“Detached from the outer show, he sees the inner essence and recognizes that life is merely the spontaneous acting out of the roll consciousness has assumed in the drama of universal manifestation.” — Aphorisms of Shiva; Dyczkowski
When we look into this philosophical or metaphysical questions of, “who am I?” or “what is knowledge?” and “How do I know what I know?,” or “What is reality?” we often turn towards categories to understand. We break the problem down and we look at ourselves from different perspectives. We see the typical parts of the self that we identify with: I am this body, these emotions, this intellect, this vital force, I am this breath; to say nothing of the host of external identifiers by family, nation, race, religion. Certainly we are all of these things and many more; but we’re much more even than that.
The tattva are a central component of the traditional sciences and philosophies of India. They are mentioned in the Yoga Suttras & the Bhagavad Gita, and one of the core differences between Tantra and Vedanta is the inclusion of 11 extra tattva in the former. It’s also a core concept for ayurvedic or jyotisha understanding of reality.
The tattva are components of reality and show us the course thru which each of the five elements (earth, water, fire, air, ether) follows though our lives to unfold reality through each of our senses and inner faculties of the mind. The tattvas represent both subject and object as well as all of the elements that lie between the subject and object. In short, the tattva are the elements of existence.
Different schools of philosophy have different perspectives of how the tattva fit together and relate with each other but ultimately they all agree that there is a subject, and object, and something that connects the two, and that the tattva make up the basic components of that three part reality.
Two of the most popular grouping of tattva suggest that there are either 25 or 36 tattva though quite often they also refer to the five mahabhuta (earth, water, fire, air, ether)primary elements alone as the tattva.
From these five, they also list the organs of knowledge (the abilities of the senses) as well the elements of the senses. Hearing and sound, touch and feeling, seeing and form, tasting and flavour, smelling and odour. Each of these represent a certain aspect of reality. They also list five ways that our body interacts with the world are also considered elements of our existence: speaking, grabbing or holding, moving in space, procreating and excreting waste.
Raising our awareness to more subtle heights we find our sense of individuality and uniqueness (ahamkara), we can witness our mind weighing options as an indeterminate knower. Its from here that our sense typically reach out to the world in order to determine and define knowledge and our individuality. Many modern people call this “excersising our free will.”
It’s at this level of existence where we find out minds fluxuating, vibrating, moving and changing. The manas and the ahamkara are the areas Patanjali brings our awareness to. For meditation, and to still the vibtations of the mind we are advised to follow the inward course of the tattva rather than the normal outward course thru the senses.
As we continue moving our awarness inward we will come to the buddhi the highest faculty of knowledge that just seems to know things. This is the silent knower who doesn’t argue because it doesn’t have to; the buddhi just knows. The buddhi is always endowed with truth; not necessarily the highest truth, but certainly what is true for the individual soul.This is one of the key differences between the buddhi and the manas. The manas is always seeking truth, usually from the outside world, while the buddhi silently knows the truth emanating from the individual soul.
The individual soul is essentially a combination of the purusha and prakriti. The individual soul, purusha, differs from the individual ego, ahamkara, in that it recognizes the connection between our “thisness” (idam) and that’s “thatness” (aham). The individual ego is that which disconnects our thisness from thats thatness. So, as we continue on our inward journey we do not loose ourselves but rather reconnect to that greater self and the universal purpose for our existence.
However, even when we are living from our ego, blind to the inherent interconnectedness, we are none the less also completing our universal soul quest; nothing can ever knock us from this path. The difference being that the ego has to struggle greatly with the vibrations of the mind always seeking knowedge but never gaining satisfaction. The mind is just vibrating from one thing to the next, from subject to object and back again without finding the source from which both of these emanate.
Once we know we are connected, once we realize our true nature, there is no question, no vibration between this and that; there is just the free and natural flow of karma without trying to hold onto this karma or rejecting that karma.
You will find a list of the tattva with explanations below
36 Tattvas of Tantra
Macrocosmic Universe: ParamaShiva: the great ultimate is said to be beyond the tattva. Tantra specifically, and most other branches of Indian thought usually have some little bit left over in their accounting of reality. There is always some residue which cannot be explained; something which is beyond explanation.
36. Shiva tattva: This is the entire universe in the form of illumination. In the process of manifestation of the world, Shiva performs five crutial functions. Since Shiva tattva is the tread that connects all the tattva, we could say that Shiva performs these five functions thru each tattva as well as to the whole system. Shiva is often identified as Prakash, the light of consciousness while Shakti is Vimarsha, cognitive awareness
- Nigraha: the act of self limitation or contraction. Concealment of his true nature.
- Srsti: Creation. The act of self manifestation as the world.
- Sthiti: Preservation of the manifest world.
- Samhara: Destruction, absorption or withdrawal of worldly manifestation
- Anugraha: Grace; revelation of his true nature
Pure Elements: the next four elements are elements of the Tantric goddess Usma, who is the embodiment of the internal heating and swelling of creativity.
