Category Archives: Philosophy

Why do Tantriks talk about sex?

I’ve been lucky enough in my travels to meet a few Tantriks who were not trying to sell me anything, nor did they want anything from me: they never spoke about sex. They laugh at the west and their so called Tantric sex cults and the culture of permissiveness that has grown from the idea that we can somehow become enlightened if we can just have better sex.

When ever I have heard these less lustful Tantriks talk about sex, it’s been as a metaphor. We all know how overwhelming sexual desire can be. Our entire focus will shift to sex so that everything else that was in our minds is gone. One pointed in focus we take action to get what we want: satisfaction; a feeling of fullness that quenches all desires. The moments of orgasm they liken to the more eternal blessing of having your true desires fulfilled. But of course the orgasm of sex is over in a few moments and the feeling of fullness quickly begins to fade, especially when the feeling that we’ve perhaps chosen our partner too hastily stars to set in.

To continue the metaphor of sex, most of us these days know that the difference between average sex and good sex has little to do with the physical action and everything to do with how much heart the couple put into it. The more you attach by heart with your partner and the moment, the more intense will be orgasm as well as the feeling of fullness you receive.

Tantriks like to ask: “What do you want?” They push you to get to know yourself and become aware of your desires and discover what it is you truly want; your lasting desire. There’s nothing wrong with fulfilling your desires, but learn from them, use your experience to figure out what it is you really want. As you discover deeper and deeper desires you will discover that you are willing to sacrifice many lesser desires for the bigger one. Thru such sacrifice you will build more power and resolve to achieve the greater desire which in turn will make the satisfaction that much greater.

Tantrism is very practical. It’s not the mystical practice it’s so often portrayed as. Sure it takes a different view of The world, but it’s no hocus-pocus. All the knowledge of Tantrismis is contained in our actions: our hopes, desires, wisdom, will and joy. Just look at yourself, learn from your elders, learn from your experience, learn from sharing, and then put it all into practice in the direction you want to go. Moksha will be there only when you hold your desire and your direction firmly without going here and there and everywhere.

Today the world is full of youths who want Moksha, but they want it now and when they don’t get it, they move on. There is nothing wrong with this, everyone must follow their heart, and without age and experience the youth cannot be expected to know their heart. Many people in the world maintain their entire lives in fear of looking at what they might have inside, so having this courage at whatever age is a blessing alone, but at a young age we have not so many heart experiences to learn from. And at any age there are few people who know what it is they really want.

Most sages tell us that the greatest longing of the heart is for union with god (with energy), and though many of the tantriks of the west profess to this longing, few sacrifices are being made for it’s attainment. They are often much too busy following every little desire that arises to focus on the bigger picture. This is why moksha is reserved for the end of life, because by then, if we’ve really paid attention, we will have realized by heart and by experience that there really is no such thing as moksha. But if they’ve really been following Tantra way, they will experience the full fullness of life.

Tantrism has nothing to do with sex but everything to do with desire, you just have to keep your head out of the gutter to see it.

Om namah shivaya

Behold: Life

The true nature of wisdom is that it can’t be shared. Each person has their own wisdom that is tied to their true self. The nature of an artist is to try to share their wisdom when the best they can do is share knowledge. This is certainly more satisfying than sharing mere information, but it’s still never enough. It’s not uncommon for artists to speak about being overcome by a kind of madness when they get into their zone. They don’t really know how it happened or where it came from but here it is: their art; their creation. Wether good or bad, nobel or base, authentic or not, this is what the artist has to show for himself. In many ways we value art more than most things, though not in a monetary sense of course.

When inner values spring forth into the material world we feel the inner value but cannot figure out how to give it value in the material world; it just is. And I think for most artists, once the work is complete, it’s in the past, done, time to move onto the next thing. Perhaps we even fear the stasis of our completed projects. And as much as we may identify with our art, we also seek to distance ourselves from it so that we don’t become identified as the work itself. After all the artist hardly knows how the whole creation was made. A person just sits down to something and gets tinkering with their craft and before they know it, behold: a work of art.

Life is the same. How often people say: “I don’t know how it happened: this happened, then that happened and then I did this, I don’t know why, and then all of a sudden this was the result. I don’t know why I chose this or that, I just did, and now….” Behold: life.

