The meaning of touching sacred objects (murti, feet, etc.), then self heart and head afterwards.

Why it is common in India to touch sacred objects and then, after that – your own head or heart? For the most people in the West it is still not clear. Let us address, first of all, the yogic sources. For instance, in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā, in the description of sthūla-dhyana (6. 2-14), there are two techniques of contemplation.

The first technique is a contemplation of the Deity in your own heart, usually it is a heart chakra with eight petals, located according to the eight directions (cardinal and inter-cardinal) where east in us is located in front of us. There are various descriptions of that technique, where different Deities are contemplated in the heart, there are various features of eight petals, and in some cases it is recommended to submerge into nāda e.t.c.

Another technique, described in the Gheraṇḍa Saṁhitā is Guru-chakra, which is located above ājñā-chakra and at the base of sahasrāra-chakra. Sometimes it is considered as a part of sahasrāra, that is why they are often identified as the same phenomenon. This chakra consists of twelve petals with each akṣara having a special meaning, this is navātma-mantra. Navātma-mantra includes in itself main elements (tattvas) of the Universe (brahmanda). That is a very common form of dhyana, where it is recommended to meditate on Guru, who is identified as Śiva.

Actually, the practise is considered a secret, although it may seem simple to someone. But, in our age of information, there is no more secrets after the rise of the Internet. Today we have a different kind of problem – sincerity. That is why, I think, having exclusive knowledge without śuddha-bhakti will get benefits for no one. And for those who are devoted to the true Guru and Deity, the Truth will be revealed by itself.

So what are these two areas, the head and the heart? In a tantric pūjā these are two places, connected with the invocation of a Deity in yourself, in your heart, where the Deity through the upper dvādaśānta should descent from sahasrārachakra to the heart. After that, using your breath, you ‘relocate the Deity’ into a flower, which is then placed in your palms. That is being done with the dvādaśānta, which is located in front of your nose. We know that there is inner dvādaśānta, through which prāṇa is absorbed with the inhale into our heart. There is also external dvādaśānta, when we are exhaling and the flow goes outwards. Practises of these dvādaśāntas can be found, for example, in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra. In such texts as Siddha-siddhānta-paddhati, Advaya-tāraka-upaniṣad, the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇopaniṣad, external dvādaśānta is described as bahir-lakṣya (an external object of contemplation). In a tantric pūjā, that bahir-lakṣya is used for āvāhana – the invocation and the spreading of the Deity outside and placing it in mūrti, yantra e.t.c. Also, these elements are used during the completion of a pūjā (worship), when we ‘absorb the Deity’ inside ourselves into the heart and it is going back to the head area, beyond the body. Respectively, these areas are the most important places of perception, and everything starts and ends with them. The same centres are used by nāthayogis when they are performing śāmbhavī or nādi-pūjā, when while squatting they make a bow and bent their upper bodies. It is possible that many people who are touching sacred places, feet of saints e.t.c. are doing so automatically, without consideration of what is it about. Nevertheless, your Guru-chakra is your temple, your heart is your temple, your palms are your temple and all external objects in which everything is invoked is also your temple. As for the lower centres, the areas of mūlādhāra, svādhiṣṭhāna e.t.c. – these are worshipped in kaula-, aghora-mārga and are not for the ‘open pūjās’. Although the descent of Śakti from sahasrārachakra downwards to mūlādhāra or the ascent backwards is also a subject of internal yogic practises. Sometimes the internal yogic processes could be a part of external pūjās, complementing each other. But in which cases, what and how to use it – these things are always better to learn from your Guru, as it is not possible to transmit everything openly and publicly.

Cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas in the yogic texts

Such elements as cakras, adharas, lakṣyas and vyomas are not always clearly described in the Natha texts and Tantras. Therefore, it is often necessary to use different texts for “complementarity.” There is another perfect way, the presence of a knowledgeable guru, who can explain everything and transmit it. However, it is extremely difficult to find such gurus. It is obvious from lots of texts that these elements of tantric yoga are transmitted to the disciple by a guru, who are realised in them. So, for example, the Pranatoshini-tantra (in the section of guru-tattva) describes these elements:

षट्चक्रं षोडशाधारं त्रिलक्षं व्योमपञ्चकम् |
स्वदेहे यो विजानाति स गुरुः कथितो बुधैः

ṣaṭcakraṃ ṣoḍaśādhāraṃ trilakṣaṃ vyomapañcakam |
svadehe yo vijānāti sa guruḥ kathito budhaiḥ ||

Six cakras, sixteen pillars, three goals (in yoga) and five vyomas are known (realised) in the body [of a disciple], that is connected with a guru.