35. Shakti: Shivas power which is not different from Shiva. This is Shivas power to conceal himself from himself. Shiva is the one who emanates and shakti is what is emanated; the being and the becoming. Shakti has 5 primary modes of expression. The first two are said to be his nature while the following three are the powers thru which he makes his nature known or manifest. Shakti has the experience of aham (thatness).
- Cit-shakti: conscious force
- Ananda-shakti: power as bliss
- Iccha-shakti: power as will
- Jnana-shakti: power as knowledge
- Kriya-shakti: spontaneous action as power
34. Sadashiva: the universe laying submerged and void within the self experience of the experiencer. Experience of aham (thatness)-idam (thisness)
33. Ishvara: self experience as “I” (aham) and an experience of the universe as a separate object with “thisness” (idam) shining unequally distinct within the self experience. Experience of idam-idam
32. Sadavidya: experience of aham-aham/idam-idam
Vidya Tattvas: these are the tattvas which bind us to our bodily existence.
Three kinds of defilements:
- Aanava mala (mula mala: root impurity): The impurity of individuality, occurring at the first moment of manifestation of the universe as Shiva begins to contract. Shiva’s true power becomes “obscured by the notions of existence and non-existence…” (Aphorisms p15) This impurity begins to take hold as soon as he descends to sadashiva tattva. Two kinds of anavamala: a) veils knowledge of divine awareness, but freedom of action remains intact (for those existents which exist below prakriti) b) leaves knowledge of divine awareness, but veils ability to act freely (those staying above maya tattva).
- Maayiiya mala: maya and the five kanchukas. Makes oblivious to real nature. Robs all sign of divinity. Veils only those below Prakriti.
- Karma mala: Provides us with physical body. Collective residual impressions from past lives. Once karma mala defiles Shiva in his descent, embodies individuals are created, known as sakalas. There are four kinds of karma: a) Sanchita: accumulated over many lifetimes. b) Prarabha: Created in this current life c) Kriyamana: freedom to change our current life situation. d) Agama: free will to set an intention for future action.
The kanchukas are sometimes called the five sisters of Mayadevi are like five cloaks worn by Shiva in order to mask his true nature from himself. It’s essentially thru the kanchukas that the all powerful is capable of making a stone so large that even he cannot lift it. He does this by masking his true nature from himself. Once conscious force individualizes itself thru anavamala and maya, it takes on five more cloaks in order to transform each of the five divine powers into five limited individual powers belonging to the individual soul. From this perspective we could say that maya is actually the core of our innermost individual micro-soul; from her we seek out our mega-soul for redemption.
30. Kalaa: Contracted kriya shakti. Limits Shiva’s power and creative abilities so that one cannot do everything. Limits omnipotence and the power of agency.
29. Vidya: Contracted jnana shakti. Limits Shiva’s knowledge so that one cannot know everything. Limits omniscience.
28. Raga: Contracted iccha shakti. Limits Shiva’s sense of fullness and gives craving, desire and attachment.
27. Kaala: Contracted ananda shakti. Limits Shiva in time and space making us subject to change, death and decay.
26. Niyati: Contracted cit shakti. Limits Shiva thru cause and effect, the necessity that one thing follows another.
As Shiva makes himself into an individual in order to express his freedom, he scales back, contracts, or limits his universal power thru maya and the five kanchukas (Mayadevi and her five sisters). This leads to two main kinds of impurity (mala).
1. Paurusa ajnana: innate ignorance regarding the self. We dont know who we really are.
2. Bauddha ajnana: Ignorance of buddhi. We don’t even don’t know that this knowledge is actually inside of ourselves.
Asuddha vikalpas are the ideas, thought constructs, irrational psychological responses that make us think we are this body. Replacing ajnana (incorrect knowledge) with jnana (pure knowledge) is one of the main goals of Kashmiri Shaivism & philosophical and spiritual practice generally.
Atma Tattvas: The microcosmic mirror of the subtle macrocosm described above begins here. What follows are the traits of individuals with limited powers who are distinct from other individuals with limited powers.
25. Purusha: This is the individual soul; the individual subject mirroring the universal subject.
24. Prakriti: Prakriti provides Purusha with everything he needs for enjoyment. The physical body, karmendriyas, jnanaindriyas and the rest of the next 23 tattva. The three gunas (sattvic, tamas, rajas) constitute prakriti. Possessing gunas is a property of being the object of experience which depends on an experiencer. Three modes of activity of shakti are mirrored in prakriti in their limited form: will, knowledge & activity (iccha, governed by rajas; jnana, governed by sattva; and kriya, governed by tamas).
