Tag Archives: tantra

36 Tattvas: Elements of Existence

…. Then he unfolds Himself in the totality of manifestations viz., principles (tattvas), worlds (bhuvanas), entities (bhaavas) and their respective experients that are only a solidified form of Cit-rasa [the juice universal consciousness].” (Pratyabhijnaahrdayam: The Secret of Self Recognition. Trans. Jaideva Singh. Sutra 4)

Macrocosmos & Metaphysical Existence

Shiva Tattvas (Shaktyanda; sphere of shakti functioning in its pure form of citshakti or mahamaya)

  1. Shiva1 – 2. Shakti2

3. Sadashiva

4. Ishvara

5. Sadavidya

Iccha (initial stirring of the will) – Kriya (spontaneous action as opposed to karmic action which seeks to fulfill desires) – Jnana (knowledge)

Vidya Tattvas: these are the tattwas which bind us to our bodily existence

6. Maya3: Five Kanchukas:

7. Kalaa (limits power)

8. Vidya (limits knowledge)

9. Raga (limits fullness)

10. Kaala (experience of time/change)

11. Niyati (experience of cause and effect)

The jiva is limiting himself thru maya and the five kanchukas. The Malas are due to the kanchukas and the two types of ajnana: 1: Paurusa ajnana: innate ignorance regarding the self. 2. Bauddha ajnana: ignorance of buddhi.

One considers the subtle and gross body as the self on account of asuddha vikalpas (ideation, thought constructs, irrational psychological thought). Replacing ajnana with jnana is one of the main goals of kashmiri shaivism and philosophical spiritual practice in general.

Atma Tattvas

Microcosmos – Physical Existence

  1. Purusha (iccha, individual soul, subject) – 13. Prakriti4 (kriya, creatrix, object)

The three Gunas (Sattvic, Tamas, Rajas) are the qualities belonging to prakriti. Possessing gunas is a property of being the object of experience which depends on an experiencer.

Instruments of cognition (Jnana):

Chitta

14. Budhi5 – Intelligence (Mercury)

15. Ahamkara – Ego/ I-sense (Sun)

16. Manas6 – Mind (Moon)

17 -21. Jnana Indriyas:

  1. Sense of smell (Mercury)
  2. Sense of taste (Venus)
  3. Sense of seeing (Sun & Moon)
  4. Sense of feeling/touching (Saturn)
  5. Sense of hearing (Jupiter)

22- 26. 5 Karma Indriyas:

  1. Power of speech (vak)
  2. Power to grasp objects (pani)
  3. Locomotion (pada)
  4. Excretion (payu)
  5. Power of procreation

Tamas:

27 – 31. 5 Tanmatras:

  1. Sound
  2. Touch
  3. Form
  4. Taste
  5. Odour

32 -36. 5 Tattvas:

  1. Fire (agni, tejas) – Sun, Mars
  2. Earth (prthvi) – Mercury
  3. Air (vayu) – Saturn
  4. Water (apas, jala, rasa) – Venus, Moon
  5. Ether (akasha) – Jupiter

Footnotes:

1 Five functions Performed by Shiva: 1. Nigraha or vilaya (act of self limitation/contraction), 2. Srsti (act of self manifestation of the world), 3. Sthiti (preservation of the world), 4. Samhara (absorption/withdrawl of worldly manifestation), 5. Anugraha (revelation or dispensation of grace)

2Shakti’s 5 modes of expression: 1. cit-shakti: conscious force, 2. Ananda-shakti: power as bliss, 3. Iccha-shakti: power as will, 4. Jnana-shakti: power as knowedge. 5. Kriya-shakti: spontanious action as power

Three kinds of defilements: 1. Aanava Mala (mula mala): self-contraction occuring at the first moment of manifestation of the universe. “The impurity of individuality.”(Aphorisms p15) Our true power becomes “obscured by the notions of existence and non-existence…”(Aphorisms p15) Begins once he descend to sadashiva level. Two kinds: a) veils knowledge of divine awareness, but freedom of action remains intact (Parlayaakalas & sakalas who exist below Prakriti) b) leaves knowledge of divine awareness, but veils ability to act freely (those staying above maya tattva). 2. Maayiiyamala: maayaa and the 5 kanchukas. Makes oblivious to real nature. Robs all sign of divinity. Veils only those below Prakriti. 3. Karma mala: Provides us with physical body. Collective residual impressions from past lives. Once karma mala defiles the monade, embodies individuals are created, known as sakalas. *the imprint made in the mind due to action which is motivated out of attachment.

4Prakriti provides Purusha with everything he needs for enjoyment. The physical body, karmendriyas, jnanaindriyas. The three gunas constitute prakriti: Kapha, vatta, pitta. Three modes of activity of shakti are: iccha (rajas), jnana (sattva), kriya (tamas).

