Friday 20 February 2009

Tantra. Vedanta

As a change from the travellogue I thought I would write a bit about the shastras, the scriptures and the view they give. It seems to me that there is a clear division between the tantric scriptures and those of Vedanta. The situation is confusing as words are translated in many different ways. In much Vedanta teaching there is little good to say about the mind and the ego. Both are the source of delusion and illusion and only serve to separate us from the Divine. They perpetuate maya the illusory world experienced through the senses. The best we can do is withdraw from having anything to do with thoughts or the mind and seeing everything as an illusion, rest in consciousness.
The tantric view, is different. It is developed most fully in the Kashmir Shavite tradition. The greatest exponent was Abhinavagupta about 900 years ago in works such as Tantraloka. For him, the world is not an illusion to be shunned. Everything is real and everything can lead us to God-consciousness. All things are within consciousness and can only be discovered through reflective awareness with the mind. Shiva's power is consciousness which sustains everything. There are some aspects of the mind such discriminating wisdom and curiosity which are important. The problem with the ego is twofold. Firstly, we tend to from childhood identify the ego with the body and secondly take that as a primary identification so we think we are our body or that we are our thoughts. This universe is Lord Shiva's work of art; not maya. Enjoy it.

Thursday 19 February 2009

City of Light

Its five thirty in the morning and for the first time in India, I feel cold despite a fleece. The crescent moon is still high in the night sky waning towards the New Moon for the festival of Mahashivaratri here in Kashi (also called Varanasi and by the British , Benares) in a few days time. A few bright candles float down the Ganges in front of me. To my right a fire flares as a chai stall wallah lights his fire for the first brew of the day. In the distance I can see the fires of the main burning ghat as more bodies are dispached, fortunate enought to be burnt next to the Ganges at Varanasi - every Hindu's wish. This city of Shiva is where he traditionally appeared as an infinite pillar of fire to win the contest between Shiva, Visnu and Brahman. It is called the shining city and is full of shivalingams every few yards in the street. Nearly allways with some fresh flowers or bel leaves on it. We are more used to associating fire with Shakti as the fire of kundalini than Shiva the fire, from his third eye which can turn opponents to ash. The boatmen are coming now, looking for trade. The dobhi wallahs are starting their day of thrashing the dirt out of clothes in the river. The sky ahead becomes redder, soon the sun will rise it will warm up and I can chant the Gyatri mantra to start the day.
Namaste. Sat, Chit Ananada; truth, consciousness and bliss.

Thursday 12 February 2009

Who Am I?

Ramana Maharshi's basic method for realising the Self was one of Self-Enqiry. It was how he at the age of 16 became enligthened. With any experience we have from out mind - a thought or a feeling we can do one of four things; we can suppress it, we can express it, we can witness it or we can ask the question, who is it that is experiencing this? For many people suppressing feelings is how they were brought up and it is a great liberation when they give themselves permission to do the opposite and express. This permission may come from therapy or from being in an environment which supports them. More energy is liberated this way.

But tantra is always about the dance of energy and awareness. Eventually we realise that just expressing can lead to personal chaos and more stuckness as we can easily become addicted to the dramas. So we move towards the witenssing of feelings and thoughts; more like a meditation. However the more we sit as a witness the more things there are to witness (Mooji said that the actors only come on stage when the audience is there! ). The process of true liberation comes when we turn from the seductive play of phenomena, as if a mirror is put in front of our face, and ask, "Who is it that is experiencing this?". If this is done the mind quietens and a spacious sense of "I am" arises. It is a spaciousness that is not empty but full of bliss. Finally the "I AM" expands as AM, loosing the personal sense of I. Only Existence remains. This is it. Thre are many ways of quietening the mind and coming to a space of being. Using mantra is one way. Of course I like using the energy of the body through touch and breathing to do the same. In erotic trance and expanded orgasmic states we can experience this dissolving in to Existence and it can open up the question Who Am I?

Namaste from India. Next week I am in the City of Shiva - Varanasi.

Tuesday 10 February 2009


It's twilight and above me the sacred mountain of Arunachal is becoming a silhouette against the sky, a mountain older than the Himalayas, dedicated to Shiva. In its caves over thousands of years many have realised enlightenment or samadhi. Ramana Maharshi lived on this mountain in modern times. It is the eve of the full moon and hundreds of thousands of people are walking aound the mountain, though it feels more like walking though a long funfair of stalls with small temples every few yards. Some walk in silence, many are in groups chattering excitedly. At other times, some even roll around the mountain for all of its 14km circumference. I walked alone a week earlier in the early morning chanting all the way Om Namah Shivaaya and singing Arunachala Shiva. The cave where Ramana lived for several years is particularly powerful and we were able to chant in there, the vibrations of the chants filling our heads and bodies shaking out thoughts to create luminous space to dissolve in to. All spiritual practices require some way of stilling thoughts to allow the spaciousness of being to a recognised and mantra is a particularly powerful way to do this (see . Ramana at the end of the ninteenth century experienced sahaja samadhi (spontaneous awakening) when he was sixteen years old and from that experience developed Self-Enquiry as a method to realise the Self. It is simple to enquire in the identity of the experiencer. Can the seer be seen? We so readily get caught up in the experiences or try and become the witnesser of the experience and never enquire into the nature and reality of the expereincer.

India is a great place to practice this. Old distractions are muted and the sheer intensity of the experiences in the present moment make it easier to stay present and then, as if putting a mirror in front, look for the reality of the experiencer. So who walked around the great mountain of Arunachala? And were they separate from the mountain and the crowds.?