Understand how Tantra, Yoga and practices like meditation are all connected. Learn the two core approaches to spiritual awakening and how Tantra’s approach is the most beneficial for those of us in the modern age.
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Hello, it’s Jeff Craft, or Kali Das again! This is the second video in my series on common tantric myths.
Today’s myth is that Tantra and Yoga are two different things.
I will commonly hear people that come to some of my tantric workshops, or tantric meditation groups say things like, “Yes, I practice Yoga in the morning, and then I practice meditation”, or, “I practice Yoga and then I do my Tantra”. These statements imply there is a split or difference. But, even meditation is a part of Yoga practice.
The simple truth to this is that Tantra is actually a form of Yoga, when it is properly understood.
The meaning of “Yoga”, comes from the Sanskrit word means “union”. That is what Yoga means. It references the deeper intention that Yoga has of connecting what we have imagined our individual self to be and creating a union between that individual identity and the more universal consciousness that we could call God, or spirit.
That is where the union comes, that is the Yoga – the yoking of our individual self into this larger experience of consciousness, or God, or divinity, or however you want to call it.
That is what the real idea of what Yoga is. It is a systematic approach of self-evolving, self-awakening, self-healing that leads us from a state of suffering, of feeling separation, of experiencing attachments in the world, and leading us into a deeper space of presence, of love, of peace, that actually evolves from within our own being, within our own heart, within our own consciousness.
Yoga is ultimately connecting us back to the truth of ourselves that we have forgotten about. That is what Yoga is really inviting. Yoga is that process and Tantra actually invites the very same process. It just goes about it in a specific way.
There are lots of different forms of Yoga, but there are two primary approaches to rediscovering and reconnecting with that deeper peace that is our true Self.
The yogic teachings present as the highest outcome that the only thing that really exists is God. We can also call God as “consciousness” because it doesn’t have to be any sort of religious or spiritual idea. It is ultimately the essence of your True Self we are seeking.
Through Yoga we are trying to discover that. When we fully discover God, which is all that exists, it is the true nature of self as consciousness and awareness. In the process of discovering that the only thing that really exists is God, there are these two tracks, these two basic approaches.
There is a traditional yogic approach, which we could call an ascetic kind of approach. This approach goes about the idea of saying “the only thing that exists is God, God is pure consciousness, and therefore all of the things of the world are not God, because they are not pure consciousness. They are, in fact, illusions.”
This is the idea – a sort of a non-dual approach. The only thing that exists is God, this whole world that we have, and that we have been experiencing is all an illusion. It is this place that causes suffering for us, because we get attached, and therefore to ease the suffering of my being, I am going to reject this illusion, I am going to release all of my attachments. That becomes part of the process.
This is a legitimate path. Although it probably doesn’t appeal to you as you are listening to this, it is a legitimate path. However, it is a very challenging path. This is the kind of path that will lead people for their spiritual practice to abandon their family, go live in a cave, give up all their money and wander the streets begging for food, these types of things, as symbols and intentions around letting go of attachments. That is one particular path.
Tantra is another path or another philosophical approach. What Tantra does is it comes back to the original conclusion, and it says “Yes, the only thing that exists is pure consciousness or God and if that is true, that means that everything that I experience in the world is also pure consciousness, it is also God.”
So, instead of going about the process of rejecting the world, it actually embraces the world as being a sacred experience, an unfolding of the divine consciousness or divine being. Rather than rejecting it, it shows how can we peer beyond the veil and experience the presence of the divine right here in this world, in our bodies, in our food, in nature around us, in other people, in our desires, in our sexual experiences, in our creative endeavors, in our sense of purpose in the work that we do in the world. It asks “How can we begin to invite our life to become the actual spiritual process? How can the experience of living be converted into a spiritual path?” That is what Tantra really invites us to do.
There are many practices that begin to connect us to deeper presence, deeper embodiment of energies, deeper embodiment of experiences, and invite us to step beyond the limitations and the judgments that we may have for the world around us. We can begin to see the sacredness, to find the beauty, to find the acceptance of what is, and to be fully present and alive in the world.
Tantra ultimately invites us to be as alive, as blissful, as joyful, as loving as possible, while also being as peaceful and relaxed as possible. That becomes the invitation that it has. It is a specific path, a specific form of Yoga, but ultimately leads back to that same place of there being just one God, or one consciousness. It just goes about it through a different path.
What both systems will ultimately agree upon is that once you get to the final conclusion of really seeing and experiencing directly that everything that exists is pure consciousness and God, or that nothing that exists out here in the world is consciousness or God, that once you get to the nothingness or the all, that it all kind of melds into the same thing.
If none of this is God, and you find God beyond that, then you also experience the paradox of everything being God. If you go about the approach of getting there because you are trying to weave everything into being sacred, you get there and everything becomes God, you also again experience the paradox of it not being God at the same time. You get to experience both sides of the same coin operating in truth at the same time.
That is an explanation, a rather deep explanation on the non-dual approaches of Yoga, and how Yoga and Tantra are really the same thing.
As a side note, meditation is deeply, deeply connected to Yoga and Tantra as well. It is not correct to make a distinction between Yoga and meditation – they are both part of one single system. What most people think of as Yoga today, when you hear the average person say, “I’m doing my Yoga, I’m doing my Yoga class”, what they are actually referring to is what would more correctly be Yoga asana, or the postures that are connected to the Hatha Yoga system.
It can be helpful, I think, to make distinctions, at least in your own mind of understanding that all of these techniques, the postures, the breathing practices, the meditation techniques, and various other kinds of approaches to Yoga are all really connected to a single system, including Tantra being part of the yogic process.
That concludes the second of the myth-videos around Tantra, and look for the third one soon!
So, how can you go deeper into a genuine Tantric spiritual path?