5Buddhi is the abode of microcosmic Pranashakti. From here it flows thru the different parts of the body via the nadis. Contracted power of Jnana shakti. Sattvic. Locus of every experience. Five kinds of Pranavayu: 1. Prana (air: moves upward. Receptive: sense organs) 2. Aapana: (Earth: moves downward. Elimination.) 3. Udaana: (outwards. Speech, sound, limbs of the body), 4. Vyaana: (expansion in all directions), 5. Samaana: (Inwards. Anything that spins towards a centre point (ex. Meditation)).

6Manas: Ahamkara is the material cause. Instrument of rationality. Supervises/controls karmindriya and Jnanindriyas.

Putting the Mind on the Self

How does one satisfy all desire by putting the mind on the self?

If we know the self, then we know our desires and our potential; we know what we want and what we can get. It often seems, however, that we don’t know ourselves. This is why we practice meditation and yoga and travel and contemplation and even foolishness; so that we can come to know the self. This is also why many people come to me to have their astrology chart read for them. But something that becomes clearer and clearer to me is that people do know themselves. Pretty much everyone I talk to has self-knowledge. People know their hopes and desires, their skills and abilities much better than I’ll ever know from looking at their chart. If people start disagreeing with everything I get from the chart, I have to assume the chart is incorrect or I am incorrect. It would be madness for me to say that the chart is correct and they merely don’t know themselves. Their own self-knowledge is confirmation of the chart and not the other way around.

Knowing our true selves, it should be easy to put our awareness there and forget about everything else going on. When we do this, we align our abilities with our desires so that what we hope for matches closely to what we receive. This is how we use self-knowledge to achieve satisfaction in life. You could say that once we have knowledge of our true selves we don’t have to worry about anything anymore. We know the program so why worry about the details. The details, of course, being the karma; the daily grind of making effort to achieve results. If we accept karma, not just our own karma, but the concept of karma and its effectiveness of giving results, then it becomes really easy to put our minds in places other than where our next meal will come from, or how we will get educated.

Our physical existence runs on a kind of automatic pilot thru our karma. We use the moment of our birth as the first action, which leads to the next and the next and so on. From our limited perspective, this first action appears to be beyond our control and without our consent. And from that moment onward our lives generally feel split between being the active subject choosing our fate and being a passive object being swept away by the currents of fate and time. In one sense our path is absolutely determined, but in a more immediate sense, we continually affirm our path through our free choice. So what’s going here?

I’m beginning to believe that our material existence is more or less fixed at the moment of birth. Our health, our wealth, our aptitude, our studies, generally everything the typical person associates with their “self” is pretty much fixed. This is the stuff most of us spend our time worrying about. Some will complain that we have to put effort into things or nothing will get done; such worries are the hallmark of modern ambition and are necessary to advance as individuals as well as a society. Or it could be that the effort is also fixed.

Cause will follow effect, which will be the cause for further effect. But when we focus on the cause and effect nothing seems fixed. The very nature of cause and effect is change, but the whole process is fixed. According to Vedanta, whatever is unchanging is truth or true-self according to Tantra. The true self does not change

If we take the example of chair, we find that many things about a chair can change and it will still be a chair. The number of legs can change, the colour, and many things about the design can change. Even some of the firmer qualities can change such as the amount of weight the chair can bear and whether you can move it or not. But at some point there are certain things that are common to all chairs; certain qualities that make a chair a chair. This essence of chairness can be summed up as a thing made for sitting up off the floor. Humans are no different from chairs. We come in all shapes and sizes and abilities but there are certain qualities we all share that make us all human.

On a deeper level we can even say that there are certain qualities that we share with chairs that that are also the same so that we can say things are things. For everything to be there must be some base upon which ‘beingness’ rests that is the same for all beings; both chairs and humans.

It’s this foundation of ‘being’ that we seek through meditation or contemplation or awareness or yoga or whatever your practice might be. Finding the sameness of humans will surely help you to be a better human (a more aware human) in society, while finding the sameness in all beings will surely help you to be a better being on this planet.

So, as I read a birth chart, I see the individual moving thru his or her dasha periods, changing and evolving as they progress as an individual. I also take note of the transiting planets and the changing and evolving world that we have as a ground for action. Both ourselves and the world we live in are being swept away by time and karma. I think often of the scene in the Gita where Krishna shows his true self to Arjuna, the whole of the world rushing to its destruction, being swallowed unflinchingly by the great movement of time (MahaKaala, a god whose important shrine sits outside of Ujjain in the west of India). If I focus only on this change I loose the true individual sitting in front of me. The change is only happening to the object, the mind and body in front of me. My own body and my own fortune too are constantly in motion. If I focus on these things I will only see the object measured in relation to my own bodily object. In this condition we are no more than beasts of burden with the strongest among us doing the least work while the weakest toil.