Instruments of cognition:
Also called the Antarkarana/Inner Instrument or Chitta/consciousness of the individual
23. Buddhi – Intelligence/Discrimination. Sattvic
Buddhi is the abode of prana-shakti. From here it flows thru the different parts of the body via the nadis. Locus of every experience. It is considered the contracted power of jnana shakti and thus it’s a sattvic element. Righteousness is said to reside here in the form of our conscious
Five kinds of pranavayu: 1. Prana (moves outward as do the sense organs) 2. Aapana (moves downward as with elimination) 3. Udaana (upwards as with speech) 4. Vyaana (expansion in all directions as does the movement of our limbs), 5. Samaana: (Inwards as when we meditation turning our awareness inward to a center point).
22. Ahamkara – Ego/ I-maker. Rajas.
This is where the ego connects with objective activity attributing the source of thoughts and actions to oneself (ones own limited being). This is the principle of individuality cut off from the higher tattva
21. Manas – Mind. Tamas. This is the place where thoughts are created and weighed against each other. Instrument of rationality. Supervises and controls the karmindriya, jnanendriyas, and tanmatras.
Jnana Indriyas 16 – 20: the sense faculties for knowledge. Representing the sattvic functions of the mind (manas).
20. Sense of hearing: function of the ear.
19. Sense of touch: function of the skin.
18. Sense of seeing: function of the eyes.
17. Sense of taste: Function of the tongue.
16. Sense of smell: Function of the nose.
Karma Indriyas 11 – 15: Organs of action. Representing the rajasic functions of the mind (manas).
15. Power of speech: Functions thru the mouth and vocal cords
14. Power to grasp objects: Functions thru the hands, arms and fingers
13. Locomotion: functions thru the legs and feet.
12. Power of procreation: functions thru internal and external sex organs.
11. Excretion: functions thru the excretory organs of the pelvic bowl especially the anus.
Tanmatras 6 – 10: the five subtle elements. Representing the tamasic functions of the mind (manas).
These are the objects of the sense. The sound itself. The feel of what is touched, the form of what is seen, the flavor of what is tasted, and the odour that is smelled. Tantra suggests that sounds evolves from hearing, and form evolves from sight. This is how the world is projected from within.
Mahabhuta 1 – 5: the primary elements
5. Ether: Expansive, space, emptiness, vacuum. This tattva is not itself manifest, but is the supports the other tattva by providing space for their existence. Symbolized the unseeable, unknowable spirit which both transcends reality and is immanent in reality; permeating every aspect of all that is knowable and not. Relates with the vissudhi chakra.
4. Air: Movement and mobility, dry subtle, rising. It can easily penetrate everywhere (filling the void of space). We recognize it most distinctly in our breath and it is the vehicle for prana, vital energy. Relates with the Anahata chakra.
3. Fire: Transformation, hot, sharp, dynamic. Represents the masculine principle of dynamism, extroversion, passion and aggression. Also relates to the digestive fire and the intellectual fire. Relates with the Manipura chakra and thus with prakash, divine illumination.
2. Water: Fluid, liquid, cool. Represents the feminine principle and is passive and can assume any form. Water purifies and dissolves, and it relates with sexuality and birth. Relates to Svadhisthana chakra and thus represents the flow of linear time.
1. Earth: All of the tattva are fully manifest in earth. It is the most dense, the heaviest, the most solid and grounded of the tattva. Related with Mother Earth principle of patience, creativity, sustenance; as well as the lunar principle of progression, rhythm and change. It’s often said that Shiva loves this tattva the most because this is the limit of his contraction. In it’s relationship with muladhara chakra this is the residence of kundalini.
The connection between the primary elements and the tattva looks something like this.
Ether – Sound – Speech – Hearing — Jupiter — Prana — HAM — Crystal Clear disk — Eyebrows to top of head — Cit — Om hraum sadashivaya akashadhipataye shantyateetakalatmane, hum fhut swaha
Air – Touch – Grasping – Touch — Saturn –– Apana — YAM — Six sided/six circles smokey grey or grey blue — Heart to Eyebrows — Ananda — Om hraim ishanaya vayuvydhipataye shantikalatmane, hum fhut swaha
Fire – Form – Locomotion – Sight — Mars — Vyana — RAM — Red Triangle — Navel to Heart — Iccha — Om hrum rudrya tejodhipataye vidyakalatmane, hum fhut swaha
Water – Taste – Procreation – Taste — Venus — Udana –– VAM — White Crescent moon — knees to navel — Jnana — Om hrim vishnave jaladhipataye pratisthakalatmane, hum fhut swaha
Earth – Odour – Excretion – Smell — Mercury — Samana — Anus — Dhananjaaya: remains in the corpse until it’s burned — LAM — Yellow Square — Feet to knees — Kriya — Om hraum brahmane prithvidhipataye nivrittikalatmane, hum fhut swaha
The Shaivist conception of these tattva has Shiva constantly evolving and devolving thru the tattva. Shiva is the eternal subject, the first illuminator, the first enjoyer. His movement thru the tattva an expression of his joy. This movement has many names (spanda, wave, force and it shows his movement from Shiva tattva to earth and back to Shiva tattva. The process of creation and destruction going on continually. But even this is not as it seems. Most of us would assume destruction is happening as Shiva makes his way back to himself, but actually earth will be the first to die. Being fully manifest puts us most solidly in the world of death, sorrow and suffering. This is where all this fire and brimstone of kali and Shiva’s burning ghats comes from.