How much do we really know?

Identity

I realized something the other day. For a man on a spiritual path, it was a solid realization like running into a wall. The realization came about thru practical analysis of my will and desire as well as thru acknowledging my fears.

By mind and by impulse we want many things in life, but we only follow some of these mental promptings. We can know our true desires by the path we consistently follow. This is why people generally begin to know themselves better in middle age; we have some history to help guide us into the future. We begin many things only to have them fade away, other things that we do just seem to be a natural part of who we are. If we look close at the things that have faded from our lives, we can often relate them somehow to the more consistent path we are on.

Most of the time, most of us take action with hopes of some beneficial reaction. We give money, we get candy. We give our time and energy to work because we want money. We put our time and energy into meditation because we want peace. We want something in return for our expenditures of time, money and energy. But the truth is that most of us don’t know what we want and we wouldn’t know how to get it if we did. In the mean time our actions are often counter productive to attaining the higher goals of our life.

In our actions is everything: knowledge of ourselves, our abilities, our desires, and even our luck. But we have to look at our past actions without judgement or attachment to really recognize ourselves.

“Loose yourself and you will realize that there was no self to loose.”

This is a powerful spiritual statement. Loose yourself. Detach from your ego. Cease identifying with all your ideas of you. Imagine this scenario for a moment. Imagine yourself on some other path; perhaps the path of some rickshaw walla in India or some simple beggar in Canada. Some whole new you in some radically different situation with a radically new direction inn life. It’s quite an uncomfortable thought: disappearing from friends and family, not striving for name or fame or wealth or relations or anything at all.

I can honestly say that I’m not ready to give up on my ‘self.’ I have been cultivating myself and following this particular path of destiny for almost 38 years, I’m not particularly ready to throw it all away. This is the first wall I hit in my spiritual path. Or perhaps it’s more of a door that has opened in my spiritual life. I can never really tell. What I do know is that I’m happy with my life and direction. I don’t want to lose myself.

My sense of self is what it is. I’m not frightened or in conflict by what is inside me. It will all come to the surface when the time is right: the bliss, the pain, the fear and the courage. It will all dissipate too when the time is right.

The philosophical path I’m on started to become noticeable to me in my early twenties. Young and full of hope and optimism I began studying philosophy. Most people laugh at such idealism and remind one that there is no money in philosophy. Philosophers laugh at such people because there is no humanity in money. But they were right, I don’t think I’ve ever made a single penny with philosophy. But I have come much closer to humanity.

For a long while I turned my back on my own philosophical foundation and sought to identify myself as someone with more fiscal hope in life. Admittedly I didn’t raise the bar of fiscal hope very high. I changed my studies to writing and began identify as such. Later I dropped writing and dove into acrylics and canvas only to later switch to photography. I knew I’d never be an artist but I did have some small success in these areas.

The thing is, I never liked being identified as a construction worker; it was too base for my intellectual pride. I enjoyed the outside work, the hard labour, and the easy comradery with the crews, I just didn’t like the identification. The most humiliating question a person could ask was, “What do you do for a living?” Once the hours and the labour and the lifestyle started deteriorating my body, I knew I had to get out.

My luck took me to India eight years ago. I immersed myself in the various aspects of yoga: the asanas healed my body, the meditation helped me find calm, the lifestyle changed my own permanent behaviour so that many bad habits dropped away naturally and the philosophy and astrology have richly fed my mind. I began to see my own new lifestyle practices boom in the marketplace and I thought perhaps luck was leading me out of construction. Yoga and philosophy and holistics have simply become a part of my life; but the market place has not. It’s a dirty place this marketplace. Much dirtier than the shit smeared streets of Varanasi and the petty corruption that is part of my life here.

I’m not one to sell myself to the masses. To be honest, I don’t think I have much appeal for the masses. Perhaps it’s the years of construction that instilled such practicality in me. Working with people who were generally quick to accept but slow to judge makes me too honest and practical for the marketplace. In absence of office politics and mutual friendships honesty can flourish.

