“A Yogini is one who is possessed of magical powers,’’ so we find in the Thousand Names of Goddess Bhavani. Yet the foremost of these magic powers is not the power to change the external world but the ability to realize the Divine reality within ourselves. In the mythology of the Devi (Goddess), the Mother archetype shapes herself through mystery, beauty and abundance pervading all of life. The supreme Shakti of Para Shiva, the Absolute Reality, She is ever willing to create, yield or generate universal energies. She is the supreme ruler of the universe who can grant all blessings and assuage all sorrows. The Yogini reflects her energies in the human world.
A true Yogini is an enlightened woman with exuberant passion, spiritual powers and deep insight. A woman attaining a transcendental state through sadhana becomes a celestial Yogini, a female adept at Yoga. She carries the energy of the Goddess within herself. The Yogini unfolds the mystic beauty and power of the Goddess through her transformational force of the Divine feminine. The Yogini’s benign nature leads one to the supreme reality of oneness, which is an ever blissful state, resting in the inextinguishable flame of the spiritual heart.
Yoginis communicate a sense of freedom and a sheer mastery in whatever they do in life, whether it is mundane activities or deep meditation. Their compelling gaze can hypnotize even a great yogi. In the ancient literature, it is said that Deities called Yoginis are capable of changing their physical forms at will, carrying all of nature in their demeanor and expression. There are sixty four such Yoginis through which the secret forces of nature operate.
In addition to these ‘cosmic’ Yogini forces, Tantric scholars have written about the human Yogini as an independent, outspoken, forthright woman with a gracefulness of spirit. She is the feminine counterpart of the great Yogi and carries similar insights, faculties and energies but with a special beauty, grace and delight. Besides great Yogis, there is a tradition of great Yoginis, either along with the Yogis or on their own. For example, Mahavatar Babaji, the great immortal guru of Kriya Yoga is said to have such a Yogini counterpart.
Tantric texts honor both women and the Earth alike as sources of energy, vitality, and sustenance, providing physical and spiritual well-being. The Divine Mother holds the key to all lasting regeneration in this ecological age of strife and turbulence. Reconnecting with the sacred feminine energy of the universe allows us to restore the Divine balance within ourselves, celebrating the Devi power, mystery and magic of transformation through which all life breathes and evolves. In our surrender to the supreme power of the Mother Goddess, she guides us through her Maya, the world of illusion, taking us beyond all ignorance, suffering and pain. The unifying power of the Divine Mother can bring about the healing of all humanity and the entire planet, if we open up to her presence beneath, above and around us. The Yogini is a female Yoga adept who aids the Mother Goddess in her work of healing the planet.
In Hindu thought, the Yogini represents the Yoga Shakti herself, the Kundalini or serpent power, which she embodies. The Yogini is also the foremost of the resident powers or female Deities of the different chakras (called Dakinis), through which the chakras are energized. The Yogini possesses the inner power of Yoga and can awaken it in others, not only generally but at any point or place in the body or mind where she directs her attention. One’s ability to achieve the higher states of Yoga can be facilitated by an association with such a Yogini who reflects this higher power of Yoga. Such a Yogini is much more than a woman asana expert. She can play with the full spectrum of the powers of consciousness, mind, heart, soul and Prana, even while sitting still. She is particularly adept at mantra, ritual and the invocation of the Divine forces.
Just as a Goddess blesses and benefits her devotees, the Shakti vivifies all biological, cultural, and religious sacred life force or spiritual energy to her family and followers. A woman is no more depleted by providing this spiritual nourishment than a mother by nursing her child. In fact, it causes deeper energies to well up from within her. This spiritual energy is not something that one can extract or take from a Yogini at will. She chooses when and on whom to bestow her blessings according to the inner currents of grace that have their own logic and impetus.
The Yogini’s ability to enhance our spiritual development depends upon her innate divinity as awakened and brought to fruition by her own yogic practices. These include her ability to envision the forms of various Goddesses with their ornaments and gestures, tender and wrathful expressions, and supernatural powers for helping others. By blessing or empowering others, she is not working through herself but rather allowing the abundance of the Divine feminine to provide for the growth, abundance and revitalization of all of life.
This relationship with the Yogini parallels human-divine relationships in so far as the Deity is the benefactor and the human devotee is the beneficiary. Although the Deity may derive some satisfaction from the relationship, the devotee has much more to gain than does the sovereign object of his devotion. What supplicants ultimately want from their Deity is the supreme deliverance or liberation, and this is what true Tantrics seek to gain from their relationships with spiritual women and with the Goddess herself. Tantric texts reiterate that a man cannot gain enlightenment without respecting women and allying himself inwardly with the Yoga Shakti. The Devi’s beneficence is a gracious, yet voluntary response to her devotee’s supplication, homage and worship.
True Tantra is a holistic discipline guiding one to a sacred path that nurtures an inner and an outer purity, inspiring and calming the mind and emotions through deliberation and contemplation. The goal is the ultimate freedom of unitary consciousness, which transcends the polarized concepts of man and woman, purity and impurity and, in fact every duality. If spiritually evolved beings come together in a higher awareness, they can create an energy field that is most positive and rare, exuding deeper vibrational levels of peace and love into the entire universe.
