Tag Archives: yoga

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.

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.

The Maya of Tantra

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.” ~ .9 Stanzas on Vibration. Translated with Intro and Exposition by Mark Dyczkowski.

The tantric perspective of Maya has been the focus of several of my past blog entries. 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 everything we recognize in this world as real (the 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 a force of illusion, it’s a force merely of ignorance.

Ignorance is of two types that need to transform into knowledge in Tantric path:

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

Tantrics must purify what is impure in themselves. The impurities of humans are threefold:

1. Karma is the first impurity we must polish to purity. Karma in this case can be described as the imprint that is left in the mind when we perform action out 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, think of it in terms of making karma or not making karma for yourself. Only by relinquishing the desire even for good results can we release ourselves from the karmic implications of our actions.
2. Once we have started to effectively deal with the part of ourselves that is guided by karma, we can begin to see maya for what it is: a kind of necessary limitation. In many ways, it’s these apparent limits are what set the stage for the human struggle against self and nature. They are also the veils that keep us from recognizing our true godly nature. The characteristics of divine nature are fivefold. 1. Omnipotent, 2. Omniscient, 3. Satisfied, 4. Eternal, 5. Free. Maya too is fivefold in it’s actions to obscure each of these characteristics: 1. Power appears limited, 2. Knowledge appears limited, 3. Desire motivates us, 4. We have the linear experience of time, and 5. We are subject to cause and effect.
3. And finally, after we have effectively and fully understood these lessons in our hearts, we are ready to fully purify our perception and cleanse the final impurity (or rather the original impurity) and bring our dual focus into oneness. We see clearly and spontaneously that all is one and that god is everywhere in equal measure. Duality ceases.

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. For tantrics, the motivation for action comes from the desire only for self-recognition, liberation, and god consciousness. A tantric cannot say for instance that he is taking action to recognize his true flow of consciousness. we are rather gods in human form seeking the god in ourselves. There are four ways that such grace descends upon us to give us the will and desire for self-seeking (but these I’ll go into another time).

Too many misguided tantrics these days superimpose the spiritual laws of tantrism onto material life. Nothing is prohibited and nothing is enjoined. The path of Tantrism they say, is unlimited; we can do anything. This is true only in spiritual life when we have overcome our mundane desires and attachments and when the goal is union with god consciousness. To say everything is allowed and then run off to fulfill desires for sex or material possession or power over people is not the path of Tantra.

I once sat with the owner/instructor of a yoga studio. She was telling me about some of the yoga styles and studios available in the relatively small town. She mentioned the Tantric studio that was around the corner from her own presumably more orthodox. She complained that people were going to Tantra because Tantra allows them to keep doing whatever they want (eat, drink, party, have sex, and pretty much continue to follow their most base instincts). As she told me this, she sipped on her beer and chewed on her hardy beef burger.

I wasn’t surprised by her misconception of Tantra, and it wouldn’t surprise me if the studio was indeed teaching such a path devoid of knowledge. Nor did the fact that she was eating meat and drinking beer phase me until she made this statement. Every persons path to higher consciousness is their own, what is important is that we follow our own rules. Only by recognizing and following our own rules will we make spiritual progress. If we believe the orthodoxy that drinking beer and eating meat will dull our consciousness, then it most assuredly will. On the other hand, we truly believe as many tribal cultures believe, that eating meat will bring us in union with the spirits of higher consciousness than eating meat in this way will most assuredly raise ones consciousness.

There are two kinds of worship in this world: inner worship and outer worship. These days the majority of people are focused on outer worship, Outer worship will bring only outer fruits. If you really want to practice yoga, you mush focus intently on inner worship.

Astrological remedies: How they work and the mechanism of action

A friend recently asked me how the stones or whatever remedies work? I partially answered this question in a previous blog post, but I wanted to give a more direct answer to this question.