I don’t try to sell people their hopes and dreams. Everyone has to take care of that for themselves. I won’t hyperbolize my skills and knowledge and I won’t speak, practice or  teach beyond my own knowledge and experience just to impress. And I’ll do my best not to repeat in my own words something someone else has said with crystal clarity. This is why I have not written a commentary on the Bhagavad Gita despite several suggestions that I do so; all I can do is complicate and already clear and simple translation.

I was thinking about my own social identity when the ideas about the separations between internal and external came to me; the spiritual and the physical you could say. I often struggle with my social identity, and struggle with this struggle as well. I feel l like I know myself quite well, I’ve stretched myself beyond many limitation and recognise some of the ones that continue to hold me back (social identity being one of them). I’m comfortable with my contradictions and I know that my true self goes beyond words. I suspect it’s the social media aspect of identity that causes the most turmoil, but it’s the same when I’m asked by some new person what I do. What do I do?

I do so much, but yet I do so little and on the outside it seems to change so much month to month, year to years. Inside, these changes are small things, I know my path even though I can’t describe it. My path is an spiritual one until I come sit at my computer to use it as entrance into into the marketplace. What you’re reading is the only publicity I have. But in doing so I have to create an identity that I know only scratches the surface of what I’ve actually done while not even scratching the surface of who I really am. It causes me untold misery.

My desire to enter the market place of yoga and esoteric practice is not fed by a desire for money or fame, but merely to remain independent in my spiritual practice. My fierce independence and wandering ways have been both a spiritual blessing as well as a curse. If I could submit to an ashram or some such thing I could have an easy spiritual living, but this is not a long term solution for me. Neither, any longer, are my short bouts of construction work. The only next step I can envision in my physical as well as spiritual evolution is sharing some of my knowledge of yoga and healing and other esoteric subjects. The other problem I face is that many of the practices in these fields demand a kind of secrecy. They’re custom made for the time and place I find myself in and taking them out of that place and putting them into the marketplace or some blog post depreciates their value.

But as long as we go into society, we must identify as something. Our clothes and hair style and even the places we go are clues to our identity. In my case, I write and blog and have desire to bring my knowledge into the marketplace somehow. It’s perhaps this need to identify as something that is the dirtiest part of the marketplace. Or perhaps it’s just my own desire to be a part of it that I find so repugnant.

I have several identities actually. There my internal spiritual true identity. The one those I see in the course of the day experience; this one too arising quite naturally, and then there’s the one’s that are haphazardly crafted on line thru Facebook and WordPress and social media. I try to keep the online identity as close to reality as possible, but you know how it goes, you just can’t describe a full person in a sound bites. Internal identities are expansive while the external ones contract and limit.

And this is one of my greatest fears, that my online identity will not be authentic, but of course it won’t, it’s only a couple kilobytes.

Free will, Fate, and Astrology

Many westerners reject astrology in principle. They may read their own horoscope daily in the news-paper but when it comes down to it they cling to their illusion of free will and believe that the essence of astrology regects this very will. But astrology does not reject free will, quite the contrary, astrology can point us in the directions in which we can excersise our free will most effectively.

You could say that astrology assigns a probability to certain events or actions. They have a familiar name for these actions in general: karma is commonly translated as action. As karmas ‘ripen’ the events of our lives unfold. Many people have a vague idea of karmas role in cause and effect, but few stop to consider how vast a role karma has in our lives.

There are three kinds of karma: fixed, changeable, and both. Generally speaking, we can easily recognize many things in our lives that we are helpless to change. The place and time and culture and social standing under which we are born will shape our lives immensely. There is nothing we can do about this. But there are many other things that may have a high probability, but will not necessary happen to everyone; like getting married or having children. Although cultural expectation or even biology will lead us in these direction we are still free to accept or decline. Many other things it seems we’re absolutely free to accept or reject: like job offers, or turns on the freeway. Life is mix of fate and free will.

Before I continue, I should clarify that there are two main schools of astrology. Most of my readers in the west are familiar with western astrology that deals with generalities and tendencies without going into predictive forecasts or remedial measures. Western astrology has an emphasis on the sun and seasons. Vedic astrology on the other hand has a system of planetary periods that is unique for each persons birth time that allows the astrologer to see how and when your karma’s will unfold. Regarding this point my astrology teacher asks, “What is the point of astrology if people don’t believe in remedial measures.”

