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Tantric and Astrological means to Self-Relaization

Part 7: How do we prevail?

Aath pinde, tat brahmade

[As the world is inside, so it is outside.]”

(Manduka Upanishad)

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Self knowledge, the equal of universal knowledge in most of India, is one of the most prized areas of knowledge. Various sciences and systems have been created just for this purpose. One of the oldest branches of knowledge in India is called Samkya. This is a dualist and materialistic branch of knowledge that sought to map out and categorize the various elements of existence that allow us to have this human experience. After some time, many of the philosophers and rishis began to understand that there was more to life than meets the eye. The material designations of Sankya are fine they said, but something was clearly missing since all this matter is inert, insentient and incapable of the complexity that we see in life. So, the rishis and philosopher looked deeper and eventually expanded the categories of tattvas to include several higher elements that connect us to a divine well-spring of power that infuses matter with sentience.

So, anyone wishing to follow the philosophical schools of India should have some cursory knowledge of the tattwas as outlined by Sankya as well as the more subtle tattwas as outlined in Tantra. In this section I wish to share some of the notes I have made regarding the tattwas. I cannot claim this as original work, but since it’s an area of study that I find myself continuously coming back to, I’ve come to believe that a basis in this knowledge is necessary for the more intellectually minded self seeker.

The Bhagavad Gita has said that there are four kinds of people who worship god: 1. the distressed, 2. seekers of knowledge, 3. seekers of wealth, 4. people of knowledge. In his summary of Chapter 7 of the Gita, Abhinavagupta wrote that, “Pure devotion is the wish fulfilling tree by means of which one may fulfill hopes proper to be desired by the sadhaka.” (p186) And elsewhere it has been said that knowledge is better than practice, meditation is better than knowledge, but renunciation of the fruits of action is better than meditation.

Spiritual inclination is grace! Spiritual effort is grace!

Part 8:

Tantric Upayas: Mean of Liberation

Whatever act I may have performed without knowing its good or bad consequences or knowing the proper order of its performances; whatever act I may have performed without concentration or with any other lapse of my intellect; all of that, O Shambhu, you who are compassionate, forgive me, your miserable and ignorant devotee. Through this strota I surrender myself to you and let me never again become the abode of misery for no good reason.” (Abhinavagupta p264)

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So with all of this in mind we can then then use these clues about our true nature to help lend us the faith and knowledge that we all need to begin or continue our spiritual practice. In tantra the means to self-recognition are said to be four-fold; these can be understood as both different stages of practice, as well as different means that can be used in different circumstances. The point of any Tantric sadhana is to efface the ego while cultivating a sense of universal love and oneness with those (and that which is) around you.

Ultimately we all have to accept that this comes only by grace, but a touch of that grace seem to already apply to those whose aim in life is spiritual. In any case these are the four means of liberation.

  1. Shambhav-upaaya: Philosophical and mental means of liberation. Iccha-shakti; method of will. Theory of reflection. A kind of direct perception or pure understanding that form is merely a reflection of the Supreme. There is no method here other than being established in your own will; seated in the self; seated in the heart or however you want to put it. Matrkachakra: this is the awareness of pure thought without constructs; in other words sound. Pratyahara: this is spontaneous absorption which comes only by grace. When one is established in the self what need to be done. Abhinavagupta described pratyahara as, “When, like a turtle which withdraws its limbs on all sides, the yogi withdraws his senses from the sense objects, then his wisdom becomes steady.” (Gita 2/58) We expect our saints to be living at this level of awareness. Accords with the dream sleep when the mind dwells in the throat.
  2. Shakt-upaaya: Contemplative concentration of void. (ex. Gap between two thoughts) Jnana-shakti. Uninterrupted awareness. Discovery of reality of void thru subtle means of conscious awareness. Practices that involve the mind and various higher levels of consciousness. Spiritual teachers are perhaps expected to be practising here. Accords with the dreamless sleeping state when the mind dwells in the heart.
  1. Anava-upaaya: Depends on breathing (uccaara), sense organs (karana), and mental concentration (dhyana). Concentrate on space between inhale and exhale. One pointed concentration with any sense organ (ex. Trataka). Dyana without form like mantra. Dyana with form like yantra. Devote yourself to God thru puja, japa, homa, study of the scriptures. All the practices that make use of the organs of sense and action. This of course is where most of us are trying to practice and learn. Accords with the waking state when your mind dwells in the navel.
  1. An-upaaya: No method. Only remain aware that nothing has to be done. Abide in one’s own self. Surrender your actions to God. This is the back up plan. This is perhaps the practice of the average person. Accords with the 4th state when the mind dwells in the head.

