Advaita Vedanta

The Tantric Path: A Simple Perspective that Every Tantric Student and Practitioner Needs to Know

Is Tantra Yoga Complex?Abstract Tantric Goddess

In a recent survey I offered, I was asked this question. “Why is Tantra So Complex?”

Have you ever wondered this? Or perhaps just noticed there is a lot of information about Tantra available, and perhaps don’t quite know what to make of it? Well, Tantra CAN appear complex. So many practices. So many dieties. So much controversy and conflicting information on the Internet.

And in fairness, while I never thought about it as “complex”, I DID experience confusion earlier on in my practice because of the vast information that was available about Tantra. After 25 years of study and practice, I am able to see past the complexity and understand the simplicity and beauty of Tantra. And it wasn’t until I gained clarity that I was able to look back and realize I was confused prior.

Here’s the truth: it is really our own mind attempting to process a large quantity of ideas and concepts that makes it seem complex. It is the belief that each of the statements about Tantra and all the diversities out there are each “some separate and new concept” where one contradicts the other, or multiple practices that feel overwhelming like “I don’t know which direction to go?!?” The mind confuses us. And when we are confused, our practice is confused. And this prevents genuine progress on the Path, because we don’t truly know which direction to face or where we are really headed.

Tantra Yoga teaches us that the Truth cannot be found within the mind, or by the mind. And the confusion that arises from the apparent complexity shows we are searching with and within the mind for an answer to a deeper question that the mind will never comprehend.

Turning Towards Unity to Understand Tantra

There is an analogy that is often used in Yoga to describe the nature of the Self as Consciousness. It states that the nature of the Self (Consciousness) is like the Ocean. The Ocean is all one body of Water. But on the surface, there are waves. And each wave appears as a separately arising thing or event. But it is all water, connected to the single Ocean. When we dive deep, we experience “vast water and stillness”. When we are on the surface, we experience lots of individual waves and activity that causes us to forget that it is all water. Instead, we focus on the waves.

These individual waves are like the individual beings and forms in life: Appearing separate but all connected by the same nature of a single Consciousness. There is One Consciousness, like the one ocean, and that One Consciousness dwells within all Beings and experiences. It is not separate from the waves. And the water or consciousness is the true reality and nature of experience.

At the experience of the Individual, this same ocean metaphor can be used, where our deeper nature is still the full Ocean of Consciousness, and the waves are the movement of Consciousness that appear as separate experiences, thoughts and feelings. That what we experience as the ups and downs of life, are in fact waves and ripples arising in the One Consciousness appearing as the world. But the nature of the Individual remains as Pure Consciousness (or the Ocean/Water).

I invite you to consider this same metaphor in relationship to Tantra. The Goal and Source of Tantra are like the One Ocean. It is a singular thing that is equal to Consciousness. And each of the practices, deities and contradictory statements about Tantra are the waves at the surface. If you continue to look only at the waves on the surface, and try to understand the whole ocean, you never will. And if you look only at the outer practices and expressions of Tantra, you will also never understand Tantra (even though your mind may convince you that you do).

In order to really understand Tantra, you must dive into the Ocean and into the depths where you will be able to experience the Wholeness that is the Essence of Tantra. And from that place, you can understand that all of the “complexity” of practices, deities, and apparent contradictions all arise from a single place and a single process. Until you are able to see the SINGLE process, then the diversity will continue to confuse you.

The reality is that Tantra Yoga is wanting to take us to a place of Simplicity and Unity. We will not find the Truth by creating complexity of thought. The Truth is simple. SO SIMPLE that the mind cannot grasp it. It can only be EXPERIENCED, which is what Tantra yoga is designed to create.

Creating a Simple Understanding of Tantra

Instead of focusing on the vast number of practices and ideas, let’s simplify the SINGLE PROCESS that Tantra is accomplishing. For now, forget about Tantric concepts like Mantra, Kundalini, Chakras, Energy, Asana, Pranayama. Forget about notions of Sacred Sexuality, lingams and yonis. Forget about whether you are single or in a relationship or whether you need a partner to practice Tantra (you do not). Forget about all the fantastical things you may have heard about Tantra such as orgasmic bliss, full body orgasms and awakening psychic powers. Forget it all, and let’s look at the “Wholeness” or “Ocean” of the Unifying Single Process that Tantra is creating.

First, let’s remember that the Tantric PATH was offered to us for a single primary purpose. And the term “PATH” also implies there is a “Destination”. After all, we walk along a path because it is supposed to lead us somewhere, right?

So, on this Path, we have THE DESTINATION and we also have “The starting place”, which is wherever you are in this moment.

The Purpose of the PATH is to lead from where you are now to the Final Destination. The Final Destination in Tantra is called by many names: Non-Duality, Wholeness, Enlightenment, Self-Realization and Moksha to name a few. These all essentially mean that you will have a sustained experience of your True Self as Pure Consciousness. You will know yourself, by direct experience, to be “The Ocean and not just the waves”.

According to Tantra, the reason that we suffer and the reason that we do not already know we are “The Ocean” come from a single Cause: “Ignorance of our True Nature”. (With a reminder that ignorance doesn’t mean you are “stupid”. It simply means that you are not aware.)

So we now have a single Purpose: The Destination of Self-Realization
and a single obstacle to eliminate: Ignorance of our True Nature.

To that, Tantra offers a SINGLE PROCESS, whereby we eliminate Ignorance of our True Nature in order to reach the final destination of Self-Realization.

All of the practices and philosophies that are connected to an Authentic Tantric Path are a part of the Single Process of eliminating Ignorance and revealing the True Self. There are, to be fair, multiple forms of ignorance, which is why there are many different practices: each practice addresses different forms of ignorance with the needed approach. But the SINGLE FUNCTION of each and every practice and philosophical concept is to eliminate the SINGLE OBSTACLE of Ignorance.

A Simplified Understanding of the Spiritual Path

To simplify the SINGLE Process of an Authentic Spiritual Path, let’s break it down into two general components:

  1. The Action/Implementation: These are the practices/tools/philosophies that help eliminate the obstacle of Ignorance and teach us how to Awaken to our True Nature as Consciousness. (Including what we are doing and why we are doing it.)
  2. The Effect/Results : These are the responses/reactions/experiences that we have while following the path on our journey towards the Truth, and how we manage and use those experiences as part of the journey itself.

The reality being that this creates a cyclical spiraling effect of a SINGLE PROCESS, where they flow into each other. Practice something. Get a response. Take that into practice. Get a response. etc. When Done properly, there is a Spiraling inwards towards the True Self.

And we can break the Effect/Result/Experience into one of two things:

  1. An opening (however slow or fast) which reveals to us greater freedom/love/peace/wisdom/clarity as we touch into True Self more fully.
  2. An arising experience of a limitation or obstacle which reveals a place where we need to heal and transform our Karma in order to move deeper into Freedom/love/peace. This will often come in the form of judgment/resistance/sadness/fear/anxiety/anger. etc in a variety of expressions and forms. In other words, we discover a layer of Ignorance that needs to be removed.

Putting it all together, this is a simple way to understand Tantra:

Tantra is a Spiritual Path that implements a SINGLE PROCESS designed to eliminate a SINGLE OBSTACLE (Ignorance of your True Nature) in order to reach a SINGLE DESTINATION (Self-Realization of your True Nature).

To Engage this Single Process of the Tantric Path in the simplest terms we need:

  1. The proper practices
  2. The proper way to manage the responses that are created through that practice
  3. The proper context and understanding of the Path to work with #1 and #2 in an effective manner.

If we forget this simple perspective as we navigate the Tantric Path, then the illusion of diversity will confuse the mind. A confused mind will lead to confused results because our “Spiritual Compass” will have us turning in lots of different directions, instead of clearly walking down the Path in the proper direction.

Light Destroys Darkness. Truth Destroys Ignorance.

Reaching For True SelfTo offer another analogy to the simplified Single Process, we can also think of our True Nature as “The Light of Truth”. And the Ignorance as “Darkness”.