Also, there are six streams or ways of opening of Paramashiva (षडध्वा ṣaḍadhvā) added to these elements. They play a big role in the tantric initiation (diksha), when the guru places them in the disciple’s body, awakens them in him, actually transmitting that he has realised already in himself. Therefore, a disciple adopts the psychophysical realisation of his guru. A disciple must perceive the transmission of these elements from the guru as the very revealing of Shiva. The revealing of Shiva, who is vācaka (expressing speech) and vācya (expressed) – Shakti. They are both revealed on three levels: the higher – parā (or abheda – apart from the differences), parāpara – the combination of the higher and the lower or the bhedābheda (one in discrimination) and apara – the lowest or bheda (separate). At the highest level, Shiva manifests as varṇa (the Sanskrit letters), and Shakti – as kalā (the five forms of primordial energy). At the parāpara level, Shiva manifests as a mantra and Shakti at the same level – as tattva, one of the 36 elements of Shaivism. At the level of apara, Shiva manifests himself as a pada (words) and Shakti appears as bhuvana (worlds). In a word, the entire manifested universe is the expression of the union of ShivaShakti. The shadadhvas are used in many practices, one of the well-known examples can be found in the Vijñāna-bhairava-tantra (Shloka 56), they are also mentioned in the Amaraugha-shasana by Gorakshanāth in the context of prāṇa movement and the awakening of kuṇḍalinīshakti.

Regarding the remaining elements, the Pranatoshini-tantra gives the following explanations:

पृथिव्यादीनि भूतानि कथितं व्योमपञ्चकमिति
pṛthivyādīni bhūtāni kathitaṃ vyomapañcakamiti

Starting from the ground, the five elements are known as the five vyomas. The Tantrāloka (Ahnika 29, Shloka 252) says about five centers, where the five vyomas manifest:

व्योमानि – जन्मनाभिहृद्विन्दुस्थानानि
vyomāni – janmanābhihṛdvindusthānāni

The following are connected with the vyomas: 1) janma-sthāna (mūlādhāra), 2) nābhi (maṇipūra), 3) hṛdaya (anāhata), 4) bindusthāna (usually, bhrūmadhya or ājñā) and 5) sahasrāra. Obviously, the earlier system of the five cakras, known in the Kubjikā-tantras for examples, corresponds to the yogic experience of five spaces. Although they are described differently in the Upaniṣadas (the Maṇḍalabrāhmaṇa-upaniṣad, the Advaya-taraka-upaniṣad) or in the Siddha-siddhānta-paddathi.

The Pranatoshini-tantra gives explanations of the three lakṣyas:

त्रिलक्षादिकमपि तत्रैव स्वयम्भूर्वाण इतरस्त्रिलक्षं परिकीर्त्तितम्
trilakṣādikamapi tatraiva svayambhūrvāṇa itarastrilakṣaṃ parikīrttitam

The three goals of meditation are known as svayambhū (liṅga), vana and itara (liṅgamas).

Six cakras are described similarly to many texts, but in the Pranatoshini-tantra they being reunited with the dvādaśānta system (subtle centers and spaces in the head area), give 16 adharas in total.

षोडशाधारस्वरूपमपि तत्रैव ||
मूलाधारस्वाधिष्ठानं मणिपूरमनाहतम् |
विशुद्धमाज्ञाचक्रञ्च बिन्दुर्भूयः कलापदम् |
निबोधिका तथार्द्धेन्दुर्नादो नादान्त एव च |
उन्मनी विष्णुवक्त्रञ्च ध्रुवमण्डलिका ततः |

ṣoḍaśādhārasvarūpamapi tatraiva ||
mūlādhārasvādhiṣṭhānaṃ maṇipūramanāhatam |
viśuddhamājñācakrañca bindurbhūyaḥ kalāpadam |
nibodhikā tathārddhendurnādo nādānta eva ca |
unmanī viṣṇuvaktrañca dhruvamaṇḍalikā tataḥ |

In addition to the cakras, from mūlādhāra to ājñā, there are listed bindu, kalā, pada, nibodhika, ardhendu, nada, nādānta, unmaṇi, viṣṇuvaktra, dhruvamaṇḍala.

In fact, this is a unified psychophysical system of the yogin including also the macrocosm.

In some texts, adharas are described as granthas (nodes of the energy connections), for example, in the Manthanabhaira-tantra, in others – as marmas (in the Yoga Yājñavalkya). In the last text, these marmas are used in the practice of pratyāhāra, in which, through the concentration of the mind, a yogi learns to collect his prāṇa scattered throughout the body. The term “marma” is found in Āyurveda, in Indian martial arts and comes from the root of mṛ meaning “death”, since the points were used to defeat the enemy. In these systems, marmas are numerous, and they are localised at the junction of different body systems, etc. Nevertheless, the points can play a healing function, so the mṛta (death) becomes an amṛta (life) or a path from mara to amara (immortality).

All these details in their entirety at the applied level can be transferred to the disciple only by a guru, who, without any doubt, must realise them in the most perfect form in himself.