All of the methods we use for self-recognition and self-improvement will fit into one of these categories. For most of us we can only apply an-upaaya. We’re busy completing our karma, we’re engrossed in what we’re doing and that’s ok. We just have to remember that nothing truly needs to be done; we just have to be. For many people, this isn’t enough, we want to go deeper and try to understand and perhaps perceive the subtler aspects that are indeed ensuring that everything will be ok in the end (or it won’t and that’s ok too). We want to apply some upaaya, some means for greater self awareness; we want to apply ourselves and improve our organs of sense and action (anava-upaaya); we want to use study scripture, practice various forms of meditation and yoga that can help get us or keep us in touch with some divine that we all sense is a part of our lives. We generally feel pretty good about ourselves doing all of this until someone reminds us that nothing really needs to be done. At which point we stop doing so much and sit and do it all in our minds: conscious awareness; subtle awareness; shakt-upaaya. We have to do something so we continue, but we try to keep in mind that the doing doesn’t really matter so much; it’s not really part of the job profile of the individual self the individual soul that is still a part of the universal self that we’re all trying to get in touch with has made many of those decisions (after all, astrology clearly teaches us that the universal self is taking care of most of the doing down here on earth). The individual self can, however, move it’s awareness around and put it where ever it likes. (The oldest texts on yoga talk about entering other bodies.) Some say we are to put our awareness on prayer, others say to look for pleasure and satisfaction in life, a few other dare to claim we should focus on combining the two. All would perhaps agree that we should first have some idea who we really are. In the end, grace is our only hope. By grace some people become seated in themselves and there is nothing more to be done (shambhav-upaya). When we withdraw our senses from the objects of sense we experience the pure taste of whatever flavour we have inside of us; we get that pure flavour we crave on account of the wheels of energies that are operating inside of us.

The withdrawal of the vital channels (pranayama), the conquest of the elements (dharana), freedom from the elements (pratyahara) and the separation of the elements (Svachinanda).

(Shiva Sutra 3/5)

…he who constantly tries to discern the spanda (vibration) principle rapidly attains his own true state of being….” (Stanzas)

Vijnanabhairava it the classical text outlining 112 methods of Tantric and Yogic methods of union or self-realization. Some suttras give very specific instruction, others leave the door wide open for you to follow what comes natural to you: a word, an object, a thought, anything at all; fix your mind on it and don’t let it waver. “The expansion of consciousness that takes place when one is engaged in a single thought should be known as the source from whence another arises. One should experience that for oneself.” (Stanzas 41) Or find that point between two breaths, two thoughts, or two actions and try to rest your mind there. Meditate on being both the perceiver and perceived (the subject and the object). Then establish a state of awareness of that which links the two. Become fully aware of the state of perceiving, free from both subject and object. Abhinavagupta has described it as a bird swooping down upon it’s prey. That moment moves fast and we must be swift.