The Implementation of Practices or Philosophy allows us to access the Light of Truth within the Self. As that Light is shown into the Darkness of Ignorance, we will either experience the Light directly and touch into the True Self. Or, The light will shine upon a limitation and bring it into awareness. Further activation of the Light eventually destroys the Ignorance that is revealed. Light (Truth) destroys Darkness (ignorance), and repeatedly activating the Light of Truth through the SINGLE PROCESS is the Path.

Tantra contains both the Destination (The light of Truth) and the Process (Revealing the Light of Truth) to get there within its own Wholeness. And while it is a Single path to a single destination, we must also keep in mind that each step towards the final destination on our journey will potentially change the scenery we are experiencing. It is a DYNAMIC SINGLE PROCESS. But, the Underlying process doesn’t change, even if the scenery changes. We just continue to remove the arising Ignorance in its new form until we reach the SINGLE DESTINATION.

(You can learn more about the process of Light/Truth destroying Darkness/Ignorance in my blog post about Ego Purification)

The Guru or Spiritual Teacher Destroys Ignorance and Darkness

Interestingly, the word “Guru” used in the Tantric Traditions to refer to a “Spiritual Teacher” also points to this Single Process. Guru is a compound word with means “Light” and “Darkness”. Thus, the Spiritual Teacher, or Guru, is the one who activates the “Light” within the “Darkness” of the student in order to destroy Ignorance and awaken Knowledge of the True Self.

All of the practices and philosophies that are taught by the Teacher are different tools to accomplish the task and support the activation of Light. Just as it takes different tools to build a house (hammer, saw, drill, paint brush, etc), it will also take different tools to reach the Final Destination of Tantra. But in both cases, ALL of the tools are being used to create a SINGLE result through a Single Process.

Therefore, a good Teacher understands the Single Process and the Single Destination, and how to introduce appropriate tools, concepts and practices within the context of that Single Process that will effectively remove the Single Obstacle. Everything taught should support and further the Single Process of removing the Single Obstacle as we move towards the Single Destination.

If we stay focused on this Single Process of Tantra following a clear and consistent set of Good Tantric Teachings, then the mind remains focused and the Practice of Tantra remains Simple. Otherwise, we become distracted. Best to keep it simple.

Ecstatic Union® is a Tantric approach to the Spiritual Path that has this Single Process build into the very core of its teachings and practices. It starts with the development of a strong foundation, and then leads the practitioner step by step along the path in a clear and focused manner. It integrates and layers Tantric Wisdom and Transformational Practices in context to the Single Process designed to eliminate a Single Obstacle in order to reach a Single Destination, while teaching you how to navigate and manage your current life experiences as part of the Single Process in order to use them as fuel for the Tantric Path.

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The Sun in Vedic Astrology and Yoga: Attachment, Ego Purification and Enlightenment

In Vedic Astrology, the Sun, or Surya, is the source of our Inner Light. The Soul Essence Sun Planetseeking to shine through into the world. It is the power which illumines our experiences and the source from which we survive, thrive and grow.

The Sun is the Great “I am”, the “One Without a Second”, and as this great force of Divine Power, it is also where our personal sense of Self Identity is formed. The question is, where do we Identify? Does our “sense of Self” come from the outer story of our lives, such as our profession and other roles in life such as parent, spouse, child? Does the sense of Self arise from various labels that we have accepted as true, such as “The one who is good at details”, “the Black Sheep” or “The class clown”?

Or do we follow the wisdom of the Vedic teachings and turn within to explore our Self as the Radiance light of the Sun?

The Sun is not just the “Soul”, but is also the Inner Fire of Truth which burns away and purifies the False Sense of Self. It burns away the attachments we have formed through various lifetimes, and the Vedic Astrology Birth Chart reveals the Karmic patterning that is being purified in this lifetime. But, it helps if we participate in the process. To do so, we must understand both what our True Nature is, as well as what forms and creates the Limited, False Sense of Self.

Karmic Attachments are the primary source of False Sense of Self. Those Karmic attachments form what is referred to as “The Ahamkara”, or “The Ego”. Is is the False sense of Separate Self.

 

How can we notice our Attachments?

The most obvious identity attachments are the ones we cling to for our happiness and our sense of Self. Sometimes it is easier for others to see our attachments that it is for us. It is the labels we hold dear, the ones that we wish to be seen as and take great pride in. To be “the intellectual”, or “the sexy one”, for instance. To be “rich” or “well traveled” or “very spiritual”. It is whatever we want others to think about us and that would cause us to feel “less than” if we did not appear that way.

I would also like for you to expand your understanding of “attachment”. Sometimes, people think attachments are only what we DESIRE and WANT. If there is something we don’t want, then we might think “I am not attached to that, I don’t want it”. And you might interpret, for your self, that NOT wanting it means you are “not attached”.

It is possible that you are not attached, but you must look at it honestly. In many cases “not wanting it” is actually proof that you ARE attached. You are attached to a Self Identity that is NOT that label or thing. You are attached to some different definition of personality or Identity that you want others to see you as instead.. You are attached to the idea that being and expressing and being seen as “what you don’t want” is not compatible with who you imagine or wish yourself to be.

RESISTANT TO is just another form of attachment. It is attachment to what you think “should be” instead.

The True test of “Attachment” is whether or not there is an emotional charge around it. If someone were to suggest that you had the qualities or expression of “that which you don’t want” and it made you angry or was perceived as an insult: Well, then you are attached.

And if you are wanting to be seen as something, and there is a threat that someone doesn’t see you as that, or that you may lose that status of identity, and you get upset, angry, defensive, etc. Well, then you are attached.

 

The Sun illuminates attachments and Purifies them through Fire

It is the POWER of the SUN which illumines these attachments. The Great Light of our Inner Awareness which allows us to see into the dark corners of our own minds and finally see what is True. It is our striving after a sense of Self and our resistance to another one that shows where and how the Sun is Purifying our False Sense of Self. The emotional charge, the defensiveness, the feeling of defeat, the lack of confidence, the intense striving to “prove its true”, the resistance, and the chasing after are all signs that Purification is taking place. In short, if you are experiencing craving, discomfort or even the most subtle taste of “suffering”, then Purification is taking place.

The SUN creates PURIFICATION as it tries to reveal to you the TRUE Source of Power Within. This process can be uncomfortable. What makes it most “unfun” is resisting. We suffer when we struggle against what is. If we are able to understand, grasp and embrace it, then the Sun’s purification creates growth that we can surrender to, that expands our sense of Self and dissolves the limited sense that we are either attached to or resistant to. As limitation are removed, we begin to taste more clearly our True Self (Sun) as beyond any limited expression. If we resist, we potentially stifle growth and stay stuck and/or the growth happens anyway, but it is filled with “growing pains”.

ATTACHMENT to a sense of identity is being purified by the placement of the Sun in the chart, and we may discover at some point that we are struggling against the process (which is pretty normal). The Karma is there for you to express a certain set of traits and to be seen that way. These are the Karmic energies at play in your life. And part of the “Purification” process is to find a way to make peace with them. That could look any number of ways. Acceptance. Surrendering to these expressions, but letting go of the Identification with them.

These are all things related to the Sun. And as the evolutionary process happens within each of us, if we are able to more fully connect to the Sun in a health way, then the purification process brings about the changes needed to step into the Full POWER of our inner Soul and align with Atman. Resistance melts. Attachments are burned away, and we begin to Radiate the energy of our Soul.

This process is usually at least a little uncomfortable, but it is designed to bring into awareness the attachments and resistances that you must purify in order to become Free and awaken to your Inner Sun/Power.

 

The Process of Ego Purification and the Evolution of the Sun

So, now let’s look a little more closely at The Sun in relationship to the Ego and the purification process:

EGO is known as Ahamkara in the Samkhya Chart of the Tattvas. It is another layer of “Mind”, technically. Ahamkara translates to “Little I-maker”. It is a function that happens within creation that causes the larger True Self (Sun) to identify itself as a limited separate being, or the Jiva. Ego/Ahamkara forms the outer personality of the individual expression and is composed of Karma.