I have been studying astrology for only a few years. I’ve always had a skeptical rational mind. Most of my life I rejected things like astrology. I was quite attached to the idea of free will and the thought that my life was entirely my own: either I’d make it or break it by my own will and my own effort.

But then of course I came to India and started studying the philosophy and the vedic culture. Through my yoga practice I began to recognize more and more how little control I actually had over the events in my life. I suppose to put in yogaly, the more I identified with the witness, the less I identified as the doer of my actions. But of course one has to wonder who (or what is the doer)? Who (or what) is the enjoyer of the actions if I am a mere witness?

Then I started looking into astrology. There’s no need to explain how I found it to be very accurate and very easy to learn if you have the sort of mind that appeals to hard logic (I finally discovered the use of those symbolic logic classes I took in college).

In astrology we are mostly looking at the kinds of energies represented by the planets and the houses and the signs and the Nakshatras and such. These are the same archetypical energies that Ayurveda and yoga and sankya and Tantra use to understand the world. The principles are all the same.

After all these years studying and practicing these disciplines I can attest that it’s a sound way of understanding the health of body, the workings of the mind, and the relationships between everything (the elements, mind body and spirit, past present and future, people between each other, man and nature…… ect ect).

The stones, because of the purity of their elements, presumably represent the sattwic nature of the various planetary forces. We can use much more than stones to mitigate these forces. In many ways, the stones I recommend are meant to help purify the already satwik properties related to personality, mind and luck. Stones are subtle and simple. If we want to start working on improving negative indications in chart, then a person has to be willing to commit to more active remedies.

To use a rather extreme example, say a chart indicates that a person my do something wrong and go to prison for a few years (not that you have anything like this). By logic, one way to perhaps influence this out come might be to bring doughnuts to the police station every Tuesday. This would have a very strong effect on making you more law abiding. But of course, no one is going to do this and the police would likely think it so strange that they might indeed find some reason to put you in jail, so, we feed the fish every Tuesday and perhaps donate some time or money to something like a halfway house. As the shamans would say: “we have to appease that energy that wants to do us harm.”

These sorts of remedies all depend on the client and what they want from life, what they’re willing to do to get it, and of course, what resources they have at their disposal.

This link is to an article I wrote and presented to the university about the role of science in regards to preventative treatment:

The role of Basic Sciences in Ayurvedic Medicine

And here’s a slightly different perspective on how astrology (and such things) work:

http://mikessleepingdog.com/category/astrology/

New Years Message from Kashi

The new age is fond of embracing some sort of mediocre perfection and proclaiming it to be the highest law if tantrism or tribalism or some such thing. We are all perfect just the way we are. Accept your faults your pain and your suffering because it’s all part of a perfectly balanced world.

Regardless of how you look at it there is some truth to this banality. But if you look deeper into the Tantric worldview, you will find it quite unlikely that these new agers have any idea about perfection.

It’s generally thought that if you can clearly recognize the perfection in everything then there is nothing else. How can there be any suffering to recognize and accept if true perfection is all that is perceived?

The reason, they say, that we cannot recognize the true perfection of the universe is because we are caught up in our petty desires and the relativity of time and space, we are restricted by our sense from witnessing the depth and expansiveness of cause and effect. We are limited in so many ways!

But yet have such potential for expansiveness: infinite big bangs just waiting to take place in each of us. The ways to unlock that expansiveness and the expression of that expansiveness are also infinite: entirely individual. None-the-less, many sages have done their best to express the path in words; many techniques have been left for us to follow. We can breath like this or like that, sit this way or that, put our focus here and there, we can sing and dance, or read a book, or just do nothing at all. But whatever it is you’re doing or not doing, you must do with devotion and awareness of your relationship to the objects of your senses, the objects of your thought, objects of enjoyment and such. And then smash all such objects and enjoy the higher perfection of being immersed in yoga (in union).

I wish you all some perception of true perfection in the new year!

Om namah shivaya