Tag Archives: purity

Purity in Tantra

From the Aghore branch of Tantra it’s clear that common impurities like shit, menstrual blood, drugs, alcohol, death and other filthy tamas things like are not in themselves impure from a Tantric perspective. Nothing can be impure in itself since everything is, in its essence, divinely pure consciousness. But it’s because of this notion of purity that Tantra gets its reputation for sex, drugs and rock’n’roll.

This is also why sex, drugs and rock’n’roll people are attracted to Tantra since it’s a philosophy that cleans up their act without them ever having to do anything. And this is of course where Tantra goes wrong. Pretty much every scripture, Tantric or other wise, agrees on at least this one thing: objectification of the elements will bind you to those elements. But according to Tantra, objects in themselves are pure and perfect, it’s our relationships with those objects are lacking in purity.

My acupuncture mentor makes the example of a couple who are having relationship problems. Neither of the individual people is the problem, but rather the relationship that’s the problem. Both people are perfectly capable and whole in themselves, they could very well have a good relationship with someone else, just not you. This does not mean you are flawed of they are flawed, but rather the relationship which is not in balance. This is why I cringe when relationship councilors tell people to stop blaming the other and look at themselves. It’s better to look at the relationship that’s going on between the people, otherwise we continue to be blinded by the forms (the bodies, the personalities, the thoughts and all those things which, by their impermanent nature, are known to be binding).

The most common advice in Shaivistic Tantra is to merely to put your awareness in the middle of two things. To the space where there is no subject or object, that’s the space they call pure subjectivity. But this pure subjectivity isn’t an excuse for selfishness and shitty relationships, as this would be work karma.

That space between everything that the Buddhists call emptiness, the Tantrics fill with consciousness and action similar to the living landscape as seen by the traditional Native American eye. Be aware of seeing rather than the objects seen. Be aware of being aware rather than on the objects of awareness.

Bhagavad Gita essentially says the same thing when it teaches focus on the action itself rather than the fruits of action. This is meant in every sense of action, not merely in the narrow sense of profiting from your action. The fruit of the action of seeing, for example, is the object that is seized by your sense organs.

To give an example of how our mind and senses seize upon objects and drop them again, think about entering a room to find your misplaced keys. Your senses seize upon the key rack, but they’re not there, so your eyes and mind drop it and pick up the space on the desk, that is dropped and your eyes seize upon the jacket you wore last night. These objects cloud the pure awareness of seeing, thinking, experiencing. The object is the impurity, leave that thing and focus your awareness on the pure action of seeing. Do that with all the 36 elements and their objects. Think of it as consciousness games.

Without this sort of pure awareness, you can consider yourself bound. This being the case, Tantra can be no excuse for the life of sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, though you can still blame your karma.

Maya of Tantra

Most people in the west recognize the concept of maya from Buddhism or Vedanta philosophies. Following these modes of thought, maya translates as illusion. The path of these philosophies is a path of negation (neti neti: not this not that) to distinguish the real from the unreal. They say that only god is real and objective reality (objects of the mind and senses and such) are not real. Such objects arise only through the illusion of maya.

Tantra accepts maya to be just as real as god himself. Since god consciousness permeates everything completely and fully, then every object of the mind and senses is, is a sense, equal. Rather than being an illusion that is completely unreal, Maya is a force that limits knowledge suggesting there is some sense of truth in everything.

The goal of Tantra then is to eliminate the ignorance with the light of knowledge.n There are two kinds of ignorance we are working with:

1. Ignorance regarding our true self
2. Ignorance of the attachment to thought constructs and psychological impressions.

“An Individual who, (though) desirous
of doing various things, but incapable of doing them due to his innate impurity, (experiences) the supreme state (Parma Padam) when the disruption (ksobha) (of his false ego) ceases.”Stanzas on Vibration. Translated with Intro and Exposition by Mark Dyczkowski ~

In order to remove this ignorance, they seek to clean up the impurities that cloud our vision. There are there types of impurity that each individual has to deal with in their own way.

1. Karma-mala is the first impurity we have to contend with This is the particle that attaches to our mind every time we perform any activity out of sense of attachment or desire. This is why so much yoga is focused on releasing desire and attachment. Rather then think of karma in terms of good or bad, we need to think of it in terms making karma, not making karma and burning off the karma we have without making more of it. Only by relinquishing the desire even for good results can we release ourselves from the karmic implications of our actions. And only thru the most difficult actions (tapas) can we burn the karma destined to fuel this lifetime. Karma yogi is the remedy for karma mala.

2. Maya-male is the second impurity. As we start to get our desires and attachments under control with karma yoga we begin to notice our limitations. But we also notice that a certain amount of limitation is necessary for the human experience. In many ways, it’s these apparent limits that set the stage for the classic human struggle of man vs  himself & man vs nature.

Maya-mala basically makes us forget that part of ourselves that is  divine by limiting our power & our knowledge. She makes us feel like we’re missing something from our lives (which is the polite way to say that she gives us desires). We are made aware of only a sliver of time and fear that this might be it. And finally, Maya makes us subject to cause and effect. The five divine powers of omnipotence, omniscience, fullness, eternal time and absolute freedom are hidden from us: not absent, just obscured; dulled down. We seek out this divinity within ourselves thru Sadhna.

The key to understanding Maya Mala is to search out our limits and find ways to overcome them, to push the boundaries of possibility outward. We do this in all realms: mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally. Training and experience are they keys to Maya-mala.

3. Once we start to get a handle of our activities and start to push our limits we open the door to the possibility of cleansing the root impurity of individuality: anava-mala.  Ultimately grace is the only way this gets removed, but we can prepare ourselves for it by seeking to be open to it. Only the greatest saints have the experience of clearly and spontaneously knowing that god is everywhere in equal measure. Death is the natural dissolution if our individuality.

Everything in the tantric’s path involves divine grace; nothing at all can happen without it. The very will underlying all action is said to be equal to the will of god. But once we have such a will for spiritual practice we can focus it on cleansing the impurities in our activities (karma-mala) and training ourselves in the various skills that will allow us to see that there really is much more to us than meets the eye. Tantra is an awareness of subtleties. We want to make our awareness more and more sensitive. To do this we sacrifice the gross, heavy materiality of this world for what is imperceptible and magical.