Life will carry on of it’s own accord. Our functional minds will also complete their tasks over time. Much of this is set for us, but if we begin to search our own minds probing the various layers, we find a layer that is quiet like a placid lake. It’s from this lake that thoughts emerge like trout leaping out of the water; some of which are caught by our lower minds and sustained in thought, from which point we may use this fish to give us the power of action; or we could just put the fish back in the water and leave it disappear into the depths.

The placid lake is our deeper self, our true self, the unchanging consciousness from which all change emerge. This is where we are advised to put our minds. From the silence we can witness the change while keeping our inner consciousness focused on the silence of the true self.

I can see this too in an astrology chart, the layers of our being that don’t change. Just as change occurs on various the individual that persists in the body, the things that make us all human and of course that space in which everything takes place; that space from which everything arises. When we focus on these things our expectations tend to match with the results and we find satisfaction. We experience the peace because we have found the place of peace within ourselves and put our minds there. Otherwise we only experience the change: the suffering of the Buddhist aspirant and the binds of the Tantric that keep us from freedom.

Everything is Perfect as Passive Acceptance of Karma

Om poornamadah poornamidam poornaat poornam-udachyate poornasya poornamaadaaya poornamevaavashishsyate

Om Shanti… Shanti… Shanti…..

~Upanishad~

 It’s not unusual to hear the new age refrain that “this is perfect, and that is perfect, everything is god so everything is perfect just as it is.” On one hand, who can argue with this? Who can argue with the deeper wisdom of Mother Nature who brings us both our joy and our suffering; our life and our death? But if we are just to accept our karma and accept our lives as they are then life becomes rather futile and we ultimately lack responsibility for change. If God and nature are responsible, we are then free of responsibility; it doesn’t matter what we do because even the damage and destruction we cause are as natural as tsunamis and earthquakes. But this is not freedom.

Some might look to such an argument to ease their guilty conscience, but it does little to advance the cause of freedom. Some say that since everything is perfect by Nature we might as well work for personal gain. Those we hurt along the way are just receiving the karmic retribution they had coming to them anyways. This is faulty logic.

Mother Nature might hide our free will behind the bounty she provides, but she does not bind us to her contract. The trick that we’re all looking for in our yoga practice, is just the trick that allows us to relate with and exercise our free will. We want to gain power over our own lives so that we become active self-directed agents of our lives rather than passive performers of karma and duty being swept along by nature. Such passive acceptance of karma and the ways of Nature keep people bound to their karma unable to either command or change their lives. This has nothing to do with Tantra.

An Individual who, (though) desirous of doing various things,(but) incapable of doing then due to his innate impurity(experiences) the supreme state when the disruption (of his false ego) ceases.”

~Spandakarika~

Shiva Tantra (Kashmiri Shaivism) teaches the path of consciousness freedom rather than the path of power that so easily binds. It’s said that at the heart of the matter, we have free choice, but in order to really exercise this freedom we have to associate ourselves with Shiva consciousness, the agent of our action. From perspective of deep consciousness, we can know our true nature and act with freedom, recognising that there are choices beyond the typical karmic pathways.

When we act for gain, we associate with those things that provide delight for the mind, the body and the senses; there is no delight in these things for Shiva consciousness. Sensory delights come from outside of our selves and are largely karmically driven. When we follow these karmic pathways, our lives become so predictable that marketteers and psychologists can easily plot our patterns even without the use of astrology. The world of karma is filled with winners and losers. For every bit of gain we make, someone (or something) has had to loose.

A Shaivist knows there can be no gain because they deposit everything into the pool of consciousness rather than use it as is. Everything seems to dissolve into this pool, so we think it is of no use. But if we learn to relate with this consciousness then we can actively make choices in our lives.

Shiva Tantra teaches us how to rise above our karma and the futility of fate. Karma is only binding as long as we maintain our awareness of it and focus only on the actions that that serve somehow to increase our own personal karma. Freedom comes when become aware of the well-head of karma; the pool of consciousness; Shiva.

The Spiritual Side of Yoga: Introduction

“When (the yogi’s consciousness) pervades all things

by (his) desire to precieve, then why speak much?

He will experience it for himself.”

