Tag Archives: yoga

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:

https://sleepingdogblog.wordpress.com/2014/11/18/the-role-of-basic-sciences-in-ayurvedic-medicine/

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

https://sleepingdogblog.wordpress.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

Meditation on Maya

Everything has a root! Every idea, every action, every thing that ever is has some root. Getting at the root is often like the voice of a curious child. Where did the apple come from? Where did the tree come from? Where did the sun and the earth and the river and the sky come from? What is the big bang? What is god? And somewhere around these topics you dive for a pearls. You read this and that; practice that and this. You’re just diving down into the ocean, feeling around and coming up with whatever is there. You usually don’t know what you have until you get to the top. Some people are fortunate to have many pearls where they are diving, others have many monsters; but no one knows when some shark will come thru.

What is knowledge? What is not-kowledge? What is a noun? And what is a verb? What is giving? What is receiving? What is knowing and what is not knowing?

We really don’t know what we will find! This is one of the root difficulties we face: we lack knowledge. Right knowledge, some kind of complete knowledge of everything that ever was, is, and will be is incomprehensible for most people even though most will admit that this is the level of knowledge that the universe as a whole is working: right knowledge; complete knowledge. But this is because we usually think of the objects of knowledge as knowledge. Knowledge is not noun, it’s active and non-specific; it’s not the facts, but the way we put facts together. We lack power to change many of the things we would like to change, but this is not because of lack of facts, but the rearranging of those facts to produce action is faulty. Most of us are vastly limited in in our ability to direct and control even our own lives. Cause and effect are routinely studied, but still no one knows what will happen. Actually, everyone knows, but no one wants to talk about it: everything will come to and end someday!

What is infinite? What is finite? Is time linear or circular or both or neither? Where is the root of our lives in time?

Time is another web we find ourselves in. Are we rooted in the womb, or in our ancestors, or are our roots somewhere else entirely. And where will we end? Birth leads to death as sure as anything, but if our roots grow beyond our birth, then it’s reasonable that our branches reach beyond death. And if it’s all circular, then what can we say about the beyond; the beyond will just lead us back to where we are. But as we are, as we perceive this world, we have no control over time. We are swept away as if by a river going to sea. The greatness of time is that it’s the great destroyer, dancing upon the ashes of the past so that new growth might emerge. No one knows what the new growth will be. Every time is completely unpredictable. Or is it? As the planets clock time in the macro-cosmos, so too is the micro-cosmos ever pushed into activity by time. All is moving, all is changing, and all is ever in relationship. We are products of time and time is produced by us: circles swirling with forward momentum. What is moving time?

What is fullness? What is emptiness? What is satisfaction? What is disappointment? What is the root?

I know what moves me: my appetite: for food and drink, love and affection, truth and beauty, or whatever other desire that arises to move about unrestrained. But they’re always restrained, because there’s so rarely a direct route to attaining our desires. We have to enter into relationship. We have to give and receive. Some would say we have to find balance between giving and receiving (between being active and passive); others would suggest we yoke them together.

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Never mind oneness, become zero-ness

Sanjay is continually reminding me that the “goal” of yoga is not union with oneness, but rather realizing and maintaining your own zero-ness. Do not seek the spirit beyond your own zero point, nor the material life below that zero point. Gandhi’s zero is different Buddha’s zero is different, Donald Trumps zero point is also different. Donald’s zero and Buddhas zero will never be the same. Your zero will also never be the same as anyone else. Find your own zero and try to stay there.

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Why do Tantriks talk about sex?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Om namah shivaya

How to find a good yoga teacher?

I’ve met many people during my travels in Canada and abroad who sincerely want to learn yoga. They ask me what kind of yoga they should look for? They ask this question not because there is a lack of yoga classes around, but because even without any experience in yoga, they can see thru the gimmicks and they know that the twenty-year-old-yoga-girl-yoga is not what they are looking for, even if the instructor happens to be in her thirties.

So how is a person supposed to find a good yoga teacher? Luck, I suppose is the easiest way. I usually advise finding someone older than yourself, someone you can relate to on some level. I tell people to avoid Bikram and hot yoga unless they just want a really good work out and even then I think there are much better practices for fitness. Iyengar provides this, as well as a rigidity not unlike the military. Hot yoga is just punishment, a kind of self flagellation that I suppose if continued with dedication it would qualify as tapas. There are so many different names for different kinds of yoga these days that you can never tell what you’re gonna get when you show up to a class. I have no idea what sattvic yoga is, or pure yoga, or lotus yoga, or shadow yoga, flow yoga, naked yoga, moksha yoga, glow-in-the-dark yoga…. but I suspect they are all just gimmicks; gimmicks should be avoided.

I have quite a similar view of one month teacher trainings. These courses provide the very basics of yoga; they are introductions to yoga at best. Calling these programs teacher trainings is just a gimmick that has opened yoga up for business, and very good business is being done flogging these certifications. The Yoga Alliance which as has paved the way for the entrance of yoga into the business world is supposed to help us separate the wheat from the chaff, but really all they’ve done is make more chaff. Now all the useless teachers have certificates stating otherwise, which makes it even more difficult to find a good yoga teacher.

A good teachers focus should be on teaching you so that you can go home and do it for yourself. Yoga and meditation are best done this way. If your teacher is changing the class everyday, they are not interested in teaching yoga, they are interested in getting you in everyday to pay your fifteen bucks. If your teacher is using gimmicks such as paddle boards or glow in the dark, they are interested in making money, not in teaching you yoga. Exotic location yoga is the same sort of gimmick for profit. I’ve fallen for these things, I enjoyed them, they were certainly nice, but if you want to learn yoga you should do it where you are all the time. If you want to experience peace and beauty bali I’m sure is an excellent location, but they yoga there is likely unnecessary.

I suppose, just like anything else, if there is some quality in yourself that you would like to develop, then you must find people who embody that quality or those qualities, and learn from them. Some of the qualities I look for in yoga teachers are humility, selflessness, sincerity. If you really want to learn yoga you have to be ready to open up a part of your life for yoga and find the self-motivation to continue it mostly on your own once you are set on your path. Try not to allow yourself to be too daunted by all the gimmicks. As I wrote earlier: 45% of yoga teachers are merchants, they are easy to spot, avoid them. Another 45% are jocks, they can show you a good physical practice, which can be useful. But it’s the minority of good true yoga teachers who are incredibly difficult to find. Good luck!