So, when we turn our attention, thus identifying with the body (the earth), we will surely only know suffering, change, confusion and lack of control. When we turn our attention, and thus our personal identification inwards we limit that suffering step by step. Getting past the mind and the emotional being is one of the greatest hurdles. Only matched by the struggle a young yogi will go thru to get past their ego (ahamkara).
The ego is an important topic for discussion in tantra. Shiva is essentially a supreme egoity; the self of all selves. The purusha is ones individual soul; this is certainly a big part of who we are. And then we have the ahamkara which is who we think we are. These are like three levels of ego: The ahamkara is the ego which is cut off from inner truths; it only sees what is on the surface. The purusha is that ego which understands our connection to the universal. People who strongly identify with their individual soul approach life as an instrument of the divine. This is the beginning of saintliness. But only one who has fully realized their divine nature as all of this whole universe will experience Shiva’s true freedom (svatantriya).
This is a little like saying that there is more than one truth, though they might each seem to be incompatible with the other truths. A big part of our job as yogis is to assimilate such contradictory truths and ultimately experience the illumination of this world thru each lens. It’s not that the world of this body and these sensual desires is not true, but it represents a limited truth; a tamasic, impure truth. The truth of our individual soul is quite another level of truth which represents a rajasic truth, which manages to be both pure and impure. Only the highest truth is truly pure and sattvic, but this does not negate the others. Shiva is fully present in each of the tattva. His illumination shines from everywhere. From whichever perspective we take, we can recognize Shiva and realize ourselves as that infinite being of all being.
The Advaita Saiva Philosophy of Kashmir, by Debarata Sensharma
The Philosophical and Practical Aspects of Kashmiri Saivism, By Pandit
Tantra Illuminated, by Christopher Wallis
Aphorisms of Shiva, translated by Mark Dyczkowski
Tattwa Shuddhi, by S. Saraswati (Bihar School)
Vedic Remedies in Astrology, Sanjay Rath
Painting of “Sri Yantra” by Tania Satori (used with permission) see tania_vaculty on Instagram.
Boundary issues are everywhere. How we define our boundaries is one thing; how we defend them is quite another. In this modern age we are seeking to break the boundaries that keep us from living in space. In this world, we find all kind of political turmoil over national boundaries, border disputes, and of course Trump’s Wall. The movement of people displaced by violence has the whole world questioning their cultural boundaries.
Those of us on a spiritual path (a healing path) also have to face this question of boundaries as we work with our students and teachers; and most importantly, with ourselves. Every social interaction faces this question of boundaries.
We typically think of strong boundaries as way to keep people from getting in, but they keep us from getting out. The boundary we put up defines the relationship we have with the other.
As Yogis we are often coached to look in the space between two things. We often call this space “the relationship,” but we could just as easily call it the boundary. I have my boundaries and you have your boundaries; the type and quality of relationship we have depends on how open or closed our boundaries are, as well as on how we approach or cross each other boundaries and the behaviour we exhibit once someone lets us in.
When we speak of boundaries in the healing community we typically use words and phrases like “surrender,” “let go,” “let yourself be vulnerable,” “be open to what the universe has to give;” in other words: “drop all your boundaries!”
From the other side we are told that we are boundless, we should forget everything we think we know and just follow our heart. There is often the assumption that acting like an idiot is acceptable if we are following our hearts (or “living in the moment” as we say). Since it was the divine voice of God commanded, go forth and act like an idiot, we expect to be absolved of personal responsibility.
Modern Tantra is especially vocal about dropping boundaries and the beauty of living spontaneously. It’s also known to be very dangerous since the mix of openness and spontaneity on one persons part is an opportunity for the other to conquer new territory unimpeded and later say that is way given to me them.
This is how the CIA and George Soros “make democracy” and spheres of influence and ultimately destroy countries, cultures and peoples lives. Even when they are preaching peace, love and belonging they are really only looking out for themselves.
It’s not so different from the toxic addictions that seem to alleviate our suffering but really only cast us more deeply into it.
We hear similar stories of toxic healers, Yogis and others who use their position and their skill to drop peoples boundaries so that they can manipulate them for their own benefit.
Manipulation is an ugly word, but it’s not the problem. We stay alive thru this manipulation. Just think of the baby screaming to make momma change the diaper or give some food. That’s emotional manipulation at its finest. The problem is when one acts for their own benefit without consideration or concern for how it will truly affect the other.
