'Whispers of the Unseen' book review: Absorbing, educating work for  spiritually inclined readers

'Whispers of the Unseen' book review: Absorbing, educating work for spiritually inclined readers

Tantra finds its roots in the scriptural texts called the Puranas.

The book, Whispers of the Unseen—The Quest for Sixty-Four Yoginis, collates the experiences of the author S Beena Unnikrishnan in the realm of Tantra— an instuitional practice for liberation from physical and mental bondages—and spirituality associated with it.

Tantra is a heart-centered or emotion centric emancipatory path to attaining conscious union with the Divine. The author, after traversing the path under the guidance of her mentor, has scripted her journey and the experiences—both temporal and spiritual—in this book. Though Tantra has a wide canvas, the author’s practice is confined to conjuring the forms, images and characteristics of female deities called yoginis, matching many of them them with their idols installed in ancient temples of India, watching the effects of these activities on her own mundane life, and finally penning down her unique experiences.

Hinduism is a vast and wide set of philosophies. There are multiple practices for experience of, and communion with, the divine. Tantra finds its roots in the scriptural texts called the Puranas. In spite of the multiplicity of philosophy and practice, there is a common spiritual bottomline, as per which human life has a common goal of salvation—the near permanent state of blissful existence in union with the ultimate spiritual power that creates and regulates the universe. Tantra, as one such practice, possesses some unique features. It is mystic and esoteric. But since its threads are found in the mythological tales of the ancient Puranas, which form the foundation of the practice of traditional Hinduism, it remains a part and parcel of the Hindu cultural canvas, which also contains practices as astrology and reiki in which the author had profound interest, as expressed in the book.

Whispers of the Unseen begins with the author’s emphatically expressed love for the female deity and her quest for spiritual experience through propitiation. The author talks about her mentor and guide Dr David, a pseudonym. She goes on to describe how he, quite providentially, helps her move forward in her spiritual journey, leading to communion with the 64 yoginis.

Painting the forms of each of these 64 yoginis was her own special way of spiritual realisation of the divine feminine. Accordingly, she has captured her experience of this realisation in 64 chapters, with each giving a vivid account of the specific yogini and her unique legendary attributes in the backdrop of the mythological tales surrounding her. One of the final chapters is devoted to the author’s sacred sojourn—visiting temples across India associated with many of these yoginis. In the last chapter, the author reflects upon her experiences and revelations stating that her “voyage had come full circle, a self realisation with complete surrender”.

There are two important takeaways from the book for the lay reader. First, the spiritual journey for a person is not complete through observance of plain textual rituals. One needs to delve deeper into practice by surrendering their ego. Secondly, the practice needs a mentor or guru. It cannot be done alone, and requires constant support of a guide.

This book depicts the quintessential attributes of the 67 forms of the divine feminine rather poignantly. It successfully connects the ordinary reader to the Puranic description of yoginis, conveying that male and female energies, which innately exist in every individual, are the twin basis of all creation. These energies should be in harmonious association for spiritual progress of the individual.

It, however, must be pointed out that the treatment of deities in the book is rather theoretical. Since the attributes of the various deities are rendered in Puranas through the use of metaphors, the author would have done better to describe these qualities as well as her own experiences in a more exhaustive and elaborative manner, to make it more relatable to the reader’s contemporary practical life.

The book, therefore, doesn’t make for interesting rapid reading for the lay reader. But it is certainly an absorbing and educating work for those who are already spiritually initiated and inclined.

Whispers of the Unseen—The Quest for Sixty-Four Yoginis

By: S Beena Unnikrishnan

Publisher: Blue One Ink

Pages: 326

Price: Rs 699

The New Indian Express