Much of the Vijnanabhairava teaches a kind of concentration or focus, when we can take this power of focus and put it where we like, then we can do what we want. Of course we also have to have he self knowledge to know if we have the various abilities of mind sense and action to get that thing. This is why yoga seems to focus so heavily on health, exercise, learning and study; because if we’re strong healthy, flexible and knowledgeable we will be able to access and heighten all of our natural abilities. If we have looked at and studied the self merely by observing the various faculties of the self we will be more comfortable in our bodies, our minds, and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. This comfort allows us to take our awareness away from the body, mind and circumstances and focus instead on those higher aspects of ourself that reach throughout the cosmos rather than remaining trapped in our tiny worlds of suffering and woes. Contemplate each tattva respectively and disattach from it: from least pervasive to most pervasive; from the elements, up thru the senses, mind, intellect, maya and consciousness itself. (See chapter on tattva’s.)

Anything that brings us closer to recognizing and realizing that we are that universe can be considered a means to liberation. Many of the Indian sciences have their own upayas depending on which parts of us we are focused on healing and getting into touch with. But every upaya also affects the whole. So if you’re following Ayurvedic diet to heal your body, that healing is also bringing more awareness of your soul. But of course everything must be followed in balance or you get some excess or deficiency.

In regards to healing, we can often look at to the activity of the senses to see if what is happening on the inside is the same as what is happening on the outside. Food, acupuncture, the clothes and ornaments we wear, the the people we associate with and the activities we perform can all be used to heal. It’s all a kind of worship and ritual. Swami Laxmanjoo made a point when he said that worldly life is pragmatic, worship should be appreciated as theater: art for arts sake. In the Stanzas on Vibration it says: “Constantly attentive and perceiving the entire universe as play, he who has this awareness is undoubtedly liberated in this very life.” With equal gusto it has been advised to ignore the cycle of birth and death; the cycle of life is higher, only it is eternal. If we live for an eternity there is always time and reason for healing and self recognition. It’s cautioned, however, that while participating in sense enjoyment, we are to be enjoying the bliss of self, not the pleasure of the sense object.

The subject is said to be the lord when, in the midst of phenomena, (he experiences them) as his own body. (But he is) a fettered soul when, sullied by karma etc., (he experiences) conflicts (klesha) in the midst of diversity generated by maya.

(Ishvarapratyabhijna)

Part 9:

Jyotish Astrology Upayas

the City of Eight consists of the inner mental organ along with the senses of knowledge and action. Others say that it is [also] made up of the five breaths, the five subtle elements, desire, karma and ignorance.” (Tattvaprakasha)

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Jyotish astrology, as the science of light, also seeks to engage the subtler perspectives and provide upayas for self recognition. Astrology acts as the mirror of the individual self and suggest remedial measures for helping you to realize your connection with the universal self. For anyone with any experience with Jyotish astrology, we often find that our limits in the material world are much greater that we at first suspected. The extent of our fettered is almost unimaginable, but still we get this wonderful experience of free will. So how do we explain this contradiction between our experience and the knowledge.

Astrology is of course an ocean of a science, and the astrologer merely a pearl diver. The ocean is vast, and the diver is just one small simple man. The client has his or her chart (the ocean) and the astrologer also has his own chart, which is but a wet-suit compared to the ocean. If both charts are favorable, the client will receive a good reading and go away happy and receive the fruits he or she expects to receive. Perhaps the person will even get a glimmer of the divine forces to which are inseparably linked. If, however, just one chart is not favorable, many things can easily go awry. The astrologer can have a bad day and miss something, or the data might not be quite right, or the client might not understand correctly. In any case, it’s always our own fate, we cannot blame others for our misery.

Traditional healers generally maintain that they do not actually perform any healing. The client comes (we always hope) with that healing already inside of them. The healers job is merely to point them in the direction of healing. The healer is just an instrument of healing. This is why such a variety of scientific and non-scientific methods all work to heal; because it’s not the method which is providing healing, but the patients own life force. Astrologers need to impress upon people that what they generally decoding for them is what they have inside of themselves; and not necessarily some outside force. There are no upayas that can bring you anything you don’t already have inside, all they can do is help you to reach the highest and best potential of what you already have.

From an astrological perspective, what is outside of us and outside of us are merely reflected versions of each other that are constantly acting and interacting together. We get a combined effect of the reactions that are produced. We often say that an astrology chart is like a pathology report. The astrologer is like the doctor who interprets that report. The client doesn’t really need to know the details of the report, what the client needs is the remedial measures.