The Sun is the Self, and its true Sattvic essence is a Universal Consciousness/Oneness. When the Sun identifies itself with the Ego instead, a limited experience of identity is created and the natural true Power of the Sun is falsely thought to be come from the Ahamkara/ego instead. This false identification of the Source of Power can then lead to various issues around power, confidence, etc (either lack of, overly, or chasing after, etc)

The Purification process is the Authentic Power of the Sun to burn away the false attachments and false identities with the Ego/Ahamkara, and to connect Self with Authentic Power based upon Universal Oneness and dissolve the illusion of separation and competition.

If the individual is disconnected from the Sun, then he may feel even the Ego has no power, and would remain uninspired and feel he lacks direction in life. Here, the purification of the Sun will cause suffering until the individual is finally motivated to change his circumstances, and Karmic circumstances bring about the experience of connecting with some sense of Personal Power.

For those who do have a sense of Personal Power that is identified primarily with the Ego, they will be attached to their own sense of individual power and may appear as overly prideful, egotistical, domineering. Their power is primarily directed towards selfish gains and self gratification. Here, the Purification process of the Sun will eventually reveal to them that their individual sense of Power is limited. It may happen in a way where the tide will turn and they will suffer when all they have been attached to is taken from them. Or, they may be shown by direct experience that serving only the Ego isn’t fulfilling, and thus they become inspired to use their power for the benefit of others.

As the Purification of the Sun continues, the experience of the Universal Self begins to expand. This brings about a feeling of inspiration and a willingness to sacrifice for the good of others. The Purification process here helps to remove the final attachments. It can at times be still be uncomfortable, yes, but there is usually an understanding of the process which makes it clear that the discomfort serves a positive purpose, and thus there is less resistance to the process.

Spiritual practices over a long time are concerned in various ways with refining the ego so that it becomes a servant to the Universal Power of Self (Sun), instead of thinking it is an independent force that operates in the world for its own limited, personal gain. As part of our spiritual sadhana, we also are connecting to the Deeper Universal Self and releasing attachment to the Ego as “self”.

 

The Ego is not “Bad”

Let’s also be clear about this point: the Ego is not “bad”. It serves a function to allow the appearance of a “personality” here in this world. But suffering arises when we believe it is our source of Power, and that its needs must be served, rather than serving the Universal Self instead.

Even Saints or Enlightened Beings have a thin veil of an ego in order to operate in this world. The difference is that they have no identification with it, and it has been purified to operate for and as Universal Self (Atman, Sun). It operates out of knowledge of Oneness, and not separation.

This ego of a Realized being is said in yogic texts to be like an “ashen rope”, which describes the Purification process of the Sun’s Fire. A rope when it is burned will keep the shape and appearance of the original rope, but it is delicate and fragile with no true substance. A touch or a breeze will collapse the ashen rope, revealing it as hollow and empty. Yet it appears as a rope even after it has been burned up.

The same is for the Purified Ego of a Saint. It appears in the world as “personality” but it is light (sattvic) and empty. The Ego really no longer exists, even though it appears to operate in the world. Instead, the Self-Realized or Enlightened Being experiences the Oneness (Sun) of all creation and beings.

 

Understanding the Power of the Sun through Jyotish leads to Yoga and Enlightenment

The Vedic Traditions of Yoga reveal to use this deeper Potential of Self and the deeper Reality with which we are connected. And Jyotish or Vedic Astrology teaches us about the Nature of Self through the operations and the Nature of the Sun. When we look look at a birth chart, we can not only see how the Sun may show aspects of the personality and its expression in the world, but it also shows us the Karma which is being expressed and Purified in this lifetime for the native. The area of life being most strongly purified is also revealed through the House which is ruled by the Sun, or where Leo is.

Even though these placements in the chart show highly Karmic themes, also note that the Transit of the Sun through the full Zodiac each year shows the spiraling nature of the Sun to steadily burn attachments within each area of our life in a cyclical nature. And various Dasha cycles will also show times of greater intensity for the purification process as well. There is no part of our life that the Sun will not eventually touch.

This Purification Process is the core of Tantra Yoga and the Kundalini Yoga Traditions. Activating the Inner Fires of Awareness to purify the Ego. Vedic Astrology helps us to more clearly understand this process, as well as more clearly understand the way the Sun operates in the world. By following the Dasha cycles and transits we are given much insight into the perfection and beauty of this evolutionary process which is designed to evolve the Jiva into the Supreme Self.

What has your experience of Purification been?
What attachments in the Sun revealing to you right now in your life?
How can you better participate in this process?

CLICK HERE to learn more about Jeff’s Vedic Astrology Consultations

Jeff Craft (Kali Das) is a certified Vedic astrologer through the American Academy of Vedic Arts and Sciences (AAVAS), and was selected by Sam Geppi to be an Assistant Teacher for his Astrology Certification Courses. Outside of his work with Sam, Jeff is the Founder and Director of the Atlanta School of Tantra Yoga.

His 23+ years of study and personal practice include multiple certification in the fields of Advanced Yogic methods, Vedic Astrology, Ayurveda, Energy Healing and bodywork. Through his many years of personal and professional experience with healing and spiritual transformation, he has developed the Ecstatic Union® Vibrational Healing system. He offers Vedic Astrology Consultations as an integral part of the Ecstatic Union® approach to healing.

 

Finding Permanent Joy and Freedom within your True Self (Video)

Tantra removes the limitations and conditioning that prevent us from seeing our True Self. We learn to activate Sexual, Life Force and Creational energy in Tantra as a means to evolve the Awareness into higher states of Consciousness and Higher Connection to Self.

In the process, we expanding awareness to dissolve the layers of illusion and Discover the Joy of your True Self beyond the limitations of body and mind.

Where can you find permanent joy? In Tantra you start by learning to surrender through activation of the movement of energy and vibration.

This is Part 6 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xEB0QnLz-OA

Awaken the True Self and Opening to the True Source (Video)

Discover the interactions between Shiva and Shakti as they Create the Unfolding Universe, and how that understanding allows us to free our Self through Tantric practice.
 
Learn why attachments, fears and self judgments keep us limited, and the primary mindset needed to progress towards Self-Realization.
 
This is Part 5 of a 6 part video series on Tantra as a Spiritual Path.
 
 

 

 

Divine Grace and Tantric Practice

October 31, 2011

What is Grace? Many on the path of Spirituality are seeking it, but do we always recognize it?

Grace is always a positive thing for our Spiritual Growth. There are no exceptions to that rule. And because of that, many people are also assuming that Grace will come in a way that is pleasing to them. And sometimes it does, but we cannot put Divine Visions, moments of Bliss and deep meditation experience in a box of “Grace”, and assume things that are not pleasant are not grace. The more we open to the spiritual Path of Tantra, the more we are always flowing in Grace. The question is, can we see it, and can we accept it in all its forms? Not just the extraordinary, but even when it seems ordinary? Or painful?

Grace can happen as synchronistic moments that point to the next step to take, or that validate something for us. There are moments that are so statistically improbable that one who is consciously expanding his or her awareness can only explain it as Grace, or the intelligence of the Divine Revealing itself.

About 7 months ago, I was laying in bed, thinking about my study of Ayurveda and Vedic Astrology. Thinking about how much I would like to find a way to blend them into my Yogic teaching and my private healing sessions with clients. I began to feel a sense of excitement in the possibility of integrating these techniques together, and as I felt the excitement, the Blackberry on my nightstand vibrated indicating that I had a new message. I reached over to check, and the message was from the Ashram where I did my teacher training inviting me to attend the Yoga Therapy Training Course starting on October 7th, 2011. I smiled.

My initial reaction was this was confirmation and a Divine message to tell me the next step. I felt the “rightness” of it. I felt the same excitement that was present during my contemplation time. Everything pointed to this being the right step, but a small part of me struggled. Doubts began to creep in. Could I afford to take that much time off? What about my clients and students? I discussed it with my partner and a friend of ours. They both said, “Go.”