~Spandakarika~

One of my goals in writing about Indian philosophy is to clear up some of the New Age misunderstandings, which, though they carry some grain truth, are only adding fuel to the fire of materialism, selfishness and corruption that is the hallmark of our age. Not that there is anything wrong with wanting a better life for ourselves, but to increase our own inner power at the expense of the outer world is incompatible with with truly gaining a better life. Incomplete notions of many of the key concepts of Indian philosophy (such as purity, karma ,the cycle of birth and death, and even the role of Mother Nature (Shakti) in our lives) is causing a subtle backlash from people who have interest in yoga but can see only the materialistic side that often collides with their own experience and understanding. I grow tired of hearing all the pseudo-philosophies that are so tirelessly spread through the western yoga communities.

Tantra is especially susceptible to abuse. For this reason it has attracted me for several years. Little of what I saw in the west made much sense to me: the manuals of Kundalini Yoga, Pranayama, meditation, hatha yoga, raja yoga, posters for tantric couples retreats, or whatever it might be. If enlightenment comes by grace, then none of these things matter.

And what is enlightenment anyways? These days I just imagine it as a deep wisdom. We have all met people with this deeper wisdom. We too have acted with it a time or two, it’s just not art of our everyday life. We’re generally acting on a whole different realm from wisdom. Wisdom is even scorned as foolishness these days. Everyone has the potential for this sort of wisdom, it’s there, but too often we get caught up in the power of knowledge as we climb.

I don’t claim to have anything figured out, my writing is merely my way of trying to put the pieces together for myself. In a way, you can say I’m even writing for myself as much as for you. The conflicts that arise in my work is much more of a conflict that is happening inside of myself rather than some conflict I might have with anyone else’s path. Freedom is an uncompromising path that we are all on, and though there are several manuals out there that will lead us to right action, nobody can agree on their meaning so everyone just searches for freedom where they want it to be.

Most people these days are looking for material acquisition to give them freedom. This is the abode of earthly things and is ruled over by Karma and Kama (action and desire). On this path we are tied to our actions, things and common desires. The powers (of Shakti) we gain in order to increase our material standing in society only serve to bind us more tightly to Karma and Kama. The point is, we have little freedom when we align our lives with the material world. Our inner life remains just fluctuating as the waves on the ocean or the wind in the trees.

If we want freedom we have to go to the source of the power by directing our energy inward. Your true self is the source! That moment of intent that arises before we do, think or say anything is the source of all things. When we learn to relate with this inner consciousness, our innate wisdom, then we have learned how to use our freedom; then we become free to act rather than remaining bound to react.

The problem is that most of us are just floating thru life going wherever the tide of our karma takes us. Life in the modern world can be incredibly easy if we allow it to just carry us, but at some point most people figure out that it isn’t very much fun. The real fun is in the choice, that way we know we will always get what we want. Real fun is living a self directed life. Accepting our karma is one thing, but rising above it is quite another. Most people are quite happy with the former while only a few people strive for the later. The true power of yoga isn’t in the power at all, its in the true freedom choice over how to use that power.

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.

Knowing and Overcoming Karma

At first glance Tantra and Astrology appear to be at odds with each other: astrology confirms the hand of destiny while Tantra confirms the freedom of our will. An astrological birth chart is none other than a map of how we are bound in our human condition. Tantra is the map of how to overcome the bounds of the human condition.

The very nature of Vedic Astrology is to look into the intricacies of exactly how we are individually bound by our karma and desires, our communities and even how we expend it all. The Vedic birth chart is said to be the body of Kala Parusha, kala means time, while Parusha indicates an individual soul. As an embodied soul in time we are subject to the veils of maya and the physical realities of karma.

Such is life. This is why they say to let go of it all and remain in the moment. The karma you are here to experience will happen with or without your worry or plan. Tantra teaches us to shift our awareness away from the objects of our lives and focus instead on the awareness itself.

This is where purity comes in. We have to wash away the impurities of our senses. Objectivity is the main impurity. This subject-object relationship we have with the world: us and them, me and you. The objects basically just muddle up the purer experience of just being aware of seeing.

When we start seeing in this way we start seeing things as really are. Almost every eastern philosophy has a different way of explaining this, Tantra often says that they are incomplete and would lead only to inertia. Tantra fills everything with divinity of consciousness rather than relegating it to mere illusion while setting divinity apart from the reality we experience in a day to day way.

There are 36 elements in the Tantric worldview. Beginning with the five gross elements of earth air fire and water the elements get subtler and subtler: objects sounds, gunas (the famous elements of Ayurveda), thoughts, mind, memories, kinetic and potential energy. Tantra teaches us to experience these subtler and subtler energies.

An astrology could be said to be a chart of how these subtle energies are working in our lives. From a karmic point of view there is little we can do. But by working with the subtler energies Tantra teaches many ways we can use these energies as the naturally manifest in objects to improve our lives and get what we want.

In the material world we are bound by the laws of karma; the spiritual world is quite a different matter once we learn how see that it’s essentially a spiritual world we are living in; we begin to see how we are absolutely free.

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.