Below are the notes I shared at the introduction to tantra discussion on Tuesday, October 1, 2013.
Intro to Tantra October 1, 2013
Welcome to Perfect Paradise! I’m so honoured to have you all here with me today.
I’ve decided to host this as we do yoga postures because I’ve found it helpful on my journey. If you would prefer to sit please feel free to let me know and I can rezz some pillows for you. If you are chosing to do yoga with me you can feel the poses as they manifest in your RL body while we discuss. Allow the energy of the water and the full sky above us to fill you up, and give back to the earth below what you don’t need.
Before we get started I invite you to take a few deep breaths with me. Let go of the day, join me in the present moment. Take a deep breath in through your nose, and let it out with a sigh. Repeat this until you are feeling relaxed…I’ll give you a few moments…Let me know when you are ready and we will start.
Let’s start with asking – what does “tantra” mean to you?
Tantric yoga is a path of union – yoking – between the one and the many. It is the path to liberation of the “self” – the entity that the ego insists is individual, but is merely a piece of the macrocosmic world. The term “tantra” means liberation through expansion. We can understand through this definition that the practice explores all energies and their application associated with human existence and human environment.
Everything that exists in the macrocosmic universe also exists within us, and vice versa. We are reflections of the ultimate Reality according to Tantric thought.
Tantra worships the divine dance of Shiva and Shakti, which we can safely relate to yin and yang in Chinese medicine. It must be noted that these are not two separate beings, but two poles of One Being (you may know this being as Brahma – the infinite Supreme Conscious Being). The breakdown works a bit differently, though, with Parama-shiva as the umbrella of ultimate reality. This is characterized by sac-cit-ananda, or Being (sat), Consciousness (cit), and Bliss (ananda).
David Bohm described reality as movement that occurs as “a series of interpenetrating and intermingling elements in different degrees of enfoldment all present together.” This accurately describes the tantric world-view, which only adds that this dynamic Being is conscious.
Tantric practitioners believe that all of us have this Consciousness within us. They believe it is located within the heart, the heart meaning here: “that which I truly am.” “[The heart] is not the body or the mind,” says Georg Feuerstein, “but pure Being-Consciousness-Bliss.” Remember here, that these terms don’t mean what they mean in ordinary western context, as in the ultimate being there is no differentiation between subject and object.
Shiva, is the aspect of the ultimate reality that is consciousness. It is pure subject rather than object; the notion of “I,” without a sense of “I am.” You may be familiar with the mantra for this aspect, located in the heart, “aham.” This sound means “I.” Shiva is often interpreted as the masculine aspect.
Shakti, is the second aspect of the ultimate Reality which is creativity or energy. Shakti coexists with Shiva to create the universe. Shakti is considered to be the Bliss aspect of the ultimate Reality. Shakti is often interpreted as the feminine aspect.
We can view the union of Shiva and Shakti much like we do yin and yang: as a seemless continuity of Consciousness and Power within one and the same Reality. One cannot exist without the other, one exists within the other, and one manifests the other. This union is often viewed in the west as a sexual union between a couple, but we must keep in mind that this union is transcendental and therefore also asexual.
Shakti plays the active role, whereas Shiva plays the passive role. He manifests the absolute stillness of consciousness, and she expresses the unlimited potency of Power or Energy. “Together they symbolize the play of life and death, creation and annihilation, emptiness and form, dynamism and stasis. This interplay is found on all levels of cosmic existence because … it preexists the ultimate Reality itself.”
Shiva and Shakti are in a constant dance, which you will see in many forms of art depicting the two. In reality this is depicting the motion of the universe – the constant interplay of matter of spirit. This interplay is what we know as the bliss of creation.
Where us westerners get confused is in the idea of love – the act of loving – is one way of allowing us to experience a fraction of this universal bliss. The goal of Tantric practitioners is to unite Shiva and Shakti within us in order to live in bliss. Neotantra is the tantra that has come to the west and it has changed significantly since the traditional lineages. In Neotrantra sex is thought to be a ritual and should be recognized as a sacred act capable of elevating its participants to a higher spiritual plane. Authentic or traditional Tantra sexualised ritual, so rather than the ritual being only sex, sex was merely a small part of the ritual. Neither of these are necessarily right or wrong, but are merely different paths of the same tradition.
Many practices that you are likely familiar with also come from tantric origin – chakras, koshas or spiritual realms, hatha yoga, chanting, Patanjali’s Eight Limbs of Yoga, amongst many more.
In Tantric beliefs, it is thought that the power of all Gods and Goddesses exists within each of us. By awakening our awareness, through such practices as mentioned above, we can stir the Kundalini energy of the serpent, therefore uniting the two aspects of stillness (Shiva) and manifestation (Shakti). This is also known as enlightenment – realizing that there is no difference between zero, one, and many.
The basic idea of tantra is to have awareness in everything you do – a kind of union between subject and object. This can be viewed as simple embodiment, ie. can you feel the keys beneath your fingers? Can you feel the seat you are sitting on? Can you feel the floor beneath your feet? What does the air feel like on your skin? Literally, feeling each breath. In this same way, through every action we can access tantra (union).
Thank you for your participation today! I open the floor…Namaste!