idapingala, and sushumna energy channels (nadis) in the body. The confluence of these three nadis is the ajña chakra (the center between the eyebrows), and from there begins the passage (Brahma nadi) to the highest realm of consciousness, which in the temple of the body is the sahasrara chakra, the seat of the Supreme Being. 

Passing through the confluence of the three rivers, I entered the inner chamber and saw a small statue of the sun god standing in a niche behind a small altar. “Aha!” I thought, seeing the simple, unadorned image of the sun here in the inner sanctum. “The truth is simple. Its beauty cannot be measured by worldly yardsticks. The soul does not seek acknowledgement from outside for its fulfillment.”

The elegant simplicity of the inner chamber gave me a clue as to how to use this temple as a map. I went back outside, scanned the whole structure—the steps leading up to the square platform and the tapering temple building in the center—and the relationship between vastu shastra (sacred architecture) and tantra became clear. I understood how the vortex of energy located at the perineum serves as the foundation of that complex structure that is the human body, why this vortex is called muladhara (“main base”), why it is depicted as a square, and why the radiant oval-shaped shiva lingam sits in the center of that square.

I tried to understand their role in the world of matter and energy, as well as their place in the celestial realm that scriptures depict through myth and symbol.

Now I shifted my attention to the exterior walls. I walked around the temple four times, looking closely at each of the first three layers of images in turn. The fourth time I walked around the temple I surveyed all three layers together, comparing and contrasting the nature and characteristics of the images carved into each. I tried to understand their role in the world of matter and energy, as well as their place in the celestial realm that scriptures depict through myth and symbol. What I discovered was startling.

The motifs in the bottom layer depict the full range of our worldly experiences—pleasure and pain, success and failure, loss and gain, birth and death. Here horses and elephants serve as beasts of burden, as pleasure mounts, and as machines of war. Here the human figures busy themselves as carpenters, palanquin bearers, hunters, reapers, threshers, soldiers, tradesmen, and royalty. The women cook, weave cloth, sweep, nurse infants, play with children, bathe, and apply henna. Everyone here is busy finding their way through life’s myriad tasks and challenges.

It is the second layer that makes the mind quiver and time freeze. Here are gathered a bevy of nymphs and damsels, come to attend the wedding of Shiva and Parvati. Here Kama Deva (Cupid, the god of desire, who was reduced to ashes by the flame that flared from the third eye of Shiva) stands restored to life, an arrow of flowers fitted to his bowstring. Having his abode in the minds of all living beings, Kama Deva has stirred the psyche of all the wedding guests: young and old, the higher gods and the lesser gods, mortal men and women, saints, sages, and yogis—all are in a festive mood. Here we see Shiva’s host of attendants—ghosts, goblins, demigods and goddesses, and demons of various shapes and sizes—giving full rein to their tastes and interests. All is celebration. 

Shiva, no longer an ascetic with matted hair and a body smeared with ashes, is here transformed into the most handsome bridegroom in the three universes. The allure and charm of his best man, Lord Vishnu, puts millions of Cupids to shame. Even though much has been made of Khajuraho’s erotic art, I was surprised to see that relatively few of the images are sexually explicit, although many have a romantic flavor. But in every sculpture you can see the perfection of aesthetic expression—this is art at its finest. Some of the more sensational erotic images depict behavior that is unacceptable in civilized society, yet the truth of the matter is that even in the most evolved societies there are pockets of those who involve themselves in all manner of licentious behavior. Here, while giving graphic expression to the full range of human life, the artists captured it all in an aesthetically graceful manner.

Moving my eyes up to the third level, I saw statues of the highest-ranking gods—Vishnu, Brahma, Shiva, Indra, and their consorts. This row emanates a sense of power, dignity, and grace, for these are the gods of protection and nourishment, the presiding deities of nature’s finer forces. All are endowed with the unrestricted power of will, limitless virtue, beauty, knowledge, and pure, selfless love. Compassion is the hallmark of their being—all they know is love and all they do is give.

Above this third row the temple narrows into a square cone covered with designs that grow increasingly more abstract as it rises to the peak; there the structure comes to a point and dissolves into limitless space. I stood entranced by the unspeakable beauty emitted by the space where the sky kisses the tip of the temple. Is there a piece of art anywhere in the world, I wondered, that can rival the beauty manifesting from the tip of this temple? Does the beauty emanate from the temple, or from the space, or from the union of the two? This beauty has no form, no boundary—only a frame of reference, the place where the tip of the temple meets the sky.

As I stood there absorbed, I felt as if my consciousness stretched from the temple’s platform to its top. It was inside me and I was inside the temple; the temple was not different from me. “Can there be another laboratory where we can study life so effortlessly?” I wondered. “Is there a scripture that explains life as vividly as these temples do? Is there any teacher who can impart a vision of the full spectrum of life in such a practical and experiential way?” 

“Can there be another laboratory where we can study life so effortlessly?” I wondered.

