Tantra: Subtle Realities October 8 2013
Welcome to Perfect Paradise! I’m so honored 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 choosing 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.
Tantra: The Subtle Realities
“Because every embodied individual is composed of a body, a mind and a spirit, the ancient Rishis of India who developed the Science of Life organized their wisdom into three bodies of knowledge: Ayurveda, which deals mainly with the physical body; Yoga, which deals mainly with spirit; and Tantra, which is mainly concerned with the mind. The philosophy of all three is identical; their manifestations differ because of their differing emphases.” Robert Svoboda Motilal Banarsidass
The human experience is more than just the physical body. Between the material universe and the ultimate Reality are the multiple layers of subtle (sukshumna) existence.
These other realms of existence are considered in the Vedas to be the home of deities, ancestral spirits, and other entities, including various kinds of demonic beings (elementals).
All beings participate in these other realms, although we are rarely aware of it. In fact, our existence is active in these realms simultaneously as it is in the physical realm. In this sense, these realms are called sheaths, or kosha. These kosha’s are said in some schools to conceal the ultimate Reality, although in hatha yoga they experience them as a natural extension of the human body.
The Taittiriya-Upanishad names them as follows:
1. Anna-maya-kosha, or “sheath composed of food,” is our familiar physical body, by which we navigate in the material world.
2. Prana-maya-kosha, or “sheath composed of life force,” is the energy field associated with and sustaining the physical body. It is the connecting link between the physical body and the mind.
3. Mano-maya-kosha, or “sheath composed of the mind,” refers to the mind in its lower function as a processor of sensory input. Manas (thinking-mind) is driven by doubt and volition (or desire) and vacillates between externalizing our consciousness and with-drawing it into the realm of imagination. This aspect of the mind is governed mainly by the factors of inertia (tamas) and dynamism (rajas).
4. Vijnana-maya-kosha, or “sheath composed of intelligence,” refers to the mind in its higher function as an organ of discernment between what is real and unreal, that is, as the seat of wisdom. Where the lower mind causes doubt and uncertainty, the higher mind (often called buddhi) also brings certainty and faith, as well as a sense of stillness, because the lucidity factor (sattva-guna) is predominant in it.
5. Ananda-maya-kosha, or “sheath composed of bliss,” is equated in the Taittiriya-Upanishad with the transcendental Self (atman) itself, though subsequent Vedanta schools consider it to be the final veil surrounding the ultimate Reality, or Self. In any case, ananda (bliss) must not be mistaken for an emotional state, which is hierarchically higher than intellection or intelligence (vijnana). Emotions belong to the anna-maya- and prana-maya-koshas.
Within the subtle bodies is a subtle network of energy, which flows through the nadi’s (ie. meridians in TCM, or energy channels much like blood vessels but on an energetic level).
“This energy, called Prana in Sanskrit (Qi in Chinese), exists in many forms from the extremely gross to the infinitely subtle and life is an interplay of these energies. Metaphorically a cosmic dance of Shiva and Shakti, Yin and Yang, the Sun and the Moon. Within the human body these energies flow along a network of channels or lines (nadis or meridians).
Health in eastern philosophies is regarded as a state of balance between these energies, where all the systems of the body, including mind and spirit, function in harmony with each other. And disease (dis-ease) is seen as imbalance or disharmony in this flow of energies. But beyond feeling good physically an enlightened definition of health encompasses feelings of vitality, strength, inner peace and joy.” -http://www.adishakti.org/subtle_system/nadis.htm
nadis, the vast network of energy channels that makes each individual an integrated, conscious, and vital whole. The Sanskrit word nadi derives from the root nad, which means “flow,” “motion,” or “vibration.” Very similar to the meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine and the sen lines of Thai Massage.
The nadis are our energetic irrigation system; in essence, they keep us alive. According to many Tantric texts, the human body contains 72,000 nadis that channel prana (energy) to every cell, each nadi having a specific function and energy that it deals with (although other sources vary, some in the millions!). When this system flows freely, we are vital and healthy; when it becomes weak or congested, we struggle with poor mental and physical health.
Three nadis are of particular interest to yogis. The sushumna (most gracious) nadi is the body’s great river, running from the base of the spine to the crown of the head, passing through each of the seven chakras in its course. It is the channel through which kundalini shakti (the latent serpent power) —and the higher spiritual consciousness it can fuel—rises up from its origin at the muladhara (root) chakra to its true home at the sahasrara (thousandfold/crown) chakra at the crown of the head. In subtle body terms, the sushumna nadi is the path to enlightenment.
The ida (comfort) and pingala (tawny) nadis spiral around the sushumna nadi like the double helix of our DNA, crossing each other at every chakra. If you visualize the caduceus, the symbol of modern medicine, you’ll get a rough idea of the relationships among the ida, pingala, and sushumna nadis. Eventually, all three meet at the ajna (third eye) chakra, midway between the eyebrows.
The ida nadi begins and ends on the left side of sushumna. Ida is regarded as the lunar nadi, cool and nurturing by nature, and is said to control all mental processes and the more feminine aspects of our personality. The color white is used to represent the subtle vibrational quality of ida.
Pingala, the solar nadi, begins and ends to the right of sushumna. It is warm and stimulating by nature, controls all vital somatic processes, and oversees the more masculine aspects of our personality. The vibrational quality of pingala is represented by the color red.
