Yoni Puja: Worshipping Shakti
The most well-known treatise about worshipping the yoni is, without doubt, Yoni Tantra. As is the case in many other Tantras, this tantric text is a dialog between Shiva and Parvati. It reveals the highly revered sadhana practiced by kaulas (tantrics), the yoni puja.
It is known that the Kaulas (Kaula or Kula describes a type of Hindu Tantra), closely linked to the Siddha and Natha traditions, regarded female gurus very highly, and there were many examples of yoginis or female Tantrics. Their reverence towards Shakti is beautifully expressed many times in the Tantras (such as Shakti Sangama Tantra and Devirahasya). In both Kulachudamani Tantra and the Brihad Nila Tantra, the Kaula is instructed to recite a mantra inwardly whenever he sees a woman.
In the traditional texts, we find the following references:
“Women are divinity, women are life, women are truly jewels.” (Yoni Tantra, Patala 7)
“Worship carefully a woman or a maiden as she is Shakti, sheltered by the Kulas. One should never speak harshly to maidens or women.” (Kaulajnananirnaya, Patala 23)
“In Kaula every woman is thought of as a manifestation of the Goddess. No man may raise his hand, strike or threaten a woman. When she is naked, men must kneel and worship her as the Goddess. She has equal rights with men on all levels.” (Occult World of a Tantrik Guru, Values Vol. IX)
“Women are heaven; women are dharma; and women are the highest penance. Women are Buddha; women are the Sangha; and women are the perfection of Wisdom.” (Yoni Tantra)
“Hari, Hara, and Brahma – the gods of creation, maintenance, and destruction – all originate in the yoni.” (Yoni Tantra)
“The divine yoni is as brilliant as tens of millions of suns and as cool as tens of millions of moons.” (Shiva Samhita, 15th century)
“Devi is at the base of the yoni and Naganandini is in the yoni. Kali and Tara are in the yoni chakra, and Chinnamasta in the hair. Bagalamukhi and Matangi are on the rim of the yoni. Mahalakshmi (Kamalatmika), Shodashi (Tripura Sundari), and Bhuvaneshvari are within the yoni. By worshipping the yoni one certainly worships Shakti.” (Yoni Tantra, Patala 3)
“For the sadhaka who says ‘Aim Aim’ at the time of worship, the yoni is fortunate and gives both enjoyment and liberation. A yogin is not a bhogin (seeker of pleasure) and a bhogin is not a yogin, but if one worships the yoni, one is a Kaula, a person who has both yoga and bhoga (enjoyment). All worship is pointless without worship of the yoni, O Durga.” (Yoni Tantra, Patala 3)
“Worshipping this causes Shivoham. Listen, Parvati! Krishna, after worshipping Radha’s yoni, became God Krishna. Sri Rama Janaki Nath worshipped Sita’s yoni. Vishnu, Brahma, the saints, and I myself all were born from a yoni. What knowledge in the three worlds can match the magnificence of the yoni?” (Yoni Tantra, Patala 4)
“The vagina is Mahamaya and the penis is Sadashiva. Worshipping them, one becomes liberated while still alive, there is no doubt about it.” (Yoni Tantra, Patala 5)
“Liberation is achieved through enjoyment. Happiness is gained through enjoyment. Therefore, by every effort, a sadhaka should become an enjoyer. The wise man should always avoid blame, disgust, or shame of the yoni.” (Yoni Tantra, Patala 6)
WHAT IS A YONI PUJA?
A yoni puja is a sacred ritual during which the yoni is worshipped. It is very important to understand that the prerequisite for worshipping the yoni is the purification of the mind from worldly ideas about the yoni. The yoni is the form of the cosmos and encompasses the mysteries of creation. Reverence in front of Shakti’s mystery is the attitude that needs to be cultivated to perform a yoni puja. That is why in Yoni Tantra we find this warning: “Never worship the yoni in front of pashus (males still possessed by their animal nature).”
Outer Yoni Puja
A yoni puja can be performed by using a sculpture, painting, or sanctified natural object representing a yoni as focus of veneration, or by worshipping the yoni in her living form. We can imagine that as a ritual of worship that goes back thousands of years and which is still being practiced today in India, a yoni puja embraces many forms. Despite these differences, there are several ritual elements with very clear symbolism that constitute the core of a yoni puja.
Elements of Outer Yoni Puja:
- Salutation and reverence in front of Shakti
- Offerings to the Goddess: Those attending a yoni puja will usually offer five different fruits or other things to the Deity, such as flower petals, rice, ghee, etc.
- Adoration Stage: general prayers to the Goddess; chanting mantras
- Sanctifying of the 5 Elements: The five liquids are poured over the yoni. They represent the 5 elements. Generally, such libations represent offerings for the Goddess, but in this case the pouring of the 5 liquids over the yoni symbolizes the universalizing and sanctifying of the 5 tattvas (elements). The 5 liquids are collected in a vessel below the yoni symbol (in a case of a woman’s yoni, the vessel is placed below the thighs). The final mixture resulting from this libation is empowered by the direct and intimate contact with the Goddess. Every participant of a yoni puja will take a sip from this prasad (sacred offering).
The 5 liquids are: Yogurt (Earth element), water (Water element), honey (Fire element), milk (Air element), and any edible oil (Ether element).
Note: Yoni puja performed with a woman’s yoni is known as stri puja or rahasya puja. There are some recommendations for choosing the woman for yoni puja because it is considered that the power of Shakti transmitted via the liquids to the devotees depends on the woman’s conscious transparency to the Goddess. That is why it is considered that the best choice for a yoni puja is a yogini. A yogini, by her power to channel the Goddess, creates the best conditions to raise the consciousness of those who take part in the ceremony.
- Usually, there is a stage called the magic stage during which the worshippers, before the visible yoni, (either of a living woman or an image of the Goddess) beg the Goddess to grant them wishes of all kinds. Such wishes may range from “please cure my mother” or “please give me a son,” to the even more egocentric “let me have success in business and increase my bank accounts.”
- The meditation stage: Contemplating the mystery of Shakti. Absorption into the womb of the Mother. Tracing Shakti energy back to its Source.
A yoni puja can be performed in mixed groups, although sometimes only women or only men may be in attendance.
What is most important in a yoni puja is the devotion towards Shakti and single-minded attention of the practitioners. It is this combination of love and awareness that enables the raising of consciousness during these rituals. The crucial aspect of being in deep love with and having reverence for the Mother in all Her forms can not be overemphasized. Women are multiple facets of the Supreme Shakti.
Inner Yoni Puja
Inner yoni puja implies that we must as clearly as possible visualize the image of a yoni (a sculpture, a picture, a sanctified object, or the living form of a yoni) and contemplate it as long as possible with devotion and reverence.