Manipulation is just an ugly way of talking about the diplomacy and negotiation that is on going between people and our numerous light bodies; each with their own boundaries and border controls. These boundaries maybe undergoing subtle changes moment to moment; person to person. Mostly we don’t notice this going on, it all happens fairly naturally and most people respect each other’s boundaries. But of course it’s not a perfect world.
Most of us are still fighting battles with this world, blaming others, pointing always at the other as a source of our misery when it’s our personal patterns, habits, mental narratives, and expectations that are the root causes of our suffering. All of these little things build up and define our boundaries.
Boundaries in themselves are not bad. Healthy boundaries actually empower us; it’s the unhealthy, unconscious, unrealistic boundaries that cause problems in our lives that leads us to seek healing.
Almost every human what’s more from life somehow. We want to expand our boundaries to include more land (more material prosperity), as well as our emotional boundaries to feel more vividly this life, and spiritual boundaries to feel more connected to the universe.
The key to such expansion is awareness. First we have to be aware of who we are. This will take us towards our innermost core. It’s a journey that takes us thru the fields of numerous personal identities. As we stare out the train window we see so many selves passing by: I am this, I am that, this I am, I am until we get to that “I” without a second.
After we have merged with the ultimate (or gone as deep as we can) we come back to a personal identity which has been reborn from a spiritual seed. Every breath cycle is an opportunity to realize such merger with the absolute followed by the rebirth of the individual.
Both sides of this coin represent truth, beauty and an expression of the divine. This is why Tantra says that liberation (moksha) is not a separate matter from enjoyment. Our enjoyment should be liberating in itself and liberation itself should be enjoyable. This does not mean decadent. It means that we want all parts of our universal self to enjoy equally. It means that nothing is isolated.
This is where boundaries get tricky. If the truth is that I am one with the universe; completely unbound then any harm at all that I cause to any part of nature will cause direct harm to myself. This is a spiritual truth suggest a greater degree of personal responsibility rather than the sort of careless way we treat objects and that are easily replaceable.
Such a grand sense of spiritual wonder actually suggest that we respect the boundaries between ourselves and the other to an even greater degree, as a way of respecting ourselves.
When we objectify our external experience, we typically see ourselves in this same way. We typically find some version of the conflicted mental narrative that sets man against nature. This boundary is an illusion and sows the seeds of war, pollution and toxicity. This war has been unleashed against the women of society as much as against Mother Nature herself.
Truth and reality represent a similar energy applies to different experiences. You could say that both are representative of the absolute. Truth is The expression of transcendental experience and reality is an expression of immanent experience.
To experience transcendence we must realize ourselves as without boundaries. To experience reality we must realize the individual experience that necessarily occurs within the boundaries of time and space; the individual soul, the human body and the body of nature.
We need to know ourselves both ways: we are timeless, but we have also chosen to experience time by thru various limitations.
Being aware of different ways that we perceive time will help us to understand our limitations and who we are in this life and what is our path.
The linear experience of time allows us to logically understand our life: where we came from and where we are going. This allows us to make sense of our experience, and set expectations. When our expectations are too high we find much disappointment; when they are too low, we sabotage our own growth. We should work hard to find the balance in this so that what happens in the future in pretty much what we expect. This sort of time we experience in short duration. Today I have one story about who I am and tomorrow that story has changed, even just a little bit. The experience of time on this level is not absolute truth, but it should be more or less in accord with reality. This works thru our short term. This is one way of knowing the self.
We also experience time thru timeless emotional impressions. This is just the opposite of the mundane stories we are constantly changing and revising and telling ourselves in order to understand reality. These emotional impression have a very strong influence on our linear understanding of ourselves but the impression is often from a different time, maybe a different life-time. Mostly we recognize this thru our subtle gestures we make with our body (the way we hold ourselves) as well as thru the emotional boundaries and defensive (or offensive) strategies that shapes the story of who we are (linear time).
This is where much most deep transformative healing arts work. We seek to tap into that timeless side of ourselves to find the impressions affecting our present life that are holding us back or are simply inappropriate in some way. Typically it’s merely an inappropriate response to some particular subject. Physically we feel it as allergy; emotionally we feel it as trauma. In either case, the reaction is disproportionate with action; the trigger.
This kind of healing is very delicate since to access this memory with awareness and direct intention we need to drop all our guards despite the feeling of impending threat. We need to do this in a safe environment where there is no actual threat. One needs to follow a deep sense of trust and have that trust reinforced.
Just talking or thinking about a traumatic memory will take us into the past, and despite being no actual stimulus being present the nervous system along with the endocrine system will react to trigger some kind of inappropriate stress response (which brings all of our resources to defend against an enemy from another time).
Talking about these traumas and sharing stories, understanding it all as a part of our story is necessary, but as things fade into the past, we also have to be open to changing the story of who we are. It’s not that we lie, but for simple understanding a single traumatic event is lumped into a broader time frame in life thru which we faced learned from the trauma.
