Introduction to Deity Meditation
Tibetan Buddhist spiritual practice centres around the deities in its devotional rituals and meditation techniques. It may be disconcerting for those who have heard that Buddhism is a “non-theistic” religion to discover an elaborate system of worship with a pantheon of goddesses and gods.
It is for this reason that some other Buddhist schools have considered the Buddhism in Tibet to be corrupt or untrue to its original form. However, those deity practices are deeply rooted in the very foundations of Buddhist thought and represent an exceptionally skilful use of technique to evoke realization of those ideas on the deepest levels.
In the Tibetan tantric tradition, advanced practitioners are assigned to meditate on a particular deity. They have to visualize the deity, giving it a form inside their own consciousness. The idea is to get so good at the visualization that you eventually see the deity step outside your mind, as it were, appearing before you in a moving, speaking form.
Breathe like you’re standing in front of your beloved.
– Leanne Kitteridge
Deities can be seen in different ways. One way to view them is as personifications of perfection. When we think of “God-Consciousness” it is very abstract. Deities are Consciousness embodied in human form that we can relate to, aspire to, and use as inspiration.
Mantras are the sonic bodies of the deities.
– Mark Dyczkowski
Deities may also be thought of as different vibrations of God-Consciousness, and you can worship them by meditating on a statue or picture, gazing upon a yantra (symbol), chanting a mantra associated with that deity or praying to them.
The Goal of this Practice
Even the most beautiful image or form eventually has to dissolve back into consciousness. That is the point of the exercise with the deity. Once a meditator has made the deity real enough to actually appear, he is supposed to deliberately let the form of the deity dissolve back into his own Awareness. The ultimate purpose of the exercise is to reveal that everything, including the divine forms that religious people love, is actually a manifestation of and within our own Consciousness.