The interaction between ida and pingala corresponds to the internal dance between intuition and rationality, consciousness and vital power, and the right and left brain hemispheres. In everyday life, one of these nadis is always dominant. Although this dominance alternates throughout the day, one nadi tends to be ascendant more often and for longer periods than the other. This results in personality, behavior, and health tendencies that can be called ida-like or pingala-like.
Bringing ida and pingala into equilibrium is a major focus of hatha yoga (tantra)—so important, in fact, that the term hatha symbolizes this balance. Although the word hatha literally means “forceful” in Sanskrit, it is composed of ha and tha, two esoteric bija (seed) mantras that have arcane meaning and power. Ha represents the solar qualities, the vital force, of pingala; tha represents the mind and the lunar qualities of ida.
All the Nadis spring from the Kanda, the junction where the Sushumna Nadi is connected with the Muladhara Chakra. This Kanda is thought to be about 12 inches above the anus. Out of the innumerable Nadis, 14 are said to be most important. They are Sushumna, Ida, Pingala, Gandhari, Hastajihva, Kuhu, Saraswati, Pusha, Sankhini, Payasvini, Varuni, Alambusha, vishvodhara, and Yasasvini.
At the main points where nadi’s intersect are chakras.
In many styles of yoga and many practices of Ayurveda, the Chakra’s have great importance. There are said to be seven Chakra’s in the human body. They form a line up the spine, some say in the center of the body, others think these centers are “attached” to the spine. A chakra is a center of energy, the literal translation being “wheel” or, less commonly, “vortex.” The English terms for the chakras, starting from the bottom, are: root chakra (Muladhara), sacral chakra (Svadishthana), solar plexus chakra (Manipura), heart chakra (Anahata), throat chakra (Visuddha), third eye chakra (Ajna), and crown chakra (Sahasrara). As in most Eastern medicine systems, the goal is to have the energies in the chakra’s balanced in order to have the best possible mind/body relationship and health.
Pema Chodron says, “May we all learn that pain is not the end of the journey, and neither is delight. We can hold them both – indeed hold it all – at the same time…” What I take from this quote is that, among other things, within these layers of existence we can live outside of the boundaries of physical existence, therefore overcoming suffering. In the physical and mental bodies we live in this kind of see-saw with depression on one side and elation on the other. In the centre, when it is balanced, is calmness, or bliss. By taping into these other subtle realities, we can see the situation for what it really is, therefore not becoming depressed or elated by it.
By becoming aware of all five subtle bodies, we are able to undo the vehicle of karma, which lives in the causal body. It is said that this body enables continuity not only from life to life but even from one cosmic creation to another. The subtle bodies do not fall away when death occurs, but continue on to the next life, until full liberation when the individual drops all bodies and is present purely as the transcendental Reality.
When we experience life only from the senses of the physical body we see ourselves as separate from others. But when we can learn to experience life with awareness from all subtle bodies we can continuously see the connection between ourselves and all other beings, thereby making compassion more accessible.
It is shown in modern science that all beings are made of the same things – particles. When we test for properties of a particle, we see a particle, but when we test for properties of a wave, we see a wave. We can hardly say we understand the nature of things, but what we can grasp from this is that our bodies, despite us experiencing them as solid entities with definable boundaries, are always changing. If particles also behave as waves then we can safely say that our bodies are not defined by a finite boundary, but in fact must extend out past the physical “edge”. We also know that our bodies function off electricity and also emit it in waves. They also say that it can now be monitored that our heart beats and thought patterns coincide with those we are physically close to if we are positively relating.
So, next time you’re holding a loved one or having a conversation with a friend bring your awareness into your subtle bodies and see if you can feel their energy mingling with yours. You can also work with this experience in meditation by starting with embodiment – asking yourself “where is my body right now?” and feeling the floor beneath your feet, the air on your skin, your blood pulsing throughout your veins. Once you can feel that – be patient, it may take some practice – you can start to send your awareness out a bit, feeling the air around you, listening to any sounds and seeing how far away you can still notice things. Eventually you may be able to release the idea of having a solid body. In my own experience I’ve been able, through meditation, to stop feeling as though there was a boundary to my body and start feeling the whole world as one continuous experience. You may have a completely different experience. Play with your awareness as much as you are comfortable. You never know what other experiences are out there until you open yourself to them. Only do what is comfortable for you.
Let’s do a tantric practice to align the nadi’s, branching from kundalini yoga.
To practice Nadi Shodhana, the main practice of balancing the nadis, sit in a comfortable meditative position. Make a fist with your right hand, then partially re-extend your ring and little fingers. Lightly place the pad of the thumb on your nose just to the right and below the bridge; lightly place the pads of your ring and little fingers on the corresponding flesh on the left side of your nose. Gently pressing with the ring and little fingers to close the left nostril, exhale fully through the right. Then inhale fully through the right, close it with the thumb, release the left nostril, and exhale through it. Inhale through the left nostril, close it with the fingers, release the right nostril, and exhale through it. This completes one round of Nadi Shodhana.
I’ll leave you with a quote…
“…each one of us is a union of all universal energy. Everything that we need in order to be complete is within us right at this very moment. It is simply a matter of being able to recognize it. This is the tantric approach.” Lama Thubten Yeshe
Thank you all so much for coming and sharing your energy with us today! It truly was a pleasure. Namaste, hugs!