When fire burns us it does no good to try to put our every fire. We learn to place certain boundaries between fire and ourselves so that we can still enjoy the warmth and light of fire without getting burnt.
Many people actually find their life paths thru their traumas by turning them into wisdom. This is transformation; turning poison into nectar.
We also experience time thru change. This is where we measure time and our boundaries are measured by resources: life force, energy levels, moods, physical form, the seasons and all these thing we can see changing from day to day; year to year. We might even measure this time by how for we’ve walked or how much we’ve completed. If we are following our life path, we are typically comfortable here as we focus and meditate thru our work. If we love what we won’t actually think of the time here; we will only see time when we look back at the change or are considering some future actions.
A very important concept of time actually combines our awareness of change with a kind of timelessness that we cannot imagine. When we recognize that we are connected to a whole lineage of universal archetypes going back to some unimaginable beginning of time and stretching into some unimaginable future. Here, we find ourselves repeating the the same archetypical patters expressing themselves in a new time and place. Though this sense of time is eternal here, we are capable of making a plan to change the future. This is where we understand ourselves in our connection with the whole. This is our dharma, our truth, our path in life; that path we have be on since the beginning of time; our universal purpose and how we employ that in society.
This is where we need meditation, silence, deep relaxation and contemplation because nobody can tell us who we are or what is our purpose; we can only feel it and know it for ourselves.
This bring me to the final concept it time. Present time; just being here and now. For this we have to be capable of dropping all other concepts of time. We have to have great trust in God in nature. No thought of the past or the future perfectly at peace until some spontaneous activity is provoked. To reach this state we have to know who we are, what our purpose is and have the necessary skills and health to complete our destiny.
We are beings bound by time. By understanding our place in time and how each concept of time binds is in a different way forming different relationships with each other we can then begin a focused course in self realization that will allow us to empower us with healthy boundaries rather than victimizing us they our subconscious patterns.
When we say that our true self is Shiva, we are not talking about this self that is body, mind; limiter and ceaselessly changing. This I who is Shiva is the unchanging universal soul which is being expressed not just in this body, but in all bodies as an individual soul. This “I” is the eternal subject. We cannot change what is not subject to change; we cannot purify that which is already pure. There is light, we can see, we are and we exist; this is only subject to acceptance, not change. This topic is hardly even amenable to contemplation. If we can’t even imagine it, it’s best we don’t even consider changing it.
Everything outside of the scope of the Shiva soul is Shakti: our mind and body and all that can be perceived by the senses at any moment. This is the eternal other. Many of us would like to change this. We think we are the body and have control over our body and mind and seek to make changes here, but the truth is that we are all fools. This coming together of soul (Shiva), body and mind (Shakti) is the divine play that we are advised to approach as a witness. This is the field of karma; the interplay between subject and object. We have no freedom here.
But where are we free? Where can we affect change?
In our relationship between the subject and object; in the way we relate not only to the world, but to our own bodies. How do we use what we have to reach out to the world?! This starts with how we relate without own body, our own mind.
We are born from a mother and a father. We had and have no control over this time and place we find ourselves. Even our will is the will of god. If I trace back the origin of this yoga or astrology I practice, or even this writing I am doing now, it all comes back to a will, an innate propensity towards these things. In other words, I didn’t do anything to have any of this; it was freely given to me at birth (all the benefits and all the defects).
This is one of the primary mistakes that most western yogis are making. They think they are the yogi and they pat themselves on the back for the good job they are doing. They do not accept the gift of their body and physical conditioning; they think they are the architect. Small “i” with small minds; they have not even begun to imagine what truth might be. They go around saying how blessed they are without recognizing that every sentient being is equally blessed. They base their blessing on the ever changing material reality; their blessing is not likely to get them thru bad weather as they begin to ask why such a curse. ‘To be’ is to be blessed; to not recognize this is the curse.
When we focus on our relationships with things there is little outward change to be recognized, but inside we will feel it just like we feel anger or sadness or frustration; we will feel peace; we will feel the blessing of existence in every moment thru good times and bad. And this is the sort of change people are really looking for; this is the sort of change that changes everything.
The main project of yoga is to ground us in reality so that we might be aware of the experience of truth. The truth is now; in the present moment. There is not other reality. The past and the future are merely mirages in the distance. We cannot be sure of either, though on some level, everything that takes form in nature or in our minds has some level of truth to it. As yogis our task is to recognize the truth and keep our awareness fixed there.
This is one of the primary differences between what I would call authentic yoga and and inauthentic yoga; between modern branded yoga and traditional lineage yoga. This is the difference between idealism and reality. You cannot get to reality thru idealism; that’s the first thing that needs to be dropped. Ideology is the mask we hide behind; a popular belief we profess in order to avoid the real work of unmasking ourselves so that we might recognize reality. We cannot even begin to see ourselves thru ideology for it only reflects our fears.