Sharing the secrets of divine love and universal energy, a Yogini can bestow transcendental power. She learns to release the wisdom-energy that is the highest form of Shakti, creating a joyful transformation of one’s inner being. A Yogini can initiate others into such mystical experiences through trust, faith and surrender to higher ideals and a deep spontaneity that is not limited to existing rules and preconceptions of the spiritual path. It is the Goddess within each woman who really initiates and directs the deeper yogic process for them. Similarly, it is the Yoga Shakti or feminine power that is working even within the male Yogi, guiding his unfoldment.
The Goddess is a great Yogini, devoted to Shiva, the Supreme Lord of Existence, yet matching His powers. She is the embodiment of pure energy, the Mother and matrix of all manifestation, the source of all time, space and creation. As they became adept at Yoga together, Shakti accepted Shiva as her Guru, and he taught her to unfold the transcendent, guiding Parvati to her ultimate liberation. Shiva in turn also accepted Shakti as his Guru, and she taught the secrets of the universe in all of its diverse forms, expressions and forces, up to the supreme power of consciousness itself.
Para Shakti, the Supreme Shakti, in the form of Durga, the Divine Mother as the great protector, is also given the name Yogini. She assumes various forms and takes on different divine energies in order to maintain harmony in the Universe, to combat evil and to uphold divinity. This Durga energy is particularly needed today and can turn an ordinary woman Yoga practitioner into a true Yogini, if one fully surrenders to it. Durga protects the Earth and humbles the Asuras, the arrogant and material forces that try to control us from the outside through fear and desire.
The Yogini also relates to the Goddess Bhairavi, who is the energy of the cosmic Fire, who resting in the Muladhara or root chakra, the center of the Earth energy, manifests the Kundalini force. This root fire is the primary fire behind all higher Yoga practices, through which all the Deities or Divine powers manifest within our own being. It is this inner fire that we must awaken to bring about any higher changes in our Prana or in our awareness. The Yogini knows how to work with all these fires.
The ancient cultures of Egypt, Greece, Tibet and India all have esoteric traditions glorifying the wisdom power of the woman. She is considered to be the high priestess who unfolds all higher knowledge and powers for us. She is Sophia, the source and font of wisdom or Prajna, the deepest insight into the nature of things. The ‘initiatory’ power of woman is tremendous, providing the force of passion that is necessary for developing experiential mysticism. Mary Magdalene was regarded as such a Yogini, manifesting her Shakti through the flow of light from her heart and soul.
India has sustained a rich tradition and heritage of Devi or Goddess worship throughout the centuries, personified as Mother India (Bharat Mata), India as the great world Mother and world Guru. Anandamayi Ma was a most revered contemporary feminine divine force of India who reflected that power, but we find the same energy in all the great women gurus of India.
The Yogini lives an effusive life, cultivating an awareness of depth, maturity, clarity, tolerance and compassion, while enjoying the fruition and abundance that the universe spontaneously provides. The spiritual path requires discrimination and insight, allowing us a thorough comprehension of life’s ways, not turning a blind eye to our worldly existence, just as a mother must continue to look after her children. The Yogini is ever mindful of witnessing the presence of every moment with deep reverence. The joyousness of life should be a flow of continuous celebration.
Yogic spirituality is a path of deep introspection, self-inquiry, observation and contemplation. It is a search to know the true nature of one’s self, of life and of the universe at large. The revelations and answers must come from the heart, not merely the mind which tends to intellectualize & conceptualize everything. The Yogini engages in this inner delving, going back to the source of all that is.
Our true Self is the Divine being or universal consciousness; there is no ambiguity of ‘knowing’ the self – purely resting in the true Self is its realization. Our true being holds no concepts, beliefs, visions or convictions. These are merely perceptions of the human mind. The inner yogic experience is sought by dealing with the deeper issues of our daily lives. Moving beyond them will alleviate our restlessness. A yogic lifestyle of asana, pranayama, mantra and meditation will bring about a peaceful and happy existence at both personal and universal levels. This is not merely a matter of following a method but of releasing the electrical inner Shakti to provide the transformative current to allow all these processes to really work. The Yogini awakens this internal power of Yoga. There is no technique for becoming a Yogini. It requires a radical change at the core of our being.
To become a Yogini is the highest spiritual goal for all women. It is the way to become one with the Goddess within and to bring her out in expression to uplift the world that is really her own creation. Yet it is not an outer appearance but a state of inner energy and ecstasy that makes the Yogini. She cannot be manipulated, defined or even ever entirely known. One must approach the Yoga Shakti through an intuitive vision and yogic sadhana, allowing the Yogini to arise within us.
Shakti as the supreme energy still has few fires burning in this troubled world today – we must enkindle these inner fires again within us by creating the kunda ‘vessel’, to hold the Divine feminine energy. This requires an inner surrender. The force of the Devi will rise again, even stronger in the days and years to come, until we learn to dwell once more in the sacred! But we must learn to be aware of her power within us that is the source of all that we are and do.