In a flash it was all clear: We come to this world without knowing who sent us here. We are born, and yet we know neither the cause of life nor its source. We have no knowledge of our destination, yet the stream of life carries us along. The natural urges for food, sleep, procreation, and self-preservation are common to all humans, yet every individual is unique. Our physical capacity, emotional maturity, and intellectual grasp are never identical, and so our perception of the world varies. And yet all of us see a difference between pleasure and pain, loss and gain, success and failure, honor and insult. None of these experiences last long, and yet we busy ourselves in clinging to those we like and trying to rid ourselves of those we dislike. At the same time our natural urges dictate that we must eat, sleep, enjoy life, seek success, and, above all, survive. This is life. And this is what is depicted here in the bottom layer of the temple’s exterior walls. 

No matter what our profession, we experience fear, insecurity, hatred, jealousy, and greed interspersed with intervals of joy, pleasure, honor, generosity, and love. Only when we are free from these issues do we have the opportunity to explore the deeper dimensions of life and experience the fulfillment that is not found in this base level of existence.

The greater our freedom from fear and doubt, the greater our ability to enjoy this world. The realm that is not engulfed by the darkness of fear and doubt is the playground of celestial beings. This is what is depicted here in the temple’s second row. For those who have reached this level, life is a celebration, a heavenly sport here on earth. Here life is beautiful, for Kama Deva, the god of desire and pleasure, has imbued it with his own joy. Spring has arrived. Shiva, the spirit within us, who had lost his taste for life and resorted to asceticism, no longer sees the world as a prison. Determined to enjoy life in its fullness, he has returned to the world to meet his bride. He is beautiful, his best man is beautiful, and his bride is beautiful. That’s how life is when we are no longer in the grip of fear and doubt. Trust in ourselves and faith in life returns. Infused with self-appreciation and self-respect, we actively seek fulfillment.

Here at this level of life Kama Deva, the god of desire, follows us vigilantly. The Creator has assigned our minds as Kama Deva’s abode, and we never know when and how he will shoot his arrows. That is why, while partaking of the celebration of life, we become so distracted, disoriented, and entangled that we forget the higher purpose and meaning of life. During the spring of life, celestial nymphs descend from heaven and make our body, mind, and heart their playground. Kama Deva shoots his arrows and we become his victims joyfully. When we realize that we have become the victims of sense pleasure, some of us impose restraints on ourselves and suffer from suppression. Some of us carelessly flow with the current and are swept away by indulgence. The rare ones among us enjoy all the pleasures of the world without drowning in them, for they remain ever-aware of the higher purpose and meaning of life.

At this level of our evolution we know that the force of divine protection is watching over us. Why worry or be anxious?

How beautifully this state of life is depicted on these walls! Looking through the eyes of those who created these temples, it is clear that this second row of images is a dynamic depiction of the energies that preside over both love and lust, granting either spiritual freedom and fulfillment or sensual slavery and frustration. Where else in the world can you see a portrayal of divine love imbued with purity and devotion side by side with images of unbridled lasciviousness? As Swamiji said, a human being is a combination of both divine virtues and subhuman tendencies. The spiritual journey begins with the recognition that a welter of thoughts, feelings, emotions, urges, and habit patterns swirls within us; we become true spiritual seekers only when we adopt the techniques of self-transformation. When we have completed the journey through the first two levels, we reach the level of realization depicted in the third row of the temple wall. Here are the higher gods, such as Brahma, Vishnu, Shiva, and Indra—the forces of creation, preservation, and demolition, and the mighty force that executes the divine plan. These lofty beings are accompanied by the protectors of the ten directions (digpalas). Wisdom and compassion are the hallmarks of the divine forces residing here, and it is here that we find a clear direction. Confident that we are on the right path and will reach our goal, we put our whole mind and heart into all our endeavors. This confidence opens the doors to self-trust, courage, and enthusiasm. Patience and endurance become part of our nature; sloth and despondency vanish forever. The indomitable will of the soul (sankalpa shakti) begins to flow through our thought, speech, and action. In the language of tantra, this is where we gain access to the manipura chakra, the navel center filled with shining gems.

At this level of our evolution we know that the force of divine protection is watching over us. Why worry or be anxious? We also know that our personal desires and ambitions are a reflection of the divine will, and we know that all of our actions, no matter how worldly some may seem, are leading us toward inner freedom and fulfillment. This realization helps us live in the world and yet remain above it. Here the distinction between worldly duties and spiritual practices vanishes. In every situation and circumstance of life the upward movement of the soul continues. Propelled by inner joy, it travels upward.

The journey beyond this point is represented by the higher parts of the temple, where the designs become increasingly abstract—no personification, no nomenclature. Here we realize how childish it is to think of the divine being as a Hindu god, a Greek god, a Christian god. Seeing the whole structure coming to a point and dissolving into illimitable space, realization dawns: divinity is nameless, formless. It is of its own kind and cannot be described through example, simile, or metaphor. It can only be experienced. The summit is the experience of life in its fullness, and this experience gives us the freedom to explore ever-new dimensions of reality. There is a joyous thrill in encountering the limitless beauty and glory of the infinite. The wisdom intrinsic to the soul spontaneously inspires us to use all worldly resources as a tool to understand the subtle functioning of the reality within. Scriptures call this spontaneous process an inward journey.