I began to mentally make my plans, while still struggling a touch. How long should I stay if I go? Should I fly into Mumbai or New Delhi? Is this really the right thing to do? Sometime later that day I received another email. It was from one of my travel email newsletters. The email subject simply said: “It’s time to book your flight to New Delhi.”

This time, I not only smiled, but I had to laugh out loud. I have been subscribed to this newsletter for several years. I had NEVER received an email with this subject line before. And, so that sealed it for me. The Divine intelligence was clearly telling me to go.

Grace can also happen in ways that ask us to look at our attachments and our expectation, or that challenge the status quo. In other words, sometimes we need to have things “Shaken up a bit” in order to grow. This is also grace.

About 5 days before I was supposed to leave for India, someone I had known for over 5 years had a massive heart attack right before my eyes. It happened so fast that there was no real chance to save him. I went through many stages as this unfolded. At first I thought he was being playful. Then I began to suspect something was really wrong. I could not get a response from him. I tried to check his heart beat and his breath, but by this time my own heart was beating so fast that I could not tell if it was me or him. Within a couple minutes of his collapse, I was on the phone with 911, following instructions for chest compressions. No response. The ambulance team finally arrived. Compared to my own state of panic, they seemed to have a rather casual approach to the whole thing. They took over chest compressions, introduced IV’s and asked me to help find a number for his family.

It was pretty clear to me that there was no sign of life. And perhaps they already knew that when they arrived, and thus the reason for their casual behavior. They worked with him for a while, got in touch with his daughter, and then took him out. And then I was left in an empty room, still in a bit of overwhelm.

Over the next several days I made conscious efforts to witness and process what was happening in me. There was sadness at the loss of a friend. There were remnants of panic. Doubts and wondering if I could have done something different that may have changed the outcome.

I also had to witness all of this from the lens of my Spiritual Path and growth. The impermanence of the body. Everyone will die eventually. It was his time. The True Self cannot die. His consciousness just left the body, and will live on. Perhaps being reborn. His suffering with the body and worldly life had ended, but he himself as consciousness was now free. From that perspective, there is no death, only transformation of form.

I thought about the state of my own health, the inevitable end of this body, the loss of loved ones as time moves on. Challenging my possible attachments to others, and my relationship with death itself. And as part of that, my relationship to life as well.

My Tantric path and experience is that nothing happens without cause. This was not a random event, but a Divinely orchestrated moment in my Spiritual Sadhana. I did not see it coming, which made it all the more potent. To experience first hand the transitioning from life to death. To feel the energetic essence moving out of a body, while the body became lifeless. To come face to face with the inevitable impermanence of this experience. To experience my human sadness, but also see through it to deepen my faith in the Grace of God. To realize, once again, that I am not in control. There is a force which is operating behind the scenes that I must surrender to, and my goal in my personal Tantric Sadhana is to lift the veil and reveal to myself directly that Divine Power which is operating the Universe. Or rather, let go of my false sense of control enough, so that the veil will dissolve.

This experience also made the reality of disease and illness forefront in my mind as a headed to India. It made me more interested in learning how to use Yoga as a Therapy to help with diseases. More present to the suffering and pain that is present globally, and more inspired to find some compassionate way to serve others who are wanting to end that pain. That is the result of the flow of Grace.

Grace also presents us with frustrations, and challenges to help us grow.

In 2007, my first time in India, I visited Satya Sai Baba in Puttaparti, India. On the third morning, which I planned to be my last Darshan with him, I went outside to find my sandals were stolen. I was quite shocked and disappointed. I couldn’t believe that in a town that revolves around the spiritual teachings of this man, someone would steal. I told a security guard what had happened and his only reply was “Well. Come back to the afternoon Darshan. Maybe they will be returned.” I doubted that, but I decided to stay anyway. And I am glad I did. My sandals were not returned, but it was the most spiritual inspiring Darshan that I attended with Satya Sai Baba. I felt more Divine Grace and energy in that session than any of the others. My sandals were gone, but I was blessed in the end.

This trip, I took a day to visit the Shirdi Sai Baba temple in Shirdi, India. For those who do not know, this is the first incarnation of Sai Baba (before Satya). Both of whom are considered in India to be incarnations of God, and Self-Realized Masters. I waited in line for over 2 hours to get into the temple. (This, by the way, is a normal to short time to wait. It is often much longer). As I got into the temple, I was instructed to sit on the floor as they were getting ready to start a special ceremony called an Aarti. What auspicious timing. That lasted 30 minutes, and then there was a stampede to get to the main alter to make an offering. I finally got up, made my offering, which was blessed and returned to me, and as I left, I felt and connected to his energy, and asked simply to be blessed in whatever way was most helpful for my spiritual awakening. Within 10 minutes, while I was bowing to another small shrine with his picture, my wallet was stolen by a pickpocket.

So, both visits to Sai Baba resulted in something material being taken away. It would be easy to be angry. To think horrible thoughts about whoever did it. But, for me, while I admit feeling a little surprised, I was quickly able to see it as Sai Baba’s Grace. It was Grace for me to have a chance to realize I am not in control. Grace for me to have a chance to see how strongly I may be attached. It was not sandals or wallet really being taken away, but my attachment to them being removed. In this case, I was much less attached the second time than the first. I surrendered to what happened, and could only wish that whoever got it was able to benefit from what they had taken from me. Tantra teaches that all things belong to God anyway, and God dwells within all Beings. So the Divine grace was simply redistributing wealth within its own Self.

While in India this time, I spent several weeks trying to get my Blackberry internet service activated. It kept telling me it could not process my request. I called customer service, spoke to the shop owner, went to this office, and that office, and was finally told it was a problem with my handset. Further conversation with “an expert” revealed that it was because my handset was registered with another provider, and thus it would just not work. I surrendered, gave up, and decided “well, I guess I am just not supposed to be distracted by this while I am in the ashram.” I let it go.

9 days after my last attempt, and having been told it wouldn’t work, my Blackberry internet service activated without notice. I received a text message saying it has been activated for one month of service. There were only 5 days left at the ashram when it happened. It came just in time to allow me to use it to research my final paper on the internet using my phone. What I could not accomplish with the assistance of multiple people, and hours of my time spread out over three weeks, happened unexpectedly in a flash, without any “doing” on my part 9 days after I gave up. I also checked my prepaid balance. I was not even charged for the service. To me there is only one explanation.

While many may explain these things away as “coincidence”, or “bad luck”, or “good luck”, or even “blame it on India”, to me these are all examples of Divine Grace. Grace offers us the experiences we need to grow Spiritually, and most of us need to let go, surrender and see new perspectives on the nature of Reality a lot more than we need a blissful vision of God. We must learn to trust that we will get the exact experiences we are needing, and not necessarily the experiences we are desiring.

What we begin to realize when we grow spiritually is that Grace is always happening. The real change that happens is learning to surrender to “what is”, and ending the struggle against what life brings us. When we can do this, then everything that happens is for our growth and for our good, even if it doesn’t initially feel that way. We learn to flow with Divine Grace.

As I was feeling inspired to write this blog this morning at breakfast the following quote was written on the board in the Dining hall of ashram:

“Through the practice of yoga you can learn to smile at circumstances, you can learn to see every stressful situation as a challenge, or an opportunity to learn, give, serve and love.” – Swami Niranjanananda

To me, another moment revealing Divine Grace.

The Love That Arises in Silence – Tantric Practice

(Written October 20th, 2011)

Yesterday, for the first time in my life (that I am at least consciously aware of) I spent an entire day from waking to bedtime, without uttering a single word. This was part of a day of silence in the Ashram, so almost everyone participated. Although, most people began speaking again after dinner, I continued with the practice.

The practice of silence has been part of yogic traditions for probably as long as there has been yoga. I will admit, even in my daily life, I prefer as much silence around me as possible. I would rather sit in a silent room than watch TV on most occasions. I would rather not speak at all than to force a conversation of pleasantries. And I have even become pretty sensitive to the types of music I listen to on a regular basis. (Spending hours a day with massage and new age music played at low volumes will probably do that to most people.)

