As to their spiritual utility, ritual (puja), mantra chanting (japa), and meditation are interchangeable. In terms of Yoga, they are all of one essence and accomplish the same ends: to make deliberate use of prāna (what Franz Bardon calls “vital energy”) within or in relation to our organism to clear out our internal channels and make way for the experience of Sakti; to experience, focus, and integrate Sakti; to purify and concentrate the mind. Whether or not we think of them in these terms, all of these processes require the dissolution of various tensions within the system, both subtle and gross.
When we speak, for instance, of the Kleshas, what we are basically speaking of are certain root-tensions (mūlātati) and the seed from which they sprout (bījātati). Likewise, the “knots” (granthi) of Hatha-Yoga represent tensions in consciousness. In both cases, the trouble begins with mind and spreads to the body. This creates a feedback cycle in which mental tensions cause emotional tensions which cause physiological tensions which exacerbate emotional tensions which deepen mental tensions, and on and on. Tension of any kind is therefore blocked-up prāna which cannot properly move in a healthful or helpful way; whether its task should be constructive or destructive, it will either not be doing its job at all, or will be doing it in a perverse way. And where prāna is blocked, Sakti does not move, either.
In Tibet, the individual ego is often offered to spirits, demons, and protective deities in lieu of blood sacrifice. This serves not only to “feed” the spirits, but also to break down the internal blockages within the practitioner. The practice following is similar. As egotism is recognized in Yoga as one of the Kleshas, but the Kleshas are not limited to the ego, we therefore offer up all tensions and all sources of tension. We thereby include the Kleshas, as well as conditioned behaviors and the fruits of karma.
Simple Internal Puja
Sit in your usual meditation posture, eyes closed. With both hands, touch the tips your forefingers to your thumbs, and rest your hands palm down on your thighs. Breathe easily and slowly with your belly. Follow your breath for a few minutes.
Place your attention as much as possible in your heart center (in the middle of your chest). Visualize there a shrine-like cave, your ishta devatā (your chosen deity, usually the deity at the center of your worship or meditative practice*) enthroned within.
Next, visualize a dhuni (fire pit), as if dug into bare earth, in the space of your navel center (about two finger widths below your belly button and straight back). A steady fire is going in this basin. Maintaining your attention in the cave of your heart, simply watch this fire for a few moments and feel the power emanating from it. (If it helps your concentration, you may imagine the whole scene as a landscape with the fire pit being down a steep slope from the cave entrance, a dense forest surrounding the whole. If this level of visual detail is more distracting for you, leave it out. Experiment to find the best balance for yourself.)
Take a deep breath and hold it (with your belly, not your throat) and mentally say: “I sacrifice all of my tension and all the sources of tension into the dhuni fire.” Release the breath slowly and steadily; as you do, probe your body for any centers of tension, simply bringing a warm attention to them and moving on. Throughout this process, mentally say: “All tension melts like honey mixed with ghee, running into the dhuni.” As you inhale again, mentally say: “As the tension burns away, the pure prāna released rises as an offering to [deity’s name] enthroned in the cave of my heart.” As you exhale again, feel the prāna rising up your central channel from the flame at your navel.
Continue the cycle of breathing for as long as you like: inhale, feeling tension melting into the dhuni and prāna rising from it; exhale, feeling the prāna entering the cave of your heart.
Once you feel sufficiently tension-free, or as if your heart center is as saturated as it can get for now, release all of the visualizations entirely and either focus on the cycle of your breath alone, on the bare attention in your heart center, or else on the fundamental energy of your central channel.
There are many ways to extend this practice. It may be profitably combined with the Double Breath meditation taught by Swami Rudrananda and Swami Khecaranatha, for example, or adapted into a Natha equivalent to tummo with the addition of certain Hatha-Yoga exercises. On its own, however, it already presents a full practice unto itself. Once you have practiced it enough to be able to move through the steps smoothly, this meditation may be done in just a few spare minutes as a relaxation exercise, as well. Any number of other applications may present themselves, and I invite you to comment or get in touch with any you may may come up with.
*Note that if you do not have an ishta devatā, you may certainly approach Lord Siva, Ganapati, or Lord Buddha Sakyamuni. If for any reason you are not comfortable with any of them, a brilliant white light like a tiny sun in the cave of your heart is also suitable.
I’ve been -re-reading your blog and finding some beautiful pearls that seem to mesh very well to my current experiences (as opposed to 2 years ago).
This article in particular has been very useful. I’ve been using this practice to great effect after magical and yogic practice, or in general to keep everything clean.
However, recently I’ve been wondering how I could recommend it to a female practitioner that I mentioned it to.
You remark that the steps are reversed for women, but I’m a bit unclear on it.
When, for example, they start out with the left hand and cover the left nostril, is vata cleared out first, or pitta?
In any case, thank you for this.
As well as the Portable Puja practice. They are dynamic and very useful