This temple is a perfect map of the inward journey. It is the temple of the sun god. Some people call it the temple of Yamaraja, the Lord of Death, who is also the son of the sun. Still others believe it is the temple of Chitragupta (the god of hidden mystery), who in Hindu mythology is described as the adviser to the Lord of Death, the overseer of the process of dying and what comes after. The ambiguity is itself significant.

How many of us really know about the great temple of our body? Is it merely a genetic extension of our parents? Is it just a locus for experiencing pleasure and pain? Is it simply a vehicle for transporting us from the delivery room to the funeral home? Is it the abode of a conscious being who is busy exploring the vast sensory world? Is it simply a vehicle for the mind? Or is it the meeting ground for the individual soul and universal consciousness?

The narrow passage leading to the main hall of the temple, the elevated square in its center and the unique yantra carved out in the dome above it, the inner chamber adjoining the main hall, the statues of Ganga and Yamuna—all are a graphic portrayal of the soul’s journey from the limbs and organs of the physical body to the energy channels in the subtle body. The images and other designs found on the interior walls tell us explicitly what goes on in our astral body when consciousness stands at the threshold of death.

How profound is the image of the mother, protectively cradling her infant, that is tucked away at the edge where the supporting pillar meets the dome! During the last moments of our life, when the conscious mind, along with the nervous system and brain, slips away and even our memory no longer accompanies us, who is there at the edge of our consciousness to cradle our soul with infinite love and patience? The experiential knowledge of this motherly force watching over her helpless baby (the departing soul), which comes with seeing this image in this precise setting, dawns in a flash. In another setting, years of study may be required to see this, and even then, it may remain bookish knowledge and never become a living reality.

I stood there sharing my understanding of Khajuraho with my companions. Yet I knew something was missing. I had no recollection of Swamiji ever talking to me about the Chitragupta temple. It was reverence for the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis that held the central place in his heart, and I was convinced that it must hold the key to completing my understanding and uncovering the mysteries of all these temples. As my eyes again fell on the bottom two rows of figures I said to myself, “Fear and doubt hold us back from enjoying nature’s abundant gifts. We know that life is precious, yet we rarely find the motivation to make good use of it. From where can we get this motivation? Philosophical knowledge and intellectual understanding are not enough.” Then I remembered a story from the Brahmanda Purana.

I stood there sharing my understanding of Khajuraho with my companions. Yet I knew something was missing.

A demon named Bhandasura (“the demon that spoils everything”) was born from his own ashes, and after conquering the entire world, he went on to conquer heaven. When the denizens of heaven pleaded with the Divine Mother for help, she summoned all the goddesses—the benevolent forces of creation—and marched on the demon’s capital. As they approached, the demon threw a yantra over them, a yantra imbued with the powers of laziness, miserliness, a sense of inferiority, sleep, drowsiness, procrastination, a lack of self-esteem, and the loss of self-identity. Under its potent spell some of the goddesses fell asleep instantly; the rest were overcome by laziness, drowsiness, and procrastination. “Why bother conquering anyone?” they thought. “Who knows if we will win? And if we lose, we’ll be killed or captured. Will the Divine Mother come to our rescue? Our present is uncertain, but the unknown future is even more frightening.” And so with these thoughts, even those who remained awake were rendered inert. Seeing her army grind to a halt, the Divine Mother summoned her beloved son, Ganesha. Marching fearlessly, he reached the immobilized army, and with his powerful tusks he crushed the yantra and blew the dust away with so much force that it vanished from the known universe.

This is what has happened here in our world. The benevolent forces within us have been spellbound by laziness, miserliness, inferiority complexes, sleep, drowsiness, procrastination, a lack of self-esteem, and the loss of self-identity. Despite countless schools, colleges, teachers, preachers, temples, and mosques, still we find ourselves stuck. Where is the empress of the universe and where is her son? My long-cherished conviction told me that the answer to these questions could be found in the Temple of Sixty-four Yoginis. That is where, for ages untold, she has been residing with her son. That is where the knowers of the mystery seek her help, and that is where, driven by compassion, she commands her beloved son, Ganesha, to vanquish the forces of fear and doubt.  We determined to find the place the next day. 

Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
Spiritual head of the Himalayan Institute, Pandit Tigunait is the successor of Swami Rama of the Himalayas. Lecturing and teaching worldwide for more than a quarter of a century, he is the author of fourteen books, including his recently-released The Secret of the Yoga Sutra, and his autobiography Touched by Fire: The Ongoing Journey of a Spiritual Seeker. Pandit Tigunait holds two doctorates: one in Sanskrit from the University of Allahabad in India, and another in Oriental Studies from the... Read more>>

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