And this is where I don’t understand westerners. They demand their free will, but when an astrologer offers them an opportunity to exercise their will to alter they fate, they don’t believe in that either. This whole universe is an interplay of vibration. The simplest way to change something is to change the vibrations that something is subjected to; to tinker with the wave length. This is essentially what a microwave oven does; it’s also the essence behind different colours of light.

Astrological remedies were created to tinker with the subtler energies around us. By subjecting ourselves to certain vibratory energies we can influence some of the more stubbornly negative karmas to unfold less harmfully, or perhaps have our good karma’s unfold more resplendently. Wearing precious and semi-precious stones along with certain mantras are the most common remedies, but everything from the food we eat to the clothes we wear can be adjusted in a remedial way. In many ways it’s just all those little things in our lives that make up a lifestyle that determine the vibrations to which we are subjected.

When we are born, we are born on a particular path with a particular personality. As the path unfolds, the personality will exert itself in various ways causing us to make certain choices over others. What we gain thru learning and experience will also influence both the path and the personality. There is no doubt that the possibilities in this world are unlimited, but each person is limited both by their location in the world and by their own minds. There may be many options, but we can only choose from the ones that come to mind.

There’s really no clear separation between free will and fate; it’s as though they simultaneously spring forth from each other as time passes. But this is also the way of karma: as time passes we burn one karma and create another, each of the simultaneous weaving and burning of our individual karmas while layer upon layer of collective karmas likewise go into the flames and come out again whole.

If free will could be depended upon more people would choose happiness, or choose to quit smoking, or choose to chase their dreams. Many times it’s nothing more than fate that leads us one way or another. We all have our burdens to carry that remain upon our back despite our strong intention to shake them off. Luck, whether good or bad is often the deciding factor regarding the ultimate direction of our lives.

I was reading one book by an astrologer who is making a living from cancer. He says he will screen your chart for cancer and prescribe certain remedial measures if it looks probable. He claims to have abut a 60% success rate. We can never really know if one thing or another has changed our fate or if we are merely on the natural course set by the stars. I do know that in the west, if the medical establishment claimed to have a test to see if you might get cancer in the future many people would be quite curious; if they said that they had a pill you could take to reduce your chance of cancer if it seemed likely, many people would take it, despite severe side effects.

My question now is: do people contract cancer thru free will, or is it fate that decrees it? In many ways the whole discussion of whether or not we have free will is just a distraction from the essence of Astrology and eastern thought in general. Free will is essentially the will of the ego, it is the framework under which selfish people seek to fullfill selfish desires. “The whole world revolves around me.”

Eastern thought generally follows a principle of all is one. Nothing acts in a vacuum, everything and everyone are in relationship. When we begin to see these relationships more clearly, we can then begin to really make choices that can alter our destiny.

Price of Defeat

What is it that causes so many people in their thirties to suddenly contract unhappiness. They look back on the whole of their life: their achievements, their relationships, their careers and their training and suddenly they decide that none of it is enough. Something vital is still missing. While they were building a life they somehow missed out on life, and at Some point in our thirties we decide that we must go looking for it.

This desire to go searching for that something more is often powerful enough for people to uproot their lives: careers that many only dream of get left behind, marriages come to an end, and many possessions get sold, given away or thrown in the trash-heaps they are for.

We usually don’t know what it is that is missing or to where we must go or what we must do to find it, but suddenly we discover that we must begin listening to our intuition. Or perhaps all the years of repressing our intuition causes it to begin asserting itself through life changes.

YOU ARE THAT! NOT THIS NOT THAT!

Knowledge has bounds, intuition does not. We are much more than the sum of our experiences. We are like a vessel which contains all manifest possibility; infinite potential; a mass of energy conscious of being a mass of energy.

Who we think we are is not who we are. We are beyond our own comprehension.

If this is the case than what is this popular idea of true self? Authentic self? The real?

I hear many stories about lovely successful people who I always thought had it together suddenly breaking down and realizing that they do not at all have it together. Their happiness was a sham, their smiles and laughter masks to cover all that they did not know. Their days, organized for completeness were days of mental chaos, felling success only when triumphing over others and being left forlorn when they must cede success to someone else. We’ve heard it in the movies countless times: “My whole life is a sham.”

But what is a person to do?