So, I welcomed the practice. I went to bed the previous evening, having already turned my “silence” practice on, and when I awoke, I was already in the mode. The first thing I noticed, was that it was very comfortable for me. During the morning meditation, having already turned my awareness away from speech, I became aware of the inner realm of thought very easily, and it was also easy on this particular morning to direct my awareness into the silence within as well.

I also noticed I become more sensitive to other sounds. The sounds of birds chirping, or any little bit of racket that may have been in the outside environment. I was present to new things. Within the meditation, there were times when something in my mind let go just enough, that it felt like the outer world merged into my mind, and the sounds of birds and the wind blowing were like thoughts arising within my own mind.

After morning asana practice, I spent some time outside connecting with nature. I discussed this in a previous post called “My Tantric Nature.” And then the flow of the day began. People going about walking from place to place, without speaking. And I began to notice something very odd. People, having adopted a practice of silence, seemed to enter their own private world. People were looking at the sidewalk instead of saying hello. It seemed that without words, most people didn’t know how to connect, or perhaps thought it was inappropriate to do so. No eye contact. No smiles. No winks of joy shared. Just blank faces, looking any where but an another person.

In Tantra, there is a practice called Eye Gazing, or Soul Gazing. It is sitting in silence, sending your awareness deep into the Soul Essence of another person, and allowing yourself to feel, to connect, to experience another Being without words, as they also connect into your deepest Self. This practice, at least in the beginning, is often met with discomfort. It is normal for people to laugh or giggle, or to close their eyes. It is normal for obvious discomfort to come across their face and body, and to see them squirming. I explain over an over to new groups of people, that these reactions are a part of our conditioning. It is rare in our culture for us to be so intimate with another. Even with the ones that we love such as friends, family and significant others.

Most of us say we want love, to feel it, to know it, to give it. But when given the chance to sit, and honor the Essence of the other people with love and reverence, something stirs within us that pulls us out of it, that causes us discomfort. The reality, is that for most of us, this fear of deeper connection is always there, just below the surface, but we don’t feel it because we distract ourselves with thoughts, with TV, with activity, and of course, with words. We don’t allow there to be enough silence, enough stillness to acknowledge it.

The same is true for many people with regards to their own thoughts and feelings. We find ways to distract ourselves, and never get still enough to feel or connect consciously to our own inner world. The moment silence is imminent, most people will jump up, turn on the TV, grab a book, begin to talk about anything that comes to mind: anything to not have to feel what is happening in our deeper experience.

As I watched the blank faces parading through the ashram, and the gazes away from each other, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of sadness. Sadness for not having an opportunity to connect, and sadness to see so many unable to make the connection without words. Without words, they seemed to have nothing to share. It never occurred to share their silent Essence. That same silence which pulses beneath Creation lives within our own Beings, ready to be tasted, touched and felt. That silence contains the Love we are seeking. It is not the words that convey love, but the Essence of a Pure Heart.

As I continued my day, I enjoyed the silence. I watched for moments when I might ordinarily speak, and then questioned whether speaking was necessary. In most cases I found the answer to be no. When a desire to speak would arise, I would watch as I reminded myself there was no talking today. And I witnessed the desire for whatever pass through, unspoken, and not responded to. And after the moment passed, I realized I was no worse off. I was still content, even joyful in my silence, and the thing I thought I wanted to communicate, or thought I wanted to ask made me no less joyful for not being shared. I was content to experience what was around me, without commenting, or feeling a need to inquire deeper into it with words. I was content without feeling the need to request something else to make it more or less “satisfying”.

What are these words we speak? And why do we speak them at all? How much of what is said is really useful to our deeper happiness, and how much is just habit and social convention and expectation?

The Tantric traditions describe three primary stages of speech. There is the gross speech of our everyday lives. This is the speech we use to share ideas from person to person, and vibrates at the most dense level. We then have a more subtle form of speech that we call thought. This is the speech that continues the dialogue in our own inner world. And beyond that is the most subtle form of speech, which exists as the arising impulse of vibration, that eventually becomes the thought, which then becomes the words spoken.

The normal world conditions us to focus on Gross speech. And over time, we come to identify with and give great importance to the Reality of this outer form of speech. Most of us also give, even without realizing it, great importance to our thoughts.

When one takes up the practice of silence, the outer speech is given up. This initially leaves us with our thoughts, and the opportunity to contemplate our relationship with gross speech. It gives us the opportunity to experience life without outer words, so that we might see how we have come to identify with them in a way that keeps us looking into the outer world. It gives us a chance to see how the words themselves are associated with our desires, attachments and aversions, and the way that words reinforce the same as “reality”.

When the inner thoughts become the primary world, and outer speech is stopped, then the next step is to get beyond even the thoughts themselves, and into the arising vibrations which are pre-thought. A realm of feelings, and intuitions, and knowledge that really has no “word” as we call it, just vibrations. And dissolving even those vibrations, we are taken into the realm of the practice of silence: inner silence itself. This Silence is the Holy Grail of meditation, but it is not just emptiness and nothingness, but is great peace, joy and love.

This is the basic general idea of meditation, and practicing silence gives you an opportunity to explore these levels of meditation in your daily living. To discover this peace and silence within the world around you is a goal of Tantra. We practice meditation so that we can transfer the depth of experience into our daily lives, not just to escape for a few minutes of peace.

Throughout the whole day, my voice only made one sound: the sound of laughter. After dinner, there were a few people speaking around me, and a story someone told made me laugh. So even Gross speech has its place. It caused me to laugh.

It is not that gross speech is “wrong” or bad. It is not that it should be given up entirely forever by everyone, but practicing silence should hopefully help us put it in perspective, so we don’t make it the “great reality”, and so that we see its limitations. So that we see the ways it can distract us, and become mindful so we don’t use words in this way. To become mindful of the ways words can harm, so we don’t use speech for negative purposes. So we learn to harness what, when and why we speak into conscious choices which enrich our lives, rather than just allowing mindless chatter to fill the silent space around us. So that we connect the words “I love you” with the deep love that arises within the Heart of our deepest Essence upon recognizing the Sacredness of the Being in front of us. And so we can learn to connect with others is this heart felt way even without words. So that silence gives us more presence to connect with others through smiles, honoring and love.

As I flowed through my day of silence, many moments of deeper love, gratitude and joy arose, as I touched into spaces of deeper silence within my own Being. This brought me to one other point of sadness: I will never be able to convey the experience of that Love and Joy with words.

My Tantric Nature

(Written October 19th, 2011)

I took some time to sit in nature this morning, which conveniently is the grounds of the Ashram itself. Today is also a day of silence, where only a few people running the Ashram are speaking. In my own silence, I witnessed Nature all around me, expanding my awareness into it, smiling into it, and welcoming it.

Birds chirping and flying about. A small field where yellow butterflies dance across blades of grass. Various trees, standing strong, silent and still. The sun in the sky and a light mist of fog still blanketing the mountains which are not too far away.

Again, I am reminded of the power of nature, even in its peaceful play. I reflect on the stillness and the silence which lays beneath Creation, supporting it like the ground where seeds are planted, only this stillness is the ground of Consciousness itself, and the seeds are the Divine thoughts which have arisen within it to bring about the current experience.

I feel into the pulsations of Creation, and am again reminded that nothing in nature is rushing. Nothing in nature is forcing or pushing. The grass is not trying to grow any faster or slower, it just grows. The sun is not racing to get through its day.

Nothing in nature is wanting to be anything other than what it is. The tree is not wishing it was a bush, or a flower. The birds do not aspire to be anything other than birds.

Nature is the ultimate example of WYSIWYG (“What you see is what you get”). Even the creatures which camouflage themselves are simply expressing as their nature, exactly as they are. The challenge is to be still long enough to see it.

Everything in nature is peaceful, accepting of its nature, and spontaneously expressing that nature, without any hesitancy or desire to change.