If you are interested in exploring a path of transformation, growth, and evolution that weaves Spirituality, Sexual Wholeness, and Conscious Relationship together, then check out my Tantric Transformation Foundations Online Class series that will get you started on a path of personal evolution. It will give you a whole new way to understand your Self, you Relationships and your Sexuality that will take you towards greater joy, vibrancy, love, and abundance.
(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.
I have recently been engaging in a conversation about prayer with one of my yoga students. It has evolved from his awakening experiences of peace and blissful energy flowing in his awareness and body through the Tantric Yoga practices I have taught him.
This type of experience necessarily challenges the way we think about ourselves. You learn from your own experience that the more you get out of the way, the more the peace and bliss arise. The currents of ecstatic energy do not flow because you wish them to, but because you are relaxed enough, open enough and able to be present to what is moving.
He is still active within his Presbyterian Church, and as one might expect, he wishes to find a way to reconcile his arising Tantric experience with the religious teachings of the church. He began a search on “Yoga and Christianity” which quickly brought up many fundamentalist ideas suggesting that Yoga was anti-Christian, that it was Hinduism, and even that it was wrong because it taught you that God could be found within your own Self. This last idea of course challenges the structure of the church which in many ways relies on the importance of the church and the priests or preachers as a way to connect to God.
Fortunately, his personal faith and his experience with Yoga allowed him to see through these ideas. He has learned to trust his awakening experience.
The next conversation came from a recent meeting at his church which discussed the nature of prayer. He was delighted that even within his own church, there was a discussion which began to challenge the traditional thinking about what prayer is. For many, prayer is thought of as a way to talk to God, to ask for help, to ask for things you want or desire. That is the traditional idea of prayer. But what if prayer was used to LISTEN instead of talk? What if prayer was a way to open to the presence of God and receive His blessings?
In their conversation, they offered a quote from John the Baptist: “True inner prayer is to stop talking and to listen to the wordless voice of God within our heart; it is to cease doing things on our own, and to enter into the action of God.”
Powerful words from the well known Christian Mystic. He defines prayer as listening to the wordless voice of God. But if there are no words, how do we listen? With our hearts! We connect to God through deeper emotion. We open to feeling the unconditional Love and the Presence of God within our own Being. We come into communion with God in this way. This leads to the experience of Union, which is what Yoga really means. It is the Union of the small individual self, with the large Divine Self or God.
By John the Baptist’s definition, prayer becomes akin to the deep, silent meditation of advanced Yoga, which expands into Samadhi, or a continuous one-pointed stream of awareness back into its own Self. The discovery of God within one’s own Being. The Self identification with that same Divine Consciousness.
Prayer REVEALS the nature of God, if practiced in this way. Currents of bliss, joy, peace and love arise first as the True Nature of the Self is accessed. And over time, it expands, shifting and deepening both your relationship with God, and also your relationship with life. This is the path of the Mystic, and also the path taken in the advanced spiritual practices of Tantra Yoga.
Topics include: Learn additional reasons for and aspects of the practice of Mantra as part of the Tantric Tradition. Why Om or AUM is considered to be the “master” mantra and when and why other mantras may be used. Learn terms that relate to the practice such as Japa, Omkar, and Pranava. How to use Mantra Beads, or the Mala, to assist your practice. Creating positive spiritual merit or Karma for your Spiritual Path. Ways to refine and get the most from your practice.
This is Part 7 of 8 in the Mantra Meditation Series.
Learn the stages or progression of Mantra Meditation practice from beginner to intermediate to advanced, and the reasons for the different stages. Better understand the added healing power of group Mantra Meditation Practice and why it can benefit your practice.
Open to the importance of being present to whatever experience you are having in Mantra meditation practice without expectations. Do not assume what your experience should or will be while chanting or practicing Mantra Meditation.
This is Part 6 of 8 in the Mantra Meditation Series.
How to Chant AUM or “OM” Mantra – Instructions for the actual chanting technique, with details in how to make it most effective. An overview of different experiences which can arise during practice. Non-attachment to outcome. Tips to help understand and neutralize the reactions that the ego and mind will have to your Mantra Practice and spiritual development.
This is Part 5 of 8 in the Mantra Meditation Series.
To support your practice, check out my Guided Meditation CD entitled “Beginning Meditations: Expanding Peace”. It includes Chanting OM as part of the second meditation and is available for purchase on-line through iTunes and Amazon.com. Follow the link below to see a full description and the links to the purchase options.
Learn the true nature of Karma as conditioning and discover the ways to clear Karma and release old conditioning to experience a larger state of freedom. Understand how Mantra Meditation using “OM” assists with Karmic removal or Purification. Discover how Mantra Meditation assists in opening to experience the True Self as Sacred Witness or Pure Consciousness, which is the primary goal of Spiritual Growth.
This Video is Part 4 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation Series.
Discover the practical benefits of Mantra Meditation and the advantages of Mantra over other types of Meditation. Learn the spiritual benefits of Mantra practice and the Nature of the True Self that Mantra practice reveals. Understand how the Mantra “AUM” or “OM” relates to the process of Creation, Spiritual Devotion, and your True Self.
Part 3 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation Series.
To begin any Meditation practice, we must gain a proper understanding of what meditation is and our relationship to the mind. Finding Peace of mind through meditation requires the proper perspective for effective practice. Additional information for why Mantra is such a powerful Tantric Meditation practice.
Part 2 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation series.
A Video overview of the Tantric perspective on the Universe, the Self and Consciousness as light and vibration and the transformation of Consciousness within Tantra Yoga as a Spiritual Path. This is in preparation for Mantra Meditation Practice using “Om”, “Aum”, pranava or omkar.
This is Part 1 of 8 in the Introduction to Mantra Meditation Series.