Yogic Deities as Archetypes
Often when you visit a yoga studio or an ashram or just about anywhere in India, you see Hindu and Buddhist deities such as Ganesh, Shiva, Lakshmi, etc. You can understand and approach a deity at many levels. The easiest way to relate to them is as your personal archetype.
What is an Archetype?
The word archetype was coined by the Swiss psychotherapist, Carl Jung. An archetype is a symbol or a form that is imprinted in your subconscious. Jung was inspired by the yogic archetypes and originally called them devis and devas and Shiva Shakti. Later on, he amended them to anima (feminine) and animus (masculine) archetypes.
You may have archetypes from many traditions. For instance, the Sun god is called Ra (Amun Ra) in the Egyptian tradition. The same Sun god in the Roman tradition is called Mitra while in the yogic/hindu tradition, the Sun god is also Mitra or Surya.
Even though the cultures were thousands of miles and thousands apart, these are Universal archetypes. Interestingly, Mitra was born of a virgin mother on December 25, was a wandering preacher with 12 disciples and when he died, he was resurrected 3 days later! The cross is another beautiful archetypical symbol.
The Hawaiians call these archetypes as Aumakua such as Pele, Goddess of the fire and volcano. You have many archetypes from Greek traditions such as Athena, Isis, Zeus, etc. however these yogic archetypes such as Ganesh, Shiva, Lakshmi, Durga etc. have persisted over centuries while fewer people work with the Greek and Egyptian archetypes. That’s because the entire philosophy of yogic Self Realization is embedded in the symbols of these archetypes. The fact that you are embarking on a yoga teacher training means there is a good chance one or more of these yogic deities is your archetype.
These archetypes are within our collective Unconscious. These archetypes lie deeply embedded in our Causal Body and are available for the whole human race. They pop up in times of transition in our lives and help guide us to achieve the higher ideals in life. One of the biggest knowledge about ourself we can find out is to know who our archetype is and how to invoke that and incorporate those superhuman ideals in our lives.
At its very core, these teachings are not a Religion (theism, polytheism, monotheism, etc.) nor a Philosophy (Dualism, Monism, Non Dualism, etc). It is a Sadhana (Spiritual Practice) of actualizing human potential of becoming thebest at every stage of our lives. It is always Perfecting as opposed to Perfection and looking at the good in everything around us.
The Sanskrit word for archetype is Ishtadevata.
Ishta means desired and devata means deity. I feel Ishtadevata is more heart oriented than the intellectual sounding archetype.
These murtis (statues) are not “out there”, but within you as archetypes. Not only their help you in your transformation but they lead you to Awakening. As Joseph Campbell said, Myths are Collective Dreams while your dreams are Personal Myths! When your Personal dreams, hopes and aspirations are in tune with the Collective myths, there is amazing harmony in your life.