Reality is here and now, naked and vulnerable; a lamb before god. Once one understands that we are always and everywhere at the mercy of time and space, then we can rise above the fear and trembling that keeps so many cowering and gasping to their ideals like a tattered security blanket unable to face the natural rhythms of life and death.
(In February 2020 a trip similar to this is being arranged. Contact me for details.)
19 day pilgrimage to Varanasi, Omkareshwar, Ellora & Ajanta Caves, Maheshwar, Mandu and Indore
20 November – 8 December 2018
It’s about time I bring a group of friends to see some of my favorite pilgrimage places in India: Varanasi, Shiva city, the spiritual centre of India famous for tantra and pilgrimage; Omkareshwar and Maheshwar on the Narmada river are major centres of the 3.5 year pilgrimage that sees a steady stream of devotion. Ellora and Ajanta are both ancient monuments of devotion and wonder. We will make a stop by Mandu for a day of cycling, frivolity and wandering thru villages and Mugul ruins scattered across the country side. The final stop will be in Indore to visit a couple important tantric temples and enjoy the comforts of the city before going our separate ways.
The trip will include:
- Land travel within India, most meals, room, guided tours, yoga & astrology
- Traditional Hatha Yoga practice including asana, pranayama, mantra, meditation. Bhakti, Raja, Hatha, Jnana, Tantra and Kundalini yogas will all find expression over the course of this trip.
- A detailed Vedic Astrology reading and remedy coaching.
- Six nights in a simple, traditional forest ashram over-looking the holy Narmada river
- Five nights in Varanasi over looking the Holy Ganges river
- A small group of six allows for deep integration of the practices and teachings.
- Excellent introduction to India for those who wish to continue traveling the country
- A unique yoga pilgrimage
- Deep introduction to yogic philosophy and Vedic way of life.
- Suitable for anyone who is a pilgrim at heart. No prior knowledge or experience is necessary. Sincerity towards the method is the most important attribute.
20 November – 8 December 2018
20 November 2018: Arrival in Varanasi, rest, short evening yoga and meditation next to the river.
While in Varanasi: Morning yoga, site-seeing tours, boat rides, lots of free time, meeting Shiva devotees, astrology charts will be completed for each person.
25 November: Train to Khandwa; bus to Omkareshwar, take rest and get settled at the Gayatri Forest Ashram, easy evening yoga and meditation.
While in Omkareshwar: Two yoga classes per day. Learning traditional stories, parikrama (walk) around the island, visiting important pilgrimage sites, pilgrims and sadhus. Spending time in nature, swimming, enjoying.
02 December: Jeep to Ajanta. While in Ellora/Ajanta trip we will take our yoga where we can get it. There is often an opportunity to practice among the caves.
03 December: Jeep to Ellora and then to Maheshwar, take rest, get settled in the guest house.
While in Maheshwar: One to two yoga classes per day, visiting special holy sites, boating, swimming, meeting pilgrims, singing, & enjoying nature.
07 December: Jeep to Mandu, cycling/site-seeing, and then jeep to Indore.
08 December: Visit Mahakala and Bhairava temple before departure. The tour will end on this day and departures will go from Indore.
- Note: let us know if we can help to arrange transport and lodging before and after the trip.
By the end of this trip participants will have gained deep knowledge of Yogic, Vedic and Tantric practice and lifestyle. One will have gained an appreciation for simple, prayerful living and will have a good foundation to continue a personal sadhana (spiritual practice). You will also gain valuable travel experience and a deep humanistic education as we travel on and off the tourist trail thru the heart of India.
Anyone with a sincere desire for self knowledge thru yoga and traditional knowledge are welcome. Yoga classes are easily modified to be accessible to everyone as well as challenging for every level of fitness and concentration. Much of the philosophical content will be organic (arising from the circumstances and questions) so this too will be both accessible and challenging for most anyone.
India can be a challenging country and we will be living very simply as pilgrims ourselves for parts of trip. This simplicity of nature will hopefully counterbalance the sensory and emotional over-load that Delhi and Varanasi are known for in different ways. Travel can be slow and frustrating (most times) and there will a few arduous days of travel, lots of walking, and a group of eight people traveling and living together for 19 days (18 nights). We hope that lots of free time, optional tours and practices, and flexibility by everyone, will allow everyone to get the flavour they are seeking from life.
This package tour includes:
- 19 days/18 nights in various guest houses and ashrams may be shared occupancy
- Many meals, lots of chai and snacks
- Vedic Astrology consultation.
- Classical Hatha Yoga classes
- Guide fees
- Additional administrative fees, organization costs, booking fees, travel expenses, baksheesh & diksha donations to temples, pilgrims and ashrams in the name of the group
- $1950. A $600 deposit will hold this space for you
- Limited to six people. Must have at least 4 people signed up by October 1 for the trip to proceed. Full refunds will be given if it’s cancelled for this reason. I expect it will sell out fast.