In truth, most people know themselves fairly well. They don’t really need an astrologer to tell them about themselves, what they need are ways which will help them understand the interconnectedness of everything. Giving specific selfless service is said to be one of the best ways of overcoming or understanding our suffering. When we serve those who share our suffering or represent our fears then we dissipate that negative quality; life become just a little bit lighter.

Meditation and any spiritual practice in general can been good, but even these things can be fine tuned with astrology. Of course gemstones are easiest for most people with a few extra dollars, but without grace, I can’t imagine the effect to be as strong as with some practice which can include service and ritual, but also tapas, worship, mantra, the study of scriptures and other such engaging practices.

What is important to remember is that “Identification with the City of Eight is bondage.” This may come as a surprise to many people who have been taught to identify with their own inner soul, rather than with their body, but these lessons of the City of Eight suggest that even the deepest essence of our individual soul is binding, as of course it must be, since freedom is not an individual experience but rather a universal one.

Part 10: The Goal

Meheshwar

Somewhere within all of this is supposed to be some goal. We want something for all of this work performed. What exactly we want is not easy to describe. Many words get used such as enlightenment, self-recognition, self-empowerment, freedom, liberation. Many other describe as self-improvement or self-betterment. We are not, after all, merely doing this for our health. So what should we expect? The truth is that we should not expect anything. Of course everything is always changing so there will be change, but fundamentally nothing will change. You will still have the same fate and karmas to perform. As Krishna said in the Gita: “we cannot avoid action, not even thru non-action.”

What changes is our awareness? By gaining deeper more focused awareness we are able to recognize how we are ourselves the universe. This is self-recognition. We come to recognize the eternal subject which is ourselves, as well as the relationships of that subject with the various objects of the world beginning without own body. We are not this limited individual self, we are the universal self in part and in whole.

Some beliefs bring people to an emptiness once the individual self has been over come, Tantra promises a fullness like a pot boiling over. The fullness is the dynamic interplay between subject and object, the movement and change of the world. To be aware of this is said to be freedom. The practice of yoga is the practice of being aware of all those things that connect us with ourselves and the other (which is who all the gods essentially represent) We should be aware of consciousness, breath, energy levels, rituals, mantra and worship. Expanded awareness is the only goal and these are the tools (our body and this world) This is the same awareness which shows us that there really is no distinction between fate and free will.

This is a big concern for many people who feel as though they are being led thru life like a draft animal. Many people who hear about astrology feel like this whole concept of astrology somehow interferes with their free will. Most people is this world are very attached to the ignorance they call free will. This common idea that we are the body and thru the body we can do what we like thru free will is a very narrow and ignorant perception of freedom and will. If we start to recognize that we are all of this, only then will we recognize the place from where that freedom and will arise.

We recognize our free will when we are aware of that all of this is emanating from the free will of that Shiva which is inside of us; that which which is us. Freedom is exercised on the levels between Shiva and maya, not on the level of our minds, bodies and senses. These things are merely the tools for exercising that freedom. Of course once a choice is made, we have to live by the karma of that choice. As soon as an individual soul takes a body, the time and place of that activity becomes crucial for the rest of ones life. This is of course the time and place of our birth and first breath, and whatever karma is given to us at that precious moment will determine the extent of the work to be do in this life. The trick is to recognize all of this and maintain that awareness that we are Shiva, we are the chooser, and have chosen to experience all of this. What is inside is outside so we have as much power inside of ourselves to affect events in our lives and this world as the Sun and the Moon have to affect the life cycles of this universe. It’s a fully reciprocal relationship between ourselves and the world. The more we recognize this, the more harmony comes into our lives and the world. The truth to life and freedom are vast; they range far beyond the mundane details of life. We can be sure, however, that everyone will play their role and each of us will get that taste we most crave; the quality of that flavour will be up to us.

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.