By Bruce Bowditch
Sri Yantra by Piete Weltevrede
By now everyone understands that yoga practice is meant to help establish balance and health in our lives. Most familiar is the active practice of asana (postures), and possibly meditation and breath work. If you have read the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali, you are familiar with the “eight limbed path” of “classical yoga”. This is a time proven, rigorous approach for the individual to find inner peace and a deeper spiritual experience and has abundant merit to be sure. Yet it’s easy to get the impression after awhile that yoga requires us to suspend our everyday lives for the pursuit of higher spiritual endeavors.
The creators of Tantra may have felt the same way. Centuries ago they began developing techniques to actually use everyday experience as a practice in itself, to see and experience the Divine all around us directly – right here, right now. Finding the Divine in nature, in relationships, in everyday tasks is one defining aspect of this radically different, all-encompassing perspective. The basic premise is, you don’t have to search for the Divine: It already permeates everything!
Appreciating and in fact becoming enraptured with the intrinsic beauty of the Divine in all things is a major theme of Tantra. A term used for this is Shringara, which means both beauty and love. Cultivating the ability to experience Shringara in all interactions with the world has a profound effect on our mental, emotional and physical states. For the Tantric, an aspect of chanting mantras or viewing the pleasing designs of yantras or depictions of deities all have this intention of deep self-transformation through the direct experience of beauty and love.
Anyone today can positively enhance their state of mind and quality of life by using similar approaches of deeply appreciating beauty. Recall how spacious and peaceful you feel while viewing a spectacular sunset, smelling the scent of flowers or listening to beautiful music. How good do you feel about yourself and the world around you while taking the time to enjoy a meal of pure, healthy, delicious tasting food? To hold the hand of someone you care about?
From the Tantric point of view, beauty and love are a profound, conscious sadhana (practice) that can be done anywhere, at any time that can lead to vibrant well-being. This Shringara Sadhana could include consciously surrounding yourself with attractive art, images from nature, soothing melodies, tasty, pure food and positive people. It means looking for the good, first in yourself, then others and striving to find the ultimate benefit from every situation or interaction. It’s about creating new, positive habits to replace old ones that may no longer serve you.
It is said that when our minds are filled with light, there is no room for darkness. beauty and love are the Divine light that is our truest nature.