THERE are four different forms of worship corresponding with four states (bhava);(1) The realization that the jivatma and paramatma are one, that everything is Brahman, and that nothing but the Brahman exists, is the highest state or brahma-bhava. Constant meditation by the yoga process upon the Devata in the heart is the lower and middlemost (dhyana-bhava), japa and stava (hymns and prayer) is still lower, and the lowest of all mere external worship (puja).

Puja-bhava is that which arises out of the dualistic notions of worshipper and worshipped; the
servant and the Lord. This dualism exists in greater or less degree in all states except the highest. But for him who, having realized the advaita-tattva, knows that all is Brahman, there is neither worshipper nor worshipped, neither yoga nor puja, nor dharana, dhyana, stava, japa, vrata, or other ritual or process of sadhana.

In external worship there is worship either of an image (pratima), or of a yantra, which takes its place. The sadhaka should first worship inwardly the mental image of the form assumed by the Devi, and then by the life-giving (prana-pratistha) ceremony infuse the image with Her life by the communication to it of the light and energy (tejas) of the Brahman which is within him to the image without, from which there bursts the lustre of Her whose substance is consciousness itself (caitanya-mayi), She exists as S’akti in stone or metal, or elsewhere, but is there veiled and seemingly inert. Caitanya (consciousness) is aroused by the worshipper through the pranapratistha mantra.

Rites (karma) are of two kinds. Karma is either nitya or naimittika. The first is both daily and obligatory, and is done because so ordained. Such are the sandhya, which in the case of Sudras is in the Tantrik form, and daily puja of the Ista-and Kula-Devata; and for Brahmanas the panca-maha-yajna. The second or conditional karma is occasional and voluntary, and is kamya when done to gain some particular end, such as yajna for a particular object; tapas with the same end (for certain forms of tapas are also nitya) and vrata.

The Sudra is precluded from the performance of Vaidik rites, or the reading of Vedas, or the recital of the Vaidik mantra. His worship is practically limited to that of the Ista-Devata and the Bana-linga-puja, with Tantrik and Pauranik mantra and such vratas as consist in penance and charity. In other cases the vrata is performed through a Brahmana.

The Tantra makes no caste distinctions as regards worship. All may read the Tantras, perform the Tantrik worship, such as the sandhya, and recite the Tantrik mantra, such as the Tantrik Gayatri, All castes, and even the lowest candala, may be a member of a cakra, or Tantrik circle of worship. In the cakra all its members partake of food and drink together and are deemed to be greater than Brahmanas; though upon the break-up of the cakra the ordinary caste and social relations are re-established. All are competent for the special Tantrik worship, for in the words of the Gautamiya-Tantra, the Tantra-Sastra is for all castes and for all women. (2)

The latter are also excluded under the present Vaidik system, though it is said by Sankha Dharrna-sastra-kara that the wife may, with the consent of her husband, fast, take vows, perform homa and vrata,(3) etc. According to the Tantra, a woman may not only receive mantra, but may, as a Guru, initiate and give it.(4) She is worshipful as Guru, and as wife of Guru.(5) The Devi is Herself Guru of all Sastras (6) and women, as, indeed, all females who are Her embodiments are, in a peculiar sense, Her earthly representatives.

1. See ” Principles of Tantra,”
2. Sarva-varnadhikarascha narinam yogya eva ca (chap. i}.
3. It has been said that neither a virgin (kumari), a pregnant woman (garbhini), nor a woman during her period, can perform vrata,
4. Rudra-yarnala, 2 Khanda (chap. ii); 1 Khanda (chap. xv.), where the qualifications are stated.
5. Ibid, I Khanda (chap. i) ; Matrka-bheda-Tantra (chap. viii) ; Annadakalpa Tantra cited in Prana-tosini , P: 68. As the Yogini-Tantra says, gurupatni mahesani gurureva (chap. i).
6. Kankala-malini-Tantra (chap. li).