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over: “We can’t all just go off to travel India for half the year like you do.”

India has been my path, kindly find your own! I’m not saying that India is not also your path; it is the path of millions of western people (and over a billion Indians). But once here we all have our own paths. None of it would work if we all followed the same path, we’d get in each others way.

And this is much of the problem, we’re all trying to conform to the same path and we’re all getting in each other way. And all this getting in each others way is starting to cause tension and anger. And by the time we hit our thirties we’re completely pissed off, frustrated, and exhausted by life; and now we are ready to listen to our intuition.

An old man once told me that disappointment was a better starting point for the journey within than dreams.

So here we sit in our thirties feeling completely disappointed by life and wanting more. This can’t be it, can it?

A very close friend once confided to me that no matter how much she planned and prepared for the future, she could not feel secure; she always imagined the worst. Above every mutual fund, every dead-bolt, every alarm system and every insurance policy hung a black cloud of “what ifs?” that left her feeling as vulnerable to the future as though she’d done nothing. She knew that the fear was her own burden, but she didn’t know how to drop it.

And then one day it happened! She left her car door unlocked and she came back to find many of her possessions had been stolen. She dropped her guard for a moment and paid the price. But she also realized that she could not be vigilant 24 hours a day; she could not guard against everything. Her fears just dropped away. She didn’t even get angry over having her things stolen; instead she felt only the peace that comes with complete defeat.

A Reflection

I’m amazed by a lot of things. But the thing that really amazes me is no matter what kind of mood I’m in, no matter hat the world seems to be hitting me with, a long slow concentrated yoga session can really bring me back to earth and make me feel happy and contented with life. It’s true, no matter what kind of tension I walk in with, I walk out feeling completely relaxed.

I was dumped recently. I packed my bags in the morning (there was only a bag to pack) and took them to my new room and then went off to teach a yoga class. I was miserable, questioning everything, confused, sad, broken hearted. There were about six people. It was maybe my fourth studio class and the first of the weeks classes I was doing. It was nice, I took my time, the whole class was relaxing. By the time I finished guiding them thru bodily awareness of sivasana I was completely relaxed and content with everything in life. I left feeling clean and clear.

A bit of confusion and questioning clouded life for a few days, but I wasn’t terribly upset. I knew that I just had to let it go. On the other hand, I also had to have a good look at the questions before I just let them go. But go they did and then an ennui set in after a few more days. I was still practicing the whole time (not teaching much), and my back has gone out again. Problems problems of the mind. I was setting myself apart. Perhaps I always have. We all do this sometimes, some of us more than others, and perhaps all of us in different ways. We believe ourselves different, separate.

Two clues came to me. The first was “The Little Prince” when the Prince meets the fox who wants to be tamed by the little prince. The Fox talks about how he will then set the Little Prince apart from everyone else, he will become special and unique in the foxes heart. There something both beautiful and deadly about this part of the book.

The second clue came to me the next morning after picking up the Yoga Sutras after about four months of being away from them. Book one talks about the goal and the results of yoga. Book two tells you how to practice yoga. I opened it randomly to book two. I have the penguin classic edition translated and commented on by ….

The Sutra was:

Suffering comes about by ignorance, egotism, attachment, aversion and clinging to bodily security. (Book 2 : 3)

The commentary that followed clearly says: “Egotism or obsession with the idea that one is very distinct or different from the other causes suffering, for this overlooks one’s nature as a purusha, which has the basic characteristics in common with all other purushas.” (Shyam Ranganathan, translation and commentary)

It struck me immediately, this sense of setting myself apart. This is very much what my last blog post was about: setting myself apart with a Rebel Yell.

So then, this is what the ego is: the declaration that “I am different.” Not only am I different and unique (special even) from the rest of nature (the rocks the land the plants the animals), I am unique and special (or at least different) than the rest of humanity. Ignorance is the cloud that causes us to announce this to the world, be it in writing or thru selfish action. Ignorance is believing in the beauty and the primacy of the ego (of our difference, our uniqueness).