Nature can teach us a lot about our own selves. We are a part of nature, yet our minds pull us out of sync and cause us to rush, to force, to resist, to chase after and to hesitate. When we become still as Tantra Yoga teaches us to do, and connect into the Nature of all Creation, and seek to discover that same Nature within our own being, then we too learn to accept life as it is. We too learn to acknowledge our own nature, and express it without apology. We too learn that there is no need to force. There is no where else to be other than where you are right now.

We learn to separate our Authentic Expression from the conditioned mind which pulls us away from it, rejects it, or puts a spin of expectation and attachment into it. And then we gracefully embrace our Authentic Nature, allowing it to express, and accepting it. If we are a squirrel, we will store nuts for the winter. If we are a bird, we will fly and eat seeds and insects. If we are a musician, then the very core of us drives us to play, to write music, to sing and to feel the music as life itself. If we are a dancer, then we must allow our bodies to move and express what words cannot say. If we are a linguist, then we must explore the nature of language and communication through words. If we are a mother or a father, then we must be the fullest expression of love and nurturing to a child. The list goes on and on.

Everyone has a Nature which should be uncovered, refined and expressed. If we can look past the mind stuff which distracts us and carries us away from it. If we can look past the mind stuff which judges our innate expressions and pushes it into submission. If we can look past the mind stuff which tries to twist and control our Authentic Nature for its own purposes and agenda. Then can we fall into the rhythm of Nature and Creation. Then can we just be, and not resist or be attached.

And when we surrender into that level of freedom, the ground on which Creation rests becomes more obvious, more apparent. And then, we discover the stillness, the silence and the peace that has always been supporting life, and we discover that this peace and stillness and the freedom, joy and bliss which arise within it are our very Nature. Always shining and pulsing beneath the surface of experience. Ever present, even when the external world fades away. It is the ground of all experience. It is Consciousness Itself. God. The Divine Essence. This is the real “Nature”. Not the birds, oceans and trees, but the cause of all of life, which is Consciousness Itself.

Like waves arising on the ocean, various forms and experiences arise within Consciousness. And then they return to Consciousness, like the waves which crash and return to the sea. No matter how big or small the wave, the nature of the ocean itself does not change. Just so, the nature of Consciousness, from which all experience arises, never changes.

Authentic, spontaneous expressions arising and dissolving over and over again within this Ground of Consciousness create the flow and rhythm of life. This is the experience of Tantric Nature. Awakening yourself to this experience and aligning yourself with this Reality is the work of Tantra Yoga.

Tantra and Yogic Living, Ashram and Retreat (Part 2)

(Written October 17th, 2011)

In an Ashram setting, certain rules and regulations are expected. In Part 1, we talked about the ways this experience can show you your attachments, your expectations and your habits.

Following the Ashram lifestyle will likely follow in a few different paths. You may find yourself getting into the routine, and allowing the new lifestyle to simply become your “norm”, adapting your expectations to the meet what will happen. A level of adaptability is a good quality, and shows flexibility and a less attached mind.

You might also adapt in a way where you “try to fit in”, and thus are really more forcing a match, perhaps even becoming attached to it, or using the lifestyle as a way to shift your awareness away from dealing with the life you have or had outside of it.

You may also adopt this new lifestyle, and have a genuine epiphany of the value that it brings to your life, your happiness and your spiritual growth, in which case you may stay in it or continue to return because it feeds you so deeply.

You may also rebel against the structure of it, and revolt or simply get out of it as quickly as possible. This could be a way of avoiding developing a deeper awareness of yourself, or perhaps it just feels too restrictive.

Any number of situations could happen, but a common theme in a conscious experience will be that is takes you out of your normal experience, and it churns your heart and mind. Like the churning of butter, the Ashram experience has the potential to separate out that which is important to your from that which is not, and taking what was into an entirely new form. To allow your deeper longings, desires and values to float to the top to be savored for their richness.

A traditional Ashram is designed to remove temptations from sensuality in all forms. Simple food, conservative dress to prevent body parts being exposed, and many activities focused on daily living and spiritual practices. Reduce temptation and occupy your mind so it won’t wander. This approach comes from the notion in Yoga that we need to reduce our desires and cravings, because they are distractions from our spiritual life.

The basic idea of them being distractions to our Spiritual Nature is fair enough, but Tantra also says that we should not repress our desires. We must acknowledge them and make peace with them in some way or another. In the Ashram, this may mean witnessing and contemplating our desires without being able to act on them. Allowing ourselves to witness what happens within our bodies, minds, awareness and our energy when we are not able to directly touch into the object of our desire, be that a big juicy steak, a beer, the smell of our favorite perfume, or an erotic encounter. It gives us a chance to explore the nature of desire itself as an energy that arises within us, and to make peace with it. To see it for what it is. To see that even the most urgent of cravings can be witnessed and moved through. We will not die if we don’t get what we are desiring.

But something else can also happen in this isolation and simple life. We may also have a longing arise which is new to us. We may connect with a new way to appreciate the ways we naturally wish to enjoy life. We may realize the value of having private time alone. We may come to appreciate a simple moment to be naked without having to quickly change so as not to offend roommates. We may learn to appreciate the freedom to speak to a loved one on the phone without having to keep our voice quiet, or feeling we have to censor our conversations.

We may also, in the restricted living, have a deep longing arise which connects us to a deeper sense of purpose. Some part of us that finally is ready to scream to be heard, that wants to live with greater purpose, joy and fulfillment than before. To live in a way that the Ashram life itself will not allow, because it has to express itself in the world. But it could not find its voice in the noise of worldly living. It needed the silent, contemplative space of the Ashram to direct your awareness in deeply enough to see it.

No matter what you come away with, a conscious Ashram experience should reveal deeper layers of yourself as both a human being and a spiritual being. It should churn up your values, showing you what is most important to you. It should help you better understand what you need to feel fulfilled and joyful. And perhaps, it will reveal ways you can more deeply align with a a joyful sense of purpose in your life.

Our desires are not wrong. Some are distractions, and can truly lead us away from the fulfillment that Tantra yoga promises. Many sensual desires run this risk, which is why they are discouraged in Traditional Yoga. But other desires are meant to be savored and joyfully unleashed, especially when it means expressing the core of our Being in a non-attached way. Especially when it leads us into purposeful, fulfilling living.

Most of us are full of desires that do not serve our greater happiness. But often, we also have suppressed longings and desires that reveal our greatness, our talents, our gifts and our abilities. These are the desires that fuel our life with passion and purpose. These are the desires that make us wake up in the morning excited to be alive.

Tantra teaches us to suppress nothing. Acknowledge all desires, from the darkest to the most bright. The secret is to make friends with them all. To see that they do not define the deeper Truth of who you are, and then with non-attached discrimination choose to fulfill the desires that will best serve your deepest fulfillment, and your spiritual growth.

When entering an Ashram, or consciously walking on a Tantric path, we must make room or the unexpected to arise. A lifestyle which intentionally reduces desires may actually awaken you to your deepest desires of purpose and fulfillment. It may even awaken you to the secret desire everyone has: To know your True Self and to live joyfully from that Knowledge of Self.

Synchronicities, Miracles, and Infinite Possibilities

Written October 6th, 2011

This morning, I set out from Mumbai by train to Nashik, which is the main city near the Ashram where I will be staying for my Yoga Therapy Program. My train, leaving at 8:20am, required me to be up and walking to the station around 7:10am. The previous evening when I checked in at my hotel, I asked the front desk to help me confirm my ticket and see if my seat had been assigned. They told me it was confirmed, but no seat was posted yet, and suggested I arrive a bit early in order to check my seat.

It is amazing to me how something so simple as checking for a seat number can become a potential challenge if you are not familiar with the way in which the locals do it. I found my way easily to the train station. I found the platform from which it was leaving. I even found the posted lists of passengers, but despite my confirmed status, there was no mention of my name or a seat number anywhere to be seen. Seeing my confusion, and overhearing a local man who didn’t speak english likely trying to tell me I was looking in the wrong place, a kind stranger offered to assist me.