- One place will have preference for someone with knowledge in Ayurveda and/or Jyotish and would like to do a mentorship in astrology over the 19 days of this pilgrimage.
- Unless your seat can be sold to someone else we may only be able to refund 50% of the fee in case of cancellation. There will be an administrative fee retained in any case, but we look vary favorably upon those who find someone to fill their place for them.
- Bring a friend and save $100 each (not available for early bird pricing). Bring two or more friends and save $200 while each of them save $100.
What is not included, and why?
- Many meals, snacks and chai throughout the day since you will be on your own.
- Baksheesh, diksha payments, tips to temples monks, sadhus and service people which are best given by your own heart & hand
- Flight to India, travel insurance, immunizations are all your responsibility.
- Souvenirs, personal items, personal travel or personal entertainment.
- No certificates will be available as this pilgrimage is meant to be a personal healing, learning & potentially transformational journey. If you want a certificate, go to Rishikesh.
- If you are unsure about what may or may not be included, please ask before departure.
Your host and guide:
Mike Holliday has had a deep spiritual and personal connection with Varanasi, Ganga & Narmada since 2007. He has been teaching yoga around the world for almost ten years and offering philosophical/spiritual coaching and counsel for over half that time. He has guided many people thru Varanasi and well as thru Indian culture and a few have even come to experience the magic of the Narmada river with him. He is an engaging teacher and story teller; a very knowledgeable guide thru the unknown; a sincere, grounded friend and adviser & he has a strong passion for sharing traditional knowledge. He is an off the beaten path teacher who mostly follows orthodoxy but does not not believe it is necessary.
For more information:
I was about 9 years old when I was walking thru a frozen forest, shouldered my pellet gun, and discovered the great transformative silence of death as a chickadee fell from the branch. In 2003, my father was killed in a work accident. Later in life I came to live and practice in a holy place between the cremation grounds of Varanasi, India; the chosen abode of Lord Shiva. When my grandfather passed away, we shared our fear of death and brought peace to the whole family. That light and purity of a new born baby also shines in the eyes of those who burn for that final release from the wheels of time. All of our lives we seek the flavour that will quench our thirst, but eventually, we thirst for the most unthinkable mystery; death.
The movement of the breath is controlled by the Great Spirit in the Sky of Consciousness and it comes and goes; starts and stops only by that ultimate grace. The power of Great Spirit is raw and pure when we go thru the great transformations of birth and death. Between these two great moments lie all the smaller cycles of the breath and the days and the seasons and so much more that we can experience fully and deeply as we experience that great birth and death of the body. This is the experience of reality.
Yoga and spirituality suggest we can experience a deeper reality if we look at life beyond our individual experience and experience life in relation to the universal expression of consciousness; of spirit; of spanda; Shiva’s self expression thru his powers; his Shaktis. We are so much more than these limited bodies and the experiences we have in this lifetime; we are intimately connected to the whole span of time and everything that has and will exist. We are not just a part of this universe, we are this universe. The truth is so mindbogglingly beautiful and wonderful that we can only experience it as that…… astonishing beauty, dazzling amazement and wonder. We’ve all felt this as some time in our lives. This is the experience of reality,
There is little difference between letting go of our egos so that we can transform ourselves in this life, or doing so so that we can prepare for the next life. In either case, we want to turn our awareness towards the truth of who we really are here and now releasing ourselves from the past and the future; releasing ourselves from our own stories. Each time we transform ourselves we seek to reach a higher consciousness; we want that positive growth which which will benefit not only ourselves, but our families and communities and the universe as a whole. It’s that universal connection and experience of non-difference that we seek, but which remains, for most of us, just out of reach. Like a shy damsel, ultimate reality casts only the most fleeting glimpse from the corner of her eye. And this is were we must also seek out that ultimate reality: in those dark corners of our mind and along the edges of our breath and our thoughts and between all things which seem distinct.
Between you and me is some chemistry which brings us into perfect and blissful union because it allows both of us to taste the ripened fruits of our individual karma while contributing, each in our own special way, to the collective karma that ties us all together. We call activity karma when we experience it a force of limitation that separates; but when we experience activity as a force of freedom and play arising and falling away from the same place, bringing everything together, activity is then called Kriya (the spontaneous activity of one who experiences life as universal agency (the actor) and preceiving subjectivity (the witness)). This is the experience of life; reality; divinity.
We are all on this path of healing together. Together we will grow and evolve; find the courage to face our fears and overcome the false limitations we put on ourselves. To do this we practice being open and honest to the reality of the moment while applying our most sincere efforts to whatever activity is at hand. This sincerity is especially important for healing and spirituality, since it provides us with the impulse and the will to gather the necessary knowledge and put it into a meaningful action. Tapping into this personal sincerity for healing is what we mean by healing from within.