So, realising that I was both egotistical and ignorant, I went back to my room and began practicing: some surya namaskaras and other dynamic movements with breathing. I was only pushing about 50%; not pushing at all, just flowing nice and easy. Then I did a few things for my back, a nice easy controlled comfortable cobra and a bit of locust the same, then I slipped back into child’s pose, lengthening my spine and breathing gently into it, opening it, massaging it. And then I began pranayama: bellows breath, fire breath, anuloma viloma. Then I sat creating thoughts, looking at them from different angles and then throwing them out. I got entangled and lost a few times but I was able to find my way back quickly. I did a few rounds of mentally doing anuloma viloma, and then I went to my favourite Buddhist meditation: breathing in joy, breathing out joy; breathing in health, breathing out health…. In and out went the good vibes for about five minutes. It was perfect, beautiful, they just kept coming to me.

The ennui disappeared. I’ve been clear again for the day, and much more sociable. Content and happy, nothing to worry about. In other words it’s been a good day. I’m still looking at all the things I do for myself, my attitude about my uniqueness. This chapter when the prince meets the fox is so beautiful and yet so frightening. To be set apart as special not only in the eyes of others, but in our own eyes is somehow essential in human life, but it’s this separation that causes much of the pain and suffering of human life.

So yes, it’s been a good day, but the questioning and confusion isn’t over.

Action in yoga consists of penance, study (of the Vedas and the self) and surrendering to Ishvara (the lord). [Yoga Sutra. Book 2: 1 Shyam Ranganathan, translation and commentary]

What’s missing from our Lives?

What is it that causes so many people in their thirties to suddenly contract unhappiness. They look back on the whole of their life: their achievements, their relationships, their careers and their training and suddenly they decide that none of it is enough. Something vital is still missing. While they were building a life they somehow missed out on life, and at Some point in our thirties we decide that we must go looking for it.

This desire to go searching for that something more is often powerful enough for people to uproot their lives: careers that many only dream of get left behind, marriages come to an end, and many possessions get sold, given away or thrown in the trash-heaps they are for.

We usually don’t know what it is that is missing or to where we must go or what we must do to find it, but suddenly we discover that we must begin listening to our intuition. Or perhaps all the years of repressing our intuition causes it to begin asserting itself through life changes.

YOU ARE THAT! NOT THIS NOT THAT!

Knowledge has bounds, intuition does not. We are much more than the sum of our experiences. We are like a vessel which contains all manifest possibility; infinite potential; a mass of energy conscious of being a mass of energy.

Who we think we are is not who we are. We are beyond our own comprehension.

If this is the case than what is this popular idea of true self? Authentic self? The real?

I hear many stories about lovely successful people who I always thought had it together suddenly breaking down and realizing that they do not at all have it together. Their happiness was a sham, their smiles and laughter masks to cover all that they did not know. Their days, organized for completeness were days of mental chaos, felling success only when triumphing over others and being left forlorn when they must cede success to someone else. We’ve heard it in the movies countless times: “My whole life is a sham.”

But what is a person to do?

I’ve heard the same refrain over and over: “We can’t all just go off to travel India for half the year like you do.”

India has been my path, kindly find your own! I’m not saying that India is not also your path; it is the path of millions of western people (and over a billion Indians). But once here we all have our own paths. None of it would work if we all followed the same path, we’d get in each others way.

And this is much of the problem, we’re all trying to conform to the same path and we’re all getting in each other way. And all this getting in each others way is starting to cause tension and anger. And by the time we hit our thirties we’re completely pissed off, frustrated, and exhausted by life; and now we are ready to listen to our intuition.

An old man once told me that disappointment was a better starting point for the journey within than dreams.

So here we sit in our thirties feeling completely disappointed by life and wanting more. This can’t be it, can it?

A very close friend once confided to me that no matter how much she planned and prepared for the future, she could not feel secure; she always imagined the worst. Above every mutual fund, every dead-bolt, every alarm system and every insurance policy hung a black cloud of “what ifs?” that left her feeling as vulnerable to the future as though she’d done nothing. She knew that the fear was her own burden, but she didn’t know how to drop it.

And then one day it happened! She left her car door unlocked and she came back to find many of her possessions had been stolen. She dropped her guard for a moment and paid the price. But she also realized that she could not be vigilant 24 hours a day; she could not guard against everything. Her fears just dropped away. She didn’t even get angry over having her things stolen; instead she felt only the peace that comes with complete defeat.