He looked over my printed ticket and announced what I already knew: “You are confirmed but there is no seat number.” This is the same thing I know the non-english speaking man was telling me as well. Yes, I know, I thought. That is indeed my entire reason for staring at long lists of names.

The man assisting me then proceeded to reach into his pocket, pull out a mobile phone, load an app, plug in my confirmation number, and within 30 seconds had received a text message which stated my confirmation, along with seat number. He then pointed me to the correct end of the train, and voila, I was in my correct seat.

Moments like these always make me smile. Not only is it wonderful that technology exists, but situations like this remind me again and again that the flow of the universe is always moving towards something positive. It reminds me that a solution always exists to any given circumstance. It reminds me that in moments of confusion, grief, pain, frustration or fear, that if I can simply be still, be present and patient, that the moment will pass, flowing into a resolution.

This same principle applies to anything. The present moment, no matter how pleasant or unpleasant will always flow into another. The experience you are having will inevitably come to end. This principle teaches us to keep our awareness in the present moment, and to embrace and accept whatever is happening. Knowing that the experience will come to an end reveals that the true pain or suffering in the moment is resistance to it. Our pain comes not from what is happening, but from a desire for it to be different. An attachment to a different expectation.

There is an order to the universe. If we resist it, we suffer. If we let go, embrace what is, and find gratitude for each moment, then we learn to flow with the grace of the universe’s unfolding. We must learn to train our awareness to focus away from suffering, disappointment, pain and frustration, while at the same time accepting what it is, but looking beyond it.

Focusing our awareness into the infinite possibilities, and the deeper stillness and peace that are always beneath this moment’s experience. Learning to tap into the pulsing energy of Consciousness which permeates everything. These yogic and Tantric practices, assisted by various methods and techniques, help us to connect with a deeper intelligence and the grace of the Divine Universe. They help us learn to find a spiritually beneficial joy and detachment to outer experience and expectations, and help us to align our awareness with a deeper reality.

By connecting to these underlying energies and states of awareness, a natural freedom and joy arises, which is independent from and beyond any happiness based upon worldly fulfillment. It is moving closer into your true Nature, which Tantra declares to be Pure Consciousness, Being and Bliss Love. Or Satchitananda in Sanskrit.

This deeper awareness allows us to learn to trust the unfolding experience of life, and experience joy from our Inner Being, no matter whether the outer experience is seen as pain or joy.

When I finally made it to my seating area, after a few people shuffled around, a young woman from Japan joined me in my train berth which seated only 4 people. With a fairly certain and amused thought, I confirmed that she too was headed to the same Ashram. Small world as they say. After we talked for a few minutes, just as the train began to move, two other young women joined us. From Turkey, and both headed to the Ashram.

What are the chances? Yes. This is the final day to go to the Ashram. Yes. This is a likely train to take to get there. Yes, it is likely that we would be more inclined to book a train car with AC. But we all could have just as easily ended up in separate train berths, never knowing of each others existence until we got to the ashram.

Our “chance” meeting provided everyone a sense of safety and relief. Hearing of my previous positive experience at the Ashram, I could see a part of them relax. They were no longer alone to find a taxi to the station. Life once again found a resolution, with no effort on anyone’s part.

There was a time, maybe ten years ago, when I used to think of synchronistic moments like these as magical. That some how the universe was reaching out to me, showing my special relationship to the Divine.

Now I see them as ordinary proof that an intelligence beyond our individual capacity is operating behind the scenes of the unfolding universe. They remind me to surrender, that all is fine, and everything is as is should be. They remind me to continue to be grateful and flow with the Grace of the Divine as it moves through me and the life experience that I am witnessing.

It is not, perhaps, that it isn’t magical is some sense. But perhaps that which many define as magical is really more ordinary that most realize. It only seems magical because we expect life is a different, more limited, way. By opening to the infinite possibilities, by being willing to live in non-ordinary states of consciousness, all that previously seemed impossible becomes possible. Then “miracles” and “sychronicities” become the norm.

The world of miracles IS a part of our natural state. We do not need to do something to bring it about, but rather we need to cultivate a perspective on life which is free from expectations and open to all possibilities. Then the Divine consciousness that is the True Self can reveal Itself to you. Stop believing miracles are rare or even special, and stop believing you are disconnected from the Infinite Intelligence of the Divine. That Intelligence is flowing through you as your own True Self. Then smile into life, and watch as reality begins to reveal Itself.

If you stop and pay attention, what ways is the universe showing you a greater set of possibilities than you are currently experiencing? What ways does the universe try to teach you to trust the flow of life, to surrender and be grateful?

Yoga, Tantra and Spirituality in India and Modern Times

The first time I came to India, back in the Summer of 2007, I came with great expectations of India being a land of great spirituality. A place where everyone would be connected to their spiritual history and a deeper path of spirituality through yoga.

This, of course, was naive. What I quickly discovered, initially a shock and disappointment, was that the majority of the Indian people were connected to their cultural norm of religion, but, much like in the US, their true connection and devotion varied. Just like the many Christians who show up to churches only for Christmas and Easter, there are Indians who only observe major festivals. And their connection to the deeper meanings varies as well.

I was excited to go to the Temples and share in the spiritual connection that has become so important to my own personal path of Yoga. But instead of hundreds of contemplative people, savoring the bliss of the Divine, it was more like a cattle call of hundreds of people, quickly rushing through to offer something to the temple Priest, see the temple Idol, and then rush back to life.

While I can not say that it does not have meaning to them, I feel certain the level of connection it offers varies from person to person. Some doing the “cultural” norm, and others getting a greater connection from it. Just as in our own country we can meet people who have varying levels of faith, from “obligated” to go to church all the way to those who truly feel “spiritually fed” by their church.

It has since amazed me that many Indians I have meet in the US, born and raised in India, have no true knowledge of Yoga, Tantra or Ayurveda. It has been a surprise, but another place where my expectations have been revealed as false.

It has all been a process of acknowledging the reality of the diversity of our world, and also seeing the commonalities among people. Just growing up in India doesn’t automatically make you a great seeker of Self-Realization, although their culture does arguably have at least different, if not more, notions of magical and spiritual possibilities.

During this current trip to India, I have had the pleasure of meeting with a Tantric and Kashmiri Shaivism Scholar who has lived and worked in Varanasi for over 40 years. He has authored many well respected books on Kashmiri Shaivism, and translated many texts from Sanskrit into English. While his professional work is scholarly, he himself is also a devotee to a Kashmiri Shaivite Guru, and considers his personal spiritual path to be most important to him. I do not know without knowing the meaning, how many times I was asked direkt in Sweden on a travel trip.

In speaking with him, he helps reveal many of the other false thinkings we may have in the west about different Tantric and Yogic practices.

The Traditional approach to Tantra Yoga, which is deeply connected to Kashmiri Shaivism, is about developing the spiritual Self. It is about discovering the deep peace of the Self as Consciousness beyond the impermanent experience of the body and life, while at the same time honoring the Sacredness of the experience of Life.

It is a tradition which emphasizes the development of awareness and consciousness to discover the non-dual reality, the inner silence out of which all life experience arises.

In discussing Tantras history of Sexual practices, he said it is really hard to know how prevalent these practices really were. That they were done is most probable, but how many practitioners, we can’t say. Even the famous erotic temples, he says, have to be questioned as to whether the culture they were created in was simply a highly sexually permissive society, or whether there was a deeper spiritual intention behind it. There is much we do not know.

When I asked him how prevalent the erotic practices are in modern India, his response was “almost non-existent”, and then went on to say, “but most people don’t usually talk about their sex lives.” From other things I have read, I suspect that there are still some who practice, but they are more rare than not, and it is rather secretive.

He did, however convey one story of a friend of his who uses some of the Tantric erotic rituals. This friend had a female consort for ten years, and his sole reason for keeping her was to obtain a single drop of menstrual blood once a month for a Tantric ritual. Interestingly, she finally left him because she was unfulfilled in the relationship, thinking the he only wanted her for her menstrual blood.

The topic of the Kama Sutra also came up. This is often pointed to by many Western Tantric practitioners as a Tantric text, showing the value and power of the sexual practices historically. He says that the Kama Sutra was really just an ancient sex manual, that was primarily used by courtesans to become more refined. It was used to become a more pleasing partner, and to better fit into higher class society, which was their targeted clientele. Because of this, he says, many of the courtesans of that time were actually quite talented artists, musicians and the like, well educated in many aspects of life.

Despite many of the modern western teachings around Tantra as erotic practice, the history of Tantra uses/used the erotic practices in a highly ritualized context for very specific purposes. These purposes were/are to expand Consciousness and connect with the Divine.

To his way of seeing things, the Modern western Tantra has become a type of “sex therapy”. While he does not dismiss the possible benefits of this type of work, he does say that you will not find the current western practices described in the Tantric texts.

We also discussed the fascinating evolution of Yoga and Tantra, which is that all of these types of practices have evolved over time to meet the needs of the people. Places, such as the west, have taken pieces such as Asana (yoga postures), and called it “yoga”. The emphasis is on physical fitness rather than the original spiritual development that Traditional Yoga speaks of, but it meets the needs of the people.

The same has happened with Tantra in the West, with many variations from “spiritually veneered” sex to deeply healing and transformative practices. There are also, of course, other teachers and practitioners of Tantra in the West that focus more on the Traditional Tantric approaches of Kundalini Yoga, Meditation, etc.

He says these types of Hybrid modern yogas are also showing up in India, because of the popularity in the west. Many more indians are learning of Yoga as a physical fitness system along with basic Ayurveda for a healthy lifestyle.

It is interesting to note that while in the West, most people associate Tantra with eroticism and sex, in India Tantra is thought of as “magic”. It is based upon their cultural history with the subject, which traditionally emphasized understanding the workings of the energies of Creation in order to control or gain power over or through them. This led to practices of Mantras and various other remedies to heal illnesses, and to help fulfill worldly desires.

This type of thinking is still present in India today, and the cultural relationship with the Deities also reflects this. Most average Indian Hindus relate to various aspects of the Divine to help them get the things in life they want for worldly fulfillment. Examples would be Ganesha to help remove obstacles when starting a business, or Laxshmi to bring wealth and abundance. This is similar to the way many other cultures might relate to God through prayer as a request for desires to be fulfilled.

It is the lesser of the population that truly engages these forces for a more spiritually growth oriented purpose. Even the term “good Karma” has been used towards me on several occasions by self appointed guides and rickshaw drivers as a way of trying to get a larger tip or payments for their services. The implication, of course, being that the more I pay them, the more I will be blessed with good Karma. An interesting way to use this, from my perspective.

It is not my intention to diminish the importance of these things culturally in India. No matter the relationship to religion, be it “cultural obligation”, “superstition”, or “deeply spiritual”, I would imagine most people here would feel very strongly about their beliefs in whatever way they are engaging them. My intention is more to reveal the diversity of the Indian religious landscape and culture, in contrast with my preconceived notions, and perhaps similar notions by other non-Indian people, as well as the common desire for most people to seek their own version of happiness.

No matter how it is engaged, the culture of India has generated a primarily peaceful, friendly, and curious people, most of whom will go out of their way to help you, sometimes for a tip and often just because it is their nature. They generally value family, and treat their neighbors with respect. Their religious culture gives them a different perspective on death than in the west. And, most are happy with a more simple lifestyle than what the average westerner may be accustomed to. They celebrate life, and even the crowded, noisy and seemingly chaotic streets are like the lifeblood of their culture, reflecting their passion and their embracing of life.

While there are some cultural changes happening based upon Western influence, there is still a richness here that is wonderful to savor. In Varanasi, where I am now, one can experience the surprisingly gentle noise and madness of the city, and yet just a few kilometers away, on the banks of the Ganges, I am in a guest house which is so peaceful and relaxed. Even in the “rush” of the city, many people are just peacefully going about their day.

What fascinates me most about this, and the conversation with my new Tantra Scholar friend, is the confirmation of what I have also come to recognize, which is that the teachings of Yoga and Tantra, while rooted in scripture, have evolved over time to meet the needs of the people. Even the history of Yoginis evolving into Goddesses shares this flavor. Thousands of years ago, each village had their own Yogini that they honored and worshipped. As the news of a powerful Yogini would spread to neighboring villages, they too would come to worship her. If they had a powerful experience, they would tell another village. Over a course of hundreds and thousands of years, what started at literally hundreds of thousands of yoginis where narrowed down to a collection Goddesses which became commonly known throughout the country and the region. Today, we have Paravati, Kali, Durga, Laxshmi, Saraswati and several others which have become national and even internationally known, but it was not always this way.

This same type of thing has happened with Various Yoga and Tantric practices. Different practices would arise to meet a certain need. When the cultural needs changed, or when something more beneficial came along, things would fall away and something new would arise in its place. Systems were formed from various perspectives, all because they meet the needs of certain groups, or because a certain teacher saw it in that way. And the evolution of the Yogas and Tantras continues into Modern times. It arises to meet certain needs. And the core, deeper spiritual truths are there as a living, breathing reminder of where these practices came from historically and where they can take us if the Heart longs for a deeper spiritual experience.

Despite my previous great expectations, the larger reality is that all along this historical time line, there were probably only a relatively small group of people truly interested in “enlightenment”. The majority of people, much like today, were more interested in worldly happiness, success, family and good health.

In fact, the Vedic and Yogic teachings address these aspects of “Purpose” (Dharma), “Material Wealth” (Artha), and “Pleasure” (Kama) as being legitimate goals of life. So they should be celebrated and honored as the foundation of happiness. To this, the great Yogis also offered “Moksha” (Self-knowledge or Liberation), as the most important Goal in life. But they also acknowledged that for most, the foundations of happiness through the previous three goals would be needed to tread the path of Liberation.

As a living practice, I feel it is important for us to honor the past traditions, and take from them the deeper principles to help us attain the goals we want in life. I also think it is important to allow their deeper intentions to drive the practices, allowing them to evolve to meet the needs of modern day practitioners. The Practice of Yoga and Tantra is a flowing process of using the practices needed to achieve the growth needed at a particular stage of development. It was not designed, necessarily, to be rigid. Disciplined, yes, but not rigid.

Traditionally, a Yoga teacher would give a student only the practices he or she needed to get to the next stage of spiritual development. Once it served its purpose, a new practice would be introduced. Keeping that in mind, we can also allow our modern practices to evolve with our changing needs as we grow. And when we are ready for the next step, there is a rich history of practices to help us on our path. Whether it is for better health, aligning with life purpose, experience more joy and pleasure in life, or even spiritual growth, the challenge is choosing the right practice and approach for your personal needs, and this is where a Teacher can become indispensable.

I am excited to be part of this modern evolution of Yoga, and to continue to watch as it changes and grows over the remainder of my life. In order to allow it room to grow, we cannot be attached to the past, but I do strongly feel a firm foundation in the intentions of practice is important. If the intentions are understood, then most anything can become Yoga or Tantric Practice, and the personal practice can grow in any number of ways. Without understanding the intentions, you are not really able to direct your practice to a particular goal.

There is no need to re-invent the Yogic or Tantric wheel, so to speak. There are so many beneficial practices already laid out for us. At the same time, modern practitioners need to understand it is not a cookbook approach either. Each person is individual, and will have different experiences from the same practices, and different practices which are needed to progress.

If the birth place of Tantra and Yoga has evolved through many stages and different relationships with this great wisdom, then we can only expect our contact with this wisdom will evolve as well. As yoga and Tantra become more popular in the west, I hope more people will seek to understand the deeper traditions they come from. But we must remember as we explore them, that the scriptures, while full of wisdom, were created by those living the results of their practice. The great wisdom of yoga and Tantra in not locked in the past, but intended to be lived in the here and now. We must awaken the teachings now, through proper practice.

What are you thoughts on spiritual expectations of India, or on Modern day practices of Yoga and Tantra?